Road trip part one: Sydney to Ballarat

This year’s holiday break represented an ideal opportunity to take a 4,000-kilometre road trip, with stays in Jindabyne, Ballarat, Daylesford, West Wyalong, Armadale, Brunswick Heads, Ballina, Bellingen and Walcha. This is travelling in its most roundabout fashion, going firstly south along the NSW coast, then over the Snowy Mountains to inland Victoria. Then, it was northward along an inland road in the scorching heat through Deniliquin, Forbes, Dubbo and Tamworth. From there it was across to the coast road towards Byron Bay before finally making my way back to Sydney.  Freeway riding was avoided wherever possible, plotting the route based on the best roads, not the quickest routes. Temperatures ranged from five degrees in the Snowy Mountains to 43 degrees inland near Deniliquin where the top layer of asphalt had melted. This is part one of that journey; the 1,239 kilometres from Sydney to Ballarat via the Snowy Mountains.

Departing Sydney, the weather was cool with a light drizzle as I rode through the Royal National Park. Beginning a long ride here sets a solid foundation of purpose, acting as a reminder that it is the journey that matters, not rushing towards the final destination.  The roads were damp and strewn with leaves after the ferocious storms that battered Sydney over the previous week. The bike—a BMW F700GS—takes on a different feeling when it is heavily loaded. This takes a little adjustment, usually accommodated by the time I’m through the park and on to the coast road to Wollongong.

Stopping at the Berry Sourdough Cafe, I order a freshly baked croissant. This cafe is always an enjoyable place to rest and find refreshment. While there, I met a 61-year-old gentleman who had ridden a Triumph Tiger 800 from Cairns on his way to Melbourne. Similar in size and function to my BMW, he too had found it an excellent bike for long distance riding, travelling extensively on it.

Next stop was Pilgrims in Milton for a vegetarian salad of rice, feta, olives, tomatoes, alfalfa and numerous other ingredients. Eating fresh vegetables on a road trip is always a treat as you feel light and focused while riding. Onwards towards Bega, I pass through Narooma before stopping at Central Tilba for afternoon tea at Eumm-tea. I always like being in this part of Regional NSW and Central Tilba in particular. The verdant rolling hills, clean air and the charming town never fail to win me over. Tea at Eumm-tea is particularly good with a wide selection available, served by a gracious proprietor.

Remembering to fill up on petrol,—last year I had to make a detour to avoid being stranded by the side of the road—I headed for Cooma with Jindabyne as my destination for the night. This next stretch of road including the following morning’s two-hour ride over the Snowy Mountains is about as good as motorcycling gets. I am eager with anticipation as I finish my oolong tea.

Departing Central Tilba, I rode through the tiny historic township of Tilba Tilba. Rain began to fall heavily with the temperature dropping sharply to ten degrees. As I travelled the Snowy Mountain Highway towards Cooma, the landscape on this side of the Glenbog State Forest features fast, wide open roads and equally wide vistas; see the main picture. In the mountains, sharp turns and slippery roads require my full attention before joining the Kosciuszko Road to Jindabyne.

As the sun was beginning to set, I arrived in Jindabyne, happy to be off the bike having left Sydney eleven hours earlier. This trip I stayed the night at the friendly and well-priced Jindy Inn where I met another biker from Sydney and had dinner together at a local restaurant.

Awaking to glorious sunshine, I wandered down to Lake Jindabyne where the water sparkled in the early morning light. I walked along part of the lake taking photos of the still water and a lone waterskier. Keen to get moving, I departed wearing most of my clothes as it was 10 degrees and would be half that later in the mountains.

Leaving Jindabyne and turning onto the Alpine Way, the next two and a half hours to Khancoban offers just about everything that is good about motorcycle riding. Fast open stretches, sharp hairpin turns, forested sections and practically no other vehicles. This has to be one of the most enjoyable sections of road anywhere in the world. It is utterly sensational and highly recommended.

In Khancoban I met up with the biker from dinner the previous night and rode the next hour together to Tallangatta before going onto Beechworth. Beechworth is a prosperous looking town with plenty of Ned Kelly links for those who are interested. Next time, I will make time to stop here.

At 12.30pm with over five hours of riding ahead, it was time to hit the freeway to get some quick kilometres covered. Unlike last year’s ride along this stretch of road, there was no unpleasant side wind making this a decent 90 minute run before exiting at Puckapunyal. This next part offers quick open riding conditions as you make your way through Kyneton, Daylesford and finally Ballarat. The roads here are single-lane, tree-lined and typically hot in summer. Those 90 minutes were an excellent way to complete this first section of the trip.

The following week was spent based in Ballarat, a small city of 100,000 people. Famous in Australia for the Eureka Rebellion, Australia’s only armed rebellion, the discovery of gold in the 1850s transformed Ballarat from a small sheep station to a significant settlement. The city continues to feel prosperous, blending the old streets with modern city living, centred around an artificial lake. A walk around Lake Wendouree proved to be an agreeable way to spend Christmas morning while a visit to a classically styled movie theatre on Lydiard Street offered respite from the heat.

On Boxing Day, we hiked the 23-kilometre circuit around Mt Macedon. This is a pleasant walk along tree-lined paths; the trees providing essential shade on a hot summers day. Good views from the lookout and the Mt Macedon Memorial Cross Reserve provide respite from the steepish climb. The township below is a prosperous one with many large properties and impressive front gates.

This map outlines the 1,239-kilometre route taken from Sydney to Ballarat over two days. On the next post, I cover the following 1,607 kilometres from Ballarat to Brunswick Heads, a charming town north of Byron Bay.