The clear icy waters of the Snowy River are framed in yellow leaves and the nearby ski slopes of the Snowy Mountains wind through the wooded hills. It's the end of May and winter knocks on the door in the southern hemisphere. To escape the cold, we're pointing our bikes north toward Cape York, 3,000 miles away, where the scenery more closely resembles what one typically sees in Australian travel brochures - sunny days on white strands fringed with swaying palm trees.
A Tiresome Search for B and B
The lines on the farmer's weathered brow deepened into a forbidding aspect when I asked about the shortcut to the town of Dorrigo. We had heard from various sources that the best bread in Australia comes from a bakery there, and if there is one thing in a German traveler's diet that makes him very happy, it is B and B: a thick slice of whole-grain bread washed down with a cold beer. Dorrigo looked so close on the map and it wasn't yet noon, so we thought we could easily travel the 65 miles on dirt through the New England National Park within a couple of hours.
The farmer directed us to what he called "a little obstacle in your way," a dilapidated bridge we would have to get our motorbikes across in a nerve-racking balancing act. "From there on," he added, "you just follow your nose." The sight of the bridge, two tree trunks over a creek nine-feet deep, made our hearts sink until we spotted a fresh set of knobby-tire tracks on the other side.
A ride through thick, man-high, undergrowth with thistles reaching out for us comes to an abrupt end when a fallen tree suddenly bars our way. Its diameter matches the height of the handlebars! The mountain slopes on either side are treacherously steep, so there's no way for us to sneak around it. However, the scratch marks scored into the bark lead us to the conclusion that some crazy guy must have managed to carry his motorbike over the tree before us. But surely his ride was one of the 400cc, lightweight motocross bikes (very popular among Australians), and certainly not a full-sized, heavily loaded, 640 KTM. Nevertheless, we started shoving.
A painful hour of swearing, sweating, and carefully positioning the Touratech boxes later, we had covered a mere ten feet, but both bikes were on the other side. After carrying these aluminum panniers halfway around the world, thinking they were only good for storing stuff in and sitting on, we now can recommend them as portable ramps!
Our celebration is short-lived. Another four giant fallen trees wait for us down the track. Maybe we should have taken the time to quiz that cryptic farmer more thoroughly. Dusk sets in quickly, forcing us to pitch the tent in the midst of the jungle of the New England National Park. More bad news arrives at dinnertime. The only food left in our packs is canned liver sausage that expired ages ago! Our evening meditations on the fabled breads of Dorrigo do little to soothe our rumbling stomachs.