A normal day in our office begins with a check of the e-mails. Recently a pleasant surprise popped up when the first message displayed announced that everything was ready for my trip in Australia. Organized for journalists by Twin Blue Motorcycle and called the "Northern Tropics" tour, it winds (with an escort car) some 2,500 miles, from Sydney to Cairns. Soon I would sit astride the saddle of a BMW R1150 R for an exciting exploration of New South Wales and Queensland.
After a 14-hour flight, crossing the dateline and the equator, I arrive in Sydney at 6 o'clock in the morning. Garry and Bernie Humphries, the father and son team at Twin Blue, are there to greet us, and, as I'm the first to land, we waited for the European contingent to gather. Thirty minutes later the gang's all here. And a nice reunion it was with my brother Daniel attending, and five others making the trip. Outside the airport, it feels bone cold. August here, of course, is winter but the daylight temperatures are normally a pleasant 65 to 70 degrees, with morning and evening temperatures settling into the high 40's.
"Guys and gals, breakfast in 45 minutes. That means you have 30 minutes for showering, then breakfast, and 45 minutes later," Garry commands, "we shall all meet at the bus for a roundtrip tour of Sydney."
After that rather officious gidday in Oz (Australia), Peter, from Switzerland, whispers beside me, "I don't remember signing up for a tour of duty, but I think we're in the military here."
"No, I don't think so," Daniel says, "but he does sound like a slave driver."
"Neither nor," replies the Australian redhead with excellent hearing, "but this drive is the best way to fight your jetlag. And our Swiss brother is right. I served over twelve years in the Australian army."
Oh, Wonderful Sydney
The breakfast buffet at the Park Royal Hotel is delicious. All varieties of bread, cereals, muesli, sausages, and eggs to gorge upon. And after, Penny, one of Garry's co-workers, guides the bus tour through this breathtaking city. Her knowledge of its history is encyclopedic and she relates it all with a great sense of humor. But most importantly, she understands the coffee junky and, after our one and a half-hour tour of Sydney, she allows us the time to stop for copious refills of caffeine before returning us to Darling Harbour.
The afternoon is ours. Daniel, Peter, and I set our to discover Darling Harbour and its surroundings where plenty of enticing restaurants and shops line the bay. We soak in the thoroughly modern multicultural atmosphere and seem to gawk and point at the magnificent views around each corner. That evening the first day of our Australian experience concludes agreeably with a gourmet seafood dinner high above the Sydney cityscape inside the turning axis of the Summit Restaurant.
The Wollombi Pub
The morning is busy. Everyone in our group is somewhat apprehensive about riding on the left side and whether we shall survive the first road day in Sydney traffic. An icy blast of air hits my face when I leave the hotel. But Bernie, our tour guide, assures me that it's only a morning chill.
Quite familiar with the best and quickest ways out of town, Bernie has us swinging through the first Australian sweepers in no time. An hour later he's still reminding us as we approach each turn to stay on the left side and his voice comes through loud and clear in our Baehr speakers, a crucial support system we later learn. The curves on this route are totally different from most I've encountered anywhere in America or Europe. Incredibly long as they bend over rolling hills, it looks as though they never end. Fully concentrating, I often spend from seven to nine seconds leaning in the curves. The BMW R1150 R is great at sweeping the long turns but suddenly a steep hill with a few switchbacks arises to challenge me and the other blokes ranged behind. We need all of both lanes and quickly I realize doing hairpins takes some getting used to from the left-hand side.