To experience as many different environments as possible, in only three weeks: this is our mission. What better place to attempt such a journey than Australia, a beautiful and largely unknown country with a population of only 24 million people. Aboard an R 1200 GS, I’m joined by a group of seven other riders. Traveling from heights of 6,050 feet to depths of 50 feet below sea level, in temperatures ranging from 50-degree mornings to 112-degree afternoons, we are surrounded by a menagerie of wild animals roaming freely through multicolored landscapes. Australia answered our challenge with unparalleled adventure.
An Unexpected Delay
Ashipping delay adds a bonus element to our Australian journey. On the intended day of departure, several key pieces of equipment are still in transit between Europe and Australia. We decide to take a two-day ride into Victoria’s High Country in the southeast before looping back around to the sparsely-populated starting point of Carboor, in hopes the gear will arrive by then. The perfectly banked corners of Mount Buffalo and unobstructed vistas at nearly every stopping point quickly make shipping concerns a distant memory.
The out-and-back ride to the Mount Buffalo Chalet is well worth the time spent. Here, our group of eight happily opens up the throttles. Our Australian guides, Andrea and Robin Box, are perhaps best equipped for this racetrack-like portion of the ride, being aboard a Triumph Tiger 800 XCx and Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro. We find some of the best asphalt riding in this short stretch of road winding through the granite cliffs. The Gorge Heritage Walk in Mount Buffalo National Park provides information on Manfield’s Chalet, which first encouraged tourists to visit this peak following its construction in 1902. Pulpit Rock is a lesser-known overlook, offering perhaps the grandest vistas in the area.
Leaving the Pavement
Excellent blacktop stretches from Mount Buffalo along the Great Alpine Road until the turn to Dargo, one of Victoria’s most remote communities. Most of this 40-mile route is a dirt road through forests and meadows. After a long day of riding, the town of Dargo is a welcome sight. With its rustic log cabins and quaint bar wallpapered in stubby holders, the Dargo Hotel is a must-see for the motorcycle traveler. Plus, it’s the only game in town.
The Victorian High Country, also referred to as the Victorian Alps, is home to the highest altitudes in continental Australia. As the Great Alpine Road winds over Mount Hotham, it reaches its highest point of 6,050 feet above sea level at “The Cross.” Snow can sometimes be found along the sides of the road, deep into the Australian spring. Dirt paths through the Dargo High Plains between Dargo and Dinner Plain range from well-maintained gravel routes to more challenging tracks with steep sections of mud and rocks. After crossing these gravel and paved mountain passes, Robin has to split off from our group. The sole Ducati now departed, our septet rolls on aboard a bale of BMW R 1200 GSs, the Triumph, and a Safari Tank-equipped Husqvarna 650.
The Great Ocean Road
A 150-mile stretch of road in southeastern Australia has the distinction of being among the world’s most beautiful coastal drives. Known as the Great Ocean Road, this twisty tarmac winds from Torquay to Allansford. Like most places throughout this island continent, signs warning of kangaroos are seen frequently. A series of massive limestone stacks off the coast, known as the “12 Apostles,” is a popular tourist attraction. About seven miles past the 12 Apostles, our group stops for the night in Port Campbell and discusses plans that will take us north through mountains, canyons, and eventually the Outback.