Friday, June 1, 2012

One year gone, Sydney, Blue Mountains, Tamworth and Byron Bay.

It comes as a bit of a shock when I realise that it was a year ago that I waved goodbye to home family and friends. At times it could have been the blinking of an eye, at others it seems like a different life. I have loved almost every of the moment trip so far and relish the coming year making my way home.

My Australian weeks are rushing by in a blur of social and mechanical frenzies. The feelings of home, overwhelming hospitality and generosity from all those I meet are pretty much the same here as in New Zealand. There is also another feeling emerging that the longer I am away from the developing world, the more I am yearning to go back to it. This is not because I want to live there, but for me at the moment at least, greater interest and fascination are found in cultures and societies least like my own.

That said I am enjoying my time in the 1st world immensely. Meeting lots of people I work with, competitors, friends of friends, members of the Royal Enfield Club of Australia, and do you remember I mentioned how many of the girls from my 20s disappeared off to this land into the arms of Australian men, well I have caught up with a number of them and had a lot of fun doing so.

A rather blurry picture of Stuart which  is quite fitting given the number of ales we had enjoyed as he took me around numerous bars in Fitzroy,  a fun part of Melbourne. We represent Stuart and he moved to Australia about 6 years ago and  it looks like he is set for the duration, very happily.
Another fine evening spent with Wai and her delightful family in Melbourne. Wai and I have been talking and working together for at least 10 years, and finally to meet has been a great reward of this trip.

My now fellow members of the Australian Royal Enfield Club,  I have been honoured with membership whilst here...most grateful and humbling....a grt gang of friends.  They were kind enough to host me for dinner and beer one evening whilst I was in Melbourne. It was openly joked that Batty had only one other Royal Enfield to keep her company out side the pub, the others were all "second' bikes that the membership rode, which tended to be Japanese...
It looks like we were in a betting shop, in fact it was  like many bars in Australia, where gambling seems to be deeply rooted in society.
I left for Sydney planning to take about 3 days, however 2 things happened to handicap this plan. Firstly my primary chain cover bolt stripped it's thread about 200 miles from Melbourne, and secondly a new attempt to use vegetable oil and a 10% petrol mix unfortunately failed to work.
The results of my primary chain case coming undone
 As luck would have it, and indeed as has been the case in so many of my ridiculous escapades trying to use vegetable oil,  I managed to break down very close to a helping hand.  In this case it was Andy, who had heard me coming to a stop outside a local hotel in the tiny village of Cowwarr, seeking a bed. In Australia as a hangover from the prohibition years, a hotel does not mean it necessarily has any rooms and is often, as in this case, just a bar. Andy had just come back from work and on seeing my problem, he kindly said to come over to his workshop where he had various British bikes, and he would re-tap the thread. In fact it meant going into a local town to get the right thread, but once done Andy set to and made a fine job of it. 
Earlier in the day, before the bolt had stripped, I knew all was not well with the petrol/veg oil mix and the engine was behaving in the fashion I had learnt to fear before engine failure. So after all Andy's kind kind work, the engine did not start, and I was stranded at 7pm. Andy said "Well there is the more for dinner Love" he called to his wife. So along with their 4 sons, aged from about 12 to 18, Mr and Mrs Andy we had a great evening discussing local life, the aeroplanes Andy works on for fun, the fires that killed so many a few years prior (Andy is a volunteer firefighter locally), and answers to my omni present question on who and how their family came to Oz in the first place. Always a fascinatingly and different story every time, but always a story of bravery and ambition or desperation and conviction. 
Andy works for the local council collecting bins all around the beautiful district and left at 5 in the morning. I struggled to get at the bike by 7, but with the help of Dan, the eldest, got Batty back on the road by mid day....well that would have been the case had I not over tightened the bolt Andy had so laboriously fixed the night before, breaking the housing it was in. My heart just flopped initially, but as luck would have it I managed to get Batty to Brian in Heyfield 10 miles down the road and he and his brother re tapped it and got the cover better than new. All done with a generous refusal of payment, and a great 'cheering off' as I left.

Andy and Brian discussing Batty's needs. I was saying to Brian how knocked out I had been by everyone's kindness when he said "Everyone is nice...until it comes to money" well I guess I know what he means, and money does change people, but I loved the simplicity of the truism.
Andy tapping away.
The next day was my longest ride yet and managed to clock up 350 miles. I had a very important date and that was to join Kirstie and her family for her birthday dinner.  So my incentive was strong. 10 happy hours in the saddle, doing a lot of Spanish lessons (I want to at least be able to ask for a beer when I get to Mexico)

Wal, Charlie, Georgie and Kirstie at a cottage they have in the southern alps an hour south of Sydney, they are doing it up as an investment.  I went on to stay with them 10 days later near Tamworth, their more permanent home.
Mike (my initial and regular contact in Oz fro the RE Club) John and Mark. My welcoming committee of some of the Sydney Royal Enfielders for a ride along the coast in to Sydney.
I stayed with Mike and Gilda for a couple of nights and they were hugely kind and welcoming as I grappled with the wonders of Sydney.
Mike off to work on his Jubilee Bonnie...rather fitting given the celebrations in the Commonwealth

Bondi Beach...terrible picture, but wanted to log the place on the blog 
Gilda spend nearly a day showing me the delights of her Sydney,  from where she grew up, to one of the most famous views/ icons in the world (second only to Mickey Mouse in global recognision apparently)
Again not an inspiring picture, but it is of the NSW Art Gallery, which I would recommend  every time for a visit...matches the best anywhere.

Walking down towards the Opera house

I went up one of the pillars in the bridge that holds a Museum.  An amazing structure to  get up close to.
One of many provocative and challenging pieces in the Contemporary Art Museum
I would recommend the hour long tour of the Opera House to anyone....I am now such a fan, and cannot think of another building in the world that matches the quite astonishingly individual and exquisite statement of a place and nation.
Here is John mending Batty's stands. Both her side and centre ones were hopeless and now with a good deal of  weld, she can stand up for herself with ease and strength. Mike, Roger, Mark and I had all ridden out to John's house on a Sunday morning. Where John and Viv had me to stay in their beautiful house in the foot hills of the Blue Mountains. John is the only person I have knowingly met who has won the lottery. It was not a hugest of wins, but amounted to a new house apparently. However it was 30 years ago and his then wife left him taking the money with was the best thing that ever happened to him he insisted, and by the look of his very happy circumstance I can quite see why he says that.
John showed me an old trick taught to him by a German engineer 40 years ago of taking the seals off the front wheel bearing we were replacing and spreading in much more grease, then sealing them up again...twice the life and more he assured me. 
Mike and John's project 1920s Royal Enfield

3 Sisters at Katoomba

This was the view from the guests cottage I was honoured enough to stay in whilst  visiting Annabel and her parents.
They made me very at home and spoilt me rotten. Annabel lives in London, but along with her family, has oscillated between Sydney, Devon and London for many years, so I was very luck to have coincided with her.

Annabel and Jono. Because it was innocent I can recount that the last time I saw Jono was having a party (pillow fight really) with loads of friends in a huge bed in a fine National Trust house, that was reputedly slept in by His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie. It was at a farewell party before she left the UK for Oz 20 years ago....the 3 of us had a lunch as if it was the next day....lovely lovely people. I recounted to her the exodus of girls to Oz 20 years ago and us English blokes' concerns, and she pointedly said it was pretty annoying at the time for the Ozzie girls when all these English girls came over and married their men...always cause and effect.

This is a failed attempt to capture the remoteness, beauty and scale of Gananny, the property that Fiona and Reg tend. Reg is 4th generation on the farm and to want to live anywhere else is quite understandably ridiculous.
Fiona and Reg, just before I left. Banjo the dog insisted on blessing Batty with his territorial  mark.
I am hopeless at staying longer than I said I would, but at Gananny, not only did I not want to leave but I could not, as I got trapped by huge down pours that made the dirt roads near impassable on Batty's road tyres.

I left in the end to go on to stay with Kirstie and Wal again near Tamworth and as luck would have it some neighbours were having a bit of an event, which included an exhibition by a stunt horseman and his steed called BJ.... apparently it was not short for 'Blow Job' I was corrected, but was a famous horse star  in the film "Australia".

My last girl pal from Dorset and Devon days that I  caught up with in what was a fortnight of happy memories, and being very well looked after.
Bekah and Roland live very near Byron Bay, which meant very little to me initially, but as Roland kindly spent a day showing me all the sights of this beautiful part, I soon understood why it has become a much desired area. It has much of the beauty of Dorset but with some useful degrees and surf that most can only dream about...apparently

My Plan now is to head north to Cairns in about a weeks time. I have to drop back to Sydney for a work thingy next week, but that will only be for a day, and I will fly it. I am hoping to get some diving on the Great Barrier Reef and a bit of sun...

Re matters engine and veg oil etc. I had a great meet up with David in Sydney, who has been advising on all things to do with the fuel. David is a glamour photographer when he is not powering everything by veg oil, and has loads of experience and stories on both matters. He has helped uncover the secrets of my woes that has stopped me using veg oil. The new engines have been slightly re designed to make them comply with diesel emission regulations. This involves lowering the combustion temperatures, which is done by one or all of 3 things, lowering the compression, lowering the injector pressure and retarding the timing. Any of these things are obviously fine with diesel, but when trying to combust veg oil's greater viscous properties and slightly different burning properties, they fail and the fuel only partially burns. The unburnt residue is swept into the rings etc and quickly causing the compression to disappear. 

I have written to Yanmar for their help, and will see what the meantime it is biodiesel if I can get it, or diesel with the odd litre of veg oil thrown into keep some pretence at vegibiking.