Out of the fog

Early morning fog swirls ahead of us, we can hear breaking of the waves, but they remain unseen as ghostly shapes fade in and out of vision. Then as the fog starts to clear, the waves come into view and the ghostly shapes solidify to become paddle-board riders cresting the swells.

Out of the fog, a magical experience

We are standing on Nelson’s Beach at Bargara enjoying the first day of spring, yes we are on the road again and on motorcycles, back to our roots. So how did we get here?

While Australia has been both extremely lucky and vigilant, Covid-19 still manages to get into our communities and cause lockdowns that make travel planning interstate problematic.  We were scheduled to spend two weeks in Tasmania a couple of months ago, but lockdowns and designated hotspots derailed our plans at the last minute.  Given that state borders are the new travel boundaries, we still have all of Queensland to explore and with the heat of summer fast approaching, it was time to get out and head north for a couple of weeks.  The only problem is that all our current travel gear is in the UK. Time to dig out all our old camping gear we have not used for decades and see what the moths have left us.

Fifteen year old kerosene, perished valves, decades old sleeping bags and a smelly leaky tent all challenged the preparation process. I did find during testing the stove that the home smoke detector works well!  With some judicious cleansing, a waterproof spray and a few parts replaced; note buy the spares pack at the same time as the stove because when you need them 20 years later they are long out of stock, we are good to go.

 

Just a little more WD40 and a hammer

With no Covid-19 cases in the community, we head off early so by the time the daily Queensland Government Covid-19 announcements are made we are outside of Brisbane and past Noosa. It feels so good to be loaded up and riding again, our smiles are wide as we head north.  

Given a lack of space and our confidence in weather forecasters, we are leaving waterproof outerwear behind.  If we get a rainy day we will just wait it out. No one told the rain gods and a cloudy start turns to rain outside Gympie, turn around and run for home? No, we are made of sterner stuff and ducking into a service station till the rain storm passes helps.

We just missed the oncoming storm

While this is a road trip will allow us to explore parts of the Queensland coast we have not seen before, we also want to revisit some of the places we have visited over the last few months looking for a quieter place to live. We have enjoyed Manly but it has grown busier over the last few years while we have been travelling overseas and we feel that somewhere smaller is what we are looking for.

Our first stop is Hervey Bay, where friends have just moved to and it gives us an opportunity to both catch up and also learn a little more about living in Hervey Bay. We are provided wonderful hospitality and our stay is over too quickly. We are moving on to Bagara next and into a tent for the first time since Iceland in 2019.  

With our dear friend Leanne in Hervey Bay

Caravan parks appear full, with NSW and Victorian number plated vehicles. Their owners are staying in Queensland rather than return to indefinite lockdown in their own states.  This does not affect us as we do not need a powered site. We get a lovely space looking into the forest with no one within 50 meters, how lucky can we be. 

Camping at Bagara

Happy we met 47 years ago

Anne is happy on this special beach

Mon Repos conservation park, Bargara


September 1 and the first day of spring and as the morning fog dissipates we notice patterns on the beach, have the local wildlife been busy overnight? No we meet locals Kay and Cynthia who are producing a range of what I would call “beach art”. They are here today to celebrate the first day of spring.  Their art puts a smile on our faces – it is bold and happy.   Kay and Cynthia were just as open and inviting as their art.

Kay and Cynthia’s mandala,Hello Spring, smiley and flower

 

Kay and Cynthia, beach artists

After chatting for a while we invite them for coffee – thinking about it now, we’re not sure if they were finished making beach art for the day but they graciously accepted.  This little coffee shop on the beach is full of regulars – surfers, paddle boarders, skate-boarders, business people, artists.  Having explained that we were considering Bargara as a possible retirement place, they introduce us to Bill, a local developer.  Our morning walk on a foggy beach suddenly turned into a whole day of connections.  Bill tells us we need to call Molly (his real name is really Grant – yes, there’s a story behind this).   And Cynthia invites us to afternoon tea followed by walk to a special place built by Bill in consultation with local Aboriginal artists and elders.  What a morning already and a what a day this promises to be.

Anthony having his Poppy nap in Bargara


Time for a late shower and lunch before meeting Molly who gives us a great tour of the development and explains Bill’s philosophy, environmental work, such as creating the smallest lighting footprint to prevent disorientation of Loggerhead turtles.  I (Anne) would move there now if I could!…  Time to head to Cynthia who has made a special orange and passion fruit cake to cater for my lactose intolerance!  We seem to have so many interests in common, such as travel, the arts, energy, nature.  We’d better stop before it gets too late for our walk!  Off we set with Cynthia, her husband Dave and a visiting friend Helen.  Remember our Carnavon bush trip where Anthony’s boots fell apart, this happened again!…  Lucky Dave had some strong glue.

At the yarning circle, we bump into Bill again who is there with photographers and artists who have been commissioned to create more mosaics along the paths in the estate.  Bill has built strong connections with the local Aboriginal people which means a lot to me.  What a day this has been with so many connections.

Dave and Cynthia at the new yarning circle in Innes Park

As always, I am the one driving a potential move (poor Anthony!)  and I have had a clear idea of what I would like from a potential move:   a small place with a soul and a vibrant community, and proximity to nature. And not too far from medical facilities.  Could Bargara be the place?…

– Anthony & Anne

“Third-Laning”

I would like to, hopefully, introduce a new term to the English Language Lexicon, “Third-Laning”. This is a term we originally coined after travelling through the ‘Stans’ in 2014 and again in 2017. The term is our definition of the way in which people in this region and other parts of the world use the two lane road to full advantage to overtake slower moving vehicles in the face of continuous “on coming” traffic.

In Australia we are used to traditional overtaking on a normal two lane highway and are familiar with overtaking lanes being created to facilitate passing as traffic volumes increase or one encounters steeper inclines. In many of the regions we travelled through, especially the ‘Stans’  we have found little evidence of overtaking lanes being constructed outside of the major cities. This has led to an innovative approach to overtaking that involves maximising the full width of the road by creating a third temporary lane between the existing two lanes of traffic travelling in opposite directions.

Why we need motorcycle lanes. We are the only ones in this photo going in the right direction on this dual carriage way!! Heading to Siliguri, India In 2014.
Go for the gap in the middle, “Third-Laning” in action in Kazakhstan in 2017.

To work effectively, “Third-Laning” requires the active participation of both lanes of traffic to make a new vehicle-sized lane to allow passage of overtaking vehicles between them, which we found most people helpfully do. This does require a higher level of driver concentration on vehicle positions, road width and surface conditions to ensure this can be undertaken with a reasonable amount of safety. We have noted a couple of times on our travels where this has not worked successfully with devastating consequences, not to us I must add, so be aware this is not a panacea for all overtaking.

One also has to take into account those attempting “Third-Laning” in the opposite direction at the same time, ‘Forth-Laning’ is a lane too far in my view.

Upon returning to Australia at the end of 2017, I was surprised and pleased to see our state government was taking great strides in bringing “Third-Laning” to the motorcyclists of Queensland.  What forward thinkers they are.  I have assumed motorcyclists due to the lane width, although Streak and Storm’s panniers may need to diet to fit! Over the last three years it appears that this program has continued to be rolled out covering more and more roads and signage has been erected. We have bicycle lanes, why not motorcycle lanes.

Motorcycle Lane “Testing” in Central Queensland?
Possible motorcycle lane signage?
It will be much easier for motorcycles to overtake.

As you can see from the photographs motorcycle sized lanes are being implemented around Queensland.  I have not been in touch with the Queensland Department of Transport to confirm this fact, but could the photographs speak for themselves?  

I am sure that in the fullness of time, probably when every road in Queensland has one, we will be told by Queensland Transport we can use them, but please wait for the official announcement before you start using them as “Third Lanes”.

Fanciful you may say this is, but in the future when driverless cars prevail, I suspect such use of third lane roadspace may become commonplace, although I suspect the motorcycles in their current form will no longer be on the roads when we have transitioned fully to driverless vehicles but that is another story.

So please spread the phrase “Third-Laning” in all your motorcycle social media interactions, let us get a new phrase into the English Language.  

– Anthony

Postscript: Anne has asked that I inform our readers that do not understand my sense of humour or flights of fancy that section of this post relating to Queensland Government motorcycle lanes is fiction. Ride Safely and stay out of the middle.

Closing the loop

I would like to start by thanking all those family members, friends and followers who have sent a steady stream of messages wishing me well during the last eight months as the ‘detached retina saga’ has unfolded.  While I am not on social media and therefore unable to respond directly, I have appreciated each and every message that Anne has read out to me. A big thank you to all.

Where am I now?  A little over a month ago at the end of March, I underwent a third operation, this time to remove the oil in my eye and replace it with gas again.  This had always been planned, but became more urgent due to the oil causing my retina to become inflamed.  We had tried steroid drops to control and reduce the inflammation a month prior but as the photo below shows this was not successful, so back under the knife again.

November 2020, February 2021 and April 2021. White is inflammation.
Now where is that parrot?
Laser scaring top and right hand side.
Part of the belt and buckle placed around my eyeball.

After a week face down again, getting used to this now, and wonderfully supported by Anne, I was able to see the progress of the gas dissipating. It was like having a spirit level in the eye which slowly moved to a point where if I leaned forward, I just had a single bubble in the centre of my eye.  One day, probably because I jogged about 50 meters, it split into two bubbles.  I found that if I moved my head in a certain way, I could make the small bubble travel round the big bubble.  The surgeon seems less than impressed with my skills when I mentioned this last week during a checkup! He was however happy with the last operation and apart from a checkup in six months, my surgery days are over, hurrah!!!!!!

I would like to take a moment to thank my surgeon Dr Abhishek Sharma who not only fixed my detached retina but made himself available at any time to promptly answer any questions or concerns we had, such as what looked like a blister was in fact part of the belt and buckle. I was lucky to have him and his team treat me.

So what next?  I will visit a specialist optometrist to get glasses that will help the left eye to work harder which may help my vision.  The laser scarring caused by repairing the 13 tears in the retina and the detachment of the retina and macular means a reduction in vision in my left eye.  As the surgeon said “Think of it as the film/sensor being damaged, even having a Leica lens will not completely compensate for the loss of vision”.

While this whole process has taken some eight months to reach a conclusion, it has not been all pain and discomfort.  After each operation I was able to resume normal activities, which in Australia, has meant pretty much everything we used to do. We have been so lucky in Australia that COVID-19 did not get a foothold.

Anthony on a bodyboard at Main Beach, Gold Coast
Anne and her Honda CB500X at Poona 250km North of Brisbane.
Troy Cassar Daley on stage before Midnight Oil at Sirromet Winery
Out at Canungra Qld for coffee

We have not forgotten that a blog on our African Adventures in 1982/83 was proposed back in February 2021.  Just like the Australian COVID-19 vaccination rollout, we are behind schedule but will get there eventually – just need to get the creative writer juices flowing again.

Thanks again for all the messages and well wishes.

– Anthony

A Retrospective RTW journey?

Thank you to our faithful followers for your encouragement and comments!  So here are our thoughts.

As we slowly worked through our “to do” list in 2020 which was drawn up in Thailand over Christmas 2019, we came across boxes of transparencies/slides taken on previous trips prior to the digital age. From this came an idea: why not try and see if we can retrospectively record our experiences from our first attempt at a RTW adventure over 38 years ago in 1982. 

When we considered how we should record our trip, this blog came to mind. This would give us a permanent, easily accessible, record of our travel from this time, in a format that we are familiar working with. While this is a self indulgent exercise for us, it might fill in for the lack of travel we are all suffering from.  We thought it would be an interesting comparison between that first attempt and our more recent trips.   What was travel like 38 years ago?

So how will this work?  During our cleaning up, we also uncovered old tickets, receipts and maps, dug up a few faded photos plus the transparencies/slides. We received copies of letters we sent en-route to friends and family. We even still have items that travelled with us, I Anthony is more reluctant to throw stuff out than Anne is.  Anthony’s defence is that seeing and handling an item can illicit more memories that just a photo.

To start the process, each of us separately jotted down a high level list of memories, before we looked at the pictures, to see what we could remember unaided. How will writing in the present about long past experiences work? We shall see.

What will be missing? Sadly neither of us kept a detailed diary that we can fall back on to fill in the gaps so our thoughts and musings at the time. Many we met travelling were recording their travels to write a book later,  I am not sure how many ever did. What will also be missing are the names of many wonderful people that we met, which is a pity. I did find a small notebook in which I kept diary notes for the first month of our journey.  A review of my simplistic scribblings confirmed the theory that I had limited literary skills at that time. Anne keeps saying that I have improved immensely since then.

What memories will we dredge up as we go through this process? We have no idea, but this will be an interesting challenge, given what I, Anthony, when asked to remember my childhood, would only fill a couple of A4 pages. How does someone write their memoirs and produce a book?!  

The result we hope will a permanent record of our first and somewhat naive, long term travel adventure. Some of you will actually feature in this journey, a bit like an Alfred Hitchcock film where the director appears in a walk-on role early on in the story.  

Drawing on the structure of the Star Wars movie series, we have numbered the last two RTW trips, Episodes 1 and 2, and so we will title this one “Episode 0 : In the beginning”.

We appreciate our patient followers’ forbearance. So here goes……

– Anne & Anthony

Looking Forward / Looking Back

My dusty Linkedin profile proclaims my occupation, somewhat optimistically, as “Adventure Motorcyclist”. When I reflect on our single motorcycle adventure last year, all of three days through the Bunya Mountains in July, it makes me think I can expect a call from the government regulators for creating a false or misleading impression.

The last twelve months have seen unprecedented changes and challenges to all our lives. Employment terminated, families separated and loved ones lost as the world and the frontline health workers battle with the COVID-19 virus. International travel from Australia for most of us has been banned for the foreseeable future, even Australian interstate travel is risky with sudden interstate border closures having the potential to strand us and the motorbikes at any time, like Western Australia’s five day lockdown from 6pm today only just announced, after a straight 9 months without a single Covid case, a perfect example.

With the start of the rollout of vaccines across the globe, hope is that country borders will start to open up to travel, but realistically, this will not be until late 2021 and probably more likely 2022 so a steady stream of blog entries to keep those lounging on the couch happy will not eventuate. So, looking forward, we do not have a practical adventure in mind at present, but to fill in the time for the couch dwellers, perhaps we need to look back in time. A long way back… Interested?  Any thoughts on how far back we’re going?

– Anthony