Around Australia on a Bolwell Scooter

Part 1

Wyn practising to ride her new Bolwell Scooter"You're not really going around Australia on that, are you?" asked the man at the petrol station in Apollo Bay. I resisted pointing out the obvious to him, and simply smiled inanely. By then, having traveled over 8,000 km's since leaving Perth Western Australia, I was used to such comments. Like the truckie at Border Village Roadhouse (at the WA/SA border), who asked, Are you totally mad or just three-quarters insane? The object of such incredulity is a bright orange 50cc Bolwell scooter, the model appropriately named Gypsy. Decked out with bicycle pannier-bags, a large sport bag across the passenger seat and a bright red 5-litre jerry can in a basket on the front, Gypsy certainly attracts attention.

From Rockingham, my home town, I headed south through the forests of Manjimup via Walpole to Albany and Esperance. Leaving Norseman on the Eyre Highway (popularly known as the Nullarbor Crossing) I quickly came to appreciate the benefits of riding a scooter across what many people see as a vast area of nothingness. I had time to enjoy the immensity of the landscape; to stop and admire the inspiring sight of a wedge-tailed eagle lazily riding the thermals high above; to enjoy a family of kangaroos taking shelter from the sun in the mallee shrub or to stare back curiously at a flock of emus staring curiously at me.
At campsites each night, fellow travelers would bemoan the boredom of the journey. I suggested to them they try doing the trip on a scooter instead of rushing through as fast as they could sealed in air-conditioned isolation in their four-wheeled vehicles.

After spending time exploring the Eyre Peninsula I went to Adelaide for a week of total relaxation. Then it was through the Barossa and Clare Valleys to Port Augusta and on up north to Coober Pedy. That necessitated buying an extra tin jerry can. I had found the bike capable of covering up to 170 km's on its 5 litre tank (and as little as 120 on days where I encountered headwinds or lots of hills), but as there is a stretch of 256 km's - Glendambo to Coober Pedy - prudence suggested the extra petrol. It was a wise decision as I needed the additional fuel.
I returned over the same route five days later and heading via Peterborough took a slow meander through the Riverlands area of South Australia. Bird life along the Murray River is abundant and once again I blessed the openness of life on a scooter. To be part of the scene, to feel the wind, to smell the magnificent River Red gums along the route, to occasionally hear the calls of the birds made me want to sing aloud with joy!

Heading back south through Pinaroo and Bordertown I reached Kingston SE from where my route took me mostly along the coast until eventually I reached the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Being the start of a long weekend there was quite a lot of traffic along the route, and I've been asked Why a scooter? Why not a motorbike? Well, I like the fact that the scooter is automatic, not having to change gears and co-ordinate hand and foot movements. I like the fact of sitting upright (no backache). I like the bike being only 50cc, which means I can ride it on my car driver's license. I also like the fact that it is, for the time being, one of the more unusual ways of traveling around the country; I like the challenge that presents in particular, a lot of motorbikes. The riders all greeted me especially those on Harley's with hooting, waving and leg shaking! Made me feel good to be accepted as part of the biking fraternity!

I am at present in Melbourne, planning the next stage of my journey. Not even half way around but I know that next time someone asks me, Are you really going around Australia on that? I will answer, Yes, and as I go I'm planning on scooting around the world next.

All loaded up and ready to goAfter nearly 3 weeks in Melbourne visiting my younger daughter Keli, who has recently relocated, I was glad to be back on the road - not so my nether regions which had again to adapt to firm seating. When first setting out from WA I spent at least a week 'wriggling'. Thankfully, it only took a couple of days this time.

Leaving Melbourne via the Dandenong road I could feel my smile growing wider as Gypsy and I left the traffic congestion behind. It was good to feel the wind, to smell the trees. Gypsy fairly flew along - the major service it'd received from Paul and Neil in Mordialloc was obviously appreciated.
After stopping at Heathcote for the night I continued on to Echuca on the banks of the Murray. Echuca - every time someone mentioned the town's name I had to resist the urge to say 'bless you!' On the tent site adjacent to mine I met 'Tim' and 'Jenny', a couple about my age, from Perth. They are canoeing down the Murray from Yarrawonga, NSW, to where it enters Lake Alexandrina in SA. And people call me crazy! At Albury some days later I encountered the first serious rain of my journey but stayed snug and reasonably warm in my little 'cocoon' - a 2-person dome tent.

Canberra was my next destination, with a stop overnight en route to visit the Dog on the Tucker Box at Gundagai. I stayed on the Hume Highway - usually I try to take back roads - but being a Sunday it wasn't particularly busy. Not busy, that is, until nearing Canberra. Every man and his dog - and the rest of his family - seemed to be out for a Sunday drive. The caravan park at which I stayed for a few days borders a reserve. I was delighted on my first morning, while eating my breakfast cereal, to spot four kangaroos standing upright at the fence curiously watching me. Colourful lorikeets and very noisy cockatoos were daily visitors and possums left their calling cards on the grassy campsite at night. The experience was enhanced by the fact I was just 6km from the centre of the Capital.

Once again I had people disbelievingly asking questions about my journey and I had to pose with Gypsy "because friends won't believe me when I tell them about this." On my last day in Canberra - a city I thoroughly enjoyed visiting - the rain struck while I was out doing the tourist thing. The visor on my helmet soon clouded over. I pushed it up. Then my spectacles became 'un-see-throughable' as the raindrops gathered on the lenses. A fortune awaits the inventor of (affordable) visor and/or glasses wipers!

Crossing the nullaborIt rained all night. The next morning Gypsy refused to start. I dried the sparkplug and cap. No go. I changed the sparkplug (as taught me by Frank at The Scooter Shop in Northbridge before I left Perth and the extent of my mechanical know how). No go. I waited half-an-hour and tried again., No go. So I phoned the local Bolwell dealer, Nico, at Motoroni. He very kindly agreed to come to my rescue. Of course, when I got back to the bike after making the phone call, one push on the starter button and the engine burst into life! Nico came to the caravan park anyway and showed me how to check for spark. My mechanical knowledge is increasing! I subsequently bought a small tarpaulin to cover Gypsy at night.

Due to the late start I only went as far as Cowra that day. It hadn't been my intention to stop there I was headed for Orange, but as always good came from bad. A friendly town, an exceptional caravan park, an interesting history to explore. My overnight stop became two. Orange - where the main crops are grapes and apples - welcomed me with a storm. I'd chosen a bad campsite. I was obviously in a depression, as evidenced by the pool that soon developed under my tent. A thin layer of water seeped through. In the pitch dark and continuing rain I decided to 'make do' and spent a very damp and cold night trying not to roll off my _ length self-inflating mattress - the only dry spot in the tent. Next day I moved sites. Gypsy lost her new tarpaulin - it now graces my tent, providing extra protection from the elements. Not that it helps in cloudburst conditions.

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