Our GS Adventure to Tasmania
By Petra Hennig & Jamie Shotton
For Petra Hennig it’s all about living the adventure and it only gets more worthwhile if you have like-minded company for the journey. Petra is the proud mother to two young men (aged 28 and 23 years) and was born in Germany, but has been living in Australia for the past 28 years.
An Anaesthetic Registered Nurse in a major trauma hospital and photographer, her other passion is for riding her 2019 BMW GS 1250, which she recently toured Tasmania on.
“I first learned to ride a motorcycle when I was about 14 years old doing motocross in the paddocks of Germany. I later bought a Honda 125 off-road bike and sold it before I immigrated to Australia thinking to buy a CBR250 instead. I soon found out I was pregnant and held that thought for about 18 years, till I finally bought a Honda CBR500 to get back into the groove. I replaced that with a 2018 BMW GS 1200 Tour a couple of years later. Then following an accident, where a lady took me out in a car, I replaced it with this 2019 BMW GS 1250. During the 18 years of not riding I was soothing my adrenalin and motor madness with SLSC IRB racing and Waverunner Patrol duties on the Gold Coast Beaches, and leading a team to the World Titles competing and receiving Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals in 2008.”
Her passion to make her life an adventure was reinforced after meeting soulmate Jamie Shotton in 2018 and together they enjoy motorbike travels and adventure rides with friends and likeminded riders alike. In 2019 she qualified to represent Australia in the GS Trophy 2020 in New Zealand as one of the two woman in Australia’s Qualifier Event at Dargle Farm, NSW.
Unfortunately a training accident made it impossible to participate or join the international female qualifiers in Spain that year.
Jamie is Petra’s biggest fan and supporter in anything to do with two-wheels. He has one bike for every day of the week and a spare and takes great pride in the ’90s bikes he owns. Making a living as a motorcycle instructor gives you an idea just what a bike buff he is. His other passion is cooking and working as a fine dining chef.
Adventure Tasmania with Petra
Finally, 28 years after arriving in Australia from Germany I got to visit Tasmania, an island state of Australia which is located 240 km to the south of the Australian mainland.
Separated by the Bass Strait it is the 26th largest island (90,758 km2) in the world surrounded by 334 islands. The state’s population is about 540,600 people. It is widely known for the cleanest air in the world, beautiful landscapes, warm people, delicious food and wine – especially seafood, stunning wilderness, scenery and rich history. Discovered by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman on November 24, 1642, Aboriginals lived in Tasmania for at least 35,000 years.
I was super excited to pack our bikes with all the gear we’d need to camp and be self-sufficient for three weeks, together with my partner on our two BMW GS, a 1200 Rallye X and 1250HP Rallye. My motto #MakeLifeaRide continues…
Leaving with massive rain forecasts from our home in Queensland we had a long trip ahead of us to reach Tasmania. In a straight Google-maps-line it is 1627 km (17 hours and 41 minutes) just to get to the ferry to board for Tasmania.
Our total kilometres added up to 5526 and we crossed through Queensland, NSW, ACT and Victoria, before reaching Tasmania. All this in the time of Covid19 with borders and rules eased and then tightened again along the way.
On day one we rode towards Tamworth through Goomburra State Forrest, Washpool National Park to Warrabah National Park and our first stop was Bendemeer Camping Ground.
The morning of day two we headed towards Lithgow Gun Museum (which J has wanted to visit for a long time) leaving Tamworth, Werris, Creek Spring Ridge State Forest, Coolah, Curryall State Forrest, Mudgee and Lake Windamere behind us and setting another camp at Lake Lyell in NSW.
Day three saw us crossing the border from NSW into ACT via the Abercrombie Caves (which were closed due to Covid) and crossing the Abercrombie River over the famous Abercrombie Bridge. After a quick dash to the Parliament on Capital Hill we head to Cotter Dam where we once again set camp for the night.
Leaving on Paddy River Road the next morning – I saw my first wild mop of emu’s on the side of the track – through the Bullen Range Nature Reserve we made a quick visit to the Deep Space Communication CDSCC. Space and Deep Space Station 34, 46 and Tidbinbilla were also worth the ride.
The CDSCC is managed by CSIRO on behalf of NASA and provides a continuous two-way communication platform for dozens of spacecraft. It was an impressive site to visit with its three tracking stations.
Continuing along Paddy River Reserve led us to Tharwa Bridge – a four span Allan truss bridge providing a spectacular crossing point over the Murrumbidgee River – was the highlight of day four, as the oldest surviving bridge in the Australian Capital Territory and with some nice little winding roads.
Crossing another mountain range, the Namadgi National Park covers 106,095 hectares providing a remote wilderness for off-road adventure riding. Up to 80 per cent was widely damaged in bushfires, which was still very visible but spectacular nevertheless. We continued our ride through Rendezvous Creek via the Bobeyan Road, Shannons Flat and Adaminaby until we reached our day four camp at Lake Jindabyne.
Lake Jindabyne is located in the Snowy Mountains of NSW and receives its water from the Snowy River, Thredbo River and Eucumbene River and is one of the largest fresh water reservoirs in NSW.
Day five finally saw us reach Victoria via the Kosciuszko National Park dirt roads where our connection with our GS and the earth were one. Full of spectacular landscapes, hills, gravel trails and rivers our dreams came true. What spectacular riding down Barry Way to Snowy River Road, passing the ghost town of Suggan Buggan and its famous and well preserved wooden schoolhouse of the 1860s. The rural town of Buchan, which is also one of the oldest townships in Victora, was our next stop before heading into the big smoke.
First European settlement happened in this area in the 1838 consisting of mainly farming and native vegetation and is best known for its caves.
On arrival into Melbourne late afternoon we reunited with my long time bestie Suzette who gave up her bed for us that night! A parting gift from my wonderful friend the next morning was a warm cup of coffee and a heartfelt hug goodbye at the early hour of 5am, just in time to start the trip to get to the Spirit of Tasmania Ferry for boarding.
Fuelling up at the BP got us ready to ride our first day in Tasmania, setting off with a full tank. Our anticipation was building as we battled our way through the cyclists of Melbourne. When we saw the wonderful sight of the Spirit of Tasmania 2, it hit us like a lightning bolt, Tasmania here we come… 28 years of dreams are coming true.
Waiting in the vehicle boarding lanes to the SOT2 we went through some serious Covid screening and security measures but finally were allowed to park the bikes as instructed.
We met fellow weary travellers, one of which was riding a beautiful 83-year-old Ariel, Austrian Robert on a Vespa and Craig on his Ducati Scrambler, who we would meet again at our first overnight with Darren in Fingal.
On arriving in Devonport Terminal, Tasmania, in typical Covid style the departing of the SOT2 was a debacle taking an hour and 10 minutes which didn’t allow us time to get to the campground we initially intended to set up at.
So we headed to Mersey Bluff Caravan Park where we were greeted in the utmost of welcoming Tassie spirit by new owners Luke and Caroline. Following a quick trip to the lighthouse, our first Tassie Camp setup began…
What an awesome start to Tasmania.
Tassie Day one of riding
Leaving Mersey Bluff Caravan Park at 0945 in the morning we rode towards Launceston via Port Sorell in the beautiful Tamar Valley of Tasmania. Tamar Valley is located at the northern end of the state and the Tamar Estuary is formed by the north and south Esk Rivers merging and leading into the Bass Strait.
The fully tidal saline estuary runs along its length all the way from Launceston. Stunning scenery presented us with curvy winding bitumen, a motorbike heaven really.
We rode past poppy field after poppy field, orchards, vineyards, dairy farms, lavender farms and oh so quaint townships… the smell and scenery was just divine, like home with these European town names.
We enjoyed a delicious and mouth-watering breakfast at Blue Berry Barn Cafe and Post Office where we were accompanied by the free roaming chickens of the barn. The fresh produce of barnyard laid eggs with bacon and a nice brewed mug of cappuccino was a delight.
We continued to follow the Tamar Valley Way to Launceston. Passing another town named after the Swiss Grindelwald, before we arrived at Launceston’s famous Cataract Gorge.
This phenomena lies only two minutes from the city centre, located in the Trevallyn Reserve where the longest river of Tasmania (the South Esk) enters the Tamar. The gorge has a spectacular view from the 1890s built bridge that leads along the cliff face.
Unfortunately it rained just as we arrived and we cut our visit short to continue on to the Bridestowe Lavender Farm. Sunshine awaited us just outside of Launceston and stayed with us all the way to our delight, and as we found the lavender in full bloom we took our time to explore the lush purple fields.
The farm was built in the 1922 and with over 260 acres it is now the worlds largest privately owned lavender farm. The rows and rows of lavender stretch over 200 km in total and hold an estimated 650,000 plants in total.
We tasted the lavender ice cream and tea before leaving to head to Fingal to see Darren, J’s friend from some 20 years or so ago. We took a couple of interesting gravel roads via Mathinna Plains Road, just past Ringarooma, while surrounded by the of biggest thunder and pouring rain.
Taking the pass over the mountain was spectacular and filled with amazing scenery and lush green forestry, that left me wishing I could have stopped for more photos.
The Fingal Valley is home to the magnificent strands of White Gums which are around 90 metres in height and Australia’s tallest gum trees. Surrounded by the Evercreech Forest Reserve and the Mathinna Falls Forest Reserve it provides some spectacular bush walking and waterfall visit opportunities.
In Part Two, Petra and Jamie leave Fingal behind and head towards St. Helens on the Esk Hwy.