Some time ago I spoke of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria and, in the process of that article, I alluded to my first visit to this iconic location, quite some time ago. I thought I’d expand upon that visit a little more.
To start with, yes, it WAS quite some time ago. It was actually the October Long Weekend in 1983, almost exactly 36 years ago to this weekend. We were living in Sydney having moved there the year before from Canberra. Among the many great new friends I met in Sydney was Chris Mundy. Chris was pretty easy to spot, he was (and still is) six foot seven in the old money. When I first met him he was riding an XL250 Honda which he soon swapped for a delicious GS1000 Suzuki, grey in colour.
Then, sometime in 1983 he decided to upgrade to a newer bike and, Chris being Chris, the whole process was attended by diligent research and examination. No Internet back then, remember, so most of what you found out, you found out by reading motorcycle magazines, remember them? However, nothing could prepare me for the shock when he decided to buy a HONDA, and not just ANY Honda, but Honda’s latest whizz-bang entry into the market, a VF750S, known in the states as the Sabre, here just by its initials and numbers.
It was a surprise for all sorts of reasons not the least of them being that, at well over 6 foot, I fully expected him to go for a litre bike and a big one at that. But he had done his research, had several test rides and he was thoroughly smitten by it. The 750S was a technological marvel in its day. Not only was it powered by Honda’s V4 engine, the ancestor of a whole series of generations of VFR’s but it bristled with all sorts of other nick-knacks. It had shaft drive, a water-cooled engine, It had anti-dive front forks and a fully electronic dashboard, that was a marvel all by itself. It had self-cancelling indicators and, under the seat where the tool kit and owners’ book lived, a hardened steel security cable to lock the bike with when you weren’t riding.
Chris immediately set the bike up for touring, fitting a small fairing and a top box and he started looking for excuses to ride the thing as often as he could. At this stage I still had my 500/4 but, our house in Canberra had just sold and we had some cash to spend on upgrading the fleet. So the old Renault 16 was swapped for a beautiful Triumph 2500TC sedan and the 500 was on-sold to one of Chris’s mates and I bought the first of my 3 CBX550 Hondas.
So, when Chris suggested a long weekend tour in October 1983, I was all over the idea like a cheap suit. My brother was living in the Yarra Valley at the time so heading south seemed like the best plan. We met up in Queanbeyan where my in-laws were living and Helena and the kids were to spend the weekend there while Chris and I hit the road. From memory I think we made it an EXTRA long weekend by leaving on the Friday, but don’t quote me.
There was nothing too fancy about the ride plan, down the Hume to Benalla,
west along the Midland Highway and down the mountain and into the Yarra Valley. BUT, travelling with Chris was (and still is) a hoot a minute and it didn’t take long for the silliness to kick in.
Somewhere along the way we saw this sign. No intercoms back then but we both knew straight away what the other was thinking.
Both bikes pulled over and hilarity ensued.
THAT is a 6’7″ koala wearing Belstaffs. No, seriously, it is!
Anyway. we made it to Yarra Junction and settled in for the night. I’m pretty sure we watched the movie, “Condorman” that night (why do I remember that?) and then it was up early for the long ride across town and the Great Ocean Road.
As noted already, the countryside was still showing evidence of the Ash Wednesday fires of March that year so it was actually pretty depressing. But, as the Australian bush does, it had already started to regenerate and that was very encouraging. It was quite a distance from the foothills of the Dandenongs to Geelong, at the start of the GOR, but we made good time and mapped out, over a cup of coffee, just how far we could go west before we had to turn around and retrace our steps and get back to Yarra Junction by nightfall.
I’m not sure how far west we went but it was a fair way, as I recall. The area next to the ocean had also been smashed by the bushfires of earlier in the year and there were plenty of burnt-out holiday houses and residences along the way.
We stopped and marvelled at the pylon house, it’s still standing today, and, eventually turned round and headed back.
Sunday we stayed at Paul’s before heading home by the reverse of the route down on the Monday. Details are hazy in the extreme but I know we stopped at Holbrook,
..and some other places.
I’m sorry but I have no idea at all where those photos were taken. We arrived home on Monday evening, tired but having ticked off another place from our bucket list. It seems strange that so much of the details of that trip are still clear to me nearly 40 years later, but I guess that’s the sort of weird mind I have.
Thanks for reading.