British couple Jim and Jenny Mitchell were very impressed by a laid-back Aussie who set up his tent at a Horizons Unlimited gathering in Germany a few years back. He produced a laptop and went on to present an enticing 1.5 hour presentation on the joys of motorcycling through Australia.
Horizons Unlimited is a forum for those with a wanderlust for taking ‘the path less trodden’. The presentation whet the appetite of the Shrewsbury-based former property business owners, who until that point had only motorcycled around Europe.
The couple did their first big trip on two wheels through the Americas and are now exploring Australia after some hairy adventures coming crossland from home. Home is Church Stratton, just south of Shrewsbury on the Welsh border.
Australia has come as somewhat of a relief after the string of visas, restrictions, languages and cultures they’ve navigated to get this far, with the ‘Stans’ (Kazakhstan to Kyrgzystan) providing particular hurdles.
“We didn’t see one instance of the Latin alphabet between Turkey and Malaysia, but we did see a large variety of cultures,” Jim said.
They approached the Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan – among the world’s highest – just after an incident where a group of tourists was ploughed down and stabbed, killing four, and debated the safety of proceeding. Given the high police presence following the incident, however, they figured it was safer than usual and fortunately their assumption proved correct.
Ironically it’s the friendliness of the locals that has caused the most difficulties, with children rushing out to ‘hi-five’ them as they pass, not appreciating the difficulties of maneuvering a 325kg vehicle. One day it took the Mitchells 10 hours to travel just 214 kilometres due to all the hi-fives enroute.
The ‘Stans’ are also known for their long tunnels with no lighting but lots of potholes and – wait for it – cows. They found the best approach was to tuck in behind a larger vehicle, to not only light their way but hopefully take the brunt of any livestock altercations.
Sand slips have also occasionally been their undoing, in one case bruising both bike and Jenny. Cattle, goats and even yaks often make the roads an obstacle course, but the Mitchells are most wary of horses as they tend to be more skittish. In Malaysia their path was also obstructed by a huge monitor lizard.
The Australian wildlife hasn’t created too many issues so far. After flying in to Melbourne the couple rode to Adelaide intending to do the customary trip up the centre to Uluru, but too many days on the back of a bike in the heat convinced Jenny a change of tack was needed.
(She looks after the back half of the bike: luggage and planning. He looks after the front half: driving and bike maintenance.)
They instead took the less-common cross-state Barrier Highway through NSW, travelling to Dubbo and across to Tamworth to join the New England.
They use highwaytraveller.com.au to pick a couple of points of interest to explore at each location along their route, the quirkier the better.
They love the history presented by old cemeteries, and explored Uralla’s cemetery for Captain Thunderbolt’s grave but instead were astounded by the large number of children’s graves, and of the large disparity in age between many married couples, reflecting a different time.
Moonbi’s Gravity Hill got a run (up), as did the Lighthorse Memorial Museum in Armidale, Guyra’s big lamb (they regret they’ll miss the Lamb and Potato Festival) and the balancing rock just coming into Glen Innes.
While in Glen they also stopped at Glen Innes’s History House and Standing Stones. (‘Innes’ is Jim’s middle name and he belongs to the Clan of Innes, so it was a necessary stop.)
They checked out the historic cork tree in Tenterfield, as well as the Rotary Club’s weather rock. (“You see them in Wales, but there they’re just a stone,” Jenny said.)
The big train and the nonconforming rail gauges at the Wallangarra Railway Station drew their attention as they left the state, taking care to report the experience to a friend back home who’s a railway buff.
Then it was on to Toowoomba before heading west to Mitchell, another namesake.
The couple’s travel experiences are all well-documented by Jenny on the couple’s website motonoodles.com, initially just for friends and family but now attracting lots of attention.
And the website name? Jim said ‘moto’ is the name for motorcycles in most parts of the world, and they were inspired to incorporate ‘noodles’ while dining at a Chinese restaurant.
“Noodles typify that you know the route to be taken – from the bowl to your mouth – but you often get sidetracked along the way,” Jim said.