May 2012 saw a friend pop over from the UK, and a month's annual leave popping up in my work calendar. Some of that time was spent showing Vicky around the sights and sounds of Perth Western Australia, five days were spent exploring Uluru, and this brief ride report will account for the eight days we spent exploring the southwest by sidecar Picking the sidecar for the trip wasn't the obvious of choices, but I'm glad we went for it. The weather forecast was a git gloomy and inititally using a car seemed like the best idea, but I have an aversion to cars and the old bomb I have wouldn't have been up to the 1,400km trip, so it was quickly excluded from the selection process. A quick glimpse in the garage produced a few more interesting options. The DR650 is great two up, but becomes a bit of a squeeze after a while, especially with camping gear in the panniers and strapped to the rear luggage rack. The VN900 Custom isn't fitted out for carrying much gear, and the soft seat is fine for an hour long spin in the hills, but becomes a literal 'pain in the arse' on a longer ride. Southwest riding options ... The GSX1400 powered DJP sidecar outfit is a new addition to the stable, and came about early this year after I promised my mum I'd build her a sidecar and take her for a drive. Mum was very sick in hospital at the time, and it's been fabulous to see her recover from her illness, and it's been a treat to see the sidecar promise come to realisation. Mum gearing up for her first ride in the sidecar - April 2012 ... I can't take any credit for the sidecar build, especially as I was in the UK whilst the work was being performed. I had located the GSX1400 on bikesales.com.au over in Melbourne and bought that sight-unseen over the Internet and had it trucked here to Perth, and the DJP sidecar was found laying around inside a shed. Without going into details on the build - the bike and sidecar were expertly grafted together, leading link front suspension fitted, and a three-wheeled animal was quickly whipped up. My only contribution to the sidecar build was organising a club sticker from the 'South Yorkshire Sidecar Club', kindly provided by John whilst I was over in the UK. I've never driven a sidecar before and haven't had many opportunities to take it out, so eight days traveling down south in it seemed like the perfect way to get acquainted with it. The DJP is a 1 1/2 seater and has an amply-sized boot, sufficient to take all the camping gear. A 20L jerry-can of fuel in the rear carrier (the rig only managed 10km/l - 11km/l two-up at highway speeds) and a 20L jerry-can of water in the front carrier completed the set up. Setting off on a Thursday from Perth, our first stop was Dwellingup. After a quick coffee and warm-up at the Blue Wren Cafe we popped into the Dwellingup Forest Heritage Centre, showcasing some interesting woodcraft creations. Outside the Forest Heritage Centre, Dwellingup ... Leaving the hills south of Dwellingup for the flatlands, we then stopped at the Harvey Cheese Factory. This is a favourite stop for Rob and myself when we're out on a ride, and Vicky was keen to see what all the attractions are. A camel at the cheese factory took quite an attraction to Vicky as she wandered around ... Pushing on from Harvey we arrived in Bunbury just on sunset, and were fortunate enough to catch an impressive sunset down at the beach ... We stayed overnight in a backpacker's lodge in Bunbury and caught John Williamson in concert at the local entertainment centre, along with all the other pensioners that had drifted into town. Day two saw us make our way south from Bunbury to Dunsborough, stopping to grab a steak and pepper pie (Vince - the meat eater), and vegetarian Pastie (Vicky) at the famous Dunsborough Bakery, before strolling through Christian Fletcher's impressive photogallery. Anyone for a $2,500 photo ??? Just beyond Dunsborough we popped in to check out Sugarloaf Rocks ... Lunch was had at the Eagle Bay Brewery, overlooking Eagle Bay, just out of Dunsborough. Perhaps it was the glass of wine that had Vicky querying how many wheels a sidecar rig has - and judging by this photo some of them only have two The plan was to refuel at Dunsborough and then push the 100km or so further south that afternoon to Hamelin Bay, but the sun was starting to dip and the roo's were starting to frolic by the roadside, so we pulled up quickly at Yallingup, pitched the tent and then made our way down to the surfing beach to check out the sunset ... Yallingup sunset, sans sidecar ... A beer at the local pub couldn't ward off the evening chill, but the caravan-park owner was burning the stump of an old palm tree and so we ate dinner (dehydrated pasta) and drank port around the fire The start of Day Three was quite chilly - the $49 tent from Anaconda just wasn't up to the challenge ... After a quick breakfast of Uncle Toby's honey flavoured oats it was a crisp drive down Caves Road, stopping in at Calgardup Cave for a self-guided underground exploration of this cave system. It was even chillier underground, and we were grateful to have the jetboil stove with us (or the 'Rocket Stove', as Vicky came to call it), so we could whip up a nice latte' above ground, after our cave adventure. Pulling into the Hamelin Bay caravan park we pitched our tent again, and then like English tourists stripped off in the middle of winter and went for a swim in the bay, whilst everyone else was walking around in jeans and jumpers. Feeling slack, we opted to ride into Augusta for dinner that evening - bronze whaler and chips, and calamari and chips, washed down with some James Squire cider. The drive back from Augusta to Hamelin Bay promised to be cool, so Vicky rugged up in the sidecar before we headed off ... Day Four saw us leave Hamelin Bay destined for Walpole, via Pemberton for lunch. Enroute to Pemberton was passed through an area burnt out by fires from late last year. Here's a photo of the burnt bush I took just after Christmas 2011 when I was last down this way with Rob ... ... and here's a photo taken in May 2012, showing the regrowth on the trees ... When I was in Walpole just after Christmas last year, Rob's 1988 Moto Guzzi California had refused to start after we stopped for lunch, and we had stayed overnight at the Rest Point caravan park (just west of Walpole), sorting out the recovery of the Guzzi. On this trip Vicky and I pushed onto the Coalmine Beach caravan park (just east of Walpole), and we fell in love with the scenic view overlooking Nornalup Inlet. The chalets at the park didn't cost a great deal more than a campsite so we took a chalet, initially for just two nights, but then extended that by another two nights as there is so much to see and do around Walpole. Overlooking Nornalup Inlet ... The following day we headed out to the famous Tree Top Walk, about 17km east of Walpole. The walk heads 40m up off the forest floor and carves its way through a forest of tingle trees. This is the highest point of the walk. If you get down to this neck of the woods - do make time for the guided tour though the 'Ancient Empire' - the free ranger-led tour through the tingle tree forest. This is the highest point on the walk .. Back at our chalet later that afternoon the locals gathered around, eager for a ride in the sidecar ... With the weather fining up we had a brisk late afternoon walk along the knoll, followed by a quick hazelnut latte' down at the water's edge, all courtesy of the Rocket Stove ... Early the next morning I figured out that kookaburra's won't eat apple - this one took one taste of the apple and swiftly showed his distaste for it ... A highlight for Vicky today was the chance to drive the sidecar around the knoll. She's never ridden a motorcycle before but she picked it up quite quickly. The road around the knoll was perfect for learning on - one way and quiet ... The following day we went for an excellent ecocruise with Gary from Wow Wilderness (check out www.wowwilderness.com.au) - cruising around Walpole and Nornalup Inlets in a flat bottomed boat and being enthralled with Gary's comical and entertaining stories about the history of Walpole, plus so much more. Gary should be a national icon - his non-stop informative and humourous stories kept everyone entertained for hours. That afternoon Vicky and I headed east from Walpole to Conspicious Cliffs, about 17km east of Walpole, 6km south from the main road ... Day Eight started off crisp and cool - about 3 degrees celcius when we got up. A band of fog was laying over Nornalup Inlet ... It was time to return to Perth today, so we plotted a course north from Walpole and up through Manjimup back home. An hour into the drive I was frozen on the sidecar and Vicky was pretty chilled as well, so we pulled off the main road and broke out the rocket stove for a cup of tea and a snack ... Day Eight saw us cover about 430km in distance by the time we arrived back in Perth - by far the longest day on the rig. Some of our earlier days only covered 90km or so, but as we weren't in a rush there wasn't any need to set any land-speed records. The sidecar proved to be the perfect touring vehicle - sufficient space in the boot to carry our gear, and yet with all the fun factor associated with riding a bike. At 110km/h the 1400 motor is just ticking over at around 3,000RPM, and it was an absolute pleasure exploring the winding paved roads south of Dunsborough and the unsealed gravel tracks north of Walpole in the sidecar. As our first trip away in the sidecar it was a great introduction to sidecar touring, and I can't wait to get away again in it !!!