Friday, June 4, 2021

Riding The Great Dividing Range - Part III


Well, as I alluded to, I wasn't disappointed with the overnight temperature!

 It was on the lower side of "comfortable" during the night and perhaps because of this I was awake quite early. Everything was wet with dew so I wasn't going anywhere until the sun hit our little campground to dry things out. This was fine as I went for a bit of a walk around as it was now daylight and I could see what was where.

I "squeaked" around the camp ground (damn adv boots!) and went for a walk up the trail toward where it ends for vehicles. I think it is accessible by mtb all the way down off the mountain and I would very much like to explore it one day. For this morning though it gave me an excuse to while away some time before the sun reached into Little Murray camp ground.

I wandered back to camp to boil the "billy". I had pre packed some zip lock bags with Quick Oats and throwing some boiling water in to rehydrate them was an easy breakfast.....although I found it pretty bloody bland this trip. When I am bikepacking I am always hungry, so I don't have any trouble wolfing it down but now, on the motorcycle, that hunger just wasn't there so I had to drop 4 or 5 dairy milk chocolate bits into it to make it palatable. It still didn't look awesome but it filled a hole......

It took quite a while to dry the tent and it was just on 9am when I was finally able to get under way.

Fancy tent pegs drying in the sun.

Again. I didn't stop on the snotty trail out of Little Murray. Once I got to this shelter it was all smooooth dirt back to the dingo gate.

If you happen to look at Barrington Tops on Google Maps, there is a square grove of pine trees near the western edge. It was planted in the late '60s and is a spooky grove that straddles the road. I stopped in a small picnic clearing for a look but I couldn't imagine picnicing here. It has a very eeerie vibe that photos just can't capture.

Exiting the dingo gate I took a moment to soak in the view to the west. This is the direction of the sunset photo yesterday. I was able to take my time and enjoy the view this morning.

Yeah, I know, I'm not looking at the view!

I then proceeded off the mountain. Going down was much harder than going up! I was very conscious of the weight of this supertanker, so took it pretty carefully into each corner.....of which there were many! Once I finally reached the flat section of road at the bottom I was behind a dust throwing ute and trailer so I had to take it pretty slowly until I reached Moonan Flat.
I took a quick look around the town, which consisted of no more than a half dozen streets but I did stop for a photo at the church/community halls.

I then put my head down and blasted back toward Scone. About half way back I noticed a sign pointing to my right indicating "Timor/Nundle". Hmmmm, interesting.....I could have come that way last night....I'll file that away for next week....

For the next few hours I negotiated the busy roads of the upper Hunter Valley. This is busy coal mining country and there was a definite "haze" in the air around here. I went down a back road that I have used previously out of Aberdeen to get to Sandy Hollow only to find the road between two coal mines had been enveloped by said coal mine...which led to a bit of backtracking via Denman to Sandy Hollow. All ok though as I wasn't in any particular hurry - well, apart from exiting the dust haze surrounding the mines that is.
Once on the outskirts of Sandy Hollow I took a left along Bylong Valley Way. This road was completely unknown to me a few years back before Chiller posted about it on his blog. It is an awesome section of road - partly because it is so remote and relatively unpatrolled for Australia but also because of the amazing sandstone escarpments that the road runs underneath. I powered along here for quite a while, marvelling at the scenery, willing myself to stop for photographs but acknowledging that I couldn't do it justice....

No justice done on the imposing nature of the sandstone cliffs.

This road is almost like no other that I have ridden here in Oz. It goes from "typical" course chip sealed road that is flowing and fun to a couple of random cuttings which climb the escarpment very steeply and provide a challenge for any red blooded motorbicyclist. In a word (or two actually) it is "must do". Not soley for the road, but for the mix of road AND scenery.

It was quite warm by now and I had been pedalling hard for what felt like hours so I stopped on the outskirts of Bylong - a literal one horse locality. Munching a banana near the church, squinting into the low Autumn sun I almost saw a vision.
This church stood alone in the paddock, with an avenue of trees leading up to it's front door. That this looked into the afternoon sun as well really set the scene.

Jumping back on the bike there were more breathtaking sections of road where it came to the bottom of another escarpment, then proceeded to wind it's way up that cliff face. The next photo again fails to capture the sheer scale of the escarpment, but it was just past here that I began another fun climb.

I had decided not to follow the Bylong Valley Way to it's logical conclusion at Rylston and instead turn right towards Mudgee just prior to. 
I blasted along here now, feeling a bit of a need to "just get it done" and rolled into Mudgee mid afternoon. I had spent a lot of time here in the late '90s with work so for shits and giggles I rolled out to the airport for a look. 

File photo from '99. Lightning Ridge.

Man, had it changed! There were a lot of new hangers and what looked like a retirement village overlooking the runway! I wonder if the residents complain about aircraft noise like everyone else....?

Rolling into town it was time for a refuel. With that done, right across the street was Kelly's Irish Pub. What better place to find some shade and a refreshing drink while seeing which road would lead me where, next?

It looked to be only 75km to my destination for the evening so after my "hydration" drink, I was on my way. I ran into three sets of road works along here that really slowed the progress but on the positive side, I filtered to the front of the waiting column each time and enjoyed empty roads ahead of me - a very important thing along here as the road was quite narrow and very winding.

The little town of Hargreaves was the next bit of civilisation I came to. Another remnant of the 1800s gold rush like Hill End, it looked an interesting place to poke around. One for next trip perhaps.

I rolled into Hill End late afternoon, just as the sun was hitting the late Autumn foliage just right.
 The whole week's ride was worth it for this little bit of the afternoon.

I rolled straight up the the old mid 1800s pub, wandered inside and secured a room. Then I secured a Tooheys Old and wandered back outside to join the eight or ten people enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. 

Hill End pub. Most people are hiding behind that car!

Shelter for the steed out the back in the stables.

I soon discovered that three of those sitting out the front were fellow Queenslanders who were nearing the end of a two week motorcycle tour that took them out to Cameron's Corner, Broken Hill, Forbes and now here. We had a great night talking all things motorcycling, NSW and QLD, accompanied by good local wine, great food and a warming fireplace in the pub.
I toddled off to bed at what felt like midnight but was closer to 2130 after a fun night.

Only 370km for the day but I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow tonight......

Rolling into Hill End.


It rained quite heavily during the night and it was with a bit of trepidation that I hauled myself out of bed at about 0830. I was sporting a slightly sore head for some reason so took things very steadily for an hour or so. I didn't have far to go today to get to Sydney so I took a stroll around Hill End to look at what was there and thanks to a great set of interpretive signs, what had been there back in the day.

Looking down the street from my pub room.

The start of the tour back through time.

Looking back to the pub. There were Eastern Grey Kangaroos everywhere through town!

It began to sprinkle again so I headed back to check on my bike and begin the process of loading her up for my departure. I had been pretty keen on riding The Bridle Track down to Bathurst during the planning of this ride but with all of the rain last night I thought that the water levels on the low level crossings might be too high. The publican agreed that might be the case but I still went to the start of the track to take a look. 

50 metres around the corner it turned to slop. I need that raised mudguard!

I knew in the first few metres of gravel that this wasn't on, as I sunk into the ground and slithered off toward the side of the road in the greasy mud. Nope, The Bridle Track wasn't happening this trip!

Leaving town I stopped in the road for a final photo with the Autumn colour. Hill End sure was a pretty place......

I tip-toed out the road as it was wet, cold and my tyres were cold as well. The heated grips were turned up to maximum which just kept my hands warm (still with summer gloves, so it wasn't too bad) and puttered along, headed to Sofala. I'm not sure why I didn't just take the straighter, newer Turondale road to Bathurst as the Sofala road is quite narrow and twisty. Not that much fun today!

A quick stop in Sofala for a photo then I hit the road toward Bathurst.

Sofala main street.

It certainly wasn't getting any warmer here. I took another new-to-me road, Limekilns Road at Wattle Flat and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. A large section had obviously just been resealed (or sealed for the first time) and despite the wet I enjoyed myself. I must have missed a turn here somewhere, as I wanted to take Yarras Lane which would drop me on the Bathurst to Lithgow road about a quarter of the way to Lithgow. Unfortunately I followed the road into Bathurst which mean dealing with traffic and multiple roadworks in the wet conditions - something I could have done without!

It got bloody cold around Mt Lambie and for the first time this trip I was not enjoying myself. I high tailed it into Lithgow and stopped at the first takeaway, the dreaded Golden Arches. We used to always stop here back in the 1990s while on our way to Sydney as it was conveniently right on the corner we needed to take for the Bells Line Of Road and we seemed to always need warming up here! Bloody hell, Lithgow is a cold hole!!
Anyway, once in the car park I noticed that there was a Zambreros mexican in the old church that adjoined the Maccas car park and it had a coffee stall out the front! A warm coffee in my hand - bugger Maccas - I marched in to Zambreros for a feed and to contemplate "where to now"?

Now, in all of the time living in the Central West and all of the times passing through Lithgow, I had never been to the Small Arms Factory. I didn't even know where it was (it takes up about 1/4 of the town, so -D'oh!). As it turned out the factory has a museum and not only was it just around the corner, but it was open today. 

Museum building.

I wandered in, paid my $10 and was given personalised directions of where to go and what to see in the double story building that was the admin offices back in the day but now acts as the museum.
To say I was blown away by the range on display is an understatement! The museum was obviously founded to produce small arms but during inter war periods they produced all sorts of tools, household goods, car engine and gearbox parts and whatnot to keep the place turning over. They even had a Sunbeam mix master just like Mum had(still has) while we were growing up. I had no idea it came from Lithgow!
Obviously, there were all sorts of small arms manufactured here and they are all on display. There is also a large collection of foreign weapons on display. Here is a photo dump of a few of the displays.

I never knew SMLE components were made in Forbes, among other Central West towns!

Actual L1A1 at top right of display.

All Lee Enfield SMLE Number 1/MkIII variants produced at Lithgow.

The following pistol display was only a part of a collection that was donated to the museum by one man, Ron Hayes. Half the upstairs floor was dedicated to it though I only took a couple of photos.

After spending a couple of very interesting hours I headed back outside. It hadn't warmed up any so I rugged up for the climb up Bells Line of road. I hadn't been along this bit of road in probably 20 years due to where I have lived and where I have needed to go. I used to love the first bunch of bends out of Lithgow as it was dual lane, 35km/h corners winding up the hill. Now, because nobody knows how to drive the road has been choked down to a single lane each way and sign posted at 60km/h. If it was dry this would have been criminal but as it was wet and cold and my tyres were cold from sitting at the museum, I was happy to tip toe up the hill. I took my time , stopping into the Zig Zag railway for a look. I also took the Darling Causeway across to Mt Victoria as I had never been along this bit of road.
The views back to the west revealed the devestation of the 2019 bushfires with the countryside being pretty denuded of vegetation. It was trying to come back from the dead but it will be a lifetime before it looks like it once did.

This was my last stop for the day. I decided to just get going so that I didn't hit Sydney traffic during peak hour. The Bells Line is still an amazing bit of road, with resurfacing offering a race track smooth surface in places but the speed limit is a far cry from what it was 20+ years ago. I guess having something like 1.5 million more people living in nearby Sydney makes everything overcrowded......and I don't do crowds, let alone over-crowds any longer.

With the help of my Garmin I found my way to Steve's place at about 4pm and with another 260km done.. Thanks to my Spot tracker, he was waiting for me as I pulled into his driveway!

I had spent an awesome week on the road and had seen much new to me scenery. I needed to fly home tomorrow to go to work, so was leaving the bike in Steve's shed for a week or so, then I would be back to retrace my steps. This is the ride that just keeps giving!

Which way will I ride home? I had a few ideas to fill some blanks that I drew on the way down. It would certainly be another fun ride.
Stay tuned......



  1. Sounds like you've had a good trip and found some mint roads. Some very nice pics in there too.

    Making me jealous - think I'll go for a ride...

    PS: next blog from Steve will be him out caning the Africa Twin on your behalf?

    1. Yep, go for a ride. 😁
      As for Steve on the AT, you remember the time he had my R1? 😝 I told him to ride it but the poor bugger works his arse off and didn't have time before I picked it up. He has ridden it and Geoff's as well and I can confirm he is on the lookout for one. It is just they are as rare as rocking horse shit here in Oz at the moment. The Govt pumped $80ish BILLION i to the economy last April(2020) plus let people take $20k out of their superannuation so the demand and price of cars, motorcycles, caravans, camper trailers, boats, pushbikes....etc, etc went through the roof. It has possibly been the same for you guys?

    2. Apparently toys are hard to come by - everyone that can't go on their usual overseas holiday is buying bikes, boats, caravans and campers...

      Riding an extra 120km tomorrow just to get a crappy motel room. Long weekend and everyone's disappearing somewhere...

    3. Yep, sounds like it is the same over there then. Lets hope our little bubble can stay open. Steve and I are in contact with bike hire places in Christchurch.......looking at a late February beer tasting tour. 🤭

  2. Is the Bridle track open yet Dave? I saw a press release about funding to clear the landslide in March but not read that has been completed. Hope the weather improves.

  3. Hi Warren. Technically (legally) it is closed because of a rock fall(originally but therock is now gone)/narrowing of the track at a dangerous point but plenty of motorcyclists are still riding it. There is a thread in the Aussie section of called "Bridle Track Blocked?" and on page 44 there is a great Youtube video of it with that pinch point very very verymuch highlighted at 4:55 in!!😳 I have to admit, this turned me off quite a bit (I didn't sleep much the night I watched that!) even if it had been dry the day I was there! Middle-aged-muppet-on-an-overloaded-overweight-advbike possibly desribesme toa tee 😳

  4. Good post bro. Bet that guy in the video was shitting himself. He was so close to going over that edge.

  5. Loving this series of posts Dave, not the least for your introduction to Aussie back country. Your mention of that eerie area of trees reminds me of comments that a number of trampers have made on one of NZ's Great Walks in the South Island. Quite independently, quite a few of them said that there's an area of native forest down there that makes them feel like something is watching them. Spooky!

    1. Glad hou liked them Geoff. New to me roads and also new to you!🤗 I guess so many moto blogs are just about the "twisty" stuff and as a result are a bit same-same. I am of course guilty of that too!
      Interesting that a grove of trees can make us feel like that. I wonder if it is our subconcious throwing back to "Wind In The Willows" ?


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