Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Homing Pigeon


About a week (or was it two?) after my bike trip south to Sydney I flew back down to pick 'er up for the trip home. I had a few ideas for the route home and it looked like the weather was going to cooperate.

I was on a 6am flight so that I could maximise my ride time for the day. Steve was working so I needed to slum it on the trains to get to his place. Sydney people bitch about how bad the trains are in Sydney but I swear, every time I catch one it is an unexpectedly fast, smooth service. Maybe I am just lucky but what I thought would be an arduous journey from the airport to Blacktown turned out to only take about an hour. It is almost that long in a car! Yes, I was going the opposite way to the "commuter rush" but it was like having my own private train!

I treated myself to breakfast near Blacktown station and I have to say, this was one of the best Gozleme I have ever had. 


Once at Steve's I quickly gathered my riding gear that I had left behind last week and had the bike out the gate. I was going to meet Geoff (Joffrey/Bushpig), a mate of Steve's, at McGraths Hill Maccas and accompany him and his new knee for a ride up the Putty Road.

I haven't really ridden in Sydney for over 20 years and can I just say, GPS is a handy tool when you have absolutely no idea where you are going, but bloody frustrating when you have some idea. All I had to do was follow Windsor road (after I stopped at Team Moto on Sunnyholt Rd to buy new gloves - guess who left their summer gloves in Brisbane?๐Ÿ™„) but it was all different. Last time I rode Windsor road it was single lane each way. Now, it is multiple lanes and didn't look at all familiar - so when the GPS told me to turn off to the north I thought to myself "this doesn't feel right but okay....". So, I got a tour of  the Box Hill/Oakville area before popping out on Windsor road near McGrath's Hill! That took care of the time I saved on the train ride!!

Anyway, I was almost on time and met Geoffry at the Maccas car park. He has had a stock Africa Twin  for a few months now and loves it. Smart man that Geoffry!

I followed him up the Putty road and again, I hadn't been along here in the better part of two decades, so don't remember the road. I did my best to keep my supertanker up to speed and Geoff in sight, which was fun. It reminded me why this is such an iconic and popular road for riders. Plenty of long corners - both tight and open - mostly well surveyed too. Well, there are one or two that tighten up unexpectedly, just to keep you on your toes.

We stopped at the Grey Gums cafe' for a coffee but were disappointed when we found it closed. I then recalled seeing somewhere on the 'net that they were closed during the week now due to low customer numbers. Shame as it was a nice spot.

After a chat for thirty minutes or so I pressed on northward while Geoff headed back for the Big Smoke. Just up the road was the old "halfway roadhouse" that we used to stop at for a break/refreshment. I wonder how long this has been closed up for? The better part of two decades I'm guessing....

Not much farther up the road was the famous "10 mile". This section of the Putty is smooth and well surveyed. Even better still, being mid week it was dead quiet, there being almost no traffic. So, I set the drone to do droney type stuff and proceeded to ride back and forth - for the camera of course! This was awesome fun, even on the supertanker.

Once out the top end of the Putty I needed to put my head down and make some miles. Through Singleton and Muswellbrook to Aberdeen on the New England highway (bleach๐Ÿ˜•) for fuel I decided to check out that Timor/Nundle road that I noted a few weeks back while coming back from Barrington Tops on the Moonan Flat road.

No, not ISIS as in the Middle East terror group, nor ISIS as in Archer. No, Isis as in the Egyptian goddess. That is the Scone/Moonan Flat road in the background and this is me, headed up the Timor road toward Nundle. I was looking forward to this!

The road soon turned to dirt. Very good dirt though and as the sun hung low in the clear winter sky, the contrast highlighted the beauty of the Isis river valley - except for when it was full on in my eyes and I couldn't see jack!

The road passed by several "stations" (large farms) that straddled the road like small villages. The road sides were well manicured in these locations and were totally unexpected. For some reason this area felt a million miles from anywhere, yet is only a few hundred kilometres north of Australia's biggest city.

Timor was more of an area than a distinct village but the church and tennis club are probably the social centre of the area.

The road began to climb north of Timor. It was quite steep and narrow in places but always interesting. I stopped at an overlook for Mt Crawney station to take in the vista. Somewhere in those hills is where the Lutana met her end.

It started to get quite cool here in the shadow of the Crawney Range. I cranked the heated grips up a bit and rode the twisting mountain climb a bit more vigorously to generate some heat. 

After a close call with three large deer and seeing a few roos on the road I decided to back off somewhat while in the denser forest!

The sign say Roos and bugger me, theres one sitting on the road.(very far right of road)

Once off the bottom of the range the road opened out and daylight again flooded in. Apparently it wasn't as late as it had felt up in the scrub, but the day was slipping away, so I opened the taps considerably to get to tonight's watering hole in Nundle.

I arrived at the Peel Inn with about 20 minutes to spare before dark and managed to just score a room. Seems they were pretty full with a helicopter dog baiting team staying there. The pub was nice and warm with some fires roaring nicely and once I had the bike unloaded I enjoyed a couple of cold Tooheys Olds, followed up by a fantastic steak meal, washed down with a couple of glasses of very passable red wine.

Day 2

I was surprisingly warm in my room, despite the fact the bed didn't have an electric blanket and that it was freezing outside overnight. 

Breakfast was included in the room tariff so I wandered over to the coffee container, then around town for an hour or so until the kitchen opened. There was plenty of evidence of just how cold it had been. 

Lutana plane crash memorial.

The dog baiting chopper was parked on the sports field so I checked it out too. It would be interesting flying but probably young mans/womans work. You can't afford to make any mistakes when you are flying around down in the weeds.
The chopper cast an elongated shadow that the quickly melting frost took shelter in, leaving an abstract helicopter shape on the grass.(not easily seen in the photo unfortunately)

After enjoying a full cooked breakfast and an interesting chat with the owner (the pub has been in the same family since it was built in the mid 1800s) I loaded the bike up out the front. My only criticism of this pub is how bland it looks on the outside. This is definitely a case of not judging a book by it's cover as the Peel Inn is a cracker. Great food and friendly staff.

Today I was planning on taking the road through the forest, east toward Thunderbolt's Way and Nowendoc, then east through the forest to The Oxley Highway.
The Forest Road proved to be a great ride with some winding bitumen for the first few kilometres, then good dirt for the remainder. You could do this road (taking it carefully) on a road bike.

Rounding one bend I found this guy taking a dirt nap. They really are nuggety little buggers and I would hate to collect on on a motorcycle!

Want to see Australian wildlife? Don't bother going to a zoo, you can just cruise around the roads and you will see most all of it in some state of decay. This poor little dozer looked very fresh.

Just around the corner from "Fatso" was the Ponderosa camp ground. If I had known this was here I would have grabbed some food from the pub and then come out to camp. 
Next time.

The road wound it's way through some magnificent pine plantations and I had to stop a few times to take in the view. There is something so otherworldly about pine plantations for a kid who grew up on the flat plains of western New South Wales.

I meandered along eventually popping out onto the wide open corners of Topdale Road which I had loved on the ride southward last week but this morning, going the other way I didn't even recognise it for some reason. It wasn't until I was reviewing the day's route that I saw where I had ridden and mused at the difference a direction can make to how a trail/road feels.
Turning right onto Thunderbolt's Way for 25ish kilometres I turned left, off to Nowendoc, which consisted of a petrol station, a community hall and a police station.
Not stopping I enjoyed the ride eastward as the road opened out and crested wide open hill tops with 360 degree views.

I enjoyed about 100km of decent dirt as it wound it's way up and down hillsides, through pine plantations and across more bare hill tops, recently logged.

Tia Diggings road was in the process of being graded and was rough where the work was completed and loose where the work was still ongoing. Probably the worst dirt I had seen so far on either bit of this trip. But it soon ended and dumped me out into heaven......The Oxley Highway!

The Oxley doesn't need any introduction as it is THE motorcycling road on the north coast of NSW. Having said that, due to heavy rains back in early April, sections of the Oxley were cut by land slides so the road was closed just the other side of Gingers Creek at Stockyard Creek rest area. This was of no great concern as there are still plenty of bends to be had between where I stood and Stockyard creek! As I was to discover, with the road being blocked there was zero traffic and I had the place to myself! I really enjoyed the late Autumn sunshine and twisting road into where the road was closed. I took a morning tea break at the rest area and just soaked up the sun for a while.

I did peruse some maps to see if I could use some forest roads to get around the blockage but figured without some proper planning I could get a bit lost in the vastness of The Cells State Conservation Area.

Turning back I enjoyed the road knowing that I wouldn't be held up by any traffic and that there was little chance of anyone coming the other way. As such, I hooked it back to Walcha. Once through Walcha I kept heading west toward Bendemeer. I hadn't been on this road since Chillertek (Steve) and I did an impromptu ride to the Oxley from Dubbo when I was living there. That must have been Easter '97 or so!
There isn't much to this road. lots of long straights but there is a nice set of bends dropping down into a little township called Walcha Road. Guess where I got stuck behind a truck doing 25km/h? 
Ahh well, I'd had my fun on the Oxley. I stopped for a quick photo of the Walcha Road pub for a friend who had grown up in the area and had probably knocked back a few in there.

Turning north on Wollun road I paralleled the rail line to Kentucky then took a left out to the New England Highway. It was time to make some miles again as I was meeting Mike, a QANTAS pilot mate at Glenn Innes. He was riding down from Brisbane for an overnight in the pub and we were going to meander home tomorrow.

It is always cold in Guyra. No wonder, it's bloody high!

The New England is a bit boring, especially after the back roads I had been enjoying but it was excruciating for a while as I was stuck behind a highway patrol car who was doing 90km/h in the 100km/h zone. I ended up pulling off the highway and blasting out the Ben Lomond road for a look around this little hamlet. Doing this I could cover more ground, see some interesting sights AND not be much slower overall.

The disused/long abandoned Ben Lomond railway station. You can just make out on the sign 4473ft elevation. The northern New England Tablelands have some elevation!!

Turning around on the spot, this mailbox caught my eye opposite the railway station. See what you can achieve when you don't waste your time fcuking around on the internet?!!

Rolling into Glenn Innes I wanted to check out the Australian Standing Stones on the eastern side of town. This region of NSW identifies heavily with England and Scotland (The early settlers to the area must have felt right at home in the cold up here) and these are some nod to the Old Country. There is even an area called Stonehenge about 10km south of Glenn Innes.

Whatever floats your boat I guess.

But enough of that! A pub beckoned! Arriving at the Great Central Hotel, Mike was already in residence and onto his first beer, so my timing wasn't too bad.
After unloading the bike, showering and rugging up, I joined him for many more beers and a great pub meal. Another great day on the bike done and dusted!

Day 3

Emerging not too battered or bruised after last nights beer-fest, we took the twenty or so paces next door to "The Local" for breakfast. Yes, this is the same place I ate at on the trip down and yes, there is a reason for this - the food is fantastic! They also have the world's most upbeat waiter looking after diners. Seriously, whatever he is on, needs bottling and selling!

A bit of faffing around ensued after breakfast before we were on the road but that was fine as we didn't have that far to go to get back to Brisbane, perhaps 500km or so. Unfortunately, Mike suffered a dental malfunction and needed to get back to his dentist before he closed and yes, this was a Friday afternoon of course! So we (I) proceeded to fly off at top speed and take no prisoners on the road. Well, we did want to make good "progress" now, didn't we? As a result of this, photos from Day 3 are very few.
The run down the Gwyder Highway to Grafton was a cracker as usual, despite some road works near the bottom. The transit of Grafton was the usual time sucking nightmare. I really need to sit down and map a route through town that cuts out all of the highly trafficked areas. I think the new bridge across the Clarence might help with this.
We beetled up the Summerland Way toward Casino at a clip, stopping for some fuel, just in case.
Some lunch was had in Kyogle at the bakery. I ordered the biggest chicken salad roll in the history of the world (got to love country bakery rolls) and battled for some time to get it down.

Mike about to straddle his Ninja post bakery in Kyogle.

Mike had never ridden this section of the Summerland Way and Mt Lindsay highway so was in for a treat! There is a bit of everything along here and the scenery is very sub tropical. We soon crossed back in Queensland and stopped for a quick pic (and for Mike as a born and bred QLDer, to kiss the ground๐Ÿ˜œ).

The next bit of road is a real bitter sweet section. Lots and lots of tight bends but possibly the worst surface in south east QLD. Surviving that, we stopped for the obligatory photo in front of Mt Lindsay. It never gets old taking in that view.

From here we were in 'get-it-done mode and just beetled along, eventually getting home around 1530. Hopefully that was in time for Mike to get to the dentist!

Trip starting odometer.

Finish odometer.

So that looks like 3580 kilometres for the trip with a fair chunk of that off road. Not a bad week and a half on the bike and plenty of new roads taken in..... but with oh so many more to explore in the future!
 I must say, the Africa Twin has grown on me. It can be loaded up with a huge amount of gear (way more than I had this trip) and it will hook along on any decent road surface. While I wouldn't be too keen on doing single track or steep rutted dirt on it due to it's weight and height, sticking to the "better" dirt is a lot of fun!

This riding somewhere, then flying home, then flying back to pick the bike up again has given me some ideas as to some extended touring that is capable of being fit in around work. 
Leap frogging my way across to Western Australia might just be possible with mates located in Adelaide and Perth ....... hmmmmm. ๐Ÿค”

Cheers and thanks for reading.


  1. What a cracker of a post Dave, with stunning photos! You could make a great living as a travel writer when you've finished with flying and everything else. We'd love to travel the Aussie back roads too when all the current troubles have calmed down a bit. Well done mate!

    1. Very kind of you Geoff but no, I 'aint no writer. ๐Ÿค“ As for the photos, they are mostly from a 6 year old Samsung phone. It might be time to upgrade the camera gear a little - maybe not quite to Steve's standard though.

  2. Nice conclusion to the tour Dave. I'll add the Peel Inn to my list and look to include some of that area to my future riding.

    Having a bike like the AT makes so much sense in Australia where there is lots of places accessed by gravel roads, glad to hear it has grown on you.

    1. Hi Warren. Yes, it is no surprise that sports bike sales have dropped off a cliff here in Oz. Even sports tourers, as the police are so hell bent on fining everyone off the road. Must be working and I am yet to see a speed camera on a dirt track!
      I still maintain that the T700 would be a better all rounder because of it's (lack of) weight and simplicity - maybe the next generation when they fix the little niggles on the first one. The AT is perfect if you are more black-top inclined is how I see it.
      I may have to look for a lighter bike as I just found this last night....

  3. Ahhh, back to proper bikes, that's much better!

    Looks like you had a really nice few days on the bike and managed to find a few places to get it dirty.

    I woulda passed that cop...

  4. Ahhh, Grasshopper. Two wheels are a rich tapestry to be enjoyed. Motorcycling only, well that is like just drinking Tui all the time. Adding all forms of two wheels is like opening the palate up to hoppy craft beers and different flavours. You need to try some new beers mate!๐Ÿค—
    As for passing that cop 1. He would have found something wrong with your bike - NSW Highway Patrol aren't normal cops, they are professional arseholes. 2. You would have missed the blast out to Ben Lomond and back, plus that cool motorcycle sculpture.
    In an iteresting twist, a long lobbied for rail trail has just been approved from Ben Lomond to Glenn Innes. I can't wait for it to be built so I can come and pedal down it. Then the naysayers will see the benefit of cycle tourism and more of the old line will get opened up. Can't wait.

  5. A nice little adventure. I too love those large pine forested roads. The one out at Oberon comes to mind. Beautiful stuff. Thanks for pissing off so fast that I didn't get a chance to thrash that piece'a into oblivion. Maybe a ride soon when I get my new bike if that's ever gonna happen with this lock down.

    1. Yeah..... I saw what you did with my R1 last time I left it there....๐Ÿ˜ฎ


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