Dungog, Walcha – September 2018

Friday 14th September.

I finished work at 2pm, went to the gym, then came home and had a shower, changed into my adventure gear and waiting for Jase to get home so we could head off for our bike weekend. He was home, showered and we were ready for our adventure to start and on our way just after 5.30pm. Unfortunately, leaving Sydney on a Friday night at that time is going to be chaos, with a lot of traffic. We made our way up the M1, hitting traffic before the Hawkesbury Bridge, slow going after the bridge then it seemed to die down the further north we went. We turned off to Newcastle, stopping just short of Heatherbrae, we rang the pub we were staying at to say we were going to be later than expected, so they sent the menu to us and we sent back our order, which they would have ready for us…it was very nice of them to do that.

Turning left at Heatherbrae, we took the Clarence Town Road, which was a great road to travel on, with long sweeping turns and rolling hills all while riding between farming paddocks. We passed through the small town of Seaham, then Clarence Town before finally arriving in Dungog by 9.15pm and after a fairly long trip, we got changed then headed to the bar for a beer and our dinner, that they had prepared and kept warm for us.

Our very fancy bed!

The young bar tender at the pub, while collecting our glasses struck up a conversation asking where we had come from and where we were heading, mentioned a great spot called Ladies Wells which was in the Barrington Tops National Park, slightly in the opposite direction to where we were going, but we weren’t in a rush, so added that to the list of places we were going to visit the next day. It was a great evening, watching the end of the footy finals, having another drink before heading off to bed, ready for a great days touring the next day.

Saturday 15th September.

Up and dressed, ready for a full day on the bike, we headed down to the breakfast room, but decided to take it up to our room and sit on the balcony that went around the pub. It was forecast to be a very very hot day, in the low 30’s so it was a little difficult to decide what to wear under all the gear, finally deciding on just a shirt, our jacket and pants.

The Settlers Arms Hotel, Dungog, our accomodation for the evening.
Just getting the bike ready for the day ahead.

By 9am we were ready to go, packing the panniers then taking off, only to stop at the local shops for a coffee, some 5 mins down the road. Back in the saddle and on our way, heading to Walcha, making a few stops on the way, as we wanted to check out some prospective camp sites for the future, ones we had read about for new adventures to take the kids.

It was bitumen for quite a while travelling along Salisbury Road, we waved at a local that was sitting in the sun on his verandah, with him giving us a huge friendly wave back and not long after this we hit dirt track at the Williams River picnic area heading to the spot that the bartender mentioned, Ladies Wells. From Williams River picnic area we started to climb up into the Barrington Tops, this eventually turned around on itself and headed back down towards Ladies Wells. There was a great spot for swimming and a lovely waterfall, but there didn’t seem to be that many camping spots, and to us, it was easy 2WD access, making it a place for large, loud groups, which is something we try to avoid, it was a beautiful spot though.

At Ladies Wells camping area.
One of the great swimming spots at Ladies Wells.
At the other end of the waterfall at Ladies Wells

Back on the bike, we headed along Paterson Forest Road before turning left, which was still dirt, making our way back along Salisbury Road then turning left at Bendolba, onto Chichester Dam Road, which was now bitumen, we turned right onto Wangat Road which took us Telegherry, Frying Pan Creek and Coachwood campsites. Although it was dirt track to get there, it was rather busy for a nothing weekend, so couldn’t imaging what it would be like during busy periods, of long weekends and school holidays. We stopped for a little while having a look around before continuing our adventure.

We then headed along Middle Road, onto Kanungra Road, which as far as we were concerned, was a track that looked like it hadn’t been travelled on for quite some time, as it was over grown and rather rutted in parts, this brought us to Berrico Trig Lookout, There was a lot of up and down, butt cheeks hanging on really tight with abs working overtime, especially when we got stuck in a rather large rut, making for a hairy few seconds!! The track seemed to go for ever, we even took a slight detour, heading up to the Berrico Trig point, but when we got there, there was nothing to see in any direction, which was a big disappointment, there was an aviation beacon though. Back down and finally heading to Gloucester still on Berrico Road, but this time, it was a little wider and considering it was the main track to the aviation beacon, we thought it would have been in better condition, we were wrong however, as it was in a rather bad state.

Berrico Road at the bottom of the Trig Point track.

When we finally hit bitumen at The Bucketts Way, it was lovely and smooth, I didn’t have to hang on as much, I wasn’t sliding from the front to the back of the seat and I could rest my butt checks for a bit!! We stopped at a T intersection, turning left, waiting for a white van, then the courtesy nod to another rider that was behind the van before we pulled out, following both of them towards Gloucester. The road was a two way, with long sweeping bends, both of us enjoying the ride and looking forward to stopping in Gloucester for a break, which was only 30 mins away. Unfortunately we came around one of the sweeping bends to find the rider on the side of the road, with the white van parked near the rider. We drove passed, then turned around and discovered the rider had missed the corner completely and had come off, not at a high speed, he was only an L – plater. The people in the white van were the riders parents, as they were helping him move from Sydney to Armidale, so they were travelling in tandem. They had called an ambulance and by this time, two more groups of motorists had stopped to offer assistance as well. The rider was able to move and was talking, we assumed from what he was saying that he had a broken collar bone, he was in pain none the less. We stayed and offered as much assistance as we could, shielding him from the hot sun, as it was now well into the 30’s for about 40mins, with the ambulance well and truly looking after him. We wished them all well then headed on the rest of our journey, somewhat a bit shaken as to what we had witnessed.

Gloucester was only 15 mins away and as we had already stopped for a length of time with the accident, we pushed on to the small town of Barrington, where we filled up the bike and had an ice-block, as the temperature was now 33 degs, we needed something cold. From there we turned right onto Thunderbolts Way making our way up and over the mountain range, stopping at Carsons Pioneer Lookout, which was a little different to the last time we were there as you couldn’t see a thing through the low cloud and mist. We then continued towards Walcha, passing the little town of Nowendoc taking the middle fork in the road, travelling along Brackendale Road (which took took us straight into Walcha), waving at a group of trail bike riders sitting having a cold beer as we passed. The road was quite a good dirt road, however at that time of late afternoon, early evening the light starts to play tricks and of course the kangaroos and wallabies to decide to play too! We did come to the conclusion that this road had the most wombat road kills we had even seen, more than kangaroos, which surprised us, but I did yell to stop at one point, to watch a koala cross the road and look for a tree to climb! On our way again, we just skimmed the tail of a wallaby, who bounded off into the bush unaffected.

The lookout from Carson’s Point Lookout.

After what seemed like forever we made it to Walcha, much to Jase’s relief as he was a bit tired of the back seat driving, just on dark and ready for a nice evening in the pub. We had showers then headed downstairs, grabbed a table by the bar and had a beer before ordering dinner, I had crumbed cutlets and Jase had a lamb fillet with a sauce, both meals delicious. It was very pleasant sitting amongst the locals watching the finals of footy on the TV, before heading to bed, ready for yet again another big day on the bike ahead.

Sunday 16th September.

Up earlier than the day before, we had showers, and as it was going to be a bit cooler, I added a few extra layers this time. Breakfast was shared with a group of 6 riders from Sydney, all on Ducati road bikes heading out for a days ride as well. We were ready to go before 9am this time, heading back to Sydney via Nundle and Wollombi National Park.

Apsley Arms Hotel Walcha.

Travelling along Aberbaldie Road, we had to make a stop on the side of the road for Jase to add an extra layer of clothing and I finally got out my hand warmers out which I stuck in my gloves. The cows in the paddock where we stopped, were rather inquisitive as they all stopped eating and watched what we were doing as a local farmer came past with a ute full of hay, stopping to see if we needed a hand, we had a quick discussion about rain and drought, country people are very friendly, always willing to stop and chat, something we love about the outback. This road eventually turned into Walsh St which was dirt, travelling in and out of forrest plantations, my abs sore from the day before from hanging on, still not getting any respite during this dirt road either.

Having to stop to put more layers on.
The cows that all stopped what they were doing to have a look.

We then turned left onto Nowendoc Road for a short while before turning right onto Forest Way (not the one in Frenchs Forest either), this dirt road was a great track, with signs marking every kilometre for 30 kms. We saw an echidna cross the road and by the time we turned around to take a pic he was in hiding in the long grass on the side of the road, veering right we made the long steep descent into Nundle.

Our coffee stop in Nundle.
They were funny things, especially the one on the right.

We stopped at a cafe for coffee, which took forever to arrive, but while waiting for it, we spoke to a very nice local who was also a BMW adventure rider, discussing trips he had been on and the differences between hitting kangaroos and wallabies!! After our coffee, which did finally arrive after half an hour, we travelled back up the mountain then along Barry Road, which was dirt, then turning into Hunter Road, where we had to share the road with other farm animals, including some local cows that were extremely fluffy and very funny in the fact that the light one was sitting down watching us, but when I went closer, he stood up and just stared. Having to cross numerous cattle grids, and also three other adventure riders, that were going a bit quicker than us (all because they didn’t have a nagging pillion rider on the back telling them to slow down), we didn’t see any other cars. Only bitumen now, we travelled through huge properties, Glenrock Station, then Packers ‘Ellerston’ which looks beautiful from what little bits we could see. We saw emus running through a far off paddock, making this trip one of the only ones where we have seen all but one of our bush animals…(yet to see a platypus). The road was through paddocks, then a bit of forest, then back through fields, it was a beautiful ride, very enjoyable for both of us.

Somewhere between the two stations.

Moonan Flat was our next stop, where we stopped for lunch with a lot of locals and other bike riders. We have since come to the conclusion that we should share a meal, as two meals were massive and the wait was a fair while, maybe adding 1.5 hours to our trip home, including the coffee stop, lunch was nice and we do need to stop more frequently on the bike than when in our trucks.

It was flat, but lovely rolling soft hills and corners.

After leaving Moonan Flat we travelled along Gundy Road which took us through Scone, then onto the New England Highway to Aberdeen. Unfortunately we were getting into more populated areas, so more cars and trucks around, which isn’t as fun, as I make my opinion on this known to my rider!!

We fuelled up at a big servo in Cessnock before heading along Wollombi Road to Wollombi Pub where we stopped and changed our visors to the clear ones for the last of our journey home. This pub at Wollombi is a known bike rider hang out, and lucky for us there weren’t any there, as it was later in the day, because right outside the pub, we dropped the bike, and because it is so heavy, there isn’t anything you can do, except let the thing fall over!! Awesome.

Ready for the last stretch home, rugged up with neck warmers, we pushed on through the windy countryside of this stunning area, even finding the turn off for Yengo National Park, which we had looked for on our previous trip, but missed. Travelling alone George Downes Drive, then Peats Ridge Road we unfortunately made our way to the M1 in the dark…not impressed as it does frighten me slightly, actually a lot, for the last part of our trip. We stopped for a quick break just off the M1 at Wahroonga, relieved to be finally off it, and only 30 mins from home.

We pulled into our driveway at 7.20pm having done 1071kms for the whole weekend, making it a huge two and half day adventure. I was glad to get my gear off, as the knees rubbed, causing grazing on both of them and I also get quite a sore back when not sitting against a chair for long periods of time. It was such a great short trip, talking to locals, see our amazing countryside, staying in local pubs and seeing nearly all of our native animals in one trip. Being on the bike makes you experience lots of different things, the sights, the sounds and also the smells, as you can smell a road kill long after you have ridden past one lying on the side of the road, a lot more than when travelling in a car, certainly heightens all of your senses.

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