With an exciting invite to join ADB and a film crew for five days riding new BMWs in the New England area, I thought it’d be a whole new world of experiences for a country boy and long-time reader like me. I just didn’t expect them to speak a different language as well.
With almost everyone on the crew right into photography and video, the technical terms were thick in the air every night. A seemly endless competition to ‘nerd out’ meant I didn’t know what they were talking about half the time. Although they probably felt the same about me with my endless lists of road names and local unrefined lingo. I received more than a few puzzled looks when I didn’t even know what a hipster was, little alone that I could be one.
We were worlds apart.
Less is more
My main role was to supply information on roads and link up a three-day course from Walcha to Glen Innes, and after an initial burst of enthusiasm with numerous variations of the New England backroads on offer, they settled on a shorter version of a supplied course to allow time for filming. I didn’t realise how long this would take.
I was supposed meet Sam Mac and Josh Evans at Port Macquarie at 2.00pm to pick up the bikes, which was just as a cold front was due to sweep over the whole area. Showing a remarkable lack of team spirit I arranged to pick up my bike early to try and avoid the forecast rain, cold and dark the boys would have to tackle.
With a brand new 700GS, 800GS and 1200GS shining in the warm Port Macquarie sunshine, and guessing the guys might be keen to eat up the miles, I grabbed the 700 after long lustful looks at the 800. I threw on my gear, signed my life away and headed for Armidale.
Don’t fall off
My main responsibility for the week was ringing in my ears: “BMW expects its bikes back unmarked, so don’t fall off”. We hit the magnificent curves of the Oxley Highway, and despite the bike urging me on, we adopted cruise mode and rolled into Walcha as the temperature dropped and ominous looking clouds rolled in, turning the sky a greeny-black. It was three degrees at 1.00pm. Walcha never disappoints in mid-winter.
The plan to avoid the rain was thwarted around Uralla as large, cold drops started, but thankfully never really got to any intensity and I was warm and still dry, holed up in my luxury accommodation with the hot air blaring, before 3.00pm.
The guys got in around 6.00pm after the last hour in the dark and cold. A nice dinner and a meet-and-greet followed before we retreated to our rooms. Strangely, I was at the complete opposite end of the motel to the other guys. It looked like my boasts of being a champion snorer were taken seriously.
As a born-and-bred Coffs Harbour local, I’d never really experienced snow before, so I was delighted to find soft snowflakes drifting down first thing in the morning, and after a few photos we headed to a lookout over Armidale for the first video shots.
My initial fears of not being able to keep up with Sam were well founded. The speed at which he climbed onto the 1200, started the bike and rocked off the centerstand in one motion was hard to match. It required a few extra takes to get me into the shot before Sam was long gone.
I’d been flogged already and we hadn’t even left the car park. Geez.
That was perfect…do it again.
Riding back and forth through the prettier areas for the film crew was hardly a chore as we explored west toward Guyra. Unfortunately the splendid scenery offered lots of film opportunities and the day whisked away as we looped back toward Walcha.
The trip out to Walcha Road Hotel was a visit to my roots as we went past where my mother went to primary school. My dad also used to frequent the Walcha Road Hotel as a young bloke, taking advantage of the pub’s loose closing times of that era.
A ranging fire welcomed us to the historic hotel and it immediately felt homely. It would’ve been nice to have a few drinks in memory of the old man, but after a couple of quick takes it was back to Uralla just on dark.
Early rain soon turned into heavier snow falls to the next morning, and over breakfast we discovered the main roads in and out of town were closed because of ice. The producer decided to call off the day’s shooting.
I pointed out that only the main roads were closed and we could take alternatives back to the dirt then reassess direction for the day. They were starting to wonder why I was invited and this was just what I needed: to be useful or at least expendable, riding out front on the icy roads.
The light ground cover soon turned to around 10 centimetres of snow completely covering paddocks in a winter wonderland – or as wonderful as zero degrees on icy roads can be. As we got closer to Armidale, patches of blue sky were trying to break through the dark, heavy clouds and by Ebor it had turned into a crisp, sparkling, ice-free sunny day.
Back in the bush
With the weather co-operating it was back into the bush and we tried to salvage our film commitments. The high, alpine forests offered respite from the cold wind and the tighter tracks working their way onto the range were not only a hoot, but provided a worthy backdrop for the film crew.
The BMW surprised me with its surefootedness in the fast loose gravel and was becoming a good, trustworthy, friend lapping up the forested areas with ease.
After a stop at an awe-inspiring remote lookout, the pace picked up slightly as the bigger bikes disappeared on the tight, twisty ribbon of tar as we shortcutted back to our planned overnight and rendezvous with the drone pilot.
Too good to be true
The third day of filming proved epic, warm and sunny, and after starting the day with bacon-and-egg rolls and a quality beverage (mine turning out better than most) it was time to convoy up the valley.
The riding was nice and tight, and the road carved into the side of a picturesque river winding off in a blissful, smooth, granite surface that encouraged bad behaviour. The day was only missing Cain, our 990-riding doctor from home, to complete the film-star package.
After telling anyone who would listen that the river rocks were slippery, it was amusing watching Grant’s slow progress, crossing without the bridge. It made for great footage, and my feet were still dry – bonus!
The footage from the drone looked superb and just made you feel like riding. I can’t wait to see it again on New England’s new flash Tourist website.
The run up to Tommy’s Rock near Glen Innes was fun and it was eye-opening how well the big bikes could be thrown around. Grant, and especially Sam, give an entertaining demonstration of what a 1200 and 800 can do. It was amazing. I can’t wait for the footage to surface.
The view from the top of Tommy’s Rock is spectacular, and an added bonus considering the ride back down was more spectacular and entertaining. You just had to be there.
With dark fast approaching and the film crew still attracting groupies in the middle of nowhere, Geez pulled out a camera and out she came apparently, arriving late. I only heard her Tarzan calls from the thick bush. The pale faces seemed to confirm their story so we bolted for Glen Innes arriving just before dark, safe, hopefully, from wild women.
Another brilliant feed and top accommodation and plenty of laughs. I was bitterly disappointed they got the drinking-at-the-bar shots done in two takes when every other shot took considerably more. The props just tasted so good.
With Sam and the crew swapping to high-powered sports bikes for the following three days, it was time to return the bike and head home alone for me.
With the temperature a balmy two-below-zero as I left Glenn Innes, it was straight onto the dirt as soon as possible and down past Kookaburra and Wards Mistake. Kookaburra Road looked spectacular in the early morning light, it’s long, roadside grasses completely frozen and sparkling – although I was starting to wonder if bikes need a temperature gauge when it started flashing at minus-three.
The coast beckoned and I was soon following the Macleay River back towards Port to return the BMW, completing my brief by not falling off.
I would like to thank ADB, Bauer Media and New England Tourism for an eye-opening view on a whole new world, which hopefully I may get to visit again. Can I have an 800 next time please?