It’s Sunday arvo and I’m still still trying to come to grips with Toby Price having won Dakar.
It seems everyone has something to say on the result and an opinion on Toby, so I’ll just sit here and enjoy the quiet feeling of elation. I’ve logged my request for an interview with the relevant people and now I’ll stand in line behind some the world’s media powerhouses who are crying out for Toby’s attention.
Meanwhile, between watching Dakar unfold on the ‘net and sitting glued to the SBS highlights each night, I’ve had a flat-knacker week at work that hasn’t allowed much riding. It hasn’t allowed any riding, actually. I’ve been spinning spanners on work’s Triumph so it can be returned, but that’s as near as I’ve come to riding.
I see Secret Squirrel went to the Coffs stadium cross, and Dave and Karen Ramsay look to be enjoying themselves in Thailand. They’re not the only ones who’ve been out enjoying themselves, either. Darren Newberry was looking for ride partners for the weekend, and he and Tim stopped by jst as I finished this blog. It sounds like they had a great time. And Marty HC went out with a hardy few for a couple of days. He filed a report, and I’ll post it here. Seeing as you’ve been good enough to log on, it’s only fair there’s something here for you to enjoy (even if I have nothing much to contribute).
Marty’s ride report…
Wolfy had been busy of late, but with a couple of spare days midweek he was keen for an adventure ride ,and having just sold his daughter’s bike to newbie rider Dan, decided to bring Dan along for his first adventure ride.
The midweek ride just as everyone went back to work kept numbers down and abusive comments up as I invited people that I knew couldn’t come. It was only Phil Davis who successfully rearranged his commitments to make a party of four.
With Gingers creek as our overnight stop again (good friendly service never gets old), some extra care to mix up the route for something new was required. As Wolfy likes technical tracks something a lot more hardcore was called for, and Wolfy assured me Dan would be right.
With 45-degree temperatures forecast for the day an early start was in order, hitting Pine Creek at around 6.20am and heading straight into the bush. Being early meant the closed road and bridge out were no problems, and all too soon we’d descended from the ridges for a couple of kilometres of highway through Urunga. With the big rivers crossed and out of the way, we dived back into the bush at Martels Road and zig-zagged through Valla for the real start at Macksville.
Dan was already in raptures about the riding. It was going to be a big day for him as I just considered the first bit transport with the good stuff still to come…
The trail soon deteriorated into loose, shale, narrow ridges with steep uphills and downhills that ensured everyone was awake. It was too much fun as we clambered over Scotchman, Big Siding and Good Friday mountains – also excellent on a Wednesday – and Ennes trail saw the boys make a break for it and shake out the cobwebs, leaving me as lead rider covered in dust.
The ride came to a screaming halt a few kilometres later with a ‘Road Closed’ sign. Yes, I know I have trouble noticing these signs, but the forestry 4WD blocking the road with a worker waiting for a work crew was unmissable and caught my attention. A dusty detour was required to get to our first refuel at Willawarrin.
As I ushered Dan into the backroom of Willawarrin general store I received quite a response. First it was wide-eyed amazement and shock, then fear as he wondered who he’d gone away with and what the locals really get up to around there.
A quick refuel and a snack later we were on our way, close to on time.
Gateway to adventure
Crossing the Macleay river always feels like the gateway to adventure and its superb winding, narrow roads through farmland only reinforces those feelings. The road became narrower as it followed a breathtaking river deep into the valley. Gorgeous swimming holes dominated before we started to climb on Banda Trail.
The legal wilderness bypass was a blast (the best National Parks sign I’ve seen offering clear, helpful information), a combination of leafy trails with short grass meant dust disappeared as the road clung to the sides of ridges and offered vast views overlooking forest as far as the eye could see. There’s no shortage of trees around there, that’s for sure.
Before long familiar road turned up. It was one we used for the Triumph release to avoid a difficult creek crossing (maybe it was difficult on an XCx. DRs rule) and unlike on the Triumph release we turned back into the dark, moist rainforest.
A hidden oasis proved too much of a temptation for a break, and the speed at which Dan started to tear his clothes off had me worried he’d got the wrong idea from Willawarrin, but I decided to join him anyway. The water was crisp and refreshing, being deep in the rainforest with little light. In fact, the tree cover and high altitude made the temperature was quite pleasant.
North Wilson/Wilson Roads while still dust-free was relatively dry, the temptation saw Phil again bust out front and, despite overshooting the next few corners, was grinning madly at the next regroup.
The roads opened out and returned to more dualsport style as we fast-tracked the last 80km to lunch, and finally the forest released us from her grip. Before a short highway transport we rolled into Long Flat for a 2.30pm lunch, dropping down from the forested ridges the temperature had risen alarmingly to 45 degrees.
A nice quick lunch saw us keen to get back into the high country on Toms Creek Roads delightful tight switchbacks providing the relief needed.
Combine to Elands was 10 degrees cooler at least with nice views, and Elenbourgh Falls were impressive, the run back through Knodingbul taking just enough time to miss the Dakar report on SBS, but told Toby had a blinder and was now heaps in front.
A few well deserved cold drinks before a delicious dinner on the veranda finished the day off nicely.
Dan was lapping this all up, the day had been an overload to his senses with so much good riding on offer although my impression of him being a nice normal young bloke was shattered by his free diving T-shirt, seems he’s a bit Looney like the rest of us, maybe more.
A brilliant tight leafy trail again had Dan gushing about ‘the best riding ever’ and as the trails opened out, the speed picked up trying to make time early. A partially fast straight into the sun saw me airborne at over a 100km from a large rock that had me worried about my rim and as I struggled to turn the next corner, about my tyre as well.
Being a bit of a film star at the moment, the boys hooked in, as Wolfy balanced my bike, Phil whipped in a new tube, then Dan pumped it up, I may have tightened the axel but as it didn’t come loose I’m not too sure about that either, but I did take the photos.
The run out of Combine along narrow ridges into the bush was great. The maize of well-formed gravel fire trails crossing the occasional rocky creek were nice, if a little easy, another ‘Road Closed’ sign was just bluffing and before long we started to climb toward Bago Bluff near Wauchope. Single trail leading off in all directions was a temptation and the multiple viewing spots were breathtaking with huge drops and spectacular views.
Port Macquarie traffic was a shock to the system as we bee-lined to the ferry and fun in the sand. The whooped-out sand track to Point Plumber was fairly well rolled in with lots of holiday traffic with the occasional deep, loose section to keep us on our toes.
Phil again roosted past, being super-aggressive in the loose stuff, and Dan loved it too, but as usual it was over much too quickly and we found ourselves at Crescent Head for lunch. Unfortunately they had no sandwiches – which disappointed Phil – but the beachside location made up for it by the scenery, which could be quite distracting.
Over lunch Dan was babbling about extra gear, big tanks and more riding and doesn’t appear to hove any hope. He’s hooked better than a fish with a spear through the head. I’m afraid we have ruined Dan for ordinary riding. He’s an a hard-core adventure nut now. Welcome aboard.
Dirt lanes and sneaky grass sections had us back to the forests through to Mt Yarrahappini for some hills and rainforest with awesome views and provided a happy ending – even happier when my camera was still there one hour later after backtracking. Do’h.
To make sure Dan had a memorable ride, Wolfy took him back through the horseshoe in the heat, then single tracked home from Bello to finish at 7.30pm. Phil and I short-cutted home from Macksville, taking the soft, smart option.