Day 356, Sunday 12 August 2018.
We rode along the Waterfall Way to Armidale, then down the first part of Thunderbolt Way to Walcha. I love the interesting names Aussies give these highways. We saw Ebor Falls which were impressive, and Wollomombi Falls which had negligible water but very spectacular scenery. In between we took a 15 km unsealed road to Point Lookout where the views went forever and we joked about being able to make out Taranaki in the distance. Unfortunately my cellphone camera can’t do justice to these scenes.
Once we got up onto the New England plateau, above 1000 metres altitude, the winds became strong and the temperature dropped to 6-7 degrees. I wasn’t expecting these daytime temperatures and felt very cold. At Point Lookout we were above 1500 metres, but I think it was not quite as cold, but perhaps that was because I was walking more.
istance travelled: 260 km. Total distance so far: 45,113 km
Day 355, Saturday 11 August 2018.
We came from Grafton south to Bellingen, taking a nice country road to Carumba with a stop for morning tea at Glenreagh, where I ate a bobcat pie for the first time in my life. It was nice; they must have skinned the cat before putting it in the pie! (actually bobcat refers not to roadkill but is an acronym for the ingredients: bacon, beef, cheese and tomato, or something similar).
From Carumba we took a very twisty road west through a forest. It turned to a decent gravel road. Good riding. As we approached Dorrigo we stopped at Dangar Falls for an improvised lunch and boilup.
We took the Waterfall Highway to Bellingen, and that was well surfaced sealed twisty road with great views but unfortunately nowhere to stop to photograph the scenery!
Bellingen is a tourist trap. We would have done better going elsewhere. We’re staying in the youth hostel which is okay but not value for money compared to previous motels and pubs.
Unfortunately one of our riders left a jacket behind at Grafton, and had to go back to collect it, a three-hour round trip.
Photos of a canoer on the Clarence River at Grafton, and the Dangar Falls.
Distance travelled: 157 km. Total distance so far: 44,853 km.
Day 354, Friday 10 August 2018.
We came back from Glen Innes to Grafton today via the Old Grafton Road, which is a very twisty and scenic road running along a river valley (which has tributaries of the Clarence). About 80 km of it is gravel but it’s in good condition, apart from some corrugations near the start. We brought sandwiches for lunch as there are no shops on Old Grafton Road, and ate them at a roadside rest area at Dalmorton.
Distance travelled: 181 km. Total distance so far: 44,696 km.
Day 353, Thursday 9 August 2018.
The VStrom 1000 was lacking power, running rough and missing, so we took it in to the Suzuki dealer in Grafton. They replaced the spark plugs, after which it was much better though still not producing full power. The mechanic thought the fuel line filter might need attention. The older VStrom 650 also has some gremlins. My current model 650 has given me no trouble (so far), but it looks like these bikes are not well maintained.
We had a late start due to this, and modified our plans a little to take an easier route to our destination of Glen Innes, west of Grafton. We took the Gwydir Highway instead of the mostly-unsealed Old Grafton Road. Gwydir runs through Gibralter National Park, climbing to over 1100 metres. There were some spectacular views, especially from Raspberry Lookout. We also visited a waterfall down a slightly rough gravel road. The waterfall was nothing special, but the track to it gave me a good cardiovascular workout!
Distanced travelled: 177 km. Total distance so far: 44,515 km.
Day 352, Wednesday 8 August 2018
Today I was the rider in charge, and I took us to Queen Mary Falls, which was well worth the small detour, then over a very munted but scenic road to Urbenville, and a better road with some rough areas south. We were planning to take Clarence Way from there to Grafton, but were worried about a section about 20 km long in the middle of it which was unsealed and might have been 4WD. We asked a few locals in Urbenville and got conflicting accounts. We decided to try it. However, the road was unsealed right from the start. After a few km, the TEC signalled for a group chat and said he wasn’t willing to do 130 km of gravel. Another rider had less than 130 km of range and has been about to signal for a chat himself. I thought the road would become sealed further along, but agreed to go back to the main highway, and a couple of riders were able to buy gas. Subsequently I realised that the gravel road we abandoned connected to the sealed road I had intended to take, but the gravel road had the name of the whole route which is why wr turned on to it. Never mind, we’ll get our fill of gravel tomorrow!
Distance travelled: 316 km. Total distance so far: 44,338 km
Day 351, Tuesday 7 August 2018
I picked up a rental bike in Noosa – a current model Suzuki VStrom 650. My three companions are on similar bikes. We took inland roads south, passing through a few small towns, finding some winding roads and enjoying the countryside, and the pleasantly warm day.
Staying the night in a pub in Warwick in southern Queensland.
Distance travelled: 332 km. Total distance so far: 44,022 km
Day 350, Monday 6 August 2018
I flew to Brisbane today, then took a shuttle north to Noosaville on the Sunshine Coast. I’m hiring a bike here tomorrow, and I went in to do the paperwork this afternoon. It’s very pleasantly warm here compared to Auckland.
Day 349, Sunday 5 August 2018
Today has been busy, running last-minute errands and packing for a trip away tomorrow. I foolishly thought I could pack what I needed into a small backpack, but I very quickly realised that wouldn’t work. I decided to take a suitcase and an airline-standard carry on bag. Next problem: last time I went overseas, my flip-up helmet fitted in my carry on bag. Now I use a conventional full-face helmet, and it doesn’t fit. Nor does it fit in my suitcase. It does fit in the small backpack, but takes up almost all of it. I decided to take the backpack instead of the carry on bag, and the suitcase as well.
Since I’ll be riding an adventure bike at my destination, I took my own adventure bike out for a quick ride to refresh my memory of the upright riding position and high seat. This bike has been unused for the last couple of months, the plan being to make this my summer bike and the sports-tourer my winter bike.
Distance travelled: 5 km. Total distance so far: 43,690 km
Day 348, Saturday 4 August 2018
I joined an Auckland Ulysses ride today, which went over the Bombay Hills and through the northern Waikato sticking close to the banks of the Waikato River. As soon as we got over the hills, we encountered dense fog, and it stuck with us until lunchtime. I don’t much like riding in fog: my visor fogs up, then the inside of the visor misted up with condensation, so wiping the outside no longer sufficed to give me reasonable vision. I raise my visor, but then the same thing happens to my glasses. Wiping the outside of my glasses lenses does help, as they’re closer to my eyes than the visor and I can see through the inner condensation layer to some extent. Also, fog is cold, and raising my visor makes a ride very cold indeed.
Today’s ride was a large one, and I was able to keep the bike in front of me in sight and follow them even though I couldn’t see very far ahead. If I’d been on my own, I would have considered using my hazard lights to make myself more visible to other traffic, but as there was a long line of us I didn’t think that was necessary today.
Photo by Jayne Willacy
Some helmets have anti-fog visors, which have a dual-layer where the middle layer of air acts as an insulator and prevents condensation build-up. I’m told they work well, but my helmet isn’t compatible with this system. You can buy defogging sprays for your visor and glasses. I haven’t tried them, and wasn’t carrying any this morning. I would consider carrying some if I rode in fog more often. Apparently, even dishwashing liquid is effective if you wipe it on the inside of the visor and then polish it off.
Distance travelled: 164 km. Total distance so far: 43,685 km
Day 347, Friday 3 August 2018
I rode along Scenic Drive today, and stopped at a lookout I’d never noticed before. Parkinson Lookout has a small carpark, and a two-minute walk goes to a viewing platform with views over the city and Waitematā Harbour. It’s not a bad view, but there are lots of places to pull over along Scenic Drive with just as good a view, and Pukematekeo lookout has a better view than this.
I then rode to the start of Ian Wells track on Piha Road. The track starts off as a disused forest road, generally in reasonable condition (better than the Long Road track I walked last week). After a few minutes walk, it branches, with a track to the right going to the Nihotupu Auxiliary Dam, built in 1919-21, and decommissioned in 1985. The main track is closed beyond this point to protect kauri against die-back. It gets a lot more rugged further along, so I wasn’t intending to go further in any case.
Nihotupu Auxiliary Dam
Ian Wells track
Distance travelled: 52 km. Total distance so far: 43,521 km