I woke early, excited about the final day of the rally and decided it was a good opportunity to give the T7 a quick bath. After a visit to the local car wash I headed back for the complimentary continental breakfast and my final chance to catch up with all the riders prior to departure.
The RideADV team thanked everyone for attending the rally and emphasised safety for the final day – let’s not get too carried away as we head towards the finish line. I’d come to learn that ‘offs’ and dropping a 200 kg adventure bike was going to happen and was simply part of riding large dirt bikes.
Day One of the rally I was devastated to drop my pride and joy, but the monkey was off my back and I was learning the differences between road bikes and dirt/adventure bikes.
Today’s ride was to take us through Loomberah, Bowling Alley Point, Hanging Rock state forest, Nowendoc, Cooplacurripa, Tapin tops, Mooral Creek, Upper Lansdowne and Bago before finishing where it all began at Wauchope.
Greg sent us on our way and I was excited to head towards the forest early in the day. As the first bike was about to depart Greg yells out to hold all riders as an important message had just come through from the zero riders. We gather around for the impromptu briefing. “There’s heavy fog, almost zero visibility in the forest and the wildlife is horrific,” Greg explains. Sounds like an awesome adventure to me.
We turn right out of the hotel with my eyes fixated on the GPS to see how soon until we deviate off the main road. Greg and the team don’t disappoint and within minutes we turn left and start to climb towards the awaiting forest. I’m amazed how quickly the roads change transforming from wide straight bitumen to dirt roads that begin to weave and ascend into the forest.
Once again I’m thankful for my heated grips as temperature hover in the single digits. The warning of heavy fog was accurate as a thick soup like mist clung to pine trees and blanketed our entire surroundings. Deep into the forest and my speed drops to below 40 km/h as visibility decreases. At one point a fellow rider pulls up beside me and shrugs his shoulders and we both laugh at the conditions.
It’s one of those times on the rally when I feel I need to pinch myself, I really can’t believe I’m here in this mystical forest on my Tenere. The ride through the forest is amazing and time passes so fast as we head towards our only fuel stop at Nowendoc.
The group is spread out during the morning and as I pull into our fuel stop there are a dozen or so bikes queued up at the single bowser. This is also our only chance for food during the day so I grab a egg and bacon sandwich plus a bag of strawberry cream lollies for later in the day.
I’ve been posting a few photos to Facebook during the rally and had even created my own Facebook page, OzBatts Adventures. I thought it was a great time to do a Facebook Live and chat with a few of the riders on camera. The guys were happy to jump in front of the camera and a highlight was one of the riders’ kids at work watching live and thrilled to see Dad.
The fog had now cleared as we exited the forest and head towards some open roads. What else can they dish up on the rally? What can we see that we haven’t already explored? If I enjoyed the ‘Australian Safari’ feel from yesterdays ride, this was next level. As I come over a rise and cattle grid the view is spectacular with seemingly endless rolling hills with a single dirt track threading it’s way through them.
For the next hour or so you can’t smack the grin from my face. I take the opportunity to stop and take some scenic photos and some of riders as they pass and gain some air over cattle grids. I’d love to send the drone up, but it’s realistically twenty minutes by the time you pack up and set off again.
My Facebook live and several photo stops had placed me at the back of the pack and it wouldn’t be long and the sweep riders would be catching me. I don’t want to get on the wrong side of Abbey the sweep rider, and she doesn’t want to get stuck behind ‘Batts the slow rider’.
I jump back on my trusty T7, I twist the throttle and slip back into my Dakar fantasy. The GPS guides me over the blanket of hills which eventually begin to flatten. A few more twisties are thrown in and I’m really enjoying the variety and challenges.
As I approach a left turn I see a Tenere parked on the corner and I don’t immediately see the rider. As I turn left I see a rise which is immediately followed by a sweeping left. Two more bikes are parked up and I see all three riders. It’s obvious there’s been a coming together of bikes and one of the guys is holding his hand and another is sitting on an embankment looking pale. Abbey arrives just behind me, and we both check out the riders and make sure everyone is okay.
Abbey radios Greg who rides back to assess the situation. In a safety-first approach it’s decided two of the riders will return in the back up vehicle to be checked out and their bikes placed on the trailer. As the sweep riders will be helping with loading bikes, Greg decides that the third rider and I will ride with him via a shorter route back to Wauchope. It’s times like this you really appreciate the value of riding with a professional group and having access to communication and a backup vehicle.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t overly disappointed to miss the last portion of the days ride. Reports came through from the zero riders that they were encountering wet, greasy clay tracks – and we know how much I love clay.
The ride back to Wauchope gave me a chance to reflect on the past four days. Prior to departing the Barossa I was incredibly nervous about the rally and if it was beyond my abilities. After two crashes and feeling like the walking wounded on the morning of day one I was convinced it was beyond my abilities.
From the lows of certain defeat I experienced the adrenaline rush of conquering the Valley of Doom. Then day two, three and four dished up a variety of roads, conditions and scenery I wouldn’t have thought was possible in such a short time frame. All I could think about was when could I do this again.
As I ride into the Wauchope showgrounds only the first few riders have completed the rally and are collecting their luggage from the Monster Merc.
I chat with a few of the riders, grab my gear and load up the T7 in readiness for the 1800 km trip home. Once packed I seek out the RideADV team and thank them for hosting such an amazing event. I know the term ‘life changing’ gets thrown around a lot, but I now believe I’m an adventure rider and this is something I’ll do for many years to come.
Greg Yager is busy coordinating the conclusion of the rally so I briefly thank him for not only running the event, but for encouraging me over the previous few weeks to ride across from Adelaide.
Keeping consistent with my trip so far, I had no fixed plans or accommodation booked for the ride home. It was now about four pm on Wednesday, and I have to be back in the Barossa Valley sometime on Friday night, 1,687 kms if I take the shortest possible bitumen route.
If I’m going to ride at night then its safest on highways and not kangaroos infested back roads. I set myself a goal of five hours riding ending up somewhere south of Sydney.
It’s perfect riding weather as I merge into the Pacific Highway traffic and begin the long bitumen run. After about thirty minutes of riding I feel a wave of fatigue and decide it’s a good time to fuel up and grab a coffee, Red Bull or both. Refuelled and recharged lets try this again. I accelerate and merge onto the Pacific Highway ready to dodge whatever Sydney traffic throws at me.
It appears the past ten days has caught up with me and the long black coffee is having little effect. My eyes are heavy and my focus is waning, neither ideal when riding in traffic. Next exit is only a few minutes up the highway and I stop again to take a stretch and reconsider my plan.
I decide to stop at the nearest motel and plan out an alternative route back to South Australia. A quick google search shows Bulahdelah only fifteen minutes away so I call a budget priced Motel and book myself a room.
Bulahdelah is only a few minutes off the highway and I’m looking forward to checking in to Mountain View Motel which should at least provide a good photo opportunity. Okay, there wasn’t any great mountain view from the motel but it was photo worthy with a giant Koala statue out the front.
If you seek a motel with character this one is or you. Large framed mid century wall art, which are actually massive jigsaw puzzles, original retro blue knitted cushions and a dusty pink and blue tiled bathroom.
I lay back with my GPS and start to consider my options for the ride home. One thing has become very clear since I’ve left Wauchope, I can’t ride on highways for the next two days and I’m going to need to add some fun to the ride. Remember how much I loved the Bylong Highway? Well that has to be my first priority, so off to Mudgee tomorrow.
Day 10: 480 total km. Highlight – Weaving through the hills east of Nowendoc. Must do – Stop riding when tired. Fatigue kills.
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