A solid night’s sleep had me feeling refreshed and my decision to investigate a more scenic route on the way home had me inspired. The heated grips were immediately activated as I waved goodbye to the King Kong sized Koala. I couldn’t wait to get to Jerrys Plains to commence the reverse Bylong Highway ride.
I merge onto the Pacific Highway and use the helmet time to consider options once I arrive at Mudgee. I picture the Aussie map in my head and realise Bathurst must be just south of Mudgee. It would be un-Australian to be that close to Mt Panorama and not do a lap.
I arrive at Jerrys Plains to fuel up, walk inside and there’s a deep fried chicken schnitzel staring at me from through the glass. 9 am is probably too early for this delicacy, but on the plus side I know it couldn’t have been sitting there too long. I munch down my high protein snack and start my GoPro for some footage of the Bylong Highway.
It doesn’t matter which direction you ride of this section, it’s a great ride. As I pass through the flat farmland section, I see the hills ahead of me and know the entertaining curves aren’t far away. At the base of the hills is a red warning sign with a motorcycle logo and intertwining lines and the words ‘Reduce Speed.’ Who doesn’t smile when they see this?
The road conditions are similar to when I rode through a few days earlier, slightly damp from recent rain. I’m no boy racer, but I enjoy the curves and ride at what I’d best call a spirited pace. The bike feels a little squirrely, nothing concerning, but just enough for me to throttle back slightly.
I put it down to the fact the roads are probably wetter than when I previously came through a few days earlier. As you are reading this you are no doubt shaking your head at me, yep, this time I’m on off road tyres, not 50/50 tyres. Those that know the Pirelli STR and the Rally know there is a massive difference in the front tyres, so it’s a huge credit to the Rally tyres that I was feeling as confident as I did.
The rear Motoz RallZ was feeling pretty good too, but of course my mind takes over now that I realise I’m on dirt tyres and I reduce my pace.
Before I know it I’m only a few kilometres out of Mudgee. This is why I chose the scenic route, the kays seem to pass so much quicker when the ride is entertaining. I decide to stop for an early McLunch to catch up on social media and plan the rest of the days ride.
I message Jeff from DMK as this is his town and if anyone knows some great backroads, he will. Jeff and Alanah are celebrating the birth of Lilah only a few days earlier, so I’m hoping he won’t mind me bothering him.
Jeff gets back to me in a few minutes and suggests the road to Hill End. A quick look on Google Maps shows the road leads south towards Bathurst and has more twists than a pretzel factory. ‘Perfect, thanks Jeff,’ I reply and throw back the last mouthful of coffee and head out to the bike.
It’s only a few kays out of Mudgee before the GPS has me turning left towards Hargraves and Hill End. The smiles begin again as the road conditions change as does the scenery. Just north of Hill End a historic marker points to Valentines Mine. I’m conscious I need to be back in the Barossa by tomorrow night, but how can I ride past a gold mine?
The dirt track is deeply rutted and could easily swallow the Tenere’s front wheel. The track only goes for a kilometres or so and comes to a dead end at the abandoned mine and pumping tower. I love reading historic signs, and this story is a familiar one.
Small gold find quickly followed by a booming hive of activity and riches, then just as quickly the bust as the cost of removing flooding water exceeds the gold that is recovered.
Bathurst is calling and I’m excited to do a lap or two of Mt Panorama on my T7. The road from Hill End to Bathurst is just sensational with a great section of steep hill climbs and descents. The dry roads inspire confidence and the grunty Tenere engine loves pulling out of corners and up any inclines. You have to give it to modern day off road tyres, they are performing much better than I expected on the tar.
As soon as I enter Bathurst the signs point toward the mountain, but I resist the urge as I want to give the bike a quick wash before the upcoming trackside photos.
Fuel, quick drink and $4 at the car wash and I’m on my way to the circuit. If you ‘ve never done a lap of the mountain, it is an absolute must do. It’s only then you have some small appreciation of how skilled the drivers are, especially across the top of the mountain and Skyline.
I turn onto the main straight and start looking for places to stop and take photos. A series of ‘No Stopping’ signs are posted around the majority of the circuit so it means being creative to try to grab an Instagram worth photo. Any thoughts of being heavy with the right grip are quickly tempered by the 60 km/h speed signs around the circuit.
The first lap didn’t reveal any great photo opportunities and I decide to line up with the other cars taking a photos on the main straight. I take a few pics, but I’m not happy with any and head off on a second lap to see how creative I can be. I notice a parking area as you approach the dippers and manoeuvre the bike so the low sun hits my new graphics. Satisfied with my photos I post one to my OzBatts Adventures Facebook page and head off towards my next stop, Cowra.
Just over an hour and I arrive in Cowra. The town is steeped in history as the site of the World War II breakout from the Japanese POW camp. 231 Japanese prisoners and four Australian guards died during the breakout. I wanted to stop and visit the memorials and learn more about this part of Australia’s history but the sun was setting and I wanted to ride further tonight.
A quick splash of fuel at a Cowra servo and another familiar sign on the door, ‘Urgent – Staff Wanted.’ This has been a theme for retail and hospitality throughout my trip so far, businesses are struggling to find staff to fill essential jobs.
As I leave Cowra the amount of riding tonight will depend on two factors; how fatigued I feel and if there are trees close to the road edges hiding wildlife. I’m feeling quite refreshed and enjoying the setting sun. So impressive is the sunset I find myself stopping several times in an attempt to capture that perfect bike photo.
As the sun ducks below the horizon I notice a few of the locals hopping through paddocks and am reminded about the dangers of wildlife. Grenfell is only fifteen minutes away and trees begin to close in and I’m concerned I wont see skippy if he’s feeding by the edge of the road. I decide that Grenfell will be tonight’s final stop and I look for any motels displaying a vacancy sign.
Grenfell is only a small town with a population just over two thousand and therefor offers limited accommodation. I find a motel in the main street and my lucky steak continues as they have one room left. At reception the mature lady at the counter greets me with, “Don’t let the cat out!”.
I glance down to see her furry friend that makes Garfield look petite. She ends up being quite friendly (the lady, not the cat) and we discuss the downturn that Grenfell has experienced over the past few twelve months. She tells me that since COVID hit six businesses in town have closed down, but she is hopeful that recent tourism will help the town bounce back.
I unload the bike, grab a burger from the only open takeaway and settle into my room for the night. I open my Facebook and see a list of notifications which include questions about the trip, the Tenere, accessories and of course tyres. I was surprised the most popular photo was from Mt Panorama as I wasn’t 100 per cent happy with the composition, but it is such an iconic race circuit.
Reality sets in that I have only one day left and have 980 kilometres to travel. Decision made, it will be the Hay Plains and bitumen the entire way home.
Day 11: 660 total km. Highlight – Couple of laps around Mt Panorama. Must do – Ask locals or Facebook groups for scenic options.
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