Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tour Meltdown


I am back home earlier then planned. After previously having to cancel this ride I was determined to go this time no matter what so I set out only to ride into one of the hottest days on record in northern NSW.

How hot? - damn hot!!

Yes that is 44 degrees or 111F in the old imperial measurements. This was in the shade at Nymboida coaching station on Australia day, the heat was ferocious. When riding I was blasted with oven hot air if I opened my visor and half suffocated in the stifling heat inside if I did not. It really was beyond uncomfortable and downright dangerous as I could not keep enough fluids up and ended up dehydrated, exhausted and starting to get brain fade and wanting to nod off. I stopped and took stock of matters then checked into the first motel I came to where I jumped under a cold shower then rested in air conditioning with a big jug of iced water.

The next day I felt mostly recovered with the exception of some heat rash from the previous day however the day was soon heating up and I needed to do a reality check. Checking the weather the towns ahead of me today were forecast as 38 degrees and next day 41 degrees at Albury. I very reluctantly decided that it was not feasible to ride as planned. I weighed up rerouting via the coastal roads to but it just didn't add up as with the exception of one day in Victoria all the roads I targeted for this tour were inland.

I decided then to spend some time exploring a few places in and around the New England Tablelands area of NSW hoping that the temperatures in that area would be cooler due to the altitude, which for the most part it was. First I rode to the Wollomombi Falls which totally amazed me. The photo doesn't convey size of the gorge but it is enormous, (actually the photo is crap and this trip marks the end of my use of a compact cameras) the falls are claimed to be the 2nd highest drop in Australia.

This is much bigger than it looks

Next I really got adventurous and hit the dirt to visit a place I had long wanted to see. Point Lookout is 1563 m (5127 ft) above sea level and is located about 20km off the Waterfall way. The road is unsealed most of the way but was in superb condition when I visited, smoother than many sealed roads I have been on with gentle curves I could easy maintain 60 to 70 kph. The views from the 'eagle nest' viewing area were jaw dropping, I would rate this one of the best lookouts in Australia and again my photo does nothing to capture the scale and grandeur.

Amazing view from point lookout



I took a run down from Dorrigo to Belligen and did a few runs over the superb mountain section just south of Dorrigo. I tried to capture some with the new action video camera but the results are simply not worth publishing. No fault of the camera which seems to do a good job but where I mounted it was too susceptible to vibrations. On my way down I was stuck behind a convoy and as I reached the bottom a blanket of heat engulfed me. I did a u-turn and incredibly had a car free climb all the way to the top. Wow what a ride! What a road!

Top of the range Belligen to Dorrigo

Another thing I had wanted to check in this area was the East Dorrigo Way that runs from Coramba to Ulong and on to Dorrigo. I asked the guy in the servo at Coramba what the road beyond Ulong was like and he said it was kept in good order and only about 10 k unsealed - so I thought I'd give it all a go. The climb from Coramba to Ulong is a superb motorcycle road, very similar to the Oxley h-way tight stuff in the forest. 20- 25km of well surveyed 30k rated corners with tar in excellent condition which you ascend to a lofty point from the valley below.




The road from Ulong to Dorrigo is some of the worst unsealed road I have ever taken a road bike on, and its a good 25 k long. It took me ages to cover this road despite being a very capable dirt road rider. In places the road reduced to a 4 wheel drive track with large sections of the soil washed away leaving only rocky outcrops exposed. You need to approach rock with plenty of care when equipped with road tyres. Finally I made it across and on the approach to Dorrigo the road is again excellent and soon I was at Dangar falls, one of the dozen or more excellent waterfalls that are scattered about this area.


At least it was shady and not too hot

After exploring Cathedral rock national park I caught up with some fellow riders at Fusspots cafe in Ebor, another place on my list to visit and they told me to take the road opposite the rest area before descending the range to Belligen to see another good lookout. I enjoyed the food and coffee at Fusspots and noted it was a popular spot with riders coming up from the coast or from Armidale. The ride down from Ebor to Dorrigo on the upper part of the Waterfall way is just wonderful to 'flow' along. The lookout tip off paid off too. What a stunning part of the country this is.



A sight on the Cathedral rock national park road

I went to explore the Tyringham road. This is the alternative way back to the Grafton - Armidale road which I had never heard much about. I guess with the Waterfall way nearby perhaps it would be easy to not mention this road but it's another superb road for motorcycle riding. Gentle curves lead to a steep and spectacular descent which then becomes a classic twisty back road without any fat all the way to the intersection.



Great riding in North Dorrigo

I tried again for some video action on the terrific descent on the Armidale - Grafton road to Nymboida but the footage is poor so unfortunately nothing to show. I will experiment some more but am not particulalry fussed on video still. I visited Russell Crowe's museum of interesting things at Nymboida and had lunch at the Coaching Station which I presume is also his? Heaps of interesting sporting stuff collected by Russell on display inside the pub and friendly folk behind the bar - glad my plans changed so I could relax and take it all in.





I found a way to improve the ride between Grafton and Casino when using the Summerland way by riding via Laurence. Heading south the turn off comes just as you are starting to get super bored with the Summerland. The road immediately lifts the spirit with a series of gentle sweepers and there is enough more to keep you entertained until Laurence. After Laurence the road is gentle but scenic with the mighty Clarence river nearby and more then just a few curves keep your brain engaged. Alternatively you can ride the scenic river road for a few km which places you just a few metres away from the water.



That's about it for this ride report. I never got too far but somehow it worked out ok as I really enjoyed the Tablelands area and think I will go back and do a future 3 day ride in this area, when the weather suits. I also avoided the rain that came in on the roads I would have been riding the last two days so here's to avoiding that and trying it another time.



A couple of suggestions for roads to ride in this area and nearby.



6 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this ride.
    I have been wanting to ride this area for a while and have been wondering what the conditions for road bikes would be like
    Are you going to post the route on google maps
    Thanks
    Peter

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  2. Great photos IC...It's a shame you weren't able to do the whole trip as planned, but at least you spent some time in a great part of the country!

    I'm now living in the Clarence Valley area and there are some great riding roads around here.

    This time I did notice the omission of one of your "standard" photos - amazing pub meal, plus glass of beer, and your helmet in the background on the table! :)

    Always enjoy your blog posts.... Awesome work!

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  3. Great post - I have a few mates overseas (northern hemisphere) who find it very hard to believe it could be too hot to ride...

    The area you were riding in is great - if you get back there when its cooler there's a beautiful little pocket of country under the Dorrigo escarpment - just to the north of Bellingen - called "The Promised Land".

    Great to here about the diversion on the Summerland Way via Laurence - that road really does get boring. Will check it out next time.

    Not sure what you meant by "this trip marks the end of my use of compact cameras" but if you are thinking of getting an SLR for better image quality then make sure you look at the Micro Four-Thirds cameras from Panasonic and Olympus. I bought a Panasonic GF1 and the quality is stunning - and its still incredibly compact (and has the capability to leverage an enormous range of lenses). They are a little pricey but starting to get better - Olympus just released a pretty reasonable priced one.

    I got the camera for a long bike trip my wife and I are doing in Europe soon - can't wait...

    Keep up the great blog!

    Cheers, Robert
    Brisbane, Australia

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  4. Thanks for the feed back guys.

    The Panasonic GF1 is going to be my next camera. I had been waiting for the third Olympus 'pen' cameras to come out (debuted this week on net) I think I will go for the GF1 still as there are some deals.

    I am definitely going to visit this area some more. Mid north coast to tablelands is really offers so much and is within easy striking distance from Brisbane. Moving south from there IMO you really need to get to the NSW/VIC border before the riding is as good.

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  6. IC - Mate can't thank you enough for informing me of the detour off the Summerland Way via Lawrence through to Grafton. I can now -after an Easter long weekend ride from Brisneyland to Dorrigo & back- throughly recommend the Lawrence Tavern for lunch; we had a great Jewfish meal there and it's really nice looking over the water from the front deck. This is a licence saver...it's too tempting on the Summerland Way to speed (especially on a ZX14...), the only other option being going brain dead, or worse, taking the Pacific Highway!! This road is great, with some nice sweepers and country-lane-style road through to Grafton. Made the trip. Keep up the good work!

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