Welcome to Netrider ... Connecting Riders!

Interested in talking motorbikes with a terrific community of riders?
Signup (it's quick and free) to join the discussions and access the full suite of tools and information that Netrider has to offer.

[NSW]Great Dividing Range zig-zag SYD-Brisbane

Discussion in 'Roads, Touring, Journeys, and Travel' started by gegvasco, Oct 23, 2007.

  1. The Plan
    AIM: Set out from Sydney to traverse as many of the good(and not so good) roads across the Great Dividing Range between Sydney and Brisbane. In the hands of the Gods for the way back.
    TIMEFRAME: 1-2 weeks.
    ROUTE: Not entirely pre-determined but generally up via the well known route of Putty Rd, Bucketts Way, Thunderbolts and then off the beaten track to the Coast followed by the Summerland Way towards Brisbane.
    WEAPON: Suzuki V-Strom 650 with panniers and a lot of bug cleaning solution for the visor.

    First day was as expected with a ho-hum departure to Windsor in Sydney morning peak hour traffic. Had to remind myself “this is necessary to get to the good roads over the next few daysâ€. Finally made it to Windsor and hit the Putty. Had an almost unmolested run all the way through the Putty with only one bike overtaking me and not a single truck or Caravan to hold me back on the 10-mile. Bliss! Back roads from Singleton through Stroud Road and onto the Bucketts Way to Gloucester. They were doing lots and lots of road works on Bucketts and annoyingly(for me anyway) the roadworks weren’t marked as “END ROADWORKS†with the increased speed sign. After the third of these, in an uncharacteristic departure from my normal behaviour, I didn’t wait for the signs to increase speed. After Gloucester, it was a great run up Thunderbolts, again almost unmolested by Caravans or trucks. TIP: Do these roads on a workday Monday if you can! For something different, I stopped at Nowendoc and instead of rejoining Thunderbolts, I took the more minor road that parallels Thunderbolts to the East. It is the road the runs directly north out of Nowendoc. This was tarmac for a while and then turned to reasonable dirt although it was badly corrugated in some sections. It was a gorgeous little diversion into Walcha though.
    After Walcha it was back onto Thunderbolts to Uralla and then thankfully only 22km on the New England to Armidale for the end of Day 1.

    Bright and early out of Armidale heading directly East along the Grafton Road. This road all the way into Grafton would be a great run in one hit. I only did the first 40km before turning off, but I did pick it up later in the day for the final 80km into Grafton which was a good fun section. 40k’s out of Armidale, I turned south just after Wollomombi onto the Armidale-Kempsey Road. This started off pretty easy despite turning to dirt fairly quickly. It was reasonable dirt with just some small patches of small gravel/sand to watch out for and a minimum of 1.5 lanes wide so you didn’t have to worry too much about blind corners. On occasion it crossed some waterways including this one which was actually in a small gorge and was suspended about 4 stories up:
  2. After this bridge things started to get hairy. The road narrowed to one lane at best, the corners became blind, the surface had more loose gravel on it and on the right was sheer cliff while on the left it was about a 70 degree drop off. The road basically traversed the cliff heading down towards the Macleay river valley. There were no armcoves, no speed advisory signs and basically no second chances! There was also traffic on this road with a couple of bush retreat style resorts buried way deep in the scrub. It was tough going. There were some good photo opportunities that provided some respite from the white-knuckle riding:

    http://i38.photobucket.com/albums/e121/gegvasco/North Trip Oct 07/ClarenceRiver.jpg

    140km and 5 hours later(!!!) I made it through this road and ended up Macksville. Problem being I was supposed to be in Brisbane by 5pm and it was already 1pm with 460km to go if I took the Pacific Highway all the way. Bugger that! A few phone calls later and the “Godfather†in Brisbane delayed the dinner plans a night which allowed me to stick to the plan and avoid the Highway. WHAT A GOOD CALL!!! Because the rest of the day was a great ride. From Macksville I went inland via Bowraville and then the Bowraville/Bellingen roads north into Bellingen. This road also wasn’t for the faint hearted as it turned into a twisty, hilly, corrugated, sand/gravel dirt road for about the last 20k’s into Bellingen. At least there was no traffic on this one and it wasn’t 140km long! A quick refuel at Bellingen and a chat to the servo owner who had is BMW Dakar parked out the front. After this I hit the Waterfall Way towards Dorrigo and OMFG what a road. I have to say this was THE standout section of road of the entire trip. The first half to Thora is relatively non-descript, just country sweepers at 100kph but once past Thora and you start climbing up the plateau, this hillclimb is to die for. The road surface is pristine. The lanes are each about 1.5 lanes wide, except for small section at the actual Waterfalls(which are right on the roadside and have water abundantly flowing), so there is heaps of room. The corners are well signposted and while are still somewhat blind, certainly aren’t hair-raising. This lasted for about 10km climbing the hill and I was lucky to only hit one slow-mover right at a point where I could overtake. I have no pictures because I couldn’t bear to stop it was so much fun. Not only was the road almost perfect but I realised it was like something out of a video game with the scenery on the right looking over the valley and the waterfalls whizing on the left. YOU HAVE TO DO THIS ROAD!!!
  3. Once at the top, I pulled over and had a little breather(could I liken it to the little breather you have after really good sex?......not far off, that's how good that road was). But then I noticed this place:

    http://i38.photobucket.com/albums/e121/gegvasco/North Trip Oct 07/Dorrigotrains.jpg

    The not yet opened Dorrigo Railway Museum. Apparently it has been about to open for years but in the meantime serves only as a good spot to take a photo. After Dorrigo it was a quick run on the minor tarmac road through Bostobrick to Tyringham to rejoin the Armidale-Grafton Rd, as mentioned. This section was a great road in it’s own right. Sort of like the Putty Road just before the 10-mile but without the 10-mile. Lots of 45-65kph recommended sweepers interspersed with small towns, not so small rivers and picturesque valleys. Road condition was OK although the gravel on the verge did tend to encroach on the main section of tarmac in some places so you had to be careful. Lots of 4WDs cutting corners as well. Once in Grafton it was a mad dash to secure a Motel room with the influx of Queenslanders making their way home from the GP.

    Next day was another back road day ending in Brisbane. Out of Grafton I initially took the Summerland Way north but then about 10k’s out it was a left turn onto the Clarence Way through Coaldale. This was a nice road through some State Forests and valleys with long sweepers and a narrow but good quality road. The only drawback being the too frequent encounters with logging trucks doing 100kph at full tilt around corners on my side of the road. Now I have heard people ask “Where the fcuk is Aliceâ€. Well it is on this road! A town called Alice sits 4/5ths of the way to the Bruxner Highway. While near Alice I took a small divert – the map said it was a dirt track, the GPS said it was a substantial dirt track – the photo tells another tale:

    http://i38.photobucket.com/albums/e121/gegvasco/North Trip Oct 07/Whattrack.jpg
  4. After rejoining the Bruxner for a quick 100kph blat it was off northwards towards Bonalbo and Woodenbong. This is a great little road through lush rainforest national parks/forests although the road surface in some parts leaves a lot to be desired. Want an archaeological illustration of road repair techniques over the last 100 years? Then ride this road. Some sections are a patchwork of pothole repairs that at 100kph in a corner do nothing for maintaining a settled suspension. Discretion on this road IS the better part of valour. After lunch at the servo in Woodenbong it was off up the Mount Lindsay Highway into the bottom of Brisbane. The section of this road before the QLD/NSW border is brilliant. It is good quality, wide and tight. Once you hit the border it turns to shit. Narrow, a little gravely and too tight to be comfortable given the conditions. It winds it's way around Mt Lindsay which is gives heaps of good photo opportunities(look at that bug-splatter!):

    http://i38.photobucket.com/albums/e121/gegvasco/North Trip Oct 07/Nosejob.jpg

    After catching up with the godfather in Brisbane, I was going to head back to Woodenbong to pick up where I left off but then a couple of squiggly lines on the map caught my eye. Instead, I headed more towards the coast and Canungra. South of Canungra are a couple of dead-end roads that are a must do if you have a spare 3-4 hours. The road south out of Canungra to O’Reilly’s guesthouse is a really peculiar road. It starts off climbing a gentle valley cliffside with a lot of blind one-lane twisty sections but then it hits the ridge top and follows it for a about 20k’s. This is mainly through dense forests but has some weird hairpins interspersed through it. The last 7k’s to O’Reilly’s is the really weird bit. It is a one-lane only corridor of trees that is truly spectacular:

    http://i38.photobucket.com/albums/e121/gegvasco/North Trip Oct 07/Corridor.jpg

    You can’t go real fast because a lot of the corners, even though not much of a corner, are entirely blind and there is a lot of traffic on this road heading to the Guesthouse/National park office at the end of this road. Another MUST DO – but with caution. Once retracing my tracks and back at Canungra, I headed to the next road to the East before tracking south again towards Beechmont and Binna Burra – another dead-end worth the trip. Beechmont is also on a ridge – the next ridge over from O-Reilly’s, but is nowhere near as densely forested or twisty. It is just a good country run with spectacular views. Hang-gliders apparently love the updraughts at Beechmont as there was a flock of about 20 of them circling like something out of Logan’s run so high that they were just specks. They must have been at least 5000ft high – impressive. Lunch at the cafe at Binna Burra comes highly recommended although it does scare rule number 1 – never eat anything bigger than your own head!
  5. After lunch(and I’m sure the Strom was a bit sluggish due to the size of the meal!) I completed the loop towards Nerang down the hill towards Advancetown. This was a good fun twisty little road which gave a beautiful view of the skyrises of Surfers from a distance. Once on the "97" it was a turn south to Head for Murwillumbah. Being a more major highway, the road improved out of sight and the speed limit dropped unnecessarily. Hence the fun factor diminished significantly. Luckily the scenery was spectacular:

    http://i38.photobucket.com/albums/e121/gegvasco/North Trip Oct 07/Murwillumbahvalley.jpg

    Murwillumbah was VERY busy and I started having flashbacks to being in Sydney traffic after almost getting clobbered by a couple of drivers not looking before pulling out. So I got the hell out of there as soon as I could and headed down the Kyogle road to have a look at Nimbin. It was here that I almost broke my hand when a car who was all the way on my side of the road on a straight section(What the FCUK for I ask!!!!) only moved over about half a lane on passing me and my initial reaction was to smack his mirror on the way through. Luckily common sense got the better of my anger at the last moment when I realised I would be hitting his mirror at a combined speed of about 100kph(as I had hit the brakes pretty hard when confronted by the sight of him). Maybe just another dickhaed Murwillumbah driver. I continued on to Nimbin and managed to dodge all the hippes driving their Porsche Boxsters down to the local organic produce and flea markets. Blow me you wankers!!! Needless to say, I didn’t stop in town but I did stop about a k’ out for this photo:

    http://i38.photobucket.com/albums/e121/gegvasco/North Trip Oct 07/Nimbin.jpg

    After Nimbin it was an unremarkable ride into Kyogle for a NON-organic coffee and then onto Lismore for the night.

    The rest of the trip was fairly unremarkable apart from saying that I spent 2 nights in North Haven just south of Port Macquarie – a great little town and a great staging point for exploring the dirt tracks of the forestry areas around Port Macquarie. I did a couple south of Comboyne that were extremely hairy, even though it didn't seem to phase one bloke I caught up with who was riding these ugly little tracks on a Thruxton! I guess it takes all sorts. By the way, the road from Wauchope to Comboyne is tar, twisty and great fun. But be careful as there are no advisory speed signs for the corners.

    On the way home out of North Haven(this was today), I figured I might as well pack a heap in. This consisted of the Oxley from Wauchope to Walcha, then Thunderbolts to Gloucester, then Bucketts to Stroud, then the back roads through Clarence Town to Maitland and then Cessnock. Then onto Wollombi and Wollombi Road to Calga. Then the Old Road to suburbia and and an hour of getting used to clowns trying to run me over before getting home. It was a big day, especially given then heat but it was bloody good fun. Only thing worth mentioning was the casualty that was suffered at Calga. On that 100kph dual-lane section just before you split off to the Old Road or the Freeway I saw a flash of something in my peripheral vision coming towards me at road height from the right but it was too quick to see. I felt it hit my right boot and I looked behind me after the impact but didn’t see any feathers so I figured it must have been a big bug(the bike screen was almost yellow with guts by this stage). Then when I got to Road Warriors and had a look, this is what I saw:

    http://i38.photobucket.com/albums/e121/gegvasco/North Trip Oct 07/Casualty.jpg

    It’s head was firmly wedged in behind the cable for the brake microswitch. I had to nearly yank it’s head off to get it out! Poor little bastard. I’m just tossing up whether I now need to paint a silhouette of a bird on the side of the engine cowling!

    3200km of riding in 7 days across many of the best roads that NSW has to offer. What a trip. I now know which roads are a must do divert on the way up the coast and can I conclude by saying one thing....If you have the time, even if you are in the car, get off the highway and do these roads. Take 2 days to get to Brisbane and you won't regret it.
  6. Brilliant Post !
    Enjoyed reading it thoroughly. :popcorn:
    Well written & layed out, sounded like a GREAT adventure and well worth taking on. Very picturesque.
    Well Done :beer:


    Yeah I know its almost 3:00am :shock:
    Damn Zyban ...
  7. Looks like an awesome trip, did you do this recently or was it a while ago ?

    Thought I had seen that funny picture of the wayward bird before somewhere ?

    Either way, great writeup !
  8. Thanks. I got back from this trip at 7pm last night. The picture of the bird is less than 24 hours old. His broken body is probably still sitting in the bin at Road Warriors(sob).
  9. Great report and pics :cool:

    I have been on a few of those roads, but not the ones out of Armidale - that looks like some great country to ride through.

    Thanks for posting up
  10. Great to read, you covered some nice country. seriously thinking about getting a strom myself.
  11. Thanks for the writeup. Quite an adventure!
  12. good write up greg, having lived in Kyogle for seven years before heading back south, i know exactly what you mean about the roads up through the boarder ranges, and Kyogle is definately a un-remarkable town, that i really wouldn't be surprised if it ceases to exsist within the next decade or so
  13. Do you have a bashplate on that strom ? doesnt look like it from the pictures.

    I plan on doing my first over nighter on mine this weekend, basically a circuit of Wolloemi, around 600k. Probably not very far for an overnighter but I have to be back in time for my 1000k service.

    Im expecting a few portions of dirt between sandy hollow and glen alice, so I was going to make a mad rush tommorow and try and rig some kind of homemade bashplate up to protect that oil filter. Maybe I will just take my chances and buy a proper one later.
  14. Awesome write up :) Would love to do some of those roads sometime - just need some DS tyres for my SV and off I go :)
  15. No. I'm not that adventurous on it that I will need bash plate protection from grossly uneven terrain and as for the stone protection off the front wheel I have installed a fenda-extender and some RAD-GUARD aluminium radiator guards on both the oil cooler and radiator. So that covers the stone protection.

    As for Kyogle, a local asked me if that was my Strom and we got talking about them. He had 100km on his brand new one and he was asking all about screens/MADSTAD brackets, cooler protection, crash bars etc. But how smart was this guy - he has a farm and will use it as his farm bike which means it is considered a work vehicle! So he gets tax benefits on it like a company car. That will pay for a lot of farkles at least!
  16. Awesome story. Thanks for posting.

    Getting me excited about doing a tour of my own.
  17. awesome write up, i followed your trip step by step on google maps. looked awesome!
  18. That was one of the tools I used to plan it. I have a hyper-detailed map on my laptop that feeds the GPS unit. It has right down to fire/walking trails. Between that, and then scoping out the track on google maps(using both the satpic and the map component) I put together a list of waypoints for the GPS. Hopefully with time google maps will have some higher res images of the more remote areas because once you get right out into the middle of nowhere, the resolution isn't good enough to hardly see the road let alone get any useful idea of the road condition. But hey, compared to even 2 years ago, it is a great planning tool.
  19. gegvasco: What gps do you use?
  20. Magellan Explorist 600 with a RAM handlebar mount. The GPS is a full on hiking/geocaching GPS so it doesn't give you street directions. Wasn't cheap either with a full Australian map set. But it has the most detailed maps of remote areas including relief and waterway information. When I prepare the waypoints, I name them according to the direction I need to travel. That way when I'm approaching a turn, an alert pops up that says "APPROACHING (XXXX)" and the XXXX bit says Turn left/right etc.

    There are probably better setups for bikes that you can get but this I can use it for hiking as well.