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Straight up your Warrumbungle

Discussion in 'Roads, Touring, Journeys, and Travel' started by XJ6N, Jul 5, 2016.

  1. #1 XJ6N, Jul 5, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2016
    I woke before dawn on Sunday and sat thinking about where I might ride as the sun came up and coffee went down.

    South and east to the tablelands and ranges with a forecast seven-degree maximum and the possibility of early morning black ice didn’t appeal. West is big sky, straight road cruiser country for another day. North it was.


    When I reached Dubbo at half-past eight it looked to be a dirty day. I could smell wood smoke in the mist. A thin layer of cloud took the warmth from the sun.


    I made my way around the east and north parts of the city and onto the Newell Highway, through the village of Brocklehurst and out towards the next town, Gilgandra. The bike was in its element on the highway but for some reason I couldn’t get comfortable and shifted around on the seat as the cold seeped in. The highway is flat and mostly mundane here and I began to doubt my decision to ride today.

    At Gilgandra I turned, went over the Castlereagh River and stopped at a roadhouse. After fuelling the bike and buying a milk coffee and Lucozade I couldn’t get my right glove on (the one that I always put on last) for some strange reason. Somehow I’d pulled the thumb liner out and it wouldn’t go back in no matter how much I struggled with it sitting at the bowser.

    Grey nomads pulled in behind me so I idled over to where several semi-trailers were parked and resumed the struggle. “Ya f***in’ thing, GO BACK IN!” I roared into my helmet after what felt like minutes. A couple of the truck drivers looked at me, right arm in the air tugging at the glove with my left hand.

    “Oh I say, Cyril! Did you hear what that dreadful man just said?! Absolutely horrible, I’ve never heard anything like it in all my life! Cover your ears before he uses the Lord’s name in vain…yes you, BLASPHEMER!”

    No, neither of them said that. The thumb liner went back where it came from after several more exasperated outbursts.

    I was now on the Oxley Highway, just not the good bit past Walcha. I shared the road with many four wheel drives towing trailers, caravans and boats. I let the immense torque of the big Kawasaki overtake them four at one go as the road started to get a few bends and rises.

    I left the highway and turned onto John Renshaw Parkway, the looping road that runs around the western edge of the Warrumbungle Ranges and then through the National Park. I’d ridden along the Renshaw-McGirr Way in March and now found another namesake of the man.

    I stopped and drank some of the milk coffee. The mountains stretched out before me, volcanic spires and domes silhouetted blue through the haze.



    I went on through the village of Tooraweenah, right at the foot of the mountains. People stood and sat around having morning tea at tennis courts, colourful jumpers hung over the fence and rackets lined along the nets. Through the village and every creek from the ranges was running. Grass was lush and green at the roadside. Oh and did I mention that it had turned into the most blue-bell clear day?


    The last time I’d been along here ten years ago the long drought was at its height. There was no grass or water and only the palest shade of green in the wilga trees. The bends were long and sweeping and I leaned the bike a little harder through each one. I’m still getting used to it and have an irrational fear I’m going to scrape a pannier.

    I stopped to watch a family of emus slowly make their way up the first rise of the ranges.


    The mountains rise quite suddenly from the western plains. It’s flat and then suddenly with one steep rise they go upward. It is easy to imagine the plains as a shallow sea floor and the later volcanism building the mountains. The same hot spot caused volcanism from the Macedon Ranges in Victoria to the Glasshouse Mountains in Queensland. Amazing.


    After circumnavigating around the western hemisphere of the ranges, the Parkway turns east and heads towards the middle of the National Park. It gives great views of the volcanic remnants and I alternated between looking at the view and pointing my chin through the bends. Up until 2005 this section was corrugated gravel, now smooth asphalt and I didn’t take it for granted. I had to keep speeds down as there is a huge kangaroo population here and they can be on or near the road at any hour. Once inside the National Park the speed limit is sixty kilometres per hour.


    The ranges closed around me as I reached Wabelong Campground, stopping to have another drink. The creek burbled in the background while welfare-mentality currawongs surrounded me and the bike.



    For the first time all day I felt properly warm. I shared a muesli biscuit with them and they squabbled over the crumbs.


    Belougery Split Rock towered above. One day I’ll walk up it; not in these riding boots today.


    Reluctantly I left my currawong disciples and went on, following the road beside the creek and through the trees. In 2013 a bushfire burned most of the park over the course of about five weeks. Bare and blackened eucalypt limbs cast shadows over the thick regrowth underneath.


    The road rises sharply and turns back on itself a couple of times up the steep inclines. I stopped again at Whitegum Lookout and put my jacket into the pannier, helmet on the foot peg and walked along the five hundred-metre path to the lookout where a couple sat with a trail lunch of crackers, cheese, salami and juice. The rocks around the lookout were all sandstone – presumably the same sandstone that was at the bottom of the shallow Pilliga Sea 150 million years ago but now four hundred metres up on the side of a mountain.

    I stood talking to the couple about the mountains and the beautiful weather. They had spent the night in a tent in one of the valley camp sites and said the temperature had gotten down to just two degrees early in the morning.

    The view across to some of the main landmarks of the ranges was perfect.


    When I got back to the bike I found my helmet had fallen off the foot peg and now had another couple of souvenir scratches on the visor. I eased out of the carpark across a downhill spread of perfectly slippery gravel. Soon I went across the eastern boundary of the National Park and turned on to Observatory Road which, appropriately, leads to Siding Spring Observatory at the top of Mt Woorat.

    The road is narrow and the running springs keep a lot of the leafy surface nice and wet. It snowed here a week ago and the snow settled for two days. So it was a careful ride up the mountain. There is a basic café at the observatory where I ordered a pie and coffee. A film crew there studiously avoided any eye contact with me as I walked past. I sat outside and ate in the chilly air at over 1,100 metres altitude. One of the nearby houses for resident astronomers had a white Porsche parked outside.

    Afterwards, I walked up and around the observatory.

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  2. 017.

    As I walked back down the hill I turned to look at the signs facing down the slope. All warning no public access where I’d just been. Other signs requesting quiet for daytime sleeping astronomers.

    When I got back to the car park I met Conrad. Conrad looked to be in his seventies and sounded ill with a rasping cough that rolled through him. He looked approvingly at my motorcycle. “That’s a beautiful bike – how do you like parking it though?” he asked. Conrad had driven from Victoria in his original condition slate-blue Holden Kingswood sedan, 4.2-litre V8 and twin exhausts. He’d owned it since new and knew it completely. Conrad had driven and ridden all over Australia and was a television repairer. He was particularly proud of his son who managed a large Nissan service department in Melbourne. “They give him a different demo vehicle to take home every day!” he said. Conrad’s son frequently rode his Suzuki through the Yarra Ranges leading me to wonder, a long shot, if he is a Netrider.

    We stood talking for forty-five minutes but the shadows were growing longer. I said goodbye. Conrad said he was going through Dubbo in a week or so. “I’ll give you a toot as I go past!” he said in parting.

    I managed to ride around the steep carpark as though I knew what I was doing and gave a wave before heading down the mountain access road. The rapid temperature change of two or three degrees as I descended was enough for my instruments and camera to show condensation making this photo of the road glared.


    Back on the Parkway, I let the bike run a bit as the road opened and the mountains gradually receded, finishing with the massive columns of Timor Rock.


    Bit by bit these strips are getting nibbled. The GTR needs more input than my XJ6 but once set it holds a line like it is on rails.

    In a travesty of failed insurance claims and syntax after the bushfires, farm owners had placed a billboard next to the road stating:


    I followed a Corolla hatchback for several kilometres. Approaching a blind right-hand bend the Corolla slammed on the brakes after missing a side road. Around the bend an older Camry appeared doing about forty kilometres per hour and then a four wheel drive behind doing a hundred. Both the four wheel drive and I started braking heavily. The Corolla and Camry stopped, driver’s windows level with each other. And then they had a nice conversation to pass the time.

    “Hello Alice, I thought I’d give the motorcyclist behind me a real-life emergency braking situation to see how he’ll cope.”

    “What a coincidence, I’ve just done the same for the Landcruiser behind me! Oh well, better luck next time, see you later…”

    It took twenty seconds before either of them registered that there was anyone else on the road with them. People, they’re the worst sometimes.

    Five minutes later I stopped in Coonabarabran where I fuelled again and got some water. Like the town of Mudgee, the main street has a proper clock tower, seen here at the elegant time of twenty past three.


    Coonabarabran always looks a bit sleepy in a good way to me. I don’t know much about it but I could live there by appearances. Today I was there only for ten minutes and soon I was at highway speed heading back south again. Like this morning, this was just a transit in the cold as the sun sank lower. While the sun was still up I pushed the bike along and enjoyed the planted feeling through the suspension as I went around the bends.

    I stopped at a rest area about forty kilometres on to drink water. Sheep appeared to be on the wrong side of the fence next to the highway. A farmer in a tractor appeared and got out. “I wonder how long they’ve been out…I wonder if he knows…” he said then, “I’ll give him a call when I get home”. And then looking me up and down, “A cool day for a ride?” I said I was heading home. We were standing on the southern end of an unusual elevated plateau bordering the mountains. I asked him if it snowed here. “Every few years”. It was definitely colder up there that the surround plains.

    At Gilgandra I saw what amounted to a (sort of) Big Golf Ball, made from welded plough-discs and set on a steel pole advertising the local club. I photographed it but I’m not sure it’s worthy including in the Australia’s Big Things thread.


    About twenty minutes before sunset and I’d covered most of the distance back to Dubbo. There was one last view of the Warrumbungles, lit pale some seventy kilometres away to the north east.



    I was transiting one of Dubbo’s industrial parks at sunset, blood-red and rapidly fading, a bit like me at that hour.


    Home at last light.
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  3. great read & top pics

    That last one of the sunset Fcuking brilliant


    Dare I say it calendar worthy
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  4. Excellent write up and pics (y)
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  5. Now that's a top day
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  6. Beautiful XJ6NXJ6N!

    Lovely area, can't wait to do some rides in that area.
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  7. If that isn't high praise I don't know what is; thanks very much Jeff! The sunset lasted only five minutes but flared intensely red for that time.

    Thanks very much Andrew. I've been enjoying your various posts around the Blue Mountains recently too. (y)

    After the dull, murky start the sunny day was the best here for weeks. The few people I met in the National Park all commented on what a beautiful day it was after weeks of cloud, rain and even snow around the Observatory a week ago. Thanks for reading through!

    Thanks very much, Sim! Now, I know you've wavered a bit lately about bikes but let me tell you the V-Strom would be in it's element there. Lots of gravel tracks through the ranges to places I wouldn't be able to take my GTR.
  8. It's rides like that that make me happy I still have the strom, I wont be swapping any time soon, in fact I think the next project might be to motard up the DR :)

    Love the shot with the bird and the observatory, awesome :D
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  9. great pics and excellent write up mate, well done and thanks for sharing!
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  10. I will tell you what...................................If I had not been there before that write up would have me planing a ride there soon.
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  11. Thanks for reading! Glad to share the occasional non-commute ride I manage to do these days. :]

    Thanks Eric. :] It's a special place isn't it. I hadn't been since Winter 2009, years before the bushfire. People said that in the month after the fires the park looked completely different; a unique appearance that (hopefully) won't be seen for a long time to come.
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  12. A really enjoyable read and fab photos. Sounds like you had a most wonderful day. Can't wait for the opportunity to do some long rides myself.
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  13. Great read,the last time I was there the creeks were flowing as well.I ended up catching the train home to Sydney from Coona,I was there in a mates car with the dirtbikes and had an off riding at Peak Hill. Couldn't handle crawling into the tent with the back injury I had. Its just so stunning up there,no wonder they built the Observatory.
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  14. Hmmmm, makes me want to get a sports cruiser and retire. Sounds like a cracking day XJ.
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  15. Thanks Steve; once the Sun came out it really was a beautiful mid-Winter's day. There's a draw to the Warrumbungles that I've had since seeing them in off in the distance in the 1980s and I've visited every so often since living within a couple of hours' drive. I'll look forward to some posts of yours when you do go on some longer rides.

    Thanks Zim! No way to end a trip is it! The mountain - Mt Woorat or Siding Spring Mountain - gives such awesome views out to well over a hundred kilometres in most directions as well as the stars. I could spend a day just there looking out to the distance.

    Ah, the idea of retirement, eh? I can only agree. That campervan and motorcycle setup that Pjcliffo posted recently would be perfect. Thanks for reading through Lionz; it turned out to be just the right day for a ride.
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  16. Very nice..

    Just want to walk out of work and go for a loooooooong ride.. The power of words. :D
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  17. Good! Go on, Raj...I'm sitting here at work in front of a computer too and I know your FZ1N is sitting quietly somewhere, just waiting to be fired up and let out for a run. =D
  18. The FZ is just outside.. Getting drenched in the rain today. Pouring down here in Melbourne..

    Well..it will be a quiet ride back home. Hopefully Saturday, a nice ride is what I'm thinking of.
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  19. Ever so slightly jealous.
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  20. Mostly sunny and 14°C forecast for Melbourne on Saturday - things are looking up! Hopefully the rain holds off for your work commute home today too.

    I know the feeling, George. I've been doing far too much commuting and not much else for the past four months, living vicariously through posts about some of the rides the Sydney group has done recently. It's nice to have a reason to make a few ride posts in return. :]
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