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A Spring ride in Oz... Airbear hits the road and goes north...

I’m just back from a 26 day adventure with Brunhilde (1974 BMW R90/6), exploring the eastern part of the state of New South Wales.

I headed off on a cold afternoon with all layers on and arrived back in much the same state. Along the way I experienced a huge range of conditions including sleet, tropical heat and humidity, dust storms, bush fires and a whole lot of impeccable days of sunshine and big blue skies.

First day was a short run along the Upper Murray valley …

… with rain threatening but politely holding off until I had set up camp and cooked a decent meal. Here’s the first campsite, near Tumbarumba – lots of firewood, long-drop dunny (crapper), etc. The morning was sunny but cold, warming up during the day as I headed north-west over the mountains.

I typically choose roads that have few cars; ones that have a tendency to meander through the countryside and small communities in a way that seems deliberately designed to bring pleasure to the owner of a mature motorcycle. Brunhilde positively sang with joy as we waved to cows and sheep.

Out to the north-west and cropping becomes more common. They grow good granite boulders out here, sometimes nestled in fields of cheerful canola.

At Dubbo, Mal and I visit a mate with an RS tragedy. This was an immaculate machine a few days before. Very sad. Frame is visibly bent. The guy is determined to resurrect it. Thanks for the hospitality, Mal.

On then to the north – from Gulargambone across to the Warrumbungles, dodging the kangaroos in the dark, but finding a great camping spot in the National Park. Woke up to these guys (emus).

The Warrumbungle Mountains are the remains of a volcano that last blew 16 million years ago. The campgrounds there are good and it was worth paying the $12 camping fee for a great shower. There are lovely twisty roads that are best taken at a cautious pace due to the wildlife. The kangaroos do not have running lights or loud pipes and are well known for speeding recklessly when they’ve had a few. They have no respect for fences, either – a fence is just a slightly higher hop.

I head east now and find an interesting detour off the beaten path. This is dry forest, similar to a lot of Victoria – a bit too dry for this time of year. I saw a few big goannas here, but failed to catch them on the camera.

A nice camping spot overlooking the Split Rock Dam, near Tamworth. Somebody had already removed the ‘No Camping’ sign and it was warm enough to sleep on the slab.

I had a wonderful feed of spare ribs and pumpkin mash with Coopers Sparking Ale while listening to Garrison Keilor’s ‘Prairie Home Companion’ on the radio. One of those ‘Wouldn’t be Dead for a Million Bucks’ evenings. Fabulous birdsong in the morning.

Next evening found me enjoying Karen and Gary’s hospitality. Thanks folks – great to meet you. Here’s Gary’s stunning R90S, heroically resurrected from what was apparently a pile of junk. A balltearer, mate.

The next day I head back over the mountains to the coast and the vegetation is very suddenly lush, verdant, VIVID! Roads are either beautifully made, like this one, or old and tired with a surprise on every corner.

During the day Brunhilde started stumbling a bit around 4000rpm. No water in the bowls, good fuel flow, so I began to obsess about the diaphragms. I found a nice shelter out of the sun by a river, with workbench, and did some exploring. Carbs were just fine, all electrical connections good. Turned out to be the points (at least 20k kms old); solved with a quick touch-up with a file. Timing was still ‘spot on’.

I made it to my sister’s place at Murwillumbah that night and spent a week there, catching up with family and meeting new grand-nieces and grand-nephews.

I did lots of exploring, including a trip to Bris-Vegas (Brisbane, Queensland, the next state up.) I went up on the 8 laner main highway (yikes) and came back through the beautiful Numinbah Valley.

The Knob. Wonder why they call it that. And imagine all those travellers who see the Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise (both hideous commercial $hit-holes) on the coast and don’t know about this valley.

This is at the border crossing, looking south from Queensland into NSW. The roads instantly morph into much more ‘characterful’ adventure tracks. They seem to carve their way through jungle here with vegetative tunnels to drive through, and there are banana plantations and little ‘honesty’ fruit stalls by the side of the road.

I arranged to visit She’llbe Wright at Nimbin. Mother Nature organised a spectacular dust storm for that day so I am unable to show pics of the scenery. We had a great ride with the four Staintune mufflers of the two 90s singing tuneful harmonies. I learned very quickly to follow in She’llbe’s tyre (tire) tracks; he knows where all the surprises are. A wonderful day – thanks mate.

Nimbin is a magical place, full of playfulness. Here’s a shopfront in the main street.

Along the way we visited his mechanic and met a shed full of treasures including this work in progress.

I visited the Harbourmaster and Mistress of the Mount Nardi Yacht Club and all I got was this cap, which bears a striking resemblance to the caps worn by the Police in this state.

O, and there were some damn fine traditional reefers, and nice cups of tea, and a delicious lunch, and great company. Thanks She’llbe. I was also recruited into the Polite Force, and have pledged to carry the message wherever I go. Apparently at this year’s Mardi Grass Festival at Nimbin, a Polite Force squad was patrolling the streets busting people for not having marijuana in their possession.

Here’s a bit of the road on Mt Nardi – She’llbe’s driveway, with dust.

Here’s Brunhilde looking glamorously naked amongst the sugar cane near Mt. Warning.

After a week in the area it was back on the road again, heading generally south, but with adventures and diversions. Here overlooking Byron Bay, the eastern-most bit of the Australian mainland.

The blue bit is the ol’ Pacific Ocean. I rode on the main highway (yuk) for an hour or so before finding an alternative path through rolling hills, heading inland again.

Found a lovely camping spot by a wild stream – I do like the sound of roaring water to sleep by. I was hot enough in the morning to feel the urge to swim in a pool that I bet the locals call ‘the Spa’. Another one of those places that is hard to leave.

I headed further inland and to higher altitude. The wind got much stronger and colder. By 3pm I have all the layers on and my hands are freezing. This is another dust storm day, and although the dust isn’t as bad the conditions are difficult with winds at over 100km/h. I pulled in to the Tia Falls National Park for some shelter and free camping.

Next night and it’s another fine campsite with bunk beds and a waterfall for the sound effects. Ellenborough Falls National Park.

Australian National Parks typically have good basic camping facilities. Most are free, but others with hot showers etc will charge a fee of $5 to $12 per visit. Camping anywhere in State Forests is legal and free throughout NSW, and access to rivers is regarded as a birthright for this nation of fish-botherers.

I spend two nights at the next campsite, near Gloucester, catching up with some reading and fishing, clothes washing and so on. A very difficult place to leave.

Back to civilisation and the coast – I arrived at my daughter’s place and a wonderful time meeting new grandchildren. Marie is 38 and has just bought her first bike; a Honda CB250, named Bruce. We had a lovely warm day travelling down the coast to visit Patonga Beach, an old stamping ground for both of us at different times. It was her longest ride yet (130kms), and we finished the day with drinks at her nearby beach watching the last surf of the day.

Then it is down through Wiseman’s Ferry and Dural, through Sydney to Nowra on the south coast to catch up with Marie’s folks. Her stepdad is an old mate, an inspired inventor afflicted with Triumphs.

He has been tinkering with this Bonnie for 30 years. All the 'plastics' are carbon fibre that he has designed and made himself. There's a toggle switch somewhere, which changes the height of the rear suspension and consequently the steering geometry (don't ask for more info - I dunno).

I had intended to make my way down the coast from here and cross back over the Snowy Mountains to home but the weather was closing in and forecasts were not promising. I found my way back to the big Highway for the last 500kms to home in the rain. No pics for that day.

It’s great to be home. Michael of the Jungle …

… had cared for the place very well. He had 3 families come to stay and kept them all warm. He let 4 different people borrow my car, sometimes frequently, so it is full of juice and running well.

Brunhilde and I covered 4600kms including about 500kms on dirt roads, used $400 of fuel and 1 litre of oil. This map is not quite correct – googlemaps would not let me go to quite a few places we really went.

I spent a total of $17 for 11 nights of camping on the whole trip. Did 15 nights staying with family and friends. We typically covered 200 to 300 kms per day, with the search for good campsites being of prime importance. As a general rule I assumed that if I could see two other vehicles at the one time we were probably on the wrong road. I didn’t take anything I didn’t need and I didn’t forget anything. I met many new friends and re-established old friendships and family connections. Took 600 photos. Paying street prices for beer was hard for this home-brewer, but all other recreational chemicals were free. I’m dreaming of my next run …


  1. AirBear,
    Nice report, excellent writing with heaps of good photos. It really warmed my heart to see you at Michael Schnerrings place - he's the best BM mechanic I've been into in Aussie land. I spent a month at his place, re-building that dude bike Mr.Mayne sold me. A bike that where told to ready for a RTW trip turned out to be a wreck, but end of story was a lifetime friendship with Michael. Aussies are like yourselves and Ross willing to give an arm and leg in order to support you whilst in OZ.
    Thanx to all of you that contributed to my wonderful trips :-)
    No wonder why I'm saving up $ on a jar..
    Helge :-)


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