Coffs Harbour to Taree

I don’t like riding in the dark, but most of the epic adventure rides start that way. There is something satisfying about not wasting any of the precious daylight, the gentle burble of the DR with only the lights from surrounding dairies for company as I headed through the cool crisp air for Bellingen.

Cain was a bit surprised at my early arrival, but 15 minutes later Candy, his beloved 990, was outside barking an early morning welcome to his entire neighbourhood. Within five minutes we were carving up the course dust-free bush on our way south, well dust-free for one of us anyway.

We criss-crossed the highway for parcels of bush before popping out near the south west rocks turn for a typical hardcore shortcut. This beauty has an unmarked entrance, around 5km long and cut out around 10km of tar. As I looked behind and could barely see Cain’s head among the tall grass, I thought maybe it might be a bit much. Eventually he felt his way through and clawed out to more open grassland. Throw in a few wired-up gates, lots of cattle and it was starting to feel like we shouldn’t be here – a perfect start to an adventure.

After struggling to see through the grass, the 15km of tar with nice sweeping corners into Hat Head was almost bearable. The soft undulating sand section into crescent heads had me primed, and fun deep sand through coastal bush beckoned.

After missing the turn, we had the first U-turn for the day, but who’s counting? Well, Cain apparently. The sand was more fun than I had remembered – lots of throttle in third as the mighty DR skipped over the soft stuff was a blast.

A sunny uphill section begged for a photo, so quickly jumped off, whipped out my camera and waited. I took off my helmet and gloves and waited. Removed my camera bag and backpack, shed a layer of clothing and waited. Eventually the rumble of Candy singled Cain was close.

I was really impressed with the way he was playing it up for the camera, swapping, roosting, making the track look difficult was great, feet off with the front ploughing added extra drama. I thought Cain getting off and pushing was a bit over the top but the camera whirred away snapping up the pretend struggle.

As I strolled up the loose rutted hill, I couldn’t help but notice Cain was glowing red, as he pulled on his helmet looking less than enthused, we continued, I would skip effortless past, stop and take photos whilst offering encouraging loud laughter to encourage him, then repeat.

After an uplifting fun half an hour of fun photo taking, a sand hill with a tight corner caught Cain out, he was doing well, working the off-camber bank on the side of the trail when a nasty root spun the back sideways and unbalancing the whole show resulting with Cain and Candy rolling around upside down in the sand.

I put my camera away despite the great photo opportunity out of part respect, part self-preservation as my laughter didn’t seem to be as uplifting Cain’s spirts as much as mine. Candy might be a pretty girl but boy is she fat, well maybe big boned but very heavy nonetheless. Picking her up on the downside of a steep off-camber required both our might.

Cain shook off the loose sand, I offered up a bottle of water to replace his exhausted supply and after a while the red colour slowly drained from Cain’s face but not before explaining in ten years and half the world this was the first time Candy had the indignity of being upside down in the dirt.

Telling him there is a first time for everything didn’t help. I mentioned that I did say there would be sand didn’t sooth out the pain of the first fall off. When I mentioned that he should have been suspicious when I fitted new tyres, and a sand one on the back instead of my usual mostly worn out attire.

Pointing out that this was the easier sand section of the two planned opened up a lively discussion, a vote at one each to whether we skip the next fun wooped out sand section was a draw. Usually as ride leader I get the deciding vote, but we agreed to compromise. Cain would take his foot off my neck, put down the big rock and all I had to do was bypass the next section – seemed fair at the time.

After throwing the big rock into the bush and moving out of reach we prepared to finish this section. I thoughtfully lied telling Cain there was only a few hundred metres left of this track buying me time to plan my escape.

Then Candy chucked a wobbly, not sure if it was because Cain dropped her or I called her fat but she refused to start. I quickly scampered further up the hill to safety whilst offering emotion support and resumed taking photos. Unfortunately broken down KTMs are my favourite portrait subject, although common I never seem to tire of the opportunity, although long lenses are a blessing at times like this.

After checking fuses and trying a jumpstart, a loose battery terminal was found to be the culprit. Cain flashed me the I’m number one symbol analogizing my moral support, or at least that’s what I think it meant.

The few hundred metres out to firm ground were the longest this side of a National Park uphill hike and we eventually hit solid ground, cruised into Crescent and high tailed it to port on a very fast loose road. As the Dr gently shock its head at 110 it brought back sweet memories of time spent on Macio’s, nothing bad happens but the bikes sure do move around a lot.

With all my cheek I’m glad I don’t believe in karma, idling through port I offered to stop at the bike shop for repairs or trade, Cain had no comment. After a nice lunch we fired up the bikes only to find mine sounded a little rattly. Swallowing a whole litre of oil certainly got my attention, but putting in down to a one-off we continued.

My road closed bypass added a half dozen more U-turns, finding the Bago bluff lookout added more. Still, a nice view off a big rock was cool. We followed ridges through mostly dry forest with a few rocks; occasionally a small patch of rainforest would break the monotony. I was starting to think I did too good a job staying in the forest when we popped out at Swans Crossing, a very well-maintained camping ground on a nice little creek.

Dawson’s crossing came and went, a little town I never knew existed then we climbed up onto middle brother which had an outstanding view and a spot for loonies to jump off strapped to an oversized kite. The sneaky way into Taree proved a little too sneaky with locked gates, a nice lady offered to unlock them but wanting to respect private property we politely declined. Apparently, this made 21 U-turns for the day but Cain could be exaggerating.

My plan to go further west over a little hill with a tower was thwarted by Cain, despite his new lights he was reluctant to go exploring as it was after 4pm, finding new riding wasn’t as appealing as a cold beer so we hightailed the 17km into Taree accommodation and into town for food, munchies and alcohol.

We still managed time for a swim in the pool, before dark and a nice BBQ. Unfortunately, the oil was disappearing faster somewhere in the DR than Cain’s 12% bourbons when he wasn’t looking. Where another litre of oil went to, along with Cain’s bourbon remains a mystery. Strangely I woke up with a sore throat and Cain woke with sore ears, maybe I was a little excitable after the extra bourbons I ... err, found.

Steady rain meant a slow start, Cain made good use of a hairdryer to dry his socks and heat his breakfast. Who says men can’t multi-task!

Soon the rain cleared, we fuelled up and split. A nice little bush section right at the start was perfect, full of ruts and giant bog holes made for a nice warm up. The climb up toward combine through rainforest never disappoints, the bright green grass at the top reminds you of Dorrigo.

Tractors seemed to be the only traffic as we headed for Toms Gully Road, its brilliant views and mini switchbacks are always a highlight, despite a few spits of rain the road being soaking wet, we stayed dry until we crossed the Oxley, then bone dry on the other side.

Pipeclay Road gave the throttle cables a stretch, fuelled up in Wauchope and back into the bush behind Telegraph point. Fresh logging road closures thwarted our progress, usually road closed signs are optional but with a full crew in there falling trees retreat was the best option. We endeavoured to skirt around only to be stopped by the new highway and huge blood sucking mosquitoes in plague proportions.

Unfortunately, if you can’t beat it join it and after a forty-kilometre mind- and arse-numbing highway section we parted at Nambucca, to each find our own way home.

After such an exciting ride it was a tame finish, next time back into the sand from Wauchope eh Cain, there’s a fun section calling our names.

Author of this article: martyhc