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Fathers Day = australian adventure motorbike magazine

This entry is part 13 of 21 in the series Adventure Rider Issue #38

What to do on a special day? For Marty Blake the choice was easy: ride, clock up some kilometres and not really worry too much about the destination.

The idea was to tag along west with some lucky mongrels heading into the desert, see them on their way from Narrabri, then skip through some Pilliga bush and come back over Mt Kaputar and back to the work which prevented me joining the desert trip in the first place.

The departure was set for the Father’s Day weekend, and that proved a challenge with other riders. Feeble excuses like, “I’m going riding in the Himalayas,” the ever reliable, “I fell off my bike and I’m a bit sore,” to the unbelievable, “Work commitments,” meant it wasn’t easy to find a riding companion.

Fortunately, Darren was keen and only requested a few minor changes to my intended route…like a different direction – south, not west.

“Show me some tracks I wouldn’t know around Wauchope,” he sort of chuckled.

I wondered if he was still angry. The first time he rode with me on an enduro bike years ago I took him on my favourite loop.

It was super-tight, endless single track with a steep, slippery-clay mountain section. He reckoned I was being mean because I thought he was a Queenslander and had taken him on a torture loop. The truth was I took everyone new on that loop.

Most never came back for a second ride, but Darren did.

Plan B

So Wingham it was, via some old favourites off Dualsport Australia’s first disc and some converted Google Maps sections which were new to me. With multiple options to come home I was hoping for some rain beforehand to lay the dust.My DR650 was prepped, fuelled and loaded, (embarrassingly easy on a DR) a few days early.

As Darren had a DR650 too I figured he would be the same, but finally late Friday night he rang all happy to say he and his DRZ400 were ready and I should remember he would lead around Wauchope.

The view from Bago Bluff above Wauchope was breathtaking.

Early bird gets the loam

It rained a few days before, but the morning was bright and clear as we departed.

The usually dry trails behind Macksville felt almost loamy as we followed the coastal ranges, launching off the abundant large, steep, erosion mounds…well one of us launched, anyway. Bloody DRZs.

From a quick refuel at Willawarrin we swept over the Macleay River, and it was a shock to find it not running at the Toorooka bridge. The photogenic cause-way just up the road was dotted with lime-green puddles, but Willi Willi was firm, fast and not only dust-free, but all the ’roos and cattle stayed in position as we went past.

Even with all the times I’d ridden that section over many years, I was hard put to remember a better run through there.

Enfield Range Road’s pocket of sunshine.


The undulating farmland gave way to forest as we climbed. The roads became narrower and rougher underneath a dark rainforest canopy with the odd, still-slippery clay corner.

Then, with heaps of extra rocks, Racecourse Trail became rougher and led to the flowing dippers up the edge of the New England Highway.

It was super fun as we took turns leading.

With my number-one, near-miss ’roo road just in front of us I thoughtfully suggested Darren lead.

He was onto it in a flash. He’d hit a ’roo on the road himself and politely declined.

I hated leading through there so I pulled off to get some photos a couple of kilometres in and chuckled to myself as I watched Darren ride past. The self-congratulation stopped when he slowed and waved me back to the lead soon after.

Over the next hill I was almost jumped on by a dark, almost-black, ninja ’roo, and some manoeuvring on my part had Darren once again in the lead.

This soon became a slow race, with both of us saying, “After-you,” “No. I insist. After-you.”

Gingers Creek beckoned and the temperature fell as the Oxley Highway came into view. Dark clouds loomed ominously to the south.


The rainclouds closed in as bikes and bellies were refuelled at the always-friendly Gingers Creek roadhouse. Following the Google Maps line I’d prepared we set off on a grassy, fern-lined twin track and jumped onto Enfield Road. The GPS wanted to cut the corner where a track had once been, and shortly after we pulled the pin and rode 500m up the road to re-join the GPS track line.

The next detour was a small, leafy trail which hadn’t had any obvious use. The GPS insisted and it looked interesting, so we dropped down, darted in and found ourselves staring at a washout and ‘road closed’ sign.

There was room to get a bike past so we pushed on, but the other side deteriorated into a litter-strewn snig track. It felt all wrong but the GPS said it was right, so with first and second getting a workout we bashed our way back onto Enfield Road only a few kilometres further down.

That was the Google shortcut.

Let’s not mention it again.

Point Plumber Road near Port Macquarie was in good nick and offered a sandy blast. Darren wasn’t stopping for anything.

Like magic

The speed picked up back on Enfield Road, and as we followed the timbered ridge it started raining, so Darren stopped to put on a rain jacket.A few minutes later the bright sunshine and great views proved irre-sistible so we stopped for photos and Darren took off his jacket. Shortly after that it started raining again and the jacket went back on. Sure enough, it almost straight away stopped raining, but this time he refused to remove the jacket as we wound down tight, winding forest road and followed grassy ridges onto Nowendoc Road.

We could see it raining ahead, but it was dry by the time we got there. There was water running down the road, but all we saw was a bit of mist.

Still, we agreed to be impressed with Darren’s jacket.


We rolled into Taree on time and settled on the cabin veranda to swap ride stories until gourmet pizza was delivered. That stopped the talking until every last scrap had been devoured and then we debated the options for the homeward leg.

Steady rain overnight and in the morning revealed all but the coastal run shrouded in dark rainclouds. Darren refused to wear the rain jacket all day, so our route was picked for us.

As we slithered over Middle Brother’s clay section up to the impressive view at the tower all was good in the world.

After some nice, dark, rainforest sections and a small running creek we head-ed west back into the forest past the impeccably maintained Swans Crossing campground. We skirted the edge of the forest following an escarpment and eventually stopped to enjoy the breath-taking view from Bago Bluff above Wauchope.

Following a few gasps of admiration we left the view with Darren in the lead, almost too cheerfully promising new trails.

The rainforest run on Middle Brother was a bit slippery.


The route was new, but ‘trail’ was pushing it. It was a single line with abundant rock steps on big hill climbs, plunging downhills and almost completely hidden old trails. The look on a group of two-stroke riders said it all.

They probably don’t see too many big-tanked DR650s with luggage in there.

‘This is great, Darren,’ I thought inside my steaming helmet. ‘Get us out of here.’

A new dam and a big log spoiled Darren’s new trails, so we crossed back onto my route until we hit the servo near Port Macquarie where the Oxley and Pacific Highways meet.

Pushing it

After lunch Darren’s DRZ refused to start. It eventually fired up after being push-started in the carpark, but it clearly wasn’t happy, missing and running rough. We fuelled up, crossed the ferry and headed for the sand tracks with crossed fingers, hoping the DRZ wouldn’t stop in the deep, loose sand.

Not even a Jeep full of bikini girls parked on the side of the track was enough to stop Darren once he got going.

He roared past them and kept roaring past me and my camera.

I eventually caught him parked on a headland overlooking the beach and facing downhill.

I took over the lead. Everyone knows the Port-Crescent Head track, but the link to Hat Head further down the coast is harder to find. It’s tight with sandhills and requires commitment. It’s also excellent fun on small bikes. As the front of the DR tried to tuck the rear churned on through with a big handful of revs.

The DRZ made it through no worries.

It was good to find a creek to splash in.

Happy ending

A tar transport headed back into the forest before crossing the highway and climbing the steeper southern side of Mt Yarrahapinni to roll out near Macksville. An 850km loop completed by just after 3.00pm meant Darren had every chance to be home on time.

I cruised a few kilometres down the road and dropped in to see my daughter and granddaughters, hearing and seeing all that was new in their young lives. A little later I pulled up 50m short of home at my son’s house on the family farm and wandered in for a couple of bourbons.

This Father’s Day ride thing could become a tradition.

Next time I’ll take my son as well.

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