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Four elements – Earth, wind, rain and fire from Andrew Bicknell

This entry is part 5 of 17 in the series Adventure Rider Issue #22

The idea was to ride down through some of Victoria’s best high country then follow the Murray and Darling River systems home through three States. Covering around 4000km on mostly dirt roads and tracks, riders had to cope with earth, water, air and fire. Andrew Bickford was there and tells the story.

After the cold, wet winter we were all as keen as mustard to get away for the eight-day epic ride, and the group included Ian Meek, Tony Gullifer and myself on XR650Rs, and Colin Bennett and Peter Cox on DR650s.

The ride was Tony’s brainchild, and he’d also organised Ralph McKay and Don Sinclair, who both still enjoy adventure riding, to run the support vehicle carrying luggage and the well-sorted arrangement of tools to keep the bikes running in case of trouble.

The bikes were all highly modified for adventure riding, with upgraded suspension front and rear, large fuel tanks, exhausts, screens, lights, rims and seats. They were also fitted with UHF radios to make communication and directions easier, and also make it easy to share safety information and enjoyable to talk along the way.

Eight days, five riders, two mates running a support vehicle and all four elements in one ride.

Horses on courses

We left early from Bathurst, and even though it was late October it was still cold. The first run took us through Trunkey Creek, Tuena and into Gunning for breakfast and fuel. The weather improved as we got to Murrumbateman and we continued on to Talbingo where there where plenty of brumbies to been seen.

Just as we were coming into Corryong we had to cross two rivers that were really swollen from recent rain. A local advised us to turn around, and three of us did and kept our boots dry.

The other two ended up with four wet boots and one drowned XR.

It was a big day covering nearly 700km, mostly on dirt.

Obstacles were thick on the first day. Colin Bennett pondered the best way around or over this one between Talbingo and Corryong.

Trunk calls

The following day we met up with some mates to ride over Mount Pinnibar.

We made it, and at nearly 1800 metres above sea level it was cold and snowing.

We were pleased to arrive as we’d failed to get there on a previous attempt due to wet conditions.

This was a hard day riding through the high country as the wet winter and strong winds had downed trees over the tracks, and it took a long time to get around or over them. I might add the temperature most of the day was in the single digits and kept crisp by a cold wind.

We finished up going through to Benambra and on to Omeo. Thanks to the rain there was no dust, which made it a great ride…when it wasn’t hailing on us.

The visors didn’t cope that well with the weather as they always fogged up and made visibility poor.

After a warm shower at the Omeo Hotel the body was functioning again.

The snow that had been 50mm-deep fun became 30cm and 60cm of hard slog. Ride organiser Tony Gullifer contemplated the situation.
As the snow deepened wheels began to pack solid and staying upright was difficult.

Bright outlook

The forecast indicated the weather was clearing so we convinced ourselves to pack away our wet-weather gear and departed Omeo in light drizzle, headed high up into the hills. We couldn’t believe it’d been so cold the night before, but the proof was there. We rode through the snow.

This was a first for most of us. We’d taken photos thinking it was great, until it started snowing again and suddenly what had been 50mm-deep fun became 30cm and 60cm of hard slog. Suddenly it wasn’t as much fun as we first thought.

The bikes heated up as we climbed the hills and some experienced riders took tumbles – as many as four times in one section of road. Visibility was close to zero, and fogged visors and low snow clouds added to our problems. We had to retreat through one section before we got going again. The rims of our bikes were packed solid with snow that’d frozen through the spokes, and that section was spoken about at length that evening.

We arrived at Harrietville then rolled on to Bright to stay the night.

Now is a good time to point out our bikes were carrying only the bare essentials – just wet-weather gear and tyre-changing tools. This allowed the bikes to work as they should and not overload the suspension or place unnecessary stress on the subframes.

It also allowed us to ride a lot better, with less weight to balance and manage.

The backup vehicle was informed every morning where to meet us that evening and when we rolled in the rooms were booked, our luggage unloaded, and we enjoyed a good night’s rest after dinner and a few drinks.

The prospect of riding Feeneys Track had everyone excited. Ian Meek set off to live the dream.

Buzz off

We left Bright in perfect spring weather, as if it’d been fine for days, and soon arrived at Bonnie Doon for breakfast and fuel. The serenity was amazing!

The country was looking fantastic after a huge season and hay baling was going flat out.

The other thing going flat out was the mosquitoes. At every location along the rivers they were buzzing around like Cessna aircraft.

Soon we tracked through Barmah, Barham, Echuca and into Swan Hill.

A celebratory pic on the South Aussie border.

Adventure defined

After a quick look at the Murray River we headed off to Ouyen before the mozzies could get at us, and then through to the long-awaited town of Hattah, where we filled the bikes and topped up with water and found the temperature in the mid- 30s.

We were keen to see where the Hattah 500 was held, but more importantly, we were all excited at the prospect of riding Feeneys Track. We’d heard of so many riders going through and having a ball.It lived up to our expectations.

The track conditions varied, but hammering through the loamy soils and sand with mates was a blast, and there were a few minor stacks along the way.

When we stopped to regroup along Feeneys Track we all made comment about Australia’s climate. Two days before at the end of October we’d ridden through snow, and now we were riding through dust and sand in the desert heat.

For us this was what adventure riding was all about: never knowing what’s around the next corner.

We came out of the bush tracks straight on to the highway, through the border crossing to South Australia and into Renmark for the night.

A quick look at the Darling River.

No swagging

The next day led us through to Wentworth at the confluence of Australia’s two most important rivers: the Darling and the Murray. The next port of call was Pooncarie for a fuel stop and a quick look at the Darling River, which we followed through to Menindee and got to see Lake Menindee filling. It was an amazing sight as we’d seen this lake empty in the past. With a surface area of 47,350 hectares it’s an impressive sight.

Broken Hill was our stop off for the night. We stayed at The Palace Hotel, where part of the movie The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert was filmed, and it’s worth noting that it cost about $35 per head and came with lock-up bike storage.

When booking in a group and staying in outback pubs we found our accommodation cost averaged $52 per night. You wouldn’t catch us unpacking and packing up swags every day for that price, plus it supports the local communities that need a little cash flow.

Each to his own though. Many riders I know enjoy the camping aspect and I respect that.

It seems like there’s not much to see at White Cliffs, but it’s a great adventure-riding destination and the Underground Motel is a neat place to stay.

Chain reactions

We had a few hours off in Broken Hill for a look around, and a quick trip out to Silverton was worth the visit as well.

We then headed to White Cliffs and the Underground Motel. It was a great place to stay and we’d recommend it as an excellent adventure ride to see some unique country.

It wasn’t a big day, so it allowed us to do some maintenance on the bikes, including changing some chains and sprockets on the XRs. A cush drive would be a nice upgrade one day on the XR, as the DR chains and sprockets held on fine.

Good accom was inexpensive. The Nyngan caravan park was a good example.


Our ride then took us through to Tilpa where we made a quick stop at the pub, and the water was certainly traveling fast through the Darling there.

Louth was a fuel stop and look around before roosting on to Cobar where we had the first flat tyre. The DR was quickly taken around to Claude and Mario Parisi’s dealership where Mario fitted a new tube quick-smart.

That, as it turned out, was the only flat tyre for the whole trip. There must’ve been something working well with the Dunlop 606s and 20PSI.

That night we booked into Nyngan to catch up with another great adventure-riding mate, Dave Smith, who couldn’t make this trip, and we had a great night.


The next day we travelled through backroads from Nyngan all the way to Bathurst. We’d travelled 4000km through wind, hail, snow in the mountains and then later through the dust and heat of the desert, and it was a trip many of us won’t forget in a long time.

If you can ever organise eight days off, you can see a lot of Australia in that time.

Get on to setting your dates and plan your own adventure.

Hints and tips

• UHF Radio communication is very helpful in keeping the group moving and with navigation. It’s also a great tool to advise of road conditions ahead and warn about oncoming vehicles
• Safety jackets were worn. They might make a rider look like a goose, but a bit of hi-viz is very helpful in avoiding collisions
• Always fuel up the night before if possible. It makes it easier to leave early the next morning
• Ride out early and get breakfast down the road a bit. It saved us time and got us all moving in good time
• New tyres are essential before leaving
• Get all your maintenance work done in the shed before you leave and go for a quick test run. If you iron out your bugs it’ll hopefully give you a clean run on your ride
• It’s good practice to know what bolts and nuts can work loose so you can tighten them up at the end of each day
• Support crew are a great bonus, and they still get to see a lot of country as well

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