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Hassans Walls – Bob Wozga scratches a Lithgow itch

This entry is part 4 of 17 in the series Adventure Rider Issue #22

Bob Wozga grabbed his Olympus E-M5 Mark 2 and headed out of Sydney in search of adventure.

Not long ago while at Kandos, near Mudgee, NSW, with friends, a couple of lads rocked up on bikes and started setting up camp adjacent to ours.

Rod and I, both being riders, went down to say hello and have a look at their bikes. I can’t remember their names so I’ll just call them Bill and Ted.

Apparently they’d come all the way to Kandos after reading a story about a place in the Wollemi National Park and wanted to check it out for themselves. They’d set off on their excellent adventure to Kandos hoping to find bodacious babes but discovered us, a group of middle-aged youths on a weekend away from the grind of Sydney.

It must’ve been a downer for their expectations, but you can’t have everything.

On the up side, the ride and campgrounds were just as good, if not better, than the story depicted.

Hassans Walls near Lithgow was crying out for a visit.
The author enjoys the view from Bowens Creek Road.

Back again

Sharing the campfire and a few drinks through the night, talk moved to rides often overlooked close to Sydney – roads often glanced at while riding past and thinking, “I’ll check that out one day,” or roads that captured interest while looking at a map, but there was no time to explore.

Mount Wilson was mentioned.

You’ve probably flown past the sign on the way to Lithgow and wondered what lies at the end of that road.

I hadn’t been to Mount Wilson for a long time. It’s an eccentric little village in the wilderness. During the summer we used to head up there and lilo along the Wollangambe River. During autumn it’s covered in the reds, golds and browns of an English village. There was also an incredible gravel thoroughfare called Bowens Creek Road that linked Mt Wilson to Bilpin. I first explored this road in my Renault 12. Lilos and Renault 12s. Yes, it was a while ago.

Back then the road was narrow and only wide enough for one car in many places. Every now and then there were places to pull over and allow a car heading in the other direction to wriggle by, and at the bottom of the road was a wooden bridge that crossed Bowens Creek. The road was built as a Depression make-work project that was common for the day, and was a secondary path between Bilpin and Mt Irvine.

Bill mentioned he’d been along this road not long before and it was accessible over the bridge coming from Mount Wilson, but further up the track towards Bilpin the road was blocked. After reading of the poor lad that lost his V-Strom along the Bridle Track a couple of years ago you can hardly blame Bill for being cautious and turning back.

He said you could probably do it on a DRZ, but on a solo ride was a bit too dicey.It looked like the road needed to be revisited.

You’ve probably flown past the sign on the way to Lithgow and wondered what lies at the end of that road.

Wide angle

On a sunny morning I loaded the bike with the essentials – fuel, water, tea, camera – and headed out.

I studied the map and there was one extra place that had always intrigued me; Hassans Walls at Lithgow.

It was only a slight detour. To bypass the roadworks between Mt Victoria and Lithgow you can travel along Hartley Vale Road. It comes off the Darling Causeway and is narrow in some parts, so a rider needs to keep an eye out for oncoming traffic.

As the road comes into the Vale Of Clwydd, a dirt road veers to the left leading to Hassans Walls and Bracey Lookout.

It’s only a short run, but a nice stretch as it climbs up the hill giving glimpses of the valley below. At the beginning of the road are signs warning to watch out for swerving cars and black bicycles with no riders. Another sign advises of mine subsidence and that entry is at your own risk.

The view is worth it and gives an aerial panorama of the roadworks coming into Bowenfels. It’s not a bad spot to stretch the legs, have a cup of tea and listen to the wind.

Shall not pass

From there, head through Lithgow and up Bells Line Of Road.

Not far from Bell is the Mt Wilson turnoff. Double white lines guide you through fern and eucalypt forests to an English village in the middle of the bush. Houses built in the early 20th century with massive gardens dot the village and huge oak trees line the main street, called The Avenue.

There’s even Turkish baths at one of the old properties.

Just out of the village is a picnic and camping ground with walks through the Cathedral Of Ferns that makes for a convenient rest stop. Further along at Mt Irvine, Bowens Creek Road begins.

When I arrived the road was blocked with a yellow barricade.


Hassans Walls Lookout allows glimpses of the valley below.

Due credit

The road had deteriorated considerably since I’d driven the Renault through there. Fresh tyre tracks from both 4WDs and motorcycles marked the ground, indicating it still gets a bit of use. Over time, erosion had changed the road to a track, becoming narrower and looser, and ruts keep a rider on his toes in sections.

Although the road looked stable, the bike slid on loose gravel while cornering, and there wasn’t anything stopping an over-the-edge excursion. It’s a long way down.

Part of the road hugging the cliffs leading up the opposite hill could be seen through the trees and there were some brilliant sights. Credit must be given to the men who built this road during The Depression years.

A slippery slope

As much as I enjoy riding on my own with the freedom to stop and photograph whatever catches my eye, there’s still a safety aspect that needs to be considered when venturing on some roads. I wasn’t prepared for an overnight stay for instance, nor had I informed anyone of where I was heading. All it would’ve taken is a sprain or a slip over the edge and I might’ve been in some difficulty.

Due to the time of day, the sky getting dark and the fatigue from the ride, I pulled over and walked down the track a little to see the state of the surface.

After slipping twice I decided it was better to turn back, and heading up a steep incline I stalled the bike just after getting out of some ruts and had to fight to stay upright while sliding backwards.

I walked the bike up around the hairpin bend and took a rest.

Some may say I wimped out, but these tracks are better tackled in a group, and that’s no doubt why organised rides employ a sweep.

As I rode along the Darling Causeway, returning to Mt Victoria, bands of rain could be seen to the west. It seemed it’d been a good idea to pull out when I did.

The valley at Hartley Vale. About as picturesque as it gets.

Good things

Bowen Creek Road is a striking stretch of road to follow and well worth the ride. There are also roughly 17 fire trails darting off the main road and begging for exploration, making it well worth a return trip to camp out and spend more time in this part of the mountains. It’s still on the bucket list to get to the bridge and follow the road through to Bilpin, but I just need to do it with a group.

So, a big thank you to Bill and Ted for reminding me of Mt Wilson and Bowens Creek Road while having a few drinks by the campfire.

One of the great things I enjoy most about venturing into camping grounds or pubs are the people I meet, the stories I gather and the information exchanged.

Riders can be a friendly lot and are quite happy to help each other out. The world currently seems to be in a mess, but fortunately there are far more good people than bad, with 90 per cent of the good ones being adventure riders.

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