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Northern Congregation – Fantastic!

This entry is part 2 of 17 in the series Adventure Rider Issue #20

Rain on the plain needn’t be a pain.

The causeway on Moredun Dams Road was running fast. Keith Dostal made his way through on Saturday when the level had dropped considerably.

They’re just good friends. Adventure Rider Magazine’s publisher, Kurt ‘Ballard’ Quambusch, and DualSport Australia’s Marty ‘Hard Core’ Blake seemed to enjoy the occasion.

We recognise that bike. It’s ad manager Mitch on the KLR Shop Bike, trying a few moves after the skills demo.

Scott Birdsall from Queensland’s Gold Coast had the camping concept well sorted – for both he and his bike.

Vince Strang wandered over to meet Lee Palmer of Cross Roads Motorcycles and have a yarn about the new HARD Kits bikes.

Armidale’s Mark Reynolds was the first rider to arrive. Damn that Triumph T100 sounded good.

Graeme Cramp from Albion Park Rail is loving retirement. His 1987 R80GS won him the ‘Highest Kilometres’ award with 464,000km. Graeme also took out ‘Oldest Rider’ prize.

The youngest adventure rider, Jack Croker, 20, from Krambach, NSW.

Stuart Ball was on hand to tell everyone about the Great Australian Ride.

September 2016 saw a fair splash of rain fall in the New England area of NSW. It was also the time scheduled for the second annual Congregation. With close to 50mm in the three days leading up to the gathering there were a few furrowed brows in the Adventure Rider Magazine office as wet-weather gear was dug out of storage and gumboots jammed in panniers.

But it was all a false alarm…sort of.

Mal and Karen at Adventure Bike Australia offered some great riding advice and excellent adventure product.

The Congregation itself was scheduled for Saturday, September 17, and as riders began to arrive on Friday the 16th, skies were blue, the sun shone and the venue – Green Valley Farm near Inverell – was a picturesque delight, begging riders to fling off their riding gear and prance around barefoot on the springy, green grass. That was especially so when the riding gear was just a tad muddy and maybe a little saturated.

Col Meacham rode his 1977 TF185 Suzuki in from Inverell. That might not sound like much, but Col’s ridden this same little two-stroke across The Simpson and through some serious Aussie outback.
There was plenty happening on the Vince Strang Motorcycles stand.

While Green Valley Farm was sunny, warm and fairly dry, the approaches, especially the causeway on Moredun Dams Road, were a tad damp, and that meant most bikes and riders arrived looking a little moist. That particular causeway was running fast on Friday. At least the soakings may have washed away the stains from the underwear of a few riders. A big bike heading sideways on a submerged, fast-flowing causeway can make even the most experienced riders catch their breath.

BMW Motorrad’s Miles Davis staged some impressive skills demonstrations, getting up close and very personal with spectators.

So damn good

As Friday evening crept up from the surrounding hills the brilliant staff at Green Valley Farm made sure there was plenty of dry firewood, excellent catering, music(!), clean amenities with lots of hot water, a huge camp kitchen and, overall, it’d be hard to imagine a better venue for a meeting like this one.

Allan Watson made the most of the Friday-night burger-and-chips included in the camping fee.
Here’s a bike with a story. Barry Bonning’s 1988 Africa Twin has done a Paris-Dakar and an Australian Safari. It still looks immaculate.

The great weather continued on Saturday as more riders arrived and set up camp. Yarns were told, bikes checked out and excellent loops ridden as the day progressed. BMW Motorrad’s Miles Davis gave some very impressive skills demonstrations on the damp, slippery ostrich paddock – once the ostrich had been herded away, of course – Marty HC was loading up a free DualSport Australia GPX loop and handing out route sheets from the Vince Strang Motorcycles stand, Darren ‘Big Dog’ Wilson and Lee Palmer were putting riders on HARD Kits bikes right, left and centre and Mal and Karen at Adventure Bike Australia offered some great riding advice and excellent adventure product. A low-key inclusion was Nigel Harvey of Triumph Australia. Nige wheeled in on a 2016 Explorer and was happy to give riders some well-in-formed info, and a few jumped on the bike to find out what all the excitement was about.

Nigel Harvey of Triumph Australia wheeled in on a 2016 Explorer and was happy to give riders some well-informed info. A few jumped on the bike to find out what all the excitement was about.

Julie Almstrom, Kingha Tanajewska and Amy Harburg spearheaded a strong female contingent.

All this was against a backdrop of riders yarning about bikes, rides and a thousand other adventure-related topics.

How many woolsheds do you know with a beer garden?


For dinner on Saturday evening everyone piled into the Green Valley Farm woolshed, a venue which really is a woolshed. Green Valley Farm is a large, working sheep farm and enter-tains guests like the Congregation crew as an extra activity. There’s a lot of commitment made to the ‘extra activity’ though. How many wool-sheds do you know that have a beer garden complete with fairy lights? And all kinds of rides for the kids?

Daniel Watson’s a great dad. He spent ages doubling his daughter, Rachel, around the campsite. Around and around and around and around they went at about 10kph. We got dizzy just watching them. Daniel’s family had three generations at the Congregation. Daniel’s father, Allan, and son, Lucas, were there as well.

Publisher Kurt gave a hearty and well-received speech, prizes were awarded, and the excellent catering continued as the evening made its way to a full-moon backdrop straight from a fairy tale.

The light rain started in the early hours of Sunday morning and campers, still smiling and slightly bloated from dinner the night before, packed up tents and swags and headed for their respective destinations.

An out-and-out lucky dip prize of an Adventure Rider Magazine mini jump starter went to Kent Ritsch. Kent blasted up from the NSW central coast.
Darren ‘Big Dog’ Wilson, owner of HARD Kits, took in a little sunshine as punters lined up for test rides on his product.

It was an awesome, zero-stress event and a credit to all involved.

The only real stress was for the organisers. How can they possibly run another Congregation as good as this one? Make sure you’re at the next one to find out.

Green Valley Farm was a fantastic venue.

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