After having reached our first official destination, the 10th annual Mudgee Bike Muster, Easter was spent enjoying the company of others bound together by the simple pleasure of cycling. After bidding a fond farewell to our new friends, it was time to plot a course further north.
Our desired route had us backtracking to Gulgong, however this time we avoided the Castlereagh Highway by riding along the quieter and more scenic Henry Lawson Way. I enjoyed the varied bird life, vineyards and Colonial history along the way.
In the historic town of Gulgong, Dave the local barber gave me an old fashioned short back and sides, while at the Caravan Park, Manager Tim had put away our silver coffee pot which we had inadvertently left on our most recent stay before we went to Mudgee.
Taking the Black Stump Track to Coolah in the hope of avoiding heavy traffic was a good idea. At Coolah Caravan Park a fox stole our shoes. Luckily i retrieved mine intact, but Therese’s were chewed and had to be thrown out.
We free camped in a quiet small town called Binnaway. To reduce condensation on cold nights we usually seek out cover. I set up our tent under a date palm, only to be woken by the guttural hissing sounds of possums in the night. Soon after something let out a last fearful yelp and died, it was that kind of sound, I woke to blood splattered panniers!
While the verge of the road on the Black Stump Way was non existent in parts and the road deformed, the countryside and rolling hills west of the mythical Black Stump was breathtakingly beautiful. Turning off at Warenbungle Way there was no traffic at all until we hit the Newell Highway a few clicks from Coonabarabran.
Coonabarabran to Narrabri was a even 120 kilometres through the ancient, and some say haunted, Pilliga Forest, of yellow earth and black trees. We pumped out this big day in good time, having ridden ourselves into peak cycling condition.
Once again free camping at the Bellata Golf Club between Narrabri and Moree, where we came upon a group of folks with rocks in their heads: A group from the Inverell Lapidary Club were on an a fossicking trip around Bellata on the Moree Plains, seeking agates, petrified wood and carnelian. John showed us his prized find, a piece of brown translucent carnelian he’d discovered: “It’s a section of the fossilised vertebra of a crocodile dating back to the Jurassic period, 200 million years ago!” Therese enjoyed a slap up homemade county sized meal at the Golf Club bar, while I projectile vomited under a brilliant night sky, the result of dodgy bore water. John had a good supply of fresh tank water so made sure we filled our biddens and warned us about the risk of getting sick again from the bore water.
It was on the outskirts of Bellata where we met a solo touring cyclist Selene. She is on an amazing solo cycling adventure of her own around Australia. As is the cycle touring custom, we stop chat, compare notes and wish each other well.
As I cycle past, sheep run away from us, while cattle run towards the bikes. Perhaps they want to mate with us! Farmers dogs, all bark and cock, tear along the fence line being fearsome. Therese keeps a dog pacifier, essentialy a large stick, close at hand. There are numerous large fat blue tongue lizards along the roadway sunning themselves in the heat of the afternoon.
In Moree it’s a delight to take a dip in the free hot artisan mineral springs at the caravan park. Such a tonic for the weary cyclist. Having a rest day to reprovision and plot our back roads adventure into South West Queensland.