TransTerra 2015 South Coast NSW – Ride Report
With forecasts of heavy rain predicted for the South Coast of NSW the week prior to the inaugural TransTerra ride you could forgive the gentleman who called the Maschine office in the lead up asking “What happens if it rains?” Turns out, as we suspected, that adventure riders are a pretty resilient bunch and a few damp days wasn’t dampening anyone’s enthusiasm for a week away riding.
We had 70 riders on board with Maschine for our first TransTerra ride and it kicked off on Saturday with a group of 14 riders getting their skills sharpened with some rider training. Joadja Town was the venue that kindly hosted us for the weekend and what a unique venue it was. Joadja is steeped in history as it is the site of an old shale oil mining town. The miners are long gone but many of the buildings from the 1880’s still stand around the property and the owners are doing their best to preserve this history and allow others to experience it. In spite of the rich history we get the feeling most of our riders were more interested in the whisky distillery, which is also on site. Valero the property owner kindly gave our group a private tour of the distillery on Saturday after lunch and explained the process involved in distilling a single malt whisky. It was fascinating to hear the detail of the process and the aroma’s in the building were amazing. Sadly for us we still have to wait another 18 months or so before Val’s first pull out of his distillery is ready to be bottled and hit our lips.
Another unique aspect of this Adventure Trials rider-training course was the inclusion of a fleet of Sherco trials bikes for riders to use whilst honing their skills. Paul Bray from Trials Experience joined Nick from Maschine as coaches for the event. Paul takes his fleet of trials bikes around the country on a regular basis to coach riders on the finer points of trials riding technique. Because the trials bikes are so light at around 60kg it makes them far more responsive to rider inputs, which aids the learning curve but also exaggerates movements forcing riders to concentrate on being smooth. The trials bikes are also a little more forgiving when you drop them, which helps riders explore their limits!
We saw marked improvement in all riders over the weekend and this was really evident when we completed some circuits around a short tight track amongst trees. The lift in rider’s confidence and technique was visible in this session and for most riders this carried them through the following week at a higher level of confidence and enjoyment.
Come Sunday afternoon and the stately lounge at Peppers Craigieburn was buzzing with an eager group of adventure riders enjoying the welcome drinks. Some riders were catching up with old friends and several newbies were finding their feet and gleaning info from the more experienced riders on what to expect from a Maschine adventure ride. It was like a family reunion for a family that actually gets along! The welcome briefing got underway shortly after rider registration and there was a great buzz in the room. Most riders headed off to bed for a good nights rest but a dedicated few stayed up until the wee hours of the morning watching the final MotoGP round at Valencia on the television in the bar area. The fans favourite Valentino Rossi may not have clinched his 10th title as many were hoping but it was a great race to cap off an amazing season. We drifted off to sleep dreaming of our own ride that was to begin in just a few hours.
Bowral to Bungendore – 282km
As the TransTerra posse headed out of Bowral the route took us past some spectacular gardens and onto Fitzroy Falls as our first sightseeing stopover. Fitzroy Falls sees water plummet some 81metres off the sandstone escarpment and into the Yarranga Creek valley far below. After winding our way down the bitumen twisties into Kangaroo Valley we took a turn off through Morton National Park with it’s fern covered valley and rocky overhangs. Nowra would be the last bit of civilisation we would see for the next few hours as we ventured further into the forests. Deans Road gave most riders an easy path south through the forest but a hard-core few decided tackling the first optional hard section of the trip was the done thing. A number of riders did the first few kilometres of this hard option but as it dropped further into the valley and deteriorated further many riders took the wise option of bugging out back to the main route. Recent rains had washed away a significant amount of soil between the rocks and made the hard route “very” hard. This first hard route was closed off and re-arrowed mid-morning but for the few that continued on through to the end they certainly got their moneys worth for day one.
Once back out on the bitumen we headed back over the Great Dividing Range via the “Old Wool Road” and out onto the southern highlands around Braidwood. A rocky creek crossing got our boots wet just before lunch at Braidwood. The afternoon run into Bungendore through Tallaganda State Forest saw a couple of riders have gravity get the better of them on the slippery granitic sand roads. Most riders arrived into Bungendore satisfied to get through the first day and ready for a thirst quenching ale.
For the support crew it would be a late night with a rider setting off his Spot GPS Tracker out on course with a message saying “I have broken down but I am fine. Have no phone service.” The sweep crew worked their way along the route to the coordinates given to retrieve the rider and bike bogged in the depths of the forest in what would be an adventure in itself. You have to the read the separate full story of “Hamblyn’s Hole” and see the photos to truly appreciate how valuable those little Spot GPS Trackers can be!
Bungendore to Jindabyne – 314km
A longer day was planned for our second day on the road but as the day rolled on the roads would open up allowing for quicker progress. Running south out of Bungendore we dove back into Tallaganda State Forest and bounced our way along a fun track with heaps of erosion banks to launch off. A mid-morning stop at Lowden Forest Park was a great way to slow down and take in the sights of the forest with the historic water wheel. Lowden Forest Park was the base of operations for some serious timber cutting back in the 1930’s and many remnants can be seen here including rusty old steam engines and the timber water wheel, which provided electricity for the workers.
Getting through the next pine forest stage proved a geographical challenge for many riders with Paul, Maschine’s lead rider, having to make some route alterations on the fly after active logging operations had closed some of our planned tracks. Cracking views over the NSW southern highlands from a fire tower lookout rewarded riders that cracked the pine forest maze. Making our way south out of the pines saw us stretching the throttle cables over the wide open granitic sand roads that flowed through the open farm land. These slippery and abrasive surfaces can torture a rear tyre in no time flat if you get too silly on throttle so it was probably a good thing that we soon arrived in Adaminaby and visited the old town site overlooking Lake Eucumbene to slow things down a little.
As riders made their way into Jindabyne dark storm clouds brewed overhead and it become pot luck as to whether you got dumped on or not. Some riders arrived in Jindabyne with massive grins on their face knowing they’d dodged a bullet while others were force to stop roadside to throw on the waterproof liners. A great feed after our nightly briefing at the pub set everything right again.
Jindabyne to Merimbula – 360km
Being nestled high up in the middle of the NSW high country means the weather in this region can be highly changeable and today was no different. We struck some low hanging cloud on our way south from Jindabyne but thankfully the clouds lifted, as we got further down the Barry Way allowing us to fully appreciate the great views over the Snowy River. For many riders they said the riding today was the highlight of their TransTerra week and it’s easy to understand why with the endless gravel and granitic sand corners hugging the valley walls mixed with stunning scenery.
For most riders it was right around the time they arrived in Bombala for lunch that the clouds released the moisture they were burdened with and dumped it over south-east NSW. Many riders avoided the final dirt section of the day with the bitumen snaking over Mount Darragh keeping them interested enough. Arriving in Merimbula riders were confronted with a waft of sea air which welcomed us back to the coast.
Depending on where you were in the pack you either arrived in Merimbula wet or really wet! It was a real treat to grab to dry gear out of the luggage trailer and put it on at the end of the day. The heaters in the hotel rooms worked overtime that night to dry out our sodden riding gear before having to pull it on again the next morning.
Merimbula to Batemans Bay – 288km
The dastardly plan by Nick from Maschine for sending riders through a bog hole first thing in the morning was dashed with the heavy overnight rain. After sighting the swollen flowing creek that was a big puddle just a month or so ago it was confirmed that it would be a cruel joke to continue on that route today. Thankfully the rest of the tracks planned for TT riders on day four handled the continual dousing with rain really well and were surprisingly grippy. Many riders were also surprised, in a good way, by the single track the route led them along with log crossings and a rocky downhill. A couple of creek crossings also kept riders on their toes and their socks wet! Bermagui was the perfect place to enjoy some fresh fish & chips for lunch by the wharf.
The planned route was altered slightly in the afternoon to reduce overall distance in consideration of the wet tracks and slower speeds. Some of the originally planned track sections remained including one of the most sublime bits of track tracing the banks of a creek with a succession of 2nd and 3rd gear corners to float around. Continuing on along the revised route took riders back inland over the Pacific Highway and into the rich farmland around Tilba Tilba and Bodalla. Many riders commented on how picturesque it was with cows grazing on rich grass in the paddocks. Little wonder this region is so famous for great tasting cheese.
Our final run into Batemans Bay had a little sting in the tail with a short section of red clay track that was diabolically slippery. A group of riders gathered and tried walking down the slippery slope, which proved harder than actually riding down the sucker! Most riders opted to drop into the gutter on the side of the road so their tyres could go sideways no more. Forward and downwards was the only option, which fortunately led riders right into Batemans Bay via the back roads.
After the riders briefing a few riders took the option to be entertained by taking in the latest James Bond film Spectre on its premiere evening. More than one rider salivated at the sight and sound of the Aston Martin DB10 that shares a starring role in the film.
Batemans Bay to Mollymook – 264km
With another wet day forecast it was going to be a case of suck and see as to whether we could complete the entire planned route with some single track at the end of the day destined to be a slippery affair. The first section of the day took us up into the mountains along a great fun track with a sandy base with a couple of slippery clay exits out of creek crossings.
Another hard route option gave riders what amounted to a 7km long staircase to drop down off the side of the mountain. Mega sized erosion banks every few hundred metres gave riders a chance to scrub off speed and relax the bodies for a brief moment of air time for the brave.
Once down in the valley riders followed the glorious Deua River up towards Araluen. A succession of 2nd and 3rd gear turns with variable traction levels enticed riders to explore the full capabilities of their tyres and bikes traction control systems.
A power outage at the Araluen Hotel meant the stop time at the pub was cut way shorter for most riders than it would have been had the electricity been flowing. Another twisting granitic sand road climbing back up out of the valley rewarded us with some cracking views back down the valley. A quick run through a rainforest section with mud holes to traverse followed by sweeping bitumen running back down the mountain provided a real contrast for the morning.
East Lynne Store delighted everyone with some of the best pies, sausage rolls and coffee you could ever hope to find while adventure riding. Dean the proprietor of East Lynne Store may have encouraged some to over indulge on their fine cuisine but others continued onto Pebbly Beach through some neat single track. Riders made friends with the local kangaroo population of Murramarang National Park that enjoy their days hanging out on the beach eating grass with the sound of surf breaking just behind them.
The afternoon’s route was largely determined for most riders by what point that had reached on the route when the heavens opened up with a final deluge of rain for the week. For many riders they decided a quick beeline on the bitumen to escape the heavy raindrops was the ideal way to end the weeks riding. For those riders that pushed through the final section of single track they were confronted with muddy waterfalls approaching them as they endeavoured to see the TransTerra route out to the very end at Mollymook by the sea.
A fond farewell
During the week the TransTerra crew was in the South Coast region 50 – 100mm of rain fell so it was proper wet but everyone still enjoyed themselves to the full. No amount of water could wipe the smiles off rider’s faces at the farewell dinner.
Rob Turton from Tyres For Bikes not only provided riders with tyre support all week but during the dinner he also imparted some of his years of tyre knowledge and gave riders a run down on what makes a good adventure tyre. Many riders have appreciated Rob’s “tireless” support of Maschine events over the years and his Dakar style truck is always the centre of attention at the end of the day with Rob ready with a joke or a rum can for those in need. A few prizes given out during the farewell dinner extended the smiles further as riders made plans to catch up again on future rides.
Maschine’s TransTerra 2016 edition will take on some different landscapes and see those that are game tackle the Tanami Desert as they ride from the red centre of the continent at Alice Springs to the Kimberley region and on down to Broome. Timed to coincide with the finish of the Finke Desert Race and the dry season up north it’s unlikely rain will play such an influence on next year’s TransTerra ride but then this is adventure riding, there are no guarantees!