Rob 'n BOB on the BNT 

prepared in Canberra, ACT - 17 March 2004

G'day Mates!  Here we are again, after a long hiatus.  Our previous update was from Yamba, more than a month ago!  Sorry, but there weren't any real opportunities to log onto a computer anywhere. 

tour at BroadmeadowsAfter Yamba and a final swim in the ocean on Feb 7, it was back to "Broadmeadows", where I stayed at Louise and Tom Armitage's for one more night before heading out on the trail again.  Alan and son Mitchell and a friend drove me all the way back from Yamba and stayed overnight as well.  We had a few wonderful swims in the Boyd River, and on Sunday Louise took us all for a 4WD drive tour around the property.  Then Alan and the boys drove back to Yamba, and for me it was farewell to Louise and Broadmeadows (Tom was away). 

lookout from Chaelundi ForestOver the past week of rest, I've decided to detour around the tough river sections.  Initially I felt a little disappointed about it, but with the rivers fairly high, the daily thundershowers in the area, and the fact that I am travelling alone, I think it was a good decision.  So, instead of following the Boyd and Guy Fawkes rivers upstream (50 - 60 river crossings in all!), I detoured to Ebor via Dalmorton and the Chaelundi State Forest.  This was a long climb, but all rideable, and I logged a new total daily uphill record - 1625 meters.  From the top there were beautiful views over the valleys below, making the effort all worthwhile. 

Ebor FallsFrom Ebor another detour, around the Macleay River and Kunderang Brook section.  I've done this section before, and therefore didn't mind this detour too very much.  It's an incredibly beautiful section, but lots of river crossings again.  Instead I rode to Armidale, via Wollomombi Falls, where I ran into a couple from Bellingen.  She came originally (40 years ago) from ...... Calgary!  They had just stopped here for a picnic and when they left they gave me a whole bag full of fruit - pineapple, mango, bananas, avocado -all from their own garden and beautifully ripe and delicious!  I camped in the picnic area, by a picnic table with a gorgeous view over Wollomombi and Chandler's Falls. 

In Armidale the annual Bach Festival just kicked off with an opening concert in the cathedral that night, and I was able to obtain a ticket and indulge in a little culture.  The next day it was on to Walcha, via Petersen's Armidale Winery, part of Petersen's in the Hunter Valley, who opened this new winery just two days ago!  I had a nice visit with Stuart who led me through a full tasting of their wines.  Loved their unoaked chardonnay.  The ride to Walcha was hot, but scenic, along quiet backroads and tracks, but the flies were out in the millions, driving me crazy!  I still don't like to wear a flynet when I'm riding, but I've found Aeroguard to be reasonably effective. Just after I arrived in Walcha a howling wind and rainstorm hit, after which I went to the pub for a meal and a drink.  It was a zoo because there were horse races in town, but this definitely added to the ambiance.

back on
        the BNT at Little Manning RiverThe following day, in Nowendoc, I joined the BNT again, but just briefly, because the BNT route is officially closed through the Karamea valley and the trail detours via Nundle.  I wanted to go through Barrington Tops, and therefore did my own detour, which took me almost to Gloucester, with fantastic views from the ridge in Bretti National Park, and then along Woko National Park, where a bit further on I joined the BNT route again.  After such a long session of detours it really felt good to be on the trail again.  I missed my little friends, the BNT markers!  It was quite hot the day before I got to the "Tops", and I spent all afternoon soaking in a lovely little creek, the Little Manning River.  Barrington Tops itself was a bit of a disappointment, because there were no views to speak of, but both the approach and the descent a couple of days later were fantastic.  Steep climbs though, and an equally steep descent via a fireroad that led to the Stewart Brook valley, which, according to the trail notes, is one of the prettiest valleys around, and I do agree! 

Yarraman EstatesDown in the valley it was quite warm again, and while in Aberdeen and Sandy Hollow the temperatures were in the low forties.  44̊ when I got to Sandy Hollow, but the caravan park here has a swimming pool, where I spent a pleasant afternoon.  This is the Upper Hunter wine region, and the trail goes right by Yarraman Estate and Cruickshank Callatoota, where I had to stop, of course. 

The next couple of days included a fair number of locked gates, so I did some phoning around to various stations and properties, to ask if the gates could be left unlocked for me.  Bill Tindale, of Myrtle GroveMyrtle Grove Hilton, was going to be out the morning I was passing through his gate, but it was an easy one to get around, or rather over (me and the bike) and under (BOB).  Bill did, however, invite me to stay at their guest hut, which is a marvelous piece of bush engineering, and is aptly named the "Myrtle Grove Hilton".  It has solar power and hot water, and comes with a shower and radio!  The cupboards are overflowing with all kinds of food and various other supplies, probably left by other travelers and guests, and I happily helped myself to some Earl Grey tea, which was a nice change from my regular brew.  The "100 Pipers" whisky I had bought in Aberdeen as a special treat, turned out to be virtually undrinkable, but with the addition of a generous dose of Gatorade powder it made a pretty darn good whisky sour! 
        rock art at Livery Stable
From here the trail ascends steeply again, supposedly with fantastic views back onto Barrington Tops, but since it was drizzly, there were no views at all.  A nice hut along the trail however, Sandy Camp, which has been restored to its former glory, but it was too early in the day to stay here.  Then right by the "Livery Stable" cave, with aboriginal rock painting, and I also caught my first glimpse of a lyrebird, as well as my first gang-gang cockatoos.  The track was covered with deadfall from a severe storm a couple of weeks ago, and in some places I had to break off branches to make a little corridor, because I couldn't get around the branches on either side.  The sandstone cliffs in this area are just awesome! 

Glen Alice Fire TrailThe following day started out drizzly again, which turned into serious rain later on.  It made for less than ideal riding conditions - muddy, slick and slippery.  However, at one point, when it really came down hard, there were some overhanging cliffs over the track, and I was able to shelter from the rain for a bit.  The descent was hairy.  Steep rock and clay make a nasty, slippery combination when wet!  It would have been an absolutely miserable day but for the fantastic sandstone cliffs and the thought that no matter how wet I got, I would be under a real roof and have a comfortable bed that night! 

I stayed with Martin and Mary De Rooy at "Numietta Farm" for three days, and it was a wonderful time of rest again.  Martin is a cousin of my Dad's and Gwen and I visited with them five years ago as well.  There is a full workshop and it was time for some bike maintenance - a new chain was waiting for me here, and also I discovered the first crack in the BOB frame.  This was something that needed to be repaired right away, and it couldn't have happened at a better time!  Martin drove me, and BOB, into Rhylstone the following day where I had it welded.  Also some of the mesh at the bottom of the BOB cage was starting to separate, and this was fixed as well. 

Martin and Mary
        at Numietta FarmThe next day we drove to Mudgee for a little wine tour, but first the Mudgee Guardian interviewed me about my trek, and the reporter said the article would appear in the next week's edition.  I'm not sure if it did, I should call Martin to find out, because they get the paper delivered to them. There are about 35 wineries in the Mudgee area, and we visited four of them - Frog Rock (how appropriate, eh!  For the uninitiated, I love frogs), Blue Wren, Pieter van Gent, and Poet's Corner (formerly Craigmore, and they also produce the Henry Lawson and Montrose labels).  I was very impressed with the quality of the wines produced in this area - I didn't taste a single wine that I didn't like.  They really looked after me, Martin and Mary, serving me cooked breakfasts, lunch and wonderful evening meals.  And I ate lots of the fresh figs off the tree in their garden - what a treat! 

After this respite it was on to Baal Bone Gap.

Well Mates, that's all for now.
Rob 'n' BOB

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