15th June – Day 40: Grassy Creek, Gibralter Range National Park to Black Rocks National Park
Got the earliest start of the trip so far this morning. Up at 6:30am and had my tent packed and in the bike in 10 min.
Excluding food, I only have one pannier 3/4 full. Very happy. The bike feels much more manageable. Moving more things up front last night should improve handling too.
Shortly after Grassy Creek we came to a couple of slushy sandy hill climbs around tight bends that got my heart racing. I am glad I changed sprockets and moved weight forward. The bike is working well making the hill climbing much easier.
We found our way onto the track running north on the range that I had hoped to meet up with.
We past another section of the National Bicentennial Trail. In fact the range track that we are on runs parallel to it for the length of the Gibralter Range NP.
The track is muddy as all heck and we are sliding around like crazy! We considered turning around several times. Eventually we came to a locked gate. We got around it. There was a sign on the other side suggesting we might have been…er in the wrong place.
Descending steeply on a disused and largely grassed over fire trail cut into the side of a very steep mountain, we dropped 300m.
These are the types of tracks that I love. This is what adventure riding is all about for me. What an adventure!
As we got lower the mud got worse and there was evidence of a 4wd. The ruts got really bad and our knobby tires filled up and spun like slicks. There were sticks flicking up often. One caught my foot and ripped it off the foot peg. Luckily with no lasting ill effect. I am glad I made the full mesh guard that covers everything from the bashplate up to the tank and most importantly the radiator. Raman had his foot sort of poked off the foot peg also. The second time left him with a sore leg.
After a break to see how the leg was going, we got back on and slid, flailed and spun our way on, ever mindful that that whatever we went down we might have to go back up if we couldn’t go on any longer. It is very easy to go down a slope that is too steep to get back up.
There were some nice level sections of track too. Even these were slippery as heck too.
We rounded a bend and the ruts got even worse. Raman was almost riding side ways at times as the back wheel continued in a rut and the front in another, until he found him self parked side ways across the track.
The trees are very tall and the understory thick, there are many vines and ferns in the gullies, Xanthorrhoeas on the slopes and poa tussocks on the track. We have stopped to soak it all up a few times. A grand forest that feels a little more like a rain forest.
We stopped at these severe ruts and mud and again thought of turning back. But again we decided to keep going. Raman got through the ruts and mud but couldn’t get up the hill on the other side. I got off and pushed him which helped enough to get him through. With my leathers plastered in mud I finally pulled the pin. We had to turn around. Raman thought the hills we had come down were too steep to return. A one way trip?
What a climb! By keeping to the grass in the middle of the track and going for it, we managed to make it back to the top. Not without a good deal of flailing about though. I forgot to mention we had already let our tires down to 12psi to aid traction.
Raman dropped his bike a few times but all at walking pace slipping around in the butter.
The Gibralter Range has been a real adventure with some lovely trails through interesting forest.
I have parts waiting for me in Lismore. New cushdrive rubbers and wheel bearings.
Thinking back on it I have to question the wisdom in heading out into terrain that tough with an ailing drive train but there you go. We got out of the bush and continued along the Gwydir Highway which immediately drops sharply off the Gibralter range.
One of my primary interests in undertaking this trip up the length of the great dividing range was to study the micro and macro climate changes. I have been enjoying watching the changes in vegetation and animals but nothing could have prepared me for the amazing change as we dropped off the edge of the New England plateau from over 1000m to 100m in less than 5km.
Every switch back in the road brought new species and saw other fade and disappear.
In those 5km we went from a landscape that didn’t feel hugely dissimilar to places in Vic to a distinctly subtropical landscape of ferns, palms and vines. The eucalypts are mostly different too. No more yellow box and iron bark. Goodbye home. I feel I am finally stepping into the vegetation and climate of the north east of Australia that is so foreign to me.
Riding to Grafton there was plenty more proof of the change. Mango trees on the road side and fields of sugar cane, Illawarra flame trees and pawpaw.
Stocked up in Grafton and headed for a Black Rocks N.P.
This is the first camp in a national park we have come across that requires online or telephone booking and payment. Gee. Lets get away from the pacific highway (the M1). It is a nice spot though.
We’ll spend a day here tomorrow taking it easy on the beach and on Monday we’ll head for Lismore to pick up the parts for Mawson.