This year we chose to ride a grand dirt road tour through part of the Barrington Tops between Gloucester and Nundle, then on to Uralla. It offered the best combination of mountains, valleys and river crossings to challenge the sidecar drivers and inspiring scenery through most of its length.
We had a good number for participation and had outfits from as far away as Cairns, Mt Isa and Melbourne with every Ural model represented.
Riders generally appreciated the challenges offered by the chosen route.There was little room for error in many places as the edge of the road was often a cutting on one side and a drop off on the opposite side. Road surfaces were mostly in good condition, but there were a couple of steeper climbs eroded by recent storms and some of the notorious Schofields Creek crossings were a little stony and deep.
One flat tyre had to be repaired just 100 metres from the start, and another tyre was near flat at the end of the day. One muffler came loose after a rocky creek crossing and apart from that, every motorcycle performed faultlessly for the whole arduous 380kms.
The weather was warm in the valleys, but with a strong wind on the tops the temperature on the three occasions we climbed over 1100 metres was quite cool. Dust was not too bad with a wind to clear it and the countryside was wetter as we rode west.
Michael used his Ural to go ahead and snap some tour photos of the interesting points along the way. He was able to catch one of those near miss occasions when a rider became unseated and precariously close to overturning as he entered a pool of water across the road. Later we presented Doug with a prize for that, The Most Spectacular Stunt, as he water skied through the hole on one knee while wrestling his wayward Ural.
First stop was with the Higgins family who are long time cattle breeders on the spectacular mountain country we were passing through. Their morning tea was an unexpected delight and an interesting stopover for the travelers in our group.
With a few stops for snacks and a drink along the way, we reached Ellerston, the Packer family property, in time for lunch and much appreciated the use of one of their polo field facilities with bush timber picnic facilities and a nice toilet block. They made us feel welcome and we all admired the development they have achieved with such a large area of improved pastures, fat cattle and the Ellerston facilities.
After lunch, we climbed another range into a remote valley with still more amazing scenery. The 20 Schofields Creek crossings were a hoot although a couple of the Retro owners wished for a little more ground clearance as they bounced across the water covered stones in 300mm of water. As is usual on these rides, participants learnt new tips on how to best choose their wheel tracks and speed with unfamiliar obstacles.
Over another range and back down to the next river we went. Never a dull moment with plenty to see and a few surprises along the way, the scenery and road challenges just kept coming. After following alongside the Barnard river, we scaled the last range to 1200 metres before descending again into Nundle with 180kms on the speedo.
After a good pub dinner, we all slept well and were back out and ready for more next morning. Departure was at 9.30 and we enjoyed a pretty run up to Kootingal. Along this section, we stopped to admire the newly filled Chaffey Dam with its recently doubled capacity. A short detour over the Woolamin Gap and we witnessed the frenzied haymaking activity along those productive river flats for 40 kilometres.
Kootingal provided a nice coffee stop at the Café on Gate before we rode on to a lunch stop along the northern railway line. Thinking we were out in the bush, we were surprised by a chance meeting of our Deputy Prime Minister at one of the rail crossings going about his business on a Sunday.
Sunday's ride was a lot less challenging, but left us fresher for the dinner we all enjoyed together at Uralla's Top Pub on Sunday night.
While there were no great dramas to report this year, the Ural camaraderie was alive and well. The Adventure Ride challenge was taken and achieved by all, many new friendships were made and we all came away with good memories. As a group, our fellow travelers were cared for and Clare joined in by following behind with a 4WD and trailer in case any mishap left someone stranded in the remote area we passed through.
Plans are being made for a thorough tour of Tasmania next March and several participants joined the list after making new acquaintances on our Ural Adventure Ride.