I’m going to turn the ‘way back machine’ to December 1997. The Camera I took was one of those 35mm Water Proof disposable items, with 24 exposures and disappointing results. For most people there was no internet or digital cameras. The closest thing to an ‘iPod’ was a Sony ‘Walkman’ or the new ‘Diskman’. Only wankers had a mobile phone. While I was working out west, Diane had purchased a Yamaha DT175, got kitted out with riding gear, completed a rider training course and got her license. What a champion! I thought putting Diane’s new skills to test with an adventure would be the ticket. The rough plan was to explore the Northern Rivers of NSW south to Dorrigo, taking it easy, sight seeing and camping along the way. We left Byron Bay on the 27th of December, visiting friends in Ballina and Casino. I think Diane wanted a last chat, in-case we didn’t make it back! Eventually we made tracks west along the Bruxner highway, with the familiar view of Mount Warning disappearing in the mirrors. I had the KLR on a steady 90kmh, Di thought this was a good speed as most times she had the DT on full throttle, and just had to steer! Soon we stopped at Mallanganee for a couple of beers. Refreashed, we headed south into the forestry, using our sophisticated ‘M.A.P. direction system’ (copy write Dusty Rhodes), we found a beaut forestry campground that we had all to ourselves, set up camp and had a few more beers. Diane had been a unsure of riding on the dirt, however the tracks were well maintained and we were riding at very leisurely pace, and she soon found the experience quite enjoyable. Next morning was misty, giving the forest and deserted dirt roads an eerie feel. Following a major transport route of a bygone era, (judging by type and age of the sign posts), beside Busby Creek, past Busby Flats and Wyan over to Rappville. A busted arse timber mill/railway town, where every yard has a least one dead car with grass or a tree growing through it! Diane was running low on fuel, but we didn’t want to stop. The banjos where starting to play, we were sure of meeting a terrible fate! Pushing on, and eventually finding the Summerland Way. I knew there was fuel at Whiporie, and the people there were quite sane. Diane ran out of fuel only a couple of kilometers later. We milked the KLR and made Whiporie with no further drama, fuelled up, had an ice cream and reflected on our near death experience. The day was getting hot, so it was on the road again, south, turning off before Grafton, on heading west to Copmanhurst, a gem of a town. There is a great little pub near the banks of the Clarence River. We had a rendezvous there a year before, a rather memorable night with the locals, a darts competition, and way too many beers. After lunch and beers, it was west again to Jackadgery, Cangai (were the infamous Cangai siege took place a few years earlier), onto the Gwydir Highway, up the Gibraltar range and then a camping site in the Gibraltar Range National Park. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1993_Cangai_siege Next day was spent walking to look outs, and doing that sort of stuff. Not riding huge distances, and ticking over at a gentle pace was starting to grow on me. Even the other people camping there seemed normal; however I’m still weary of non bike riders who camp. Fourth day, needing supplies we rode west along the Gwydir to Glen Innes, a pleasant town with no children, I’m sure they are all sacrificed on the weird Scottish stones to appease some pagan god. All loaded up, it was back east, past Bald Nob, turning off down the Great Dividing Range towards Newton Boyd. The dirt road down the range was pretty chopped up, twisting and turning through tall old growth gums and some stunning scenery. Diane handled the ride with an impressive degree of skill. Down on the flat, we idled along at 40kmh enjoying the bush. Upon a herd of cows, most looked at us with indifference. A startled bovine decided to jump off the road, down a rather steep drop off, front legs out and straight like super cow, we had a good belly laugh over that. Further down the track there was a Red Belly Black snake sunning in the middle of the road, apart from being rather large, it must have recently shed a skin, as the black was new bike frame black, and the red exceptionally vivid. This was a pretty cool snake; it looked at us, and just laid there as if to say ‘ride around me bitches!’ We obliged. We stopped for a photo at the rather impressive Convict made tunnel, then on to three house local of Dalmorton. Stopping for lunch by the bridge that takes you south towards Guy Fawkes National Park. Upon stopping and getting our lunch prepared, I heard an old Range Rover type car start up and drive over to where we were. This bloke was a bit angry, he started raving on about not camping there, and just being an ‘A class’ dickhead. To cap off the performance, he had his rifle behind the door, his hand on the end of the barrel and the butt on the toe of his boot. What a champion. He eventually left, with his final threat about not being there by sundown, or something theatrical like that. After lunch, we headed south, uphill this time. The surface was rather rocky and loose. Diane did well, but was too slow for the pack mule. So I would stop, let her get some distance then catch up. This worked well, once over the steep bit, climbing up the remaining ridge line and into the National Park camp ground was quite easy offering great views along the way. We camped here two nights, seeing in the New Year with a box of wine. Did a bit of bush walking, listened to the cricket, had a rather cold swim in the creek; I even socialized with the other campers. There comes a time when women feel the need of a shower and to blow dry their hair. So we headed off to Dorrigo. Dorrigo is a strange place. I thought it would be a bit livelier, maybe everybody had gone somewhere else for the holiday season. We found a pub, and booked a room for a couple of nights. The publican was nice enough, the food ok, but there wasn’t anybody else around, weird. We found out later, that the dingy pub down the road was where all the people go to including a Byron bloke who got shot by a jealous ex! (I wonder if the shooter was from Dalmorton?) We spent a day white water rafting, there hadn’t been much rain and I thought it was a bit lame. Our boat spent a bit of time ‘jiggling’ to get off the rocks. All the backpackers seemed to enjoy the day. To ‘spice’ things up a bit some gun kayak bloke came along, and gave an impressive display of kayaking. After a couple of days, we were ready to hit the trails again. North through Lowanna, and back into the forestry tracks. The M.A.P. showed a camp site on the ‘Little Nymboida River’. However the track in was very steep, badly washed out, and hard to negotiate. We both had a few falls; Diane was starting to lose confidence. Over the top of the ridge back, running down to the river thing got worse, now the track got windy and with loose edges to a steep drop off. Meeting a four wheel drive coming up the hill was interesting. We stopped, leaning high side of the track, while the driver gingerly drove past periliously close to both us and the edge. Diane commented that this camp ground had better be good. We made it down with no further drama. The camp ground was a shocker. It was just a clearing on the bank of the river, with no facilities. A large herd of cows, complete with large menacing looking bulls had taken up residence. One had to be carefull were one was stepping, however this had an upside. Cow pats on your camp fire are excellent at keeping mosquitoes away. We rode around for awhile looking for the best place to camp, nothing really appealed. As it was getting late, riding out of the valley wasn’t an option, so we set up camp and went for a quick dip in the river. The cows were really cool; they just ate grass, walked over to the camp, had a look and walked off to eat more grass. The bulls kept their distance. We didn’t sleep too well. Diane had some worries; snakes in the long grass slithering into the tent or being gored by a pissed off Bull. I found the river bed a bit too rocky after a couple of nights in a real bed. Next morning we packed early. The day didn’t start well, and then got worse as Diane refused to ride a gnarly section of track out of the river bed, into a steep loose incline and then stony entry into the rutted track proper. Along the track she fell a couple of times traversing the ridge back as well. Once out of the forestry the road improved, we headed north towards Glenreagh, turning west for Nymboida. There is a rather interesting place, sort of restaurant, hotel, B&B all rolled into one. (I believe Russell Crow owns it now) So we had a particularly flash ploughman’s lunch there, and a couple of beers to wash the dust down. Diane was happy to be back on the tar. The mornings ride had knocked Diane around a bit, and she was keen to go home. From Nymboida it was up through Grafton, the Summerland Way back to Whiporie, across to Coraki, Alstonville, Teven, Newrybar and finally home to Byron Bay. We’ve had other riding adventures, but the first is usually the one you remember best.