We had an early start, for no particularly good reason. As we were in no real hurry, we had ample time to appreciate the slim breakfast offerings and take some photos of our cramped mess. Soon it was time to down a few coffees before rolling out towards Stewarts Brook, basking in a golden morning glow.
Sips n' tips
Water might also have been an issue, considering how dry things had been in the area recently, save for the Woolooma Public School popping up like an oasis along Stewarts Brook Road for us to refill the bottles.
We also got a little insight into what was to come. A local farmer making mention of "not having gone up that way in years", followed by "lots of fallen trees", before finishing by reminding us it was "very, very steep, even on motorbikes"...
This unfortunate fella had met his demise only moments before we rounded the corner. The farmer gloated he'd been after the pig for weeks, and seemed pretty satisfied with the kill. We're not exactly advocates of hunting purely for the thrill, so we just smiled politely and moved along. Note: we've included this here to bring you the full, unabridged story of the ride - and do not in any way condone this behaviour.
In a nice piece of juxtaposition, after the skewered pig, we found ourselves up close and personal with some fairly relaxed roadside horses.
This was the moment everything changed – an unexpected PRIVATE ROAD. Unfortunately, it was also the ONLY road we knew we could use to get back up into Barrington Tops National Park. It wasn't the length that was the problem - it was only a relatively short distance before we made it back onto the management trail. The problem was it was 95% unridable. Water-damaged, rocky & steep, this was the beginning of nearly 4 hours of not-so-pleasant bike hiking.
Mt Hungerford Trail links Moonan Brook Road to the Middle Ridge Trail. This was a route we could have taken from the pub, instead of heading to the base of the Mt Hungerford Trail from Stewarts Brook Rd. The entry is marked as PRIVATE, and makes a point of stressing you can’t access the national park via the trail. Which was rubbish, because you can, and we did, but should you wish to avoid this little bit of hardship, perhaps look at approaching from Moonan Brook Rd instead.
Thought it was over...
We reached the Middle Ridge Trail only to find more of the same, though, thankfully, with a little more shade. We continued to hike-a-bike, figuring that, based on our chat with the local farmer, it was most likely going to stay this way all the way up to just over 1550m.
Jam and biltong
Making what we believed to be our highest point, Beardy cracked out some snacks – a small single serve jam & stick to get things going, followed by a delicious bag of Biltong. We took the time to enjoy a rest and lament our aching legs, having trekked for 4 hours on what was supposed to be a cycling adventure.
Careys Hut offered up a little history lesson on the area - with the plaque informing us of the once great plans for a 'Kosciuszko of the North' on the slopes around Careys Peak. These plans were foiled by the great depression of the 1930's, and the likely realisation that there wasn't actually enough reliable snowfall to support ski fields. A big win for the national park, which remains ski free and all the better for it.
Puddings all round!
Our arrival at the Bank Hotel Dungog couldn't have come at a better time. We'd finished almost all of our food, and, should things have dragged on for another hour or so, we may have been in a spot of bother. Spirits improved further when we realised our dinners could be bundled with a delicious pudding for some rock-bottom country pricing.
Beer and pudding flowed as we discussed what looked like some rather ominous weather headed our way for the final push back to Gloucester.
If you ever have a room at a motel in Dungog and find yourself thinking “where the f*** is the bathroom?!” – check the wardrobe. It’s almost certainly in there.
A much more challenging route than Day 1. What began as a relatively straightforward roll through Stewarts Brook took a turn for the worse as we resorted to pushing our bikes for several hours up a very steep section of private road towards Careys Peak. The highly anticipated descent down Corker Mountain was some compensation, as were the end of day festivities at the Bank Hotel in Dungog.
We rode Giant TCX cyclocross bikes. We kept things pretty close to factory spec, with the exception of some more ‘adventure-friendly’ gearing for those 20%-plus dirt gradients. Most of us ran 1X drivetrains with a 40t chainring up front and 11x40t cassette at the rear. There is no harm in having some decent 40mm rubber too - WTB Nano or Maxxis Ramblers will rarely let you down.
We weren‘t camping on this trip, but still needed to carry a fair bit of kit. Saddle & frame bags by Revelate Designs allowed us to carry plenty of food & water, clothes, spares & camera gear.
We stayed at the Tall Timbers Motel in Dungog. Before getting to our beds though, we ate around the corner at the Bank Hotel. Good meals & delicious pudding.
Food & Water:
If you are following our route, having come from Gloucester the day before, make sure you're stocked up with enough rations for two days. We made sandwiches with the remaining bread at the Moonan Flat Pub to help with our supplies. There are NO SHOPS in Moonan Flat, and NO SHOPS along the route until you reach Dungog, so if you are running low ask the pub for any help you may need. You will be able to get water refilled at the Woolooma Public School on Stewarts Brook Rd, but that's pretty much it.
The route is a killer, and you'll be out there a long time. Make sure to stock up on food and water. There are no shops, with only the school for water refills, so carry as much as you can. Mt Hungerford Trail up from Stewarts Brook is a PRIVATE ROAD until you hit the management trail.
As always, ride safely, responsibly and within your limits.
More from Barrington Tops
Choose from any of the three days we spent riding around the Barrington Tops National Park, or the Road Book, for all the maps & information you need to get out and explore the area yourself.
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