Orange seemed like a good place to start this adventure. A grand old Aussie town that is both sparse and beautiful. And, of course, the name. Regular readers of our adventures will know that almost everything we do is orange. Our kits, drink bottles, helmets, headphones (even, on special occasions, underwear).
For all the foods that are grown in Orange, NSW - the glorious apples, pears, cherries, peaches, apricots, plums and grapes, to name but a few - there is not a single orange (it is too cold, apparently). The town is, in fact, named for the Prince of Orange (or William II), who, we were pleased to learn in our Day 1 adventure briefing was, at least, Dutch.
We started our first day in an Orange carpark, eating a makeshift mid-morning breakfast out of the back of our Adventure-mobile; a handsome silver van whose modest exterior gives way to a fully customised interior. Fit for an adventuring king or queen (or both, as it turns out). Backs were a little stiff from the 3-hour drive, and so a lycra ballet of sorts - full of synchronised stretching with warm oats in hand - greeted slightly miffed passers-by.
The first section was a nice roll over undulating strade bianche, heading towards the Ophir goldfields and the Macquarie River. Ophir, is, of course, the site famous for the discovery of gold in 1851, which led to the first Australian gold rush and, hence, the name of this adventure.
As it turned out, 1851 would be only the first of many rushes the area would see. The most recent appeared to be be the 4WD rush, as, one by one, a long convoy of 4-wheeled enthusiasts, perhaps history buffs themselves, thundered down the gravel.
I say history buffs on account of their apparent sophistication and courtesy for, unlike the beach bullies of previous adventures trails, these drivers, for the most part, slowed down and passed wide – to avoid kicking dust in our faces. Still, a little black snot at the end of the day was a mark of personal merit.
Gorgeous gum tree-lined trails gave way to more open, exposed gravel roads. We started to feel the heat of the midday sun as it approached its apex. Things also became a little rockier at this point, however, thankfully, nothing like the bluestone of the Tasmanian Trail.
Eventually we reached the long, steep descent down to the Macquarie River, which marked the halfway point for Day 1. As we cooled off by the river, the stench of burning brake pads still lingering in the air, we spoke to some of the aforementioned 4WD drivers about our planned ride. As it turned out, many of them rode as well, and seemed a little jealous of our adventure. We smiled broadly, showing our dust-flecked teeth. We were all very sophisticated after all.
Eager to press on, we set off on the equally-steep climb out of the river bed and up the other side. The incline became so steep, and the surface so loose, we were reduced to walking our bikes over the final section.
Three-quarters into the ride and the pressing heat and dwindling food and water started to take a toll. Cattle and sheep mockingly bounded alongside us. We shared what few supplies we had left with each other and settled in for a push to the end.
Not much farther down the road and Esjay’s tyre couldn’t handle the fun anymore. A used gel packet was turned into a makeshift tyre boot.
We rolled into Hill End to find a fully-stocked Adventure-mobile patiently waiting, gleaming in the afternoon sun. No time was wasted getting to the campsite, setting up, washing off the dust and heading straight to the pub for burgers and beers.