There are adventures and there are adventures. And then there are adventures.
This third kind sits somewhere in between the two - and is best characterised as a hard man’s journey from A to B. It isn’t particularly revelatory - but it is tough. You suffer and you sweat and you beat yourself up - and you have very little to show for it save for a story or two, and perhaps a few pictures. And it is far from glamorous.
You know where this is going…
While our campsite did have a sweet dog, it was decidedly light-on for other amenities. This meant slapping mozzies as we sudsed up on the banks of some very slowly flowing water. It also meant, for some of us, our first bush squat; a cleansing, albeit tense experience, on account of one rogue kelpie.
Tired legs were beginning to slow as the trail through Upper Turon pinched upwards. Still, it wasn’t too long before we came across a majestically sweeping view of the valley.
It was such a majestically sweeping view that we failed to notice a red-bellied black snake sunning itself on the road nearby. We each managed to bunny-hop or otherwise avoid the poor thing as it tried to dart out of the way.
We knew there was a nasty climb up ahead, a real soul-crusher. We came to a small wooden bridge crossing the Turon River, and there it was; a white, loose and steep road, disappearing off into the distance. Like a highway to heaven.
The loose surface kept us in the saddle, conscious of not losing traction (and precious momentum) under load. It also kept us dirty – sucking long, deep breaths of dust into our lungs (and every other orifice) with each passing car.
Still, our efforts were not without some reward. After a relatively uneventful descent, we pulled into the Royal Hotel at Capertee; a hulking sandstone and brick number in the middle of nowhere – with a roaring fire and a few too many motorbikes out the front for the small lycra-clad clan’s liking. On account of this, and with only 45kms to show for 5 hours riding, we quickly moved on. No beers were harmed.
The next hour was spent climbing pinches and descending the other side with considerable speed until we reached a well-sheltered gully.
In the gully, the world changed. We were met with ferns instead of scrub, moist dirt instead of dry sand, dewy sweet air and towering walls of rock either side of us. We took our time riding through – an oasis in an otherwise brutal and unforgiving landscape.
The gully ended in a wall, an unrideable pinch with a foot-high step-up onto a rock around halfway up. Some attempted to ride it anyway – all walked their bikes out.
Once we’d all made it to the top, we found a small side track which lead out to a cliff edge and a view across the valley to Wolgan. Along the plateau we started the very steep descent to the end of the trail. We charged down, trying to pick the best lines – with loose fingers on the brakes and backsides hanging gingerly out over the rear wheel.
After riding so far on dirt, sand and mud, our CX bikes (with 40mm tyres) felt like crit bikes on the asphalt heading to Lithgow.
We took turns awkwardly getting changed in the McDonalds carpark, making every effort to keep each other covered. This was not for vanity, mind you, but on account of the two busloads of North Shore high school girls who had just arrived for a snack, and were busily gawking out the windows.
If the adventure doesn’t end eating something regrettable, then the adventure hasn’t ended. Safe to say, we and the adventure, were ended.