There were two types of people on this adventure – those that could meticulously ration their supplies, and those that couldn’t. Waking at 5.30am, we caught a glimpse of Blake stuffing close to a kilogram of remaining homemade trail mix into his saddle bag. This was not a great sign for ol’ Angus, whose homemade mix had been well and truly exhausted by the close of day 1.
With 180km and 4000m of climbing to go on the final day, mostly on dirt roads, sustenance would be crucial. Knowing we wouldn’t see another shop until lunch, at the 90km mark, we emptied the shelves at Rathdowney General Store.
About 20km south-east of Rathdowney, the first of a series of 20% heart-starters kicked up – followed immediately by another, then another, and so on. Within the first ‘flat’ 40km, we had already climbed well over 600m.
The steep dirt ascent into The Border Ranges National Park, headed for Pinnacle Lookout, was tough work – but not so tough we couldn’t enjoy the beautiful sub-tropical rainforest we had climbed our way into.
“Come on, let’s go – it’s gonna be worth it,” commanded Beardy to our fatigued group of doubters. Emerging eventually from the thick bush, and walking out onto the lookout, we couldn’t argue – the view was spectacular!
“Oh … it’s a caldera!?” someone exclaimed, as we looked over the Tweed Range back towards Mount Warning, the remains of a once-active volcano. In the 23 million years since the volcano erupted, erosion has been extensive, over time forming the largest erosion caldera in the Southern Hemisphere around the volcanic plug of Mount Warning.
None of us were quite sure what to expect arriving in Nimbin – bang-on lunchtime. It did not disappoint. Within only a few minutes of sitting down, we realised the man directly behind us was wrapping his large pet snake around the necks of passers by – encouragement enough for us to head inside to order our lunch. Charming as it was – Nimbin was in no hurry with regards to meal prep, substantially lengthening our lunch stop. After a quick bit of souvenir and snack shopping, we made our exit.
The road kicked up immediately out of Nimbim – within only a few kilometres we had a stunning view north towards Mount Neville. Things seemed to be going well, and it looked likely we’d be arriving in Ballina before dark. Of course, talk of this possibility was just the jinx we’d been quietly waiting for. Meaning, with less that 47km left to Ballina, Malone’s rear hub failed completely, grinding us to a halt by the side of the road. Without mobile reception, and having no luck with the roadside mechanic work, Malone was left to hitch it the rest of the way in. You run what you brung.
Once again in the dark, we hit the final few rollers with everything that was left in the collective tank. Knowing we were close, the excitement was beginning to bubble up.
Arriving at the outskirts Ballina was made all the sweeter by the fresh coat of paint that had obviously been applied to the Big Prawn. The once-great crustacean, however, was now dwarfed by a Bunnings Warehouse – the carpark of which it now called home.
We needed a group shot to mark the completion of our trip. Beardy began to line up the shot (a shot that would include neither Malone nor himself) when, out of the only car in the dark and empty carpark, emerged a friendly old lady with an itchy trigger finger. What was she doing alone in a Bunnings carpark? Waiting for us, of course.
An awkwardly perfect way to mark our arrival into Ballina, and the completion of a very enjoyable 3 days riding The Border Ranges with a great group of mates.