Road trip: Broken Hill to Sydney

This eight-day, 3,000-kilometre motorcycle camping adventure, started in Sydney and made its way to Broken Hill via the Warrumbungles. This is the return leg via Western Plains Zoon in Dubbo and the glorious Oxley Highway. You can read part one here.

Day five: Broken Hill

Day five was set aside to explore Broken Hill, traversing the region by foot, taxi and tour bus. Starting the day with a big walk around the railway yards that sits in front of the mullock heap—a gigantic mound of loose stones left over from mining operations—was much more fun than it sounds. There is something appealing about railway yards. Perhaps it’s the repeating patterns of the carriages awaiting their payload or the tracks running off into the distance. Either way, this was a good start to the morning with clear blue skies and murals on many of the buildings; Broken Hill trades on its artistic community, past and present.

Breakfast at the Silly Goat improved things further with its delicious and vegetable-heavy menu before we retired to deal with some of the trips logistical issues. All of the rain from the past days had flooded Mungo National Park, my destination for the next two days. Talking with locals, it becomes clear that the rain the area had received was a once in every ten years occurrence. Broken Hill was quite green and the locals were ecstatic.

A walk up the hill to the Pro Hart Gallery, one of the famed ‘Brushman of the Bush’ was well worth it. The three works that impressed the most were the painted Rolls Royce in the driveway, the Hart Family Painting and the Australian Mural. The latter is a huge piece telling the story of Australia and it was sensational.

Our lunch destination was Bells Milk Bar on the other side of town. Bells is a hit with its old-style dinner aesthetic serving milkshakes and spiders and a limited selection of food. This is the real deal being Australia’s longest-running milk bar and operating in this guise since the 1950s. This place is sweet, and so are the drinks.

High on sugar, we walked back into town. Probably a mistake in hindsight. Not for the first time that day, I pondered Broken Hill in summer as it already felt hot at 22 degrees. It must be scorching at 40 degrees in two months time. We trudged on interminably, essentially circumnavigating the mullock heap, getting lots of bewildered looks from locals who drive everywhere.

Eventually, we made it back in desperate need of a drink and rest before we were picked up for the sunset tour of the Living Desert. This was the highlight of the entire trip. The locals told us this is the greenest the area has been in a decade. It was nice to see the desert alive with growth, including the famed Sturt Desert Pea—and the sculptures provided a focal point for the setting sun.

A quick dinner at the Palace—I recommend the steak—before retiring for an early start the next morning.

Day six: Broken Hill to Dubbo | 759 km

Day six was to have been a ride into Mungo National Park. Unfortunately, the recent rains that had brought the desert to life also brought flooding to Mungo. The park along with the walking tour of the Walls of China was cancelled along with access to the other nearby National Parks. Therefore, I decided on a 750-kilometre ride to Dubbo back via Wilcannia and Cobar. This was a fun day of high speed riding through the flat desert plains with the main issue being peppered by insects for over 200 kilometres around Cobar. I looked a mess as I rolled into Dubbo around 6 pm.

After securing a campsite and washing my clothes, I settled on The Old Bank Restaurant and Bar. There was a strong music theme to this venue with guitars on the walls and an upscale restaurant that served an excellent salmon with vegetables. It was delicious.

Day seven: Dubbo to Tamworth | 308 km

Waking at 5.45 am, I continued to feel in sync with nature riding early and going to bed early. I broke camp and sat reading and watching a family of magpies eat the bugs off my bike. I like that nothing is wasted in nature and enjoyed the calm of the early dawn. Riding into town, I stop at Press, a smartly designed cafe that would impress in either Sydney or Melbourne. Their vegetarian-friendly menu, friendly staff and a garden make this a noteworthy cafe, even if they did forget my meal.

Dubbo Zoo was to be the highlight of the day. It is an amazing place and I absolutely loved it. The layout, the animals, the enclosures and the fact you are able to get so close to everything from Zebras to Rhinos. Having previously worked at Taronga Zoo in Sydney to raise funds for rhino conservation, it was a treat to see these majestic beasts in person. The whole place was marvellous. A real highlight.

After Dubbo, I set off for Walcha; although after an hour of riding I knew this was too ambitious. I was tired after walking the eight kilometres around the zoo and had to take frequent breaks. All afternoon I rode, resting and not pushing things. Outside Tamworth, the heavens opened in a torrential downpour washing the insects off me and my bike and determining that this would be my destination for the evening. The caravan park on the southern edge of town was clean and friendly and the operators took pity on a wet motorcyclist putting my up in the recreation hall instead of a tent site.

Day eight: Tamworth to Sydney | 633 km

Waking at dawn, I watched the sunrise and had broken camp by 6.30. The road I intended to take to Walcha was closed for flooding necessitating a ride north then east to Walcha. The morning’s clouds began to clear as I stopped off at the Moonbi lookout. Everything was green and hilly marking the change from the flat desert areas.

Riding in this part of NSW is always a treat offering great roads, limited traffic and good vistas. After stopping for breakfast at the Royal Cafe Walcha, I rode onwards towards Wauchope along the Oxley Highway; one of the best roads in NSW. Keeping focused, this is a brilliant road that demands attention as many a rider has found themselves speeding a little too quickly into a turn and leaving the road, often followed by a trip to the hospital.

I enjoyed the ride, meeting other riders at various stops. The temperature had risen to around 30 degrees as I headed south along the freeway to the Central Coast. Freeway riding is not my favourite, although it has the advantage of getting you there quickly. Approaching the Central Coast, the temperatures rapidly dropped with a massive storm visible. Stopping to check the forecast, I pulled on my wet weather gear and decided to head home. This was a big day of riding, but better than another night’s camping in the pouring rain. Ten minutes down the road it began hailing. Surprisingly this is less painful than the insects and I pushed on carefully, making it home two hours later.

This was a great trip, punctuated by various riding conditions, and different vistas. Each road trip has its pluses and minuses and this one was no different. The early days in the rain, the warm desert conditions and the winding roads around Walcha all offered there own sense of satisfaction. Next trip; south down the NSW coast, inland into Victoria and along the Great Ocean Road.