Quick head-clearer


Upper Murray meander

What do you do when the bushfires have gone? Here’s James Farley’s answer

I had been sitting around for days watching the smoke haze sit on top of my house, wondering when the hell it would go away. If being house-bound in the middle of summer wasn’t bad enough, the threat of losing the house to nearby bushfires had the whole family on edge. My only consolation was the chance to sit back and read up on some old copies of ARR.

Naturally enough, this just got me wanting to get out on the road and luckily for me the fire threat abated and the family decided they had had enough of me and said I should get out for a while. “Really? Are you sure? Oh, ok.”

Within minutes I was geared up and out the front gate. I had a quick look at the road guide and decided a little ride along the upper Murray would be a good place to blow out the cobwebs. I headed for the Hume Weir, crossing the Murray from Victoria to NSW just after a beautiful left hand sweeping turn under the dam wall.

From here I crossed back over to Victoria on the Bellbridge Bridge and I was on my way up the Murray. Now I believe that the number of road signs/warnings at the start of a road indicate just how good a ride you are in for and at Bellbridge I wasn’t disappointed; a winding road, no trucks, ferry, the usual “Declared Dangerous Motorcycle Area” sign and a warning about caravans. Fantastic!

Now I have nothing against riding with a bunch of other like-minded riders and friends but occasionally the opportunity to ride alone is the tonic that keeps me riding. Group riding requires you to ride at the discretion of the group, not to mention concentrating on those around you, rather than your surrounds. So here I was; me, the bike and an almost deserted 200km winding road through the picturesque Upper Murray.

I paused for a few minutes in Bellbridge curious to see if any vehicles went up the road – none. I was on my way. Now I’m not a speed junky but the start of the journey had me pushing the old girl along at a fair pace. I was all smiles and happily singing along as the worries of the last week slipped behind me. Soon I was taking it easy and enjoying the meandering road.

The Hume has been low for years and as a result the dam soon peters out and the river takes over as you head up it. The long-dead trees make for a striking view as you ride along the river bank. The road swings left to right with few long straights and plenty of rises and dips, yet I found that I rarely had to drop below 80 clicks.

There are a couple of towns along the first 100ks but don’t be fooled into thinking about food or fuel. A few houses and a few abandoned schools seemed to be it. One “town”, Thologolong, was nothing but a rock, a placard and a pretty sorry looking Aussie flag that had seen too many windy days. Still I was in a good mood, so I stopped and took a photo.

A turn-off to the left and another bridge over the Murray had me in Jingellic with the Bridge Hotel promising “free beer tomorrow”. A warm welcome, a good coffee and a little treat in the bistro over looking what has to be the finest camping spot on the Murray River. There are cabins and some classy holiday houses as well for the more refined traveller (call David or Janice at the Bridge Hotel, 0260 371 290).

I zipped through Walwa and headed for Tintaldra. You enter the small town and have a choice of pulling up on the left hand side, outside the pub, or on the right at the store. The hotel is hosted by Alf and Maija and they are very motorcycle friendly. In 2007 they hosted the Horizons Unlimited Fourth Annual Travellers meeting, bringing together motorcyclists from around the globe. The photo wall of the pub is testament to the number of motorcycling adventurers that have passed through. The pub itself is an Aussie classic; whitewashed walls and a long veranda running the length of the building. Alf behind the bar is a natural and full of good cheer, not to mention having had a few motorcycling adventures himself.

A few kilometres up the road I came across a truck pulled up by the side of the river and a bloke with a line in the water. Being curious, I decided to see how the fishing was. The driver was a bit suspicious at first – seems he was on the clock but the blokes at the other end were a bit slow so he decided a short break between loads would be the best thing. Anyway the fishing was not that flash but he wasn’t worried, “It’s a nice spot, isn’t it,” he said with a grin. I looked around and couldn’t help but agree. River, warm day, fishing and on the clock, you can’t beat that.

I headed into Towong and passed the old racecourse grandstand on my way to Corryong. The weather was now starting to change for the worse, so it was time to get a little more serious in terms of kilometres. I entered Corryong, passing a swag of bikes parked at the bistro – obviously planning on sitting out the weather in more comfortable confines – and did a quick fuel up, both bike and rider.

Earplugs in, visor debugged and I was ready for the downhill run home. An hour later I was wet, home and happy.

Bridge Hotel, Jingellic
02 60371290

Tintaldra Hotel
Tel 02 60779261, or fax 02 60779269