I got up at the usual time and had everything packed, the luggage on the truck and in the queue for the bus by 6:45. I still found myself about 20 or so from the front on the line. Occasionally we saw some cyclists heading off, either disregarding the ban on doing the climb, or taking the long way around - about 200 kilometres - and going to where? Would they go up the hill to Comboyne, to turn around and go down the same road again to Timbertown, or stop at Timbertown and wait for us there? The chaotic management means that there are extra reasons for the barcode scanning not to work - who knows when who has arrived where? In fact, we were scanned again at arrival at Gloucester, but not since, either at arrival in camp or in a food line.
I had placed the Edge on charge last night, but woke up to find I'd forgotten to turn it off, before I'd fallen asleep. That means that the Edge is now flat again and the Solio is also needing to be charged. No cookie for me, and I'll have to continue using the Etrex.
At 8:30, the buses arrived for the first 250 riders (the others have to wait until 10:00) and I managed to get on the first one. Occasionally we saw riders on the road, quite a few at the start. Whether they were heading up the hill or the long way, we didn't know, but they got a rousing cheer either way. Further up, we saw about 5 riders climbing the hill. They didn't look to be doing it too tough, and it was only a couple of patches where we remarked on the steepness of the road. Admittedly, it was a long crawl up to the top. One of the guys rolled up while we were still waiting for the official start, and said that it was a 2:40 trip, and most of that was spent on the 10 kilometre uphill section, not the 20 kilometre flatter section out from Wingham. He said that most of the ride was great: the dirt road was in good condition, and there were no rock falls. Some of it was steep, but no steeper than we'd ridden in the last few days although, given the dirt, he'd had to keep the weight distributed properly so that he didn't spin his wheels. Now I'm wishing that I'd done it myself. The fully loaded tourer would not have had the same issue as a higher geared road bike.
Riders at Comboyne
At the top, I picked up my bike - good to ride immediately, thanks to Pegasus. All the other riders who hadn't spent the money had to turn the handlebars and replace pedals themselves. I put the panniers on and then went and had some scones and tea. There were about 4 buildings set up by the local ladies auxiliaries etc., and an ice-cream stall, for those who like that sort of thing. The latter looked woefully under-patronised, however. The local football club had apparently been unpacking bikes all night from the trucks and lining them along the oval fence. Between them and the morning tea, we were well looked after. Maybe the natives are friendly after all.
Comboyne oval with bikes
They finally opened the route at 11:00. We collected our lunches from the top of the hill, just after we set out and then rode to the top of the plateau where there was the steep descent towards Wauchope. It was about 6 kilometres of windy bitumen - much different from the ascent. There's also a lovely view back to the bottom, which I couldn't really capture from the bus on the way up.
Looking over the edge
The soil and temperature and general weather is all so much different on the plateau, from that below. Here, there are rich, fertile lands with wheat and potatoes. Down below, especially on the Wauchope side, we have dry, crumbly hard soil into which it's hard to get tent pegs (oh, for my own hammer). Up here, there is lush forest, and clouds from the cool air captured by the plateau. Down there, there is scrubby forest, largely logged, and dry heat with clear skies. I see why you'd live at Comboyne and not down below. Anyway, it's only about 60 kilometres to Port Macquarie if you really needed to go to a big town (and half that to Wauchope).
Wheat at Comboyne
The ride down was nice, if over too quickly. There were a couple of nice sharp corners, and we mostly went down reasonably slowly, apart from some hoons. After that it was about 20 kilometres of undulating country, which ended going past the spectacular Broken Bago Bluff. We're camped in the paddock next to Timbertown, supposedly where they normally keep the buffalo overnight. There's enough cow manure to support that theory. Again, with the tent peg issue, and having to borrow a hammer. It's really hot down here on the plains. Five minutes out of the shower and I'm already dripping with sweat.
Broken Bago bluff
Campsite at Timbertown
Wandering into town, I realised that it was a couple of kilometres away and was almost frustrated enough to turn around and find out where the marquee and beer tent was - hidden somewhere in the bowels of Timbertown. Just then I saw a pub, the Bago Tavern, just across the road. It was full of cyclists but I found a place at a table with a couple of guys and chatted for a while. Then I went back to camp and found that Ed and Glenn were setting up just near me. They asked about a beer, and I said that I know just the spot. I went back with them, and a friend of theirs - John. We stayed for a while, by which time we were getting hungry. Rather than find our way to Cafe Big, we decided to have a look at the tavern menu, since the food we saw coming from the kitchen looked really nice.
It turned out that there were some really nice sounding dishes on offer, I ended up with roast duck noodles for about $18, There were garlic prawns, in a nice cream sauce, and fish and chips as well. All very much nicer than camp food.
The distance was recorded, but the time (and therefore the average), is a rough estimate.