Ride Report: Southern Market ride, 6-7 Dec

Discussion in 'Australian Motorcycles' started by Gary Woodman, Feb 15, 2004.

  1. Gary Woodman

    Gary Woodman Guest

    It's my growing interest in the South Coast of NSW that led
    me to stories of the markets that abound there, in a
    different town each Sunday, and the largest of them all, in
    the little village of Candelo. My last trip to the coast
    gave me the pieces of a plan for the Southern Market ride.

    The plan, briefly, was a loop through the NSW south coast,
    from Canberra via the well-travelled Kings Highway to
    Batemans Bay, a patchwork of on- and off-highway stretches
    to choice overnight accommodation, as much as the entire
    morning at the market, then a different route back up the
    range and home to Canberra.

    This was such a marvellous plan, with so much excitement and
    promise, and the last market before Christmas, that I
    splashed invitations far and wide; but all to no avail.
    Despite the manifold attractions, I had only one acceptance,
    Greg Bodell, a Clubman Tourer out of Sydney.

    In the future I'd like to explore other routes from Canberra
    to the coast (for example, the dirt via Araluen to Moruya),
    but once again, the Kings to Batemans Bay, where Greg and I
    were to meet. There is no reason not to enjoy the Kings, and
    the famous Clyde hairpins, but for the throng of travellers
    headed for their own delights of the south coast.

    These hairpins led me past the lovely riverside at Nelligen,
    and crossed the bridge over the Clyde river into Batemans
    Bay, where I found Greg guarding a semi-legal parking spot
    in the busiest main drag on the South Coast. Greg arrived
    before me, and settled his lunch, so while he stood watch
    against the tide of traffic, I joined the queue in the
    classic fisho on the river bank.

    Disposing of lunch, we stuck to the coast road, through
    Malua Bay and Tomakin to the Mossy Point turnoff, then
    followed George Bass Drive to the Moruya River, along its
    rich banks into the town. The highway is inevitable here,
    but no trial on the beautiful south coast, mottled forest,
    field, and lakeland.

    A brief diversion took us through Dalmeny, another charming
    seaside village, and on to the fringe of Narooma where we
    rejoined the highway, since Narooma can hardly be missed.
    Not far beyond is the turnoff to the Tilba collective, a
    short but sweet slice of swervery into the village of
    Central Tilba, where we paused for refreshments.

    On through Tilba Tilba, into some nifty tight sections
    through lush and open dairy country, Greg's Duck did a
    little dance into a sharp 45-marked right-hander; Greg said
    later that unprovoked, it just shook its head. Close by, we
    rejoined the highway briefly, for the last time that day,
    then crossed to the Bermagui road.

    After some lovely sweepers and delightful views towards the
    coast, we crossed the bridge into Bermagui, looped the town
    on the lookout ride, then exited onto the Tathra road. This
    has it all: rolling green fields, forest canopy overhanging
    the road, rocky outcrops, tight sections, open sections,
    even a strip of dirt, this time only 2km, and people working
    on Saturday, as I heard later, in the rush to have it fully
    sealed before the Christmas deluge of tourists. It can't
    come soon enough, as they've strewn lemon-sized rocks in a
    couple of places, over which the little Beemer trembled and

    The last stage of this choice excursion is through the
    Mimosa Rocks NP, a small but rich park on the coast. It is
    rocky here, with tangled, jagged outcrops everywhere, heavy
    forest (perhaps even some temperate rainforest), and
    shipwrecks; the park is named after the paddle steamer
    "Mimosa" which went down offshore in the mid-19th century.

    The road through the park twists and dives through all this
    natural and historical splendour, well-marked little dirt
    tracks heading off into the rocky forest or towards the
    ocean, walking trails, camping reserves, beaches, picnic
    spots... another jewel of the Sapphire Coast, like so much
    of the region, worthy of repeated visits.

    Suddenly the forest peeled back and we burst out of the NP
    onto the bridge at Mogareeka Inlet, the mouth of the Bega
    River and the start of the long golden Tathra beach. We
    followed it into Tathra, momentary confusion between the
    three well-established caravan parks in town, then settled
    into our accommodation.

    Each of the van parks offers lawn camping, vans, and a range
    of cabins (leaving aside the posies of holiday units, the
    B&Bs, and the motel rooms at the pub), something for every
    taste and budget in tempting Tathra.

    The major distraction late on Saturday afternoon in the
    little town would usually be a dip or a stroll, and we set
    off along the main drag towards the centre of town in good
    time, the sky clear at last as the sun fell and a fresh
    onshore breeze carried the ever salty tang over the
    beachside along the lower part of town.

    As the road that runs straight up the beachfront approaches
    the retail precinct, it switches away, with limited
    pedestrian access, so we crossed the road towards the beach
    where the long stretch of pale gleaming sand abruptly runs
    into huge cliffs, a massive rock outcrop pushed into the
    ocean, carrying the upper part of town.

    We stumbled over a discreet path leading upwards and into
    adventure, and we had to strain our stroll as the path
    jerked to and fro up the steep gravelly rock face, almost
    disappearing at times in our nature reserve environment of
    spindly high canopy eucalypts.

    Filmed with light perspiration in the warm glow late on a
    summer afternoon, we were blitzed by the sea breeze as we
    reached the top, rejoining the road from the beach on the
    main street of the upper part of town. Our stroll continued
    past a few shops and down a ramp carved into the rock, down
    again to the waterline on the relic wharf, from where we
    admired the beach and the lower part of town, now fading
    into shadow.

    Once more we hiked up a steep rock face on a barely-marked
    path through relic bush, emerging into a memorial garden
    overlooking Tathra's rocky tip, and a vast swathe of the
    Tasman, deep ocean falling away within sight, the edge of
    Australia so steep here. It seemed a little precarious, on
    one of the east coast's finer points of rock, a finger
    projecting into the deep, surrounded by roses and little
    plaques and living, vibrant memories standing up to the
    ocean and all the weathers of the ages.

    Close by the garden is the pub, where we sought our just
    reward. The ocean pushes in here too, with tall windows in
    the dining room looking north to the tree-cloaked cliffs of
    the Mimosa Rocks NP, and east clear to New Zealand. We
    compared notes as we talked about our ride, our bikes, other
    bikes, and more, while the ocean sat at our shoulders and
    swallowed our words in the cleft of sea and sky far in the

    Eventually, our talk turned to dinner, and we set off along
    the menu trail. The pub has an interesting diversity,
    particularly seafood, but nothing captured our attention. A
    roadie dragged in bulky black band equipment, a possibility
    for later.

    We headed out a different door from the pub, overlooking the
    motel units perched in an undignified stack in a lake of
    concrete, and walked up the other side of the street back to
    the intersection where the road to the beach fell down the
    cliff face. Stumbling once again, another indistinct route
    back to the same path, near dark but familiar now, we
    followed it down the cliff to the beach.

    Nearest to the cliff is the High Tide Cafe, on our path so
    we surveyed its menu too. Here, and the locked and deserted
    Surf Club, was the limit of our beach excursion, but
    clearly, this cafe would be a pleasant and informal retreat
    after a spell at the oceanside, packed as it was with
    relaxed adults and sandy kids bolting everywhere.

    But we moved on to the Bowling Club, where we were crammed
    into a tiny bar between the smokers, the pokies, and the
    uglies. Their menu was very ordinary, and we coped for the
    duration of a few yarns, then fled to the street that we now
    recognised as Tathra's tourist precinct.

    Well dark by now, we skipped the low end eateries and paused
    at the pizza parlour, or rather, the Mimosa Rocks Pizza
    Restaurant. A typical pizza takeaway even to the row of
    plastic chairs, its menu included some real peculiarities,
    and "gourmet" pizza, so we took seats and unfolded the
    details of the menu. Greg gave me to choose, and eventually
    I selected an elaborate seafood combo, and a different
    seafood, Mediterranean inspired. They were expensive, three
    times the cost of the mass-produced big names, but turned
    out to be the best pizzas I've tried, yes, even the
    lifesavers in the Rebels; this night we could recognise the
    gastronomic high point of the lower part of town, a triumph
    of imagination.

    Even our energetic foot tour around town couldn't create the
    capacity to absorb these magnificent pizzas, though we made
    a creditable effort and were amply rewarded for our care in
    choosing this establishment; I look forward to a return
    visit. In time, we had to abandon the ruins, and rolled back
    to our accommodation, where we each had a round of
    stretching, yawning, and relieving, then fell into bed.

    Dawn came and went, and the relaxing resort weekend away
    kept us in its arms until after 8. We promised ourselves
    breakfast at the market, and made do with a cuppa as we
    surveyed the languid van park, sputtered awake and fumbled
    with our packing.

    On our way soon enough, out of the van park and up the beach
    a few hundred metres, we came to the rocky cliff face we had
    stumbled up and down the evening before. With the tyres and
    us still warming up, we swung into the sharp right-hander at
    the bottom, then pushed the bikes hard into the rising
    hairpin, straining the bikes and ourselves at little more
    than walking pace in what must be the most abrupt mid-town
    incline anywhere in Australia.

    A few more such aggressive twists brought us once again to
    the clifftop, and we passed through the upper part of town
    and along the Bega valley, the road winding through remnant
    forest and straight across lush emerald river flats with
    herds of grass watchers lost in their dreaming.

    A break in Bega for fuel and funds, and we were back on the
    highway for a few km, then turned to Candelo, a delightful
    road dancing through forest and pasture into the village.

    There was hardly room for two more motorbikes in the main
    street, yet we squeezed between cars and secured all the
    stuff we didn't want to hang on to in our next foot tour.
    Then we slipped over the fence, down the bank, and into the

    The crowd matched the cars in the street, milling, weaving,
    dodging, bumping, in and out and swirling around some 100
    stalls covering the reserve. I am an enthusiastic market
    goer and I like to admire each flower, check each book
    title, study each antique, while Greg is precisely the
    opposite and, just long enough into the morning for me to
    lose track of how long we'd been there, I looked across the
    market reserve to see him mount and depart for his return to

    So I was alone, but briefly, until I bumped into a gaggle of
    Beemer pilots and pillions from the ACT. These travellers, a
    dozen or more, had another club function the day before, and
    had chosen to make a day ride to the Candelo market.

    So I still had people to bump into, as I continued my
    examination of the market. Like markets elsewhere, there
    were plenty of junk toys, junk tools, and tacky
    extravagances. But to redeem the market, there were swathes
    of crafts, rustic art, native and exotic plants, and produce
    from all over southern NSW.

    Before I knew it, we were deeply into lunchtime, and the
    food stalls in the market were closing, closed, or sold out.
    I cast one more long glance over the market, and headed back
    to the bike via the rope and farm implements tables, rapidly
    being packed away; it was my turn to pack my books, my
    fruit, my ground cover.

    My foot tour of Candelo had revealed a road to the water
    tower above town, and I took the dusty, twisting route up
    and down several hills on a lookout ride. From this peak the
    village lay splashed across the rolling hills and valleys of
    the south coast hinterland.

    The town was almost back to normal as I rode across the
    bridge and turned right to the pub, just a few hundred
    metres away but out of sight of the market. The pub was
    busy, as the whole town on market day. Its kitchen was fully
    engaged with an interesting and diverse menu that eventually
    led me to a fresh and tasty tandoori rollup. As I sat on the
    verandah with lunch, the BMW club expedition finally settled
    on their plan, and passed by the pub heading north on the
    shorter route back home, via Bemboka and Brown Mountain.

    The last of the market traders gradually slipped out of
    town, back towards the highway and Bega, north to Bemboka,
    or south. As lunch ebbed out of the town, I quit Candelo on
    the road to Myrtle Mountain. But I could not escape without
    without one more surge of excitement as I paused on the last
    intersection in town, with the Tantawangalo Forest road
    (another option for dirt riders, 33km up the range to the
    Mt. Darragh road), while I fumbled with my earplugs, a tiny
    helicopter with trellis body and bubble head revved up, a
    massive noise flooded the town until it lifted off, circled
    the town, and was swallowed in the sky.

    So, the last keeping to the ride plan, less the comfort of
    company, I headed south again, rich rolling dairy farms
    gradually gave way to wilderness reserve, until I was
    swallowed in the forest reserve for a short stretch of rich,
    dappled swervery leading to the Mt. Darragh road.

    This little-known road climbs from the Pacific jewel,
    Pambula, to the heart of the highlands, Bombala, passing the
    villages of Wyndham and Cathcart. The 79km ribbon of tar is
    stretched over mostly mountain forest, streaked with farming
    valleys, winding up the face of the range and tightening
    again and again, large earth cuttings dripping greenery
    leapt up as the road twisted away, many with a drop into
    dark bottomless forest beckoning on the other side. The road
    surface is sound and inviting, a rarity in rural NSW, and
    remote enough for me to see only six cars and two bikes in
    its length.

    Just out of Cathcart, the bitumen continues to Bombala
    through the more open and level highlands, while a dirt road
    cuts more north to Bibbenluke, 8km of dirt compared to 40km
    of tar. I've been this way before, because of its economy,
    and the visual delight of Black Lake, a public fishing
    reserve lost in the wavy terrain at the edge of the Snowies.
    But on this trip Black Lake proved to be green, fish
    vanished as grasses flourished and a flock of sheep munched
    their way across the near-dry lake bed. Even though this
    road is dusty and stony, with several long sections of
    corrugations, it is a choice shortcut.

    At Bibbenluke, I was caught up in the traffic straight away,
    and I passed a dozen cars before the junction just south of
    Nimmitabel. But the highway here is rich in risk, and I kept
    quiet through the open country and big sweepers of the
    southern highlands, following my instincts instead of
    companions. And sure enough, I saw three candy cars going
    the other way between Nimmitabel and Canberra. But
    otherwise, the familiar trip north was excitement free,
    barring the fresh excitement of a motorcycle weekend deep in
    the country, from the ocean to the sky, the span of the
    sparkle of the Sapphire Coast. Can't wait for the next
    Southern Market ride.
    Gary Woodman, Feb 15, 2004
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  2. Gary Woodman

    sanbar Guest

    Isn't it funny how sometimes you can cut out every third word and a post
    will still make sense.
    Makes it sound very inviting tho.
    - sanbar
    sanbar, Feb 15, 2004
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  3. Gary Woodman

    conehead Guest


    You obviously didn't dispose of it properly.
    conehead, Feb 15, 2004
  4. Gary Woodman

    Moike Guest

    Gary Woodman wrote:

    < delightful word picture>

    Thank you.

    Moike, Feb 15, 2004
  5. Gary Woodman

    sharkey Guest

    But who knew NSW had its own Blarney Stone?

    sharkey, Feb 15, 2004
  6. Gary Woodman

    sharkey Guest

    You're absolutely _!

    sharkey, Feb 15, 2004
  7. Gary Woodman

    Gary Woodman Guest

    **** off, sedimentary bitch!

    Gary Woodman, Feb 16, 2004
  8. Gary Woodman

    glitch1 Guest

    Thanks for that one, Gary.
    Good read

    snip plenty of good stuff
    glitch1, Feb 16, 2004
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