(October 5, 2020 – written by Dave)
Today we survived the Goonoo Forest. It was muddy, bumpy, wet and completely epic. Ok, ok, it wasn’t really that epic but I been thinking about it since we first read about the Central West Cycle trail. I had visions of an epic forest ride on my mind.
For context, there is a truly epic professional race called Paris-Roubaix. In that race the pros ride a whole stack of old goat tracks connected by bitumen. The most infamous of the goat tracks is through the Arenburg Forest. The race is always blown to bits when the peloton reaches the Arenburg. We aren’t professional, we aren’t fast and we aren’t riding anything nearly as hard as Paris-Roubaix but today the Goonoo Forest was our ArenburgForest. And we conquered it!
We didn’t come through 100% unscathed as one of our more senior team members (who will remain nameless) came off early in the forest and banged up his knee. It’s only a flesh wound; he remounted and carried on not much worse for wear. Generally, our forest was very gentle and rideable. The spring rains had left a good number of big puddles in low spots but otherwise it was dry. The puddles were often muddy and deep – we had to dismount to push/pull/drag the bikes around them several of them. We all got a bit muddy but it was fun all the same.
More than 2/3rds of the ride today was in the forest and on dirt roads, more dirt than we’ve had the first couple of days. The bikes performed well and our loads didn’t negatively affect their handling. We saw quite a few other riders today. All kinds of bikes and packing styles are out on the trail. We saw folks with big panniers all the way down to nothing more than frame bags. The latter riders are all staying hotel rooms, while most of the rest are camping. The main real reason we’ve have been camping is that the trail is so popular that rooms need to be booked a week in advance. Booking means a fixed schedule and we didn’t want a fixed schedule.
We eventually exited the forest to a blazing tailwind ride down to another one-pub town called Ballimore. In Ballimore we pulled up at the Ballimore Hotel (aka: The Hair of the Dog Pub) and boy what a difference it makes to have a pub owner who wants to have the new business that the new cycling trail is bringing. All the staff were welcoming, they have clean bathrooms, nice clean showers, a nice yard for bikes and free brekkie in the morning. We don’t mind having a few pub meals when it helps a business that is putting in the effort.
This afternoon a woman (rancher type) pulled up at the hotel with a 4-day old baby lamb. She bought the lamb for one of her sheep that lost its lamb. She has given it a name but was also keen to point out that the breed, Moreno, is a great “dual purpose” breed. That is, they have a good coat and a good carcass. Unless you name your baby lamb something like “porkchop”, I think it might be hard to eat it.
We set our tent up in the main yard, kind of off in a corner. There was only one van in the yard when we arrived. Well, now, as the drivers started pulling off the road, the yard is filling up. There is a good chance that we’ll be 100% blocked in by the time the night ends. Oh well, there is safety in a crowd and most of these folks are pretty quiet once the pub has served them a big feed and a few beers.
Tomorrow we head to the western most point of the trail, the small city of Dubbo. We are thinking that we’ll get a hotel as, according to Roman, the town has developed a bit of a rough edge over the past few years. Plus, the hotels are nearer the centre of town and the places to eat. A slightly bigger town means that we can get something besides meat and more meat for dinner. Nancy’s found an Indian restaurant which sounds pretty good to me.
I’m off now to see if our wounded senor member needs more ice for his knee. As they say, teamwork makes the dream work.