COFFS HARBOUR RIDE 7TH ~ 9TH SEPTEMBER 2007
The concept of a wet muddy ride never really dampened our enthusiasm, in fact after years of dust and rocks through-out South East Queensland we were quite looking forward to it, and Coffs Harbour NSW was the perfect place for a dirty week-end.An advance call from Ross on the Gold Coast was our special invitation to a private trail ride through the country that recently held the Australian 4 Day Enduro (A4DE), where he and several mates ride this area a few times per year and have developed a fantastic knowledge of the trails.

The Toowoomba contingent consisted of Lawrie Asgill, Bob Condon and me (Mark Joy), all accomplished riders in our own lunch time and the intense preparation days before the event reflected our professionalism. Preparation including hosing off the cow shit from Bobs DRZ 400 and replacing the near bald knobbies, my own XR 400 having new rear rubber fitted the week-end before plus a complete trailer overhaul that night, and Lawrie polishing his nuts on his immaculate XR400.

Bikes were loaded Thursday night in the rain and we were on the road at 0500 Friday, all three of us as high as toddler at a red cordial fountain, Bob in the back singing “we’re goin ta Bonnie Doon”. Met Ross, Gordon and Glen at Hungry Jacks for a quick nutrious breakfast of Hungry Crap then convoy to Emerald Beach arriving at midday to check into our little bungalow. Lawrie claimed the only full sized double bed citing age superiority, which of course all the rest of us pups let him go with as every ride could be his last at that age. Our base camp was the beautifully presented Emerald Beach Caravan Park located 18 k north of Coffs Harbour, right on the beach and only 3 minutes ride to the trails each day.

More riders were introduced at this point, Bret from Leyburn, Darren from Kaimkillenbun, and we finally kitted up and wheeled our bikes quietly out of the park. Our group for day one consisted of two KTM 525, a KTM 450, KTM 300, CRF 250X, DRZ400 agricultural edition, and the two XRsaurus 400s. The latter being dinosaurs due to their complete lack of an electric start button, water jacketed motors and seats resembling saw horses. Day one consisted of a 50k loop including the slippiest clay hill known to man that doubles as a water slide for forest creatures during the twilight hours, if your back wheel went into the centre rut too early, get ready to push. And push we did, that’s only when we could actually stand up and grip something, with rear tyres actually smoking on the wet clay, we got the whole contingent up and this within the first 30 minutes, ooowee! Lawrie showed his gratitude of Ross and I lying on the ground and pushing him along by totally filling me in with the most evil smelling gloop, problem being that this was my only riding apparel and had to last three days.

He got justice a further along with a gnarly hill that had rock steps built into loose loamy soil with a turn half way up, on his second go his rear tyre got traction on the step and the big girl with the big girl rider reared up and spat him off. We continued along fast windy single trail connected with fast windy fire roads and by 1700 we discreetly returned to the park much to the amazed looks of the many campers and vanners as we rode in like warriors sporting all kinds of battle scars.

Park up the bikes, peel off the muddy gear and try to air it out before day two, here’s a mental picture for you, four sets of riding gear dripping with mud and sweat hanging over every available rail in the cabin including the four blades of the ceiling fan, you can nearly smell the tranquillity can’t you? Had to hurry though, Darren’s wife Michelle has organised a maxi taxi to take us to the pub at Moonie Beach where we enjoyed steak and pizza, beer and rum, and footy on the big screen. Lawrie particularly impressed with his team Parra coming away with the win, and a side note here, Lawrie has two favourite teams, Parramatta and who-ever is playing the Broncos, I tell you if he had more than one eye he could get rid of the wooden leg and the parrot.

Back at the cabin by 2030 and ready for a nice sleep to prepare for the full day on Saturday, only to be warned by both Bob and Glen that they have been known to snore and they apologise in advance. In 2 minutes Bob was drowning out the chain saw races in the cabin next to us, so I grabbed my ear plugs and drifted off. He eventually stopped at some stage during the night and we had peace until 0400 when Glen kicked in, now once you’re awakened by a snorer it becomes the only thing you can hear and the only thing that has your 100% attention irrespective of your attempts to convince your mind that it is soothing and making you sleepy, NOT! Around 0600 the sun was up so a nice stroll down the beach was the go, followed by Rage on the ABC and breakfast. Bob and Glen had a lovely sleep thank you very much, and hey, we did warn you. Not forgetting dear “old” Lawrie who also slept very well in his double bed. Lawrie was heard to mutter “didn’t hear a bloody thing”, “slept like a baby, thanks”.

Our riding gear was reasonably dry, so with fresh jocks and socks we slid into the crusty coverings and assembled at Parc Ferme (the shelter shed) at 0800 ready for what-ever Ross and Darren could throw at us. We were joined for the next two days by two more of Ross’s buddies, Nev and Andrew on WRF Yamahas making a rolling total of ten riders. All riders being familure with the corner man riding system and all being of similar ability this led for a fast flowing day of hills, streams and slippery arse leaf covered single trail.

First 50k included sections of the A4DE, one in particular was a special test through a dark dark trail in a dark dark forest, complete with little dolls tied up to trees and even a witches hat. I for one was freaked, I’m talking Children of the Corn meets Deliverance, and if I could have taken my times for that run I reckon I would have beaten Stefan Merriman by 10 seconds. Further along we encountered a fallen tree that could not be moved or bypassed, so Gordon whipped out his trusty saw chain and cut the bastard in half, now there’s a well prepared trail rider, probably reached Grand High Poobar in the scouts before quitting at the age of 45.

Pies and steak sandwiches were the order at the Coramba bakery, with the locals not even batting an eye lid at the 10 bikie yobbos spread all over the footpath, after all this town was the real Parc Ferme for the A4DE not 2 months ago when there were hundreds of riders and even more support crews and spectators milling around. The next 123k was a little faster and open, often encountering an extremely deceptive track surface of what appeared to be dry dusty leaf matter but was really saturated cover over slippery clay, we were more side ways than Phil Crump at the Ecka Speedway and that’s when we were going in a straight line. Corners, well good luck buddy, one in particular saw me trying to pull up a little behind Gordon who himself was pulling up a little and turning a slight veer, I was side ways dragging the foot hard and still gaining on an unsuspecting Gordon. I was actually looking ahead to see where we would land after I took his bike out from underneath him as we both slid off into the drain, and if I could have let go of my handle bars I would dragged my fingers as well. Luckily he managed to get traction and motored out of my way not knowing how close he came to annilation at the hands of an out of control tractor. Bob was following and laughing so hard he threw it down of the very next corner, laugh at me will you, take that. We stopped for trail snacks at a beautiful water fall with actual (not simulated) water flowing, couldn’t see the bottom just disappeared into the lush valley.

One particular slippery rooty section actually had an up hill covered with steel mesh, laid by local enthusiasts to protect the area and keep it accessible, who says dirt bikers are environmental vandals. With the corner man system, the rider directly after the leader waits on a turn and points his bike in the direction of the leader, all others then come ripping past spraying him with dirt and whooping it up until the tail-ender comes through and picks him up. This keeps the ride flowing plus it can give you a chance get grab a drink or a snack while waiting to give everyone the forks as they pass by. One corner I was parked in the right direction but was physically facing the other way whilst I syphoned the python, and Glen came hurtling past following the way I was facing. The rule here is the corner man stays until he either comes back, or when the tail-ender shows up he may elect to ride off after him. Luckily Glen came back muttering something about seeing something quite obvious pointing the way, I just smiled and nodded. (Mark is now called Donkey, Ed)

Heading back now to Coramba again to gas up, my XR went onto reserve about 15k out, and the KTM 300 ran out twice needing to perform in flight fuel transfer from the super-tanker KTM 450 and offers from Bob on the mother ship. We covered the same 50 k from the morning loop to get back home on dark, and only 10k from home in some little crappy bog hole in poor light, Lawrie lost the front end came down and twisted his dicky knee, putting him out for day three.That night we had BBQ at the park with Michelle and Brett’s wife Julie organising and preparing the feast complete with Pavlova for sweets, I love roughing it. Topped off by Wild Hogs the movie on Ross’s cabins plasma, we crawled into bed around 2030 and fortunately Bob had gone to bed early and had already performed his ritual snore fest so was peacefully sleeping when we crashed also.

Day three Glen kicked in around 0400 for his round of snore mania, this being too dark for a beach walk I decided to get up and watch TV (did I mention all cabins have Pay TV). Half an hour into World Rally Championships saw Glen get up and prepare to leave. I didn’t realize he was leaving this morning to attend a car show and was gone by 0500, I could have stayed in bloody bed. Bob then joined me as a regular early riser so we did coffee, walked the beach, walked to the Shell Servo to get the Sunday papers and back to breakfast with Lawrie and Andrew. Bob and Lawrie’s bike maintenance consisted of pushing them across to the grass and just staring at them, that should be right to go now. Andrew and I removed our bash plates to scrape out a football field of top dressing, lubed the chain checked the air cleaner which after two days of riding had only five grass seeds on it. We all pushed down to the shelter shed feeling like soldiers going back to the battle after some R and R, with spectators gazing in admiration at our intestinal fortitude (or simply questioning our sanity).

Lawrie on pain killers and Glen gone, we were down to 8 riders, only the true stayers.In 3 minutes we were freight training along some different trails lead by Darren, some really over grown sections battling lantana and a nice warm up hill about 20 minutes in had us all sweating in our body armour. Impass hill was first, it actually gets a mention in the latest TBAM from the 4 Day, 2 rock ledges half way up then a little rest point to regroup and point the bike in the right direction to kamikaze the rest. None of us cleaned this hill, but we scraped up as best we could with Nev and Andrew taking the PeeWee track, big girls blouse line around the last climb.

Regrouping up here we were met by 2 mountain bikers (crazy bastards do what we do but with pedals) and they were full of praise for us guys claiming we provide them with gnarly tracks to ride. Actually they would only have to send Andrew through some virgin bush on his peaky WRF450 and with the amount of earth that rear knobby shifts, they could run a section immediately after.More lantana, some hard rock trail literally flowing with water, a tree down across the track about 1m diameter that Gordon wussed out from cutting in two with his trusty saw, had us heave hoeing the bikes over. Carving through the next section it was straight out of Jurassic Park, massive ferns, dripping rain forest, huge logs covered in moss, my XRsaurus was completely at home, don’t see an air cooled bike boiling do ya boys (suffer in ya jocks). Then came Bobs Hill (named in honour), loose damp loam covering massive rocks, if you cease forward momentum, go down and start again which is what Bob did and hit it a second time with aggression.

Similar to Lawrie’s spectacular flip, the mother ship DRZ reared up its ugly head and tossed Bob off, with rider giving it one last mid air push to save himself from becoming road kill under the massive super tanker (its only a 20 litre tank but for the point of the story lets imagine 200). The bike lands sideways directly on a huge rock, the useless bash plate flexes in and takes a chunk the size of your fist out of the motor side cover. Oil gone, can’t patch it, tow home.Originally I was hoping for a return around 1200 as we still had a seven hour trip home, I found out later that Darren had intended a 1500 return because he was staying an extra night, now yes I would have loved the riding, but getting home after midnight and going to work early the next day would have been unbearable.

Ross towed Bob out of this Protozoic age which was a feat rivalling the Man from Snowy River, once on dirt road and eventually highway he was dragging that DRZ at around 80kph, Bob was a study of concentration just keeping the tow strap out of Ross’s back wheel. Great effort here lads.A burger at the shop Bobs bike lay like a mongrel dog in the street so as not to bleed all over the footpath, while Lawrie brought around the trailer to load up the bikes.A quick shower, said our goodbyes and hit the road with Bobs singing “On the Road Again”, I was home and in bed by 2030 dreaming of fast trail and bottomless bogs. This would have to rate as the best week-end of full on non-competitive riding in pristine environmental conditions that I have ever experienced, we are immensely thankful of Ross for the invitation into his little group and for Michelle and Julie for doing all the organising of off bike activities.

All said and done I ate dirt about 4 times for the week-end not counting the truck load Lawrie spun at me, both I and the XR are undamaged and we’ll now go back to our normal lives until next time.

Mark Joy