Melbourne cup weekend in the Snowy Mountains

Bill organised this year’s Snowy Mountains ride for the Melbourne Cup long weekend. This is a a four day weekend away that we’ve done for many years now. However, this year was a little different because instead of four or more motorcycles the group was comprised of two motorcycles and two modified Mazda MX5 sports cars.

Day 1 – Sat Oct 31st

I awoke to the sound of our dog barking at thunder and it wasn’t very long before torrential rain started falling. I don’t mind if it rains while I’m out riding, but I immensely dislike rolling out of the garage into the rain. Marty and I met at 6.45am in what can be best described as ‘biblical’ conditions – namely thunder, lightning and pouring rain. We headed towards Melbourne and fortunately the rain abated as we crossed the Westgate Bridge and out the start of the Monash Freeway. However, once we hit the Eastern suburbs we encountered more thunderstorms and plenty of fork lightning. I wasn’t surprised when I received a message from Gentle from the Geelong Ulysses club saying that the 20th anniversary Great Ocean Road ride had been cancelled!

Marty and I rendezvoused with Ian (supercharged MX5 Mazda) in Yarragon. After making our introductions and a warm drink we headed off to Bairnsdale to meet Bill. The intermittent rain continued as we travelled east, but fortunately, Bairnsdale was dry and sunny. After meeting Bill (turbocharged MX5 Mazda) at a café on the outskirts of town and some banter over lunch, we headed off towards Bruthen and then along a really picturesque road to Buchan and the twisty ‘back way’ to Orbost. The road was wet in places and there was some fine gravel on some corners, so we had to be vigilant. To my amazement a fella on a Harley Davidson (with an obvious death wish and flames painted on his tank) actually rounded us up and then overtook us – I could not believe it! Oh the shame and embarrassment! The two modified sports cars easily out-performed the motorcycles in such treacherous conditions – mind you Bill and Ian are both highly skilled, enthusiast drivers.

Map day 1

Me in the bush on a damp road near Orbost, Vic (Pic courtesy of Bill).

Arriving at the legendary Snowy River

Prior to the torrent – the roofs soon went on those cars

We settled into our motel in Orbost and before very long the thunder clouds rolled in again and a torrential downpour ensued. It actually poured for most of the evening and the images on the rain radar were not pretty! After dinner at the Orbost Club and a couple of drinks we hit the sack pretty early. And it was still raining! Not a good portent for the next day’s riding.

Day 2 – Sunday 1st Nov

By 8.00am we checked out and headed for Bombala via the Bonang Hwy. For those who have not ridden it, “the Bonang” is a really winding road through the bush from north east Victoria into NSW. Supposedly there are 1080 curves in the 105 kms of road, along with two unsealed sections. Although it wasn’t raining when we started, the road was wet in patches. The two Mazdas took off and left Marty and I in their wake. Predictably it started to rain as we gained some altitude. Ian and Bill belatedly pulled over to put their hoods up (far too late for Ian’s liking actually). Below is a pic of Marty and I taken in the rain, hence the raindrops on the camera lens! This area is so pretty and the road grip was good, so it was actually quite enjoyable riding along in the rain with the smell of eucalyptus filling the air. We only saw one ‘roo, which was four less than last time.There was virtually no traffic encountered at all, being reasonably early on a Sunday morning.

The rain had stopped by the time we reached Delegate. We then had a ‘spirited’ run to Bombala for brunch. Amazingly the copper coming the other way didn’t pull us over as we crested a hill, a fair bit over the speed limit. The clouds had cleared and it was reasonably humid. Bombala is an overtly motorcycle friendly town and hosts an annual motorcycle show.  We dined at the bakery café which has the tastiest meat pies around and that trademark friendly service.

Marty and a busy Sunday in downtown Bombala!

We left Bombala and traveled to Adaminaby at warp speed – making the most of the dry roads and isolation. We stopped briefly for a breather and some pics by a wind farm in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately the wind had blown the roads dry.

In no time at all we arrived at the home of the big trout, Adaminaby. There were quite a few other motorcyclists about as well as a bus load of drunken young football fans. The local café did pretty well to cope with it all.

Look!  Blue sky behind the big trout

From Adaminaby we rode some of the iconic, twisty and scenic roads that the Snowy Mountains have to offer. The Kosciuszko National Park is a truly spectacular place and a haven for motorcyclists. We rolled in to Corroyong late in the afternoon having had a really satisfying day’s riding (and driving). The sun was out, it was humid and I noticed that the ambient  temp had actually increased by 10C as we descended from the mountains. Unfortunately Marty was coming down with the ‘flu and was feeling pretty awful. A few other motorcycles rolled in to the motel (including a ZX14R identical to mine) as we kicked back over some cold drinks and chewed the fat over the trip so far. We headed for the local pizzeria for our evening meal, however, they were struggling to cope with the demand so we had Thai food at the local club instead – and got drenched walking home in the pouring rain afterwards! It was incredibly humid for this area and the rain continued most of the night.

An identical ZX14R to mine, complete with the sameYoshi pipes

Day 3 Monday 3rd Nov

The plan for Monday was a loop through the Snowys, back to Corryong for coffee and then to Mitta Mitta, along the Omeo Hwy and take the turn up to Falls Creek and then to our digs in Mt Beauty. As we started to ascend into the mountains the storm damage from the night before became obvious, with a lot of tree branches blown across the road. We actually had to stop and wait as a huge tree trunk was removed by forestry workers. And as if wet roads and stacks of bark litter weren’t challenging enough, fog enveloped us the higher we climbed.

Again it was just a matter of settling into a nice rhythm and riding to the conditions. I found it exhilarating and thoroughly enjoyed the early morning run through the mountains. By the time we reached Elliot Way the sun was out. I pulled into a place that I always enjoy, namely the lookout and memorial to the Southern Cloud – Australia’s first commercial aviation disaster in 1932. I love the history and the views.

It was getting hot by the time we finished brunch in Corryong. After an enjoyable run along the Goulbourn Valley Hwy and the Yabba road we arrived in Mitta Mitta for a coffee break before tackling the twisties of the Omeo Hwy.

This is the place for them!

Relaxing on the banks of the Mitta Mitta river

Although it’s only 100kms to Falls Creek ski resort from Mitta Mitta it takes around two hours. It’s a beautiful motorcycling road in any weather conditions – and we got to experience all of them along the way! We ended the day’s riding with an absolutely brilliant descent in dry conditions from Falls to Mt Beauty. It is one of my all favorite sections of twisty mountain road and the road surface is excellent. And so ended an excellent day of motorcycling.

Day 4 Tues 2nd Nov (Melb Cup day) 

Tuesday dawned in Mt Beauty without a single cloud visible and all blue sky, an excellent morning for riding. Today we were heading home, however, there was still some great riding to come. We headed over the Towonga Gap to start the morning and then through Bright and down to Oxley and along the King Valley to our breakfast stop at the Whitfield Cafe. It was a beautiful morning to ride through such picturesque countryside. There were plenty of large groups of motorcyclist on the move as well and we saw a few groups pass bye. A smaller group pulled in as we were about to leave. The ‘Whitty’ has access to high quality local food and their meals are excellent.

Along came a Spyder.

We said our farewells as the motorcyclists and drivers would part ways once we reached the other side of the range at Mansfield. Marty and I had a really nice run through the twisties between Whitfield and Mansfield and then it was pretty much just a boring slog via backroads back to Geelong.

Postscript

Many thanks to Bill for organising an excellent route and all the accommodation bookings. Thanks to all for being excellent travelling companions and for all the banter that was exchanged. Although around half of the roads were traveled were wet, we managed to actually avoid much of the rain whilst we were actually riding. Despite a dire weather forecast and some incredible storms we dodged the worst of it and had a great few days riding. I never tire of the Snowy Mountains and the surrounding foothills, not just for the excellent riding but also for the spectacular vistas and scenery. We had no mechanical issues at all and I did 1935kms in comfort and without any incidents or near misses, a great testimony to the capabilities of the big Kawasaki as a Sports- touring machine and modern waterproof riding gear. This trip was the 10th anniversary of Marty, Bill and I riding the Snowy Mountains together. Below is a pic of us in Canberra in 2005 on our first Snowy ride together and one of my Honda CBR600.