By Duncan Bennett.
Rydges Resort, scene of the 2020 Compass Expeditions Reunion. After an unpack, it was off to the bar to greet old mates and meet other Compass ride veterans. This event attracts people from far and wide so there are about as many boring moments as toilet paper rolls in the local Woollies. A wander up the road for excellent pizza and the usual endless accompanying hilarity, and it was time for bed.
Day 6 had been a source of anticipation and worry for a few months. We’d been asked by Craig Jackson of Compass to give a presentation on our riding travels at the reunion dinner. Having first ascertained that Craig hadn’t been spotted on a Harley and rightfully sacked by Compass and was seeking some extreme vengeance, or was emailing from his new asylum cell, we’d dangerously said yes. Fortunately for the crowd, we weren’t the headline act as this is rightfully reserved for someone who’s done something way out of the ordinary. So after a very good reunion lunch and reunioning with more old friends and meeting lots of people, the normal options of a dirt ride or road ride were chosen by the gathered mob. The headline act did the dirt ride – on a Triumph Thruxton café racer mind you – demonstrating her capabilities as a rider. Heather Ellis is the embodiment of a freak adventure rider, she rode up Africa by herself in the 1990’s before the invention of instant communications and rode through countries like the DRC at a time when people could still just disappear out there. She’s written a couple of great books about the Africa ride and her return to Australia via the endless part of Asia including Russia. It was a real honour for us to be the supporting act to Heather, and it earned us a free glass of red from Compass founder Mick McDonald, probably because we knew secrets about him but had only broadly hinted at them.
Day 7 to Day 10 followed the Compass Reunion routine, riding out either with the Dirt People who took pleasure in adventure motorcycling, or with the Café Latté Parté who had motorcycles but for whom the primary pleasure was finding ridiculously expensive coffee. To spread the benefits to burned out and now saturated towns we were taken to Batemans Bay for one night, then Mallacoota in Victoria for another night before returning to wrap things up in Jindabyne.
As anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of geology will tell you, the Palaeozoic Era sediments with Ordovician Flysch sequences and interspersed Berridale and Bega Batholith granitoid intrusion events create an ideal environment on the Monaro Plains for adventure riding. We’re not geologists but the wide-open treeless plains with relatively straight roads and long lines of sight to spot any ADHD cows, coupled with the granite sand road surfaces allow for some great fast and fun rides. The propensity – meaning an inclination or natural tendency to attempt drifties – out there is insatiable.
Down in the very south-east of NSW and into Victoria the hilly logging country running down to the coast provides a few more challenges, but only the main roads had been re-opened after the bushfires and it was often a “ride in and see” experience. Our longest failed “ride in and see” occurred on the Cooma – Braidwood road on the way to Batemans Bay when we managed to get 35km up the dirt past Numeralla before not only was there an oft-ignored road closed sign, but actual road workers who said no for good reason. Full retreat was required, and a series of farm roads were travelled at variable pace, including getting stuck for a while behind an uncaring grader driver who already had several destroyed adventure bike carcasses tangled in his blade, to eventually reach Braidwood way behind Café Latté Parté. Most of the riding wasn’t terribly technical, and the burned-out undergrowth allowed for some great vision from the hills which made it very enjoyable.
One section on the last day inspired calls to health insurance providers, last minute updates to wills, and reciting of Scripture. Timbillica Road and following logging tracks through valley and hill country near the border was designed to cut the corner off between the Princes Highway and the fabulous Imlay Road. Craig was later to say; “I don’t remember it being that tricky while seated in the 4WD with the independent suspension, wide off-road tyres, windows up, perfect air-conditioned temperature, and awesome tunes lined up on the Playlist”. The road surface itself wasn’t that bad, a bit rutted in the low sections, but the creeks were more like very deep table drains and to prevent wash-out and possible inconvenience to stable vehicles with 4 large patches of contact with the earth, large basalt clinker the size of 6-egg cartons had been used as rough sheeting. The first one was only about 300m off the highway, I was following Craig closely, and I saw him slow then briefly disappear before popping up on the other side. As I was close, I had to stop, and this was a bit like a brief delay being called as you lie under the guillotine; relaxed is a hard state to achieve. The difficulty appeared to be that the sheeting had not been packed into smooth single rut lines but was cut with nasty ridges at all angles. Sheeting myself, is what I should do on these roads in future I thought as I rode into the maw. As always on these types of crossings, momentum is a friend as the physics of a fast moving yet quivering mass is overwhelming, and even though the totally wrong line was taken over the worst bits I popped up on the other side with physiology and reputation undamaged.
A few more of the same nature were crossed before an extremely welcome coffee stop on the intersection with Imlay Road provided an opportunity to sponge up the excess terror sweat and offer up empty muesli bar wrappers to the gods of practice and luck. Hitting the bitumen, the Imlay Road confirmed its reputation as one of the best engineered roads in Australia – the speed can be set at around 100±5kmh (plus preferably) and the relentless sweeping bends just soaked up while keeping a weather eye on the horizon for log trucks. A Nimmitabel lunch rounded off the reunion on-road luncheons, before what was some of the best dirt roads, I’ve ever experienced at the top of the Monaro Plains past the Boco Rock Wind Farm and into Dalgety. One final ride past a dead wombat with a spray-painted red cross on it – presumably the work experience kid on the Council gang is told where to pick them up after they’ve had a chance to “mature” – on the Jindabyne Dam wall and we were back to Rydges Resort.
If you would like to read Cindy and Duncan’s full ride report it can be found on here at The Travelling Bennetts blog page: https://travellingbennetts.wordpress.com/
If you would like to take part in the 2021 Compass Expeditions Reunion ride then email your interest to firstname.lastname@example.org to be notified when the dates and details are released.