We really, REALLY didn’t want to ride on the highway between Port and Kempsey. Wouldn’t have wanted to before the upgrade with lack of shoulder, and speeds.
It’s possibly worse during construction, as in this section, a lot of the dual carriageway upgrade follows the alignment of the current/old highway.
There are two dirt roads connecting the north shore of Port to Crescent Head.
We have driven on Point Plomer road in a 4WD, and knew it to be sandy in parts, so we didn’t think that would be doable for our loaded tandem. We asked around, and googled, and while Maria River Rd didn’t get a great rap, we decided that, as it was (supposedly) navigable by 2wd, we’d give it a go.
(See the blurb for Day 3 as the whys and wherefores of opting for a short day.)
[I’m going to get Marc to write a more technical appraisal of the road condition with respect to the tyres we were riding… but the bottom line is that it was corrugated to hell, and its reputation was well-founded.
The corrugations were so severe that we had to ride REALLY SLOWLY. I’m talking 6kph kind of ‘slowly’ in parts. With the Captain telling the stoker to ‘stop pushing!’ (Not something I’ve ever heard before from the front end of our tandem!)
It still nearly rattled your teeth out, and was agony on the bum.
The road crosses the border of Kempsey and Hastings Council. With Hastings being the more well off of the two councils, you’d think they’d have a bit more money to throw at road maintenance. Not so, it seems. The Kempsey side was bearable… but within 200m of passing the boundary sign the road was clearly worse.
As with any dirt road, the condition can vary according to when maintenance was last done. With two councils in the mix, it would be difficult to time your run, even if you could get the information. You could get lucky… but that’s a real lottery.
There are a number of tea tree farms along the road, and it thus cops a bit of heavy truck traffic. A few k’s from the end we pulled off the road to keep clear of an oncoming huge truck with a ginormous tipper on the back. He slowed to a stop to talk to us – basically to ask whether we were completely nuts!
People we talked to about it afterwards said they’d heard of cars getting shaken apart on that road.
So is it rideable? Well, sure… we did it, didn’t we? Would we do it again? I don’t think I would. It was crazy slow, and it was agony on the butt, and arms. Perhaps worse for both Captain and Stoker on a tandem. (I was super glad I wasn’t the one steering and braking on that surface.) It might be ok on a mtb with great suspension.
When you’re not putting power through your pedals, the load transfers to your other contact points on the bike. If you want a hyper intense (and overly long) isometric triceps workout, then go for it. (agony!)
I’m still trying to figure out how much service road there will be running alongside the completed highway upgrade. At best guess from the upgrade map there might be some, and so, given the shoulders should be pretty good, once the upgrade is completed (end of 2017 I think), I’d be inclined to go that way, and take a break at Telegraph Point. (That will be nice and peaceful down by the river once the highway traffic over the bridge has gone.)
All the while we were riding Maria River Rd, I was thinking about what tourism opportunity it would be for the councils to upgrade the road so it was a viable cycle tourist route. Knowing what I know of councils, it’ll never happen in my lifetime.
A link to zoomable map on Strava on the route we took :