Our original plan for today was to ride the Lakes Way to Bulahdelah. But then… we’d had a guy in the bike shop back at Laurieton ask Marc if we were going to go to Seal Rocks, and said that he’d heard of a road connecting the Seal Rocks road to Mungo Brush. As we hadn’t come across anything of it in my researching of routes, we kinda dismissed it… until our friend and host in Forster brought it up. He’d driven along it several years before, and thought it might be ‘doable’.
We then did some more specific google searches, and found some mentions of it… It sounded possible at the northern end, but overgrown, narrow, sandy and ‘puddly’ at the southern end. Hmmm.
Well, we resolved to call in at the National Parks Office at Booti Booti on our way along Lakes Way and find out. But first we had to get going….
I hadn’t had any coffee to get me going (yeah, pathetic, I know) so we stopped at a takeaway in the industrial estate on the way out. Bad idea… the guy hadn’t put the lid on the cup properly, so I ended up with coffee all down my front. Not a good mood starter to the day’s riding… on top of (for no good reason) not really having eaten enough for breakfast and feeling a bit weary from the get go.
The advice at the NPWS office about the road through Myall Lakes National park was “It’s great!” . It had a locked gate each end, but it’s maintained and graded all the way through, and we’d “love it”.
This meant we were headed to Hawks Nest instead of Bulahdelah.. half a day ahead of original plan, but an extra 20 odd k’s on today’s planned distance. We really should have started earlier!
It was still nearly 20k (from the NPWS office) to the Seal Rocks Rd turnoff, and there was some “discussion” about where best to get lunch before heading off into no-mans land for over 40k. We really,REALLY should have started earlier. It was not smart to start at 10am when there was a possibility for riding a different (and longer, and slower) route than originally planned.
You live and learn.
So, there was no time to detour into Smiths Lake … Apparently there was food at Bungwahl, just before the Seal Rocks Rd turn off, so we pressed on to there. It was a welcome sight.
The turnoff onto the Mining Road Trail was about 4.5k down Seal Rocks Rd… (and that included a nasty pinch that had me, stupidly, wondering (out loud) if we were in the lowest gear we could be in.. I won’t make that mistake again! Apart from a predictable response from the captain, the grade of that (as registering on the bike computer) then fed (over the following days) into some ‘conjecture’ (shall we say) about any of the significant hills we had yet to ride in the coming days (based on elevations Marc had noted from the ridewithgps routes we’d plotted.) In the end we didn’t have any big issues with any of those subsequent hills, so, either they weren’t quite as steep, or (more likely) I was having a bad day… not enough ‘fuel’, and (a refrain I came to utter to myself a lot more before the end of the trip – “We probably should have had a rest day.”
Anyway. We’d made the choice, so onwards it was! At least it was going to be pretty much vehicle free! (We did pass one NPWS vehicle.)
The wildflowers were really cool!
There were some other pretty sections, but I was loathe to make too many stops!
The road was ok, but it would have been faster (and more fun) on an mtb. It was a bit hairy in parts.. although still not as bad as Maria River Rd! (More detailed description on the route notes for this day…)
We were already pretty weary by the time we reached the tar at Mungo Brush – and we still had another 20 something k’s to Hawks Nest AND we hadn’t even booked any accommodation. Fortunately there was mobile coverage at Mungo Brush, (hot tip from the NPWS officer) so I was able to google, call, and book a motel room in Hawks Nest. The cloudy day made for a bit of a gloomy atmosphere (and a sense that we were going to run out of light before we got there.)
We stopped a couple of times on that last stretch. One to check out one of the campgrounds along the lake. (They actually close some of them during off-peak times to allow them to regenerate.)
And once to check out the huge sand dunes! (And chomp on a nut bar to get us through!)
Made it into Hawks Nest at 5.15. Big day. It was too late (and gloomy!) for any cold water pool therapy, but at least there was a restaurant in the motel resort (so we didn’t have to go food hunting), and we would have a shorter day than intended tomorrow.