Cyclops and the Punts: One Eye is Sometimes More than Enough
I forgive you if you can’t work out what the blazes I’m on about this time. My mate Campbell once told me that I was an obscurantist, and I guess he’s right – but hang in. Let me explain...
I’d been punting (er, sorry) the Harley- Davidson Street 500 around the city and on my way to and from work for a while, and I thought I’d better give it a bit of a run. Seeing the temperature outside Sydney was 40 degrees, it was however going to be only a bit of a run – I thought 200km or so would be just about right, and the 5 Punts looked like the way to go. Maybe it would be cooler by the Hawkesbury. In case you’re wondering, it wasn’t. Fortunately I have a BMW Venting riding suit, which is brilliant in really hot conditions.
Now to make it interesting. This run is actually interesting enough in its own right, but seeing it was relatively short I thought I’d try something different. The idea that finally worked its way through to the front in the congestion in my brain was: how about I take all the photos from one position? I dug out my RAM handlebar mount and fitted one of the cameras to the bar of the Harley, and with the view screen of the camera tilted up I was good to go. So all the photos, except for the one of the bike itself taken at the Sackville Ferry, were snapped from handlebar level on the H-D Street using its one-eyed “cyclops” eye. Those RAM mounts are effective and versatile; take a look at them on the web.
The map is a bit of a rat’s nest of routes, so let me break with tradition and just quickly describe them here as well as on the back of the map.
The Orange route, starting from Berowra and ending at Hornsby, is the base route. It includes little gravel. If you return from St Albans to the Webbs Creek ferry by the road you took up there, almost none. The Pink route is gravel from Lower Portland to Webbs Creek, while the Yellow route is all tar, most of it pretty good, and leaves you at Peats Ridge. But let’s get going.
I started snapping on my way down to the ferry at Berowra Waters. This is a lovely run, although very tight, and it certainly gave the Street 500 something to think about – not to mention its rider – but both coped well.
With a small cafe? at the eastern end of the ferry crossing and a much larger one in the west, this is quite a well-served little place. Try to get off the Ferry first so you don’t get stuck behind a car on the ways up the other side of the valley, because it’s fun.
A plant nursery and cafe? called Greenshades greets you straight ahead as you roll into Galston. The cafe? is expensive, but their coffee is alright. There are other shops, and a cheaper cafe? called Rosie’s.
Solomon Wiseman certainly picked his location when he built his punt and the pub here back in colonial days. The little town has a full range of services, including a doctor whose assistance we have required on one memorable occasion. The pub of course is a much-loved motorcyclists’ destination. There are no services at the northern ferry wharf.
The Settlers Arms is a small stone building surrounded by shade trees and offers the usual liquid refreshments and quite good food. It has accommodation out the back, and camping across the road in front on the banks of the Macdonald River.
On the Pink route, Windsor offers a full range of services plus an impressive pub. We usually stop for
a coffee just opposite the pub, where parking is normally available. The bridge over the Hawkesbury is set to be demolished and replaced, but I imagine the authorities will make sure that there is always some kind of crossing available. This is the route that leads up to the Putty Road.
The Ebenezer church is a little way off the route on the banks of the river, and it’s worth a look all by itself. But it also has a little cafe? run by some local ladies, and their scones are just excellent.
A good refreshment stop if you haven’t succumbed to the coffee perfume in Windsor.
On the Yellow route, the place to keep in mind is Spencer. Set at the confluence of Mangrove Creek and the Hawkesbury, it has a pleasant and motorcycle-friendly little restaurant/servo. There’s seating on the bank of the creek and a reasonable amount of parking.
A small shopping centre offers a chance to rehydrate here. Don’t forget that you need to keep your fluids up!
Finally, and just off our map at
the end of the yellow line, the Corrugated Cafe? provides nice big burgers and another chance to meet some more motorcyclists. At last look, the service station across the road appeared to have shut.
Distance: Call it more or less 200km, depending on the
route you take.
Ferry closing times: All ferries run 24 hours a day, except as below. Berowra Waters, 2nd Tuesday of the month between 12 noon and 14.30; Sackville, 1st Wednesday of the month between 12.45 and 15.00; Lower Portland, 1st Wednesday of the month between 09.00 and 11.00 and nightly between 12 midnight and 0500; Webbs Creek: 1st Tuesday of the month between 09.30 and 12 noon; Wisemans Ferry, no closure (they have a spare ferry).
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The Orange route is the basic one here. Start at Berowra shops on Highway 1 and turn
down the road opposite the railway station. It’s signposted to Berowra Waters; just follow the signs fairly carefully (there are a couple of sharp corners) until the road takes you out of the built-up area. You’ve got a terrific piece of tight and generally well-surfaced road in front of you now all the way down to
the ferry; just watch for oncoming traffic, because it can be very narrow. The ferry is straight ahead when you get to the bottom.
Once across, try to avoid getting stuck behind a car or worse yet a truck; the road up is just as much fun as the road down. Follow the signs to Galston through some pleasant horse studs and the like. In Galston, turn right and then take the right-hand exit at the big roundabout just outside of town. This will take you out to the Old North Road, where you turn right again. Five kilometres up the road you turn left into Cattai Ridge Road. This road eventually splits, and you want the right-hand branch again, to Cattai. Turn right at the T-intersection and left at the turn for Sackville.
Once over the ferry, continue a little way to the right-hand turn to Lower Portland. Be careful when you get there; it is possible to miss the ferry turnoff on the right. Once over this ferry, turn left along the River Road. This is now almost entirely paved, and it will take you through some terrific countryside, sticking almost entirely to the river. At Webbs Creek, ride past the ferry and then do a U-turn; queuing is done from the Wisemans Ferry side. When you leave the ferry, stick to the right and a paved road will take you up to St Albans. You can return by the same road or, if you don’t mind a bit of rough surface, take Settlers Road on the eastern side of the Macdonald River. If you do that, the Wisemans Ferry ferry will take you to – Wisemans Ferry.
To get back to Sydney, take the steep road up the hill with its hairpin turn and then continue along Old North Road to the Galston turnoff on the left. This time right straight through Galston and continue down into Galston Gorge, which is another wonderful and rather tight run that leaves you at Asquith on the highway.
If you take the left branch of Cattai Ridge Road through Maraylya, you will reach the main road where
you turn left. At the McGraths Hill T-intersection, turn right and continue through Windsor and over the Hawkesbury Bridge. Turn right again in Wilberforce and consider taking the right turn to the Ebenezer Church if you feel like a cuppa; return to the main road when you’re hydrated and turn right. This takes you to the opposite side of the Sackville Ferry, so turn left at the Lower Portland turnoff and cross the ferry there. Now turn right, over the new bridge. There’s some tar, but once you get a bit further it becomes quite reasonable dirt – although the climb up the scarp is a bit tricky. At the top, turn right into Bicentennial Road and continue to Webbs Creek, where you cross the river, and cross it again at Wisemans Ferry.
You can continue back to Sydney via Mangrove Mountain, or return across the ferry and take the Orange route home.