Trail riding, as we all know, is a great way to see the country. Trail bikes can go pretty much anywhere, and as long as you can keep the fuel flowing from support vehicles there aren't many places a good bike won't go.
And boy, is there plenty to choose from. Australia has a lot to offer the trail and long-distance adventure rider, and if you're looking for an unusual experience in a remote part of the country there are tour groups and trail ride organisers who can help you find it.
Hankering for a bit of remote area riding, in October I hooked up with the boys from the Silver City Motorcycle Club in Broken Hill for a ride they stage every year. Named after a local river, it's called the Anabranch Ride and it begins, in typical Australian fashion, from a butcher's shop in a Broken Hill side street. Starting from the meat locker accomplished two things: it gave us the opportunity to hoe into a large helping of bacon and eggs before the rider's briefing and a long day; and it helped break the ice with fellow riders.
After plenty of tucker and a coffee or two it was a short hop to the property where the ride proper would begin. After the rider briefing we headed out in twos and threes, while the property owner and his wife waved us off from the edge of an empty dam.
From there we rode about 250km on dirt and gravel secondary roads, many through local sheep and cattle stations, to a camp site on the much depleted Darling River. The ride takes you about as far west in New South Wales as you can go without actually entering South Australia, and it's 'blue bush country' all the way.
Most of Australia looks pretty dry right now but this part of Australia looks as though it hasn't seen rain for decades. You wonder how anyone lives out here and what the hell the sheep are eating.
The dust was as bad as I've ever seen it, but since the blokes who regularly sign up for the AnabranchRide are locals, they're experienced in these conditions and know how to handle it, even with high average speeds of around 80kmh. That's one thing about the Anabranch run you should know about: it's a high speed run nearly all the way. If you don't feel confident in your ability to keep up you might like to get a bit of flat knacker practice in before you go.
On the other hand, the ride is not what you'd call technical and there are very few obstacles. There were only two that I saw, one a washout that was soon marked with a rider, the other an exposed concrete pipe on the outside of a right-hand bend. I saw this thing a bit late and had to jump it, but if I can handle that anyone can. The run is not dangerous in my opinion, despite the relatively high average speed, and as I say, anything that does look a bit snarky is always indicated by a rider parked on top of it.
What's good about the Anabranch Ride? The country's interesting, the blokes are friendly, the tucker's great and it gets you out of the house. Quads are welcome too – we had six with us this year – and in general the organisers can't do enough to help you enjoy the blue bush experience to the full.
Know Before you Go:
Take a good Camelbak or other hydration system – you're going to need it!
For after or before the ride, Broken Hill has plenty to see and do. You can check out the late Pro Hart's art gallery, which houses one of the largest private art collections in the southern hemisphere (along with Pro's collection of Rolls Royce cars!). It's open Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm, and Sundays from 1.30pm to 5.00pm, at 108 Wyman Street,Broken Hill, tel (08) 8088 2992 or visit www.prohart.com.au. In fact there are a stack of artists living and working out here, with lots of galleries, but for something really different take a five-minute trip out of town to visit the Sculpture Symposium, which stands on a hill top and give you a great view over the surrounding countryside. Sunset is a particularly good time to view the sculptures.
The old deserted ghost town of Silverton, about 25km northwest of Broken Hill, is now anything but, with a heap of art galleries and a great old pub which has featured in several films.
Step back in time with a visit to the Daydream silver mine, on the road between Broken Hill and Silverton, to see how silver was mined in the region back in the 1880s. It's open seven days, tel: (08) 8088 4352.
Although it's in NSW, Broken Hill observes Central Standard Time along with South Australia and the Northern Territory, so it's 30 minutes behind Eastern Standard Time.
For more information:
For more information on the Anabranch Run itself email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Dean Winders, tel: 0418 858 482 and tell 'em Bazz sent ya.
For a guide to Broken Hill, including attraction and accommodation, visit: www.visitbrokenhill.com.au.