Each year FarRiders create a FarRally that allows like minded Long Distance Riders to put to the test their routing, riding, problem solving and photography skills. Riders are given a common list of rules, locations, tasks and points to consider. The goal is to collect as many points as you can within 36 hours,. With safety as an absolute priority, points are also awarded for a compulsory continuous rest break and checking in with FarRally HQ within set timeframes. Disqualifications are awarded to participants for not observing the road rules of whatever State they may be in at the time. Double demerits and a huge Police presence over the Easter weekend also added focus to abiding with the statutes.
There are no prizes for winners, but everyone did get a coffee mug at the beginning that we got to keep at the end. If the mug arrived back at FarRally HQ in one piece 500 points to boot. For this FarRally a ride of at least 1000km collecting a minimum of 50,000 points was required to be recognised as a “Finisher”.
This was my third FarRally attempt, the first two were pretty ordinary in terms of my performance. While I managed to be classified as a finisher in both, my attention to detail and silly errors made were very frustrating. Errors translate to lost points at the scoring table and I was determined to ride this FarRally without “stuffing up”. Having set that goal I was 4 minutes late to the start and incurred a 30 minute time penalty. Not a great start and one that bit hard later on.
Jumping back a bit, at 6pm on Good Friday at the Cundle Motel, Cundletown (FarRally HQ) all riders were given a rally flag, a booklet containing all the bonus locations (including GPS co-ordinates), point values and instructions to be carried out at each location. The rally flag was to be included in every photo along with anything else mentioned in the instructions for each. All bonuses collected along the way were to be recorded consecutively in a ride log.
With all the necessary information given each rider found a quiet place to develop a route to collect as many points as required. There were bonus locations in Queensland, NSW, South Australia and Victoria. It was not possible to visit all, or even close to all, the locations. That was the point, we needed choose a route wisely to maximise points. Generally as the locations became more distant the relevant points increased. But some remote locations were included as bait to trick people who might try to overreach. Getting back late was a costly mistake at 100 points per minute.
So, I rode off into the rain half an hour after all but one other competitor who was also late to the start. My plan was to pick up some bonuses in Bulga, Old Dubbo Gaol, Narromine, Grong Grong and Narrandera on the way to Urana NSW where a huge bonus was available. The kicker was that the big points bonus at Urana expired at 6pm so being late wasn’t an option. This meant riding over 1000kms to ride in 11.5 hours instead of the 12 hours I had originally planned. I had to ride at an overall average of 90kph (including stops) to make it. The auxillary tank on the ST1300 gave me sufficient range to only need to fuel up once but the stops/checking instructions/photos/paperwork made the time off the bike much less efficient than on a normal IBA run. Weatherzone showed rain at least all the way to Dubbo (515kms) and it was right.
It was hard going in the pouring rain and as I approached Mt Thorley (220kms) I decided to give Bulga (about 500 points) a miss and head straight to Dubbo. The rain eased off a bit as I approached Dubbo where I stopped for the first time (526kms) for fuel and to take a snap at the Old Dubbo Gaol in a momentary break between showers.
The kids were very interested in what I was up to. One thing about these events is that you can’t be shy about looking a bit strange. Given the progress in the wet I decided I needed to forego the attractive points available at Narromine and head south. My half hour penalty was really all that dictated this decision, an 1800+ point miss. It turned out to be the right decision time wise.
The rain turned to showers and then some relief from the web through Parkes, where I sent my first checkin text, and Forbes (680kms) but the rain was back by the time I reached my next bonus at Grong Grong (900kms).
On the way there one of a number of suicidal birds I hit during that leg knocked off the right mirror which tore off it’s tether and went rolling down the road. Fortunately it went back on, the wiring went back together restoring the blinker and some duct tape kept it secure for the rest of the ride.
There was a small bonus at Naranderra that required searching for a name on one of the four or five war memorials in a park I decided to let go, time was getting short to get to Urana for over 5000 points. On the Federation Way I did manage to snap a 500 point bonus for this sign though.
I made Urana (1005kms) with 20 minutes to spare at 5.40pm, phew! A local FarRider, Mel, was waiting. The photo required Mel (who was leaving a 6pm), the bike, the flag and the words on each of the gate posts to be visible. I grabbed that photo
and a second smaller bonus there.
I had a chat with Mel, ate a muesli bar, a packet of sultanas and said my goodbyes. I rode towards some very dark clouds and into the night to Wagga Wagga. The time pressure was off and despite the weather I was feeling pretty good. Night time presents it’s problems taking photos, but fortunately the next bonus location at the War Memorial in Wagga Wagga (1112kms) was well lit. It was still raining though.
My original plan was to leave Wagga for Gundagai (fuel) and then to a bonus on the Hume Hwy at Jugiong then duck back west for some pics in Cowra and Bathurst. I got a bit turned around and rode around Wagga trying to find the quickest way to the Hume. The GPS had other things in mind. It took me through Wagga North towards the Wantabadgery Road and Oura. I knew the road but it wasn’t really one I wanted to ride in the dark. I turned around, tried to trick the GPS but after a while just gave up and followed it. Fortunately the rain cleared and I even got a few peeks at the moonlight along here and had a bit of fun on the bends at the Gundagai end.
I stopped for fuel and to call home at the Dog on the Tuckerbox. During the call my wife who had been watching my progress on Spotwalla and keeping an eye on the weather warned me of rain to the west and north past Canberra. So I put aside the Cowra, Bathurst route to head straight to Sydney after riding the short distance to the next bonus just south of Jugiong (1230kms). It wasn’t lit but the LED auxilary lights on the ST1300 sorted that out.
My wife’s warning was spot on and I hit encountered showers just north of Goulburn which gradually got heavier as I approached the big glow in the sky. The next bonus was at the Buelah Street Wharf, Kirribilli (1578kms). It wasn’t much fun riding through those steep, narrow, parked in streets at 1.30am but this location was part of a combination with Urana that provided a mass of additional bonus points. It also meant that I’d likely have collected enough points to be a finisher within the first 24 hours but i wasn’t completely sure. I should have known though, it was an error in my planning not to (note to self).
I parked the bike in a tiny spot between crammed-in cars and walked down the steps to the wharf with my helmet on and camera and flag in hand. To be honest I’m not all that comfortable walking around Sydney by myself in the wee hours but by the looks the people fishing on the wharf gave me as I approached it was clear that the scariest thing around there was me. Fortunately after some reassurance and explanation of the madness I was participating in, one of them offered to hold the flag while I took the required picture of the Opera House. You can see how the rain lit up in the sky. I took a moment to enjoy the view and chat with the fisherpersons.
I then rode up the Pacific Hwy through Chatswood, Turramurra and turned right onto the M1 towards Newcastle. It was now Easter Sunday and I’d committed to celebrating it with my family this morning despite it being in the middle of the ride. I arrived back in Newcastle with a touch over 1700kms ridden for the day and the compulsory, uninterrupted rest break to take. Note the trip meter includes the ride from Newcastle to Cundletown the day before. So definitely an Iron Butt distance for the day, but I won’t be getting this one certified.
Finishing Day 1 in Newcastle was great for the family occasion but not so great for the points. After breakfast and “Eastering” I left Newcastle just after 9.30am. I’d determined I had time to go back to Bulga for the photos it was too wet to take yesterday, a little redundant but 500 points close to home was worth it. Here’s one at the bridge,
the other of the Cockfighter’s Tavern. You can see that the weather had greatly improved from yesterday.
With everyone making their way back to Cundletown riders and plans were beginning to converge. I met up with Ed and Kiwimartin at Bulga, it was great to share a quick laugh and get back to it. It was time for me to turn and head back towards the finish. I knew there was a bonus in Branxton, not in my plan but I had the time. Ed was behind me at that point and pulled in next to me. He had a big old chuckle when he realised he’d stopped for 5 points. Ed rode the event on a KLR650…legend!
The back roads between Branxton and Bolwarra Heights make amazing riding, lovely scenery and lots of hills and corners. I really enjoyed that part of the ride testing the lean angle of MYST. I recalled seeing this sign at Paterson in the bonus book and I still had plenty of time so I stopped for 1 point and a chat with some local riders at the cafe nearby. It’s funny the attention you draw when you go about sticking a flag on stuff and taking photos.
Then it was onwards to Dungog for a good points haul at the old theatre, where I met up again with Ed and with a dynamic duo, Fatman and LTP who were participating two up without a GPS because of an issue with it and the wet.
The next stop was a memorial on the Bucketts Way where I caught up with Ed again and also Bruce on his Goldwing who’d been way out west.
A quick turn back to Perenti in Gloucester for lunch and to wait to get an electronic receipt after 2pm which was also a bunch of points. You got the feeling the organisers had set a funnel up for returning riders. From there it was back to Cundletown via Krambach and I rode the last leg with Ed and the pillion pair.
On the way into Cundletown I got very excited and pulled over at the “Welcome to Cundletown” sign. Ed and Fatman/Lynne scrambled to head over to the sign that I explained was a bonus location. They weren’t aware of it and I talked it up, with Ed comparing the sign with the photo in the rally book to determine it was the right one. Then the question was asked, “How much is it worth”. “1 Point”, I said. I copped a stern talking too and they left not wanting to worry about one point. I didn’t worry about it either, that’s not why I stopped :-).
Back at Rally HQ I checked in right on 4pm, produced my undamaged mug and went off for a shower and to complete the paperwork. But not before I took this one pointer. I’m not sure but I may have been the only one to claim this. My scorer had to ask the Rally Master for clarification in the one point claim,
I cleaned up deciding to get comfortable befored I undertook the collation of the paperwork and items I needed to submit to the scorer. I took it all to the scoring table and sat nervously while Enterprise checked everything thoroughly. I walked away very happy that I didn’t forget to include anything and didn’t lose any points for errors. I finished in 4th place with 63477 points and rode a touch over 2100kms for the 36 hours.
A BBQ dinner, a few drinks and the formal announcement of the podium finishers, Crappy, Derrick and Kiwimartin who earned hearty congratulations and respect from all the other participants. The organisers and helpers, Clint, Tabledrain, TigerBill, Enterprise, Warlord Cuddles, Lady Cuddles, OX (hope I haven’t forgotten anyone) worked together to put on a fantastic event and their efforts were greatly appreciated by everyone who took part. If you are seriously interested in long distance riding, look up FarRiders, become one and enter next year’s. It’s a blast.
Here’s the route I took, Spotwalla went a bit mental between Sydney and Newcastle, I only did that bit once