‘Gone Bush’
informal, Australian and New Zealand
a. to abandon city amenities and live rough
b. to run wild

We plan so many great rides in the Madcat club, but sometimes you just want to sit in the bush, in a chair, in front of a fire. So that’s it. I had the idea for my Gone Bush ride. I posted the ride on the Madcat website long before I knew where we were going, or how we were going to get there. But the idea was solid. The location was out there somewhere, I just had to find it.

We had a great turn out of eight ‘Madcatters’ at our Yarra Junction meeting place. Due to an early morning technology fail, I was the last to turn up to my own ride. My fancy UHF radio to helmet comms decided it was not going to work on this particular weekend. Technology can be equally impressive and frustrating. ‘Serenity now!’ I arrived in enough time to say a very quick g’day and gather everyone for the ride brief. I talked Daniel Huggins into leading his first ride while I swept the group. Soon enough we were winding through Acheron Way. The sun cutting through the forest fog made spectacular pillars of light that seemed solid enough to touch. I love those fleeting moments when adventure riding.

A quick stop in Marysville to wrestle with our favourite unmanned pre-paid fuel bowser before we headed off for our longest stretch, a well-maintained dirt road through Matlock to Licola. The lunch plan was simple. Stop when we get to Matlock. It sounds easy when you are planning these things on the map. Matlock was a farmhouse and not much else so the whole group cruised on past without realising. After a while our rumbling tummies told us that we should at least stop on the side of the road for a tank bag special.

By this time we were on South Road, a well-maintained scenic road that links Matlock and Licola. Turning on to the last stretch towards Licola, a road closure provided us with an amazingly picturesque detour through Licola North on Target Creak Road. It took us through spectacular unfenced farmland and past houses where I reckon the occupants might prefer their road was hidden from too many out-of-towners.

We decided on one of the many beautiful camps along the picturesque Wellington River. We set up camp with plenty of time to open a cold one and set a fire. Most riders unpacked their favourite chair except Matus, who decided the bush would provide. He went off searching for the perfect rock to sit on and after a while, we found him using all of his considerable strength to push a chair-sized rock up the riverbank. He was almost at the fire when another camper offered him a spare chair. The look on Matus’ exhausted face was priceless! Like all good camping set ups, the fire became the centre of the nights’ entertainment. Lots of great stories, jokes and opinions on life.

It was a slow start in the morning, but there were no discernible hangovers. The peaceful the river was a perfect sleep backdrop, but still not enough to disguise one of the true hazards of moto camping, the snorers. . After a lot of standing around with camp coffee, a bunch of people began fixing panniers and putting on riding boots, a good reminder not to be the last one ready. After a group photo and a big thanks to our new friend with the extra chair we set off. Even though we selected well-maintained dirt roads for this trip, you cannot control how people choose to ride their own motorcycles. There was something in the camp coffee because I counted three ‘offs’ that morning, all of which were taking corners too fast and ending up in ditches. We were able to laugh about it as there were no injuries. Deans new bike wasn’t so lucky. His KLR received enough damage that, although it got him home, it was written off. So, can you ever plan for incident free adventure riding? No, you can’t.

After a quick stop in Walhalla for another tank bag lunch, we headed up to Mt Baw Baw. The group had a satisfying rhythm going at this stage, riding a little closer together, enjoying the repeated curves with a bit more pace. We could see the cloud cover getting closer and feel the temperature dropping as we ascended into the cloud covered turn off. The last stretch to the Powelltown pub seemed the longest as our throats were dry and our bums had had enough.

By Damian McGrath