On our final day of this trip, we revisited an old favourite but, since we have explored many of the roads to Sydney, we didn’t discover much that was brand new but I didn’t mind one bit because the ones we did travel on are just great.
We left Mudgee a little later than we usually would, our last day on the road, and not too far to go meant we relaxed a little (possibly a little hungover).
Our first destination was Hill End, the route took us north out of Mudgee, towards Gulgong, and then turning off to the helpfully named Hill End Road.
This road is great; it starts off lined with gum trees hanging heavily over the road, backed by farmland and the occasional farm house, and becomes dryer, higher and more isolated as we near Hill End.
The road surface varies between beautifully smooth, deformed camber and, in one place, serious potholes requiring careful riding to avoid heavy bumps or worse.
We were also reminded of the remoteness of the area as we spotted several old abandoned homes where it was clearly easier to leave and build on another part of the land than knock down and start again. The same went for vehicles, seeing various homes surrounded by abandoned cars and caravans, and not just the classic rusting machines that are a favourite of rural photographers.
Seventy kilometres later we arrived in Hill End, an historic settlement in the heart of old gold mining country. It had a population of 8,000 in the gold mining days, but is now tiny and sparsely populated, it is working hard to preserve its history and attract visitors rather than declining into a ghost town.
We have been to Hill End before (I wrote about that visit here) but things have changed a little in 3 months. We had coffee and a snack at the coffee shop housed in the bakery and general store, turns out the the National Parks and Wildlife Service had recently taken over the business and created a lovely Visitor Centre in the centre of the town; not sure what has happened to the old one we visited in October but it was rather ratty looking so it may have been replaced.
I had a little explore of the town, on foot – it’s incredible to think that this place used to be home to around 8,000 and now it only has around 200 inhabitants.
We left Hill End, following the road to Sofala, and then turned towards Ilford, a route we have followed several times before and which never fails to impress us. Our maps actually show the road between Hill End and Sofala to be unsealed but I can confirm it has recently been tarmacced and a great job they have done too. More great surface, more lovely views.
Our return to Sydney was via Lithgow, the Bells Line of Road (another favourite) and the M7 and M2 motorways. By the time we were done, we had covered over 4,400 kilometres during 58 hours of riding. Feeling very pleased with ourselves; not sure when we’ll do our next trip but it’s given me plenty of food for thought for a longer trip… who knows? It might even be the whole of Australia next time or even the world! Well, maybe not next time but it’s certainly an option for the future.