Upcot Station to French’s Pass


At 7pm last night we wandered up the track from the shearers’ quarters to the house. The property is 36 thousand acres, and has been in the family for three generations. The farmhouse is old, wi thick walls and low ceilings. Dinner was was BBQ roasted merino lamb with home grown veggies and mint potatoes. Our hosts, Bill and Nicky, the seven of us and half a dozen grey haired 4WD-ers ate at a huge timber outdoor table and got to know each other better as the light faded. The boys told their stories of travel and adventure, and the locals told us what to look out for as we continued our journey.

We were all in bed by 10:30pm, and I didn’t hear a snore until it was starting to get light outside.

Bill and Nicky had prepared us a breakfast of bacon, scrambled eggs, sausages, toast fruit and cerial, with fresh brewed coffee. We packed before breakfast, and headed off into a light drizzle.

The overnight dew and the patchy drizzle kept the dust down. As we rode, the track steadily improved, with increasing sections of tarmac. The only scare we had this morning was a cattle grate on a bend in the road. Both Andrew and I felt our bikes kick out sideways as we crossed the wet steel grate… but even that was nothing, really. We turned off at the Mt Taylor Pass road, which put us back on the dirt for a while, before descending into a valley of vineyards and irrigated farmland, with a perfect twisty bitumen road through the middle of it.

That took us to Blenheim on the east coast, where we stopped for fuel and worked out the rest of our route for the day. From there we headed west, and made our way toward French’s Pass. We stopped for groceries in one of the last major towns along our route, and watched as the threatening clouds rolled in. We donned out wet weather gear and headed off again. True to form, the weather held, we made it to our lunch stop dry.

The further we went, the smaller, steeper and twistier the road got. Throughout the day, the landscape changed. Where the roads were paved, the landscape tended to be dense forest; when we hit dirt again, we were back in open country, but this time is was on the coast, and climbed high, clinging to the side of hills which presented a sheer drop to the water. The whole landscape here, and on the surrounding islands, is one of steep hills jutting strait from the water.

Not far from our destination, the lads saw some wheel tracks that headed up the ridge line of a grassy hill. They headed straight up it. Well, all but Matt, who manage to get his bike stuck in the ditch and bank on the side of the road, and me, who stayed behind and used the opportunity to take photos.

The house we’re in is perched on the side of the hill, overlooking the township and the jetty. Spag Bol is simmering on the stove, and the boys are playing what sounds like black jack, as some bargain bin CD of 60s pop songs plays in the background.

This place is lovely. I’ve heard just about everyone say they could stay here for the week. The view from the kitchen alone is worth the trip.

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