The final part of our journey in the spirit of explorer Clement Hodgkinson from the Macleay River to the Bellinger, riding off the beaten track through state forests and national parks. Part 1 took us from Frederickton on the Macleay River to Taylors Arm, and then in part 2 we climbed to the high point on Bowra Sugarloaf before descending to Buckra Bendinni and the Nambucca River.
From Bowraville, we now ride through the lush green pastures of the Missabotti valley. On your left is the distinctive peak of Crooked Top Mountain. The Moran family were early settlers in the Missabotti valley, and later on we’ll pass Moran Brothers peak, at over 560m.
Towards the end of the Missabotti valley, after the road has become dirt, turn onto Bellbucca Rd to climb onto the range and join Rickersbys Road. This road forms a border between Irishman SF and Juugawaarri Nature Reserve. The name Juugawaarri means “a good place to rest awhile”. A short detour will take you down to Cooks Creek and old growth forests, a very pretty place for a rest.
Rickersbys Rd follows a beautiful ridge through Gladstone State Forest with views over the steep forested slopes. Be prepared for logging trucks.
Reids Creek Rd joins from the right – you could take a short detour here along Reids Creek Rd to the point where a walking track climbs up Mt Gladstone (628m). Otherwise keep left and Rickersbys Road runs down to the Kalang River.
Shortly after crossing the Kalang, turn onto Short Cut Trail to climb up onto the Scotchman’s range and the home run into Bellingen. It says something about culture and ways of living (and navigating?) that the local Gumbaynggirr named things from the environment – quoll (baalijin, now Bellingen), spiky grass (Tamban), crooked river (Nambucca). But the settlers named places after their father-in-law, boss or other people they wanted to impress (Gladstone, Macleay, Belmore) or to not so subtly stake their claim (Irishman, Scotchman).
Hodgkinson climbed the range and described the view of the escarpment and a waterfall:
“The view from the range was magnificent. At our feet was the narrow glen of the Bellengen, choked up with dark green impervious brush, whilst immediately opposite us on the north side of the river, a gigantic range rose up in perpendicular buttresses, three thousand feet high… Exactly opposite to us, in a deep cleft, a beautiful cascade dashed down a fall.. like a long band of silver, glittering in the rays of the declining sun…”Clement Hodgkinson in Australia, from Port Macquarie to Moreton Bay, 1845
Lots of cafes in Bellingen for refreshments to celebrate the end of the 180km or so ride from the Macleay.