Something that is inevitable when adventure riding is the all dreaded locked gate. Depending on an individual’s style of adventure riding, it will depend on how likely the chance of coming across this challenge, for different trips and people it can mean different things and this became all to clear in my last solo adventure ride from Brisbane to Bathurst.
It was early morning and I was setting off on a planned solo 4 day ride down to Bathurst which was to include some known tracks and roads as well as some unknown trails and national parks. Knowing my way through South East QLD and Northern NSW saw me avoid any real issues. Heading south over the boarder Via Boonah, Paddys Creek, and down to Rocky River Road with no interruptions of any sort. A track well-traveled by myself and
others. It was not until I got further south and into some more scenic national parks that the threat of big brother became apparent.
I understand that some gazetted roads travel through private land, and I also understand some property owners do not want people camping, shooting and living on their land. But I can not understand why land owners feel the need to lock gates on gazetted roads and display threatening signs. Just as confusing to me is national parks charging patrons just to pass through which was the biggest frustration I encountered. It never ceases to amaze me how some owners are so welcoming and some are so negative and hostile.
As I was riding down Rocky River Road, I enjoyed turning off and taking a back trail through Spirabo State Forest, a trail for the more advanced adventure riders, it is a great trail which can take you a more interesting route to Deep Water and down to Glenn Innes. Now this trail does cross on private land and has multiple gates, however never have I seen the gates locked or nasty signs on display. Why is this? Is it because the land owner is ok with the occasional passer-by? Maybe they do not even know people are using this trail? Or possibly they are just not one to cause a fuss and let sleeping dogs lay. I don’t know but
I am thankful for the fact that me and others get to respectfully pass through without causing damage or disgust and get to enjoy the beauty that is there.
On the flip side as I continued my ride south I came across Oxley Rivers National Park, which was on my list of places to visit. Now I admit I did not pl
an ahead as I did not know if I would make it that way or if luck would have me travel a different way. I was also unaware of the obstacle I was about to encounter and the frustration it could cause. I was later in the day, raining, cold and pretty miserable. As I turned off Kempsey Rd and started heading down the national parks road I did notice a sign that had said locked gates ahead. However with my previous experience over the years I had learned that this is not always the case and more times than not it is a locked gate to one place but passing through is fine.
I spotted a nice camp site on the map and headed there to set up. Already over the day of riding in the rain I had conceded to the fact I would be setting up camp in the wet, I made my way there. Only to find a locked gate in my way and a rather rude sign notifying me I was being watched by cameras. That didn’t bother me so much, just made me sad that these types of efforts are made to keep travelers OUT of some of Australia’s most beautiful places. So instead, being recorded or not I set up camp right next to the impassable gate, it was evident by the black circle on the ground and clearing I was not the first to have this idea. I spent the night pondering why this is the case.
The next day brought a misty morning and some interesting riding as I followed down the main trail through the national park. The map showed one way to a dead end and another which should have led me through this beautiful national park. Met with a “Y” intersection I decided to check out the dead end anyway. After a few quick km I was met by another locked gate, This one I could understand as it looks as though this was the entrance to some kind of four wheel drive park which was privately owned and operated, fair enough, on the map it went no where anyway, so turn around and back to the main trail.
Once back on the main trail I thought surely I will just follow this through and make my way out the other side and out to a fuel stop and more trails! WRONG! 15km down the amazing trail I was stopped once again by an impassable locked gate, and surveillance cameras (I actually found these cameras high in the trees). It would appear as though I was not getting through this beautiful national park. Defeated, frustrated and running out of fuel I had no choice but to make my way 40km out of the bush and a further 60km to my closest fuel. Why? Well when I checked my national parks map a little more closely, the ledger for this national park mentions it has an entry fee. Not like a “Hey, pop $5 in the honesty box and pass through.” No a “You get to travel half way through the park to then be stopped because you do not have the code for the key box!” annoying to say the least. So back I went, with a sour taste in my mouth, to find another way.
Continued on further south I stumbled across an amazing road which joined Nundle and Scone. It was 120km of pure dirt adventure riding heaven, with amazing views, beautiful bends, lovely creek crossings! However to my surprise there was a very hostile vibe when traveling this road. I did not encounter any locked gates or obstructions, but at the entrance of every paddock (whether it be through gate or cattle grid) were some very stern signs of, Private Property, 24hr surveillance (again which I saw cameras), no camping or shooting, chance of prosecution. Which really put a dampener on the experience. It was clearly a road with reflector markers and infrastructure however obviously passers by were not welcome. Which begs the question, where is it ok to ride and explore?
After these experiences over the 4 days of riding I found myself confronted and confused. I am no angel, and have bypassed a locked gate purely for the thrill of adventure and exploration however to have such challenges posed upon me via merely following a national parks trail or road begs the question. Why do we see these gates being locked? Is it to stop outsiders? Or purely because someone doesn’t want to share? Is the system stopping people from wanting to come to these parts of this beautiful land to experience it? Is it revenue raising? What are your thoughts?