Mazdas to Mudgee

15 June 2022 / Story: Chris Fondum; Brigid McCarthy; Peter & Annemie Wilson; Rod & Maryanne Nicholas Photos: Anda Clayton; Rod Nicholas; Rob Wilkinson

Mazdas to Mudgee 24-27 May, 2022

Day 1

The run started for us in Braidwood where we met Brian and Anda who had driven up that morning from Mollymook via the Clyde.  Conditions were generally good despite a little fog in parts and some storm damage and road works along the Braidwood/Goulburn road but we made good time and arrived in Goulburn for coffee at Rose’s Café to meet up with others who were joining our trip.

One of nicest things about our club runs is meeting new people as well as catching up with old friends.  At Goulburn we were joined by Peter and Annemie, and Rod and Maryanne from Canberra as well as Leann from the Illawarra chapter.

We headed north from Goulburn through Taralga, over the Abercrombie River and its steep gorge, through pine and hardwood state forests, along gently undulating and sweeping roads, through Black Springs, until we arrived at Oberon for lunch at the local services club. Here we were joined by the remaining members of our party, and companions for the next three days, Rob and Brigid, from the Sydney chapter, as well as a friend of Leann’s who was an Oberon local, and joined us just for lunch.

After lunch our seven cars pressed on, passing through the outskirts of Bathurst, heading further north towards the lovely old historic gold mining town of Sofala beside the Turon River.  It was a delight to wander past buildings which had been barely touched for 150 years, many looking like they were about to fall down.  Brigid recalled staying in the old pub with her family when she was a youngster, including a brawl amongst locals while the family was upstairs.  Meanwhile men from the area were enjoying an afternoon drink outside the pub and we wondered if any of them had been at that meeting decades before.

After stretching our legs and enjoying a stroll around the town we settled down to the final leg of our drive along the Ilford-Sofala Road and Castlereagh Highway towards our destination of Mudgee.

After a long first day’s drive it was good to settle into a comfortable motel and enjoy afternoon refreshments in the motel reception area before a stroll into the town centre for dinner and more chatting over a hearty meal at Kelly’s Irish Pub.

Chris Fondum – South Coast

Day 2

Day 2 of our adventure began after a lovely, comfortable night’s sleep at the Horatio.  Good coffee isn’t hard to find in Mudgee.  Some of the group headed into town, to the Butcher Shop Café while others strolled up to The Mudgee Corner Store for breakfast.  Well-fed and refuelled, we all regrouped on the edge of town, at the beautiful Lawson Park, prepared for our morning of wine tasting. 

Our first stop was the iconic Pieter Van Gent Winery.  The tasting room sits amongst the vines.  Our tasting table was prepared in the winery’s cask hall, between barrels full of wine, on the rammed earth floor, with dusty wine bottle chandeliers overhead.  Very atmospheric.  A lovely selection of wines was presented and several of their signature fortified wines.

With initial purchases made, we headed to Robert Stein for the wonderful combination of wine and motorbikes.  Brian and Anda led the way, along a few dirt roads and over a couple of causeways, each carefully considered by Brian and with only one well-considered U-turn (paddles required for that causeway!) before we wound our way up the driveway and through the vines to our 2nd tasting.  Historic motorbikes, farm sculpture and wine were all enjoyed here.

More lovely driving through the Mudgee valley and vineyards, brought us to our final tasting and luncheon stop at di Lusso Estate.  Here we enjoyed a range of Italian varietal wines and a warm, welcoming pizza oven, beside the water and autumn gardens.  The wood fired pizzas were very tasty and well enjoyed after a morning of sipping and sampling.

The afternoon saw the group head off in different directions, with a wide range of activities planned.  Pomegranate farms, honey havens, local distilleries and craft brewers were on various lists.  We regrouped in the hotel foyer and headed into town for a tapas style dinner at Eltons.  Food and stories were shared, wine purchases compared, and some more local wine was sampled.  The walk back to the motel, in the crisp country air, was a fitting end to a lovely day.

Brigid McCarthy - Sydney

Day 3

We woke to a rather wet morning after light rain overnight.  The rain persisted whilst we packed our cars, and then suddenly disappeared as we departed Mudgee around 9.00am.

The sun appeared as we drove to Gulgong, just a 30 minute drive from Mudgee.  It was a free morning to visit museums, etc., around the old gold mining town or do some shopping.  Besides gold mining in the 1850s the town is noted as being mentioned on the old ten dollar note and hence, there is the “Ten Dollar Motel” in the town.

Some of our group visited the Pioneers and Holtermann Museums whilst others enjoyed a bit of shopping.

An enjoyable lunch at the Prince of Wales Hotel before we departed, around 1.00pm, for the next leg of the journey to Rylstone.  A quick comfort stop at Rylstone before the drive along the Bylong Valley Way.  Excellent scenery on this section of road, perhaps not for the drivers as full concentration was required to avoid the variety of potholes en route.  The recent rain has been rather destructive of the low lying roads in the area.

However, despite the potholes, an enjoyable drive with challenging twisty roads.

There were sections of road undergoing “roadworks” and that car wash in Mudgee for one of the NDs appeared to be futile.

We arrived at the Estate Tuscany, Pokolbin just after 5.00pm in the dark!  Despite this, we were able to have some drinks at the Brokenback Bar prior to dinner at 6.30pm.

Peter & Annemie Wilson - Canberra

Day Four

This was the run home – from our digs in Pokolbin to lunch at Wallacia via Wiseman’s Ferry, and then the final leg home. It eas going to be a long day – for us, heading home to Canberra, we were looking at 500 kms and almost seven hours behind the wheel.

The day started early, with a pre-brecky dash to the nearest service station to our hotel, 15 kms away through heavy fog but fortunately no ‘roos. The magpies and crows feasting on late night roadkill hopped lazily away from the passing car as if annoyed by the interruption.

Breakfast was plentiful, cars and occupants were packed and fuelled as our diminished group – down to three cars – made its way into the murky morning.

With not much traffic to contend with, we made a good pace on a generally rewarding road. There were plenty of sweeping curves and tight corners to enjoy. Unfortunately, potholes were once again the order of the day, unwanted as ever, but we did a decent job of avoiding them. There were a few roadworks to slow us down, but I fear the local councils are going to need extra funding, and a whole lot more workers, if they are looking to get on top of the road repairs.

The fog settled in and accompanied us for much of the first leg of this run home and the Great North Road lived up to its name (even though we were headed in the ‘wrong’ direction). The journey along the Wollombi Valley was very pretty (when we could see it through the fog). Although it is probably green most of the year, the extra rain of late had seemed to make it especially lush and thick. There are little hamlets, villages and localities dotted along the way – we were through Laguna before we noticed it.

We zoomed over the hills and back into the valley through Kulnura, Mangrove Mountain, edging the Mangrove Creek (a tributary to the Hawkesbury River).

Our first stop was for coffee and a stretch at Spencer, where we strolled to the riverbank and watched the murky waters as we sipped our coffee, retold tales of the road and wondered how much the tyres for the Porsche Cayenne parked there would cost (just shy of $1,000 each, I have since determined). While we were relaxing, another of our cars caught up with us; with a shorter drive home, they had decided to make their own way and enjoy a later start.

From Spencer we followed the Hawkesbury River for a crossing at Wiseman’s Ferry, one of our crew chatting with the occupants of a Mustang soft-top that had been waiting at the ferry stop (what a brute of a car it was, parked next to our sweet little things). We suffered the increasing signs of civilization, and the developing traffic until we reached Wallacia, our final group stop and lunch. While I’m sure there must be some delights in living on the outskirts of Australia’s biggest city (there has to be, right? I mean, otherwise why would you?), I truly hate the traffic (which was probably quite light on).

The feed at the pub was ridiculously over the top, size-wise, but cheap and tasty. It was here the Canberra contingent of two cars bade our farewells to our Run Leaders Brian and Anda, and headed off. We travelled the Northern Road - a new one for us - to take us towards Campbelltown and the highway home. Wide and comparatively quiet, we went past Oran Park, once a lively racetrack, now a massive suburb of identical boxes, and past the site for the new international airport although there is not much to see there! Hitting the trusty, boring, Hume Highway, we faced almost three hours of highway cruising to get home.

Safely back, weary but relaxing with a cuppa, I reflected on another great run with the Club. The run down to Wiseman’s Ferry was probably the highlight for me, although the Bylong Valley Way was a delight, and could have been an absolute treat if it wasn’t so badly potholed and mis-repaired. And I marvelled at the organisation put into the run by our Run Leaders – a brilliant effort, right down to arranging the good weather! The company, also, was a treat; inter-chapter runs are much to be recommended.

(For the trip, we travelled 1,305 km, used 75 litres of fuel, and achieved an overall fuel consumption of 5.8 litres per 100 km. We paid an astonishing 239.9 cents per litre for BP Ultimate 98 up in the Hunter Valley, but I guess we will just have to get used to that if we are going to enjoy our cars.)

Rod & Maryanne Nicholas - Canberra

Some great photos on Flicker by Rob Wilko