Monday, 28 March 2011

Jamberoo Hoodoo

 A few years ago I went to Jamberoo with some bike friends. We were caught in a severe thunderstorm along the way. It was terrifying.  The next morning, the ride on slippery, skinny Jamberoo Mountain Rd was shrouded in thick fog – and terrifying. We also got word that our friend Deb had had a nasty off on her big BMW 1150GS on dirt, and was in a bad way.

This weekend, Deb and I, and some other friends, decided to give Jamberoo another go. It’s a beaut little town, after all; very picturesque, and with a great pub.
 Photo source:

I should’ve taken notice of the ‘signs’ though. I reckon there’s a bit of a Jamberoo ‘hoodoo’ going on.
  • The previous weekend, the weather was bad enough for the treacherous Jamberoo Mtn Rd to be closed by a fallen tree and a road washaway
  • 3 other riders pulled out during the week.
  • On Saturday my basketball game started nearly 15 minutes late – that’s a first!!! – and I’d forgotten to pack my reading glasses and toiletries - so much for leaving on time.
How many more ways could the universe have said “maybe you shouldn’t go on this ride”?

We’d agreed beforehand, because of the road closure,  that we would go via Kangaroo Valley – a beaut road. HOWEVER, Brian phoned our destination pub and was told the Jamberoo Mtn Rd was actually open – so hey, we rejoiced and decided to go that way after all.

Except it wasn’t open, and we only discovered that when it was well and truly too late to go any other way. We were stuck with the Macquarie Pass – the road I had said “I would prefer to avoid”.

Motorcyclist survives Macquarie Pass plunge (Illawarra Mercury, 16 March 2009)

Four survive after car rolls off cliff (ABC news, 10 May, 2009)

I’ve heard horror-stories about buses/trucks having to do three-point turns to get around a couple of the corners. I’ve heard of people simply going over the edge.  I’m not that much of a ‘corners’ fan, to be honest…


WTF happened? I don’t know. Mark doesn’t know either, and he was riding right behind me. 

On the second hairpin from the top – a steep, decreasing radius turn, I was probably doing 15kmh. A small group of Harleys rumbled and spat uphill in the opposite direction. 

Here are some pics to show you how heavily trafficked this deadly bloody turn is.
 Next thing I knew, my bike was almost on its side , heading downhill and for the opposite side of the road, the concrete lip barrier and the million-foot drop. I hung on for dear life, but when the bike hit the barrier I was dumped, hit the back of my head on the ground and came to rest a couple of feet away, past the beginning of the Armco barrier beyond the tree. The bike must’ve bounced up, headed over the concrete barrier, caught the tree (see pic) with the front left side of the screen, and bounced off. It flipped back onto the concrete barrier and lay there suspended, trickling radiator coolant onto the concrete barrier. The front wheel dangled over the drop, while the rear wheel dangled above the road.

  Here’s why I’m the luckiest motorcyclist in the universe:
  • Neither my bike nor myself went over the edge.
  • Total strangers Russell and Jamie – a young pair of trail-bikers – appeared a moment later with a trailer.
  • At the same time, the tail-end Charlie of the Harley riders – an OMCG on a club ride, by the way – pulled over and rendered assistance. Four strong blokes recovered my poor dead bike from the brink, bent forks, bent frame, smashed fairing – but miraculously, NO BROKEN LEVERS – and securely strapped it between Russell & Jamie’s bikes on their trailer. Our OMCG friends continued on their way, and Russell and Jamie delivered me and my bike to a service station at Albion Park, about 10kms downhill (thanks heaps, guys).  It would spend the night there.
  • Maureen in the ‘support vehicle’ collected bruised and battered Betty from the servo and we limped to our accommodation, while
  • Mark rode back up the bloody Pass and back to Canberra to pick up his van, which he then rode back down the bloody Pass to Jamberoo for the night.
  • My Ventura Bag, which was ripped off the rack by the impact of the crash, contained, amongst other things, 56 Year 10 essays, which I had optimistically taken away with me. They could so easily have ended up hundreds of feet below, at the bottom of Macquarie pass, never to be seen again (come to think of it, so could’ve I).
By Sunday morning every part of my body had seized up, and every step hurt. I wasn’t much help collecting the bike from the servo. In fact, I was no help at all. Apart from that, I was starting to feel the need to pee, and it was a long, slow, painful 100m or so hobble to the toilet.

The TOILETS OUT OF ORDER sign brought me undone in a way that a near-death altercation with a tree, a concrete barrier and several hundred feet of long drop hadn’t. The cleaning lady, seeing my distress – I was howling in a dreadfully pathetic and desperate way: “But I can’t walk any more and I need to peeeeeeeee” retracted her “There’s a Macca's about 5 minutes down the road, you’ll have to go there” and instead handed me a wad of loo paper and pointed me in the direction of the men's urinal.

‘Maybe you can squat over the trough, love – it’s flushing ok.’

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that my injuries were such that I couldn’t have squatted for a million dollars. How the hell does one pee standing up when one can barely stand anyway?

I did it. I managed not to pee all over myself or make my injuries worse, and found myself very close to the hysterical giggles that inevitably follow hysterical sobbing in such a bizarre situation. What an adventure.

Fast-forward to Goulburn police station, where I reported the accident, and then Calvary Hospital, where I was given some painkillers and a pat on the head. My middle-aged bones remain sound, my kneecap is attached and unbroken,  and apparently the pain in my groin is nothing more serious than a strained muscle. I will be very colourful in a couple of days.

Crutches hired, I was home sweet home by about 5.30. 

In one sense it was one of the crappiest weekends ever. Weirdly enough, though, it was also very life-affirming. I’m a lucky, lucky woman.

But I think I’ll give any future rides to Jamberoo a miss.


John said...

Muck fee Betty, I'd give the game away! You're definitely in debt to the Fates after this one!

Assignments with you on a ride! 100% for "good intentions" but really, what were you thinking!!


Raftnn said...

Holy CRap! Glad you are okay, what a nightmare. So do you know why you went down, road conditions? Heal up.

Sue said...

@Raftnn - Was a cool, overcast but dry afternoon... On Sunday we stopped at the corner again and watched the traffic - The way the road is made, it almost forces you to run wide downhill and into the path of oncoming traffic. Almost everyone we saw heading down the hill, whether bike or car, had a moment of uber-vulnerability. There were lots of bike bits that weren't mine, strewn at the site, too! If you read the press links in the post, you'll see it catches a LOT of people on two OR four wheels. Horrible.
@Goaty - I was thinking there'd be a couple of hours early on Sunday when everyone but me would be sleeping, and I'd be able to get some work done! Crazy, I know. Funnily enough, there were MANY hours when everyone but me was asleep, but I was too sore to move... ;-)

lemmiwinks said...

Oh Betty! At least you are OK. There's plenty more SV650's to be had, but only one Biker Betty!

Is Macquarie Pass the one with the pie shop at the top? If so, I've only ridden it once, from bottom to top, on the way to the Snowy Ride one year. I had an absolute ball! Really, really good fun. Sorry it wasn't so for you.

Take some ibuprofen and start internet bike shopping.

Sue said...

@Lemmiwinks - yep, that's the one. Horrible bit of road! I'm not a fan of those decreasing radius hairpin bends, but this is the only time I've come to grief on one. Wish I knew for sure what caused it!

Not sure why ppl are so into twisty bits - give me big open sweepers any day! The first part of the ride ws brilliant - back way through Tarago & Bungonia, then up to Bundanoon & Robertson - was an absolute DREAM run!

Anonymous said...

Good to hear you're still in one piece Sue. I reckon it was the essays, their must of been an F there amonsgt them and some kid praying it would never be marked..!


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I think that might be a good idea! OMG, the accidents you have managed to survive!

lemmiwinks said...

Sweepers are easy, gimme a set of footpeg scraping hairpins any day :-)

Smeegle said...

Mate you survived to cop a shitstirring when you are all better, that's what counts.

Geoff James said...

Bloody hell Sue - hoodoo all right!

So glad to hear that you and Betty survived in reasonable nick though. Will you be avoiding that road in future or metaphorically be getting back on the horse?

I know all about technicolour parts of bodies and the soreness that stays for a while. All the best and if we were closer, I'd shout you a Glenmorangie or two to ease the pain!

Sue said...

@Geoff - yum, would accept with great glee!

Yep, I'll be avoiding the Macquarie Pass from now on - actually, have never felt the slightest inclination to do the Macquarie Pass before...

Stay tuned for updates on insurance etc - will be interesting to see what happens next (crossing fingers).

Gerry said...

Blood hell, Sue. Glad you're ok.

SuPine said...

Just read your story Sue - I bet you had lots of 'what could have happened' thoughts later. Hope you are fully recovered now.