A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Thunderbolts Way. In that post I mentioned The Pillion and I pulled up for the night at a place called Walcha, a little out-of-the-way town between Port Macquarie and Tamworth, along the Oxley Highway.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I’m travelling by bike, I try to find accommodation that is motorcycle friendly. It should either have off street parking or a secure yard or shed to park the bike in for the night.
Maybe its a city thing, but I’m never keen on leaving Bluey parked on the street over night, all alone, cold and exposed to the elements.
This is especially true out in the more remote country towns of Australia. I mean, I’ve heard stories of Drop Bears* attacking bush walkers, and ‘roos nickin’ off with bikes and doing donuts in the street after they’ve had a skin full.
It’s true I tell ya!
Walcha is about halfway between Brisbane and Sydney and was on the northern end of Thunderbolts Way, which we wanted to ride.
I thought I better extract the digit and book some accommodation. Apparently the day we were to arrive, there was some sort of local flower show in town and the Far Riders were doing one of their Ride To Eat runs to Walcha as well. If we didn’t book in early, we might miss out and have to travel further than we wanted too, or worse end up somewhere where Drop Bears and ‘roos ran amok.
Over the past few years I’d been hearing about a place in Walcha that had established itself not only as motorcycle friendly, but also a great place to stay the night, or stop for a bite to eat and refresh if you’re passing through. The Royal Café even had a favorable write-up in Australian Motorcyclist Magazine earlier this year. So I called Toni at The Royal and booked a room for the night.
The Royal Hotel was built in 1889, the same year Walcha became a municipality, and was one of four hotels to service the district until 1938 when it was gutted by fire. It was rebuilt that same year and continued trading through to 2006 when Toni and Brad bought the place and converted it into a 60’s style motorcycle friendly Café & Boutique Accommodation.
The Pillion and I had been on the road since 06:00 for our run down to Sydney. It was now approaching 16:00, The Pillion was over it, and I was approaching full sympathy as well. Fortunately, out of the heat haze Walcha loomed in the distance
We pulled into the driveway from the main street and made our way ’round back. As we putted up the driveway, I spotted a beautifully restored BMW outfit in the beer garden on the left. I’m not a BMW man, so don’t flame me on the year and model, but the outfit looked like it just finished service in WWII and had been cleaned up for a parade. It was in beautiful condition.
After parking the bike, we realised we were surrounded by eccentric art; Old cars, cannons, steel sculptures and even a 20 foot high tree made of solid steel. We were actually taken aback by some of what we saw, somehow it felt quite welcoming. Quaint but welcoming none the less.
We made our way around to the bar area where Toni greeted us. She showed us to our room and quickly got us settled. The room was decorated in a similar style to the rest of the establishment, it was clean and well presented. The room reflected the 60’s era, with a hand basin in one corner, a cedar wardrobe to hang our things in, a table, and bed. Modern appointments included a TV, a clock radio and some other bits and bobs.
Like most Australian country pubs, there were shared amenities down the hall and a common room for tea & coffee. One thing I love about these old pubs is that they hold a lot of character, everything from decades old stair cases to creaky floor boards to a bar straight out of last century. I reckon if the walls could talk there’d be a few stories to tell.
When I originally called to book, Toni and Brad were providing café style light meals for breakfast and throughout the day, dinner was not being offered. By the time we’d arrived though, they’d secured the services of a chef, and were now providing dinner to their guests as well. Toni advised us that if we wanted to dine in, we should book a table early, as restaurant bookings filled fast.
Somehow, burgers and chips, or Chinese, didn’t appeal to either The Pillion or me after a day of riding and take-away meals, so on the way to the veranda, we stopped by the bar and booked a table for diner.
Before we left Brisbane, The Pillion In a Million, The Bar Tender and Jaja lectured us on riding safe and insisted we call in regularly. Somehow this sounded all to familiar, I think our parents insisted on the same thing when we were a teenagers!
Anyway, we commandeered a table and The Pillion started making the obligatory “We’re alive and well” phone calls to all and sundry. In the mean time I went and bought some beverages for both of us.
Once all our obligations had been fulfilled we kicked back and reflected on the day.
Something thing I’ve found is riders are drawn to each other. You don’t necessarily have to be riding at the time, or be dressed in your riding gear either. As was the case when we struck up a conversation with Skidoooo who’d ridden in as part of the Far Riders – Ride To Eat run earlier in the day.
Far Riders by the way are the Australian connection for the Iron Butt Association.
Skidoooo and I exchanged stories of our travels throughout the late afternoon. Alas my stories paled into mediocrity as Skidoooo regaled us with stories of his travels, most of which were done on a Yamaha R125 modified for long distance riding.
I’ll talk more about Skidoooo and the Far Riders in a future post. Suffice to say we all ended up blowing the froth off a few sherbets* during the course of the afternoon, through dinner and into the night. What a great way to finish the day. Great company, great food and great atmosphere.
I’ve heard since our stay at The Royal, Toni and Brad have introduced live music on the weekends. Kinda makes me want to go back and check it out.
Maybe this time we’ll ride the Oxley?
Now there’s one for the Bucket List
- Drop Bear: A large, arboreal, predatory marsupial related to the Koala – See more at The Australian Museum
- Sherbet: Australian slang for beer. Also a sweet fizzy powder enjoyed by children. We enjoyed the former not the latter)