A thrill-seeker’s tour of Royal National Park

By Josephine Sargent 7 November 2013
Reading Time: 2 Minutes Print this page
Two wheels replace two feet on a sunny day out in Sydney.

STRETCHED ON THE SUN-WARMED sand of Sydney’s Bondi Beach, sea water drying on my skin, I considered sending my mum a final text message to tell her I loved her. In a matter of hours, I would be helmeted, gloved and jacketed and heading off down the open highway, perched on top of my recently acquired Honda GB400 motorbike.

It was my first big ride and I was nervous. And, as it turned out, the bad feeling in my stomach was justified.

My friend Andy arrived like a black Power Ranger, clad in serious-looking gear, all hard plastic plates and padding. Why would you need full leathers and chunky military-style boots for just a leisurely Sunday spin? Next to the boys’ bikes (a Yamaha R6, a Suzuki GSXR750 and a Honda NSR150) mine looked like a motorised pushbike. Andy assured me that although his friend Sam was on an R6, the fourth member of our party, Matt, was still learning… like me.

Before long we were zooming along Sydney’s Campbell Parade and headed south. Our first destination: The Scarborough Hotel and the glorious vistas from its cliff-top perch. Our plan was solidified: a cruise through Royal National Park, hamburger lunch at Stanwell Park, then back up to the hotel for one beer.

Before hitting Royal NP, Andy had a word of warning: beware cyclists. Great. Another thing to add to my Do Not Hit list. Corners aren’t my strong point; in an accident in the UK which left me with a broken arm, skinned legs and a bruised ego, a corner was my undoing. With a line of traffic beginning to form behind me and Matt following, I hit a corner… and freaked out.

I was going too fast. Uttering a word my father would scold me for using, I let go of the throttle. Behind me, the screech of brakes and scraping of metal made my stomach drop. Matt had come off. Before Andy had a chance to do a U-turn, Matt was back up and riding with us. Bike scratched, jeans dirty and blinker light broken, but back on the horse. I was proud. If it were me, I’d probably be in a heap.

A short while later, surrounded by stunning cliffs and with the Pacific stretching into the horizon, the cold beer went down well on what had been a hot day. In one of those rare moments when life feels perfect for an instant, I thought about how lucky I was – to be able to lay on a pristine beach in the morning and enjoy a daring cruise through a national park in the afternoon. Perfect, that is, until I conked out on the freeway. Thank God for my reserve tank…

Josephine Sargent is the chief sub editor of Australian Geographic.

Adventure guide in Sydney’s surrounds
Royal National Park