Omeo – Near Big River Bridge: My favorite road – Part 1
Sunday April 2, 2017, 28 miles (45 km) – Total so far: 634 miles (1,020 km)
What makes a perfect road for touring? Low traffic? Good scenery? A few challenging climbs mixed with some fun descents? Curves, wiggles and meanders? Something out there away from it all?
For me, the Omeo Highway is the perfect touring road. It’s got all of that above, plus logistics that aren’t too hard to figure out and beautiful bush campsites that you can have all to yourself along a river. My favourite road near home is the Murray River Road, but my favourite road that’s not exactly local is the Omeo Highway. I could ride this road over and over and never tire of it. Highway is also a misnomer. It’s a curvy, winding mountain road that was only fully sealed in 2014. It’s a highway in name only.
I originally had planned to do this route in the opposite direction. But I decided I would rather have this spectacular favourite at the end instead. This road is as much of a swan song as a residual refrainer can ever hope to have.
So let’s go ride our favourite road!
The clouds blanket the sky. That’s kept the temperature quite reasonable overnight, but it also means it’s never going to get warm today. At least it also means there is no squinting required and there’s little to no sweating on the long climb that starts a bit out of town. I’ve started early, so there is no traffic either. We just climb up the side of the ridge with only the sound of our pedals turning and loose zippers vibrating.
After the initial climb up and over a ridge, there’s a downhill to Bingo Munjie creek through steep, cleared hills all bunched together like they’re also chilly this morning. The bridge over the creek is a wooden plank one, so be prepared to line yourself up with a chosen plank. Then it’s back up into the bunched hills past a farmhouse where the dogs always bark and the hay always smells sour.
Not far beyond the farmhouse, the forest starts and the magic begins. The road just weaves along in and out of drainages high on the range. The views are of the forested Big River Valley and the dissected plateaus above it. The road drops so slowly you need to pedal, but the curves are still a blast. Since I was through last year, they’ve chopped down the regrowth close to the road. Now you can see if anything is coming on the next corner. This has also opened up some views.
Huge boulders line the road in places. The trees on the upper slopes arch over in others. The surface is good and you just can’t imagine something so good. On down we go. There’s a faster descent as you head into Angler’s Rest, but nothing scary or requiring too much braking except one u-bend. This is the stuff you dream of when you are envisioning the perfect ride.
There are two campgrounds along the creek at Angler’s Rest. There is also a pub which has some accommodation. It’s a very popular spot for lunch and the only time the road ever has more than a minimal amount of traffic is in the lead-up to lunch, since everyone plans their itineraries to coordinate with a pub lunch. I cannot offer a review, however, because I’ve always passed by before 9am.
From the pub, there is a bit of climbing back into the Big River valley itself, but not too much. It’s the most gentle mountain road you could ever wish for. We undulate along with rocky slopes and open forest to our left, and a long drop to the river on the right. We come across a couple fishermen walking back up the road and one car (probably more fishermen heading somewhere). However, I’m surprised that the campgrounds aren’t completely full on a weekend in school holidays. Omeo was dead, too. That’s all the better though. Fewer people and fewer children equals more happiness for introverts!
We undulate along on that gorgeous road until we are just short of the Big River Bridge. There are a few informal campsites along here that are very scenic. No one is in them today, so we have our pick. I choose a sunny spot, since it is cold and breezy today. We’ll soak up the little breaks of sun as much as possible.
There will be no swimming and splashing in the river today. Well, at least I’m not going in. The turtle and frog can make their own decisions. We’ll spend the day just hanging out. You need days like this. Simple, easy days just basking by a river inhaling all those good ions. I turn notes and phrases in my journal into sentences. I start writing a long overdue letter to an old friend from BMX days serving a sentence in a prison in Ohio. It’s hard to think about what his life is like when I’m sitting here with such incredible freedom and choice. It is an incongruity too big for my wee head.
And so the day goes. Quiet. Peaceful. Relaxing. When the turtle is happy, I am happy. And the turtle has a huge grin all day today. The night will be hard, but I’ve come to expect that. But no worries now, it’s all good down on the Big River today.