Tarcutta – Adelong via Humula, Rosewood, Yaven Creek
Saturday December 3, 2016, 79 miles (128 km) – Total so far: 2,735 miles (4,401 km)
This is another ride that has been taunting me from the map for a while now. In my quest to keep riding new roads, this area of the map has a few blank bits I want to fill in. The weather looks hot, but manageable, so I make plans.
I will roll over my riding goal this weekend, and I will also roll over 20,000 miles on the bike odometer that I’ve had since 2012. So I ask dear husband if he would like to come with me Friday night to celebrate. I’m going to get a motel in Tarcutta and leave my car there. To my surprise, he actually wants to come. I know it’s not so much about celebrating my goal, because even when he is well he doesn’t care about those sorts of things, but even if it is just for a night away, at least he is out of the house.
I meet dear husband at the motel – I’ve driven straight from work because it is quicker than going via home. Saturday morning I am out the door early – but it is so much harder to get an early start when you are actually in a soft bed and have someone to cuddle with.
It is already warm but there is no one on the road. I climb up onto the low hills that reach down into the valley and head upstream. Down below, the old rail line weaves along down by the creek. Sometimes we get close to it, sometimes we are up pretty high and it is down on the floodplain. This line runs from Wagga to Tumbarumba. The first part out of Tumbarumba has funding to be one of the first two rail trails in NSW. The part out of Wagga has been the subject of considerable funding to do a feasibility study. On both ends there has been considerable opposition. It is an embarrassment to the state that NSW is so far behind and still has no rail trails. What a shame – because I’ve ridden almost all of the adjacent roads to this one in the past year and it would be a really scenic one!
So we continue heading up the valley to Humula. I rode this going the other way last December. This is a good ride and I don’t see any vehicles all the way to Humula. The little village does have a small park with toilets and water that you could camp at if needed.
From Humula, we head further upstream. This time we are taking a new road – the Downfall Road. It is gravel but in good condition. We follow the rail and the creek through open farmland. It is fun to watch where the rail line goes – sometimes up high on embankments above the road, sometimes next to the road. Finally, we cross over the creek and the rail line heads off to the right and we head left to climb a hill into the pine plantations. We won’t see the rail line again until we crest the long climb just near the main road.
Onward. The truck that rumbles past us has gone to pick up grain from the next farm up. I can see them loading it as I ride past. That is the last farm and then we are deep into pine plantations and remnant forest. The pine is all planted back a bit from the road, and because this is mostly state forest instead of private plantation, there are more remnants left. It doesn’t feel quite as industrial. There are also sections of native forest left along the creek line, so it is actually quite a nice ride. Once up into the forest, the road becomes chip-seal, too. All in all – well-recommended.
The climb is long and continuous, but there are only a couple of steep bits. I see no cars. When I finally crest the climb and come out to the main Tumbarumba Road, I am pleasantly surprised to find that we are on a bit of a plateau. I was really not looking forward to riding the main road, but I can pedal off those 4 kms really quickly as I have a bit of a downhill. There are NO RAIL TRAIL signs on nearly every property, so I hope no one driving hates cyclists enough to skim me. Luckily, everyone gives me plenty of room. I wouldn’t even need to be on the road if there was a rail trail, thank you!
There is a junior cricket match going on at the oval, and there are a few people getting their Saturday papers at the newsagent. Most of town is quiet though. There isn’t much more to town anyway – a park with toilets too gross to use, a couple churches and a closed (forever) petrol station. I stop long enough to apply sunscreen and determine that I don’t need to pee that badly to use those toilets. Too bad they don’t support the Tumbarumba to Rosewood Rail Trail because it could breathe some more life into town.
Our next new road starts with a climb and then a very long descent. There are great views off to the higher hills in the distance. We then start climbing again, heading up into plantations. There’s not much traffic on this road. It is hot, the flies are obnoxious, but I’ve still got cold water since I froze bottles at the motel last night. Cold water consumed, head net on, we climb the rest of the hill and then get a rip-roaring downhill through pines to the Taradale Road junction.
I’ve been at this road junction before. I’ve come from the north and turned east, and I’ve come from the west and kept heading east before. On those trips, I’ve looked up at the hill I’ve just come down and been glad I wasn’t heading up that way. Today we are heading back west a bit.
We go cruising down the valley. It is not all downhill, as the road sticks up to the edge of the valley instead of down along the creek. It is narrow enough that it’s really the only option anyway. There is pine forest and native forest along the ridge to the south, farms and creek line in the valley and more pines on slopes above to the north. It is pleasant enough.
I have my bike computer set to the odometer, so I can see when I hit 20,000 miles. Yippee! The bigger mileages come from 2013 and 2014 when I did 4-month tours. Last year and this year we will have ridden around 4,000 miles. It is still worthy of celebration though, and we have a million flies partying around my head to help celebrate.
Not long after, we head along the Lower Bago Road. This is a new one for us. The road is a lot of big gravel, but it is rideable. Again, the valley is narrow enough that the road cuts into the side of the hills. There are a bunch of short steep climbs and descents. But it is pastorally pleasant and the wind is still weak, so it’s good stuff.
Then the road drops to the creek to cross it. The other side is paved but takes off at a 6 percent grade to climb around a hill. It is hot, the flies are bad, so this isn’t as nice as it would be in a cooler time of year. I go slowly climbing up the hill. Thank you for the chip-seal at least!
After we get around the hill and pop out of the trees, it becomes apparent that the road is going to climb to the top of the ridge, instead of following the subsidiary creek valley. Ugh. Much of it is too steep for me to ride. So I get off and push. I saw one 4WD back in the 6% stuff, but luckily there is no one to see me pushing the bike with such indignity. I push for a few hundred metres then stop to get my breath, push for a few hundred more. Ugh. Hot. Flies. Steep. Ugh.
Some time later, we finally make it to the high point. There are long views over the plantations and bits of remnant bush. It’s all such a jumble of hills in these bits that you can’t pick out any trending direction for the ridges. Boy, am I ever glad to get to the top of that ridge!
A road junction follows the high point. We could continue climbing the ridge, we could head downhill and east into the plantations, or we can head downhill to the northwest. Those would all be new roads, too, but west is the only option not riding through plantation. So that’s the way we go.
We fly down the hill. My map says this is gravel, so I enjoy the chip-seal while it lasts! Zoom! I see a car coming up the hill but we both have plenty of room to stay on our respective sides of the road. Then I’m down in another creek valley (the one we could have followed if the road didn’t take the ridge). We continue up through tidy farms set down below the steep hills of native forest. Then we cross the creek and have to climb out again. Hot. Steep. Flies. Ugh. If I had all of my gears, and it wasn’t so hot, and I hadn’t already done a bunch of climbing, I reckon I could have ridden all of this one. But, under today’s conditions, I have to walk bits of it.
We finally crest that ridge. Before us lies what once would have been beautiful views of forested hills rolling down to a bit of an ampitheatre at the headwaters of this next creek valley. Alas, there are some forest bits, but there is a heck of a lot of clear cuts, and cleared pasture. Never mind. It’s a new road and we’ve come to see what’s here, not what we wish it would be.
I get a long downhill off that ridge. There are a few short uphills, but it is mostly downhill through cleared pastures and old farms that can’t be too prosperous because they haven’t seen a lot of updates over time. At one point, for a few kilometres, the trees look all scraggly, and there are many weeds. There must have been a fire that came through here in the past few years.
Down, down. We finally meet up with the creek, the road goes to good gravel for a few kilometres, and we are feeling very hot and tired. The wind has picked up and is against us, so it is pretty hot work.
Finally, we find some shade on the roadside and stop for a break. I’ve got a little bit of cold water left – this may be all that keeps me going. That and the two chocolate bars that remain unmelted only because they are next to the coolness. Oh, I could so be done here. It is so hot, it’s a hot wind and we’ve already done a fair bit of climbing. It takes a lot to get myself back out there.
We head on downstream up on the edges of the hills. Hot work. Average scenery. An SUV stops and the window rolls down. It’s a very neat and clean-looking family of five. The man talks over the wife in the passenger seat. He says, “there’s a mob of cattle back down the road being driven this way. Just wanted to let you know because I’m sure they’ll get a bit of a fright when they see you.” I thank him and head off. A few kilometres later, I meet up with the herd. I stop and just wait. There’s an oncoming car trying to get through the herd, so it is a big cluster of piss, shit, cows stopping and trying to backtrack, the car weaving around and cows going every which way. Eventually the car gets through and the cows pass on. The woman on the quad bike with the dog in the back doesn’t even say Thank You to me. You don’t have to be friendly, but an acknowledgement that I didn’t try to ride through her herd and freak them out even more would have been nice and gone a long way for farmer-road user relations. Never mind.
On down the road. Hot. Windy. Ugh. I pedal slowly on. We finally cross the creek and climb over the adjoining ridge. Along the way, we pass through the only stand of native trees left in the valley. It’s along the road reserve, and there are signs posted every 100 metres saying that it is illegal to collect firewood and that there are surveillance cameras. Sheesh – it’s Tragedy of the Commons in real life.
Climb, climb. Over another hill and into another valley. We finally get a sustained downhill through open pasture backed by cleared hills. This area was once a huge station that was carved up into soldier settler blocks. When the soldiers came home from the war, they were given these blocks of land to make a living. This happened all over the state. The only problem was that the blocks of land weren’t big enough to be profitable, so the land got flogged and people eventually moved away anyway. In some valleys, the fifth-generation families have slowly bought back all the farms that had been carved out of the land they were forced to give up in the beginning.
We finally get out to the Snowy Mountains Highway. I am over it. We could do five kilometres on the main highway to town. Or we could eight kilometres on a gravel road and a smaller paved road. I stand in the shade at the intersection for a bit to see how much traffic is passing today. Tumut has a couple of events happening this weekend, the dam up above that town is full and is a major boating destination, and it’s a Saturday so there will be all the truck movements happening associated with several timber mills near Tumut.
So I munch some food and drink the last of the somewhat cold water. As I expected, there is a lot of traffic. It’s coming in groups of 3-5 vehicles, spaced less than one minute apart. Both directions. I have to get on the highway for about 1.5 kilometres. I’ll see what I feel like when I get up to the next gravel road.
I get out there amongst it. Of course I have a climb through all of this, but I do have a shoulder. It’s not bad, but it’s not fun, either. Then, when I get up to the gravel road option, I see a steep hill ahead on the main highway. It’s steep enough to have a climbing lane which means painful climbing with no shoulder. So I duck down the gravel road.
I am lucky. The gravel road has been regraded recently – not so recently that it’s soft, but recently enough that it is in great condition. It zigs and zags its way down a steep gully beneath a cover of native trees. So good! There are views to the hills on the other side of Adelong Creek. Lucky woman.
At the bottom of the hill, several kilometres later, we meet up with the Adelong Creek valley. The road is paved, but we now have to climb back up to Adelong. This whole area was the site of a major gold rush in the late 1800s, so there is evidence of mining activity all along the valley – old huts, foundations, dams, earthworks from the sluice mining, etc.
The road hugs the edge of the hills and we go pedalling slowly up. There is one final climb along the edge of the valley wall. I can hear a bunch of motorcycles coming, so I just pull off the road and wait. Well, you can believe that if you like. Yes, there are motorcycles and other traffic coming. Yes, it is polite to stop and pull over because there are spurts of oncoming traffic coming, also, on that narrow road. But really I stop because I’m absolutely knackered and I need a break before I do that final hill.
The motorcyclists all honk or wave. The caravan-towing people do not. But I eventually get my arse up that last hill and cruise into town. It’s busy. The main street is about four or five blocks long. The whole street dates from the gold rush and is heritage-listed. I roll down the main street and then roll over to a picnic table.
I peel off my shirt and then lie down on the picnic table. I am DONE. I lie there for 20 minutes without moving. It is hot and I need to just lie there to get up some energy to find food, drink and accommodation.
After we get back some oopmh, I go to the little supermarket (not a lot in there, but enough) and get a beer, some milk and some snacks for tomorrow. Then I go to the takeaway shop (good prices, good selection, pizzas available) and get dinner. I go outside to wait (I’m beyond sweaty). I down all that milk in less than 5 minutes. Then I get stuck into the burger. Aahhh! I feel human again. Mostly.
Next, I go over to the RSL (Returned Serviceman’s League club – a bit like an American Legion but open to the public). They run the caravan park. I walk into a wall of glorious cold. The A/C is blasting. The inside of the building has not been updated since the 1960s. There are pine-panelled walls, red, beer-stained carpet, a pool table, a fake ceiling and a new flat-panel TV showing rugby. There are two older guys standing at the bar. The one guy says to me, “Did you win?”
I look at him confused, and then say, “Well, I’ve been riding a bike today, and I didn’t get hit by a car, so I guess you can call that a win.”
He replies, “Oh, you were just dressed up like you were playing sport.”
There’s a few more words of conversation before the barmaid hooks me up with a tent site. The only problem is that the amenities block requires a key and there is no place to return it before they open in the morning. But she is very understanding that I want to leave super-early to beat the heat. We talk through a few options but finally decide that I should just shove it under the front door when I leave. We even go and make sure the key will slide under the door. It does.
So then I’m off to set up the tent in the shade and have a COLD shower. There is the option of hot water, but I am happy to just have cold. The amenities block is small but clean enough. There is also a washer and dryer. There is no camp kitchen or a place to freeze water bottles, though. There are a couple people staying in cabins, but it is otherwise empty. Plenty of shade for $15. With so many places charging $25 or more these days, you feel lucky to get a tent site for $15 (what I think is reasonable for some grass and a shower).
Wow – was that a long, tough day! I don’t summon up much energy to do anything but lie in the shade and listen to music for the evening. It does cool down once the sun sets, though, so it won’t be too hot to sleep. Which is good. Because I am DONE.