Adelong – Tarcutta via Tumblong and Mundarlo
Sunday December 4, 2016, 42 miles (68 km) – Total so far: 2,777 miles (4,468 km)
It is pleasantly cool at 5am. I’m rolling quickly. I shove the key under the doors at the RSL club, then I’m climbing out of town. I stop at the Adelong gold site on the way out of town. I was too hot to stop yesterday. I take some pictures from the parking lot, but they don’t come out well in the early morning light. It just looks like a barren hill with some lines in it. You have to go down to the creek to see all the old workings – but I want to get going, so I don’t do this. However, my memory from when we lived in Tumut is that this is well-done with good interpretive boards. So should you come by here some day, a stop is recommended if you aren’t trying to beat the heat.
We cruise on down the valley. It is interesting to look at all the old sluicing lines and various foundations. I’d love to see some pictures of what this looked like when active. The museum in town wasn’t open yesterday.
We roll on through Grahamstown – another little cluster of homes that sprung up with the gold rush. Then we undulate up and down through the wide open pastures. There are a few cars out this morning – mostly going the other way. The guys all have fluoro on, so it looks like they are getting some Visy overtime at the paper mill.
The valley continues to widen out. The grasses have mostly dried out, so we are getting into the brown part of the year. Tumblong used to sit on the old Hume Highway, so there is a tavern there and a long-gone petrol station. Off the old highway is a school, church, memorial hall and a few other buildings. You’d find somewhere to camp here for sure if you needed.
I stop for a banana, then keep pushing on. I want to be done today before the temps climb. I continue over the new Hume Highway (all freeway now) and back onto the old Hume Highway. The newer freeway climbs several hills that the old one avoided. I rode this section of road in April, so I know what to expect. I’ve got a tailwind, so I hammer it down.
The only bad thing is that the local Council has very recently been through and resealed a bunch of patches of the road. These sections have lots of loose chip and are still very rough. I am absolutely certain that the Council has used up every single “ROUGH SURFACE” and “REDUCE SPEED” sign they own on this one section of road between Tumblong and the Mundarlo/Wantabadgery road junction. Sadly, the new sections don’t even ride smoother than the stuff that hasn’t been redone!
Along this stretch, I roll over the 4,000th mile for the year. Yippee! The majority of miles were loaded, so that is pleasing. Of course, anyone that knows me knows that I don’t really enjoy day rides all that much if they involve the same roads over and over.
Onward. The road curves around one ridge and the bridge over to Wantabadgery comes up shortly on the right. That is the way I went in April. Today I head south to Mundarlo following the old highway. We immediately climb up onto some hills before hitting a long flat stretch through the Mundarlo property. Then we climb out of the Murrumbidgee River valley and then drop down a steep hill to the Yaven Creek valley. It’s hard to think of this as the old highway since it is so narrow and the grades pretty steep.
At the bottom of the hill, the road turns to gravel. It’s mostly good with a few rough sections as we cross through long flat sections of flood plain. This wide valley is the same creek we followed downstream yesterday – we were just much further upstream yesterday. At one point I pick up a herd of cows and drive them down the road for several kilometres. Ooops. There was no Stock Ahead sign, so I doubt they are really meant to be on the road but the farmer doesn’t care much if they are. I have only seen two cars since I crossed the freeway many miles back. Some of the cattle eventually turn off and duck under a fence and back into a pasture. I herd a few of them for another kilometre. It will be an interesting round-up for the farmer when he gets home.
We cross over the creek and head across more flats until we hit a road junction where an old Cobb and Co. stage stop was located. The old pub is now someone’s residence. The road to the left follows Yaven Creek back to where the newer section of freeway crosses the creek. But we need to get up and over a ridge to get back to the Tarcutta Creek valley. And so we climb.
There is no one on the road. The gravel starts out in good condition but deteriorates as the valley narrows and gets steeper. It is a very pleasant ride, but still hard to believe this tiny road winding up the narrow creek was once the main highway between Sydney and Melbourne! The final bits are very narrow and quite steep through a bunch of short, scrubby trees. Still, it’s a good ride.
The downhill side, though, is terrible. It also follows a narrow creek valley down through taller forest. However, there is big chunky gravel, dusty, thick sections and sections so corrugated I would have bounced off the pedals if not clipped in. Oh my, is that road horrible! It flattens out as we come out into farmland and pasture. The surface mildly improves. My fingers hurt from braking and hanging on. Then we get to a curve and downhill that is so bad I have to bump down it at almost 0 mph as I pick a line through the rock, erosion gullies and corrugations.
We are now out in the flat bits of a wide valley with large trees, but the road is bad right up to the pavement at the intersection with the Sturt Highway. Sheesh. The Sturt Highway branches off of the Hume Highway and runs to Wagga Wagga. From there it heads west and eventually ends up in Adelaide. Consequently, it has heaps of traffic and trucks. It also has no shoulder in some places leading into Wagga from the west. But today, we hit it lucky. The shoulder is huge for the part we need to be on it, and it’s been repaved in recent times. Thank you!
Not far along though, we head off on the Lower Tarcutta Road. For awhile, I’m actually following a bike tire track that has a narrower tread than mine. Tarcutta Creek is off to the right and there are impressive stands of open woodland along the creek edges. Beautiful. We undulate along on decent gravel before passing a homestead with a grand old brick building with verandas down each side. This would have been one of the very original properties around here when people moved in permanently and settled the original huge squatter’s runs.
Next we have to ride the freeway for about 5-7 kms. It’s not a big deal. This is one of the sections most recently duplicated, so the shoulder is wide enough to feel safe and the surface is concrete. Soon enough, we are rolling back into town. It is only around 11 am, but it is already hot, and I’m glad I don’t have to ride further today. The motel owners let me leave the car out the back for the night, so I head up there and pack up the bike. I stop at the roadhouse for a Coke and then I’m heading home in the heat. It will get up to 35C (95F) today, so an early start and finish was certainly the way to go!