Yackandandah – Jindera via Barnawatha and Howlong
Monday January 18, 2016, 52 miles (84 km) – Total so far: 141 miles (227 km)
So somewhere between 2.30 am, when the caravan folks parked seven feet away from my tent turned off their blaring TV, and 4.45 am, when the caravan folks turned the TV back on, I hope I fell asleep deep enough to snore and keep THEM awake. Sheesh. How totally inconsiderate in a packed campground.
When the TV awakens me at 4.45 am, I just sigh and start packing up. My watch is set for 5 am since I want to be on the road before sunrise to get back to Jindera before the heat sets in (high of 96F forecast today).
Consequently, I’m rolling out of town not long after first light with front and rear lights flashing. There is a colourful sunrise happening over my shoulder as I pedal up and out of town. The climb to the Beechworth Road is probably the same length and not too much more shallow than the Granya climb yesterday. It climbs between small hobby blocks in a narrow creek valley that creates a small dip in the long ridge running down toward Beechworth. Slowly, the hobby blocks give way to forest, the road momentarily dips and there is a final curve with a slightly steeper gradient. It is just after 6am and there is already some traffic on the road, so I’m glad to pedal this narrow road before the traffic increases.
At the top of the climb we head in the direction of Wodonga. This section of road has a shoulder, which is good, because this road is quite busy later in the day. I’ve got a short climb before the long downhill from the spur that continues down the Indigo Valley Road.
The fire that started the day after I rode up this way in December has reached the main road and taken out a big shed behind a house. However, the main Indigo Creek valley is not as fire-ravaged as you might imagine. The whole length of the ridge on the national park side of the valley has been singed – the entire length of the valley. You can see how tongues and waves of fire spread along through paddocks in the distance. And you can see where the fire hopped the road at Mason’s Gap (the most likely place for it to do so) and took off toward Wodonga. But really, the fire has only come up to the main road in a few places. All the damage and loss is off on side roads toward that singed ridge. Only on occasion do you get a waft of burnt vegetation flitting by on the wind.
We enjoy the long downhill in the cool of morning as the sun rises. By the time we get to Barnawatha it is time for a snack and time to apply sunscreen. From here we head out onto the rolling plains on a road new to me. I’ve not ridden any of the Soldiers Road or the Chiltern-Howlong Road in this area. It’s a C-Road – which I would normally avoid – but this C-Road is one of those that isn’t busy. I only get passed by a few cars in that distance. It’s just a pleasant ride through dry pastoral land, harvested crops and few gentle hills.
By the time I cross the multiple bridges over the Murray River floodplain and get to Howlong, the wind has picked up to a 10mph steady northeasterly. The temperature is starting to rise, too. Howlong is mostly a commuter suburb for Albury-Wodonga and is quiet except for all the cars on the main road heading into town for work. I stop for snacks and drinks at the park.
I’m on new roads again out of Howlong for a little bit – riding up the southern end of a valley I’ve ridden quite a few times, but only further north. There are low hills on both sides of the valley but flat and sometimes swampy (if it were the wet season) through the centre. It all looks so dry and forlorn at this time of year.
Once to the gravel, we are back on roads I ride out of Jindera as day rides. This gravel road is usually in good condition with one corrugated, flat section between two dog-legs. There are two hills to climb to get you into the Bungowannah Hills proper, but there is rarely any traffic out here. The gentle hills give some topographic relief and visual interest to the wheat fields and sheep and cattle paddocks.
For a few minutes I can’t figure out the sickly sweet chemical smell that I’m inhaling. Then I come over a rise and see a farmer out spraying a harvested wheat field. The spray drift can’t be healthy – but I’m riding uphill into the wind on gravel. It seems forever that I poison myself before I get upwind!
We make it out to the Bungowannah Road. This road has a bit more traffic and is quite narrow, but it’s not a commute time of day, so I don’t have to keep too much of an eye on the mirror. The road climbs and falls as it heads up the Dead Man Creek valley to a ridge that separates this drainage from the wide basin where Jindera sits. There is more climbing than falling from this direction and I’m glad to crest the ridge and get a final downhill before crossing the flats through hobby farms to Jindera.
The lack of sleep has made me a bit bitchy this trip, and highs in the 90sF should not have to be considered cool and rideable temperatures, but I’m still glad we got out and got more items done on the ride list.
There won’t be any riding next weekend as I have other commitments, so my miles for January will be low. However, going into it I considered any miles completed in January to be a bonus because, traditionally, I ride very little in that month due to the heat.
It is already 90F by the time I make it back to Jindera, so I have a shower and collapse on Nigel’s living room floor where I have a long and well-deserved nap. Highs are forecast around or over 100F all this week. Someone please bring on autumn so I can get some sleep!