Burrowa-Pine Mountain National Park to Jingellic
Sunday May 22, 2016, 18 miles (29 km) – Total so far: 1,456 miles (2,344 km)
I’m dreaming that I’m in a dental chair being treated for a cavity, but the chair is at the base of a mountain range and there is a cold wind making me shiver. WTF?
Then I wake up. It’s cold and damp and my head has slipped from my makeshift pillow so that my upper cheek is mashed into the hard ground. My jaw and teeth hurt. I scoot down further in the bag, get my head back up on the pannier, then pull the top of the sleeping bag tight around me to cut out the cold air. I fall back to sleep quickly – the dental chair does not reappear.
It’s still quite chilly and damp at 7am (sunrise-ish), so I sleep until 7.45am. It’s still foggy and cold when I get up and start the day. But this is all still novel. We’ve had above average temps well into May, so 3C (37.4F) feels colder than it would if it were dry and sometime in August when chilly temps have been around for awhile.
I pack up the wet tent in no hurry. It’s just a short jaunt back to the car today. It is supposed to be windy today, but I should still be able to finish the ride before it gets to be a nuisance.
Once we’re packed up, I just hang out and enjoy the silence and the comings and goings of tiny clear spots high above in the sky. Then, once I’m chilled and the fog has closed back in, the guys and I pedal on to start the day.
The fog is thick and hangs close in this tight valley. We roll down the gentle downhill through the dairy farms and pass our same herd of horses from yesterday. They don’t spook today – no high-spirited galloping down the road in front me. They just stand and stare.
The fog collects on my shirt and helmet. Verne’s eyes glaze over with moisture. My poor turtle doesn’t care for cold mornings! No one is moving anywhere on the farms, and soon enough we are turning up the road toward the national park. It turns to gravel pretty quickly, but it’s in good condition, so we just spin away. We gain elevation slowly, out here in the hilly grass paddocks surrounded by steep ridges. At first we can’t see anything, but slowly we climb out of the fog.
As we near the national park, we start getting great views of the ranges. Shortly before the sharp right turn up the hill into the park, the road kicks it up and the ascent begins. This bit just before the turn-off to Hince’s Creek Campground (another decent campground – but only 2 sites right on top of one another and not directly on the creek), and the uphill after the right-hander, is the steepest part of the climb. After we get up around the corner, it is just a gorgeous gentle climb up to the ridge that joins the two parts of the national park.
The road is in great shape. It’s smooth with few corrugations, erosion or loose, chunky rock. Most times I’ve driven it, it’s been in good shape, too.. We ride up through the regrowth dry sclerophyll and can get glimpses now and again of the higher peaks. But mostly it is just a very pleasant ride through surrounding forest. It is quiet and peaceful. All is good with the world as we just pedal through the cool air and dappled shade. There is one more steep-ish short bit just before the ridge-top is gained, but it all goes down easy today.
Soon enough we are into the downhill. On occasion, we can see off the ridge and down into the fog below and over to another ridge… before it disappears into the fog. We just roll and roll downhill – what a great morning! We descend on out of the park and back into the fog. We see our first vehicle (and only vehicle between camp and Walwa) about 2 kilometres from the pavement.
Off to our right should be Pine Mountain, but it’s hidden by the fog. It feels very British here – big, green fields, fat cattle breathing clouds of condensation, and low, grey skies. It’s a damp and depressing scene, really, but I enjoy watching as the clouds in the distance start to lift. Overhead, the cloud thins and a brighter grey seems to turn up the dimmer switch.
By the time we get into Walwa, the wind has picked up enough to blow the clouds out of the main Murray River valley. The clouds stack up against the hill behind me, but the sun reappears overhead in town. Walwa has a general store with decent food, public toilets and water, a pub, an art shop and a caravan park. I’ve shown a photo of the general store on a previous ride. Today we don’t stop – we’re just 7 kilometres from the car.
We ride on out of town and past a winery as we climb up above the flood plain. We cruise along with great views of the floodplain and the mountains that drop steeply to the river on the NSW side. We pass the golf course and the Murray River Resort (used to be reasonably-priced but is super-expensive these days) and then it’s back over the bridge and back to NSW and its draconian bike laws.
A sigh of relief… the car is still there and all of its windows are intact! Necessary Beast isn’t worth much, but she’s all I have. It’s been another great ride and we’ve gotten back to the car just as the wind starts to pick up. We didn’t add many miles to our goal total this weekend, but it was very enjoyable and I feel very refreshed. That’s more important anyway. Perhaps next weekend we can put down some serious miles so that May isn’t a total bust in terms of mileage goals. Until next weekend….