Jindera – Wymah – Jingellic – Walwa – Clarkes Lagoon Reserve
Saturday November 5, 2016, 85 miles (137 km) – Total so far: 2,412 miles (3,882 km)
The last weekend we rode, we rode Plan D. This weekend I think we sorta ride Plan 1A-Alternate. The past six months have been so full of frustrations and loss, and nothing I ever plan ever goes to plan (just wait, there will be more loss this week with the US election and the death of Leonard Cohen!). So this week, I planned out three possibilities, and this ride is a bit like Plan A, but not exactly. The wind will disrupt any chance of doing what I’d originally hoped.
I take off by 7.30 am with the wind. It was very squally overnight, and the southwesterly behind the front is still blowing at 25-35kph with higher gusts. But I don’t mind. It’s behind me to start.
Out we go through the rural residential lots and then down the freeway. There is a section with a shoulder that is less than a metre wide which always feels a bit hairy when the speed limit on the dual carriage-way is 110kph. Not many of the cars move over, but at least the trucks do! I’ve got a strong crosswind through here and the vehicle occupants don’t know how hard it is to keep a straight line – but I’m sure the trucks do because they will be feeling it as much as me.
Then it’s off the freeway, down the frontage road and past our Toy Bridge where people affix plastic toys to the railings. Not much new activity this time by. Still, it is nice to get such a huge push from the wind – it helps to get up the series of hills that take us through the Fowlers Creek Swamp valley and up and over into the Wagra Creek valley.
I then ride into the wind and up the hill to the ferry. I press the call button and wait. The operator often takes his sweet time to come out of his house and get on-board. Today, though, he doesn’t respond back on the intercom telling me he’ll be here ‘in a few minutes’. Instead, he comes down to me in person and says, “I’ve got bad news. The ferry is closed. It’s too windy. It’s okay on this side, but over on the other, it’s just too dangerous. I’ll keep checking conditions and can take you over when it calms a bit.”
I hadn’t really even considered this possibility. Crap. The wind is NOT forecast to calm today or tonight. So I either ride all the way back home into the wind and give up on this plan OR I take the dirt road on the NSW side instead (what I will now call Plan A – Alternate). However, last time I rode parts of that road, the condition was atrocious and I swore I’d never do it again. But here we are. And I don’t have many other options. I tell the ferry man, “Okay, I guess that means I go see what the conditions on the River Road are like.” He tells me I should be okay and that they’ve graded it since I rode through last time when it was atrocious.
So this does mean we get to ride the unridden portion of this road and add it to our list. Last time we rode this road, we turned off at Tunnel Road and did not head all the way down to the ferry crossing.
The tiny dirt road winds through the few, spread-out houses of Wymah, and past the recreation reserve which has tennis courts and open, grassy areas on the waterfront. Then we pass the old school and face the end of the valley. The road turns to pavement, and I know what that means. The only time this road is sealed is when it goes up a steep incline. So I’m 30-some miles into it and decide this is a good time to get rid of some of the fruit salad weight in the pannier. Yum! I’m not a big fruit person, but it always tastes divine when riding.
Then we crawl up the hillside as the road curves left to climb the slope. We grunt on up the steepness and then roll over the low point in the ridge. Then it’s a fast and fun downhill with views through the trees to the reservoir below. Scenic. Interesting. Happy chick.
The road flattens out and heads through open pasture. The road widens, too, and the condition is good. This is what we enjoy for the next 50 kms: flat-ish bits through pasture with views out over the reservoir to the hills on the other side; climbs up and over the ridges which stretch down to the water; and narrow bits where the road rides high above the river when it smooshes up against this side of the floodplain. The views are just gorgeous, and everything is so green from our months and months of rain. It’s not often this lush, so I enjoy that especially.
The road condition varies. It is generally pretty good, and is a different experience to the atrociousness I endured last time. You can definitely tell that this road gets chopped up quickly and easily, though. It is also easy to see how the rocky, angular road base and sandy surface material would deteriorate with even low traffic levels. However, there is a lot less traffic this time around. I get passed by 5 or 6 cars in the entire 55kms.
The wind is helping me, too. That’s good, because this is pretty slow and tough even without the wind factor! And so it goes for the next few hours. Even though it’s not what I’d planned to do today, I’m enjoying myself and the slow spin of the pedals.
As I approach a blind corner on an uphill, I hear a vehicle approaching behind me. So I just stop and pull over into the grassy, ungraded bits to let the vehicle past. However, as it approaches, I hear the ute downshift, and the man driving pulls up to a stop beside me. I recognise the ute as one that had passed me very courteously earlier (slowing right down on the gravel and moving way over) that was then parked at a fishing access site further up the road.
The guy rolls the window down and says, “Are you okay?”
I reply, “Yeah, I’m fine. I just pullled over since it was a blind corner.”
He says, “That’s why I slowed down. You know, you are going really well!”
I say, “Ah, I’ve got the wind behind me today!”
Fisherman replies, “No, there’s been a lot of hills. You make good time. That’s really good.”
I give him the well-rehearsed line, “Well, I’ve got good gearing and patience.”
He smiles and asks, “Are you a local?”
I tell the man that I live near Albury and that I’m just out for three-day weekend ride. As I’m talking to him, I note that his ute is immaculately clean even though he’s been driving a dirt road, and that he does not have a hair out of place. He’s been out fishing, but he looks like he just stepped out of a clothing catalogue. Where do these perfect people come from and how do they get such good genes? I’m a sweaty, sniffling, stinky, mucous-emitting mess and I encounter people like this – the kind who can go climb a big mountain peak and still smell nice when they are coming back DOWN the trail 16 miles later!
The guy laughs and says, “So this is what you do for fun on your weekends?”
I reply, “Yeah, pretty much.”
He says, “Wow, the world needs more women like you!”
It is my turn to laugh. I reply, “Nah, then the economy would get even worse, since there’d be no one out shopping.”
He chuckles and then says, “No, really, you’d be heaven on a husband’s wallet. It’s too bad there’s not more ladies like you that are so independent and so self-assured. Good on you! You sure you don’t want a lift?”
I tell him that no, I’m good, I’m enjoying the ride and tell him to enjoy the nice afternoon. There’s no way a perfect person like that would want a stinky cyclist in their vehicle even if I DID want a lift!
He tells me to be safe and to have a good ride, and then he politely pulls away slowly to keep the dust down. Good on him 🙂
We finally emerge at Jingellic and stop to eat more fruit salad and some crackers from the panniers. Then it’s over the bridge and over the gentle hill to Walwa. I get a litre of milk from the general store and down that outside on the benches while I check weather forecasts and text Nigel to tell him that I’m okay. We haven’t had mobile reception since about mile 20 today.
I then fill up a couple litres of water for tonight and we head east out of town on the road to Tintaldra. I’ve never ridden this section of road before. It crosses the flood plain then undulates up and down on the gentle slopes of the hills that reach into the flood plain.
All the gravel has made me a bit tired, so I’m glad the wind is pushing me up the pavement for the final miles. The views are still nice – still flood plain backed by hills. I don’t really have the energy to look too much at the volcanics that are evident in the area -maybe I can do that tomorrow on the ride back.
I don’t have any real set plans on where to camp tonight. There are two reserves along the river and a caravan park in Tintaldra. I don’t worry too much these days about where the day ends when water isn’t an issue.
I pass by the first reserve but don’t feel like stopping. I get up to the second reserve and think that the wind, the available sunlight, my hunger levels and my tight-ass desire not to pay for a caravan park site dictate a stop here.
That is all well and good, but the gate is locked. The reserve is closed because it was all under water for awhile. They are letting it dry out before they allow vehicles back in. Or so the sign says.
I decide I am not a vehicle and that a road closure sign does not apply to me. I don’t need the road, and the sign just says the road is closed, not the reserve 😉 Really, I think that could hold up in court. So, the road is closed, but not if you can get your bike and gear over the gate. I am sure you would come to the same conclusion if you were with me. In fact, it would be easier to come to this conclusion, because two people would make it a lot easier to get shit over the chain while trying not to let your feet slide into the spaces of the cattle grid!
I get all my crap over. It is not graceful, and it underscores how flabby my arm muscles are, but everything gets over without damage. I roll down the road that angles off the hill and down onto the floodplain. Yeah, it still looks pretty muddy down there. So I leave the bike up on the hill above the road and go have a walk around with Verne and Kermit. They are in frog and reptile heaven! The mozzies, amazingly, aren’t bad. Must be the wind.
I’m dismayed to see all the damage done by the cattle that are roaming around the reserve. Every flat spot is torn up by deep hoof prints. There’s nowhere down here that would be comfortable to pitch a tent on once the mud dries! This makes me not feel bad whatsoever about camping in a closed reserve. I will do no damage whatsoever up there on that slope, and the cattle have completely wrecked things down on the floodplain. Grrrr…..
I head back up the hill and sit there until the sun sets. I eat, I rehydrate, I watch the cows watch me as they come my way. Some locals come by on the dirt track next to the main road above the reserve. They look down at me and zoom on to their property about 500 metres down the road. They must have rung up the property owners that are about 500 metres down the other way, and who most likely own the cattle, because some guy comes roaring up on a dirt bike 20 minutes later. I hear him messing with the gate, then accelerating away quickly. I then hear him on that track up above on the other side of the fence. I don’t look back toward him or acknowledge him. But the locals definitely know I’m here. They must not seem to think I’m too much of a threat, though, because no one ever comes to bother me or talk to me, even after I’ve set up the tent on the hillside.
I sit out on the hill overlooking the river until the sun is long gone and last light has receded west. The orange glow on the hills in the distance goes grey and the lightly trafficed road goes quiet. The mozzies are around, but no worse than normal. I keep Kermit on mozzie duty, as I watch the stars emerge as tiny pinpoints of light in the ever-darkening sky. I hang out long enough to see two satellites and then climb in the tent to listen to some music. I reflect on my gratitude to have the health and circumstances that allow me to be here – out on my own, riding, camping and pedalling down the miles/kms to the goals I set in January. I send good vibes out into the earth’s energies to my parents and thank them in my heart for raising me to be strong, independent, resilient and adventurous. I send out best wishes for my Aussie dad, Don, giving him all my best that he is okay and his healing has begun, too. Life is precious and I am trying to live it to the full.