Clarkes Lagoon Reserve – Walwa – Granya
Sunday November 6, 2016, 53 miles (85 km) – Total so far: 2,465 miles (3,967 km)
My alarm goes off at 5am. The winds are predicted to be 20-30kph with stronger gusts today. My hope is to get in some miles before the wind picks up. However, the wind never ceased overnight, and there have already been a few decent gusts. So I roll over and go back to sleep. If I’m going to have to push into it from the very start, we don’t have to start at such an indecent time.
My Plan 1 had been to do a loop up to Briggs Gap near Corryong (new roads) and then back over the Burrowa-Pine Mountain National Park today and then camp near Walwa tonight. Then, I’d do a long day home on Monday. BUT, we aren’t doing Plan 1 anymore anyway, and the winds today and tomorrow mean I think I should just start heading back and divide the long day into two. (With the way the winds are over Sun/Mon I end up glad I made this decision).
We head back to Walwa on the same road that we rode out on last night. Without the tailwind, our speed is about half that of yesterday! But this does give me a good chance to look at all the granite domes over here and porphyry dykes on the hills opposite. The dykes run for much longer lengths than I thought. Back when Australia was slowly adding pieces of crust to the eastern edge of the continent, this area was quite active with bubbles of underground magma and volcanic intrusions. The dykes, and Pine Mountain up ahead, are all part of that.
I have a very crude map showing the dykes, and there should be one that can actually be seen on both sides of the Murray. I never can pick that one out, though, but I do have a very enjoyable first 12 miles craning my head around to look at everything and try to figure it all out.
We stop in Walwa for a water refill, toilet stop and sunscreen application. It is clear now, but a dry trough passing through is going to bring a fair number of clouds with the wind. It is cool this morning, and will never get very hot today. Spring is not wanting to give way to summer this year. I’m okay with the temperature-side of that!
As I’m heading out of Walwa, I see a group of high-performance motorcyclists congregated at the end of the long driveway for the Murray River Resort. Two of the group members are standing across the road taking photos. No one hears or notices me roll up. I roll over to the one guy still out on the road and ask if he’d like to be in the photo, too. He is surprised by my arrival and doesn’t seem to understand my proposal. I think he thinks I’m going to ride away with his phone or something. One of the guys on the other side of the road says, “She looks clean, but we might not be able to catch her!” A couple others wave and make funny comments, but without the need to take any photos for anyone, I just wave and pedal on. Later, when they all pass me on the road ahead, most of them wave or give a friendly honk.
And so we go pedalling into the building wind. It’s not so much the wind that drives me slowly insane but the unpredictable gusts of varying strengths. Ugh. Pedal, pedal, pedal. I’ve ridden this stretch of road so many times, and have only just ridden it in early October, but I never get tired of this one. I get tired of the roads around Albury/Jindera quickly, but not this one, this is my favourite.
And so we go down the valley between the tall, green and rocky hills following that vein of water and life downstream. We go up and over Mt Alfred Gap where the river does a big U-shape around the rocky ridge, and then down the long straight stretch that follows. I once got my car up to a very high speed along here, just to see how fast it would go. (Pretty darn fast for a 1995 Ford sedan).
Then we drop down to Burroweye around another rocky protuberance and ride the next long straight stretch that follows. Directly into that crazy wind. Ugh. Pedal, pedal, pedal. It’s a Sunday and there is a bit of traffic on the road. It will pick up between 11am and 2pm as all the motorcyclists enjoy the twisties, the campers start to head home, and the people out for scenic day drives get into it.
So when I get up to Kennedys Reserve, and the traffic has started to increase, I decide I will just pull over for lunch and a nap. From here, I’ve only got 15-20 miles left in the day, and many hours to do them. The wind isn’t going to get worse, the only thing it might do is swap more to the northwest, and that would actually be a help. So I lay the bike down so I can lean back against the panniers and sleeping pad, and proceed to eat and nap and enjoy the water and trees.
I linger for two hours. The wind doesn’t die down, but the traffic does a bit. It is never very heavy along here, but the road is winding, narrow and has limited sight lines in a lot of places, so I’m happy to wait. Weekdays, or after 3 or 4pm on a weekend, you can go 30 minutes or more between cars.
Two hours later, the sun has shifted, the wind has not. Back into it. It is a hard slog, but I am not ungrateful. It is not raining. Nothing on my body hurts. The bike is not protesting, except for those two granniest gears that I’ve given up hope of ever getting back. So it is all good. I love being out on the bike, even when I’m being blasted by the wind. It does keep the flies away, and that is a very good thing at this time of year when they are at their worst.
Eventually we make it up to the old pub. The guy somehow keeps the place open, even though there are never many people here. I buy a Coke to support him. I’d buy snacks or some sort of food, but he doesn’t have anything like to purchase outside of lunch hours. As I’m riding up the road, I think, “Damn, I should have bought a beer instead to celebrate the 4,000 kms!” Never mind, the Coke will taste good, too.
Back into the wind. I slowly pedal us up the long, gradual hill that leads into the little village of Granya. The wind is more squally now, but it does have some periods between gusts where it dies down to almost nothing. A fly or two tries to stick in those moments, but then gets blasted away by the next round of gusts.
I’m ready to be done. Two days of wind mean there has been no silence for my ride. It’s all been the sound of moving air: the wind blowing across my ears like someone blowing across a bottle top; a million leaves rustling, colliding, rubbing; the sound of equalisation – air rushing to fill areas of low pressure. It is a sense of security in a way – that all things equal out, that the atmosphere is dynamic and that things will change and nothing ever has to stay the same. (Well, that is security to me, but maybe not Trump supporters.)
So I’m thinking about the sound of moving air, and how I will be happy to hear some silence when it finally stops. I think about how happy I will be to get up into the sheltered valley of Cotton Tree Creek and out of the full force of the wind. As a cyclist, you know that the best thing about the end of a day of riding in wind and/or rain is the simple pleasure of just getting out of it.
I roll into the state park. The camping area is completely overtaken by four big caravans all spread out in the open area. Thank goodness I had no intention of camping here and I’m not in a car. My plan all along has been to head up the walking track about 400 metres to the old Scout Hut and camp there. It has a much better setting and you look out over the creek. The camping area feels like you are sitting in the back paddock of the adjoining property, and the people on that property zip around on noisy motorbikes and enjoy shooting rabbits for several hours each evening. So…. I’m heading to more peaceful surrounds.
Ahhhhh…. there’s still some wind about, but not much. The mozzies aren’t bad. The creek is running. It’s perfect.
The guys and I celebrate 4,000 loaded kilometres. Okay, we’re not quite there yet. Maybe it is premature to celebrate? Well, yes, it has been that sort of year where you really don’t want to count your eggs before they hatch. But I know we are going to hit 4,000 kms tomorrow…. because we have to. I have to get home and home is 90 or so kilometres away. Barring complete disaster, we will hit 4,000 kms tomorrow morning. So we take some pics and do a celebration dance.
Then we relax. 53 miles into the wind and up and down the gentle hills was certainly enough for today. I kick back and enjoy the peaceful views – the video below shows the view and the sound of the kookaburras in the trees.
I think about the ride the past two days. I reflect on the dirt, the dust, the gravel, the times I felt like I was skiing through soft gravel and wasn’t sure if I was going to lose the back end of the bike, the flies that cover you whenever you stop and the wind is at your back, the hunger, the thirst, the search for a covered place to squat and pee, the blasts of wind that blow you sideways, the hills that rise before you with challenge and the promise of muscle fibres being built, the drivers that pass way too close, the drivers that stop and chat, the taste of cold milk down a hot, dry throat, the surprise of a spider crawling along the lid of a public toilet, the pushing hard at the end of the day when you aren’t sure where you will sleep, the ‘trespassing’ on a closed reserve and trying to lift a bike sideways over a gate while you are standing front-ways while trying not to slide into open grates, the sight of the satellites roaming high above the earth, the sound of the tent zipper when you finally slip into that little dome of security for the night, the gritty feel of your skin after a couple of days without a proper shower and several layers of sunscreen, insect repellent, sweat and dust, the sight of the sun crawling up and over and down the sky and the way that colour comes and goes with the sun, the sweet taste of water when the sun and wind have pulled it all from you, the sound of the bike freewheel indicating a moment’s rest in that meditative turn of the pedals.
I can’t imagine life without all of that. I think about the people I meet who think a great weekend is one spent at the pub eating, drinking and watching footy with their mates. I feel sorry for those people and their weekends devoid of challenge. Yep, I feel sorry for those people, those poor clean and comfortable people 🙂