Dart River – Hinces Creek via Nariel and Corryong
Monday November 28, 2016, 47 miles (76 km) – Total so far: 2,643 miles (4,254 km)
I wake in the night. Without the fly over the door of the tent, I can look straight up to see the stars. I spot a couple of good shooting stars in less than 3 minutes. I get up to go pee. I come back and lay there looking upward. I spot a speedy satellite. Oh, how I love nights in the tent. Then I roll over and go back to sleep.
It’s an early start. The 4WD guy yesterday scoffed at me when I said I’d be gone by 5.15am. So the lesson is this: if you ever meet a chick on a bike in the forest and any direction she came from involves a whole bunch of steep gravel, do not underestimate her. I am rolling at 5.10am – it’s not even first light yet.
The first 4 kilometres are all uphill out of the creek valley. For the first 1.5 kilometres the road follows a tributary and the climbing is very manageable. The forest is tall and damp. It looks a bit spooky in the grey, fuzziness of early morning. Surprisingly, I’m not sore. I’m climbing well first thing out of the gate even though my asthma is not good today.
The creek gurgles away down there and I crunch away up here on the gravel. Climb, climb. I really do love climbing, but I wish my easy gears were usable! We loop into a switchback and then find some steeper climbing as we leave the creek behind. Grunt, grunt, up we go.
It actually doesn’t take as long as I thought it would to do the 4 kms to the main Corryong- Benambra Road. Just as I pop out onto the road, a 4WD goes past. He’ll be the only vehicle I see until I pass my logging friend right near the bottom.
So now we’ve got 7 or 8 kilometres of steep-ish downhill. My logging friend warned me that the road has been transferred to the state roads department for maintenance and that the condition is now the worst it’s been in 30 years. In March when I rode it, it was still maintained by the local councils.
So, yeah, the road is pretty crap in a few places and really crap in most of the inside corners, but I don’t think it’s all that much worse than when I went up in March. My poor arthritic fingers don’t work all that well in the mornings though, so I can’t brake hard enough to keep my speed under control in some sections. And since it is continuous down at somewhat steep grades, my fingers quickly start to hurt from the braking.
Sooooo….. I get off and walk the bike downhill for parts of it. I’m impressed that I actually rode up this in March. I remember it being hard but manageable. Wow – it is steeper than it seemed then. Good job 8 months ago!
Right toward the bottom, I’m able to get back on the bike. Luckily, I am on the bike and no pride is lost when I meet my logging friend going up to work. He waves hugely, smiles hugely and honks. I give a small wave, but I need both hands on the bars, so it’s not quite as exuberant as his greeting. Then we hit the pavement and really let it fly since we know we’ve got a long run-out down the bottom. ZOOOOMMMMM!
I fly past the camping area. There are three caravans and a tent set-up that looks long-term. Zoom! We fly over the bridge and note how much more water is flowing than when we were here in early autumn.
Just over the bridge, a guy is out walking his yappy little dog. The guy is all dressed up in jumper, scarf and an extra woolly hat. I’m in shorts and a tshirt! Yes, it is cool, but I think the appropriate dress is probably somewhere in between our chosen layers. The guy stops me to chat.
He is beyond impressed with my route and that I’ve already ridden the Corryong-Benambra Road the other direction earlier in the year. He can’t believe I just pack up and go ride on weekends. He is so effusive with praise that I’m embarrassed and uncomfortable. He lives just up the road and says he needs to go explore more. He still can’t believe I’m already to Nariel and done the climb out of Dart River this early in the day.
Now what did I say again about underestimating a solo chick on a bike in the forest? I think many people underestimate me because I’m quiet and may come across as timid in group situations. Really, it’s just the introvert in me hanging back and taking it all in. Lots of people have been surprised over the years when they learn of my hobbies and what I’ve done for fun throughout life. My family and friends would just say, “oh yeah, that’s Em, she’s been independent and outdoorsy since she was little.”
So I head on down the valley, hoping to get aways down before the school buses start up and everyone goes to drive in to Corryong for work. There is a gentle downhill grade as you lose elevation with the creek. The valley winds its way around ridges and spurs. With no wind, the relative smoothness of chip-seal and that gentle downhill grade, I push it hard and am maintaining 17 mph for long stretches. And yesterday I only averaged 4.7 mph!! What a difference a day makes, yes?
Down, down the valley. It’s a really nice ride and a scenic cruise. We cross over a creek mid-way down that yesterday we rode over the ridge where its headwaters start. How cool is that?
We make it out the main highway at Colac Colac just ahead of the school bus! Good timing. From Colac Colac, there is a bike path into Corryong. The bus keeps stopping to pick up various kids along the way, and about midway to Corryong I get a downhill trend, so I kick it up hard and race the bus. At one bus stop, a kid with a basketball smiles and waves, and then turns glumly to get on the bus. He looks out the window at me as we race, but the bus has no more stops and the speed limit out there is 100 kph, so I don’t see it again. It was fun while it lasted though!
I go pick up a few items at the IGA supermarket. Then I notice that there is a community-run bakery across the street. I don’t remember this being here in March, and the time before that when I was here, I’m certain it wasn’t here. So I go in and try not to purchase every single sweet and savoury roll and pastry in there. The prices are all reasonable and everything looks good. I just get a couple scrolls and a hedgehog, but man, I could have gone nuts.
Then I head down to the park and drink and eat and text dear husband to tell him that he still can’t get his hands on my ‘retirement’ savings. I drink as much as I can, then fill up my Camelbak and head out of town. It’s going to be hot today, and the wind is not going to be in my favour, so let’s go! It’s about 11am.
The Briggs Gap Road crosses the floodplain then climbs steeply up onto a bench just below Mt Mittamatite. Then it undulates along as it rounds the mountain. The views back toward NSW’s highest peaks and the valley we rode out of this morning are expansive. Good stuff. This is a really nice road. There is a bit of traffic, but not much.
We climb to the gap – a low spot between barren, rounded hills to the left and the slopes of Mt Mittamatite to the right. I try to imagine all of this as a volcanic cauldron, but my mind doesn’t stretch that far this morning. The present landscape is about all I can ‘see’ today.
We summit the gap and are immediately glad we are heading this direction. The climb out of the Cudgewa Creek valley is longer and steeper. We lucked out today! Wheeeeeeeeee! Downhill with decent chip-seal and good views. Winner!
We then make our way down the Cudgewa Creek valley. We haven’t been down this section of road before and there is very little traffic. Good stuff. The flies are getting obnoxious and the wind is starting to strengthen. So we take a short break in the shade where the road to the national park takes off. There is a bit of a climb to get over a ridge and into the next creek valley, so I drink and hang out for a few minutes. I don the head net so the flies don’t drive me insane on the climb, and then we are off.
Over the hill, up the creek valley and then onto the gravel. We did this back in May. More climbing through pastures and open bits that we didn’t see last time because of fog. The views are nice, but it’s getting quite hot and windy, and I’ll be glad to end the day by 12.30pm.
There is no one up at the campsite (the track in is a bit rough for caravans), so I set up the tent in the shade, then immediately head down to the creek to fill up water bottles to treat and then dunk my head and shirt.
I do manage to almost step on a red-bellied black snake, even though I’m looking for snakes. Thank goodness he decided to go the other direction. I retreated the other way very quickly, too! Those ones are poisonous. You’ve got a few hours to get medical attention, but their venom can kill if left untreated. Sheesh! That was too close! He was a big one, too!
I head back up to the tent to hang in the shade in my wet shirt. I don’t stake the tent down so that I can keep moving it with the shade. I eat, I drink, I just hang out.
Around 4pm, a 4WD comes by, but they see me, frown and leave. See ya! There are more campsites down on the Bluff Falls Road (where I camped in May), so they’ll find something.
I don’t know why, but I feel really blah this afternoon. I should be excited that I conquered a ride that I thought might be too ambitious. I should be enjoying the peace and quiet. I should be happy that I’ve gotten 4 days off to ride.
But I’m just feeling low. I’ve been here a few times, and I’ve intentionally not camped here for some years because of bad memories from one trip back in 2012. I think maybe this campsite just has some bad ju-ju for me and I’m picking up on bad energy I left here that last time. Maybe it forces me to look at the future, short and long-term, and I’m not yet comfortable with those horizons. Or maybe I’m just tired from several big days of riding and not wanting to go back to the computer crap at work on Wednesday. Whatever the case, I don’t really want to be here for some reason. And no, it has nothing to do with PMS!
I go back down to the creek to play with the guys (ever watchful for the snakes) and wet down my shirt, but I’m just not into it today. Too many bad memories etched in my heart here, I’m afraid.
I listen to the cockatoos and the kookaburras as the sun sets and stars appear. I listen to my iPod. I think through all of the things I’m grateful for and all of things that make me a lucky and loved human. But it’s not consolation today. I go to sleep with teary eyes and a torn heart.