Henty – Pulletop – The Rock – Five Ways Reserve
Saturday October 15, 2016, 74 miles (119 km) – Total so far: 2,122 miles (3,415 km)
Decent weather two weekends in a row! Woo-hoo! We normally start getting such luxury in August not October… but nevermind. This weekend I don’t really have any expectations about what the ride will be like. I am just on a quest to pick up more new roads. I’ve mapped out a route that will meander east then west while slowy heading north on Saturday… in an effort to head north while making a predicted northerly headwind not quite so direct. Then we can ride the northerly wind back home on Sunday.
Dear husband is not nearly as enthused to drop me off 45 minutes from home for a second weekend in a row. He is not a goal-setting kind of guy, so he doesn’t really understand ‘4,000 for 40’ or my ‘new roads’ quest. However, even though life has dealt him and us many blows, he has always done everything he could to support me. Including driving me to Henty on a Saturday morning.
Another hug and kiss like last weekend, and then I’m standing there again with a pile of panniers, a bike and a front wheel. This weekend we are off at 8.30am. First we head east on a gradual climb of a couple hundred feet over about 12 miles. The road follows Buckaringah Creek up into an area of rolling hills. I see three cars in this distance.
We turn off onto the gravel Bahrs Road. It’s in good shape and has typical views for this agricultural area – rolling hills, crops, pasture, remnant trees along creeklines and roads. I see one guy out on a quad bike with two working dogs and a “Stock Next 5 Kms” sign hanging off the back, then I see two farm utes with crop spraying equipment. The rest of the time it’s just me and the guys on good gravel with good views. Ahhh, I’m a lucky gal.
We come out onto the Wagga-Holbrook Road. This road is always busy and always has impatient drivers. Luckily, I only need to be on it for about 1.5 kms heading downhill with a tailwind. It’s good… because I see 8 vehicles in this distance and manage to get uncomfortably squeezed by a ute (he at least slows down) in this distance.
Then we turn off onto Trembley’s Road and head across a flat grassy basin that rolls out to hills on each side. We don’t see a single car on this road. Ahhhh…..
I stop at the intersection with the Pulletop Road to sunscreen, eat and remember just exactly which roads I’d planned to take up ahead. Then we are heading northeast into a quartering headwind up a one-lane paved road. Nice. The road heads up through a fairly narrow but cleared valley. Life’s crap falls away behind me with the wind. Good stuff!
We continue climbing up that narrow little road. It eventually turns to gravel as we change shires. Up here there are nice views over the pasture and lines of trees. No cars, no humans, a few stock herds. Good, good stuff. The route is a winner today.
We continue on through the hills. Up. Down. Curve. Bump. Causeway. Climb. Where are the cars? It’s been an hour and I’ve seen not a soul. The lushness of the land is abnormal but intoxicating. I’m soaking it all up. Enjoying it while it lasts. The only drawback is that the mozzies are atrocious, and they have taken lessons from the pesky Aussie flies. They have learned how to find the lee of my body and bite me from behind as I ride. In fact, they bite me in my behind. And so I ride for a few kms scratching my arse like a monkey and cursing like a sailor.
The Pulletop Road continues ahead with an inviting gentle roll and thick tree-lined gravel. But the Coorkadinia Road will give us a bit more climbing and a bit longer route, so we turn up there instead. We are rewarded with a nice two-crest climb and really nice views followed by a gorgeous two-crest downhill and a super-fun corner at speed. The gravel is good and the humans remain hidden. The road is all mine this morning.
We turn north eventually through more open country. It’s a bit more flogged through here and shows signs of salinity, but there are still no cars. With the exception of the 1.5 kms (approx 1 mile) on the busy road, we’ve seen 4 cars in 25 miles and that was all in the first 12. Lucky, lucky woman, I am!
I then turn west on the Burrandana Road. We ride through open pasture and canola and occasional wheat with views up into the hills that are part of Livingstone National Park. It definitely looks like you could camp at the Burrandana Hall and tennis courts on the road that leads into the national park.
Into the wind on a downhill trend. This has been a great ride today. Look at all the canola blooming below the hills of the national park. I decide to take some video of it. A few seconds later, though, I ride into a swarm of insects. I move the camera in front of my face to help shield against the ping of things with wings. Ouch!! They are numerous, and they turn out to be bees. You can see my ride through the swarm below – my husband said to leave in the audio because it’s funny to hear me being attacked.
There’s very little traffic on this road either. I pass by some guys that appear to be roasting a sheep over a barrel… or doing something unpleasant anyway. I don’t look too closely. I think I could hear the duelling banjos playing.
A bit further down the road, as I’m closing in on Mangoplah, I feel a needle being inserted into my ribs on my side. Holy shit that hurts! You have never seen a cyclist so quickly stop, dump a fully-loaded bike, fling off a Camelbak and then strip off their shirt. But I get the bee out of there that must have crawled up after riding through the swarm. I don’t know if they can sting more than once, but I was not keen to find out. I ride the rest of the way into town feeling very ouchy – it will swell pretty good, and even though I’m allergic to alot of things, I’m not necessarily allergic to bees.
After a pee and snack stop in Mangoplah, we head out on the road toward The Rock. This is all into the headwind. Supposedly it was going to be a 25-30kph wind today, but luckily, they are somewhat wrong and it is only a slog into a 15-20kph wind instead. But again, there are almost no cars. I see three in 17kms. Good stuff.
Of the three cars that pass me on The Rock road, one guy stops just at the top of a curve and short steep hill. He gets out of his 4WD, opens his gate and then comes out to say hello. He’s not the normal demographic to be inquisitive but he’s quite friendly. I’m not sure if it’s because he’s holding a half-full bottle of beer (he just passed me on the road!) or the sunny weather or what. But he wants to know where I’m going.
When I tell him I am just out for the weekend and have no real set destination for the night he says, “Well, that is just so cool. You have got to be real fit to do that on weekends.”
I tell him that I’m rebuilding fitness after our really wet winter but ride more for fun than fitness.
He replies, “Well, my fitness involves the walk between the fridge and the lounge. Gotta get up to get me beers, you know. They ruined my chances at extra fitness when they made the telly remote. Now I don’t have to get up to go to the TV.”
I say, “That’s a real tragedy, I see. Maybe you could store your snacks on top of the TV to get back that fitness.”
It takes him a second, but he gets it. He then says, “You are a doll. Now when you get to The Rock, the hotel does meals on Saturdays. You can get yourself a good feed there if you want to put on some more curves to go with your fitness.”
And with that, he delves into territories that I don’t like strangers to go. So I say, “Thanks, have a great arvo!” And I’m off into the wind and sun and big blue sky and bright green pasture and the almost traffic-free road.
I roll into The Rock and have some food from my panniers. The old takeaway shop I ate at once is out of business. I head up to the newer cafe to get a salad roll. They’ve tried to create some ambiance, and the owners must be music fans near my age since they’ve got Rage Against the Machine and Nirvana posters on the walls and guitars on end tables. They have the dining options on paper menus, instead of on a blackboard on the wall like a takeaway shop. This all means more $$ though the quality of the salad roll doesn’t really demand it. Never mind – it tastes good and gets some veg and calories in.
I sit in the shade to eat for the first time since April – it’s actually warm enough today! Then I refill water bottles for tonight and tomorrow, take a few photos for the dear readers, then I head on out of town.
There is a crazyguy that lives here that has posted in my journal. If I were more organised through the preceding week and had more of a clue today as to when I would get into town, I should have sent him a message and met him for a coffee or something. But I wasn’t that organised this time around, and the introvert side of me would be worried about what to say and how to hold my side of the conversation, anyway. So opportunity lost perhaps on this ride, sorry Smithy.
I head south on Vincents Road. We went the other way on our ride to Wagga back in July. I see two brown snakes in this 15 kms but only 1 vehicle.
And then, later, as we turn onto some more new roads I begin to wonder if the world ended after I left The Rock. I’ve gone 1.5 hours and only seen that one ute towing a trailer.
For many miles I think about what it would be like if I were the only one left in the world. How long would it be before I got tired of just being alone? How long could I survive on all the canned and boxed foods? When would all the dams fail? When would all the reactors go into meltdown? What would I do when the power stopped, the fridges stopped working and I could no longer get thyroid meds? How long would it be before all the vermin overran all the sources of food?
Wouldn’t it be joyous for a month or so to just be all alone… before all the problems started? What would feral cows be like? How would I avoid all the stench of rotting bodies? If I could choose just one person to survive with me, who would it be? Would I choose some hot celebrity (Ewan McGregor and Guy Pearce are my favs) whom I might not actually like, or would I choose a loved one? Would I choose someone practical so we could survive longer, or would I chose someone who would just be fun to do stuff with and talk to in the time we had left?
So that is what I think about as I ride through sloggy basins full of bugs and water and green grass and muddy puddles. That is what I think about as I climb gentle hills of pasture and cropland. That is what I think about because there are absolutely no cars. Nada. Nothing. No one.
And then, in the distance, I see a ute. As I get closer, I see it’s not moving. I start to wonder whom I’m going to share the end of the world with. And then I see that there is an entire mob of sheep heading down the road toward me. I ride up to them until they stop. Then I stop. The ute moves forward a bit, and then out jump the working dogs who herd the sheep forward and around me. Then I ride forward. The sheep farmer is my age or a bit older and holds up one hand and says, “Hey, how you goin'” in that very broad, rural accent that Americans would need sub-titles for in a movie.
I wave and continue on and shudder to think that I would have to share the end of the world with a sheep farmer. Not that I have anything against sheep farmers. He would be practical and we could survive for some time. But I don’t eat lamb or mutton – it’s too greasy and makes me queasy when I eat it. I’m sure Mr Farmer and I could have a lot of respect for each other, but we’d not have much to talk about I don’t think. And I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have much of a conversation contribution if I busted out the topic, “So given recent events, has this changed your perspective on the meaning of life?”
Still no more cars – I’m stuck with a sheep farmer in armageddon – as I head with the wind up the hill toward Terlichs Quarry. I’ve been up this way before. I love riding in the Pleasant Hills area because there are nice roller climbs and descents amongst a jumble of hills, ridges and valleys that were uplifted in the Benambra Orogeny. We’re riding the wrinkles of an old ocean floor, like an ant crawling the contours of a piece of paper gently crinkled.
We fly down the hill and come to the Five Ways. I’ve ridden through here quite a few times and always thought that the Munyabla Cemetery road reserve or the old travelling stock reserve would be a fine spot to camp.
I am able to get the gate open, so I go check out the shed on the stock reserve since it’s so soggy and mozzie-ridden in the road reserve.
The shed looks good! It looks like it’s used for environmental activities and as a place to store regeneration works tools. If I camp up the one end, no one will be able to see me from the road…. should there be other survivors of the apocalypse. I go grab the bike and carry it over all the weeds, then immediately get into my pants and rain coat. The mozzies are full-on!
I get the tent set up (no need for the fly), crawl in and enjoy the sun illuminating the trees in the low lit orange of dusk. I’m able to get a cell signal to text dear husband that he cannot cash in my superannuation or life insurance just yet. I’ve survived another day on the road.
What a great day it has been! A bunch of new scenic roads for my list, a distinct lack of traffic, good gravel, gentle climbs, sun, and the general good feeling that comes from pedalling and leaving all the crap behind for a bit.
Thank you, weather gods, for two weekends in a row with conditions suited to an overnight ride. And please feel free to give me that tailwind tomorrow as promised. Yours sincerely, Apocalypse Survivor Em