Jindera – Milbrulong State Forest via Burrumbuttock, Pleasant Hills and Lockhart
Sunday October 23, 2016, 89 miles (143 km) – Total so far: 2,258 miles (3,634 km)
So this excursion should be called the “Plan D Trip”. Early in the week, the weekend looked nice. So dear husband agreed to go camping. So I mapped out a route that would include a campground with him on Saturday night. Then, later in the week, the weekend weather looked cold overnight, and dear husband doesn’t do cold, so I mapped out a new route without him. Then dear husband suggested it would be nice to get away for a night, anyway, so how about I meet him at a motel somewhere. So I mapped out a third route. Then dear husband backs out of that. So I mapped out a fourth route – which is what we tried to ride.
My plan is to go super early to beat all of the people heading out for the Burrumbuttock flower show. I manage to get going at 7.30am instead of 6.30am – but I still beat all the visitors to Burrumbuttock, and the flower people heading out there to set up for the day are all polite in passing.
It is still COLD. I need gloves, tights and a jacket – it’s just 3.5 degrees C. We are experiencing our coldest October in 13 years. We should be about 21C for highs, and we haven’t even made it to 20C most days. It really has felt more like August than October this year. It is a huge contrast to last year when the average high was 27C and most days were over 25C. I will take the cold any day, but I am ready for less rain!
I turn north at Burrumbuttock and then turn off on my first new road for the day – Bloomfield Road. It is a nice gentle climb on good gravel to a high point with a good view. Then it’s down and around a dogleg to our next new road. We climb up this road and past The Elms – a huge mansion-like old house on immaculate grounds. It’s part of the flower show’s open gardens today. Here we head further north on Voss Road – but road is a misnomer. It is a laneway at best but really more like a track. We soldier on and have to get off and carry the bike through some muddy bits.
Then it’s down the paved Walbundrie-Walla Road for a few kilometres until we get to the road that heads down and over the Billabong Creek. Plenty of water has come through here lately! The debris line is about 2/3 the way up the high bank and quite far out over the low-side floodplain. Impressive!
The sun is out and we are pedalling north. The objective today is to pick up a whole bunch of new roads. That means most of our miles today will be on gravel. We weave about on ‘lanes’ and ‘roads’ and over really eroded bits and along really nice sections. We roll up and down the gentle hills and across flat basins. The crops, the cows and the weeds all seem to be doing pretty well. The only drawback is that the flies and mozzies are doing VERY well. They are both out and about in obnoxious proportions. The flies are normally bad this time of year – swarming your face, arms and legs as soon as you stop. But mozzies brazenly coming out for a feed in the sun and wind isn’t normal.
Still, we proceed north with the obnoxious insects in tow to Pleasant Hills – or ‘Schonberg’ as it was originally called in German. This area was settled by the German emigrants from South Australia in the 1860s. It boomed in the 1870s with a mini gold rush. It developed a bit more with the railroad in the early 1900s. It has some historic, original buildings and a whopping population of 39 these days. The setting is very aesthetically pleasing.
I stop to have lunch and fill water bottles at the public toilets and playground. The big blue sign tells you where this is located and also indicates that there is a free public BBQ. There is a tall fence all the way around as this area is also shared by the preschool. I leave the bike by the playground, go pee and then move the bike over to the picnic tables. The flies are all over me and I’m swatting mozzies, too, all out in the wind and sun. Blech! It’s a short lunch – as it is just too annoying to be covered in so many insects.
Just as I’m packing up, the Unwelcoming Committee of Pleasant Hills arrives with their lawnmower in tow. Please note, the grass does not need mowed. However, when I first arrived, a white ute drove slowly by and the guy inside the ute scoped me out. Now, that same white ute has returned.
The couple does not come over to talk to me. They don’t wave. The man just wanders about the playground and the woman starts mowing the grass right by the picnic table. She doesn’t even smile at me or acknowledge me. What arses! It’s obvious they are trying to run me off and they think I’m suspicious. Really? A chick in lycra (who probably shouldn’t be at this weight) with an expensive bike and gear? A middle-aged, slightly flabby, nerdy asthmatic woman? There are hills to climb in every direction from the public hall – how stupid would I be to try to steal something on a bike and then try to ride away?
Nevermind, I’m heading out anyway. Still, it pisses me off and I stew over this for way more miles than I should. I don’t know why it makes me angry – but maybe it’s because I try really hard to be nice to other people and accept all sorts of people. So it angers me when other people aren’t like that. I am not proud of it whatsoever, but I come up with all sorts of judgemental comments in my head about those ‘fat, tattooed bogan close-minded small-town rednecks’ as I ride. Just let it go, Em!
There are pleasant views in the pleasant hills as we head west into the quartering headwind. I’ve been seeing a few cars here and there today – enough to know I am not the sole survivor of the apocalypse but not enough to ever really need to use the mirror.
I pass by the first potential turn-off to the north on my map – but even in a dry, non-high grass year, there would be a heap of vegetation to contend with to get down that one. They obviously are letting the bush reclaim it. So on we go on the main formed road.
Once we turn north, we’ve got the tailwind behind us. We cruise north with the wind and a bazillion flies trying to find places on my body out of the wind. Ugh, it is definitely the annoying fly time of year again!
I get up to Osborne. There are plaques for where the old school used to be (closed in 1967) and an old church (closed in 2009 but absolutely no sign of it now). There is a small rural fire service shed still here, though. Further up the road to the west looks like a very modern footy oval and change rooms, etc. It is likely you could source water here and camp here, too. If I had known, I wouldn’t have filled up four litres of water back in Pleasant Hills for the rest of today, tonight and tomorrow morning.
Once we cruise out of Osborne on fair gravel, the day continues to deteriorate. I’m still stewing about the unwelcoming committee. Then, the main road appears to head west and the road on my map gets down to severely eroded single-lane dirt. It’s a dry weather only road, but no one has paid heed to that, and several times I’m off the bike and carrying it through muddy bits on tiptoe. Then the road gets even worse, and I’m down to what is essentially a track between a farmer’s fields. Finally, up ahead, after one more foray through mud and long grass on foot, I can see that the road dramatically widens and again gains form and gravel. Yippee!
My relief is short-lived. We ride over a gentle hill and through a right-turn jog. Then we pedal on down among more and more fields of wheat. It’s all good until my nicely formed road ends at someone’s driveway. On my map, and on Google, the road jogs north. Indeed, Chambers Lane is there…. but it is so overgrown and such a tiny two-track that I’m hesitant to head down it for the distance required. It is prime snake season, so I’m not sure about 9 or 10 kms on that. If it were 3 or 4kms only, I’d give it a go. But I’m not liking the chances of a two-track getting better or wider as it heads away from homesteads. Crap. There aren’t any alternatives. This new road quest has been an interesting one today!
So I turn around and backtrack. Grrrr…. What makes this so bad is that the flies are so bad. They just cover me every time I stop. The annoyance is the straw that… just makes me grumpy. I’m a patient and persevering type, but unfriendly folks, sticky flies and unmaintained roads have me a little peeved this afternoon.
Back into the wind…. This road takes us out to the main, paved road to Lockhart. I had no plans to go into town. And I never would have lugged all the water from Pleasant Hills if I knew I was heading into Lockhart and could fill up there!
Nevermind, grumpy Em rides that tailwind north on chip-seal that feels like velvet after all the rough gravel and dirt today. I start thinking – “hey, at least this means I can get a drink and a hamburger at the takeaway shop”! My mood improves slightly.
But alas, Lockhart is not an easy place to get food at 3.00pm on a Sunday. The pub only serves food from 12-2 and 6-8pm. The cafes are either not open or close by 2pm. But the petrol station does good burgers, and it’s the only takeaway option. However, in keeping with the rest of the day, the station is closing just as I roll in. The son is out shutting off the bowsers but lets me come in and buy a Coke. No burger… sad face, sad face, sad face. As I approach the counter, they are friendly and ask where I’ve ridden from today. Then, when I get to the counter with the bottle of Coke I realise I only have 3.25 in change and $50 notes. The Coke is $4.50.
I apologise for taking their time and start to go put the bottle back. You don’t give someone a $50 note and expect change after they’ve closed! But then, the woman and her son turn all the afternoon crap into good. The woman says, “How much change do you have?” She won’t let me put the bottle back for a can and says that she’ll just take whatever I have in change. No worries. I try to refuse but she and the son reassure me that it is fine. I feel really bad but profusely thank them for their kindness.
Thanks so much – it turns around the day. I know in my heart that there are way more good people in the world than bad – but it was nice to have it whack me in the face after the nasty folks in Pleasant Hills.
I head out of town – feeling a bit revived after some food from the panniers and part of the Coke. The Napier road follows the grain train line and is flat and in good condition. It’s another new road for us. This sets us up to ride Healeys Lane. It’s in good condition and has gentle climbing and very nice views. Ah, my mood lifts. I should be done by now, but the extra 12 miles are scenic at least.
We roll off the Healey Road past the townsite of Milbrulong on the road that heads toward The Rock. This one is paved, but I’ve never been on this bit of it before. The wind is a direct tailwind and we cruise on a gentle uphill through the basin with decent speed for the late afternoon of a long day. The road reserve is wide with many large trees and very little traffic. I guess everyone is already where they need to be at 4.45pm on a Sunday!
At the old rail siding of French Park I head south on a one-lane dirt road. The mozzies are so atrocious they are finding the lee of my helmet visor and then sliding down to bite me below my sunglasses… even though I’m riding into the 20kph headwind now! Sheesh.
I pass a somewhat creepy-looking guy going the other way in a ute. I don’t know how some men can creep you out with just their smile in the six seconds of passing, but this guy manages. I try not to think about him coming back later since it’s pretty obvious where I’d be heading at this time of day on a loaded bike.
I get up to the road that leads into the state forest where I’m planning to camp tonight. Crap. It’s another terribly overgrown two-track. But I don’t have many other options and I should only have to ride it for a kilometre or two. So up we go. It isn’t so bad, but my fear that there could be a snake slithering along that I can’t see, makes me a bit nervous. The trees encroach on the track, too, and it does seem a little creepy. I think, “Yeah, this is the sort of place you’d dump a body. Let’s just hope that guy doesn’t come back…. At least he wouldn’t have to go anywhere to dump my body.”
I get to an entrance to the state forest. It’s obvious they’ve been doing some logging recently – it looks pretty flogged. Other bits have various-aged stands of regrowth, native callitris pine. There is a sign that says there are surveillance cameras in use. Great – a state forest that attracts ‘evil-doers’. The mozzies go into full-on attack mode and I’m quickly putting on layers of clothes as I swat and slap. Sheesh.
I carry the bike around a fallen tree and then ride up the main track. After 89 miles and lugging a bunch of water, I’m done. I go about a tenth of a mile up the road and pitch just off the road in an open area. If that guy comes back to do bad things, I’ll be easy to find, but I don’t have enough energy to care at this point.
As I lay the bike down, the mozzies call out the troops. It is like a cloud of insects. If it weren’t for the high-pitched whine and their size, the density of them would make you think they were gnats. It is truly insane. I have to erect the tent with one hand for the most part, because I need the other to constantly swish them away from my face.
Finally, I get the tent set up and get each pannier tossed in quickly one at a time – zipping the tent back immediately each time. Then I manage to get myself, or at least my upper body in the tent. The mozzies converge on my shoes. I then pull in one leg at a time. It’s nuts. I finally get the last leg in and only need to kill one mozzie in the tent. I can count 35 on various parts of the fly and inner mesh. I will not be getting out again until after dark for any reason! Maybe the mozzies will keep the creepy guy away!
I lay down for a bit then have dinner. I am so exhausted. I did try to push harder gears today to build muscle, but I am more exhausted than 89 miles and only about 1500 feet of climbing should warrant. I drink a bunch of water, listen to some music, and then I get comfortable for sleep. It’s only 8.30pm, but I’ve got nothing left. Creepy forest or not, I’m out!