Holbrook to Jindera via Mountain Creek and Bowna
Monday July 13, 2015, 49 miles (79 km) – Total so far: 92 miles (148 km)
The big high pressure system remains overhead this morning. The dome of sky is deep blue and the temps have dropped like a bomb overnight. It is just 28F at 8.30 am. If it weren’t so cold, I would have been on the road an hour ago to try to get in some miles before the forecast headwind picks up. But the thick layer of frost outside deters me from leaving early today.
We roll down the vacant main street – a phenomenal experience if you’d ever come through here prior to 2013. The main street used to be the main highway between Sydney and Melbourne, so it used to be busy 24 hours a day. It is eerily ghostly this morning.
I stop to take a picture of our sea turtle, Statler, by the submarine. Yes, this town is five hours from the nearest ocean, but has a submarine planted in its park on the main street. Most people seem to think it’s neat; I think it is downright creepy. If you want to know why the town has a submarine, then just do a bit of googling.
I stop at the bakery to get some lunch, then roll down the empty main street toward the Culcairn Road. The only car on the street manages to pass me very closely and then make a left turn directly in front of me. Crap! I slam on the brakes and manage not to crash into the front passenger door by mere inches.
A few kilometres down the road we turn off onto the Mountain Creek Road. The narrow pavement is lined with trees backed by flat pastures. We head into a series of rollers through the Galena Hills before reaching more flat and swampy ground in the next watershed. The gentle hills of the northern end of the Yambla Range force the road south, then east.
We start into a long climb through scrubby forest. Some large trees poke through the scrub; cleared pastures polka dot the far view. We climb in the deep shade of the forest, pulling ourselves up out of the Murrumbidgee River catchment and into the Murray River Catchment.
A couple miles from the top, I come across a farmer grazing his cattle on the side of the road among the scrubby forest. He waves me down and we have a good 20-minute chat. He is a 4th-generation farmer. We talk alternative energy, climate change, places to travel and the beauty of bicycles. He is angry at the current government for its attitude toward climate change. His family have weather records for their property dating back to the 1860s, and he can’t tell you exactly how the weather is changing, but it definitely is changing – hotter, drier summers and drier winters with more frosts. It’s a great conversation and reiterates how much fun it is to meet folks on the road.
We get to the catchment crest and then go cruising down through the forest for several miles to Mullengandra Creek. Taller mountains rise before us, cleared pasture hacked out of the forest lines the road in patches. Lichen grows on the chip-seal in areas of thick forest. This is a great road to ride. Highly recommended even though it’s not a direct route to anywhere.
We have to get on the freeway for a couple of kilometres as there is no other choice. We can quickly get off at the Bowna exit and use the old highway alignment through the gentle hills down toward the huge Lake Hume.
Once the old highway alignment returns to the freeway, we turn off on a frontage road with long views over the empty reaches of the lake to the gentle, forested hills in the middle ground to the higher hills in the far distance. We turn onto the dirt, wash-boarded Burma Road which carries us through lifestyle blocks on the outer fringes of Albury at Ettamogah.
By the time I reach Ettamogah, it is clear that the fatigue and sore throat that I woke with this morning is the beginning of a cold. I’m only about 5 miles from home, but I’m dragging and my head is beginning to feel like it is not part of my body. Still, I pedal across the freeway and take the back road (part paved and part dirt) around to Dights Forest Road. Within two miles of home a woman in a four-wheel drive passes me with inches to spare and also forces the oncoming vehicle to slow and move over onto the dirt. The inconsiderate and dangerous move makes me angry – not a nice way to end a very pleasant ride. I roll into the drive, put away the bike and gear and succumb to the virus.