Corowa to Berrigan via Rennie
Saturday October 3, 2015, 56 miles (91 km) – Total so far: 252 miles (406 km)
The heat and the flies get unbearable during summer out on the plains. So the plan is to head out to Berrigan before the weather heats up. I’ve never been out that way before, and even though it’s not mountainous, I figure there will be something interesting to see. Regardless, it will be all new roads to me.
Jim Henson, however, gets in the way. I discover there is a film season in Melbourne all about Jim Henson on the last weekend in September. Muppet nerd that I am, I can’t pass that up. So the Berrigan ride gets pushed back a week so I can enjoy a weekend of Muppets in Melbourne.
Pushing the Berrigan ride back gives Mother Nature time to organise a heat wave. Our first days in the 90sF are forecast for the first weekend in October. It will end up being the earliest heat outbreak on record for all the eastern capital cities. So much for timing the Berrigan ride for spring before the heat set in!!
We take off early and the first 37 miles is all on flat roads through large cropped fields and rows of trees in the distance on the edge of the fields. It reminds me of my home state of Indiana, just different crops and different trees. It’s a similar landscape, though. It is pleasant. I can find pavement for all of those miles and there are very few cars on the road. It is Australia’s version of the “Superbowl” today – the Grand Final for the Aussie Rules code is on today. So most people will be staying at home to watch that.
Finally, we run out of pavement as the landscape goes gently rumpled. We have a climb on rough gravel for a few kilometres between cypress pine and scrub. Granite rocks outcrop along the side of the hill. At the top, we get to the gate for Boat Rock. You have to pass through private land to get to the public reserve. The reserve features a reservoir carved into the rock by the clans indigenous to the area. It is supposedly the only site in Australia where there is evidence of Aboriginal people carving a dam out of rock. Sadly, the gate has a padlock on it, so I don’t want to risk hopping the fence. We continue on.
We get some great views from a high point, before the rough gravel descends, weaves and heads up the next hill of granite outcroppings. The road descends again and undulates through open, cropped fields. I see two brown snakes on the road through here. Summer is definitely on its way.
I cruise north across the Riverina Highway on more crappy gravel that has ruts, washboard and lots of large loose rocks that make it hard to find a line. Finally, we turn west on good pavement that is only coarse in the newest “Roads to Recovery” sections. The ENE wind that helped me all morning has turned into a moderate northwesterly as forecast, and the last eight miles into town seem to drag. Offsetting the effort though is the beautiful open woodland in the state forest. It is very pleasing on the eye and fun to pick out the different aged stands of pine. All day today those pines have been reproducing like hippies at Woodstock. Tufts of pollen have wafted through the air like clouds of smoke, sometimes so hazy I wondered for a moment if there really was a fire.
Berrigan is pretty much a one-street little town that is mostly closed up for the weekend. The tiny IGA is busy with people buying snacks, smokes and beer before the big footy game starts. There are also a ton of horse floats arriving in town for the Berrigan Show (like a county fair) tomorrow. I grab some food and drinks (it is quite warm – high of 91F here today), consume them at the park, then go over to the caravan park. It is pretty empty and I get a shady spot on the grass… erm… thorny weeds (don’t roll your bike over the grass here in summer or autumn!). There is a microwave and fridge in the laundry, so I’m able to fill water bottles and freeze them overnight.
It’s a relaxing afternoon in the shade, but not the most restful night as it seems half the town is partying til late. Some really bad karoake singers from several blocks away go well into the night. Dogs bark all over town, dogs bark in the caravan park, and it turns out the trailer switch/drop point for the truckies is right in front of the caravan park. They drop and pick up trailers all night long. Sometimes I complain about the shitty town where I was raised. Then I visit a tiny town like this and think, “well, it could have been worse. I could have had to grow up here”! Very average little town aside, it really was a nice day riding. I saw maybe 15 cars in total, and 10 of them would have been within five miles of the towns on either end.