Corowa to Morgan’s Lookout via Goombargana West and Walbundrie
Monday October 12, 2015, 52 miles (84 km) – Total so far: 359 miles (578 km)
Another weekend, another ride. This weekend’s ride is brought to you by the letters “B”, “G” and “W”. Our ride takes us through the localities of Goombargana West, Walbundrie and Glossop on Monday; Tuesday sees us pass through Walla Walla, Burrumbuttock, Brocklesby and Balldale.
All of our riding takes us through two major pastoral runs from the 1830s and 1840s – Goombargana and Burrumbuttock. Explorers Hume and Hovell in the 1820s, and Mitchell in the early 1830s, reported on the soils and countryside of the area after their expeditions. Subsequently, squatters moved in and ran huge pastoral runs. Then the Robertson’s Land Act in 1861 allowed settlers to take up 40 to 320 acre farms within the runs. By 1875, Goombargana, which had been 50 square miles in size, had been completely subdivided. So that is the context for the agricultural land we’re traversing today.
We head out of town on the Riverina Highway (avoid if at all possible) and sprint to the Hopefield Road turn-off. Hopefield has lost all hope. There is nothing left there but the grain silos on the disused railway. But the road isn’t very busy, and there aren’t tons of trucks as I’d been warned, so I just enjoy turning the pedals into an annoying headwind accompanied by flat, cropped fields and trees lining the roadway.
I’d hoped there would be water in the Oil Tree Lagoon, but there is nothing visible from the road. The surrounding land is low and swampy, however, which provides some contrast to the cropped fields and the mass of Goombargana Hill that lies ahead.
Goombargana means “big black hill” in the Wiradjuri language, and that is an apt description. Among the flat country that surrounds it, the hill can be seen for many miles on approach. And indeed, its dark forested slopes make it look like a ‘big black hill’.
Of course, when the road has been descending on approach to the hill, and the long limbs of the main outcrop stretch out like curling tendrils of smoke, you know there will be a climb in store. Even into the headwind, the climb is still a middle-chainring climb, and just enough effort to provide a nice change of pace and a good vantage point from the top.
We turn right on the Daysdale Road and have to climb the other shoulder of the hill as we head east. The cropped fields gleam green. The wheat is a darker green, while the canola is a lighter green that seems to shimmer as the wind rummages through the long, spindly stalks. Everywhere we look, the crops roll out into the distance and gentle forested hills pop up here and there. The road remains tree-lined and in good condition for chip-seal.
We stop in Walbundrie for lunch. There are limited food supplies and takeaway food on offer at the Farmers Co-op. It also acts as the post office and a transaction centre for local government. I grab a choc milk for now and a Coke for the road. I eat peanut butter and crackers in the park – the toilets here are clean. There are paper towels, mirrors and potable water on offer. You could camp here if needed.
I’m feeling tired and fatigued – the headwind, which has turned to a quartering headwind for the past 45 minutes, has taken its toll. I’m only about 40 miles into it, but the lack of touring fitness shows. Luckily, that wind is becoming a tailwind and it will gently shove us down the Walbundrie-Walla Road.
The road is flat and tree-lined. Occasionally we pop out into full sun with gorgeous views out over the fields of wheat and canola. The countryside is just starting to dry out but still looks vibrant, green and alive. Come back in January for a totally different story.
The road is quiet. The world is far away. All the world’s worries and troubles have not reached this quiet country road. In 10 miles, I see one car. I call the woman driving the car “Mrs Glossop” because I pass her near the locality of Glossop. It consists of one old farmhouse. Mrs Glossop is the only thing that disturbs the clunk of my bike across the cracks in the road and the whir of my freewheel, as I coast with the wind on gentle downhills.
When the road ends we turn north on Lookout Road to Morgan’s Lookout. Rocky chunks of granite stand high on a hill overlooking the surrounding landscape. A few years ago, I came up here and watched the space shuttle go over on its last ever mission. The steady round glow of light appeared out of the WNW and disappeared to the WSW just after last light. 20 minutes later, it was landing in Florida. No such excitement today – just a nice climb on dirt on the bike and then a climb up the metal ladder that leads to the top of the rocks.
We cruise back downhill and back toward Walla. We turn off just south of Billabong Creek to a sandy two-track that leads to the creekbank. When I live in Jindera, this is often part of a dayride and I sometimes stop here to have a snack. Today, the guys are excited about camping next to the watercourse and indulging in some habitat.
I hang out in the shade and wind, enjoying the surrounds and the lack of any brown snake sightings. They are Australia’s second most venomous snake and love this type of habitat. They can also be a bit nasty and aggressive at this time of year. I make plenty of noise as I move about before sitting down to dinner.
I don’t want to camp down the bottom of the track where most people seem to camp, as it is line with headlights coming down the road. I also don’t really want to draw any attention to my solo self, so I find a relatively flat spot behind a berm of sand. My tent slopes gently downhill, but just out the front door, the slope drops steeply about 15 feet to the creek below. You don’t want to lose your balance when you get out to pee here!
I also hope that this mound of sand I’m camping on decides to stay put, and tonight is not the night it transcends the angle of repose and goes sliding into the river below. All this sandy sediment was dumped here in the 2012 floods; let’s hope it’s stable!
The views from the tent door, and the softness of my bed can’t be beat, though. We listen to the bird call and watch as the sun goes down and the sky goes dim to darkness. Yep, just another great day on the road.