2015 Rides – Oct Ride 2 – Day 1

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’.

We can’t see any water in Oil Tree Lagoon from the road, but we pass through a lot of swampy land like this nearby.
Flat, flat, flat, then this hill pops up out of nowhere. Goombargana Hill. I’m sure it is of significance to local indigenous people. To the average person, it means good mobile phone reception. There’s repeaters and such up there.

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.

Of course, we have to climb over the western limb and northern limb of that hill. This pic looking east is from the top of the climb on the western side.

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.

The ride today is all localities, place names and towns with the letters G and W. Here we ride through the Goombargana area.

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.

This sign was in one of our “W” towns for the day – Walbundrie. The whole ‘Board of Directors’ order makes it sound serious (she says as she chuckles).

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.

Gorgeous scenes like this all day long. This is near our other “G” locality, Glossop, which seems to consist of one old farmhouse.

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.

Morgan’s Lookout – you can’t pass through Walla Walla and Billabong Creek without pedaling up the dirt road to this lookout!

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.

We camp by Billabong Creek below Morgan’s Lookout. The guys are in heaven, and luckily we don’t see any brown snakes (second most venomous in Oz, very common and love creek habitats).

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.

The serving suggestion is to heat the rice and serve with pan-fried salmon fillets, steamed bok choy and slivers of red chile. I dumped the can of salmon in the bag of rice, then ate the whole thing straight out of the bag. It was actually surprisingly nutritious according to the packs, and actually tasted pretty decent, too. Not bad for a total of $3.

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.

We chose a campsite behind a sand berm, so we wouldn’t get car headlights piercing the tent after dark. This is also away from the dirt road down to the site, so we are less likely to be disturbed.
View from the tent door. What a pleasant view for the evening.

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