Morgan’s Lookout to Corowa via Burrumbuttock, Brocklesby and Balldale
Tuesday October 13, 2015, 49 miles (79 km) – Total so far: 408 miles (656 km)
I wake in the dull grey of pre-dawn. Wisps of fog settle about the edges of the creek and coat the tent in moisture. I should get up. There’s a good chance of headwinds today. We could get in some miles before the commuter traffic and the wind pick up. But I’m warm and comfy and not motivated. So I sleep for another hour. The sun is up but not reaching my tent site when I finally get the day started at 7am.
We roll on down to Walla Walla. It is starting to become a commuter town for Albury – a 45-minute drive away. For the touring cyclist, there is a coffee shop, a takeaway/post office/general store, a swimming pool, a pub (which might have accommodation) and an oval where you could camp if needed. I have no needs at 8am, so I roll on out of town toward Burrumbuttock. This road is not new to me; it is a regular route for dayrides when I live in Jindera. But it is still pleasant and has very little traffic except for a couple of school buses out on the morning run.
At Burrumbuttock (takeaway shop/post office and a pub only), we turn onto the Burrumbuttock-Brocklesby Road. The climbing starts immediately. Forest closes in on both sides and the road angles up. There is a first false summit and then the road pitches a bit more steeply to a curve at the top. I use the small front chainring on this climb. But, oh, do I love to climb! I love the cadence of spinning, the feel of of my heart pumping and the deep exchange of air in my lungs. I love this!
We go screaming down the hill only to find another climb not far ahead. The wheat fields and shimmering stands of canola roll out and away from the road among more hills, while tall gum and shrubby acacia line the road. It is incredibly picturesque and incredibly fun.
After the next crest, the road dives again and we are up out of the saddle to cushion all the rough bumps as we fly along downhill at 28 mph with no effort. The road steeply rollercoasters through about five ups and downs with a gorgeous agricultural backdrop. I grin hugely through here. I had no idea this road was like this – it immediately becomes a new favourite.
At the bottom of the last downhill the road curves right and we lean into the turn like we’re taking part in a physics demonstration of centrifugal force. A gentle uphill then leads into a left-hand curve with more gentle undulations through a creek drainage surrounded by hills. A small tornado came through here last autumn and you can see the damage on about three properties where it touched down.
We roll into Brocklesby. A pub stands on the first corner in town, but it is only open limited hours these days on a community licence. Two tree-lined service roads parallel the main road on each side. There is a park with play equipment, tables, interpretive sign boards and restrooms with potable water. There is also a solid-looking brick community hall dating from 1907. We stop for sunscreen application and a look at the town history board. There were quite a few businesses at one time, but most have burned down, and there is nowhere to purchase any food or drink in the present. The whole town is about two blocks long plus the school.
We head on out of town still following the railway. Someday this state will get its act together and start investing in rail trails. The rail-line we follow today is a contender for future funding.
The road to Balldale eventually turns to dirt, but it is in good condition for the most part. We don’t lose too much speed because we don’t have to pick our way through rough gravel or loose stones. It’s mostly hard-packed clay with a few places of loose overlain gravel. It confirms my feelings that Greater Hume Shire has better dirt/gravel roads than paved ones (which can sometimes be quite rough).
The agricultural scenes continue. It is just a damn pleasant ride. It is not magnificent. It is not grand. But it is really pleasant at this time of year, and there is hardly any traffic. From Brocklesby through Balldale and all the way back to the Hopefield Road, a distance of about 15 miles, I see only three vehicles.
Balldale fronts the railway line. Along this main street there is a teeny tiny post office (which advertises drinks and food), some disused (I hope they are disused) cottages that might have once housed a store, and a pub that doesn’t look like it ever opens. But who knows – it’s not the right time of day to make such a judgement. However, its generally dishevelled appearance extends to the little satellite dish which is also covered in dirt and rust.
The town feels a bit like it was just plopped here in the middle of trees and wheat fields after the railway went through. The town probably predates the railway, which came in 1892, but its focus is on the freight and passenger corridor which finally ceased in 1988. I do not think much has happened since then. The park that runs along the old rail-line in front of the pub and post office has picnic benches and gorgeous flower displays. There are some pieces of old farm machinery about, some of which has been turned into uncomfortable-looking seating. There is also some play equipment that certainly wouldn’t meet modern safety standards. The wood and car tire play structure screams lawsuit from splinters and burns and who knows what else. There’s definitely no soft-fall under that structure! But maybe there are no children to play on the play equipment. Maybe there are no people at all. It is absolutely silent and still for 30 minutes while I eat lunch. Finally, a man driving down a side street on a mower proves that there is life in this tiny far-flung village of has-been.