Wangaratta to Corowa via the Barambogie Range
Sunday October 25, 2015, 48 miles (78 km) – Total so far: 595 miles (958 km)
As spring slides into summer… No, wait. We never had a spring this year. It went straight from winter to summer. Let’s try this: the landscape is drying out. The vibrancy is beginning to dull. The bright green has gone olive or brown. The plant life is beginning to draw back to its endurance phase for summer – which, in this part of Australia, lasts for about half of the year.
The drabness of the pastures combines with both the flatness of the topography and the high, passing cirrus cloud to give a blah start to the day. We ride over the alluvial flats with our eyes on the low hills ahead. We’ll be riding up and over them today.
We turn off the Wangaratta-Eldorado Road by the dredge we looked at last week. We backtrack a half mile or so up that road as we gently climb to the Old Coach Road. We stop at the intersection for some fuel then begin the ascent on good gravel through private property.
The road kicks it up a notch as we pass between two farmhouses and the thick shade of deciduous trees. Once we reach the scrubby bush of the national park, the road kicks it up another notch as it twists around the corner of the ridge. It is steep enough I can’t climb out of the saddle or the back wheel will spin in the dirt.
Luckily, the short, steep bits are interspersed with more manageable grades, and there are bits of shade and gusts of wind to cool me off. Otherwise, the abundant sweat would probably be dripping off my nose. Of course, those flies are all over the freakin’ place and I feel like Pigpen, only I’m trailing a cloud of flies instead of dirt. Of course you know I’m not travelling fast enough to kick up any dirt!!
However, grunting up the hill aside, there is a great sense of accomplishment as views through the trees to the valley floor below confirm just how high we’ve climbed in a short distance. We climb between rounded boulders of granite and open forest composed of short, skinny gum trees. I have a thing for short and skinny – I married an Australian specimen who fits that description quite well.
I see a mother and daughter out for a walk, most likely from one of those two properties I passed just before the park boundary. I manage to say “hello” without sounding like I’m dying, even though I’m pushing hard on a steep bit at that point. They say hello like touring cyclists are common on this road. Or maybe they were just being polite and trying not to break whatever semblance of a groove I had acquired. I also manage to swallow one of the zillions of flies circling my head. I normally cannot drink water without nearly drowning when I’m grunting uphill, but somehow I manage and the fly moves beyond the “oh, that’s gross, I can feel him in my throat” stage.
Finally, we gain the ridge and the dirt undulates along through the open forest. The outcrops of rounded boulders and sheets of granite are pleasantly spaced throughout, and the downhill mixed with the uphill let my lungs and legs recover.
Eventually we pop out into private property and get longer views of the next set of hills. We pass through pasture and near dams that still have winter’s water present (yet evaporating). It is pretty warm today, even with the periods of high cloud that drift over on occasion.
After we turn off the Old Coach Road onto the East Triangle Road we pass over a creek, stop for a snack, and then begin a long, gentle climb along the edge of pasture to the state forest boundary. The wind has picked up; it’s not helping our progress, but it is keeping the flies and internal temperature under control.
There is just a little more uphill through the state forest, which looks no different in management than the national park, then we get the long, flying descent down the other side of the Barambogie Range. The road is in good condition, so we can let it fly at 30 mph at times. Yippee! This is so much fun!
Eventually, we coast on out of the park wishing the fun wasn’t over. Down on the flats on private land, the road gets washboarded and there is a lot more gravel pieces to negotiate. Still, it’s been a blast and we’ll definitely come back to explore more roads. It’s only about 25 miles or so from our crappy little town.
I stop to get a hamburger in the tiny, old gold-mining town of Chiltern. We passed through here last weekend. The plain burger is $7.50 but is a good size. Plus, “plain” in Australia includes lettuce, tomato, fried onion, beetroot slices and ketchup or BBQ sauce. It’s tasty and goes down well as I consume it in the shade in the tidy local park.
After the burger has somewhat digested, we continue our decidedly relaxed pace toward home. We ride up into another section of the national park near Chiltern and go check out the Tuan campsite. Really, when you are on the bike, you could just camp anywhere, but I’m curious to see if the campsite has a toilet. It does not. It is not a scenic spot, and there is road noise, so should I be looking for camping options in the future, I’d just plop down somewhere else in the forest. Still, we do find a bit of shade here, spread out the ground sheet and spend the hottest two hours of the day napping and looking at the maps to consider future routes.
I contemplate just camping here for the night. I brought all of my gear in case I wanted to camp. I’ve also been riding with all of my gear just because I think it is keeping me in a bit better shape than riding with the minimal gear I need. I also like the front pannier weight on that front wheel on all the gravel. It seems to lessen the skittishness in the handling.
After naps, snacks and a short walk, we head back toward Rutherglen and home once again. The wind is against us, but we just pedal it out. I just love being on the bike, especially when not a whole lot of the rest of my life is anything worth shouting about at the moment. Summer makes me bitchy, and summer has come early this year. Flies, heat, snakes, bushfires, inhumane heat. Some of it is here already; the rest I’m sure is soon to come. How many more good weekends for riding will we have?