2015 Rides – Sep Ride 1 – Day 2

Glenrowan to Corowa via Boweya and Peechelba

Monday September 21, 2015, 57 miles (92 km) – Total so far: 196 miles (315 km)

The clouds are dark and threatening this morning. The wind is already blowing back the grass. I did bring my raincoat, but the forecast is a 40 percent chance of less than 1 millimetre. In other words, it is not going to rain. Still, the wind is going to be in my face all day today, so let’s get going.

I stop in town at the takeaway shop to get an egg and bacon roll for the road. I should have gotten more food yesterday in Wangaratta. Today’s ride is going to have to be done on the fuel of one Snickers bar, a bottle of Coke and what turns out to be the tiniest, most expensive ($7) egg and bacon roll I’ve ever purchased.

You would never know there was ever a town called Glenrowan if it were not for Ned Kelly. It is a tiny, sad little town with a bunch of crappy houses, a few nice ones, and a main street that subsists solely on the tourist trade. Ned Kelly is Australia’s most famous bushranger (outlaw), and he was captured here during a siege after his gang tried to derail the train full of policemen coming to arrest him. Nowadays, the town consists of interpretive signboards telling the siege story, a pub, a takeaway shop, a bakery, a museum, another touristy video experience-thingy, two cafes and a craft/art gallery. There is also a large statue of Ned Kelly in his famous homemade armor. It is all incredibly tacky, touristy, overpriced and just a bit sad, really. If it weren’t for Ned, this town would have nothing.

We stop at the takeaway shop to get an egg and bacon roll to go. There are not many businesses in this tiny town (it’s only 10 minutes drive from two bigger towns – Benalla and Wangaratta); there’d be none if it wasn’t for the tourist crowds coming to see the sites associated with Ned Kelly (famous bushranger).

I pack the egg/bacon roll in my pack and pedal out of town on the old Hume Highway. We turn off onto the Boweya Road and head up the back side of the Warby Range. The skies go all scalloped and the rain falls in two spits about seven minutes apart, and that’s it. The sky will slowly clear and the wind will diminish a little as the day wears on.

We ride through agricultural land – wheat, canola and lupines, mainly. We follow the range to the right and pass by the Winton Wetlands on the left. It is mostly just dead trees and swampiness and not a whole lot of water over this way. It is a gentle and pleasant landscape as we make our way back north. It will turn dry and crispy as the summer bears down – it’s at its best-looking at this time of year.

The sky goes all wavy and scalloped as the front comes through. We only get about 2 spits of rain.
Verne gets all excited when we see this sign near the Winton Wetlands. Sadly, we see no Vernes. We do hear heaps of Kermits though.
Wheat, canola, Warby Range.
The locals call this “Hay-drians Wall”. Yeah, I just made that up.
And the locals call that “Canola Hill”.
What Council is really trying to say: “We don’t maintain this road very often. Good luck!”

Eventually, the road turns to gravel. It’s in okay shape, and I don’t see many cars. It’s just nice to be out on the bike in decent temperatures without many flies. I prefer hard-packed clay roads to gravel, but this gravel is manageable and not too hard on the wrists up to the locality of Boweya.

Boweya Primary School. 1882 to sometime in the 1980s.
Forest Road was quite hilly with a lot of large, loose gravel in places. Not as nice of condition as I would have liked, but luckily I didn’t see any traffic even though there were plenty of homes on small rural blocks out this way.

We climb up to Forest Road which borders the old state forest that is now part of the national park. This road is hilly and narrow with lots of large loose gravel to avoid and rough patches where the underlying large rocks of the base have started to surface. For the number of properties along this road, I’m lucky to only meet one car along this stretch. Still, it is scenic, and the dark of the ironbark trees is a gorgeous contrast against the pale greens of the native bush.

We turn east on the Tungamah Road which gently rolls through pasture to the north of the old state forest. There is a car every 10 or so minutes on this paved and lined road.

We then have to ride for a bit on the “C” road – Yarrawonga Road. This road is considerably busier, but luckily it’s not a weekend, so it’s manageable. Most cars are waiting to pass when they need to – and most give me the space they should when they pass. We only need to be on this for about three kilometres, thankfully.

Down to the river we go, slipping through the shadows of the floodplain trees. The last of the clouds slip away to the east and we stop to apply sunscreen and consume the Snickers Bar.

Ovens River near Peechelba East. The sky has cleared. Time for sunscreen and a Snickers Bar. We see our first snake of the season on the river bridge (a big, but dead, red-bellied black snake).

We wind our way along more tree-lined dirt roads through swampy land and pasture. Once we turn onto the paved Boorhaman Road we are treated to a mile or so of water lining both sides of the road through Black Swamp. The bird life is prolific; the frog chorus a virtual symphony. The vitality of life through here evokes a huge grin from me, Verne and Kermit.

We risk our lives on the Murray Valley Highway for three or four kilometres because there are no other options. This is a very busy “B” road with absolutely no shoulder and very little lane width. Worst of all is the impatience of the drivers who absolutely do not wait and do not give me any space when passing. They make Montana drivers seem polite!! This 15 or so minutes of terror eases when I roll off onto the first gravel road, backtrack a bit on another gravel road before getting onto the Lake Moodemere Road. It is getting on in the day and I am tired of fighting into the wind, but all of the large, loose gravel and challenge in finding a tire track to follow is an easy trade-off compared to risking life and limb out on the highway.

Black Swamp on the Boorhaman Road. Water lined the road on both sides for almost a mile. We heard at least 4 different frog species and the birdlife was prolific. The guys were in heaven. A real treat because I had no idea this was there.

We roll into the Lake Moodemere entrance road and check out the maps. In my head, I remember that there are some dirt management tracks around the lake and through the floodplain we can take to get back to Wahgunyah. No way I’m going back out on that highway!! The maps give us an indication of the general direction we need to go. We spend a bit of time just soaking up the silence of the lake since we have it to ourselves.

The guys enjoying a quiet Lake Moodemere. We’re almost home, but we couldn’t pass up having the place all to ourselves even though it’s school vacation time.

Then we spend the next 20 minutes weaving around near the river through the floodplain on two-track that is sometimes sandy, sometimes muddy and sometimes so rutted and puddle-ridden that we have to dismount and do a sort of tight-rope walk with the bike on tiny mounds of high ground. Eventually, we make it out to a gravel road near a winery. This leads us to the paved Distillery Road where we fling mud off the tires in nearly every direction as we push up the hill. Then it’s a downhill through Wahgunyah, back over the bridge and home. Another fantastic weekend on the bike!! Where to next weekend?

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