20 – 25 December
179 kms (111 miles)
Day 1 – 42 kms (26 miles)
We’re rolling down the asphalt, the packed gravel and the loose gravel. We’re rolling over the river and up the valley. We’re rolling through the long shadows of trees at sunset. We’re rolling along the reservoir whose waves lap high up the shoreline in a La Nina year.
What’s most important is that we’re rolling again.
We’re building from a fitness base of naught. Before surgery on 25 November, I spent nearly all of October and November sitting or lying in bed, trying to find some position that provided relief from the pain. So we don’t even have the fitness of routine walks to the shops to build on. We’re starting at nada, zip, zilch.
But still, we’re out here riding. The week after surgery, I went car camping for a week. That was manageable.
A week after that I did the long, curvy drive over to the coast to visit my old neighbour and cycling friend in the nursing home over there. I wanted to squeeze in a trip before NSW stupidly relaxed restrictions as Omicron came on the scene. It seems likely that they might ban visitors from nursing homes at some point again, so it was important to get in a trip.
And now, this week, let’s go ride. I’m not supposed to be doing any strenuous exercise until the second week of January, so this could be a simple 3-day ride to a campsite and back. Or it could be 6 or 7 days up in the hills with a bit of steep, loose stuff. I’ve got a few ideas there on the map.
We’ll see what my body wants to do. I’ve got 6 days of food on board, and I’ll fill up with 6 litres of water 35 kms into it at Tallangatta.
I’ll camp tonight at Old Tallangatta or Bullioh. But those aren’t spots where you set up the tent until just on dark. Those spots are also just 42 and 48 kms from home. So we wait out most of the day’s heat and don’t leave home until close to 6pm to ride the 40-some kays.
Not one kay from home and a skinny young girl on a scooter following her chubby older brother on a bike says to me as we pass one another: “Hello, Mr Postman!”
Well, in the past, some postie bikes did have red saddlebags, but the rest of the conclusions are just a bit off. Last I checked, I was still not a Mister. And we have motorbike posties in our town. I haven’t seen a pushbike postie since 1998 in Murwillumbah. Believe me, if pushbike postie was still a thing here, I’d be all over it. Sadly though, you know, like I do, that they’d contract that out these days and you’d get paid nothing and have no decent conditions or injury insurance cover. Gone are the days of good jobs with good wages, conditions and achievable work loads.
The sun sinks lower behind the hills as we pass all the reserves along the lake. Ebden is still packed out with families having evening picnics. There are kids splashing in the water, parents reclined on blankets and several jet skiers close by doing all the obnoxious things that jet skiers do. The smells of jet ski exhaust and beef snags cooking on the public barbie fill the air.
I stop next to the boat ramp, go down and wet my shirt in the water, redress and continue on. It’s the first time I’ve ridden in the heat this season and I’m not yet acclimated.
My legs will tell you we haven’t ridden with a load in a while, but we make it into Tallangatta just as the sun sets. It’s quiet – all the shops are shut. But you can tell the takeaway shop closed not long ago because you can still smell the hot oil from the fryer when standing in the street.
I fill six litres of water – one litre for rehydrating tonight, 3 litres for tomorrow, and 2 litres for the next day. I have hope that the creek at tomorrow night’s camp will actually be running since we’ve had rains in Nov and Dec this year. But I can’t count on it. So I lumber out of town laden with way too much weight for my fitness level and non-strenuous activity orders.
We pedal slowly, oh so slowly, up and down the gentle grades as the day edges closer to last light.
We reach Old Tallangatta in the twilight and set up camp in the same spot as we did back in September. The trees have all leafed out since then and there’s lots of things living in the oak thicket next to us. Some bird in there is sawing away at something – maybe he’s sharpening his beak, but I wouldn’t be surprised to look in there and see a bird with safety goggles on using a hacksaw to cut up sticks to reinforce his nest.
It’s 9 pm and the sun has just gone. Tomorrow is the solstice. We’ll start losing light again. The end of the year is upon us already.
Time moves on. Even if you can’t or won’t. I’m ready to move on though. This chapter has grown too long.
And so I set up the tent as darkness claims the earth. I glug down the water and am amazed at the super highway of satellites zooming above the tent. I count 9 in less than 20 minutes. Sheesh. What would it look like from earth if two satellites collided? Would it be a bright flash and then a fizzling fireworks effect as little pieces fell into the atmosphere and burnt up?
I’m burnt up and burnt out now, too. Time to rest these weary legs and let sleep repair the rest.