Unscripted – Part 2 – 25th Anniversary

Twenty-five years ago, in the second week of March, I was on a collision course with Nigel. We would meet on my birthday on the Great Ocean Road, after I boarded his bus in Lorne. I didn’t know that the course of my life was about to change forever.

Now, 25 years on, I’ve lived half of my whole life in Oz and almost all of my adult life.

So, in the back of my mind, I was hoping that I would be able to camp at Jacobs River somewhere in the week before or after my birthday. It’s a very special place for Nigel and me – our favourite camping spot and a place of many good memories from long ago. I wanted to spend a day there reflecting on the past 25 years – the highs, the lows, the tragedies and triumphs.

I was able to make the idea turn into reality. It also meant I could tick the Barry Way and McKillops Bridge Road off my ride to-do list. Those two roads are so super special, and I don’t think you can say you’ve toured Victoria unless you’ve ridden those roads. I was also able to tick off the Alpine Way – a bucket list item for many cyclists since it’s sealed. It wasn’t really on my list, but now I can say I’ve ridden that one, too.

It’s been an awesome nine days on the road, and I’m truly the luckiest chick on earth to be able to ride those stunning, remote roads and to camp every night in some of the more isolated parts of southeast Oz. Another nine days, another 10,000 metres of climbing – though these days weren’t on super rough and rocky roads – just chipseal for the Alpine Way and 2WD gravel for the Barry Way and McKillops Bridge Road.

I’m now in Orbost having a rest day to plan out how I might tackle the next six weeks in the remote mountain rainforests of East Gippsland. There are only two resupply points going forward, and I also need to figure out where I’m going to hide out over the mayhem that is Easter weekend (every Aussie and their cousin and cousin’s dog goes camping at Easter). So you are unlikely to get a March Summary – so consider the photo dump below a taste of where we’ve been and all the fun we continue to experience.

Happy Birthday to me. A gluten free caramel slice, the first we’ve found since Dunkeld in November. This was from the cafe in Khancoban.
The Alpine Way climbs from the Murray River at Khancoban over a couple divides to Tom Groggin, then there is a very big climb from 500 metres there to the top at 1580 metres. The whole road is sealed now and carries more traffic than I like. There are lots of sections through steep rock walls – much of it narrower than this, but those were on downhills, so I didn’t stop to take photos in the most dramatic bits.
Never short of nice views (of Greg’s view-blockers).
Scammels Spur Lookout. That should be a view of the tallest mountain range in Oz behind me, but it’s hidden in cloud this morning. Consider this my birthday shot.
View towards Mt Pinnabar at Tom Groggin station. This is where the climb to the Great Dividing Range starts. We were only about 10kms in that direction from here back in January on our ride down from Corryong to Buchan.
Um, I think this is the fifth time we’ve ridden over the ‘spine’ of Oz. Dead Horse Gap. Just about to get rained on almost all the way into Jindabyne.
The Barry Way drops down off the Monaro Tablelands to the Snowy River. It’s a narrow, winding road about 1.5 car widths wide. Nigel and I have come down this many times to camp, but this is my first time on the bike. Yippeeeeeeeee! Fun, fast and a bit dangerous. Just how I like it.
Jacobs River. The most special spot in Oz for Nigel and me. I had a fantastic day here reflecting on my 25 years in Oz.
Who needs a TV when you’ve got this view?
The Barry Way follows the Snowy River down through some very remote mountainous areas. With three years of rain there was a lot of grass growth and the landscape was looking very good.
Snowy River – wilderness areas reach up into the mountains on both sides.
Up another narrow, winding road that clings to the side of the mountain. This bit was steep enough it had chipseal for 75 metres.
That’s our road up there winding skywards. This is a 9 km climb from 400 metres at Suggan Buggan to 1000 metres or so to the Wombargo Plateau.
Gorgeous views over the ridges – I counted 9 deep at one view point.
Good luck if you are a car and meet a caravan (which shouldn’t be on this road).
Little River Gorge – deepest in Oz at over 500 metres deep.
View down to the Deddick Valley, which we’ll ride up later today, from McKillops Bridge road.
Before we get to the narrow part, lol.
See our road winding down the hill over there?
It can be a bit scary in a car, but it wasn’t on a bike, even though I was on the outside of the curves in most places.
Not a road for my brother’s partner or if you are anxiety-prone.
In places like this, the dryness and pines make me think I could be in Colorado.
Deddick River which flows into the Snowy.
Tubbut Primary School. It was Victoria’s smallest and most isolated primary school until it closed in the 2010s.
Sorry it’s blurry, Dad, but I didn’t stop for this shot (there were dogs barking and I wasn’t sure where they were).
Climbing to Bonang in the early AM.
In under 50 kms you go from dry callitris-box woodlands at 300 metres to tall wet eucalypt forests at 800 metres. Soooo much fun to watch the vegetation change as you climb.
Float at Goongerah for the guys.
‘Tis my birthday. We rode in fog and mist all morning through the forest, and then when we popped out into the cleared areas, a birthday rainbow awaited.
Snowy River floodplain at Orbost. We’ll be heading back into those mountains in the distance on Wednesday.

So we’ll see you in April sometime, after we ride out autumn and wear out our climbing legs completely. Thanks for all the love and support – I’m lucky to have been so loved by so many in all these 47 years.

14 thoughts on “Unscripted – Part 2 – 25th Anniversary

  • Sue said it after reading your last post – Emily’s Really Happy. You are, undoubtedly, in your happy place and having a great time. The guys too – what a place for a float.

    A belated Happy Birthday and thanks for all the pictures. You do the countryside justice with them.

    • Thanks, Tony. After having so little quality of life, I really am enjoying having a body that will actually do stuff!

  • Em! Em! Em!

    You are so amazing and I’m so proud of you. Anyone can kill themselves and do steep mountain climbs for a week or two, but to do it for months on end like you is just so amazing. Your distance travelled to meters climbed ratio with so many rough roads is just phenomenal!!!

    You are so inspiring!! You must contact your local paper when you get home and share your story more broadly. The trip you are doing is inspiring in its own right, but the fact you’ve come back from being so sick to do this is truly remarkable and would inspire others. You also need to use your superior skills to write an article for the bike packing site. I’m serious!!!

    My mom, ken and I are so happy for you and so happy that you are still in our lives. Keep up that free spirit – I’ve always said you were the most independent and quietly determined person I’ve ever met and you keep proving me right. Happy trails with tailwinds and great campsites to you.

    • Thanks, Evan, I feel the love. The hardest part of the ride is still to come. Let’s see if I can live up to your expectations in this last bit! Just a slow, middle-aged chick out there pedalling a bicycle. Paper usually only covers people doing charity rides – most people don’t understand what 30,000 metres of climbing really entails, but I appreciate your enthusiasm. Can’t wait to ride or hike with you again at some point, too.

      • Thanks, Kathy, it sure beats messing around with landfill capacity tables, lol.

  • That’s some impressive scenery alright. Some of the best Australian photos I’ve ever seen. And your impressive achievements are starting to make me feel like a slug.

    • How can you be a slug on a fast-paced world tour? Sorry I haven’t kept up with your journal, days in town with phone reception are always so busy with errands. I think it will make a good winter read once I’ve wrapped up this bit of my tour. Looking forward to it.

  • Happy happy happy birthday my dear roommate, friend and fellow pursuer of truth freedom and happiness. I do think you’ve found some of each. I am so thankful proud and excited for you. Keep living the dream.

    • I think truth, freedom and happiness are much easier to see/find without the clutter of normal, everyday life! I think of you guys often and think we need to take Miss H on a 13th birthday tour, as a welcome to life as an independent, outdoorsy young woman just like her mom. Plenty of time to plan….

  • Thanks Em for the very scenic road pictures. Your photography captures the climbs and roadside scenery so well. It feels as if we are with you on the ride. The rainbow for your 47th was a good sign of more spectacular views to come. Love, Dad

    • Sorry those photos haven’t been cropped or edited in any way. No time to do that in the short amount of time on a library computer. The week leading into the equinox has been a great one – sunny, muddy, sweaty, cold, and when I got into town and saw myself in a public toilet mirror, all I could think was: oh dear, you look very, very rough. So it had to have been a good week!

  • Aaaaahhhhh! Peaceful and dramatic…all together! It was a delight to look through all your pictures! Thanks so much for sharing.

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