Unscripted – 2nd Half Week 12 – Dart River to Nunniong Road

10-13 January 2023

204 kms 

Total Part 2 kms:368 

Total Trip kms: 3616

10 January 2023 – Dart River to Bullocky Creek – Jaitmatang Country – 74 kms

4.45am. My alarm goes off. The kookaburras haven’t even started yet, and there is more light from the almost full moon than there is from the sun. It’s not yet first light. So I snooze for a bit longer. 

There’s heavy dew again, but it’s not that cool. It will get hot today, hence the early start. 

Yesterday there were clouds that gathered around 5pm. The humidity went up and the flies got very sticky. The mozzies came out early. There were a few raindrops around 6pm, then rain showers for about 30 minutes from 6.15pm. There may have even been a rumble of thunder. But it is clear now, and that early warmth says ‘get going before it gets too hot’!

I crawl up the 2.8 kay ascent that gains 165 metres. The road is much rougher and rockier than in 2016, but I manage not to spin a wheel. However, the Corryong-Benambra Road is in the best condition I’ve ever seen it. It reverted to state control a few years ago – I wonder if that has anything to do with it? Or maybe it’s just because all these roads would have been regraded after the fires. I mean, wow, you can even ride most of the inside corners!

As I travel down the hill I note the difference in burn severity in various catchments – the ridgetops that still look like burnt matchsticks and the gullies the fire skimmed over. Prior to the big Green Valley fire coming through here in the 2019/20 fires, there were already several smaller fires burning up in the Nariel Valley. I wonder if this is the reason that small pockets remain unburnt or lightly burnt among the much larger sections of very burnt forest.

Suprisingly, there are only a couple groups camped at Stacy’s Reserve. One group, still clad in jumpers, look over at me like I’m a ghost appearing from nowhere. It’s 6.40 am and they think they are getting an early start as they roll up massive canvas tents, but here’s someone coming from somewhere else already!

I put my shit bag in the bin and continue on. It looks like 4 or 5 homes were lost up here, including the one where the guy waved and clapped once when I rode by. They just have a caravan and a shed that they are living in. Further down there are tiny modular homes provided by the government that look like recipes for family implosion. They are so small, like the size of a tiny home. Put several people with the trauma and stress of a bushfire experience in a tiny space – that’s going to end well. Some of the ‘homes’ that these replace were just run-down shacks before the fire, so I suppose those people will never have the money to rebuild their shacks and these will become their permanent homes. 

Further down the valley, there is one big, new home in a fairly open area that’s obviously been rebuilt. And the really crappy, dilapidated cottage with a deteriorating caravan and rotting bus that sat out the front are now all gone. From an amenity perspective, the fire was a blessing for that one. 

In some places you can see where the fire ran along the ridge but did not drop into the valley. There are other places where the fire went right up the valley flats and other places on the opposite side of the valley where it is obvious that the fire in the next valley over almost came over the ridge but did not. It would be fascinating to see a fire map of all of the different small fires that burnt land and then the overlay of the big Green Valley fire that came through on New Years. 

All in all, the Nariel Valley looks to have weathered it well, considering how severe and how fast the Green Valley fire moved that night. This is the fire that, less than 40 kms from here, had a fire tornado completely pick up and drop a fire tanker, crushing a young volunteer firefighter.

Corryong came under direct threat from the fires and lost power and water for quite some time. The landfill was burnt, except for the recycling shed – its newest piece of infrastructure. The fire burnt out the operating cell and all of the rubbish within it. And yes, when you look over that way, that area is all severely burnt. 

But crappy Corryong’s town core remains intact. I’ve never much liked this town. It has always felt so run-down and uncared for. The main street is just a few blocks long and has desperately needed a face-lift for the past 20 years. There’s not a whole lot of open businesses. Even the pub is old and tired-looking. This was never a gold town, so there was never any grandiose or ornamental structures built. The community-owned bakery has been the only highlight for a while now. However, in the past couple years, a green grocer has set up shop. It grows a lot of its own produce, along with a lot of other market produce. So you can finally get good veg in town. Yippee! I get some veg for the road and some fresh cukes and tomatoes to eat in the park. That store is a welcome addition.

The IGA is still tiny and crappy though. I’m 100 percent sure that the very sick-looking young woman wearing a mask under her nose that just mumbled a couple words to me as she checked me out has Covid. She looked like she might drop unconscious any second. The transaction only took a few minutes though, and I’m wearing my N95 mask, so hopefully that will save me. 

I go down to the park to eat, clean my chain and pack up my food. The day is getting hot, so I hate wasting this time. But I know I will appreciate doing a good chain-cleaning now after I’ve done a bunch of more days on dirt. 

I lean my bike against a park bench and then sit in front of it on the ground. A large gathering of hang glider people end up all around me. They are there for a weather and safety report meeting at 9.30am. There is a launch pad at Mt Elliot nearby. I talk to a couple of guys as I eat that have come and sat nearby. But there’s one lady who rudely tells me to move my bike so she can sit in the shade. Never mind that I was there first, there’s plenty of places to sit on the grass in the shade nearby and I was going to use that bench to organise my gear after I ate my fruit and veg. I actually think she was really just jealous that all these guys were talking to me, and one creepy guy was actively flirting with me. Lol, that sorta shit never usually happens to me! 

After I do all of my town stuff, including a basin bath in the public toilets, I text Nigel my position and plans and then wet down my shirt and take off through town. I then head out on the Thowgla Road. It runs through a very broad valley where you can see all the way down to the Murray River valley and up the river valley that comes in at Towong. Up this valley, you can see that you’re going around a big hill before the creek disappears in a jumble of hills. 

Part of this valley did not burn. The fire front was heading southeast when it came through, and this just escaped by being just a bit northeast of the front. But further up there is a lot more severely burnt land. Over the next week, I’ll see a lot of this ‘whiskers and stubble’.  When you look in the distance at the burnt areas, the areas that have been severly burnt feature hillsides of standing dead trees that look like the whiskers of a man’s beard. The areas with lots of epicormic regrowth on the trees looks like 5 o’clock stubble. The area within the fire perimeter definitely has a lot of ‘whiskers and stubble’. 

I wet down my shirt in the creek again just before riding into the upper Thowgla valley. The broad valley narrows right down to almost a canyon mouth, and we weave along with the creek between scattered homes in that tight valley. The hills rise right up from the creek flats. It looks like about three of the 8 or 10 homes were burnt. One home dug right into the side of the hill directly against the bush didn’t burn, but a couple on the valley floor did? I guess you never know where an ember might lodge and start to burn a structure. One flying ember settling in a gutter or under an eave is all it takes. This would have been very picturesque before the fires when the trees were overhanging the road and providing shade.

Bullocky Creek Camping Area is quiet and empty which seems very odd for summer school holidays. There are a few cicadas humming out that noisy, lazy summer song, but the heat has quieted most activity. The trees are in pretty good shape, so the fire has come through the main camping area without torching the canopy. 

The river is running a bit unclear, likely from soil disturbance from logging that they are doing up Dunstans Road. There’s also something that’s died nearby and that can be whiffy in places. There’s also the smell of dog shit about one of the campsites from people who haven’t cleaned up after their dog. I’m not too excited about this water source, but let’s see how good the filter is! It’s supposed to get like 99.99 percent of everything you don’t want….

It’s hot now. The two shirt wet-downs have long since dried. I’m thirsty. So I finish off the litre I brought along and then go filter a few more litres. The forecast highs are around 37C through til at least next Monday – with humidity coming in Saturday or Sunday. 37C and humid is really shitty for cycling! So I think the plan is for super early starts, as I ride from water source to water source, with afternoons to be spent in or near a creek each day. 

I psych myself up for a big climb tommorow as I watch the dragonflies dart about leaving rings of water as they kiss the surface before alighting again. The dragonfly population explosion after the very wet winter and spring has been such a joy to watch. I’ve never seen so many different kinds and colours! 

The rocks in the creek shift with a clunk or plop as the water catches an edge on them and pushes them further downstream. I spend the afternoon and evening listening to the creek and watching the insect parade. I enjoy time ‘just being’ – thinking about nothing in particular but really appreciating having another campsite to myself in January (pretty unheard of) and knowing I’ve got months of this very thing ahead.

11 January 2023 – Bullocky Creek to Wheelers Creek – Jaitmatang Country – 43 kms

The 4.30am start is a bit much, but I have the moonlight to help me pack up. It is cool, but not so cool that I need more than shorts and a t-shirt. What a shift from just mid-December when I was still freezing my butt off!  

When we head out it is still too dark in the shadows to see the rocks on the road while I’m riding. But the big tyres take care of most of that, and I ride ‘loose’ so that I can quickly counter-balance my weight if a hit a rock that shifts the bike. I really enjoy these early morning starts and having the road to myself as I watch the sun rise.

The road is an unpaved version of the climb out of Anglers Rest – it’s mostly a consistent grade for a kay or so at a time as it slowly climbs up a creek catchment while weaving in and out of every incoming gully for 10 kms or so. The first 4 or 5 kms of the climb on Walkers Logging Road have a little grunt here and there, but the middle kays are easy. The last 3 or 4 kms are steeper again. 

I enjoy watching first light expand. I look at the dark outlines of the trees showing all of the bushy epicormic growth in the middle of the trees and the outstretched tips of tree branches still bare. The extent of canopy scorch and total canopy loss is just staggering.

We look for little folds and pockets of green – like small vertical shafts of survival – tiny areas that didn’t burn or burnt very lighlty in the dents in the ridge. There’s a lot of time to look around when you are only travelling 5 or 6kph. 

I watch the changes in the rock in the continuous road cut where the road has been carved into the side of the hill. The road surface changes as the rock type changes. It’s rougher where there’s slate and looser where the red sedimentary rocks are chunky. There are changes in texture with the changes in colour in the road cut. There are rocks turned vertical, as well as folds and waves illustrating the immense pressure of deformation. 

You can see the road climbing out of the next drainage in the middle left of the pic.

In many places it’s very dusty – what a mucky road this would be when wet! We eventually see Mt Unicorn in the distance as we climb out of one side tributary to another. There’s severe burn on ridgetops as far as you can see all day today. The enormity of the fire is just mind-blowing. And to think with climate change this goes from a once-a-century fire to a once-a-decade fire – I just see no way that entire ecosystems won’t collapse. I’m sure some have already reached the tipping point – like the alpine and sub-alpine areas of Mt Buffalo that burnt in 2003, 2006 and again in 2019/20. 

There are a few descents as the road goes from the end of a spur into an incoming gully. I always have such mixed feelings. It’s nice to get a short reprieve on a continuous climb and to gain some free distance on the cycle computer, but I also feel annoyed to lose any of my hard-won elevation gain. 

In and out of another drainage with the nearly full moon not yet set.

In one steep section, where the sun is directly in my eyes heading east out of a gully, I just look down instead of ahead. I note the shadows of the rocks on the road and how you can tell rock size by the size of their shadow as you climb up the road so slowly. That’s certainly something you’d never notice in a car! 

Can you spot the cyclist tracks?

Once we’ve climbed high above the creek below, there is silence except for occasional bird call. I note the buzz of a fly as it lifts up from its morning animal scat meal. I’m so glad to be doing this ride before the heat and sticky little flies and big bitey flies settle in. 

We reach the top in 2 hours – 16 kms. I’m very happy with that. I thought it might take twice as long. Today is going to give me a good idea of how I can ‘ride the map’. How do various spaced topo lines on the map play out on the ground. What can I ride? What do I have to push?

The continual climb is over – now it’s just up and down the ridge for awhile.

Up here on top of the ridge is quite burnt. I stop and turn my phone on and text Nigel about where I am. I just put it back in the bag and hope that at some point there will be enough service to ping off a tower and send the text.  

Up on top – That’s Mt Roebuck ahead – it’s completely burnt. We’re heading in front of it and to the right along its slopes.

We climb and descend along the ridge, ever gaining elevation. We then wander along among all the dead trees and scrubby regrowth. Eventually we come to a newly-constructed lookout. They’ve built a platform – as if you need a designated spot to stand to see the views when the entire ridge is so open… though once that regrowth gets tall and thick…. I still think a shade shelter and picnic table would have been a better investment. 

I suspect you won’t need a specific place to stand to see the view for quite some time.
View from the whole ridge – not just from the lookout. This is looking over to the Youngal Range and the Main Range behind (Oz’s highest mountains). We will ride on the other side of the Youngal Range later on in March.

Mt Roebuck has burnt severely in its entirety. It’s just a bunch of standing dead trees. I assume the area along this ridge was the same – only this has been completely cleared through salvage logging and Mt Roebuck remains unlogged.

The road surface gets worse after the lookout as we dive down below the mountain slope. I note there is still water running in the small creeks. I make the mistake of not wetting down my shirt. Not long after this we have to do a long climb out of that drainage and it’s a slog. I push a few bits of it until we get back to a ridge again.

They’ve clear cut up here for many kilometres, so the views of the burnt areas are long. It’s still mind-blowing to see the extent of the burn. But the salvage flogging is so incredibly extensive, too. I’m just so sickened by how much they’ve cut down. 

On the slopes of Mt Roebuck.
That should all be forest, or at least standing dead trees. But they’ve logged the crap out of it post-fire. It’s like this for many kays, and it is absolutely sickening.

Mt Pinnibar is a fuzzy ridge off to the east. It used to have some bits of untreed alpine areas at its top and a skirt of trees around its midriff that reached to the valley floors. Now it’s treed sides have burnt to match the top. This road wanders around up high in what once would have been beautiful forest. No more.

That’s Mt Pinnibar over there. It’s lost all its trees on the lower slopes. I think, in the past, you wouldn’t have been able to see Mt Pinnibar from this road.

The drivetrain is so dusty, it’s really complaining. Eventually we have some steep drops and then some climbs. There is no nice long descent to match the morning’s long climb. By the time I get to Cattleman’s Creek Road, I’m done with climbing for the day! But there is one more to come after we descend to that creek. There used to be an informal camping area here, and it’s noted on both of my maps, but they’ve blocked it off with large trees, and so it is all overgrown now. I could stay here (I should have), but I don’t want an additional climb for tomorrow. Tomorrow will be short but steep on climbing, so I think it’s better to do it today. 

About to head down the track to the left downhill. Marginal Road heads back toward the lookout, and Dunstans Road eventually comes out in the Nariel valley where we were yesterday. Everything in view has burnt.
Heading down Cattleman’s Creek Road.

Suprisingly, there is no one camped at Wheelers Creek. It’s a super popular spot with the 4WD crowd and has recently had its hut rebuilt. Just after I arrive, two Forest Fire Mgmt utes arrive with workers who are painting the interior today. Wouldn’t that be a great job – show up at 8am in town; take 30 minutes to get gear together; then drive to the worksite and get there at 11am by which time it’s morning tea time. Relax for 15 minutes. Work until 3; then drive back to town; clean tools and be done at 4.30. You really only have 4 hours of work each day!

Rebuilt hut. The huts were originally built by miners and cattleman when there were grazing leases. Huts are very popular with the 4WD crowd, who are generally not quiet campers or light on the environment, so I tend to avoid camping areas with huts when possible.
That sidewall is not brown – that’s just dust. I use a couple buckets of water to clean up the drivetrain each evening. It becomes a daily chore over the next 3 months.

So I snag the biggest and shadiest campsite and feel no guilt for that. There are only two sites with direct access to the creek and only this one is shady.  Early bird – like 4.30am early – gets the worm, thanks. There will be 7 different 4WDs that come through, but no one stays to camp. 

The river has some deep holes for swimming and some rapids near the bridge that would be good for lilo runs. The trees have been burnt more severely here than at Bullocky Creek, so it feels more open, even though it’s tucked down in a maze of valleys just like Bullocky. This camping area would not be my first pick of places to camp – or somewhere I’d really want to come back to – BUT, it’s a water source, so we’ll take it!

12 January 2023 – Wheelers Creek to Buenba Flat – Jaitmatang Country – 29 kms

4.30 is very, very early. This is why I could not be a baker. The moonlight helps me pack. In one of those serendipitous events, I happen to look up while I’m packing to see a bunch of big, bright satellites perfectly and evenly spaced training across the sky in a line. There must be 20 of them and they take at least 1.5 minutes to make their way across. I didn’t even see the start of it. It must be Musk’s Starlink. Can you always see them at bumfuck a.m.? Or is that a launch? It’s really kinda creepy, and it makes you wonder just how crowded it’s going to get up there and what the sky will look like in 20 years time. (Yes, it was a Starlink launch with 25 satellites – you can look up all the launches online).

I see that some 4WDers have come in late and ignored the HUT CLOSED – WET PAINT sign and camped inside. How selfish. I hope the paint fumes were noxious. Consequently, I don’t bother stopping the metal dunny door from clanging loudly as I leave the nearby toilet at 4.45 am.

I push the bike in the dark up the steep hill out of the creek bottom until it is light enough to see the surface. It is all big loose rock that’s been churned up by the many 4WDs. The grade and surface conditions sometimes combine to make the road unrideable. So I ride what I can and push what I can’t.

The road escalates up from the creek to the ridgetop in 5 or 6 kms. Kays 2 and 4 seemed very arduous. The rest was just a big climb on a loose surface. 

So the change from night to day when you are continuously looking at the ground is almost imperceptible. It just grades its way from looking at the rocks on the road by the light of the moon to looking at them with light from the sun that has yet to rise. 

Variations of this for the first big climb – but at least the sun is up now and all the loose stuff is easy to see. I’m glad not to be on the touring bike today.

We wind our way up the drainage – looking over a maple leaf of a watershed. If you think of a leaf’s main vein as the main creek, the other veins as the tributary creeks, and the leaf flesh in between as the elevated ground, then that’s a bit what a watershed looks like from above. We’re working our way ever higher away from the main vein into the upper reaches of a set of smaller and smaller tributaries. 

I suppose that makes the topogaphy of the high country of Oz  like America in autumn. Heaps and heaps of small leaves all over the place. When you are on a ridge, the maze of other rivers and ridges is just like a crumpled sheet of paper. There’s no distinct ranges beyond the first few – it’s all an incised tableland. Imagine spilling water over a flat table over and over until the water starts to take the same course each time and erodes into the table. It’s a bit like that here but not quite as simple which means there’s no simple way through the Victorian high country, even with all the roads carved into the hillsides. It also means that the climbs from the creeks to the ridges can be quite steep.

The immensity and intensity of the fires is still mind-blowing. We will finally get into patches of unburnt forest (at least from the 19/20 fires) as we turn onto Buenba Gap Rd. The highlight of the Wheelers Logging Road was following the padded footprints of a wombat for a bit. That was much better than following wild dog prints for at least 3 kms yesterday up Walkers Logging Road.

Starting a big climb away from that gap.

We lose a lot of elevation before the junction with the Buenba Gap Road in a walloping fun downhill. But that means there is a big climb up from that gap to the rounded end of a spur below Mt Gibbo on big, loose rock. It’s pretty hard, but I wobble my way up. 

The rest of the way to the next track junction is more of the same. It’s a steep climb up to a spur, then a steep downhill to an indented drainage where sometimes there is water running over the road. Then there is a steep climb back out to the next spur. A lot of this is on super slabby, big loose rock. The grey, yellow and orange stuff is the worst – Ordovician and Silurian sediments. The Devonian rocks (white rocks) ride better. So up, down, rather steeply. Over and over again. 

Steep climbs up to a spur, then steep drops down to a drainage on a poor road surface. Over and over again.
Heading down to the drainage. You can see the steep climb out the other side heading up the hill to the right, halfway up the hill in the sun.

With the fire and salvage flogging having removed a lot of vegetation, you can see the downs and ups ahead and know what pain or joy is coming. You can also see if a vehicle is moving somewhere ahead. But I’ll see none on the road today anyway. 

In one area of standing dead trees that hasn’t been salvage-flogged, I look at the dead trees whose branches have crashed into other trees and gotten caught as the tree fell. I look at trees leaning against other trees, branches intertwined, like a last embrace as death descends. Other trees that have survived, fuzzy in their epicormic growth, have sloughed off dead branches and are visibly scarred and lumpy-looking. But I guess that’s like human life – sometimes you’ve got to prune out the stuff that’s no longer useful to concentrate on what is.

There is a bit of phone service where the road takes off up to Mt Gibbo. I check the weather forecast. It’s still wishy-washy. They don’t know when the hot air will move out. They’ve moved it back a day now. And when I see them putting a forecast of 60 percent chance of at least 0-10mm of rain for every single day in the extended range… I can easily conclude that they have no clue. 

Finally we get into unburnt patches and a long climb without too many ins and outs of drainages. We can see more unburnt patches than burnt patches in the distance. We are finally back among the living here. After so much ‘grey whiskers’ of standing dead, it’s good to see the ‘stubble’ of epicormic growth where the trees are regrowing, and a full-on beard where the forest has not burnt.

Long climb below Mt Gibbo. We are almost to the top of the climb now.

I get a downhill along the top of a ridge and keep waiting for the next climb. But there is none. It’s just the start of a 9 km downhill run off the top of the Great Dividing Range. Woo-hoo!

Woo-hoo! On the downhill with unburnt trees!

The surface is mostly good, and there are only a couple switchbacks to slow us down as we so much enjoy being surrounded by green. 

I can smell a campfire as I descend, so I know there is someone camping in the informal site marked on my map that is up a short track away from the formal camping area. So I won’t bother exploring that. 

The last bit of the downhill is a straight run-out. Boy is that fun to just let it go! 59 kph. 

There is a man hovering over a very, very smoky campfire in the main camping area. So I head along an open plain, through a creek and then along a bunch of dry, deep bog holes to a campsite at the very end. There is a creek wandering through the tall grasses there to provide us with water. 

Flats at Buenba Creek. Back into burnt stuff. This fire was separate to the big swathe of burnt area over the past few days. The fire that came through here started later.

It’s a hot day. It’s quite open here and the creek is too tiny to get in, so I have to be creative with following around the shade all day while I keep my shirt wet for evaporative cooling. I do manage to wash myself and my clothes with the bucket filled with water. Ah, I feel so much better. My hair was starting to get pretty feral after 6 days without a wash in sweaty conditions. 

In the late afternoon, I watch thunderstorms pop up, collapse and rebuild in one spot. I feel sorry for whomever is under that area, as they would be getting very little relief from those storms. It stays sunny here, though, and I’m treated to a nice WSW to ESE arc of the space station flying over just as the day’s sunlight has almost gone.

We watched storms build and collapse in that same spot all afternoon. The tent gets set up by the bike just as the sun sets.


13 January 2023 – Buenba Flats to Nunniong Road (water point) – Jaitmatang Country – 58 kms

Nah, can’t do another 4.30 am start, but I’m still rolling away at 6.15am. The sun is up but not yet over the hills as wisps of moisture lie about the grass. Buenba Flats lie in a long valley between bigger ridges with one half draining one way, and the other half draining in the opposite direction. A flank of Mt Andersen divides the streams. This all means that any way you choose to go will require a climb to get out. 

See all the kangaroos up there? There were about 15 of them.

We’re climbing for awhile on mangeable grades with a red dirt surface that is so much more manageable than the mudstones and siltstones and slate of yesterday! I’m not sure where Buenba Gap is located – it seems like at some point we just start getting more downhill between the climbs as we advance toward the forest boundary. 

We exit the forest into super redneck country on Beloka Road. This area had some of the first white settlement in the state, and the families are 5th and 6th generation.  The mountains and lookouts bear the names of these settlers, and there are multiple road signs along the way with directional signage to plaques celebrating their settlement achievements. The nearest ‘big towns’ are Omeo (500 people) and Corryong (1500 people) which is 100-some kays up a dirt road. It’s definitely bumfuck nowhere out here.

This is all “Save the Brumby” and “Grazing prevents Blazing” territory. These are the people that have ridden their horses to Parliament House in Melbourne to protest various things and still live in hope of a conservative government being re-elected so they can get their alpine grazing leases back. (Those leases were terminated because cattle – and feral horses – trample the fragile vegetation and stream edges causing considerable ecosystem damage.)  So it’s not a surprise that the tractor driver and his passenger, and the occupants of three vehicles that I see on my way to Beloka Gap, don’t lift a finger to wave. There’s just stony cold stares like it was around Numurkah back in October. 

Out of the forest but still in the mountains.

There’s no downhill through the valley, since we’re really just riding the lower slopes of cleared mountains. So it’s up and down every hump as we head downstream with the creek tucked way down against the far ridge. It’s slow-going, but it’d be even more frustrating going the other way and having to gain and lose elevation as you climbed. At least this gives the fog time to clear the valley before I get down to where this road meets the creek.

Up and down, up and down on the upper slopes of the valley.

The old road goes over a gap in the range, but this one wiggles alongside the creek and then passes through a tiny slot between ranges. There are some nice cascades along the creek but nowhere good to stop for a photo. 

After sliding between the two ends of the ridges and their rocky outcrops, we pop out into a wide valley that runs up to the Great Dividing Range. We cross the valley with McFarlane Peak commanding all of the attention.

Next up is a gentle climb to Beloka Gap through treed slopes. There is a heavy vehicle detour that takes you around a short steep pinch. I’d been curious about the loop that was on my map! Take the detour – it’s short and pleasant and eliminates the steep pinch. 

At Beloka Gap there is decent phone service, so I’m able to send some emails, check weather forecasts and download the topo detail for the area onto my More To Explore app. Nigel rings while I’m doing this, so I talk to him for a bit. He’s made it to Sydney for his uncle’s funeral and he got the job in Albury he wanted. That’s good – he really needed to go back to work and get back in touch with the real world for the sake of his mental health. 

We chat long enough that I tell him I need to go because I’ve got a big climb coming and it’s already hot. Then down I go off the Gap and up the valley with golden-grassed and lumpy slopes ringed by higher ranges. 

I’m not the only one who thinks the salvage logging was overdone.

The gravel road climbs along the lower slopes of the ridges, rising and falling with each small creek that crosses. There’s plenty of feral horse shit along here.

In the lower part of the valley.

There’s a bit of traffic – locals, a Parks VIC ute that passes me politely twice, and tourists heading most likely toward the Davies Plain or Limestone Creek areas in the national park. There’s also an RACV 4WD heading east to rescue someone who’s had their holiday ruined with a mechanical issue with their vehicle. 

Starting into the bigger climbing. This road climbs up and over the Great Dividing Range and is gravel the entire distance. It is subject to bad weather since it travels into high elevations.

I climb and fall, climb and fall. It is hot. And COVID is coming to get me. The Corryong checkout chick was visibly ill. And this morning I had a weird lump in the very bottom of my throat – like when you swallow a bug and it gets stuck. I keep drinking water to try to get rid of it. But no go. As the day progresses, the lump gets bigger. I don’t notice it when I’m riding but do notice it when I stop. 

The road does skinny its way between forested slopes at one point as it climbs higher and higher. The water in the creek doesn’t look all that great, but I’ll just make sure it doesn’t touch my nose, mouth or eyes. So I climb down to it, teeter on a rock and wet down my shirt. It’s so hot out that I don’t even get that “AH!” feeling of freezing cold as I put the shirt back on. It just feels wet. But it really saves me on the steep bits to come as the road is all in the sun for a long time.

There’s a creek down there, and wetting down my shirt there saves me today. Not sure how I could have done it without that evaporative cooling.

The road goes up and over each hill – no skirting around the hills, no cut and fill. It’s a little brutal in the heat (and because I probably have a fever). Finally, the trees close in and the climb becomes continuous. A 4WD flies past at one point with all the windows down, and a teen in the back seat gives me an enthusiastic thumbs up. Would he have done so if he had realised it was a middle-aged lady who was old enough to be his mum? 

Oh man, up and over every hill in the hot sun. I’ve had enough of the cold weather from the first part of the tour, but today is way too hot.

There’s a long straight climb to take us to 1240 metres. Then our road takes off nice and flat from the main gravel road for a few hundred metres before it climbs and falls, climbs and falls along the ridgeline. 

Long straight climb up that bit – probably over 7 percent. And that is the Nunniong Road taking off. It does not have a road sign. I just know it’s right based on the kms on my cycle computer matching my map.

It’s hot and I’m done. Even the short 6 percent grades seem hard. There’s weird pressure in my ears and my head is woozy. Is it covid? Or is it just the heat and not having eaten much today? It’s probably both. 

On one ripping downhill, I come around a corner and see a woman and a horse at the bottom. So I slow down and stop on that rocky downhill from 42 kph. Thank you, disc brakes! I talk to her as she passes so I don’t spook the horse. I then have no momentum for the next hill. Ugh. I finally get up that. 

Up and down with views like this along the Nunniong Road.

I then finally get to the first waterpoint at 1350 metres elevation. It’s 5.1 kms to the next waterpoint. It probably has better camping, but there is more uphill to get there. 

So I ditch the bike and go down the track to check out this waterpoint. I want to ensure I can get water from a creek flowing into the dam instead of from the still water in the dam itself (built to create a water point for fire tankers to fill up their tanks). It’s not great, but it will do (and the spot grows on me as the afternoon wears on). 

I go back up and get the bike, and then sit down on my tarp. I chug a litre of water after wetting down my shirt. Then I eat some food. I do feel better but still feel pretty weird. I start getting the chills off and on. Must be a fever. I don’t have a runny nose or any chest tightness  – just the weird head and a lumpy throat. Must be a virus. 

I spend forever smashing down the sticky, pointy, skin-irritating grass so I can get to the creek and filter five litres of water. Then I crawl in the tent and lie down. Ah, I needed to do this. I’m exhausted. (Because I rode in the heat with considerable elevation gain with covid!).

The dam is just behind that log. No soft spots for camping here, and you’ve got to keep from camping under several large trees, but it really wasn’t a bad spot.

A storm builds and rebuilds above me and doesn’t move. It storms for more than an hour and fifteen minutes. And the thunder continues for another 1.5 hours after that. It hails for 45 minutes – mostly pea-sized but some marble-sized stuff, too. Boy is that loud on the tent! But the tent holds up fine. After watching that storm that didn’t move yesterday, and feeling sorry for whomever was under it, it’s my turn today! But at least we are not on the ridgetop and have a sheltered spot to ride it out.

There were some marble-sized hail balls for about 10 minutes. Verne says we had enough iciness in the first 3 months of the trip.

Phew- it was a big day capped off by the neverending storm. This will certainly be a day to remember. (Yeah, coming down with covid on a Friday the 13th, ha!).

4 thoughts on “Unscripted – 2nd Half Week 12 – Dart River to Nunniong Road

  • Great write-up Emily. V interested to see what happens next re covid. Here you are struck down in the middle of nowhere. A cliff hanger in no mistake.

    I’m following Sylvia riding her recumbent, Myrtle the Turtle, on the KATY trail. I thought they must have had a forest fire there but she assures me it’s just the leafless trees at end of winter! Reading your trip notes re the fires confirms the size and the heat of the things. I recall the tanker death on the News. Shocking.

    Your bike and yourself were really sorted at this stage in the trip. I hope covid didn’t impact too much – I will know in the next episode!!

    Hope the job is going OK.

    • Thanks, Tony. Spoiler alert: I survive the Jan round of COVID 😁 Nigel and I visited the Smoky Mtns in Tennessee after the leaves had fallen. Nigel thought it looked like the Snowy Mtns in Oz after a fire.

      Funny that I am writing this up as I recover from my 2nd round of COVID. It was a welcome back from Nigel. This time was a real doozy and I was really sick for 12 days… right as I’m starting a new job! Doing better now but still croaky and still can’t taste or smell yet. 20 days after I started feeling crap. Beware Arcturus!

      New job will be challenging in good and bad ways, typical of gov work. Soooo much bureaucracy, but it will be interesting at least and I should be free by next August 🚲

  • Hi Emily. Judging by the fact that there are photos in this installment, I’m guessing you found the missing USB stick. WHEW!

    And what fine photos they are. For one thing, they show some of the devastation caused by the Australian wildfires, followed by the devastation of post-fire logging. Very sad. (As I was writing this paragraph, I stopped myself from making an inappropriate joke about the the silver lining of fewer view-blockers. It would have made me sound like the A-hole of talk radio, Rush Limbaugh, who once said, while criticizing environmentalists and “tree huggers”, “The only good tree is one that has been cut down to make something useful for man–like a house or a piece of furniture.” And he was serious.

    For another thing, the lost USB stick would have deprived us of seeing your very early morning photos. They made me think I should try getting up early, skipping the coffee, and enjoying that time of day sometime.

    Finally, WHEEEEEEE! Fifty-nine KPH on downhill gravel! Oh, to go back about 10-years ago when I could do that without freaking out and squeezing the brakes.

    • Thanks for the nice comments, Greg. Yes, the USB stick has been found and backed-up. It’s hard sleeping on a living room floor and living out of boxes.

      Yeah, I think quite a few people in those areas I rode through would agree with Rush Limbaugh unfortunately. Stay tuned for the next post when I speak to a guy that worked on the salvage logging project.

      Early morning is highly recommended. I am not a morning person at all. I prefer life to start each day about 8.30am… and slowly. However, those early mornings are really special. Could you get up and ride and then find a nice spot to brew up a cup of coffee. ‘Cause 5-8 is really pre-morning. And morning coffee could be after a couple hours down the road?

      And don’t doubt yourself. 59kph is low 40s mph. Ride the big tyres and steady bike that is Salsa Timberjack on a pretty smooth straight downhill with a long run-out and no traffic… and I’m pretty sure you would still let it run 🙂

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