Unscripted – Weeks 18 and 19 – Zeka Creek to Wangaratta/Albury

18 February to 3 March 2023

Total week kms: 195 

Total Part 2 kms: 1848 

Total Trip kms: 5096

18 February 2023 – Zeka Creek to Riley Creek – Gunaikurnai Country – 20 kms

Up very early. The stars are out, the sun is just a hint of pale hues over the hills. Last night the cars kept coming. 16 in total heading down to camp in the valley. A couple vehicle occupants stopped and asked if I was okay, but I’m sure after the storms came not long after they’d gone by, they would think it made more sense to be setting up a tent for shelter. Unfortunately, all of the road runoff ran as a river under the tent, so the tent bottom and both folds of the tarp are all wet and muddy this morning. The tent did not leak inside, though.

So that’s not the best start to the day. As an appropriate follow-up, I find a leech attached to my left boob. Luckily, it’s not too hard to detach, but it explains why it was so itchy there. My bra is really quite soaked, but at least it’s black so you can’t see all the blood. It will just dry and get crusty as the day goes on.

We start by regaining 400 metres of elevation in about 3 kms. This involves lots of pushing up steep stuff that has got big loose rock everywhere. But I do note there’s nowhere better to camp in those next few kilometres, so I did make the right call yesterday.

If you look closely, you can see our road we’ve come up way down to the left between the dark trees.

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Step-by-step. It’s a slow go and I’m not able to ride a whole lot since the surface is just too loose and rocky even in the short bits where the grade is manageable. Slow. Up. Push. Wrangle the bike over big loose rock up several switchbacks. We climb almost back to the plateau again with all the little drainages running into the main Zeka Creek splayed below us like fingers of green. 

More of that, please.

But then the down is just as steep. It’s a slow affair and hot already. In the steepest bits, I clamp down the brakes and keep one foot on the down-side pedal and the other foot poised to act as an anchor. You can’t get off and keep the bike to the side and inch down because the bike will just slide out. So we’re riding a walking pace for much of this – but we’re straddling the bike which is much more difficult than walking would be. Down. Down. Down.

For those of you that can see faces….

But of course there are some super steep ups in all that down. Two of them are steep enough that I have to remove the panniers, and then slip and slide my way UP the hill with them, and then come back for the bike and slip and slide and drag it up afterward. 

It might not look that steep, but it’s steep and slippery enough to be difficult just carrying the panniers up on their own.

The big march flies are out in abundance and have a field day on my ankles while I reattach the panniers. Ugh. Eventually, I just lather on the DEET all over my lower legs and socks. Those socks will never be the same.  I’ve been brutal on socks on this tour since the very beginning. 

There is one vehicle heading uphill early-ish in the day, but I don’t see the final two until the last couple kms before reaching the valley floor. One is a couple of Asian guys who smile and wave really big. The other is an arse who doesn’t even acknowledge that I’ve pulled over for him. Yes, uphill has the right-of-way, but it’s general bush courtesy to at least lift a finger from the steering wheel to acknowledge the vehicle that’s given way.

Down. But we’ll have to go up the other ridge in the distance in a bit to get out of the valley.

This is the slowest, hardest day yet. But there’s no real hurry to get down in the valley because there’s fog down there. This is tough stuff. It’s not meant to be tough going down! There are uphills sprinkled throughout the down until the last kilometre.

Heading down into the fog soon.

But finally, we’re riding through a fuzzy world of grasses and stands of trees as we cruise across the flat, steep-sided valley through the fog. If it weren’t a weekend, with a zillion people about, I’d ride the six kays down the valley and back and camp along here somewhere. But there’s too many people for me, so I decide I’ll head down to the river, cook up some oats and then tackle the steep three kays out of the valley. It might be so steep that I have to carry the panniers up the three kays, and then go back down and get the bike – doing 9 kays to go 3. Ugh.

But then the road gods give me Geoff. Down by the river, there are two groups camping. There’s a tent with no movement and a guy who has the contents of his ute all strung out all over the place. Maybe I’ll cook breakfast on the OTHER side of the river. 

I wave HI as I go by, but he stops me and asks me if I know where I am and if I’m using a phone to navigate, and if so, how did I get service?

I tell him I’ve got paper maps and topo maps from the More to Explore App downloaded on my phone. It turns out Geoff is very, very lost and camped down here last night because he had no idea where he was and ran out of daylight. He’s been asking everyone that’s come by the same questions he’s asked me, but no one has helped him, just giving him vague directions. 

So Geoff was trying to do a two-day driving tour from a guide book, but not all the tracks were marked in the forest. So he drove all over the place and keeps asking people where they’ve come from. He is retired and wanted to seize the opportunity to travel a bit, but thought the guide book would be enough to navigate with, even though it only shows the tracks to take and no others. 

I show him the easiest way out to Myrtleford on the map – the way I’m going which I confirmed with the FFM guys the other day. Geoff  immediately starts talking about a different track. DUDE, YOU ARE COMPLETELY LOST, LOW ON FUEL, YOUR JERRY CAN HAS LEAKED ALL OVER YOUR GEAR, JUST GO THE EASY WAY!

I suggest he take photos of my maps. This is like a light bulb moment for him, something he never would have thought to do. I tell him he’s welcome to study my maps while I go cook some breakfast. 

As I’m boiling the water and he’s over there trying to commit directions to his head, it occurs to me that he will be going in the same direction as me, and that he could take my panniers to the top of the next steep hill, so I don’t have to make two trips. Thank you road gods for putting Geoff here. 

Geoff is on-board with this idea, so while he packs up the gear he has strewn everywhere, I ford the river and start up the steep shit on the other side. Yeah, it’s hot and humid and this would have been hell to push up. It’s steep enough and rocky enough, I likely would have had to make two trips. 

Ford of the Wonnangatta.

A duo of weed sprayers stops to chat as I’m pushing up the hill. They work 10 days on, 4 days off and go check and spray weeds in other locations on the weekend since there are so many people down in the valley. They tell me it’s always this busy on weekends – so much for it being such an ‘isolated’ place!  They ask if I need any help and I tell them that a guy down below is going to ferry my panniers to the top for me, so I’m good. They offer to load me and the bike on the back of the ute, but I tell them that the pannier ferry service is enough.

View back from whence we came on the track out of the Wonnangatta valley.

I push the rest of the way up the hill, save the last few hundred metres which I can ride. The weed sprayers are there having morning tea and offer to share. It’s all stuff I can’t eat, but we have a good chat while I’m waiting on Geoff to arrive. 

He eventually comes up, still completely discombobulated, and starts asking the weed sprayers all sorts of questions about directions. He’s looked at my maps, he has photos of my maps, and it seems obvious that he just needs to go down to the next valley and follow the main road out. But he is still confused. Poor guy – this will be a trip he really remembers!

Hapless Geoff and the weed sprayers.

I then head down the hill – butt back, brakes on – it’s quite steep, too, but not too rocky. There are a few rock shelves to bump down, and closer to the bottom, rocks the size of melons reappear and I weave in and out of them. I imagine hitting one of those could really ding a rim. I stop for 3 4WDs with a bunch of older folks out for a drive. They look at me like I just dropped down off the moon, eyes big, brows furrowed with faces of surprise. No one waves. Ha!

Thankfully, once to the bottom, Riley Track is still rocky but much more mellow in grade as it follows the creek uphill. There is one creek crossing that is too rocky to ride but where I can get my feet on dry rocks to cross. I work on getting the bike bumped over all the lumpy rocks in the bog-hole type crossing of unknown depth while I simultaneously try not to step on a small lizard scampering about the dry rocks. 

As I’m negotiating all of this, I manage to NOT see an absolutely massive red-bellied black snake lounging by the side of the track on the edge of the creek. I am only 18 inches away from it when I see it. Holy, holy shit! It’s huge. It’s so long I can only see the first metre of it with the rest of it hidden in grass. It is literally as thick as my forearm.  

I do that super quick hop-skip-dance away from it pushing the loaded bike. Sheesh, that was way too close! Thank goodness it was a red-bellied black and not an aggressive tiger snake, or I could have been in real trouble.

So it’s not much further to a bridge over Riley Creek where there’s lots of young wattle and a few large trees that escaped the loggers. I can set up the tent a bit off the side of the road here, and there is shade. So I’m done here. It has taken me 5.5 hours to go 20 kms!! I tell you, distance is not a good indicator of amount of effort or fitness! This has been the toughest day by far.

I go to set up the tent, but the tent pole breaks in an unfixable way as I start to bend it. Hmmm…. I really thought it’d be the zipper that would go first (though I have been dutifully using small amts of chain oil on it). I can still make the tent work as a shelter from mozzies and dew, but it would not go well in a storm.

See the sharp angle on that tent pole?

Later, there is a big group of BMW enduro-type riders go by on motorbikes. Most wave or give me a thumbs-up as they zip over the bridge. But one guy with an open-face helmet and scruffy beard just laughs loudly and shakes his head. He’s not laughing at me, but like it’s just completely absurd to see a cyclist down here in the middle of the forest. 

Yep, crazy as, that’s the only way to live life, I think.

19 February 2023 – Riley Creek to Blades Camping Area – Gunaikurnai and Jaitmatang Country – 64 kms

I’m hoping to get a ways down the tracks today before all the weekender people hit the road home. I think I will be able to ride the grades for the first seven kays, depending on the surface condition. Then we have a 3 kay downhill and then a steep 2.2 kay uphill. I’m mentally preparing to push the bike up that. At least those distances and steepness are what my maps seem to say.

The track remains really rocky and we follow Riley Creek in a path of twists and turns. It doesn’t feel like we are gaining much elevation in the first few kms, but there are a few steep pinches that elevate us more quickly. 

Then, finally, the track starts to squiggle, and we start to climb up through every curved indent in the ridge. There are great views over to the high plains we came down from and the steep forested ridges we have crossed. 

The surface remains rocky but the air is delightfully cool. Yesterday was hot and humid, today is meant to get hot again. In the southerly-facing crevices, tree ferns grow and overhang the road while we ride in the morning chill. 

We were up there two days ago.

Slowly we make it up that rocky stuff and emerge at a helipad and road intersection at a gap. I use the phone coverage to text Nigel my position and download weather forecasts. I don’t bother to look at the news or anything. I have no FOMO whatsoever because everything important is all here – it’s everybody else that’s missing out!

We dive down through the shady forest on a track carved out of the side of the hill. We zoom down, but not too fast, as there’s some loose gravel acting like marbles on top. But this is a ‘road’ instead of a ‘track’, so the surface is better generally.

We hit the bottom at 54 kph, and luckily there is no ford of the creek. This allows us to use the momentum to get a little bit up the steep grade out the other side. 

There’s a rebuilt hut tucked down between the steep valley walls. It looks like a nice spot, and surprisingly, no is camped there. I guess it just doesn’t have the popular brand name appeal like the Wonnangatta. 

As we come up out of the creek, the surface is good for the first 150 metres, so I make it up some of the really steep stuff, since I’m not having to negotiate a line and wobble over big, loose rock. Sometimes I really surprise myself with what I can pedal up – I’m definitely fit and have the muscles built now to get up some really tough stuff.

Now that we’ve done our steep drop down and climb back out for the day, we can choose a squiggly road for our next track. The next gap has roads going in every cardinal direction. But we head along an old logging road that wiggles its way the rest of the way to the top of the Great Dividing Range. We only gain 100 metres over the next five kays. 

Top of the Great Dividing Range once again.

We weave along the edge of the ridge with views over to The Razorback and The Viking, and then we swap sides of the ridge and are looking over to Mt Selwyn and Mt Sarah. There’s been a lot of logging through here, but it’s not as flogged as other places we’ve been. The high point of the ridge is a bit disappointing. At 1045 metres, it’s a fair bit lower than other places we’ve been, even if it is the dividing point between waters flowing inland and waters flowing to the sea. 

The downhill through the forest is on good gravel mostly, so we zoom and zoom down with the forest flashing by for many kays. The 2019/20 Abbeyard complex has burnt through here, but it’s been hit and miss. For all that ash on my car from this fire when I lived in Milawa, I thought it might have been worse. 

Zoom. Zoom. Down. It’s amazing how easy the kays go when gravity is working with you instead of against you.

There is a large open open area with a few big trees for shade close to the end of this road. There are cows grazing on it, but it means we can get off the road before the heat and all the 4WDs come out from their weekend camping spots. The campfire here is still a bit warm, but the people who were here have gone. So I spread out the tarp and tent to dry, go down to the river to filter some water, and then cook up some lunch. 

Waiting out the heat.

The decision becomes: do we stay here tonight and do another short day tomorrow, and then another short day to Myrtleford the next?  Or do we wait out the heat of the day and then ride to a campsite close to the end of the forest this evening? 

I have enough food for another day, but I’m HUNGRY. I’ve lost a good bit of weight this week. Even though I’m tired, the distance today could be done without too much effort. It would also mean I could get VEGGIES a day sooner. 

So I hang in the shade as the heat ramps up and decide I’ll move on tonight. There are so many dead deer carcasses in the bush here that it really creeps me out. I really don’t want to share the area with deer hunters – particularly the kind who cut off the heads of the deer and leave all the meat behind to rot. 

So I hog down today and tomorrow’s dinner rations for lunch – a total of 6 small handfuls of red lentils and 2 rice packets. 

Then, at 5.30pm, I wet down my shirt and start heading downstream again. As I’d hoped, the road is mostly in the shade, so we ride in and out of it through areas with dead standing trees in the river flats to places that seem almost unscathed. 

Soon enough, we’re entering open, private land tucked into the valley where two streams converge. The official camping area near the track junction hasn’t been maintained in a long time, and you can’t even really tell where it was, so it’s good we didn’t plan on stopping there. 

There are severely burnt ridge tops, but the valley doesn’t look too bad. The river more than doubles in size after we reach the W Buffalo Road. There are plenty of cattle about as we pass through numerous ‘stations’ on our way down. 

It feels odd to be riding in the evening, but I love having the road to myself. I enjoy watching the shade growing bigger and bigger, slowly reaching up and consuming the ridge on the other side of the valley. 

There are slight drops to each indented drainage in the hillside and then a gentle climb back out, all on good gravel. We’ll hit 60 kms today – it’s amazing how far you can go when the surface is decent and you’re mostly going down instead of up!

There is one big drop to the river on private land where there is a cattle grid just after a bend. I can’t believe people stop and walk over these! This one is tremendous fun. It’s got a water bar type hump just ahead of it and then potholes just after to dodge. The hump gives a great rollercoaster feeling of weightlessness just before you zing-zing over the grates and then aim for the good ground instead of the potholes. Yee-ha!

We pass a few camping areas on our way down the road. Abbeyards is just small, sunny and dusty – right on the road. The Manna Gums site is large and shady and would be nice other than on weekends and holidays. It lies along the river and there are toilets. The next site down is more open and sunny. Today it is full-up with 4WDs, caravans, horse floats, horses and their associated humans.

There are more of those airstrip type firebreaks along Kennedy Road off to the left, and then we pass through open areas covered in blackberries and replanted pine. Just as the sun goes behind the hill to the west, I come to the last/first campsite  along the road. It would suck as it has no shade, but that doesn’t matter for tonight! The sun is already down behind the hill and won’t be up on the opposite side before I’m gone tomorrow.

There are two guys standing around a campfire. They have swags set up next to their utes. I say, “So what’s for dinner”? They just look at me like I’ve dropped off the moon though, so I don’t stop to say hello. I ride up to the end site with a decaying picnic table that somehow didn’t burn in the fires. 

They’ve redone all these campsites after the fires came through, and this one has steps down to the water. I go down to fill my foldable bucket, and then douse the drivetrain. It was growling toward the end of things today. 

I sort through all my gear, set up my disabled tent and then crawl in. I’m leaving everything on the bike except the tent, sleeping pad and warm clothes I’m wearing. No sleeping bag tonight. 

No makeshift pillow.

Then, around 8.30pm, I curl up on the sleeping pad and go to sleep. I wake from time to time when my head falls off the sleeping pad and my neck starts to hurt, or I get a bit cold. But each time, I reposition, recurl myself, and sleep surprisingly well. I really can sleep just about anywhere without any means of comfort these days. I am truly a road creature at this point!

20 February 2023 – Blades to Myrtleford – Jaitmatang Country – 39 kms

It is surprisingly cold in the morning. It is clear here as I pack in the dark and fold up the very wet disabled tent. There is fog further down the valley lying low. The stars stand bright and clear overhead here though. 

We’re away within just about 10 minutes. We’re riding in the very first of first light. Of course, this road has big gravel since it’s an active logging road. But I just trust Atlas and ride all the lumps, bumps and rocks down the centre. I can’t really see anything and I’m riding faster than the length of my headlight illuminates, so I ride loose to let the bike absorb everything and so I can quickly rebalance if the bike goes one way or the other. I have little fear these days of this sort of riding.

We’re on a mission today. We need to ride 40 kays before 10am, so we can get to the Myrtleford swimming pool before its morning session ends. I need a proper shower pretty desperately since it’s been hot and we’ve gone 8 days without a real shower. I don’t want the whole town to have to evacuate due to unknown, noxious smells when I ride into town. 

We’re already 25 minutes into the day.

So I’m pushing hard. There’s some ups along the various parts of the river as we climb up to the wall where the river hugs the cliff. Then we descend back to the river and into the fog. 

Eventually, we get to the back lots of the dam where the water backs up to the river course. It’s more up and down through wisps of fog on a sealed road around the lake edge to the dam wall. 

I start seeing heaps of b-double gravel trucks going up river. I sure hope I can beat them to town on their return run. 

The valley is quite wide. We’ve ridden it before once, it’s actually a pretty busy road and not so fantastic for riding. There are lots of people towing boats to the dam and plenty of quarry and logging trucks, as well as other ag-related vehicles. 

We ride under the scorched slopes of Mt Buffalo which keeps the sun and heat away for now. The pine forest slopes off to the west have been harvested recently (not sure if they burnt in 19/20 or they had just reached maturity), so it’s definitely looking bare over on the western valley slopes.

I’m still pushing hard and keeping it over 25 kph all the way down the valley. There are a lot more trucks and other assorted vehicles as we get down lower in the valley. I get buzzed by a horse float and two other vehicles for no reason – there are long sight lines and no oncoming traffic.

As we get closer to Myrtleford, we end up in the morning peak for traffic, but I survive. I’m on a mission to get clean!

I make it to town with plenty of time to spare. When I rock up to the admission window, I tell the lady I’m not here for a swim, but just want a shower. This is obviously not a frequent request, as there is no shower only price and she’s not sure what to do. I tell her I’m happy to pay the admission fee. When she hears where I’ve come from, and that I’ve done it on a pushbike, she just can’t believe it is possible. She thinks I’m pretty awesome, but not awesome enough to waive the entry fee!

There are several older women swimming laps in the warm water which gives off steamy fog in the cool morning air. I can’t believe how concave I am when I get undressed. I’ve done such a good job slowly getting my weight back up from 52 kgs to 57 on this tour, but I think I’ve just lost a kg over the past week. We’re going to have to eat heaps over these next few rest days!

The hot water feels fantastic, and it is so, so good to get clean!! I think everyone should go a week or more with stringent food rations and no shower, just so they can appreciate the simplest bits in life. Western folks are very, very spoilt these days!

There’s a woman changing into her swim gear when I come out, and she asks how the water is today. I tell her I don’t know, as I just came for a shower. She asks if that is my bike out the front, and when I say yes, she asks where I’ve come from. She has an adventurous daughter in her 30s who goes hiking all over the world. Her daughter calls whenever she gets reception and always has tales of deprivation, injury and adventure, but she loves it and always carries on. So the lady ‘gets me’ and wishes me well. 

I roll on into town, buy a bunch of food, and then ride back out to the river to find some shade for the heat that will come today. I talk to my parents, sharing my own tales of adventure and deprivation, and eat and eat and eat. 

In the afternoon, I ride down to the caravan park and get a shady spot next to the tennis courts for two nights. I have plenty of time to get to Wang – it’s an easy half day ride from here. I’ve made it through one of the more remote weeks of the trip with time to spare. I’m so in love with my bike and this sort of riding. If only I could get food drops and never have to come out of the bush!

I do need a good rest though. I’m feeling a bit run down and fatigued after all of the big effort days over the past 2-3 weeks. It will be good to have a week of very little riding to let my body recover and catch up.

21 February 2023 – Myrtleford – Jaitmatang and Taungurung Country

Eat, drink, repeat. Hang in the shade. Go to the opp shop and find replacement flip flops for $1. Exchange my PLB belt for a better one. Should you want to read Bill Cosby’s book titled Love and Marriage… ahem… the opp shop has two copies.

In the afternoon, as I’m lying on my sleeping pad in the shade with my head propped on my helmet (covered with my raincoat for softness), a nearby caravaner comes over and offers me a chair. She thinks I could do with some human comforts… namely a soft chair so I don’t have to lie on the ground. But I tell her I’m actually very comfortable (there are no ants here), but thank her for thinking of me. She thinks people like me are brave but can’t understand how women who travel solo don’t feel scared all the time. 

Yeah, we live in slightly different worlds! I always feel incredibly out-of-place in caravan parks, particularly the ones where all the old rich Boomers are congregated in their $200,000 set-ups! It makes my $5000 set-up seem rather low budget!

22 February 2023 – Myrtleford to Oxley Recreation Reserve – Jaitmatang and Taungurung Country – 51 kms

I’m off by 8am, using that nice southeasterly to help blow me up the hill to Taylors Gap on the rail trail. I’ve ridden this countless times, and this was one of my local rides when I lived at Milawa. No one is out on the rail trail yet today, and it’s amazing how fast and easy the ride feels when you’ve got a tailwind and peak fitness. However, this ride will always be in my head as “that time I rode 45 kms home from the Emergency Dept after getting attacked by a dog.” 

It’s also amazing how much slower the downhill off that little gap is when you’ve got so much rolling resistance with knobby, wide tyres!

I eat a banana for breakfast at Pioneer Bridges – a shady camping area along the river. I then ride on to Milawa and get a burger from the takeaway shop there. They do some of the best burgers – and it’s nice that a non-fancy-pants place survives in that little tourist town. I am so glad not to be living there anymore!

I ride on to Oxley – down the bike path I rode and walked a zillion times when I lived here. This will always be ‘the empty sky ride’. It’s flat here and the sky is very big. It is also underneath the SYD-MEL flight path – one of the busiest in the world. But during COVID lockdowns, there were no contrails up there at all and that was how I knew things were really fucked up, since my own life really did not change much. Introverts had it soooooo good in 2020 and 2021. 

I fill up water at the Oxley park, ponder the Titanic plaque in the rotunda and then ride out to the rec reserve and chase shade all afternoon. 

The place is just okay. It’s mainly set up for the horsey people to do horsey things, which many come to do during the evening. They only have one toilet and shower open, though, so I’m glad there’s only 4 or 5 other people camping. I’m just staying here because I don’t need to be in Wang until tomorrow and didn’t want to pay caravan park fees for an extra night.  

I hang out down there in the shade for the arvo, but there’s all sorts of horse shit in various levels of decay down there. I camp in the shade of the building later.
There is shelter though if it were raining. Fill up water in town before you head out, though, as there is no potable water out here.

It’s been good to ride the old roads of my couple years in Milawa, but I don’t miss these roads at all. Been there, done that a bunch, ready for new roads!

23 February 2023 – Oxley Recreation Reserve to Wangaratta – Taungurung Country – 21 kms

I leisurely ride into town on the bike path. Once I get to town, I eat more. I hang in the shade. I catch up the journal. I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot in the past two months and wish I could just do this type of riding forever. 

I talk to a guy on a motorbike at the caravan park who has a small tent. He’s older and I tell him that I sure hope I can be a pushbike version of him when I’m older. He asks me how close I am to age 50. I tell him, “not too far off, really.”  He assures me that if I still like tent camping and roughing it when I’m 50, then I’m set for life. 

He’s 71 (he looks a decade younger), and most of his friends ride from pub to pub or stay in motels, but his only concession to comfort has been to stay in caravan parks more often than in the past. He can afford motels but prefers sleeping in the tent. He laughs when I say, “Yeah, I do my best sleeping in there.” He says he completely agrees. He then says, “And besides, my kids like my approach – it means they’ll get a bigger inheritance”!

I go down to the pool and sit in the deck chairs in the shade. There are no pool toys allowed, so the guys don’t get a float!  Wow, furniture, what a luxury!!

24 February 2023 – Wangaratta – Taungurung Country

The caravan park people let me move over to the cabin in the morning that I’ve booked for tonight, since no one was staying there last night. I’m staying here another two nights and have booked a nice cabin to share with Nigel. He’s coming down this afternoon and we’ll celebrate 25 years since we first met. 

I drop off the bike in the morning at the bike shop. They’re going to give me a new rear cassette and chain. I love the bike, but preventative maintenance and replacement of worn bits is definitely a lot more expensive than my touring bike.

For lunch, I meet my old coworkers at the park. They can’t believe how good I look (because I’m fit and they worked with me when I was so sick). They talk about work and it reaffirms I definitely made the right decision to jump ship when I did. Restructures always suck, but the gov was significantly changing the focus of our work from council liaison and facilitation to compliance and regulation. I’ve got no interest in those, and the job would have required regular trips to Melbourne. No thanks. I feel bad for them, and I do miss working in that awesome little team, but gosh, I certainly made the right decision to flee. 

Lunch with my old co-workers, though we are missing a couple members of that great little team.

I cook up a delicious stir fry for Nigel and me for dinner. He’s super, super happy to see me. The poor bugger gets lonely on his own. And though I’ll be happy to live the rest of my life alone, and never find myself lonely, I will admit, it is nice to get a hug for the first time in seven weeks. 

25 February 2023 – Wangaratta – Taungurung Country

I don’t know what other people do for their anniversary. But Nigel and I aren’t really food people, and neither of us see the sense in paying heaps of money for something that is only nice for an hour or so while consuming and is then completely gone in about 24. So we don’t go out for dinner. If the timing were different, we’d go on a camping trip together, but Nige has stuff he needs to do at home, so I have booked us both in for a one-hour massage. I don’t know how they are going to massage a skinny, boney guy like him, but I know he’ll enjoy it. 

Funnily enough, I’m not very sore or achy. There have been a couple times on the ride where I really, really would have enjoyed a massage. But I’m feeling good at the moment. The massage is nice, though. I have no idea what to expect, but it is relaxing. I think next time I’d go for 45 min instead of an hour and tell them to just skip my legs and focus on my back, neck and arms. Nigel says 45 min would have been sufficient for him, too.

After we get back to the cabin, we flop down on soft furniture (what a luxury!) and let all the endorphins flow. Nige eventually goes to sit out on the cabin verandah to read the paper. He likes the hot weather. I do not. So I enjoy the AC and soft furnishings while I can.

26 February – 3 March 2023 – Albury – Wiradjuri Country

I go back to Nigel’s place in his car. It’s hot and I really have no desire to ride back to his place on roads I’ve ridden a million times. It feels weird to go so fast!

I spend six days in Jindera – relaxing, waiting out some heat, and cleaning and organising gear. Nigel wants me to stay longer, but he’s hard work and I’m ready to get back on the road. Two weeks at Christmas was too long off the bike. The forest is still calling my name. We’ve still got to go check out East Gippsland!

2 thoughts on “Unscripted – Weeks 18 and 19 – Zeka Creek to Wangaratta/Albury

  • The bike may need more transmission maintenance and new parts but it certainly uses them well! I like that you have complete confidence in Atlas to give it its head in low light conditions – faith in the bike / Emily combination. Congrats on this part of your tour – sounds very hard, was on interesting roads and there will be lots of new lines on your ride history map.

    • Yes, I really love that high-maintenance bike! By that point in the tour, Atlas did feel like just an extension of me and I was very, very comfortable on it. I will be proud to add those roads to my map. Finally filling in the tantalising green bits!

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