25-31 March 2023
Total Part 2 kms: 3020
Total Trip kms: 6268
25 March 2023 – Newtons Crossing to Faulkner Creek – Bidawal Country – 21 kms
The sky does not look promising. Well, it does not look to promise any sunshine. It may promise some rain. But I’m not sure, I don’t know the weather patterns here. It’s not foggy; it’s not sunny; it’s cloudy but not terribly dark. So what to do? I’ve got plenty of food. We could hang here for the day and see if the weather improves tomorrow. We just need to get to Bombala before really heavy rain is forecast a few days from now.
But I don’t feel like hanging out here. I’m ready to move on. Plus, it’s a Sunday, and maybe there won’t be so much truck traffic on the dangerous Imlay Road if we try to make a little progress along it today.
So I pack up the wet tent and roll out of the campground before anyone else is moving. It’s more downhill on smooth, freshly-graded road and I enjoy a fast run first thing.
We then have several long climbs on the Imlay Road to wake up the legs and begin to regain all the elevation lost.
The road reserve is very wide and the chipseal is good quality. There’s not really a shoulder, but I’ve got my fluoro and blinkie light, so I’m very visible. I only get passed by a car every 20-30 minutes and they all give me heaps of room.
We follow a watercourse upstream, and then either the road peels away or the creek peels away and we then climb over a ridge into the next creek system. We do this repeatedly as the road winds, dives and climbs. The forest is all burnt and logged but not clear cut – at least next to the road.
As we gain elevation, we start to meet the clouds. What should be great views up to higher peaks and ridges are lost in the cloud. A bit further along, it starts to mist and the clouds swirling past the higher peaks start to look more ominous.
Do we continue and try to get this road done on a Sunday? Or do we start looking for somewhere to camp with water? Riding in mist is not terrible.
However, I would like to see the peaks and views, and that low cloud looks set in. As we go higher, that will also be fog. So I start keeping my eyes open for potential camping spots as we go.
As the mist turns to a heavier drizzle, I see a small track leading off the side of the road along Faulkner Creek. It doesn’t go anywhere, just 20 metres or so up the creek. This will be perfect. I’ll be in sight of the road, but there is not much traffic. There is a relatively flat spot I can set up the tent that won’t be under any branches. I’m sold.
So I get the tent set up between passing showers, filter some water and dive into the tent only 2.5 hours after I left the other campsite. I think it’s a good decision when it rains off and on for the rest of the day. I can see wispy glimpses of some peaks in the distance at times, but the grey, cloudy and misty stuff is well and truly set in. The chance of rain was pretty low today, but the reality is that it is a better day for the tent than the road.
So we hang in the tent as a zillion droplets form on the fly and hang there the rest of the day, too.
26 March 2023 – Faulkner Creek to Bombala – Bidawal and Ngarigo Country – 68 kms
Fog fills the valley and weighs down the vegetation. Drips slip off smooth surfaces onto the earth below. But off we go – climbing up through the fog, still with no views.
There are some steeper bits as we get higher, and on occasion, a peak is visible through the hazy cloud. Just as I was getting ready to head out this morning, a 4WD passed and then suddenly slowed. Then the guy backed all the way up until he could see me again. He rolled down his window and said, “Hey, you alright, mate”? I waved and said, “Yeah, I’m good!”
I don’t have a lot of great experiences with 4WD guys, but there have consistently been ones who have stopped to check on me throughout my tour. It gives me confidence that even the crappy ones would give assistance if I needed it.
We climb and climb. Just before the fog really starts to lift, it gets very heavy and if there were more traffic, it would be pretty dangerous. But I can hear anyone coming, and there’s only a car every 30 minutes, so when I do finally hear a car coming, I just get off the road. The timing is good because there is a track entrance I can get over to. The car that passes slows down, then honks and the driver waves wildly. Hello!
We start to get some long views as we leave the forest and can see long bare ridges where the pines have burnt and been harvested. Some of it has been replanted, some not. We drop steeply to a creek and then have a winding and steep climb back out. If it were less foggy, there would be even bigger views.
We head back into native forest and see the track where we would have rejoined this road had we stuck with original plans. Really, I could have gone that way. I may have met a few logging trucks the other day, but once past them, I would have been fine, particularly since they don’t work Sundays. Never mind, maybe some other time. It would have been better than the main road, but it’s not like it was beautiful unburnt or unlogged land anyhow.
I stop at the White Rock picnic area and have a snack there while the guys ramble about exploring the habitat. Further downstream are a couple waterfalls. There is meant to be a rough track to it, but good luck finding it in all the regrowth.
After a group of motorcycles goes by, I continue the climb until we get to a gravel road near the top of the ridge. This road will take you all the way to Cathcart if you want. We’ll turn off before then, however.
It is rough gravel and we’ve climbed back into fog. There is dense forest off to the right, and there’s meant to be a peak up there, but we can’t see it.
In my mind, the road would be a climb to start and then sorta level. But that is not how it plays out. The road has big climbs and falls through native forest in various logged states. It’s all been burnt in 19/20, so it’s not super-attractive at the moment. I curse each downhill and the corresponding uphill.
However, the fog does break up and we get some great views over to an escarpment as we emerge into areas of pine plantation that are mostly bare post-fire. There are some waterfalls and a hiking track to an overlook from a campground over that way that would be interesting to check out.
But I need to get to Bombala as there is 30mm of rain forecast tomorrow. I’m not wanting to be on these gravel roads when they get mucky with that much rain. So maybe the falls are something to see another time.
Up and down some more. I’m starting to feel a bit tired. I’ve noticed in the past few weeks that the fatigue is starting to creep back in. I just don’t think I’m getting enough protein. I eat chicken and salmon when I get to towns, and I have the occasional burger or steak sandwich. But I’m probably only getting half the protein I need. I’ve been relying on peanut butter too much lately, and all the sulfur in that has been feeding the bad bacteria that thrive on it. That has in turn meant my digestion has started to suffer and when that bacteria overgrows, it causes my intestinal permeability to increase. How do I know this? If I eat much oxalate at all, I get leg pain, and that is a sign that my gut’s gotten leaky again.
I need to fix that up. That sort of bacterial overgrowth is correlated with IBD and Parkinsons… so we need to get that back under control. I plan to use the time in Albury while helping out Nigel to figure out how to rejig a bit of my diet and work out a way to get that bacteria back under control. I am so, so in tune with my body now that I feel like I can head off the stuff that prolonged my recovery from the mozzie virus and bartonella.
I’ve still got some climbing left today, though. When I reach the turn-off that heads to Bombala, I stand there at the top and look way down through the forest. I wonder if there is more climbing, or if this is the start of the good downhill.
It’s a teaser. There’s still more climbing to come. But finally, we get to a clearing in the pines and can see the road down below and trace it almost into town. The downhill begins. It’s fun and steep in bits. But it’s also corrugated and sandy, so some parts have to be ridden slower than my dopamine receptors would like.
On one super-corrugated, tight s-shaped corner, I pass a guy going the other way in a sedan. His side of the road is even worse, and I wonder if his car won’t vibrate something off right then and there.
There are good places to camp further down in open native forest that has previously been cleared. They resumed a bunch of farms when they put the pine plantations in, but not everything has been planted to pine. So there are some nice, open but shady areas you could plop down.
This is tempting to me, but if the rain comes in early, I’d kick myself for not finishing off the road into town today. So on we go.
We ride into a nice little valley with expensive homes before we get a really nice and fast drop into town past quite a few decaying cottages from various eras. You never really get the right feel for a town when you drop in on a backroad.
There are a couple major highways that go through Bombala, and they still run right down the main street. So there are lots of big and noisy trucks that rumble right through town. The main street is pretty long and set a bit away from the river. It reminds me of Tumbarumba, only bigger.
There are a few pubs but only one is open. One in the main street is still cordoned off after burning down last year (some guy was arrested for it). There is an old motel on the south side of town next to a tiny library. There is only one supermarket left. It is in an old theatre. You can’t tell it’s a theatre inside, but it has the weirdest layout for a supermarket I’ve ever seen. The deli is off to the right when you walk in and disconnected from the rest of the store. You also have to negotiate the checkouts which run perpendicular to the lay of the room. Behind the checkouts are meat and veggies. Up a ramp are 4 very skinny aisles of groceries and up another ramp are four skinny aisles of paper goods, gardening stuff and other household goods. It’s weirdo.
There’s also a bakery and two cafes in town. One does healthy and gluten free stuff, and appears to be THE place in town to get a coffee. You wouldn’t expect it in a town like this – it’s super redneck and many of the utes are hotted up with big tyres and exhaust.
Down one end of the street is an old bank that became a B&B and restaurant, but is now for sale. Really, there’s not a whole lot to this town and it doesn’t strike me as all that welcoming or like there’s been any serious attempt at sprucing up the main street. There is a big logging mill for the pine outside of town, but it doesn’t seem to be donating much cash to town improvement in the community within which it resides.
After a cruise around town, I head over to the caravan park. There’s a row of grass tent sites up the back and an amenities block that was brand new in 1998. There is a covered camp kitchen with fridge. There’s only 6 or 7 people living in caravans here; the rest of the caravan people are tourists.
I try to find some high ground to set up the tent. Then I cook up some late lunch. The caretaker tells me that it rained most of yesterday, so that is why the ground is soggy. So it’s good I stopped where I did!
The little park fills up with a group of oldies traveling together as a club. None of them cook dinner; they all go into town. Their caravans are all quite new and none of the oldies look to be hurting financially. It is sad to see Australia becoming a society of haves and have-nots like America, since it wasn’t always that way here. And while I would never drive a big-arse vehicle and tow a caravan if I had the money, I certainly wouldn’t mind having the same set of economic conditions, good wages growth and good working conditions during my working years that the Boomers were lucky to have which allowed them to accumulate that wealth.
The caravan park is noisy with all the trucks going by through the night. A changeover area is not far behind the park, too, so the guys parking their vehicles put headlights through the tent. Truckies taking their requisite rest breaks leave their trucks idling while they eat or sleep. So it is not a particularly quiet location!
27-29 March 2023 – Bombala – Ngarigo Country
I’m waiting out the rain that’s meant to come. I have no desire to ride in heavy rain in 12 degrees on a highway. So we hang out in Bombala. It’s kinda crappy for a town, but the main street has some interesting architecture, there’s a wee bit of nice parkland along the river, and my body really does not mind the rest and relaxation.
The first day doesn’t really rain at all. I head up to the lookout by the telecom tower early in the morning. You head out past some nice homes on big blocks and then into forest. The road curves around a knob and climbs steeply. The lookout gives you a good understanding of the long, undulating Monaro tablelands or plateau. It is this plateau that extends all the way to the Errinundra National Park.
From up here, the landscape looks wavy – it’s certainly not flat – and with bits of trees here and there. There is a lot of natural grassland to the west. To the southwest and south, the pines have taken over and it is an industrial landscape looking down that way. The town itself looks quite tiny even though it is just down the hill.
I sit up there for a bit. I take some pictures and text them to a couple friends – sending them good wishes for a good day at work. I relax on a bench and think about the geology for a bit.
A guy that looks not too much older than me pulls in. He’s driving a nice Subaru with a bike rack up top. He gets out and walks over and introduces himself. He’s an athletic, nice-looking guy, and he wonders if I’m the cyclist he saw down the main street yesterday with the orange bike. I confirm that was me.
He wants to know where all I’ve been and what gear I’m carrying. He is a mountain biker but has always thought that touring or bikepacking looked like it would be a lot of fun. He’s from Canberra and is on his way to Wilsons Prom to meet up with some old uni mates for a week of drinking and bushwalking. He works in the public service and is using up some long service leave.
It turns out he was at the second Midnight Oil concert in Canberra that Nigel and I went to in September. He did not go to the first concert – he wimped out when he saw the weather. I tell him I’m not sure if he can call himself a true Oils fan if he did not endure all that flooding rain, lightning and thunder for three hours only to be told to go home once the weather stopped.
He laughs and says I must be made very tough, and that I probably have dealt with similar conditions on the bike many times. I tell him, “Definitely. And you really don’t want to know about Oct-Dec last year and riding through the coldest, wettest spring on record”.
He smiles and then says, out of nowhere, “Hey, I’ve got some spare time before I need to get to the Prom. Would you like to get a room together tonight? I KNOW we would have a terrific, memorable night together.”
Well, holy shit. I did not see that coming. AT ALL. It’s like standing and facing someone ready to throw a ball to you and then getting whacked in the back of the head by something out of left field.
Now don’t get me wrong. I, too, think we could have an absolutely fabulous time together. There’s a part of my brain that yells, “YES, YES, PLEASE”! He’s attractive and athletic, and he’s obviously pretty clever. He’s got a nice sense of humour, and he doesn’t strike me as a serial killer. Plus, there is only one motel in town, so I’m not worried about being anywhere that I couldn’t flee and get help easily.
But, the only time I’ve ever tried to have a one-night stand, I ended up married. And I am not in a state of mind where I want to take a chance of complicating my life in any way. And for some reason, the very direct questioning is kind of a turn-off. I like direct people a lot, particularly in my working life, but this just doesn’t feel right. And I trust myself after all these many years, so when it doesn’t feel right, don’t go down that path.
I say, “whoah, you really surprised me with that. I’m such an ugly nerdy chick I don’t expect things like that”.
He says, “oh man, I’m really, really into women like you. When I saw you yesterday, I was hoping to see you again. But then you disappeared. I was just coming up here to have a look before I took off this morning. But it’s like… here you are. So I don’t want to miss my chance this time”!
I reply, “That’s very flattering, but I don’t think I’d be what you are expecting.”
He butts in, “I know what to expect. You’re fit. You’re smart. You’re brave. You give off so much energy and spirit. And I know how that translates in bed.”
Sheesh. I like that forwardness at the same time that I do not. Part of me wants to say, “So how big is your dick”? Because maybe it’d be worth my time, lol.
But the part of me that is now 47-years-old and a lot more boring than I once was, says, “I really appreciate that. I’m sure it would be a very good time given your eagerness, but I’m just not up for that right now.”
He looks genuinely disappointed. He gets up from the bench and leans over. He kisses me on the cheek (I do not like kisses) and says into my ear, “Oh girl, I wish you would say yes, you’ll be on my mind every night for weeks.” And then he backs away and says, “Ride safe, be careful with the weather coming. I hope I see you again someday.”
He gets in his car, reverses and then waves with a big smile as he pulls away.
I sit there on the bench a bit dazed. Did that really just happen? When I’m in my tent tonight, alone, on hard ground, in the rain, wondering what might have been, will I regret it? Probably not. (And I don’t, but it does make me wish I was 20 again and a bit more carefree).
I walk all over town today looking at the various historic buildings. I also work on my journal down by the river, but I do not see any platypus while I sit and write. That is the town’s claim to fame – they have lots of platypus here and even have a viewing area on the outskirts of town.
There is some rain in the evening. I go down some youtube rabbit holes watching various music videos since I can recharge my phone here and don’t need to worry about the battery.
The next day, the morning is crisp and clear. Where is this rain that was supposed to come that I’ve been hanging around a crappy little town to wait it out? I walk down to a picnic table by the river to eat some food and take a few pics.
A couple come by and stop to ask if I’ve seen any platypus. I say, “No, but I haven’t been looking super closely”. The woman then says to me, in an American accent, “Oh, so where’s your accent from?” And there commences a conversation of American expats. She’s been here for 30-some years. She met her future husband while on high school exchange. She came back several years later to visit him again and that started it all. He has lived here in Bombala his whole life. They both really like it here and like the small community (I hate small towns since you can’t go anywhere alone and quietly and anonymously, and everyone gossips all the time in the guise of sharing ‘news’).
She is considering taking out citizenship, because if he dies, she would have to leave the country since her residency is tied to him. I had never really thought about it that way. I took out citizenship in 2006 so I could get a full PhD scholarship, and because after five years of permanent residency, they make it really expensive to get a ‘resident return visa’ each time you want to leave the country.
They ask how I like Bombala. I tell them that I think it would be a good investment for when climate change makes everywhere else too stinking hot to do anything. The guy confirms that, in his grandfather’s time, the river would regularly freeze over in winter and they would ice skate on it. When his father was young, you could sometimes ice skate, and when he was a kid, you were brave to walk across when it sometimes froze over. It never freezes over in winter now.
It’s a nice conversation, and we have very similar feelings about never wanting to return to America except to see family. Her mother is in her 90s. They kept her at home in CA as long as they could because the nursing homes, even the good ones, are so awful. She advises me to find home health care for my parents when they start to need it, and then encourage them to move to assisted living when they start having falls, but keep them out of the high care nursing home as long as possible. Tips noted.
I head back to the caravan park to cook lunch a bit later and meet the guy who is camping down the way from me. He has a small van and a big 4-person tent. He’s an artist from the Newcastle area. The place he’d been renting for about 15 years was being converted to an Air BnB, so his lease was not renewed. So he’s hit the road. He can’t afford rents on decent places up there anymore. So he’s not sure where to go, but is having a look around. He paints landscapes and abstracts with various themes on colour. He is staying here through the Easter period because most places get booked out and expensive then.
I tell him that there is nowhere to live in Mallacoota, but that he might enjoy visiting because it was a very artsy town with lots of artists living there. Poor guy. He’s afraid of winter and how cold it will get. I feel really bad for him. He seemed a bit lost and put in a situation in his late 60s that he wasn’t expecting. I wish him well. It’s one of the reasons I refuse to support Air BnB sorts of platforms. Until they tax those properties like the businesses that they are, it creates a hugely uneven playing field and the motels and proper BnB’s can’t compete. Plus, like this poor guy has experienced, the short stays take a lot of long-term rentals out of the market. In my area, it is really bad for that up in Myrtleford and Bright. This poor guy is the human face of it. More haves and have-nots.
The rain does come in the afternoon. It comes down hard and I retreat to the tent to watch a documentary and the fantastic movie, “Limbo”. https://youtu.be/zxaXGiKwPis
As I’m lying there listening to the rain cuddled up in my sleeping bag, all of a sudden, a plastic cup of spaghetti bolognese is shoved under my vestibule. The voice outside says, “Hi tent person, there’s some spaghetti bolognese with some parmesan for you. We always have to feed the tent people doing it tough in the rain.” I unzip the tent fly and see who has brought me this meal. It’s the people just across the way with the WA registered caravan and the QLD registered 4WD. I thank her and tell her I really appreciate her kindness.
Now, there is nothing in that little plastic cup that I’m able to eat (without digestive issues anyway). But there is no way to dispose of it in any discreet way. So I eat it. And the worst part is that they are heavy smokers, so the plastic and the food have picked up that taste. Ooh. Ugh. I glug down that kindness.
When I go to return the cup after I’ve washed it, I can tell the woman is very drunk. The guy, not so much. She asks, “so what are YOU running from”? It strikes me as funny because I thought they might be a bit suss with the different registered vehicles. If anyone is on the run in this caravan park, it’d probably be them.
I say, “Well, nothing really. In fact, I’m heading back to everything now.”
We chat for a bit. They had a house in QLD that they sold after COVID because they wanted to travel for awhile. They’ve been traveling since then with their two cats (whom have been roaming the caravan park all afternoon). They are wanting to buy property in this area and are going out to have a look at a couple places tomorrow. The guy has worked in all sorts of jobs and was most recently an electrician of sorts. It is an interesting conversation, and I’m not sure I have gotten more than 50 percent truth, but hey, they did give a chick on a bike a meal, so I’m not judging. I’m not sure they are 100 percent upstanding citizens, however. All the other people I’ve had conversations with in the caravan park the past few days were either living here because there’s nowhere to rent, or they are passing through on their lap around Oz.
The final day I’m in Bombala, that rain really does set in. And it gets COLD and windy. It pours and is about 10 degrees. Yuck. I have lost summer for sure now! Where are we going to go to sit out the Easter period? The long-term forecast is looking like it will be rainy and cool going forward. Hmmm…
I also ring the Albury job to ask if they have found someone for the position or when they might be holding interviews. The woman says they have not finalised a candidate and they’ll be contacting people for interviews later next week. Well, crap. That means I can’t get somewhere too far from mobile phone service right before Easter. These logistics are going to take some working out. Tomorrow. I’ll worry about it tomorrow.
30 March 2023 – Bombala to Delegate – Ngarigo Country – 37 kms
Oh, the wind is bitey. I do not know what the wind chill is, but I know it is in the single digits. I check the phone. Nup. The wind chill (Aussies call it the ‘feels like’ temp) is -3C. The clouds are big and puffy and moving overhead at speed. Behind them, the sky is a dank, dark grey. The radar shows white light stuff further to the south. We’re not going to stay dry today, but ‘white’ on the radar is very light, so it shouldn’t be terrible. Or so I think.
We head out of town on the main road to Delegate. There aren’t really any alternatives, or the ones that are there are just riding gravel roads through pine plantations in a very convoluted course. Nah, thanks.
We climb and fall over those plains. It is tough work. The 40kph headwind, gusting to 55 kph, is directly in my face. Progress is slow and you just have to put your head down and do it. I’ve got my thermal shirt on under my raincoat. I’m wearing my full-finger gloves. And it’s still cold. Thankfully, all that effort to inch forward is keeping me warm.
The views are long from the top of the long gentle climbs. The huge area covered by pines is apparent. It really changes the character of the landscape.
There is a fair amount of traffic of all sorts. Several trucks give me almost no room. Most cars are giving me at least some. A cop going the other way flashes his headlights at me. I look in my rearview mirror, but there’s nothing behind me. So I’m not sure if he was just saying hello, or warning me of something ahead, or telling me to get off the road. He never circles back, so who knows?
Climb and fall and roll over the hills. It is hard work into that cold wind that pushes back the grasses flat and jiggles the reflector posts.
On one long hill, as I crest the top and have a few moments of flat ground, a large coach comes up behind me, and then proceeds to give me the entire lane in a spot where even I wouldn’t give me the entire lane. Thanks! Hilariously, it’s not a coach. It’s the Bookmobile. Now, if I am ever to be flattened by a heavy vehicle, oh please, let it be a bookmobile. That would be such a satisfying way to die – flattened by knowledge and information. What would be more appropriate for a nerd like me?
About halfway to Delegate, it starts to rain on and off. Individual clouds dump their goods on me. Then there’s a few clouds that pass on by politely withholding their precipitation. At one point, I’m high in the landscape on cleared land and can look over and down to a tree-covered ridge in the distance. Something’s funny about that, but I’m not sure what. If I had actually majored in geology, I’d probably know. (Turns out that it’s a major fault and that’s a down-dropped block over there).
At another point, there’s a stoplight for roadworks. I know I should just keep going, since the light will probably change several times while I’m in the roadworks, but there are three cars there and I don’t want to piss them off. Besides, I need a snack, so I can just have it here. The stoplight is pretty cool in that it shows how long you have left to wait. I pull up at 9 (minutes). My protein bar is very, very hard though – it takes awhile to get through.
The cars quickly leave me behind and I finally work my way up to where the guys are in a truck checking some patches of new seal. They look at me as I work so hard into that wind. The one guy just shakes his head; the other guy smiles and gives me a thumbs up. I then get off the road while the cars come from the other direction.
Slowly but surely, we make our way across the plains, up and down those long hills. We get rained on consistently the final 10kms into town. Delegate is sorta one long street on a hill. There are a couple blocks of homes behind the one long street, all tucked down in the hills along the river. It is cold and bleak today. I imagine it is like this here for more than half the year.
Um, yeah… here’s what wikipedia says about the climate:
Being on the southern face of the dividing range, the region is shielded from the westerly storm track (in which case it would experience foehn winds); however, its position well south of the Monaro Rainshadow exposes it to southerly and southwesterly systems. The latter is apparent in its high winter–spring precipitation and low maximum temperatures compared to Cooma or Bombala farther north in the rainshadow proper.
The annual mean minimum temperature of 2.8 °C (37.0 °F), is extraordinarily low for its elevation. This is almost equal to that of Thredbo Village, nearly 600 metres (2,000 ft) higher, showing the latitudinal gradient between the 36th and 37th parallels south.
The history of the township goes back to 1832 and is the NSW town closest to the Black Allen line – the border between NSW and Victoria. The border was surveyed in 1871 or 1872 but not declared until 2006.
The old post office is a trinket shop that has coffee. There is a museum in the old School of Arts that is not open. There are some old homes with long verandahs that are still being used as housing. These were some of the original shops where people lived in half the building and had the shop in the other half.
There’s a busy garage with a tow truck out front. There’s a general store and cafe where everyone in town congregates. There is an art gallery featuring Indigenous art that is not open. Across the street is a pub. And that’s about it. The supermarket/post office is run by an old couple who want to sell. The store is pretty terrible with incredibly limited selection – so bad there’s nothing in there I really want. I buy a chocolate bar to be nice. That store is on its way out, or should be.
The general store/takeaway in town is well-stocked and the food prices reasonable. I order a steak sandwich and then go wait outside in the cold wind under the verandah while I check radar on the phone. The rain is coming and going, and it’s going to do that all day. Ugh. It is so cold!
I ring the caravan park caretakers about a site. The woman says, “oh, were you the lady on the bike I passed on my way into town”. Yes. She says she’s not sure if she’ll make it down to the park today, but there is a self-pay box there to use. She tells me all the ins and outs of the place.
I take my steak sandwich down to the park and sit under the rotunda – trying to stay away from the water blowing in with the wind. There isn’t any other good shelter in town, other than riding down to the caravan park. My sandwich would be cold by the time I got there, so we sit here among all the overgrown grass and old play equipment.
Once I get down to the caravan park, there are just a couple caravans set up in the powered sites, so I just find a big area of open grass so that my tent will get full sun if it ever comes out. I put the bike under a nearby tree to keep some of the rain off.
There is a really nice and big camp kitchen here that is heated and has a TV. I’ll go over there later, but at the moment, there are some day trippers in there picnicking and I still don’t hang out indoors with other people if I don’t have to… covid is still around and starting to increase again.
So I retreat to my tent, get in my bag and get warm. Sometimes between showers, the sun shines for a few minutes before being engulfed by another cloud and rain. It warms up the tent so nicely for a few moments. Out here on the road, you learn to appreciate the small stuff!
I set about working out how I’m going to manage Easter and being in phone range in the couple days beforehand. I spend about an hour and finally have something I’m happy with. My plan is to head back up the McKillops Bridge Road, then head up to the Nunnett Plains and hang out over Easter somewhere up there. I can get phone coverage at Wulgulmerang before I head up to the plateau and can camp at the oval there to ensure I get any messages. Then I’ll work my over to Omeo to restock and then do some new tracks to Mitta and then home. I think this will work.
And then… Nigel rings. He has a surgery date. Already? He only saw the doctor last week. He’s been put down as Cat 1 (urgent – surgery within 30 days) and they rang today with a date. 13 April. Well, crap. It will be really hard to get back to Albury in time if I sit out the four days over Easter. And what if I get held up by weather? The roads are so busy over Easter, I generally just stay off the road then. It’s sorta the last blast of summer and everyone goes camping before the cold sets in.
Crap. I’m the one who has been bugging Nigel to go to the doctor, so I can’t really tell him to find someone else to take him. And he’d want me there if he got bad news. Crap. How am I going to do this? Bikes aren’t allowed on buses in NSW or VIC, so I can’t get a lift part of the way. Crap.
I tell Nigel that I’ll be there, I just need to rework all my plans. I’ve got 13 days to get home – 8 days if you cross out Easter weekend and one day hanging and waiting for any news about a job interview. What to do?
I work and rework plans looking at the maps. The problem is that I would have to ride every day if I don’t ride over Easter, and the weather has been so shit, I can’t rule out that I might need to sit out a day for the weather. We’ll be crossing the high country, so there is the potential that it might not be safe to ride one or more days.
Finally, I concede. The ride is over. For now. I really just need to ride to Bairnsdale and get the train home. It will only take me a few days to get there. If I start heading down tomorrow, then I can be home BEFORE Easter and miss all that craziness.
And so that’s what we plan. It’s a mind-fuck though. One minute I’m planning on a 12-day ride without resupply with five days camping above 1000 metres. Then the next minute, I’m riding back to Bairnsdale.
Later on, some people in a caravan come and camp quite close to me. The area is huge, but no, they have to camp right there with their barking dogs. Arses. So instead of putting my headphones in, I just play all sorts of punk music on my phone at full volume. They quiet down after that and shut up the dogs. Ugh. Campgrounds.
31 March 2023 – Delegate to Old Mill Track -Ngarigo and Gunaikurnai Country – 71 kms
The sunrise is spectacular, but you know, red sky in morning, sailors take warning….
We’re off very early, hoping to beat the afternoon showers to a campsite somewhere down the road. We head out of town toward Mt Delegate – a monadock with some really nice-looking radial drainage. This is on the Great Dividing Range – the only single mountain in the entire range. All the other peaks are part of ranges. Read more here; https://vro.agriculture.vic.gov.au/dpi/vro/egregn.nsf/pages/eg_lf_sites_significance_8623_4
We ride along the fault line with the creek off to our right as we skirt the mountain – it rises 400 metres from the land surface to over 1000 metres in height. If you don’t look at the pines, it’s pretty scenic through here.
Eventually we leave the fault behind and climb for a bit on a twisting and winding section through native forest. The local council blokes are already out and about cutting and mulching trees back from the road. Wow – I wonder what time they start! They look as surprised to see me as I am to see them.
The road plunges down to a creek and then climbs out on the edge of Bendoc. There are cleared paddocks and several sawmillls. We pass some homes where smoke curls out of the chimneys, and I think about how cold it would be here in winter. They get snow here on occasion – the roads out of town definitely do.
We drop to another creek and then climb up past a small park and past the pub. There is also a tiny post office, but that’s about it. There’s a large DELWP depot, too. The town got its start with mining and then logging. The population has dwindled though, and they don’t even have a policeman anymore. The school closed in 1987.
We take off on the road that will hook us back into the Bonang Highway. We climb through the forest on a narrow and winding, but sealed, road. It’s pleasant and there are homes tucked back in all the damp forest.
After we climb out of that catchment we have a drop and then a flat ride high above another creek through open pastures and pine. Two DELWP trucks pass me, but they are the only vehicles I see until I get to the Bonang Highway.
We then get back into native forest in a scenic reserve that then turns into Errinundra National Park again. There are large trees left along the creek that we are following, but you can see where they’ve logged previously. It’s viney and bushy but missing big trees. Still, this is a really nice ride through all of the wet sclerophyll and rainforest.
I stop to do the Old Growth Forest Walk (which is listed in some tourist info but not in the worthless Park Notes brochure). The park is technically closed for aerial shooting of the deer, but I hear no helicopters so give it a go. Unfortunately, the walk is closed before the Shining Gums (supposedly the largest ones of these in the park) because the boardwalk is damaged, so we’re only able to go gawk at some other old growth not far down the track. The interpretive signage is proud to say that this has never been logged, Yes, it is really awe-inspiring. Just don’t turn around – because it’s been logged quite recently just 10 or 20 metres behind you when you are looking at the big trees.
I still really enjoy this, because the plants are just so different to what I know. I take my time and look closely at all the textures, shapes and colours that sit down beneath those huge trees.
We then ride through the rest of the scenic reserve and rejoin the Bonang Highway.
This is the road we took into Orbost a few weeks ago. They are working on the road-sealing today, though, so there is a fair bit of construction traffic – gravel and water trucks traveling back and forth and not giving me any room!
I come up on two guys measuring road width. They have a string laid across the road between two flagged markers. I’m quiet enough that they don’t see or hear me coming. So I stop pedaling and get ready to brake, so I don’t run over their string. They hear my freewheel and look up startled. I wave. They don’t acknowledge me.
Further down, where we start into the nice, long downhill, there is a flagger guy standing in the road. I can see the excavator digging into the slope just down the road a bit, and a bunch of guys standing around in hard hats watching him.
Flag guy flips the sign to “SLOW” and says to me, “Oh I envy you to be out on a bike. You’re about to get a great downhill.”
I say, “Yeah, thanks, I’m looking forward to it.”
And then I take off down the gravel. The guys by the excavator move out of the way for me. One smiles, the others just look at me like I’m E.T.’s sister or something. Ha!
We enjoy that good downhill again. Partway down, we skinny ourselves between the slope and a gravel truck barrelling up the middle of the road, and then ride the curves on down the hill. Very fun!!
The clouds are starting to build and it’s getting to be mid-afternoon. I’m not going to camp at Goongerah again, but once I do most of the climb to Malins, I’ll start looking for a good track to head down to camp.
In a flat section, just before we pop out on the private property at Malins, I see a wide-ish track and duck down that. There is a large clearing just off the road, hidden from it by vegetation and old stockpiles of chipseal that were pulled up at some point when they resealed the road. Ah, this will work!
I walk down the track to Martins Creek. It’s not flowing too fast, but there’s enough there to dip my pot to filter. I filter all five ltires so I can rehydrate, cook and have water for tomorrow.
I pull some leeches off my pannier and deposit them out on the road so they won’t crawl back to me, then set up the tent to dry and cook up an early dinner. As I’m doing this, I realise that my shorts’ waistband feels wet, but I didn’t really think I was sweating that much.
So I investigate. Damn it! How did the leech get there?!! I had everything tucked in, I had my raincoat on which comes down over my pants, and when I left that rainforest walk, I closely checked for leeches. However it’s gotten in there, it’s been feasting on my belly. It attached at one point, detached and attached in a second spot. The first spot has bled all over my shorts. I pry the leech off the second attachment point and try to clean all of it up a bit. Not happy, Jan.
The rain comes in a bit later, but I’ve got dinner eaten and cleaned up before it decides to rain on and off the rest of the evening from a series of dark rows of clouds with sun in between.
I hang out in the tent, still sorta in disbelief that I’ll be done riding and back in Albury in less than a week. What an abrupt ending! Though truth be told, this crap weather the past couple weeks means I would have been heading out of this region soon anyway.
Not many cars go by in the afternoon. There are long periods of silence as the sun gives way to the end of the day. It’s already the end of March – where does the time go?