Batlow Biking


Batlow, not far from of the Snowy Mountains, and somewhat succeptible to snow itself, was the decided destination for a cycling holiday with a difference. Normally I look for rail trails to ride, and often in the state of Victoria – a veritable mecca for rail trails! But on Wednesday 5th April, right after I finished work, the car being packed the night before, I left home and drove 2 and a bit hours to Batlow Caravan Park, my base camp for some days of cycling adventure. The plan was to stay a week and ride as many roads and see as much as possible. As I had never ridden any of the roads or tracks in the region except south of Tumbarumba. So it was really virgin cycling territory for me. I was somewhat aware of the terrain, though, because I had driven through the area on a number of occasions.

Batlow_CaravanPark_2664

My ‘home’ for a few days while exploring the Batlow area

The first bike ride which took 11 hours from start to fnish was quite an adventure. I left the Caravan Park on Thursday morning at arounf 7am, and didn’t get back until around 6pm. It was one of those bike rides that was not necessarily fun at times, but even now a few days later I look back on it with pleasant memories. Here is how the ride went.

I rode from Batlow along Bago Forest Way, and stopped first of all at the Pilot Hill Arboretum. I had been there before, but never ridden there. The ride was uneventful, and quite enjoyable along logging roads and mostly through pine forests with the occasional breathtaking view across to the Snowy Mountains.

From Pilot Hill, the plan was to ride along roads and tracks I had never been along before (driving or riding) through to Talbingo via Snubba Road, and Browns and De Beauzevilles Tracks. Buddong Falls is about 30kms from Batlow, and has a small (very small) camp ground and it quite isolated no matter how you plan to get there. Browns and De Beauzevilles Tracks would be quite slippery and muddy after rain as would the approach from Talbingo. Thankfully there had not been any rain for a while and they were nice and hard to ride on. One thing that I did notice was the large amount of piles of manure – evidence of wild horses. Brumbies marking their territory I was informed. Buddong Falls themselves were quite beautiful, but I suspect there was more falls even more spectacular further along the walking track but as the walk was quite precipitous in places (increasingly more so the further I walked along it) and as I was by myself I decided it would be best to not go too far from where I had left the bike at the Buddong Falls camping area.

From Buddong Falls I headed towards Talbingo, a small ex-Snowy Mountain Scheme town nestled at the foot of the Snowy Mountains, a ride of about 20kms. From the Falls there was a 2 or 3km climb to the Powerline Track which as can be imagined followed the high voltage power lines over the mountains. The Powerline Track itself was mostly downhill, of varying steepness. The disk brakes on the bike really had a workout on this section and I had to stay very focussed on the road surface and my speed to ensure the bike was under control. As I am not a reckless downhill rider this presented no real problem! Although it did take me quite a while to descend to Talbingo. The views on this section were amazing with views right down into Talbingo, and across the mountains, especially where the track was on exposed ridges.

BuddongFalls-Talbingo-Ride-Map

Not long before Talbingo is the Tumut 3 Hydro-Electric Power Station. probably not very big by world standards, but quite impressive with the very large pipes snaking over the mountains from above it to feed water into it.

At Talbingo I stopped for some lunch, although I knew I couldn’t stop for too long – by then it was about midday, and I still had (I thought) about 30 kms to get back to Batlow and I knew there was going to be some major climbing to get back with the possibility of that section avergaing about 10kph. At Talbingo the battery on my Polar sports watch went flat as using the GPS and heart rate monitor on it will do that after about 5 hours of riding. So I switched over to the phone for the rest of the ride, and when I did so I found that the phone only had 30% charge on it. Oh well, I still wanted to track the ride as far as I could so I turned on the Strava app. Then after riding along the Snowy Mountains Highway for a few kilometres I go to the turnoff to Batlow along Yellowin Access Road. At this point the climbing started. And it wasn’t just a few percent climbing grade, this was sometimes as much as 16-20% incline (thats 1:5) according to Strava! I certainly felt those climbs.

About 17km from Talbingo there was a nice big yellow sign saying “Detour to Batlow”. So I turned right onto the road indicated. I thought, and hoped, it was the Snubba Road. But as it turned out it was an un-named track that went down to the Lake Blowering foreshore to detour around some areas closed for logging purposes. It was along this road that a kind of panic set in for a while when I realised what the time was, and how muich further I had remaining to get bacl to Batlow. What added to that was the realisation that the looming mountain range on my left had to be climbed before I could get back to Batlow, and I was starting to experience some pretty painful leg cramped and a general lack of energy. I was also not entirely trusting of there being any further detour signs or that I would reach a “dead end” on the road, as when I drove this route in the opposite directions some time ago when trying to get to Talbingo from Batlow we were confronted by a closed road sign which meant we couldn’t get to where we wanted to, and I was a bit concerned the same thing might happen this time.

It was about that time in the day that I checked my phone, which had been happily tracking my ride by GPS, but was now down to 4% battery charge. I decided to stop tracking the ride on the phone to conserve the battery, as I realised that it may have been after dark that I got to Snubba Road and that I might have to “camp” in the bush over night if I ran out of light. And I wanted to inform Rebecca (my wife) of this possibility once I got onto Snubba Road where I was fairly sure there would be mobile phone signal. There certainly wasn’t much signal for at least an hour before I would reach that road.

Along this section by the Lake Blowering foreshore I encountered some kangaraoos on the road, and while I was concentrating on those in front of me I saw out of the corner of my eye another one crouched on the bank, and as soon as I saw it, it jumped OVER the back of my bike! That was scary! A few kilometres further on I heard a single screach / growl / snort kind of sound. Where on earth had I come? And what on earth produced such a sound?I decided the best thing to do was to keep going. Thankfully no other scary sounds or anything like it happened, and it wasn’t long before the climb up to Snubba Road started in earnest. By this time I was walking the bike rather than riding it as the climb was just to steep for my cramping and unenergetic legs. And about every 30 minutes I was taking a 5 minute rest and eating some trail mix to try and build my energy. After about an hour or so of climbing I finally reached Snubba Road. And after one last hill to walk the bike up on Snubba Road, and then I finally was able to hop on the bike and pedal along as the road levelled out. Man, was I thanklful to be on Snubba Road. Not long after I arrived at the turnoff along Yellowin Access Road, which led me down into Batlow. By the time I saw the apple orchards on the outskirts of Batlow and the townhip itself nestled against the opposite hill it was just before sunset. I don’t think I have ever been so happy to see a town before as what I did that evening. By the time I got back to Batlow I had travelled an estimated 100+ kilometres, 80km (and 1800 metres of climbing) of which was tracked by GPS on Strava. The rides on Strava are:

The next day I decided I would drive to Tumut and ride some of the trails there. I found out that Tumut has Mountain Bike (MTB) trails in the state forest on the edge of town and I wanted to experience them. I started with the Mundowie Loop, and then part way along turned onto the Womboyne Loop. This brought me back onto the Mundowie Loop again which completed by riding back to the car park. Then I noticed a loop that wasn’t on the map – the Creek Loop. So I rode that as well. While the previous day’s very long ride was very suited to a mountain bike (mostly dirt roads and vehilcle tracks), most of the trails at Tumut State Forest park are single track – that is, about the width of a walking track. I haven’t done much MTB single track rides, but thoroughly enjoyed the hour or so I enjoyed riding those trails. Then after I had done all the intermediate level trails there, I proceeded down into town and rode the town trails along the riverside, and the wetlands areas next to the Tumut River. After the very long and arduous ride I did the day before, the 20 or so kilometres ridden while exploring Tumut’s state forest and riverside was a welcome change.

The next day was Sabbath. Normally I don’t ride my bike on Sabbath (although occasionaly I do). I decided to explore some of the walking tracks in the state forest around Batlow on foot and contemplate the universe (yes, men can do more than one thing at once). I am still not sure whether I walked all the ones on the signage I saw, as I only saw the two signs – one at the start and one a short way along – so I don’t know whether I got to the destinations mentioned on the first sign. But I did see some good views of orchards (of which there are many around Batlow), and views over to the distant hills. I also explored the Reedy Creek park a short distance from the Caravan Park. It was the site of the first Olymp[ic-sized swimming pool to be built in the entire district. The swiming pool was suggested by Mr Sam Ross, the president of the Batlow Progress Association. This is recognised as the beginning of the “Learn to Swim” campaign. The original pool had wooden board sides, and the concrete construction was completed in 1934. Because the pool was the only Olympic-sized pool in the district many other towns travelled to Batlow by car, bus and train to hold their swimming carnivals at the pool, even from as far away as Wagga Wagga (115km away), Cootamundra (120km away) and Junee (105km away). Today all that remains of the pool is what looks like a section of concrete that might have been part of the sides of the pool and a green expanse of grass.

Saturday night or maybe before dawn Sunday morning the rain started. And the thunder and lightning. I thought maybe it would stop by sunrise. But that only revealed looming dark grey clouds moving quite quickly over the town, and with each new batch of clouds another heavy shower. No riding today! So I spent most of the day driving around the district exploring roads that I might have otherwise ridden the bike along. I tried, in vain, to find the site of the Kunama railway terminus. I think I was in the correct general location (I travelled along Back Kunama Road to try and find it), but if the remains are on provate property, which the nswRail.net states is the case, then that explains why I didn’t actually find it. The nswrail.net site did have some photos of the Kunama station, including this one of the station platform and building.

I also found saw interesting local points of interest, including the “White Gate” at the corner of Tumbarumba – Batlow Road and old Tumbaraumba Road and a poem about a “Fallen Tree Hotel” at the same location.

"On the lonesome line of traffic
Where the Tumbarumba track
Forks for Bago and for Taradale as well
Where the wallabies and wombats
And the kangaroos have combats
I once beheld the Fallen Tree Hotel"
(Will Carter)

I explored the now very disused and somewhat derelict railway infrastructure at Batlow. It’s a pity such railways aren’t still in use and I always find it a bit sad seeing railways that were once an important part of a community being neglected and disused. There is talk of the Batlow railway being converted to a rail trail for use by walkers and cyclists. That would be much much better than letting it rot and rust away, and at least the general community and visitors could enjoy the scenery of what must have been a very scenic railway to travel on in it’s day. But alas some landholders think that turning the old railway into a rail trail on still government-owned land is somehow disrepecting the landholders that border the proposed trail. It’s a pity those landholders don’t have the same progressive spirit that drove Sam Ross to suggest doing something new in the district which led to the building of that Olympic sized swimming pool in Batlow all those years ago! He encouraged the building of the pool, and people came from miles around to use it, and I dare say some of the visitors money got spent in the town, and there was a general community benefit from having such an asset. A rail trail to Batlow is likely to generate the same sort of economic and community benefit. Narrow self-interest too often gets in the way of real community progress.

As the rain was not slowing down, and the forecast was for more the next day, and as my sleeping bags were wet, and the forecast was for near-freezing temperatures overnight I decided to cut my Batlow adventure short and head for home. So after a very fast packing up of gear, I settled in for the drove home and arrived home at about 9pm to cuddle up to my wonderfully warm wife for a good nights sleep.

One Everest in One Month


The first day of the year and month (of January) started out like most other months – just me wanting to enjoy my bike riding, but still challenging myself to do better. But from the 2nd day, things got much more intense right from there right through the month. I blame the weather – the second day of the year / month was forecast to be hot, and because of that I had the idea of doing an alpine ride to a place where the temperature would be cooler than the lower altitudes. In other words, an Alpine Resort. We are very fortunate to have 3 alpine resorts, and Victoria’s highest mountain within 2 hours drive from where we live. And so I decided the 2nd day of the year would be spent riding the mountain bike from Mt Beauty to Falls Creek alpine resort and back. The completion of that ride set a series of events in motion. After that ride I decided to join the Strava January Climbing Challenge, and trying to do the 7Peaks Challenge before the 2017 season for that challenge finishes. The goal of the Strava Climbing Challenge was to climb 7500 meters in a month, a not insignifacant amount of climbing, especially for someone like me who rarely does any cycling with decent altitude gains. The goal of the 7Peaks Challenge was to ride the 7 nominated rides between mid-October 2016 and the end of March 2017 —

  • Dinner Plains
  • Mt Hotham
  • Falls Creek
  • Mt Buffalo
  • Mt Buller
  • Mt Baw Baw
  • Lake Mountain.

Falls Creek was the first of those rides that I did, and apparently 100 or so other riders had the same idea to ride to Falls Creek on that particular day.

I very quickly got into a routine – do an alpine ride on Sunday, with more sedate rides Monday to Friday before work (the coolest / most pleasant part of the day). The second Sunday I tackled the Mt Hotham climb, which the 7Peaks website described as being “the most epic of all the climbs with the greatest views”, and then stated that many people fear the Mt Hotham climb and that even the fittest will be challenged by it. That sounded a bit ominous, and I found myself questioning whether the Hotham ride was really such a good idea. But in the end I decided to try it anyway. One particular part of that ride concerned me – the Diamantina Spur ascent. At around 20% gradient, it sounded like a real motiviation killer. And it was tough, no doubt about it, but I made it to Mt Hotham village with a little energy left in the tank. One thing about the 7Peaks rides (or any other mountain climbing ride, for that matter) is the wonderfully stated physics law : “What goes up must come down”. So after the hard slog up the hills, it’s especially wonderful to be able to roll back to the starting location of the ride. The Mt Hotham ride, at 32 1/2 km one way, provided plenty of rolling on the way back!

The next ride to complete was the Mt Buller climb. Much less “epic” than the Mt Hotham climb, it was nonetheless still a tough ride, especially the last km or so to the village. It was along this ascent to the village portion of this ride that I found my second “Gnome Home”, a quirky statement about Pygmy Possum habitat and protection of said possums. Rather than going back along the asphalt, I decided I would do something different for the return leg: do part of the Australian Epic Trail across to Howqua Gap Hut, then follow the Circuit road through Telephone Box Junction back to Mirimbah where I had camped for the night. After all, I was riding a Mountain Bike, so some mountain biking would be a good option to return to camp. That ride took just under 4 hours to do the 50km loop, the average speed being around 14kph. Because it was nearly always under the shade of tall trees the heat wasn’t very obvious at all. And then it was time to pack up camp, and drive home in the heat. That was definitely the worst part of the day, although I drove home through Tolmie and Whitlands which is almost alpine in altitute which provided some respite from the heat of the plains and valleys.

The next Sunday I didn’t do a 7Peaks ride, as I had the bike in the shop getting the drive train replaced. And I’m glad I did because the next 7Peaks ride on the following Sunday was the most daunting of all – the Mt Baw Baw ascent. This ride is described as the most feared and hardest ride in Victoria. At only 6.5km long, and what appears to be a moderate amount of climbing (741 metres) it almost sounds easy, until you look at the gradients – the average grade is 11%, and the steepest grades were greater than 20%. Mt Baw Baw was the closest alpine resort to where I lived up until I was about 30 years old. And in my younger years I used to go there nearly every Sunday to go downhill skiing. And I remembered the climb to the Baw Baw village being hard even for a car. I knew that if any of the 7 peaks rides would break me, it would be this one! I remember saying to myself a few times on that ride “it’s only 6.5km”, as if that was somehow reassuring while I pedalled ever so slowly towards the hioghest point of the ride. Funny thing is, I remembered the grades being somewhat steeper in the car, and some of the sections my memory told me were really steep actrually weren’t as bad as I remembered them.Well, I made it to the village. I conqured the hardest of the 7Peaks rides. Now I felt like a climbing cyclist! And then the same physics law (“what goes up must come down”) that brought so much joy on the other 7Peaks rides kicked in, and with more than a little trepidation I carefully, slowly made my way back down to the start of the ride – carefully and slowly because it was so steep in sections, and I didn’t want the bike to get out of control or the brakes to fail or fade.

The Mt Baw Baw ride was on Australia Day, and I managed to get the Friday off as Annual Leave, so that meant I had a 4 day weekend. So I had set up camp in Yarra Junction, and planned to do Mt Donna Buang (not on the 7Peaks list, but still worth doing) on the Friday and Lake Mountain on the way home on Sunday. The Mt Donna Buang ride was actually a lot harder than I thought it would be, although I don’t think I had any illusions about it being an easy ride. But it was beautifully cool at the time I did the climb to the summit, and the gradient was probably one of the easier alpine rides I had done up to that time – I actually spent a fair bit of time in the second front sprocket – all the other alpine rides I spent most of my time in the smallest front sprocket. The last few kms to the summit seemed to go on forever! On this ride, like on the Mt Buller ride, I decided to ride a loop, and from the summit I hearded along the dirt ride that passed by Ben Cairn and joined up with the Healesville – Launching Place Road, which passed through Don Valley. Between Mt Donna Buang summit and the the Healesville – Launching Place Road, the scenery was breath-taking, and the road somewhat narrow and rough and I stopped at a few places to enjoy the views. And I even saw a couple of other cyclists on this section (I only saw a few cyclists between the start of the climb out of Warburton and Don Valley), going the opposite way, on road bikes (or maybe CX bikes). The gentle descent along this section was really quite beautiful with lots of shade and some amazing vistas across the Yarra Valley.

The next day was Sabbath, and time for a well earned rest. So I headed over to my old church on Sabbath morning, and spent some time with my mum and dad and one of my brothers in the afternoon. I think that restday  must have helped prepare me somewhat for the last of the 7Peaks rides I would do for January – the Lake Mountain ride. This ride, the following day, started off tough with a climb of 4.5km at about 10% steepness. But after that, it was really quite a pleasant ride, through beautiful temperate forests (some of them burnt out because of bush fires). Like the Donna Buang ride, I found I was not in the lowest gears all the time, especially after the initial 4.5km was behind me, and found the ride to be “almost” relaxing. And the ride back to Marysville was also faster because I spent less time riding the brakes due to the steepness of the descents. Mostly I could just coast down instead of having to worry too much about using the brakes. By the time I had done this ride, I had ridden around 240km for the week (Strava starts the week on Monday), and had climbed more that the height above sea-level of Mt Everest (8848m metres) for the month. That produced a pretty satisfying feeling. So January 2017 will be one of those months I can look back on with fondness as the month I rode “virtually” to the top of Mt Everest.

Here are the links to the Strava data for the rides:

History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul


“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” (Thomas Jefferson).
As 2016 slips quietly behind, with little more than a few ticks on the clock (if you have one that ticks), it’s a good time to reflect on the year that has been. Lord Acton once said “History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.” And so with that in mind, lets turn on the light that was 2016.
I’m not one to make New Year Resolutions – mostly they are just one more goal to not fulfil. And there can be plenty of them without adding another. Mostly, this year has been an interesting, although at times stressful, year. My oldest daughter, Zoe, left home to embark on a journey of learning as a University Student. That was a little stressful, but no where near as stressful as my son getting his car licence and the subsequent having to compete with him for use of the car – those of you that have sons and have  gone through this will know what I mean (yes, mum and dad, that includes you). And then there was the health conditions that manifested their ugly heads that made it hard to exercise, as mentioned in previously entries in this blog. I have also had ongoing problems with my voice over the last year which has made certain activities and situations very frustrating, with lack of (sometimes no) volume and sometimes a very unreliable voice. Interestingly enough, my preaching hasn’t really suffered and has actually been enhanced somewhat by including my wife in my preaching appointments – it’s a quite unexpected blessing to be able to share the pulpit with my wife!
The year just gone wasn’t all stress, though. Actually there were some great things happen this year. Eliana and I got to travel on a railway that neither of us has travelled on before from Bairnsdale in Victoria’s far east. We had some great times away camping, hiking and exploring Australia’s eastern states with visitis to Griffith, Young, Weddin Mountains National Park near Grenfell, Jindabyne and Kosciousko National Park, Bombala and the South East National Park in New South Wales (NSW), Mitta Mitta, and Omeo (and the surrounding region) in Victoria. There were also a number of day trips. I got to explore some interesting railways that have been converted to rail-trails in the Otways in Victoria’s west, and to explore parts of Victoria’s high country on my bike. And while on the subject of bicycles, I saved up enough money in 2016 to buy a brand new mountain bike this year which has made exercising and exploring heaps more fun. The last time I got a brand new bicycle was about 5 years and around 15000 – 20000 cycling kms ago.
Here are some cycling stats for 2016:
  • Distance travelled: 5615km (more than the distance between the southermost point of Tasmania and the northern most point of Cape York Peninsula, the norhernmost point on the Australian mainland, via the most direct route. And roughly half way between the 2014 and 2015 distances).
  • Amount of time to travel those kms: 262.5 hours.
  • Average speed: 21.4kph.
  • Elevation gain: 23611 metres (2.66 Mt Everests).
  • Rides: 215.
  • Average distance per ride: 26kph.
I also became a member of a Gym in 2016, the plan being to increase my upper body and arm strength –  something my cycling generally doesn’t increase.
On a more intellectual note, I have been learning Biblical Hebrew for the last few years, and this year saw me actually starting to read a Hebrew Bible for myself in the original language, which has really been a very slow but extremely pleasant and mind expanding experience. I have gained a much greater appreciation and love for the Bible, and the God who inspired it, as a result. And I’m looking forward to more of the same as I continue through the dynamic and descriptive world that is the Hebrew Bible in 2017. I also almost finished a Certtificate III in Fitness, which when finished will allow me to be a Gym Instructor / Fitness Trainer, something I have been interested in doing for a while. While I enjoy the “software Enginerring” / Web Programming that I currently do (and will continue to do), I have been feeling a lack of human interaction in recent years since since I started working from home. And while the computer work is helpful and necessary, I want to be able to make a personal impact on peoples lives in the area of Fitness, which is why I embarked on the fitness courses I am doing in my spare time.

Strike 2?


I feel like I am playing a game of baseball with my fitness / health being the prize. In November it was a haematoma, which made it impossible to exercise for a few weeks. And then on Sunday 11th December I started experiencing a sharp pain in my left hip every time I tried and move that leg. Here’s how it came about…

On the 7th December I went for a 10km kickbike ride, then the next day, I went for a run – not a long run, just 4km. I didn’t notice any problems immediately. That evening I went for a 3km walk. Still, no apparent poblems. The next day I had some muscle soreness – delayaed pain from the run, thought I. That evening I went for a 16km Kickbike ride. The muscles were still sore before I started. But on the very first kick I noticed a sharp stabbing-like pain in my left hip that felt very different to the muscle soreness. I endured for the 16km, somehow, and then tried to stretch the muscles a bit to relax them after the ride just in case that was the problem, although at the time it seemed unlikely. Sabbath, still some soreness in the hip and muscles but I wasn’t doing anything energetic that day so it didn’t matter. And I thought the day of rest would do my muscles good.

Sunday morning I planned to do a 20 or so km ride on he kickbike, thinking that the hip was better. But again, on the very first kick I noticed that sharp pain in the hip. I thought “maybe once I have warmed up the pain will dissappear or diminish”. Alas, no. I cut that ride short – about 6km in total – and spent the rest of Sunday either laying or sitting on a couch or bed. Oh, it all seems so familiar – strike 2!

So once again, for the second tiume in the last 30 days, I found myself unable to exercise. And asking “why”. Was it the run? The walk? The Kickbike ride/s? A combination of the above? Is the kickbiking too much me? Am I overtraining? And to all those questions the answer was basically the same  – “I dunno”. One thing I do know is that I am getting fed up with this sort of thing happening.

I was thinking the Kickbike would be the answer to keeping fit and minimising of the possibility of a haematoma coming back. For the latter it seemed like the asnwer. But now I am wondering whether the kickbike requires too much for me to be able to use effectively. A good muscle and cardio workout it is, but it also needs fairly good flexibility and good range of movement to really get a good workout on it. Until this hip soreness started happening I was mentally geared up to purchase a Kickbike for myself. But now I’m not so sure it’s a good idea!

On 14th December, after I had experienced enough pain(!), I went to a Chiropractor for the first time in my life and after the Chiropractor had “adjusted” me the hip felt a bit better. One thing that did come out of that session is that I sometimes don’t seem to be stretching the correct muscles after a ride or run as the Chiropractor found some of the upper leg muscles were rather tight. So she gave me some stretches to do specifically to one set of muscles which has also made some difference to my mobility. And each day since then the hip has been feeling less saore, although somewhat stiff.

So to shorten a story that might have otherwise been much longer, this morning I went for the first bike ride (on a standard bicycle) in almost a month. Nothing strenuous, really, just a nice gentle ride around the block, giving the legs, joints and muscles a chance to get mobiled. And the good news is that there weren’t any problems as a result of the ride – actually my hip felt much better after the ride, and there was no soreness where the heamatoma occured nearly a month ago. So I am going to try the standard bike agin as my main exercise element, although it will take some time to get back to the pre-November 18th fitness level. But it’s a start. Srike 2? Maybe not.