I think I have bitten by the ‘Cycling Touring Bug’. Having enjoyed the cycling holiday I had a few weeks ago, I decided to try it again, but on a much smaller scale. This time the plan was to spend one night away, which meant less luggage had to carried.
Sunday 13th October
The trail being ridden was the High Country Rail Trail, which is built (mostly) on the old Wodonga – Cudgewa railway formations turned into a cycling / walking / horse riding trail. So after packing everything I would need into a single bike pack on Saturday night, I travelled to the church on Sunday morning to help out at a working bee there, then at about 1PM after a quick stop at the ATM to withdraw some cash I started the ride.
Before I rode the High Country Rail Trail I had this notion that it would be an easy ride. After all, it is beside Lake Hume for most of the way to Tallangatta, and still water is always level, right? But as I rode along I realised how hilly the trail actually was. When I checked my GPS tracker today, it said that the total accent for the journey was around 230 metres for the 39 kilometre journey. The gustiness of the wind also made the ride hard going in places, but more on the wind later.
The ride started in Wodonga, a large Victorian country town, across the Murray River from Albury (which is in New South Wales). The first part of the trail, from Wodonga to Bandiana was asphalt. From Bandiana the trail varied in surface, but was always well defined, even if a little overgrown in places.
Above: Kiewa River Bridge
Above: Kiewa River – Old Rail Bridge remains
Generally the trail surface for the trail beyond Bandiana was similar to this.
About 10 kilometres out east of Wodonga is the township of Bonegilla. “Much of the development of the town was due to the Cudgewa railway line which opened in 1889 and closed in 1981. The line was used both in the development of and transporting materials for the Snowy Mountains Scheme and the main method of transporting thousands of migrants to the Bonegilla Migrant Reception Centre from Station Pier in Port Melbourne. … As part of the Post war immigration to Australia, Australia’s first migrant reception centre opened at Bonegilla in December 1947 with an intake of the first assisted migrants from Europe, Baltic refugees from Germany. Assisted migrants who had not been refugees began arriving in 1951. The Australian army had established a camp and military hospital on the site in 1940 as Albury-Wodonga was considered strategically important during the Second World War. Initially the army provided transport and security services to the migrant centre. The camp at Bonegilla closed in 1971 by which time some 320,000 migrants from over 30 countries had spent time there. It is estimated that over 1.5 million Australians are descended from migrants who spent time at Bonegilla.” (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonegilla,_Victoria ).
From Bonegilla the trail runs more or less next to Lake Hume. Ebden and Houn once had railway stations. Huon also had a goods shed, which is still standing. At Huon there was a very sorry looking Rail Motor (a self propelled deisel ‘train’ made up of a motor carriage and a trailer carriage) in a very advanced stage of delapidation. About 10km from Tallangatta and around 28km from Wodonga is the Sandy Creek Inlet Railway Bridge. When the railway closed the decking of the bridge was removed and for a number of years all the could be seen was a number of forlorn looking concrete supports sticking up defiantly from the waters of Lake Hume. Today it has been given a new deck and and a new lease of life an can be ridden / walked across. It was certainly an experience to travel out over the water on the bridge hearing the lapping of the water against the concrete supports.
Sandy Creek Rail Bridge
The whole bridge
Looking onto bridge from trail. The red beams are an architectural ‘feature’ of the bridge
Sandy Creek Rail Bridge original construction
Sandy Creek Rail Bridge when the railway was still operating
Then it was on, on, on to Tallangatta. And just in time it was too as lot long after I arrived there it started to rain. I had briefly visited Tallangatta a few times in the past, but not spent any more than a few minutes each visit. So after booking into my lodgings the night and when the rain stopped I went an explored the town. Being a Sunday afternoon it was very quiet in the town including the main street, but there were still a number of cafes, take away food shops and the supermarket open. On top of the tallest hill in the township itself is the Memorial Peace Park. The centrepiece of this park is a Peace mural.
Tallangatta Memorial Peace Park entrance
Tallangatta Memorial Peace Park mural
Tallangatta Memorial Peace Park – VAOC plaque
There was also some information about the role Old Tallangatta played as a VAOC Observation Post. VAOC is an acronym for Volunteer Air Observers Corps, which operated as a civilian arm of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). VAOC observers “provided a vast safety umbrella for the RAAF and United States Army Air Force tracking and guiding training and operational aircraft around the continent 24 hours a day” (Plaque, Memorial Gardens). By the time the second world war had ended the VAOC has guided 1871 aircraft in distress and potential danger to safety saving at least 6000 airmen. The VAOC officially cease in 1945.
Tallangatta is on the shores of Lake Hume, and has a beautiful foreshore area. From the Memorial Park I wandered along the shore of the lake.
Tallangatta Lake Hume Foreshore
Tallangatta Lake Hume Foreshore
Tallangatta Lake Hume Foreshore
Tallangatta Foreshore Parkland
An angry looking sky
Tallangatta has an interesting history. Originally Tallangatta township was about 10 kilometres east and had reached a population of 950, helped along by the discover of Gold in the Mitta Mitta region in the 1800s. In 1918 the confluence of the Mitta Mitta and Murray Rivers, upstream of Albury / Wodonga was chosen as the site of a major reservoir. This required the town to be ‘moved’. So in 1954 the movement of the town began. Most timber buildings were moved, but buildings made of brick were demolished. The movement of the town was not without considerable pain as families were forced to leave their historic ties and a town whose social system had developed over the previous 100 years. The old location of Tallangatta is today known as Old Tallangatta (make perfect sense), and so when reading of the history of Tallangatta I had to keep in mind that anything written that was about a time before 1954 was talking about the old township, and thing after 1954 was talking about the new township. During dry periods the water level at Old Tallangatta drops to reveal the site of the old township.
Monday 14th October
I had planned to ride from Tallangatta to Old Tallangatta and back on Sunday but when the rain came that put an end to that plan, so on Monday I decided to ride out to Old Tallangatta as part of the day’s ride. Leaving about 7:30 in the morning while there was still a hint of a frost was certainly an experience, but the wind was generally behind me going towards Old Tallangatta so the lack of sunshine in some places to warm me up wasn’t that much of a problems. At Old Tallangatta the rail trail ends, although it is possible to ride another section higher up on the mountain range if one has a mountain bike.
I turned around and headed back towards Wodonga where the car was waiting patiently for my return. The scenery of the area the rail trail traverses is beautiful and serene. Following are some photos of the scenery…
The ride back to Wodonga was very much into the wind, and was (I thought) quite difficult. I had to fight against the wind even going down hill (not good). Although there were some places where the wind was less intense, it always wasn’t long before I was back to fighting the wind just to keep going. Interestingly enough, when I checked the average speed of the rides for the two days there was very little difference in the average speed. So even though it was hard going on the Monday the average speed didn’t really indicate the level of difficulty. I arrived back in Wodonga about 2.5 hours later and just in time it seems as the dark clouds started to roll in again and the air temperature dropped dramatically. So after having a bit of chat to our church pastor in the warmth of his office I headed home for some lunch. What a great mini-holiday!
The rides have been uploaded to me Strava profile and are accessible via the links below: