January Cycling Debrief


During this month I had set myself a cycling goal of 600km. This was in response to the Strava Prove-It cycling challenge, which was encouraging Strava members to “start the year off strong, and let January set the tone for the rest of 2014”. There was also the opportunity to purchase a special edition tee-shirt once the 600km was reached. I had my eye on that shirt, but when it came time to buy it the freight to my part of the world made me think twice about buying one. But that’s another story.

The month of January is normally one of the hottest months of the year in southern Australia. But I wasn’t really thinking about that when I joined the challenge. Call that an oversight, or maybe a sign of madness, if you will. The month started off well, with the following rides:

  • 43km on New Years Day.
  • 76km ride on 3rd.
  • 43km ride on 5th.

That was over 150km right there.

On the 6th January there was a really really strong headwind. Probably one of the worst I have ridden in. But I still managed 33km – I had my eye on the halfway point on that ride where I knew I would get a good ‘push’ by the wind all the way home! On the 7th January the ride was 22km, with Jesse, on a loop I hadn’t done very often before.

Then on the 10th January, a Friday, an attempt was made to ride from home to Rutherglen in Victoria – a distance of over 90km. I made it far as the NSW / Victoria border (aka, Murray River) at Howlong. At that point I had ridden 71km and was thinking of riding on, but I knew there were some ‘hills’ I would have to get over and my energy reserves were already low so I waited for my wife and kids to catch up in the car with a very inviting bike rack on the back of it. After the hills it would have been flat all the way to Rutherglen! Maybe one day…

On the 10th of January the total for the month was near 290km – almost halfway, and still 5 days till the middle of the month. I thought I was in good shape to reach the 600km. But then the heat hit! It was just too hot to ride at my normal times, and that was when I started to have doubts as to whether I would reach the 600km. The weather really started to heat up in mid-January with a week of high 30s (C) and low 40s, and I looked longingly out the window hoping for cloud cover or even some rain so I could venture outside our air-conditioned house and go for a ride. To try and keep the pace going, I resorted to getting up early in the morning before sunset (around 5:30am) just so I could go for a reasonable length bike ride. During the heat waves the following the following rides were done:

  • 31km on 12th – before breakfast to escape the heat!
  • 29km on 13th.
  • 20km on 14th.

That brought the 1/2 month total to 368km – I had a buffer of only 68km, so I couldn’t afford to slacken the pace if I was going to complete the 600km! After that, the rides were mostly around the 25km or so but were more often (8 rides in 10 days), with the following rides:

  • 26km on 16th.
  • 28km on 17th.
  • 34km on 20th.
  • 27km on 21st.
  • 22km on 22nd.
  • 26km on 23rd.
  • 26km on 24th.
  • 37km on 26th – Australia Day!

At this point the total was 599km – one km off the goal for the month. Only a catastrophe could stop me reaching the 600 now! By way of celebration, and to complete the 600km, I went for 4km ride with Eliana, my youngest daughter. The 600km had been reached – the challenge completed! A sigh of relief and a sense of achievement. The next day I went for a 5km ride with Eliana, this time along a bike trail in the nearest town to where we live. That was Eliana’s longest ride, and a rather pleasant change compared with some of the rides I had done earlier in the month. But then, in the evening of the same day a 26km ride was completed. Between the 27th and 31st no rides were done, although I did go for a run of 3.8km and suffered some pretty sore muscles as a result.

On the last day of the month, a final flurry of riding was done with the following rides:

  • 28km, starting at 5:45am while it was still dark (did I hear you say the word desperate?).
  • 19km into the nearest town to post a letter, with Jesse to his school, and then around the bike trail.

This brought the total for the month to 682km in 33 hours of riding time, with a 4 weekly average distance per week of 160km. But that was not the longest distance in a month. In September last year a distance of 750km was reached, but that was partially because of a 4 day cycling holiday, and another mini-holiday a week or so later.

Now the question is should I try to better than in February (also a very hot month in southern Australia) in training for a pending cycling holiday in March, or take it easy for the month? I guess I will just have to see how things pan out…

Upper Murray Mini-Holiday


Over the weekend just gone, we went on a mini family holiday to the Upper Murray region of New South Wales and Victoria. The plan was that I would leave early on my bicycle and try to ride as far as possible and then Rebecca and the kids leave about 4 hours later and ‘catch up’.

Friday 3rd January – Cycling to Talmalmo and beyond, Khancoban, Mt Mittamatite
The day started beautifully – fairly flat roads, light winds, cloud cover, and the occcasional few drops of rain. A great day for a bike ride. I left home at about 6:45, and started the trek eastward. I was hoping to make it all the way to Jingellic, a distance of 96km (about 60 miles) from where we live. The ride through to Woomargama was uneventful with only one real hill, and not too hot or cold. As I watched the miles go by I tried to pace myself and not push myself too hard. I knew what was coming – the ascent through the Woomargama National Park. I knew the Woomargama National Park section of the ride would require as much energy as I had, maybe even more. Woomargama is 310 metres above sea level, and the summit of the ride in the national park was at 650 metres – a not insignificant difference. The business end of the ascent varied in grade from 1% to 10%, and really was a lot harder than what I thought it would be. It seemed that just when I thought the summit was in sight that there was another hill to climb. By about 1/2 way up the main ascent I decided it would be best to walk the bike to the summit as my legs just didn’t want to push hard enough to peddle the bike even in the lowest gear selections.

Eventually I made it to the highest point on the ride, and had a well deserved rest. At this point in the ride the Hume and Hovell Walking Track crosses the road (Tunnel Road). We have walked on some bits of the Hume and Hovell Track before, and so I was interested to see the track crossing where I was riding. In future we are planning to do some walking along that track, but that was far from my mind as I let my body, arms and legs rest for a while.

Then it was back on the bike. As far as the eye could see was down hill – Yay!! But after about 10 minutes of riding I came across another significant hill which I had to ascend. Nooooooo!! I thought all the hills were behind me. That’s the last time I rely on a summary of a road’s gradients when choosing where to ride. Well, I had to get up the hill, so get up it I did, and eventually I arrived at the end of the road, and turned left into River Road towards Jingellic. By this point my energy was pretty much spent, and it was still about 30km to Jingellic. One thing quickly became apparent when riding along River Road – one does not notice hills so much when driving in a car compared with when one rides a bicycle. As I had very little energy, every hill presented a very real challenge. Eventually I made it to Talmalmo, and after a short rest I plodded on. Eventually I got to a hill that just shouted to me to quit, and so I obeyed the hill and quited, parking the bike under the shade of a very big gum tree. After a very long rest, and after hearing that Rebecca and the kids had left home 30 minutes late I decided to I would try to ride on further, so I rode over the hill that shouted quit, and in the next valley, Rebecca and the kids arrived and picked me up.

From there we all went to Jingellic and had some lunch. Then we drove on to the Clearwater Caravan Park in Tintaldra, where we were going to be staying for the weekend. We decided beforehand to opt for a canvas cabin, which is basically a big canvas ‘tent’, with power and real beds. Some of the comforts of home, at a very reasonable price. We headed for Khancoban, where the plan was to have tea. So we arrived, found an electric barbeque (‘barby’ for short), put the ‘snaggs’ (sausages – real and vegetarian) on it, and lots of onions, and had a hearty ‘hotdog with onions’ tea. We then went for a drive across the Khancoban Pondage wall, and noticed some interesting appendages at the spill way. I am not sure what they are for, maybe they are something to help migrating fish get further up- or down-stream from the dam wall? I have seen similar things before. Then again they might be for an entirely different purpose.

Canvas Cabin

Canvas Cabin, Clearwater Caravan Park, Tintaldra, Victoria.

Khancoban pondage spillway

Khancoban pondage spillway

Khancoban pondage wall

Khancoban pondage wall

After tea we got back in the car and started to drive back towards Tintaldra. On the way wew saw a sign to Mt Mittamatite with the words “lookout, picnic area” on it. As we like to look out from a lookout we turned onto the road (called Range Road). For some distance it goes through farmland with cattel grates and gates. We ran over a snake, and eventually got past the farmland and into the forested section of the drive. Again the temperature dropped dramatically. We arrived at the lookout, called Emberys Lookout, which had great views over Corryong and the valley it is in and over to the Australian Alps.

Mt Mittamatite Park: Corryong from Emberys Lookout

Mt Mittamatite Park: Corryong from Emberys Lookout

Mt Mittamatite Park: view from Emberys Lookout

Mt Mittamatite Park: view from Emberys Lookout

Mt Mittamatite Park: view from Emberys Lookout

Mt Mittamatite Park: view from Emberys Lookout

Mt Mittamatite Park: view from Emberys Lookout

Mt Mittamatite Park: view from Emberys Lookout

From there, we headed back to the Caravan Park.

Tintaldra is quite small – about 10 houses, a pub, a general store, a public hall, and the caravan park. And as the main road between Walwa and Corryong by-passes it, the township was very serene and quiet most of the time we were there. The Murray River runs close by, and is the state border between New Wouth Wales and Victoria. The current bridge that goes across the river is a newer bridge built in the late 1950s. Previously to that there was a redgum bridge across the river, with a steel pillar mid stream, the remains of which can still be seen today. The area was settled in the mid 1830s. Originally, Tintaldra was the place of business for locals from Walwa to Corryong. it had small town status, a river crossing, Post Office, Police Station and Customs House, and was on the main route for pioneer settlers travelling from north to south.

Tintaldra pub

Tintaldra pub

Old Bridge Pier in Murray River

Old Bridge Pier in Murray River

Tintaldra main street

Tintaldra main street

Clearwater Caravan Park

Clearwater Caravan Park

The General Store is classified on the Historic Buildings Record and has had some changes in 1919, when it became a freehold building. The store was built in 1860s/70s and was made of river redgums, red stringybark for slabs, and wooden shingles. It was also the Post Office with two weekly deliveries from Melbourne by horseback – the longest horseback delivery in Victoria. The store originally belonged to Tintaldra Station, with produce in the store being transported by bullock wagon from Wodonga or Gundagai, taking three weeks!

Tintaldra General Store

Tintaldra General Store

Sabbath 4th January – Shelley, Corryong, Tintaldra
The plan today was to do some sight-seeing today, which is a very touristy thing to do, but then we were being tourists for a few days so that’s OK. To start the day we drove towards Jingellic and stopped at Clarks Lagoon for a look-see. Zoe took a number of good photos of birds, and we relaxed by the river for a while. Then we travelled up to Shelley, via the Shelley-Jingellic Road. The drive to Shelley was interesting, going through farm land, pine plantations, and native forests. Like other forests there was a noticable difference between the temperature in the forest to that outside the forest – the forest was noticably cooler even at lower altitudes. Shelley is on a mountain range high above the Murray River valley. Once upon a time there was a railway that operated from Wodonga to Cudgewa, and Shelley had a railway station. But today the railway line is closed. The defining feature of Shelley today is now the plantations, and a good lookout where the alpine areas to the east can be seen. By the time we got to Shelley it was about 11am, and so we decided we would go to Corryong and have some lunch there.

By the time we were approaching Corryong, the kids were complaining of being hungry. It is somewhat of a mystery why as they had a late breakfast! But kids will be kids. On the subject of kids, while having our lunch at Corryong there was much screaming, wailing and gnashing of teeth. Not from our kids (thankfully), but from some little kid with obviously good lungs that was not getting his own way. The poor mother sat next to ‘the screaming one’ trying to calm him down and comfort him for quite some time. Eventually peace returned to the normally quiet town of Corryong once ‘the screamer’ ceased his screaming.

After lunch we got back in the car and drove up to the lookout above the town of Corryong. After having a look around we then started to drive back to Tintaldra. I decided that I had too much energy to sit and do nothing or sleep all afternoon so I decided to go for a bit of a walk around Tintaldra. On the walk I took a number of photos of the Tintaldra town and surrounds.

Tintaldra: Murray River

Tintaldra: Murray River

Tintaldra flowers

Tintaldra flowers

Tintaldra flowers

Tintaldra flowers

Tintaldra flowers

Tintaldra flowers

Tintaldra flowers

Tintaldra flowers

Tintaldra avenue of trees

Tintaldra avenue of trees

Burrowa - Pine Mountain National Park, from Tintaldra

Burrowa – Pine Mountain National Park

Farmland, near Tintaldra

Farmland

Sunday 5th January – A round-about ride and Kosciuszko National Park
While Rebecca and the kids continued their blissful slumber I energetically got out of bed, and got my bike ready. The plan was to ride from Tintaldra to Cudgewa to Colac Colac to Corryong then towards Towong by a very circuituous route. The plan was that Rebecca and the kids would meet me somewhere between Corryong and Towong, and then we would continue on to the Kosciuszko National Park and Thredbo.

I started my bike ride at 6:05am. It was rather cool, and required 3 layers of clothing on my chest to keep the cold out, but by the time I got to Cudgewa the sun was shining on me so I shed 2 of the layers. The sun had actually risen between when I left Tintaldra and arrived at Cudgewa, but there was a big mountain range between me and the sun until I arrived at Cudgewa. From Cudgewa I ventured onto Cudgewa Back Road which was a fairly well made stone road with some not to high hills. Then it was onto the Murray Valley Highway for a short distance then onto the Colac Colac – Corryong Trail, a well made multi-purpose off-road trail. This was great to ride on, and before I knew it, I was in Corryong. The scenery on this bike ride was great, with good views of the ranges above the valley in all directions. Through Corryong I travelled towards Towong, then Rebecca and the kids met me in the car, so the bike was attached to the car and we headed over the Towong Gap, through Khancoban (again) and into the Kosciuszko National Park.

Rebecca and I had been through the Kosciuszko National Park before, but as we were on a bit of a timetable that time we didn’t have time to stop and enjoy the scenery. the kids had never been into the national park, so it was effectively the first time we had all been into the national park. Our first stop was to have a look down into the valley at the Murray 1 Power Station. This is a hydro-powered power station, and was constructed between 1962 and 1967. It is the second largest power station in the Snowy Mountains Scheme and has 10 95MW turbine generators which can each generate enough electricity to power 95000 houses at any time.

Murray 1 Hydro Power Station

Murray 1 Hydro Power Station

Our next stop was Olsons Lookout, deep within the national park, with some stunning views up to the Western Fall of the Main Range. Mt Kosciuszko couldn’t be seen from here as it was behind one of the mountains seen from the view. In 2003 this area of the park experienced a relatively mild fire. Strong winds and high temepratures pushed the fire across the valley where it accelerated up the steep slopes. Much of the vegetation was severely burnt and spot fires ignited 10-15km away. Fire burning through alpine ash forests is more likely to ignite spot fires as Alpine Ash trees produce large quantities of loose bark which can be carried a long by the convective heat of fire and wind.

Kosciuszko Nat Park: Olsons Lookout

Kosciuszko Nat Park: Olsons Lookout. Western Fall of Main Range

Kosciuszko Nat Park: Olsons Lookout

Kosciuszko Nat Park: Olsons Lookout. Western Fall of Main Range

Kosciuszko Nat Park: Olsons Lookout

Kosciuszko Nat Park: Olsons Lookout. Western Fall of Main Range

Kosciuszko Nat Park: Olsons Lookout

Kosciuszko Nat Park: Olsons Lookout. Western Fall of Main Range

From Olsons Lookout we continued towards Thredbo, and after some quite steep sections of road we arrived at Dead Horse Gap. An obliging camping couple took a family photo of us here. From here the views in each direction towards Thredbo and Tom Groggin are spectacular, and it seems that this is probably the highest point on road between Khancoban and Thredbo. Unfortunately my camera’s batteries went flat at this point and so I couldn’t get any photos of the views!

At Dead Horse Gap

At Dead Horse Gap

Dead Horse Gap crosses the Great Dividing Range at 1580 metres and is the watershed between the Thredbo Snowy System and the Murray River. Apparently brumbies (Australian name for wild horses) sometimes became trapped in this area during unexpected snowfalls and died, hence the name. From there we did a quick driving tour of Thredbo, and then decided to drive on to Jindabyne and have lunch there. At Jindabyne there is a monument to Sir Paul Edmond Strzelecki, the Polish explorer of Australia. He was born in Poland in 1797 and arrive in Australia in 1839. From then until 1843 he explored and surveyed vast amounts of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. While in the Snowy Mountains region, he discovered Australia’s highest mountain and named it Mt Kosciuszko after a Polish leader and patriot. He was a renouned explorer and scientist and made a great contribution to the knowledge and development of Australia. There is a mountain range called the Strzelecki Ranges in south eastern Victoria, which is named after him – he led an expedition through it in the 1840s. There is also a locality, and a few other natural features dotted around the country that bear his name. From Jindabyne, we travelled back the same way and arrived at Tintaldra in time for a dinner of Noodle Omelets.

The next day, after a long sleep and a late breakfast for all, we headed home refreshed but still looking forward to sleeping in our own beds.

Here are some links to GPS maps of the rides I did over the weekend: