Along the Roads to Gundagai


There’s an old Australian folk song called “Along the Road to Gundagai”, and it lyrics are…

There’s a track winding back
To an old-fashioned shack
Along the road to Gundagai.

Where the blue gums are growing
And the Murrumbidgee’s flowing
Beneath the sunny sky,

Where my daddy and mother are waiting for me
And the pals of my childhood once more I will see.
Then no more will I roam when I’m heading right for home
Along the road to Gundagai.

Apart from the lines “Where my daddy and mother are waiting for me, and the pals of my childhood once more I will see” the rest of lyrics indicated above were my experience over the last week, especially when “home is where the heart is” (ie, anywhere my darling wife happens to be). But Gundagai was the end, the destination, of a cycling adventure.

September 11th, 2017.

The cycling adventure started on the date that has unfortunately etched itself in the Western pysche – September 11th. But the events of many years ago were furthest from my mind as I left Henty bound for Wagga Wagga via Mangoplah in NSW. This was day one which involved a long 70+ km bike ride, with my Topeak rack and bag on the back of the bike and a back pack on my back. Those bag and pack had in them everything I thought I would need for 5 days of cycling, minus sleeping gear as that was provided at the various places I stayed. The weather was good, but I did have a headwind for pretty much the whole ride so it was hard going and by the time I got to Wagga Wagga I was really looking forward to some lunch and a well earned rest. The cycling for day one was over roads I had travelled before on a number of occasions so it was all pretty familiar. I knew where all the hillss and all the major landmarks were. So that was more a re-acquainting that a true adventure, although it was the first time I was kitted out for a multi day ride along those roads. Wagga Wagga is a large town nestled along the banks of the Murrumbidgee River, which is also the river that the township of Gundagai is on.

September 12th.

One thing I did while in Wagga Wagga was I walked some of the Wirajuri Trail which I had never walked before – eventually I hope to walk and / or ride the whole 40lm trail around Wagga Wagga. After a fairly good night’s rest I left Wagga Wagga early in the morning, heading towards Junee about 40km away. This proved to be a very interesting day for me as I am very much interested in railways and trains, and most of the journey is close to the Main South railway line that connects Melbourne (in Victoria) and Sydney (in NSW). I saw a number of railway features and some trains during the day.

It was also the first time I had travelled that route between Wagga Wagga and Junee. But that head wind persisted and after about 30km I was really feeling the fatigue. That might seem strange when I can normally ride around 80km before the fatigue sets in but when I ride 80km or more I try and avoid headwinds on the last half of the ride and I have nowhere as much weight attached to me or the bike. I got to Junee a bit before lunch, and so went to the cafe attached to the railway station and purchased some lunch – a vegetarian club sandwich and something for dessert. As I had about 2 hours before I could book into the Junee Tourist Park I found a seat and had a good rest, watching the world go by. After I checked in to my accommodation for the night I went for a bit of an explore on the bike on the various trails and roads around Junee. Junee is a railway town. If iot wasn’t for the railway the town would probably not be the size it is. There is a 360 degree roundhouse, and it is the junction of the Main South line and a line that branches off to Narrandera and Griffith. In more recent years, the de-regulation of the Australian railway industry and the move to containerised freight has led to the establishment of a transhipment facility at Harefield and so the railway yards at Junee often have railway carriages bound for or moved from Harefield. I heard a number of freight trains rumbling through at various times of the day and night along the Main South line and the Griffith branch. So even today the railwys are busy in and around Junee – that warms the heart of any railways fan.

September 13th.

This day was to prove very different to the previous two.  It was a bit cooler, more overcast. But the best thing about this day’s major bike ride was that it had lots of downhill and a tailwind! My destination was Bethungra. I rode along Old Sydney Road for this ride, which in the days of the Cobb and Co coach service was the route they took between Junee and Bethungra. The road was great to ride on, the hills not beeing too steep, and through beautiful farming country. The reason I decided to take this road was that I don’t like riding on major highways, so to avoid the Olympic Highway, the most direct route between the towns I had to go along Old Sydney Road. This road was entirely unknown to me before I that day but I am glad I decided to ride it. Bethungra is another township very much connected with the railways. Nearby is the Bethungra Spiral, a railway feature built in the 1940’s to minimise the need for double-heading or banking of trains to get them over the mountain range. “Double-heading” means adding an extra locomotive to the front of a train, and “banking” means more or less the same thing – but the extra locomotive is often added to the back of a train to push the train while the locomotive at the front pulls the train. As the name implies, the Bethungra Spiral winds around and goes over itself, using the spiral to gain or lose height meaning gradient is less steep. Bethungra once has as many as 3000 people, but when the railways mechanised and restructured their track work gangs the town almost died, although today it seems to be a small but vibrant village of community minded people.

After checking into the Bethungra Hotel B&B at Bethungra I rode out to the Spiral to take a look, and to the Bethungra Dam / Lake which has a good camping area, and explored the railway features in Bethungra township itself. I also visited the Olde Schoolhouse T-House and had a good chat to one of the operators. It was interesting to find out that they are of the same worldwide faith community as me, and so I chatted for quite some time before going back to the B&B and engaging in some major relaxation – ie, sitting on the balcony outside my room and watching the world go by and hoping for some trains to pass by in easy view of the B&B. But alas the only trains that travelled by were an XPT passenger train (which I saw on the Spiral itself when riding out there) and trains going through at night! Oh well.

September 14th.

Old Sydney Road which I rode the previous day showed on the map as a fairly straight rode. The route for this day’s ride was a very winding one from Bethungra to Cootamundra very much away from the Olympic Highway. When I compared the maps for the two days, I figured that this day’s ride would be much more hilly than the previous days due to the constant changes in direction of the roads on the map. And I was right.From about 15km into the ride until about 10km from Cootamundra it was a fairly constant pattern of ascent followed by descent. Ans so 40 or so kilometres and about 2 and a bit hours later I arrived in Cootamundra. This day was a very cold day, around 8 degrees Celsius. While I was riding that didn’t pose too much of a problem as the effort required to ride up the hills and the 3 layers of clothing I had on tended to keep me warm. But once I stopped at Cootamundra and started to cool down, the wind also seemed to pick up. and so I had to add an extra layer of clothing. Thats’ right – 4 (four) layers of clothing and I still wasn’t feeling particularly warm! I was very thankful for the warmth of the cafe where I had lunch and the wonderfully working heater in the hotel room I had booked for the night. Like Junee, Cootamundra is a very busy railway town. On my exploring around town I saw some locomotives I had never seen before. There is also a foot bridge over the railway lines that gives a good view of the yards and station.

IMAG3788

White Ibis Hotel, Cootamundra. Where I stayed for the night.

September 15th.

This was the last day of my cycling adventure. The previous night I had developed a sneeze or hay fever.  I was hoping that wasn’t a sign that I was getting sick as this days ride was 50+km and I was expecting some major climbs along the ride. As it turned out I needn’t have worried about either as the climbs weren’t that bad and once I was warmed up on the ride the blocked / runny nose stopped being blocked / runny. This ride was in a south easterly direction to Gundagai through the locales of Brawlin and Muttama and for part of the way it followed the now disused Cootamundra – Gundagai – Tumut railway branch line. Spring is a beautiful time to out riding in the south-eastern Australian couttryside as the canola is in bloom and the blossoms of various flowing trees (native and introduced) are also blooming. But then there is the magpies, who also swoop in early Spring. Interestingly, most of the viscious swooping magpies were in the towns (what I call “Town Magpies”). The magpies in the countryside (“Country Magpies”) still swoop but often not as visciously as Town Magpies – another reason to be riding in the countrside in spring rather than in the towns!

I arrived at Gundagai not long after my wife and one of my daughters arrived there and once I Put the bike on the car the cycling adventure was finished. But I had made it. With 284km of riding, mostly through countryside that I had never been or seen before, it was very interesting and enjoyable. And I discovered, or maybe remembered, some things:

  • It is not impossible to find people with whom you have a common interest in the most unlikely of places.
  • Country hospitality really is the BEST!
  • Exploring new places is inherently pleasurable and interesting on a bicycle.
  • While the destination is important, the journey is to be savoured and enjoyed.

Ernest Hemingway once said of cycling “it’s by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and can coast down them”. Bill Emerson said “a bicycle does get you there and more. … And there is always the thin edge of danger to keep you alert and comfortably apprehensive. … And getting there is all the fun”. But for this cycling adventure (and many others), Charlie Cunningham sums up my feelings best: “You’re moving through a wonderful natural environment and working on balance, timing, depth perception, judgement… it forms a kind of ballet”.

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Here, there, and everywhere


Over the last few weeks, with 2 weeks of Annual Leave, the family and I did the following…

Friday 28th October
Finishing work at 1pm, Zoe and Eli and I were on the road by 1:30. Destination: Hotel Granya, beside the upper reaches of Lake Hume. By 3pm, I was all booked into my accommodation there, and Zoe and Eli were driving back home. Granya is in a mobile phone black hole – about the only place I had mobile service was way out in the bush, about halfway to the Mt Granya summit. So that basically means no internet until sometime on Sunday. But I’m wasn’t going to let that bother me. There was too much interesting stuff to do.


After I was unpacked, I hopped on the bicycle and headed up. Because that’s what most of the roads at Granya do – they go up. After exploring some side roads in Granya township, I decided to try and get to the top of My Granya. Until Cotton Tree Creek it was fairly easy going despite the steepest section of  asphalt road I encountered today being in the town limits. After Cotton Tree Creek the track went up, and down, and then again, and again, and again. And then there was a 2km section of relentlessly steep and slippery 4×4 track . And that was by far the hardest part of the ride.

Eventually I got past that section and onto Mt Granya Road. But by this time it was about 5:30 and I decided it would be best to head back towards the hotel. As I was soon to find out there was some more up hill, but after the really steep 4×4 section those hills were a breeze! And then there once I got to the asphalt road at Granya Gap it was super easy for the rest of the ride as it was downhill – O the joy of the downhill.

On arrival back at the hotel, I decided it was time to fill the fuel tank, so ordered some Moroccan Pumpkin soup, which was delicious, and some potato wedges with sweet chilli and sour cream. Not long after the Sun had set behind the Granya mountains and so it was Sabbath. So I spent a bit of time listening to some music (Steve McConnell, if your interested), and then mulled over an idea for a sermon I am due to preach on Christmas Eve. And then… bed.

Sabbath 29th October
Sabbath. The very word suggests rest. But rest from what? If one believes in the Judeo-Christian understanding, as I do, it means rest from doing business. That is, employment. And so on this Sabbath, as with every other one, that is what I did. And so today’s main activity was to be a mountain bike ride up to the top of Mt Granya. After riding hills of varying levels of difficulty I found myself at the aforementioned destination. And by that time I was due for a rest. After a bit of a snack to replace the energy I lost on the climb I sat quietly for a while and listened to the serenity. Lyrebirds, kookaburras, and some other unidentified birds could be heard. The silence was punctuated only by the sounds of nature. The view was amazing – down into Georges Creek valley, across to the alpine national park, and Mt Bogong with snow. But I had this feeling of dejavu, like I had been to Mt Granya before. Maybe I have. But it was still a first – the first time I had ridden a bicycle up it. After a decent rest, and because a few cars of people arrived, I decided it was time for a good downhill roll. And a good downhill roll it was, too.


Later in the day, around 6pm, I thought it would be nice to go for a trundle (that’s a ‘slower than usual’) bike ride along River Road and enjoy the views out over Lake Hume. And the views didn’t disappoint. I could have shot a lot more photos than I did, and the temperature had dropped a bit from its warmest temperature a few hours before. The only bad thing was the bugs – I swallowed a few, my beard collected a few, and some almost got in my eyes. By the time I got back to the hotel the sun was dropping over the hills. Sabbath would soon be gone for another week.


Sunday 30th October
I had an idea of what I was getting myself into when I read the weather forecasts for the day, and they all said roughly the same thing – rain probability high, 10+kph winds, possibility of a thunderstorm, low temperatures. Well, all of it happened, except the temperature was a bit higher than forecast. I left Hotel Granya around 6:30am, after a hearty breakfast of muesli with soy milk and an Up-N-Go, and a large banana. I had some snack foods to nibble on during the ride – nut and yoghurt bars, an orange, and some fruit and nut mix. I also had two ’10 Mineral’ drinks – a kind of sports drink without a lot of the nasties.


So there I was, riding into the north westerly wind more or less, for the first 16km. And then a turn southward starting with a grueling ascent to possibly the highest point on the ride. I am thankful that this ascent was early on in the ride as if I had to traverse it later in the ride I might have given up and called Rebecca up on the phone to tell her where to pick me up. As it was I felt decidedly low on energy by the time I got to the top, and took a decent rest before continuing. But then I heard some rather loud thunder rumbles in the hills above where I was, and I decided it would be better to keep moving down into the valley rather than feeling like a sitting duck on the high point I was on. After that high elevation, I had a long descent into Old Tallangatta – a real pleasure, even with the intermittent rain, after the tough climb I had endured not long before. The rain was one of the other variables on this ride that I have not had to experience on rides of similar length – rather than saying there was rain here and there, the ride could be better described as being doused by various intensities of rain. Sometimes it was light drizzle or a few drops here and there, other times it was bucketting down, and other times it was somewhere in between those extremes. I didn’t know whether to wear the raincoat, or not, as if I put it on then I felt too warm but if I didn’t wear it I got wet. In the end, it was just easier to not wear it!

By the time I got to Old Tallangatta, which was roughly the half-way point of the ride, I was feeling a little refreshed by the long downhill stretch through Georges Creek and was looking forward to the Yabba Road section. On Google Maps the Yabba Road seems fairly flat, especially when compared with the first half of the ride. Either Google Maps gradient profiles aren’t that trustworthy or I misread it, or something, because it was tougher than I thought it would be with a number of short but steep climbs, although the climbs weren’t anywhere as bad as the “grueling ascent” mentioned earlier. Yabba Road was a bit over 30km long, and by the time I turned onto the Omeo Highway I was really ready for a rest. It’s funny how when you drive a car over a stretch of road that it is totally different to when you ride a bicycle over the same section. I really don’t remember all those hills on the approach to Eskdale! But eventually I arrived at Eskdale, a beautiful small town nestled on the side of the Mitta Mitta River valley. This was the place where I was to meet Rebecca, Jesse and Eliana. It wasn’t long after I had started feeling human again that they arrived. We had some salad rolls, and a donut (I know, donuts are not exactly healthy food, but after 84km of cycling, well, you know where my logic headed). Then the bike was put on the bike rack on the car, and we drove another 2 hours south to the picturesque town of Omeo and booked into the Omeo Caravan Park which was to be our home for the next few days.

Monday 31st October
While snoring and generally drowsiness was the condition of the family, I was up early at about 6am, had some breakfast (again, healthy muesli and a banana), and a little later I went for a bike ride. No long bike ride – at about an hour in duration and about 13km long it was a lot less exhausting that the one the day before. But Omeo being in a valley, if I wanted to go anywhere I had to climb hills. So not long after I started the ride I found myself climbing up towards Mt Hotham but I soon decided that was not what I wanted to do, and took a turn to the left along lane called Cousins Lane. It climbed up pretty high too, but I knew it wouldn’t climb anywhere as high as the Mt Hotham road did, and besides when I turned onto Cousins Lane the Hotham road was starting to descend I didn’t really want to have to ride up that descent later.

Cousins Lane didn’t disappoint. The views across to the mountains was spectacular, and once the lane levelled off I enjoyed riding along it. Then there was a steep descent and ascent before it turned sharply to the left, then over one more hill, and then it was downhill as far as the eye could see all the way into Omeo. Well, almost. That’s how I like my rides to be – all the tough stuff in the first half, and then the ‘reward’. When I am riding around home and the wind is strong I always try and ride into the wind for the first half so that I can have an easier return back home. Riding into strong winds is just like riding up hills, except that they don’t show up on the gradient profile. But the effect on the rider is roughly the same.

After I returned back to the caravan park the family was up and we decided to walk into the township and do some exploring. There are an abundance of historically interesting buildings in the town and we saw a number of them – the courthouse (inside and out), the justice precinct with it’s Log Lockup, the Post Office, an old bank building, and some others.

Then after lunch we went driving. First it was out to have a look at the Hinnomungie Bridge in the Omeo Valley. This bridge is the only surviving wooden multi-truss hand hewn bridge in the state. It was particularly interesting to see ripped steel in structure of the bridge. That might be partly why the bridge was replaced by a more modern concrete structure. Then we drove along the Hinnomungie Connector road which goes up and over the Blowhard Lookout, a very aptly named locale that gives great 360 degree views of the surrounding area. But it was too cold to stay there, as the wind was blowing hard (surprise, surprise). In the distance we could see Lake Benambra, and so we headed towards it and skirted around in before arriving at the quaint and peaceful village of Benambra.

From there we headed north, and after missing a turn-off we finally arrived at our next stop – Taylors Crossing. This is a crossing of the Mitta Mitta River. It’s main point of interest is a sturdy looking steel suspension bridge for walkers to cross the river. This crossing is part of the Australian Alpine Walking Track, a long distance walking trail that traverses the Australian Alps between Walhalla and the Australian Capital Territory. After having a look around there, we drove back to Benambra and then headed north east towards the McFarlane Lookout NFSR locality on the map (don’t ask me what NFSR means, as I don’t know). I didn’t know what we would find there, but there were signs to a “Historic Marker” so we followed those signs, and found the remains of the Pendergast family home erected in the 1860s. All that remains today are 2 stone chimneys, but one of them had a hearthstone so big that they had to excavate a substantial hole underneath it from it’s locale in the neasrby hills, and then back the bullock wagon under it before toppling the hearthstone into the wagon to transport it to the site of the homestead. All the stones for the fireplaces for the building were granite brought down from the Bulgaback Range.

From there, we went back to the Caravan Park, where it was time for dinner and some evening relaxing.

Tuesday 1st November
Up early, again. Same reason – an early morning bike ride. This time the ride was from Omeo to Cobungra and the Victoria Falls. I jettisoned as much of the extra weight as possible from my bike touring kit. And then I was off on a bike ride that I knew was going to involve some climbing. The ride was uneventful, as is often the case. But the road was one of the steeper ones I have ridden, and the higher I got or the more exposed the road was, the stronger the headwinds. And it was a cold wind too. But I was prepared. I had 3 layers on – the cycling jersey, a polar fleece jumper, and an almost-wind-proof rain coat. I could feel the cold of the wind a bit, but not so much that I was worried about getting a chill or anything worse.

Pretty soon after leaving Omeo the main climbing started, and for approximately the next 8km I pedalled slowly up the hill. Near the top of the climb I arrived at Kosciosko Lookout, which was a bit under half way along the ride. And had a bit of a rest. But I felt the road calling me on. And I was on a bit of a timetable. I had told Rebecca that the ride would take me 2 hours to reach the Victoria Falls Historic Area, and so I couldn’t linger in any particular place for too long. So on I pedalled. Then I reached the top of the main climb and there was some downhill. But the downhill didn’t last as long as I thought it would. It teased me into thinking there would be a lot of downhill, but before I knew it I was climbing again! Then there was some more downhill, then some more climbing. And then the wind… This was the most exposed part of the ride, along the sides or tops of hills, and the wind made even some of the flat and downhill sections seem like climbs.

Eventually I made it to Cobungra, and the Victoria Falls Road. At Cobungra I had mobile reception, and so I sent an SMS to the family to let them know where I was and where I was going. After a little more downhill I found the picnic area, rode on a little further to see what was further a long the road, then after a while I turned back to the picnic area to wait for the family.

The Victoria Falls Historic Area is the location where the first hydro-electric power scheme in Victoria was built. Not to serve residential or commercial customers, but to provide power to one industry – a large, power hungry mine which was finding it increasingly difficult to source firewood for it’s boilers. So it was decided to convert the mine from steam powered to electric powered. Quite innovative for it’s day. There is not much left there today – we saw a dam wall that was destroyed in a flood, and another old dam further along at the end of the road. There are apparently more things to see, but some ambiguous signage that said “private property”, and then had a “walkers and management vehicles only” (which suggests state / public land) sign a bit further on made me wonder whether it was a good idea to explore further. In the same area is the Victoria Falls, a fairly spectacular set of cascades, made more so by the over-abundance of rain over the preceding months. We stopped at the lookout overlooking the falls and enjoyed the sight and sound of the falls roaring down the canyon.

From there we headed up to Dinner Plains, an alpine town with architecture reminiscent of the cattlemens huts that dot the Victorian alpine area. There was also some interesting pieces of art – a shiny metal emu and horse, and what looked like a giant gear and pedal set for some super huge bicycle. From there, we went even further up to Mount Hotham. There was still a lot of snow around, although I don’t think it would have been very ski-able. It was only just on the right side of zero – 1 degree according to the big clock / weather sign in the Hotham village. And the clouds were rolling in, and so it was possible that more snow could fall. But none of the ski-lifts would be operating if more snow did fall as the ski season finished officially almost a month ago.

We headed for the shelter of the day centre, and heated up some soup, and soon we had forgotten how cold it was outside. But then we had to go out in it again to get to the car. No matter. From that stage it could only get warmer. And the lower down the mountain we got the warmer it got. On the way back we stopped briefly at the Kosciosko Lookout, and then on to the Oriental Claims area to explore it. This area is named after the name of the company that worked the site for about 30 years in the late 1800’s / early 1900’s in search of that elusive yellow precious metal, gold. There are a large number of exposed cliffs towering above the various walking tracks. These cliffs were created by miners pointing high pressure water jets at the cliffs to wash the soil into sluicing areas, from which the gold was then extracted. The whole process would seem to be a good way to get to the gold in the soil, but the problem with the method is that it creates a lot of pollution problems even 100’s of kilometres downstream. A similar mine at Mitta Mitta also created similar water pollution problems during it’s operation.

By the time we had explored the Oriental Claims area, it was around 4pm, and so we decided we to go back to the caravan park, and engaged in less than interesting activities – dishes, cooking, showers, etc.

Wednesday 2nd November
Today’s early morning bike ride was a sedate affair when compared to the ones earlier in the week – about 26km long, and a little over 400 metres of climbing, and the average speed was almost 20kph. The destination and meeting point for me to meet the family was the Cassilis Historic Area in Tongio West, about 25km south of Omeo.

The Cassilis Historic Area was once a gold mining area, similar to many other places in the region around Omeo. And it has a lot of gold mining relics including old machinery and mine adits (the holes in the sides of mountains that the gold bearing rock is extracted through). The Cassilis Historic Area has 3 adits, collectively known as the Mount Hepburn / King Cassilis Mine. Each adit has it’s own name: “House of Horrors”, “Main Adit”, and “Boatmans Mine” – two of those names being very interesting names for a mine, and suggesting a story behind the names. After exploring the various mine remains on the loop trail, and enduring a certain child’s complaints of being tired and sore, we arrived back at the car. Then it was on to the village of Swifts Creek.

I had this picture in my mind of what the town of Swifts Creek would be like based on many other small villages I have visited over the years – very quiet main street with the occasional truck thundering it’s way through town, a sawmill, and a collection of buildings that had seen better days. Apart from the occasional truck thundering through town it was nothing like I envisioned. The school was in the middle of playing a game of “rounders” (I think). There was a cafe (which we had lunch at), another cafe, a pub, and a small supermarket, as well as some other community centered organisations. A quick read through the local noticeboard revealed a community that was very busy with all kinds of things including a community gym, a regular bike riding group, and a karate class. The thing that struck me most, though, was that the buildings we saw were all in very good condition, except for some rusty looking corrugated iron sheets on some roofs. They still had that ‘small country town’ look, but way over towards the ‘well-maintained’ end of the condition spectrum. Swifts Creek appeared to me to be a town whose citizens take pride in it’s appearance. I was only there for about an hour, but that was the impression I had of the town in the short time we were there.

After some lunch at the Creaker Cafe, we headed further south towards Ensay. After a quick stop at the Connor Lookout (I think it was called) we arrived at Ensay and turned east, with a plan to do a big loop through the Moscow Villa area, but about 20km into the loop we came across a large tree that had fallen across the road, and as we didn’t have a car that could get around it (ie, a 4×4 with lots of clearance) we turned around and back-tracked through Ensay. So the idea of doing a big loop fell in a heap. By this time I had about had enough of trying to get to Moscow Villa and the walking tracks in that area, so instead of trying to get there I decided we would just go towards Omeo. Along the way, we took a detour along the Tongio Gap Road just because it looked interesting on the map, and soon we had arrived back in Omeo. Rebecca wanted to have a look at the Cuckoo Clock shop, which has a large range of German-made cuckoo clocks, most of them being on different times. This is probably a good thing – can you imagine 100 cuckoo clocks all going off at once? The various styles and sounds of the clocks was interesting, and the mechanisms and moving pieces of the various clocks was quite amazing.

Thursday 3rd November
Not much of interest happened today. I managed a 20km bike ride before we departed Omeo. Most of the day was spent traveling from Omeo to Bairnsdale, and trying to find a playground for Eliana to burn off some energy. One thing of interest is that I have now driven all of the Great Alpine Road From Wangaratta all the way to Bairnsdale. In Eliana’s and my search for a playground we did find some interesting things.

Friday 4th November
An early start today. Eli and I started a somewhat epic journey from Bairnsdale back to Rutherglen, so we had to be at the Bairnsdale railway station to catch the 6:10am train. The VLine train tickets said we would travel on 2 trains and a bus, but instead we travelled on a train and 2 busses. Not exactly ideal for me and my railfan buddy. But we had to connect with the bus to Rutherglen so we had no ability to change the booking so that we got to ride a second train.

Originally I calculated we would travel about 1/4 of the possibile country passenger routes in Victoria on our journey, but with one train changed to a replacement bus that diminished to about 1/8. Oh well.

Sunday 6th November
Today marked the second week of my Annual Leave. Up until Friday night I couldn’t decide where to stay. So I was browsing the internet, considering options, when I happened upon a webpage describing a venue called Bharatralia Jungle Camp. On the webpage I looked at it said they had “luxury tents, with real beds, camp kitchen, shared shower and toilet”. That looked promising so I sent them an email, and the cost was going to be $40 a night. So I booked one of their “luxury tents” from tonight until Thursday. That was the accommodation taken care of.

So today, with the car packed with all the essentials, some of which I won’t actually need as the venue supplies them, I drove merrily to my booked accommodation. After paying the hosts, I unloaded all my gear and took it to the booked tent. I don’t really know what I was expecting (the words “luxury” and “tent” don’t quite seem to go together in my mind), but I was pleasantly surprised with the standard of accommodation. And not just the tent, but the whole place. It was like a beautifully manicured garden, with tastefully placed trees and gardens, and the sounds of peacocks (I think), the flittering of birds, and the noises of other wildlife abounding. A little slice of heaven.

After I had unpacked and had some lunch I went for a bike ride. That probably shouldn’t surprise anyone who has read this blog before. Earlier in the day I did a 1 hour 10 minute gym workout, and on the bike ride I noticed a definite lack of energy, which I think was because I was still recovering from the gym workout. But I still enjoyed the 15km ride. Inspite of the plethora of fallen trees across the track I rode. After I got back to the tent, I still had some time until dinner so I went for a walk around the property. Heavenly! The mountains in the background, the rolling hills of the property, and the gardens all fed the senses and along the walk I stopped often to just take in the scenes before me. Even the sounds were soothing and gentle on the ears, when there were any sounds. Back at the tent, after dinner was consumed, I took some time to sit and watch the King Parrots, Crimson Rosellas and other birds feeding not far from where I was sitting. Heavenly! And I managed to get some good photos of the birds too.

Monday 7th November
The plan today was to ride. But it was only after breakfast that I chose a destination – Dartmouth Dam. Having ridden the Mitta Mitta to Dartmouth route before, I knew what I was going to encounter until Dartmouth. And I had driven up to the Dam some time ago, so I knew there would be some up hill after Dartmouth township to get up to the Dam. More than 25 km of pedalling later, sometimes sedately sometimes not, I was at the dam wall. Dartmouth Dam was built back in the 1970s, but even by today’s standards it is impressive. The dam holds 4,000,000 megalitres. To put that into perspective, if every Australian (all 25 million of us) drank 2 litres of water a day it would take more than 200 years to empty it, if it was full. When full it has 150km of shoreline – that’s more than some countries! And the wall itself has 14,000,000 cubic metres of volume. It is the biggest dam on the Murray River catchment.

After reaching Dartmouth Dam and having a look around, I began the return trip to Mitta Mitta. And before too long I was at Banimboola Pondage. After after a quick look around there I continued on to Mitta Mitta. All went well, until I got to the driveway of Bharatralia Jungle Camp, where I had stopped, and then started and the chain slipped and my knee slammed into the handlebars. Ouch! And as if to have a visually sign of the “ouch”-ness, the knee swelled up. Even as I write this entry, in the evening of the day, it is still puffed up and a bit sore. But I figured out how to minimise the soreness – keep it moving. So after lunch I went for a hike nearly 7km long which was a combination of the River Walk and the Deep Gully Walk. While on the Deep Gully Walk I found a “Gnome Home”, and a “Frog Log”. Rather than explaining what they are, just have a look at the photos.

After getting back to the camp, I relaxed for an hour or so and watched the birds feeding, and with a little patience managed to get some good photos once the birds were in a photogenic spot. And I found some more gnomes. This time they were interspersed in the vines that surround the tents at Bharatralia.

Tuesday 8th November
Today I tackled the most difficult ride on the whole holiday – Mitta Mitta to Eskdale Spur Track / Camp Creek Track junction. This ride had approximately 30km of climbing, the most climbing I have ever done on a single ride, with total of around 2440 vertical metres of climbing. According to Google Maps, it should have been around 1500 vertical metres of climbing. Just goes to show how inaccurate Google Maps is once you get away from the main roads. The weather was very suited to a ride with lots of climbing as it was not too cold and not too hot. Real Goldilocks weather. That it wasn’t too cold meant that when I got to the higher altitudes I didn’t need to rug up with extra layers of clothing. Actually, the climbing helped keep me warm, and I found I only really got cold when I took a rest then started riding again.

The original plan was to try and get to Mitchell Hut, which I believe is somewhere on the Eskdale Spur, via Camp Creek Track. But by the time I had reached the Camp Creek Track turnoff, I had already ridden 30km, and I knew that Camp Creek Track would have some climbing on the way back. So at the Camp Creek Track turnoff I turned around. I think if I am going to try and get to Mitchell Hut / Eskdale Spur I will need to do it from the Mountain Creek end, as I think it is only about 10km of climbing from Mountain Creek camp ground, which would give me plenty of reserve energy to climb out of Camp Creek Track.

The last few kilometres of climbing out of the Rodda Creek valley were taxing, and I eagerly looked for the last crest signifying the last of the major climbs. By that time it was time for lunch, so I had the sandwiches I had prepared back at camp, and had some other food to replenish the energy used. And from there it was virtually all downhill all the way to the Omeo Highway turnoff just outside Mitta Mitta. After a short pedal on the Omeo Highway, I turned into the Bharatralia Jungle Camp road, and then there was one last uphill – the last 500 metres of so back to the tent. By that time the legs were really ready for a rest. But I needed to buy some bread from the Mitta Mitta General Store, so I had a bit of a rest, and then rode in to buy what I needed. Then once I returned from the shop I was able to rest the legs properly!

Wednesday 9th November
Compared to yesterday’s high altitude climbing ride, today was more akin to a recovery ride than anything else. It was still around the same distance as yesterday’s ride, but without the large vertical altitude difference. It was mostly flat, following the Mitta Mitta River flats from Mitta Mitta to Eskdale, with some not-to-strenuous (ie, easy) climbs, if you could even call them ‘climbs’. Today’s ride was also along more populated roads, so there was not quite the same level of ‘adventure’ on this ride. But it was still very enjoyable. A few times I saw Mt Bogong poking it’s head above the other mountains, and the contrast of the river flats and the mountains at their extremities made for a pleasant ride. The legs didn’t have to work too hard at all, and most of the time I was cruising along at about 20kph. By the time I got back to the camp, though, I was still pretty tired. After some lunch, I had trouble keeping my eyes open, and so laid down on one of the couches in the camp kitchen, and for about an hour was off in the Land of Nod (or, if you prefer, ‘catching some zzz’s’ or ‘having some shut-eye’). The warmness of the morning and early afternoon also contributed to my sense of drowsiness.

After I awoke from my slumber, I decided to go for a bit of a wander along one of the tracks. I don’t know what the name of the track was, but it followed the southern boundary of the Bharatralia Jungle Camp property. I followed this track for about as far as I could before there was a large number of trees across the path, and the undergrowth at that point of the track suggested it wasn’t used much beyond that point. That point was right up at the opposite end of the property to where the camp’s tents are located, and the vista down the valley was awesome. The property itself was all grassland – not the 6 foot high type, but more like a lawn that hadn’t been mowed in a while. And on each side of the valley were forests of trees as far down the valley as I could see. There were patches of trees in the paddocks, and the grass was a nice verdant green, not the dried out pale-brown color we get at home during Summer.

This is the last day of my away-from-home adventure. I left on the start of my adventure soon after I finished work around 1pm on the 28th October, and wont be home until after 1pm tomorrow, which means it will have been 2 whole weeks I have been away from home. Some of that I spent with family at various places, and only the last 4 days I have spent away from family. Even though adventures away from home are great fun, it will be good to be back home!

Where the reeds grow


That’s what the Aboriginal word means that the township and river named Mitta Mitta, in the Victorian high country, derives it’s name from. We weren’t there to check out the reeds, but for a regional church camp. We stayed at the Mitta Mitta Caravan Park, which because of the recent abundance of rain was a bit of a muddy place. Some of the Autumnal trees had not quite realised it was spring, and were bare of leaves, while others were profuse in the celebration of the arrival of Spring even though the weather over the last few days was more like winter. The Snowy Creek was a raging torrent, compared to the very sedate Mitta Mitta River, which merge at the township.

This is the second time we have been to Mitta Mitta, the first time being a passing visit while we were driving and exploring along the Omeo ‘Highway’, and this time we were staying in the town. While almost everyone else at the caravan park was snoring peacefully on Sabbath morning, I was up early and decided to go for an early morning walk around the township. Mitta Mitta township is not very big, but as is often the case the smaller the town the more character there is. Mitta Mitta town is just such a place. As far as amenities go, it is well served – it has a General Store, Hotel, Caravan Park, 2 churches, a Primary School, Ambulance Station and Police Station. It’s population, at time of writing, was a couple hundred humans, some geese, sheep, and probably some wombats and kangaroos representing the native fauna.

Not far away is Dartmouth township and Dam. The Dam can store 3856 giga-litres – rather a lot of water! On Sunday I again got up early, inspite of the raucous partying of a bunch of fishermen next to our van till the wee small hours. I decided that I would do some cycling and bike ride up to Dartmouth, either the township or the dam, depending on how energetic I felt. As it turned out, I didn’t feel that energetic until I had turned around to go back to Mitta Mitta at Dartmouth township and was a bout 1/2 way back! But then the last stretch from Dartmouth township to the Dam would probably have been somewhat tougher than the previous 20km so it was probably a wise thing that I did turn back when I did. Maybe I can attempt getting to the Dam another time.

It was quite foggy most of the ride, but this provided some interesting vistas – mountains poking above cloud, the road seemingly disappearing into the cloud, some farmland seemingly erased by cloud coverage. All very beautiful, and good for the soul. And despite the fog and lack of sunshine, I wasn’t cold, although that was probably the various layers of clothing I had on which kept my body warmth in (sometimes too much) and cool air out. There is nothing quite like being out in the beauty of nature to refresh and restore. And Mitta Mitta and it’s surrounds offer plenty of that! And little bit of quirkiness besides…

And I even saw some reeds.

Early Winter Activities


Well, Winter has only just started in the Riverina district of New South Wales (Australia), and we have already had plenty of cold days. But over the last week, I have managed three very un-winter-like nature-based adventure activities – at least to my way of thinking.

Last Sabbath (11th June) I had a hankering for some walking. The sun was shining, and from inside the house it seemed like too good a day to waste it being inside. Outside it was still rather cold, but the sunny sky seemed to be promising a beautiful, albeit coolish, day. My darling wife must have sensed my hankering because she suggested we go for a walk in the Woomargama National Park (WNP), about 40 minutes drive away from where we live. The WNP is bisected by the Hume and Hovell Walking Track (H&HWT), a 400+ km walking track between Yass (NSW) and Albury on the Victorian border, and it was part of that walking track that we decided we would walk. So we packed a picnic lunch and drove towards the WNP. As we drove merrily along we noticed that the closer we got to the park, the more cloudy the sky got. And by the time we reached the Samuel Bollard Camping Ground on the H&HWT it was looking more than a tad threatening. But we started off on our hike anyway. The plan was to hike the part of the H&HWT between the Samuel Bollard Campground and Tunnel Road – not a long hike by any means, but as we had never walked in the WNP or the H&HWT it seemed like a good starter hike. We hiked a total of around 4km, and the photos below tell the visual story of our hike.

On the Sunday (12 June), it was an early start to be in Albury by 7:45am to meet up with the Albury Wodonga Pedal Power group (AWPP). The activity for that day was a group bike ride planned from Tumbarumba to Tintaldra then some lunch and on to Walwa – a distance of around 75km. About 13 riders were going, and 2 support vehicles to attend to any mechanical or other ‘breakdowns’ and to carry all our cycling kit except for water bottles. That was a good test of my new Jamis mountain bike that I purchased about a month ago and my general fitness. Both the mountain bike and I performed fairly well – the bike seemed really at home on the asphalt roads (I was admittedly a bit surprised at that), and my fitness level must have been ok too because I managed the climbs without any real need to stop and rest for any sigificant period of time (I was admittedly a bit surprised by that too) although the fact that I had two really long rests waiting for everyone else to catch up mght have had something to do with that. It was cool (well, it is winter), but the sun was shining with not a cloud in the sky as far as the eye could see, but I did spot some cloud clinging to the sides of some of the higher mountains as I pedalled along. Having ridden the road between Tumbarumba and Tintaldra a few times before I had a reasonable idea of what to expect although it’s always different on a bicycle as there is no motor to help get up the hills. I knew that from about 1/2 way along the ride I would have some more level riding and some downhill into Tooma. There was also the 270 degree vistas across to the Snowy Mountains, towards Tumbarumba, and towards the Murray River valley.

By the time I got to the Southern Cloud Lookout, I decided I had better wait for everyone to catch up. So while I waited (and waited) I stared in wonder at the view across to the Snowy Mountains with their snow capped peaks glistening in the sunlight. Eventually the rest of the group arrived at the lookout and it was decided, rather wisely, to have a late lunch (it was around 1:30pm by this stage) of all the munchies and teas and coffees that everyone had brought along. After some munchies and a chat, and deciding to terminate the ride at Tintaldra due to the time, we got back on our trusty steeds and either barrelled or sedately rode the brakes down the hill, or anywhere on the spectrum between those two extremes, all the way into Tooma. At Tooma there was a sign saying 18km to Tintaldra pointing along a steep dirt road, and one saying 20km via the asphalt and more level road – we took the 20km option. And within about an hour of that turnoff we had started arriving at Tintaldra – by this time it was about 3:30pm, and a bit too late to continue on to Walwa so we made the right decision to stop the ride at Tintaldra – a 55km ride in total.

After a bit of a rest, putting the bikes on the support vehicles for the trip back to Albury, drink and snacks at the pub (tetotaler’s lemonade, packet of chips and Mars bar for me), we all piled in the support vehicles and enjoyed a drive into the sunset…

Then on Monday (13th June) which was the Queens Birthday Holiday, with another uncharacteristically sunny Winter day, and a weather forecast which included a lot of rain later in the week, I decided it was just too good a day to waste it being inside. So this time I decided to ride towards Holbrook and see how I went – remembering that I did a 55km / 900+ total climbs ride the day before and I wasn’t really sure how I would go. I needn’t have worried about being able to make it to Holbrook. I made it there and back with energy to spare although my legs were starting to complain a little by the time I got back home.

I learnt something interesting on the two rides over the weekend. On both I took a mixture of trail mix (nuts, seeds, sultanas), cashews, and dates for some sustenance along the way. I also carried and drank plenty of water. It seems that the combination of those munchies (a nice mix of carbs, proteins and fats) and the amount of water helped keep my energy levels up considerably so I think I will make that munchie mix a standard for future longer distance rides. I also re-discovered the ‘after-ride-glow’ – a sense of persistent euphoria!