A Whole Bunch of Firsts


For 5 days before Easter 2018, I had the opportunity to embark on that most james-like of holidays – a cycling holiday. But that holiday prooved to have a lot of firsts:

  • First time riding on the Bellarine Peninsula.
  • First time riding on the Mornington Peninsula.
  • First time on a ferry or ship.
  • First time I used a hiking tent and pack for a cycling holiday.
  • First time camping overnight away from towns on a cycling holiday.

Sunday 25th March, and the forecast was for strong winds, possibly rain, and fairly low temperatures. Not exactly the best weather for a cycling holiday, but it was that or spend my annual leave at home. After uneventful train trips from Springhurst, near Wodonga, in Victoria to South Geelong, I started the first ride of the holiday – the Bellarine Pensinsula Rail Trail. I always imagined the Bellarine Beninsula as a fairly flat place, but the rail trail was more undulating than a ‘fairly flat’ region would have required. And there were even a few descent climbs which got my huffing and puffing while lugging about 10kg of extra weight in the bike’s panniers and the hiking pack on my back. The first section of the rail trail was over or along side the old broad guage Victorian Railway branchline.

Cycling kit for the holiday: a 29 inch rim mountain bike, an old (as in about 20+ years old) Carribee hiking pack, and a Topeak bag and panniers.

Bellarine Rail Trail

Aleppo Pine decendant plaque near the rail trail.

Aleppo Pine decendant near the rail trail.

The old disued and somewhat overgrown broad guage railway line remains between Drysale and Geelong South.

But after Drysdale, the trail was beside the 3 foot 6 inch guage Pellarine Peninsula Tourist Railway all the way to Queenscliff. The Bellarine Peninsula Railway is on the formation of the broad guage branch, but re-guaged to 3’6″. Being quite insterested in railways, this suited me fine, and I pedalled along at a fairly leisurely pace, or at least it felt that way with the rather strong tailwind that blew me along. I was hoping to see a train or two while riding along this section. Eventually I did see a train or two, but it wasn’t until much closer to Queenscliff.

Drysdale railway station on the Bellarine Peninsula 3’6″ railway.

Drysdale railway station

Shed at Drysdale railway station

Looking towards Queenscliff at Drysdale railway station

Drysdale railway station

Carriages near Drysdale railway station

0-6-0T tank engine, and 2 carriages near Queenscliff.

o-6-0T tank engine at Queensliff railway station.

Shipwreck / marine disater alert bell.

Diesel locomotive and ‘Q Train’ at Queenscliff.

After reaching Queenscliff, I found the Queenscliff – Sorrento ferry, for the next leg of the day’s journey. The ferry was a rather large ship, but not like the huge cruise liners or sea-going ferries. It was large enough to inspire confidence in it’s ability to make the journey, always a good thing! By the time I got to the ferry it was about 2pm, much later than I thought it would have been so while on the ferry I purchased some lunch, hoping that I would not experience sea-sickness. Retrospectively, I needn’t have worried. Even with the up and down motion of the ferry, and a belly full of food I didn’t feel even a slight bit queasy.

Queenscliff Ferry Terminal

The ferry

Looking towards Sorrento from the ferry.

Once the ferry arrived at Sorrento, I continued my journey to the foreshore camping ground I had booked online for the night a few days before. After I had been riding for a while I started to wonder if I had passed it, but just about that time I saw the sign indicating that I was there. Phew! After setting up camp, I had to walk into Rye, a few kilometres away, to buy something for the evening meal and breakfast the next day. While walking back from the Rye shopping centre to Tyrone Foreshore Campsite I found a reconstructed Limeburners Kiln, shown above. A nearby plaque commemorating it said

“This reconstructed kiln is a memorial to one of the earliest industries on the [Mornington] Peninsula and is a tribute to our early settlers and their rugged enterprise. Duein the mid-1800s natural limestone was mined and burnt in kilns to produce lime, for making mortar. Most of the lime as loaded in barges and shipped to Melbourne for use in the building industry. The last commercial burning of lime on the peninsula was carried out in the Rye area”.

This was the very first time I had camped in a hiking tent when on a cycling holiday where I had to carry everything I needed. And so by the evening I was very thankful for the rest.

Private bathing boxes near Tyrone Foreshore Campsite

Campsite at Tyrone Foreshore Campsite

View from the campsite

Reconstructed Limeburners Kiln between Rye shopping centre and Tyrone Foreshore Campsite

Monday dawned overcast and windy, with threatening grey skies. So I wore 3 layers of clothing on my body – a cycling jersey, a second long-sleeved layer for warmth, and then a waterproof jacket just in case it started raining. Well, it didn’t start raining. But there were some places along the ride where I was thankful I had the waterproof jacket on. In places the route I took was within about 10 metres of the beach, and the wind was so strong that the normally docile Port Phillip Bay looked like a surf beach and sent sea water spraying over me from the waves breaking against the sea walls.

The Bay Trail

Lighthouse near Bay Trail

Waves crashing over the beach wall.

Mural on the Bay Trail

View across the water from near Safety Beach.

Bay view near Mornington

Statue of Matthew Flinders at Mornington.

Rougher than usual bay near Franskton.

After climbing through Safety Beach, Mt Martha and Mornington I eventually arrived at Frankston, expecting that I would have a nice leisurely train ride into central Melbourne. Alas, this was not to be. About 3 stations along the line from Frankston, the passengers of the train I was in were informed that the overhead wires that feed electricity to the train were damaged and that the train wouldn’t be continuing and would be replaced by a bus. Not one of this big coach busses with plenty of space to carry a bike in it’s metallic belly but those much close to the ground metro busses with no storage area at all. So I had to ride to Cheltenham, about 15km away. Thankfully it was fairly flat, and it wasn’t raining, and I could ride along the roads that followed the railway or I might have got somewhat lost. Eventually I arrived at Cheltenham railway station and caught a train to Southern Cross statuon in Melbourne. Then it was on to Bendigo, where I stayed at a caravan park about 10km from the railway station.

Bendigo has a good network of bike trails, but I only really got to ride on one of them that day, the Bendigo Creek Trail.

Lake Weeroona.

Chinese building near Bendigo CBD

Giant flower near the Bendigo Chinese Musuem

Flowers in the park near the Bendigo CBD

Flowers in the park near the Bendigo CBD

Flowers in the park near the Bendigo CBD

Flowers in the park near the Bendigo CBD

Sculpture near Epsom on the Bendigo Creek Trail.

By the next morning the weather forecast for the region was for sunny days, even as high as the high 20’s celsius. And I was on my way to Pyramid Hill. A place I had been through on the train numerous times, but had never actually explored the town and it’s environs. The plan was to explore the town, ride out to the town’s namesake – a pyramid shaped hill and stay overnight at the caravan park. This was been the least expensive caravan park I have ever stayed at, costing only $10 for the night. After a rather pleasant afternoon riding around, and talking to others staying at the caravan park, I went to bed early (there really wasn’t much else to do after dark).

Bendigo railway signal box at the south end of the station.

VLocity northbound, and locomotive hauled southbound passenger trains at Bendigo Station.

Bendgo railway station

Pyramid Hill caravan park

Commeorative Plaque to Major Mitchell, the disciver of the Pyramid Hill and surrounds.

Pyramid Hill, in detail

Pyramid Hill rock formations

Pyramid Hill, rock formations

Entrance to Pyramid Hill via the Golf Course.

Pyramid railway station, which serves the town of Pyramid Hill

Pyramid Hill memorial hall

Pyramid Hill IGA supermarket – rather ornate for a supermarket!

Pyramid Hill silos

Pyramid Hill railway goods shed – it’se not been used in a while.

Pyramid Hill Catholic shurch

An old style shop in Pyramid Hill

Result of my fall off the bike nearthe Mt Terrick Terrick Campsite

Result of my fall off the bike nearthe Mt Terrick Terrick Campsite

Then there was Wednesday. After a good night’s sleep on my self-inflating bed roll and with my self-inflating pillow to rest me head on, it was time to pack up camp and head south east to the Terrick Terrick National Park, near Mitiamo. When one travels through the region by train, it looks very very flat. But I was to find out that looks can be deceiving. Or maybe it was just the roads I rode along to get to Terrick Terrick National Park were more hilly than everywhere else in the region? The ride was along almost all gravel roads, with the destination being the Mt Terrick Terrick Campground, a free camping campground with no facilities except some tables and a drop toilet. After setting up camp I walked to the top of Mt Terrick Terrick, about 400 metres from camp. Mt Terrick Terrick is a rather large granite outcrop rising to about 120 metres high, and the view from the summit was amazing – 360 degree views, with flat land as far as the eye could see in all directions punctuated by the occasnial mountain range. I reckon one of them looked like the Grampians, but I wasn’t so sure it would be close enough to actually see from where I was. I also rode into Mitiamo to buy some food for the evening meal and tomorrow’s breakfast, and some water. On the way into Mitiamo I was not concentrating on where I was going. The bike went into a deep rut in the road, and as I realised it and overcorrected, the bike slid out from underneath me and I hit the gravel. It didn’t hurt much, and there were no broken bones or concussion. But there was plenty of blood oozing out of the resulting abrasions! So when I reached Mitamo, 7km away, I found the nearest public tap and doused the abrasions in water, to clean the wound and wash away the dried blood.

 

Cactus with flower between Pyramid Hill and Terrick Terrick National Park

Mt Terrick Terrick Camp Site

Mt Terrick Terrick

Mt Terrick Terrick

Mt Terrick Terrick

Mt Terrick Terrick

Mt Terrick Terrick

View from Mt Terrick Terrick towards Mitiamo

“Intrusion” in the rock of Mt Terrick Terrick

View from Mt Terrick Terrick

Mt Terrick Terrick

Bennetts Rocks, Terrick Terrick National Park

Bennetts Rocks, Terrick Terrick National Park, looking towards Mt Terrick Terrick (that bump in the middle of the photo)

Bennetts Rocks, Terrick Terrick National Park

After retuning to the campsite, I went for a short ride around what was called Bennett’s Rocks. Not quite as high as Mt Terrick Terrick, but the view was just about as spectacular. And the ride itself was enjoyable too. I also found the Mitiamo Cemetery, and it was interesting to see that the cemetery was still being used for recent burials.

Mitiamo Hall, 1885.

Old church at Mitiamo, now a private residence

Mitiamo war memorial

Mitiamo silos

Old country style house at Mitiamo

Mitiamo General Store

VLine passenger train passing through Mitiamo heading towards Bendigo.

The next day, Thursday, I packed up camp, and rode into Mitiamo where I had some breakfast. While eating breakfast, I saw the morning Swan Hill – Southern Cross passenger train rumble through town. Then I struck out for Elmore about 45km away. The ride was very flat, with very straight roads. Not exactly the most interesting places to ride, but the scenery still held a few surprises. After about 20km of straight road, the road turned very lazily to the left and, behold, hi-rise haystacks. And I thought to myself, for there was no-one else around, “you know you’re in the country when there are more haystacks than people”. Eventually I happened upon an asphalt road, and I continued to follow it towards Elmore, with a brief stop to inspect the grain silos and what was left of railway station (not much apart from a mound of dirt) at Hunter.

The very straight and flat road between Mitiamo and Elmore.

Welcome the really really really really flat lands

Haystacks between Mitiamo and Elmore

Hunter hall

Hunter silos. Once upon a time, a railway ran by here.

I though I must have been within a very few kilometres of Elmore, but the sign I saw near Hunter said it was still about 11km away. So on I peddled, a little less energetically than before, and within about half an hour or so I was at Elmore where I stopped for lunch. This marked the end of my cycling holiday, but my cycling activities weren’t over yet. Over the next few days, while camping at Elmore I managed a few more rides and one rather eventful single track mountain bike trail that destroyed the rear derailuer on my mountain bike to the point where I couldn’t even ride the bike.

Elmore silos

Elmore railway station

Elmore railway water tank

Once we arrived home I removed the deraileuer, and I am still pondering exactly what to do. That is the 3rd rear derailuer that has failed in about as many years. I’m seriously thinking of converting my mountain bike to a single speed – you know, those bikes that have only one gear. That would mean no derailuers! And from what I’ve read, it would make the bike much easier to maintain and repair, and would make it lighter. But it would be harder to peddle up the steeper hills. Maybe I need more of a challenge when climbing hills on my bike anyway.

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:

2000km later…


The new Jamis Durango mountain bike

The new Jamis Durango mountain bike

Three months ago I purchased a new bike, a Jamis Durango 29inch Mountain Bike (MTB). At the time it was ‘on sale’ and cost about 2/3rds the normal price, so it was a desireable option for the price. The previous bike that was purchased new was a 26″ foldable bike, which travelled an estimated 20,000km over the time I had it, and last year was on it’s last legs. Before I purchased the Durango I had looked at road bikes, single speeds, cyclo-cross, even a footbike. But none of them seemeed to fit my needs – either I had to travel hours to purchase, price was too much for my budget, or I had concerns about the a bike’s ability to handle the sorts of roads I often travel on. “Roads” might even be a bit of a overstatement of some of the places I had taking the 26″ foldable and a 20″ foldable bike I had been riding before I purchased the Durango, so anything that couldn’t handle some rough tracks really wasn’t a viable option. No ultra-thin rimmed road bike for me!! Then I was in a bike shop in the nearest regional city to our home, and saw the Durango. “A mountain bike wasn’t necessarily the most desirable option” I thought, mostly due to them being heavier than other bikes, and greater tyre resistance on the road, but the more I thought about, the more the Durange seemed like a good choice. It also had disk brakes on the bike, and the lockable suspension front forks for the extra bumpy tracks, which seemed like a good idea for where I was likely to ride. So I purchased it.

 

Mud - there has been plenty of that this winter!

Mud – there has been plenty of that this winter!

Three months, and 2000km, later I am happy to report that the Durango has been, without a doubt, the best ‘fit’ for me of any bike I have ever owned. Not only has the bike allowed me to do some rougher and muddier trail rides (can you hear me giggling uncontrollably, and see me grinning uncontrollably as I negotiate large mud puddles on farm tracks near home), but it is a dream to ride on the bitumen too. My average speed on most rides on the new bike is about 5km faster than it was on my previous bikes – something that really surprised me as I thought the heaviness of the bike (around 14kg) would have the opposite effect. As far as long rides go, I have probably done a higher proportion of long rides on the Durango than on previous bikes – over the last few months I clocked up some rather long rides on the new bike, about 85km being the longest. But haven’t managed a 100+ ride like on the 26″ foldable, yet. Other notable road rides on the new bike include a 50+ km ride in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains with a local cycling group, two 65+ km rides to Albury and back, a 60+ km ride to explore some disused railway formations near Ryan and Henty, and a 50km exploration ride along a road called “Gluepot Road” (I had imagined there was a valid reason why they called it that, and so hadn’t attempted it on any of my previous bikes). With the very wet last few months, and often muddy stock and farm tracks, I would have been very limited on just about any other type of bike. This is where the mountain bike really came into its own as I felt a lot more confident traversing some of the very large puddles and mud patches I encountered on the various rides. A total of 2000km in 3 months is a decent effort, even on a much lighter road bike!

 

A bit of Edgehill Track in the tyres of the MTB

A bit of Edgehill Track in the tyres of the MTB

About the only things I needed to do were replace the seat that came with the bike with a more comfortable seat, and figure out a way to carry multiple water bottles, and other ’emergency’ kit such as spare tube, tools, money, etc. The seat replacement was easy – I replaced the seat with the ultra-comfy ‘big butt’ seat from a previous bike, problem solved. But the water bottles and emergency kit was a bit more complicated and I still haven’t managed to figure it out satifactorily. Not long after purchasing the bike I purchased a Topeak seat mounted bag which I thought would fix that problem but as it turned out the size of the bag when attached to the seat post / back of seat fouls the rear tyre. So the bag is mounted on the front of the bike in a rather weird way, but at least it “works” there (even if it looks a little strange) and doesn’t foul any other moving parts on the bike. That solution is still not quite satisfactorily, but as the bag cost me a whopping $90+ dollars, I figured it will have to do for now.

 

When I took the bike in for it’s 3 month warranty ‘adjustment’ service, the guys at the bike shop said the chain was already fairly worn, and when I told them how much kms I had done they understood why. And one of them made possibly the biggest understatement I have heard in a while : “sounds like you are enjoying the bike then”. Enjoying? Yes! Really really enjoying!

Eliana negotiating a large mud patch on Wyoming Lane near home

Eliana negotiating a large mud patch on Wyoming Lane near home

Hickman Lane flooded - very bug puddles

Hickman Lane flooded – very bug puddles

The staff at the bike shop suggested I convert the drive train (front and back cog sets and chain) for a more durable set, which would cost around $600 fitted. That would bring the total cost of the bike up to about $1000, still considerably below the $1500 I was quoted for a cyclo-cross bike I originally looked at. So I am hoping to have the conversion done as the budget permits. Another possible upgrade that might be worth me considering is an upgrade of the brake system from cable to hydraulic disk, but I have no idea how much that might cost.

So here is the run down…

The Durango mountain bike has overall been a great choice. It is durable, tough, good on all types of road surfaces (probably mostly because of the 29″ wheels), feels very saure-footed on slippery sections, and is heaps of fun. The price at the time of purchase, and the fact the little 20″ K-Rock foldable bike I was riding wasn’t really suitable for me to do long rides on, and the extra time it would take to save the money to get a $1000+ bike, were the main reasons I initially decided on buying the Durango. But after 3 months of riding anywhere and everywhere, I am glad I did.

Gluepot Road calls

Gluepot Road calls

 

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!