Winter Wonderland Cycling and Railway Holiday


What follows is the diary of a mid-winter train and bike adventure, each day’s entry written on that day…

Tuesday 4th August

The start of this winter wonderland adventure started in character – the overnight temperature was about -2C. After a reasonable sleep in a warm bed I arrived at Albury (New South Wales) station around 6:10am, put my bike into the luggage van and then found my seat. The train ride was good (could a train ride be otherwise?) and it was good to see that the train was often travelling faster than the road traffic travelling on the Hume Freeway that is next to the railway. The plan for this adventure is to travel by train to Bendigo, then spend a day and a half there exploring by bicycle, then (weather permitting) ride along the O’Keefe rail trail to Heathcote, the day after that continue on to Seymour where I will to catch a train to Wangaratta where I will rendezvous with Rebecca and have a romantic weekend away to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. If the weather forecast for Thursday or Friday is nasty then I will head back towards home early and meet Rebecca at a different place.

The train journey from Southern Cross to Kangaroo Flats could not have been more different than the train journey from Albury. Where the journey from Albury was at a somewhat sedate 100 – 110kph (or thereabouts) with as much as 20 minutes or so between stops and the train itself was a 5 car deisel-electric locomotive hauled train the Southern Cross to Kangaroo Flats journey was in a deisel multiple unit (DMU) train called a VLocity travelling at up to 160kph with stops about every 10 minutes. The first part of the journey in the VLocity train was somewhat boring, being on suburban-standard track. But after we left Sunbury the VLocity was able to stretch it’s legs and there were a number of times it must have got close to it’s 160kph maximum speed. I had been in VLocity trains before, but I don’t think I have ever been on a train trip that was so un-nerving as the Kangaroo Flats journey. Exactly why, I don’t know. But the journey was finished safely.

Kangaroo Flats Goods Shed

Kangaroo Flats Goods Shed (disused)

Kangaroo Flats Railway Station

Kangaroo Flats Railway Station

After buying some lunch and booking into the motel, I went exploring on the tredlie. The Bendigo Creek Trail, and 2 loops around the Crusoe and No 7 dams were the subject of my exploration. The 2 loops around the dams were interesting with lots of historical vistas. The Bendigo Creek Trail is like many other urban bike trails with many different vignettes and experiences – suburban backyards, bridge underpasses, losing the trail, bike lanes on roads. Overall, though, it was an interesting trail.

Central Deborah Mine

Central Deborah Mine

Bendigo Creek Trail Brick Bridge

Bendigo Creek Trail Brick Bridge

Crusoe and No7 Dams Water Works

Crusoe and No7 Dams Water Works

Crusoe Dam Water Works

Crusoe Dam Water Works

No7 Dam - Old Pipes

No7 Dam – Old Pipes

Crusoe and No7 Dams Water Race

Crusoe and No7 Dams Water Race

No7 Dam Basin

No7 Dam Basin

No7 Dam Cistern

No7 Dam Cistern

Wednesday 5th

I awoke to the sound of rain. And the sound of water cascading off the roof. Hmmm! But I needn’t have worried. By the time I had finished breakfast it had abated somewhat. And by the time I had attempted to book my train ticket online and successfully booked accommodation for Thursday the sky had cleared up and there was even a fair bit of blue sky. I needed to somehow check that my attempt at booking the train ticket was successful and felt the best way to do that would be to visit the Bendigo train station. As it turned out I had not successfully booked the train ticket, so booked it while at the station. While I was doing that it was raining quite heavily. But a few minutes after I had booked the ticket it had almost stopped. So I continued on my ride.

One Tree Hill Tower

One Tree Hill Tower

Railway Workshops

Railway Workshops

Railway Workshops

Railway Workshops

Through the suburbs of Bendigo I peddled, and then turned south towards One Tree Hill, one of the highest points in the area. The ascent up One Tree Hill was somewhat difficult, but I figured there would have to be some downhilll upon reaching the top and so tried to ignore the aching muscles, rapid breathing, and thumping chest. From the top of One Tree Hill there was indeed some downhill. Yay! From there I rode to the Geographical Centre of Victoria, the location of Mandurang. It even has a snazzy plaque and a big X (which, incidently, ‘marks the spot’). From there I went back to the Kangaroo Flats Rd via a dirt road whose name I don’t recall.

Mandurang - Centre Of Victoria

Mandurang – Centre Of Victoria Plaque

Mandurang - Centre Of Victoria

Mandurang – Centre Of Victoria – X marks the spot

I arrived back at the motel a bit after noon, and then proceeded to dry out my riding attire. And then I availed myself of some lunch time sustenance which amounted to a cheese and tomato roll, some nuts and some fruit. The afternoon was spent doing some shopping and relaxing at the motel.

Thursday 6th August

The original plan has changed. Instead of cycling to Heathcote today and then on to Seymour tomorrow I have decided to travel from Kangaroo Flats to Southern Cross (Melbourne, Victoria) then to Wangaratta today and spend the night there. Then explore around there by bike. The major reason why I made the change was that I didn’t want to ride along the McIvor highway for about 20km east of Heathcote and the alternative routes suggested by Google Maps may be through a restricted military area. The last thing I need is to have to turn back about 10 or km into the ride, or worse. So the safest option was to not include the Bendigo – Heathcote – Seymour ride in the itinerary.

I installed a GPS Speedometer app on my phone last night with the express purpose of seeing how fast the train travelled on the journey into Melbourne. The train reached it’s maximum speed of 160kph on a number of occassions according to the app, even on the suburban trackage south of Sunbury although the track in the section was noticably rougher. Once at Southern Cross in Melbourne I had a 2.5 hour wait, so sat at the platform the train to Wangaratta was going to depart from and watched the trains come and go – a pleasant way for a rail fan to spend a few hours in spite of the drizzle and cool temperature. The journey to Wangaratta was uneventful, until a car collected a train going the opposite way to the train I was on. So the train I was on stopped at Benalla and we were all herded onto buses. I really wonder at the level of intelligence people must have every time I hear or read about a car collecting a train. When will people learn that those red flashing things on poles near railway lines means STOP before the silver parralel things so that the big heavy fast articulated metal thing on wheels doesn’t hit your car! It must be said that through the whole saga the Vline railway staff were great at keeping us informed and getting us to our destinations. They had buses available within about 30 minutes of us stopping at Benalla – no mean feat in the country where a bus may have to come from up to an hour away. Multiple kudos to them for the awesome job they did, and for the bus drivers that got us to our destinations.

So by the time I got to Wangaratta I was about an hour late. After riding to the motel via a wrong turn, and making some dinner, I proceeded to do some serious relaxing.

Friday 7th August

After collaborating with Rebecca, I decided that I would attempt to ride from Wangaratta North to Whitfield or further in the King Valley. So about 10am I left the motel and headed south. The first 20km was on a separate trail near the Whitfield road. I always prefer to ride on a separate trail rather than a road when cycling if one is available. After the Oxley turnoff I had to use the road. And it was a lot busier than I had expected.

Moyhu Church

Moyhu Church

Moyhu Church

Moyhu Church

Hume and Hovell Marker

Hume and Hovell Marker south of Moyhu

Lunch at Moyhu at the iNeeta Cafe

Lunch at Moyhu at the iNeeta Cafe

After a stop for lunch about 1/2 way at Moyhu I continued on towards our accommodation at Cheshunt South. When I started at Wangaratta North I had ‘some energy’, but the further along the road to Whitfield I got the more ‘tired’ I felt, especially after I had stopped for lunch and started riding again. At a place called Edi Cutting, so named because the narrow gauge railway that once travelled through the area travelled through a cuttung there, I decided rather than going up along the road to go down and along the flats. This went well until I encountered this…

Edi Cutting Creek Crossing

Edi Cutting Creek Crossing

I tried to ride through, but the rocks in the water were too big and so I got off the bike in mid stream, getting my feet all wet, and proceeded to trudge through the crossing on foot.

At Whitfield I considered stopping and waiting for Rebecca to pick me up on the way through, but when I found out she was still about an hour and a half away I decided to keep going. I passed through Cheshunt, and turned towards Cheshunt South, and by that stage was stopping every few kilometres for a rest and by the time I got to Glenmore Springs, our accommodation for the weekend, I was puffing and panting with legs that wanted to give up, struggling along on a flat road in first gear! But I made it – almost 70km with full touring kit which must be some sort of distance and endurance record for me.

Whitfield Railway Engine Shed

Old Whitfield Railway Engine Shed, I think

Whitfield Railway Engine Shed, I think

Inside the old Whitfield Railway Engine Shed, I think

Whitfield Railway Engine Shed, I think

Inside the old Whitfield Railway Engine Shed, I think

Rebecca arrived about 45 minutes after I did, which gave me a chance to have a shower and freshen up, and stock up the fire, before she arrived. A very interesting week of railways and cycling! And now the romantic 20th anniversary weekend getaway begins…

Glenmore Springs

Glenmore Springs – entrance

Glenmore Springs

Glenmore Springs – tobacco kiln converted to a two storey 1 bedroom apartment.

Inside

Inside – ‘lounge’ room

Inside

Inside – the roaring fire and the edge of the dining table.

View from the balcony

View from the balcony acessible from the bedroom on the upper floor.

Autumn, Hair and 10 or so bikes


Recently I joined a cycling group called Albury Wodonga Pedal Power. Evey year they do a weekend ride of the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail and this year it was in May. The trees were in the grip of their Autumnal Leaf Change when we embarked for the township of Bright (Victoria, Australia) late on Saturday afternoon to meet up with the group. After a fantastic tea of Vegetarian Penne (for me) and Cajun Chicken (for Jesse) at one of the local eating establishments with the rest of the group, and with the temperature getting colder than Joe Hockey’s national 2014 budget, Jesse and I decided the best thing to do was to head back to our accommodation.

Ovens River, Bright

Ovens River, Bright

Bright, and indeed the whole region where it is located, is very picturesque in Autumn with the deciduous trees turning all shades except green. Even the vineyards were changing their colors, which was a new concept to me – I didn’t know that grape vines changed their leaf color in Autumn.

Grape vines in autumn colors

Grape vines in autumn colors

Apparently even the hair of teenagers can change color in Autumn too!

Teenager in Autumn

Jesse the Teenager in Autumn

The next morning we woke up fairly early and had a breakfast of ‘Mini-Meal’ muesli bars and ‘Up and Go’. John, the older Heavy Metal devotee gentleman who was sharing our room who had a night on the town and got back to the room after we had already fallen asleep awoke not much later and by 8:30 we were ready to depart for our rail trail adventure.

The morning was nothing like the weather forecast which said it would be warm and sunny. Even in the afternoon the weather was nothing like the forecast. The dart board used by the weather men must have moved when they threw the dart to decide what the weather for the day was going to be. And so we had to set a pretty fast pace for a little while after starting the ride to warm ourselves up and get the blood pumping. At Eurobin we all stopped for a few minutes for all the group to catch up and for a slightly late introduction to the ride from Anne, the ride leader.

Eurobin rest area

Eurobin rest area – most of the rest areas are former railway stations, and have a railway motif.

Then it was on to Myrtleford and morning tea. The portable stove made an appearance and soon there was hot water for all sorts of hot drinks, along with various cakes, slices and biscuits. By this stage Jesse had broken a personal record for the longest ride. Previously he had ridden about 22km as a longest ride. But he was to do even better. After we finished morning tea we headed west towards Everton. This meant an ascent of Taylor’s Gap, a 7km steady climb, which was then followed by an equally steady descent towards Bowman station site. By the time we reached Everton Jesse had more than doubled his previous cycling ride personal record having cycled 58km! Well done Jesse!

Scenery near Taylors Gap

Scenery near Taylors Gap

Hume and Hovell Monument

Hume and Hovell Monument – these monuments are dotted all over the place where the two explorers travelled in the 1820s. This one is about 5km from Everton.

At the start of the ride there were 14 of us riding. By Everton there were 10 finishers (although only 9 are in the photo below for some reason).

The Finishers

The Finishers

At Everton we split into two groups – 5 took the support bus up to Beechworth, and the other 5 decided to ride the Everton to Beechworth climb – 16km most of which is fairly relentless climbing up a approximately 3% grade. It was made tougher by the fact that we had already ridden 58km before we started the climb. But the 5 of us set off and headed up the hill anyway. The muscles continued to get more sore and the heart pumped harder and the sweat flowed freely but we eventually made it, arriving at Beechworth around 2:30 in the afternoon. There were congratulations all around at having achieved what we did, then it was into the cars, some heading for a very late lunch and others heading for home.

Old chimneys near Beechworth

Old chimneys near Beechworth

Beechworth Railway Station

Beechworth Railway Station

On the way home I had a meeting at the church, and one of the people at the meeting was the driver (I think he said) of the last train to Bright. So all the activities for the day had some connection with the Bright and Beechworth railways! It is certainly a different dynamic riding as a group, and while I enjoy the ‘lone ranger’ cycling around home it was great to be part of a group that all had a common goal.

Here is a link to the GPS data for the ride: http://www.strava.com/activities/142469827 .

Tumbarumba in Autumn


Tumbarumba, News South Wales, Australia is one of those places we love to visit. We have visited the town and area around it a number of times since we moved into the region and it always seems to have something new to show us. More or less in the center of the township is the Goldfields Heritage park, which is on the site of the original goldfields. Thousands of miners toiled on the Tumbarumba goldfields between the 1850’s and 1930’s. They even managed to move the creek from the western side of what is now the Goldfields Heritage Park to the location it is today – no easy feat! I’m guessing that they moved the creek to get to the alluvial godl that they believed was in the creek bed. When we visited there recently, the trees were in the throes of succumbing to Autumn.

Tumbarumba in Autumn

Tumbarumba in Autumn

Tumbarumba in Autumn

Tumbarumba in Autumn

Tumbarumba in Autumn

Tumbarumba in Autumn

Tumbarumba in Autumn

Tumbarumba in Autumn

Tumbarumba Creek

Tumbarumba Creek in the Goldfields Heritage Park

The explorers Hume and Hovell passed through the area in the mid 1820’s, and had with them a number of assigned convicts with them. These convicts has been transported to New South Wales from the mother country for various crimes including stealing various things. One of them was transported because of involvement in the Irish Insurrection and another for ‘highway treason’, whatever that is. It is interesting to note, though, that some of them became quite successful during their time in Australia.  James Fitzpatrick became a successful landowner, and Henry Angel became a successful and respected grazier. It makes me think that their crimes were crimes of desperation. Obviously those that became successful were not afraid of hard work, and really made a go of it once they had served their sentence.

Hume and Hovell Monument

Hume and Hovell Monument in Goldfields Heritage Park

While we were there we noticed a pathway, and we decided to follow it. The pathway followed the creek for a short distance before opening out into another large parkland, one of the more interesting features of which was an old waterwheel. Old machinery fascinates me – it seems that the people that made those old machines had a much better hands-on knowledge of mechanics than the desk jockies who design our cars and other machines today. Often back in those ‘good ol days’ it was through a process of trial and error that a machine was made, and often due to lack of available spare parts the machines were often repaired in some very innovative and unusual ways. Today petroleum is the liquid that powers our machines, but back when these types of machines were being used water was the power – streams and rivers provided power for waterwheels such as this and various other machines, and water powered the steam engines so often used during the industrial revolution.

Tumbarumba Waterwheel

Tumbarumba Waterwheel

The original wheel was donated by a Mr Contessa of Adelong and was re-constructed by Blakes Engineering and inmates of the Brookfield Afforestation Camp. Adelong is not too far distant to Tumburumba.

So much to see, so little time. Part 1


Over the weekend we went camping. We left home around 9am and headed for them thar hills. There was gold in them thar hills (probably still is) but today they are known more for their natural beauty than anything else. But also evident was some attempts by mankind to tame God’s creation.

Friday 19th October

Our base camp was the Henry Angel Flat Trackhead, which is just a fancy way for saying ‘a place where the track is accessible by car’. Hume and Hovell (or is that Hovell and Hume) were two explorers who explored the area between Appin in New South Wales, and Corio Bay in Victoria (they were aiming for Westernport Bay, some distance to the east). The Hume and Hovell Walking Track follows the approximate route from Yass (NSW) to Albury (NSW), a distance of around 440 km. The Henry Angel Flats is named after one of their exploration party.

After arriving there a bit before lunch we set up camp, and then went on a walk downstream along the Hume and Hovell Walking Track to do some discovering of our own. it became increasingly apparent that were we hiking through a landscape that was very much changed by mankind – of the mining variety. At quite a few places along the creek, we noticed the creek bank shored up with rocks which was done by miners during the gold rush days.

There was also a rock cut channel, which was cut through solid granite in 1876, and was only the second recorded use of dynamite in New South Wales. The rock race was part of a 1.3 km tailrace which stretched from Angels Flat to the Tunnel and was built for the Burra Gold and Tin Mining Company.

Further along is the tunnel, another man-made feature of the valley. The tunnel and tailrace were built to allow a swamp to be sluiced for gold. The tunnel was blasted through the rock in 1876, the same year the tailrace was built.

We also saw a number of different types of birds, and Zoe was able to identify most of them. Most of them were too quick for the camera, but I did manage to get this photo of a pair of finches.

Sabbath 20th October

The next day, early in the morning, lots of cars started arriving at the camp site. Were were expecting this as when Rebecca was speaking with one of the other campers they mentioned that there was going to be an ultra-marathon start from the camp site around 6am in the morning. It was going to be a 100km race, the finishing line being at one of the other places we would visit later that day.

Rather than try to go to bed after the race has started, we decided (or did I decide) to hit the road and have breakfast somewhere different. So we packed the food in the car, along with a portable butane stove, and cooking utensils. We drove into the Snowy Mountains via the Elliot Way, to Cabramurra – the highest town in Australia. The Elliot Way has some amazing scenery. We could look down into Talbingo Reservoir on part of the journey, then the road travelled through the Tumut River valley, a very steep sided and narrow valley. We had a quick look at Tumut 2 Hydro Power Station, but as there were some severe tumble-rumbles by that time we limited our stops, but we did manage to take a few photos…

The echo through this tunnel was pretty amazing. From further up the mountain we saw this…

… a pretty amazing view down the Tumut River valley. A photo or words really doesn’t do it justice – you really would have to be there to experience the view. Not long after this we arrived in Cabramurra and had breakfast – pancakes pears and custard.

This was not the first time we had been to Cabramurra. A couple of years ago we travelled through the Snowy Mountains between Melbourne and Nowra (NSW,  were we lived at the time), and we had lunch at Cabramurra. So I guess the only meal we haven’t had at Cabramurra is dinner – maybe one day we will do that??

The mountains around Cabramurra are full of interesting things to see. We saw some Gang Gangs (a type of bird of the Cockatoo family) and some wild horses. Not far from Cabramurra is Wallaces Creek Lookout.

We tried to get to the Block Stream, and Ravine / Lobs Hole where there were supposed to be some ruins of a mining settlement, but it was beyond the abilities of our car so we thought it wiser to turn around rather than continue further down the ‘road’.

The view from Wallaces Creek Lookout was nothing short or awe-inspiring.  Again, a picture doesn’t really do the view justice, but here is my attempt at giving you some idea of the scenery we saw.

Further along is the 3 Mile Dam and the Kiandra goldfields. Goldfields are such fickle things – they spring up quickly and seem to disappear almost as quickly when the gold runs out, and creation reclaims and in many cases hides mankind’s attempts to tame the land. But the remnants of goldfields make for some interesting exploration. Three Mile Dam is now a haven for birds, fishermen, wild horses, frogs and campers. And in winter is covered in snow and ice. But it was originally built as a reliable water supply for mining operations in the area.

Life seems to ooze from the lake and it’s surrounds, quite a contrast to further down the valley at Kiandra, where only the wind seems to make any noise. We did spot a waterfall while driving through Kiandra, but it was hard to get to – lots of alpine meadows and bogs. So we had to make do with using a camera’s zoom capabilities to try and get a shot of it.

Down in the valley between Cabramurra and the township of Tumut there is a town called Talbingo. It’s claim to fame is that is it the birth place of Miles Franklin. There is a memorial in her honour in a prominent place in the town.

But, alas, the homestead where she was born is not accessible anymore as it seems to be have been inundated by a man-made pondage many moons ago! While in the area, we went up to the Talbingo Reservoir – so during the course of the day we saw both ends of the reservoir, but not the huge expanse in the middle.

We also noticed that the Hume & Hovell Ultra Marathon finish line was all set and patiently waiting for the runners to arrive. We arrived there about 3pm in the afternoon. From what we heard the runners were taking a lot longer to finish the race than initial expectations.

We travelled through Tumut and Batlow and found the Pilot Hill Arboretum. There I found a Sequoiadendron giganteum (Giant Sequoia). I remember seeing a photo in a book of a road being built through the middle of one of these giant trees somewhere in the western United States. Which national park it was in I don’t know. All I do know is that the example in the Pilot Hill Arboretum was nowhere near as tall or broad in stature as the one with the road going through it.

The sign in front of this tree indicated 1924. Assuming that was the year it was planted, I guess it shows how slow growing these trees can be and how old some of the huge ones in the United States are. All the more reason to try and preserve them!

From there is was but a short distance back to the campsite. By the time we arrived back in Henry Angel Flat it was about 5:30pm – rather a full day, but very interesting.