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!

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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.

A family mini-holiday in Tumut and the Snowy Mountains

A family mini-holiday in Tumut and the Snowy Mountains


With the kids on School Holidays, the possibility of some fine weather, and even an inkling that I might be able to do some bike riding in less-known locations, my darling wife organised a few days away from home as a kind of family holiday. Tumut (New South Wales, Australia) is a town nestled up against the Great Dividing Range. Being only about 2 or so hours from home made it the perfect place to base ourselves for our mini-holiday.

We had been to Tumut before, but only while passing through to other places. It has a very obvious connection with the timber industry (I counted 3 sawmills near Tumut, there are probably more), and is the last major town encountered after leaving the Hume Freeway near Adelong on the Snowy Mountains Highway before the mountain ranges themselves are encountered.

As it turned out I didn’t take the bike, so didn’t do any cycling while we were there. But every day we were there I walked or ‘ran’ varying distances. From the time we arrived to the time we left I had walked / ran about 25km! Here are some photos of the Tumut area.

Autumn Trees

Autumn Trees

River Trail

Old Bridge across Tumut along the River Trail

River trail

Most of the fam on the River Trail

River Trail

River Trail

Rotary Pioneer Park pond

Rotary Pioneer Park pond

Rotary Pioneer Park pond

Pelicans on Rotary Pioneer Park pond

Tumut River

Tumut River

Tumut River

Tumut River

Tumut River

Tumut River

The morning of second day we were there we explored Adelong and the nearby Adelong Falls and Gold Mill ruins. What a fascinating place it was. Lots of photos of how things were and we had the vistas before us to see how it is today.

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill walk

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill walk

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Falls scenery

Adelong Falls scenery

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Gold Mill ruins

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill walk

The Fam on the Adelong Falls and Gold Mill walk

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill walk

Adelong Falls and Gold Mill walk

Adelong - old rock crusher

Adelong – old rock crusher in centre of town

Adelong - old mining skip

Adelong – old mining skip

After lunch we decided to go for a scenic drive from Adelong and Talbingo via Batlow. We got through Batlow ok, but the road between Batlow and Talbingo was closed with a ‘Detour’ sign suggesting there was another way, so after travelling to the end of Snubba Road (which became Snubba ‘goat track’, and then Hume and Hovell Walking Track), we headed back to where the detour signs pointed and travelled for quite a long distance (we estimated at least 40km) till we got to another road closed sign and nearby was a signpost saying “Talbingo 16km, Batlow 15km”, so we went the long way around to no-where. But we did see some interesting things on the way.

Batlow Literary Institute

Batlow Literary Institute

Echidna, Snubba Rd

Echidna, Snubba Rd, between Batlow an Talbingo

Goanna, Lake Blowering Area

Goanna, Lake Blowering Area, between Batlong and Talbingo

Hume & Hovell Lookout on SnubbaRd

Hume & Hovell Lookout on Snubba Rd between Batlow and Talbingo.

Plaque at Hume & Hovel Lookout on Snubba Rd

Commemorative Plaque at Hume & Hovel Lookout on Snubba Rd

The 3rd day we explored the Yarrangobilly Caves, which is nestled in a valley a few kilometres off the Snowy Mountains Highway. There are a number of caves – we explored 3 of them (2 with a tour guide and 1 as a self-guided tour). And there were some entrances to other caves visible on the walking tracks too. There is also a Thermal Pool which is heated from rain water that percolates down many hundreds of meters into the earth’s crust then forced back to the surface as a warm spring.

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – Cave House

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves visitors center from Bluff Lookout

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cliffs

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cave formations

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cave formations

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cave formations

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cave formations

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cave formations – pond

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cave formations

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cliff faces

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – decending down into one of the caves

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cave formations

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cave formations

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cave formations

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – cave formations – reflection in a pond.

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – thermal pool

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – thermal pool

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – rock formations.

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – rock formations.

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – tree lined walk.

Yarrongobilly Caves

Yarrongobilly Caves – Track to Glory Cave entrance

Yarrongobilly Caves - entrance to Glory Cave (self guided tour)

Yarrongobilly Caves – entrance to Glory Cave (self guided tour)

Then we continued on to Cabramurra for tea / dinner. We had a reason for going to Cabramurra – in the past we have had breakfast and lunch at this highest of Australian towns, and we wanted to complete the meal cycle by having tea / dinner there as well. After a tea / dinner of soup and bread, then some dessert, it was back into the car to return to Tumut so I could log into my online Hebrew class. I realised on the way back to Tumut that the class would probably be starting at 7pm rather than 8pm as Daylight Savings had ended. We arrived back at the cabin about 6 minutes late, but the class was experiencing some technical difficulties (no sound) which were only resolved a minute or two after I logged on.

The next day, after I went for a ‘run’ and we packed our sutff and cleaned the cabin, we headed for the familiarity of home.

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 .