A 23 hour cycling holiday


I think I have bitten by the ‘Cycling Touring Bug’. Having enjoyed the cycling holiday I had a few weeks ago, I decided to try it again, but on a much smaller scale. This time the plan was to spend one night away, which meant less luggage had to carried.

Sunday 13th October

The trail being ridden was the High Country Rail Trail, which is built (mostly) on the old Wodonga – Cudgewa railway formations turned into a cycling / walking / horse riding trail. So after packing everything I would need into a single bike pack on Saturday night, I travelled to the church on Sunday morning to help out at a working bee there, then at about 1PM after a quick stop at the ATM to withdraw some cash I started the ride.

Before I rode the High Country Rail Trail I had this notion that it would be an easy ride. After all, it is beside Lake Hume for most of the way to Tallangatta, and still water is always level, right? But as I rode along I realised how hilly the trail actually was. When I checked my GPS tracker today, it said that the total accent for the journey was around 230 metres for the 39 kilometre journey. The gustiness of the wind also made the ride hard going in places, but more on the wind later.

The ride started in Wodonga, a large Victorian country town, across the Murray River from Albury (which is in New South Wales). The first part of the trail, from Wodonga to Bandiana was asphalt. From Bandiana the trail varied in surface, but was always well defined, even if a little overgrown in places.

Keiwa River Bridge

Above: Kiewa River Bridge

Keiwa River - Old Rail Bridge remains

Above: Kiewa River – Old Rail Bridge remains

Trail Surface

Generally the trail surface for the trail beyond Bandiana was similar to this.

About 10 kilometres out east of Wodonga is the township of Bonegilla. “Much of the development of the town was due to the Cudgewa railway line which opened in 1889 and closed in 1981. The line was used both in the development of and transporting materials for the Snowy Mountains Scheme and the main method of transporting thousands of migrants to the Bonegilla Migrant Reception Centre from Station Pier in Port Melbourne. … As part of the Post war immigration to Australia, Australia’s first migrant reception centre opened at Bonegilla in December 1947 with an intake of the first assisted migrants from Europe, Baltic refugees from Germany. Assisted migrants who had not been refugees began arriving in 1951. The Australian army had established a camp and military hospital on the site in 1940 as Albury-Wodonga was considered strategically important during the Second World War. Initially the army provided transport and security services to the migrant centre. The camp at Bonegilla closed in 1971 by which time some 320,000 migrants from over 30 countries had spent time there. It is estimated that over 1.5 million Australians are descended from migrants who spent time at Bonegilla.” (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonegilla,_Victoria ).

From Bonegilla the trail runs more or less next to Lake Hume. Ebden and Houn once had railway stations. Huon also had a goods shed, which is still standing. At Huon there was a very sorry looking Rail Motor (a self propelled deisel ‘train’ made up of a motor carriage and a trailer carriage) in a very advanced stage of delapidation. About 10km from Tallangatta and around 28km from Wodonga is the Sandy Creek Inlet Railway Bridge. When the railway closed the decking of the bridge was removed and for a number of years all the could be seen was a number of forlorn looking concrete supports sticking up defiantly from the waters of Lake Hume. Today it has been given a new deck and and a new lease of life an can be ridden / walked across. It was certainly an experience to travel out over the water on the bridge hearing the lapping of the water against the concrete supports.

Sandy Creek Rail Bridge

Sandy Creek Rail Bridge

The whole bridge

The whole bridge

Looking onto bridge from trail

Looking onto bridge from trail. The red beams are an architectural ‘feature’ of the bridge

Sandy Creek Rail Bridge original construction

Sandy Creek Rail Bridge original construction

Sandy Creek Rail Bridge when the railway was still operating

Sandy Creek Rail Bridge when the railway was still operating

Then it was on, on, on to Tallangatta. And just in time it was too as lot long after I arrived there it started to rain. I had briefly visited Tallangatta a few times in the past, but not spent any more than a few minutes each visit. So after booking into my lodgings the night and when the rain stopped I went an explored the town. Being a Sunday afternoon it was very quiet in the town including the main street, but there were still a number of cafes, take away food shops and the supermarket open. On top of the tallest hill in the township itself is the Memorial Peace Park. The centrepiece of this park is a Peace mural.

Tallangatta Memorial Peace Park entrance

Tallangatta Memorial Peace Park entrance

Tallangatta Memorial Peace Park mural

Tallangatta Memorial Peace Park mural

Tallangatta Memorial Peace Park - VAOC plaque

Tallangatta Memorial Peace Park – VAOC plaque

There was also some information about the role Old Tallangatta played as a VAOC Observation Post. VAOC is an acronym for Volunteer Air Observers Corps, which operated as a civilian arm of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). VAOC observers “provided a vast safety umbrella for the RAAF and United States Army Air Force tracking and guiding training and operational aircraft around the continent 24 hours a day” (Plaque, Memorial Gardens). By the time the second world war had ended the VAOC has guided 1871 aircraft in distress and potential danger to safety saving at least 6000 airmen. The VAOC officially cease in 1945.

Tallangatta is on the shores of Lake Hume, and has a beautiful foreshore area. From the Memorial Park I wandered along the shore of the lake.

Tallangatta Lake Hume Foreshore

Tallangatta Lake Hume Foreshore

Tallangatta Lake Hume Foreshore

Tallangatta Lake Hume Foreshore

Tallangatta Lake Hume Foreshore

Tallangatta Lake Hume Foreshore

Tallangatta Foreshore Parkland

Tallangatta Foreshore Parkland

An angry looking sky

An angry looking sky

Tallangatta has an interesting history. Originally Tallangatta township was about 10 kilometres east and had reached a population of 950, helped along by the discover of Gold in the Mitta Mitta region in the 1800s. In 1918 the confluence of the Mitta Mitta and Murray Rivers, upstream of Albury / Wodonga was chosen as the site of a major reservoir. This required the town to be ‘moved’. So in 1954 the movement of the town began. Most timber buildings were moved, but buildings made of brick were demolished. The movement of the town was not without considerable pain as families were forced to leave their historic ties and a town whose social system had developed over the previous 100 years. The old location of Tallangatta is today known as Old Tallangatta (make perfect sense), and so when reading of the history of Tallangatta I had to keep in mind that anything written that was about a time before 1954 was talking about the old township, and thing after 1954 was talking about the new township. During dry periods the water level at Old Tallangatta drops to reveal the site of the old township.

Monday 14th October

I had planned to ride from Tallangatta to Old Tallangatta and back on Sunday but when the rain came that put an end to that plan, so on Monday I decided to ride out to Old Tallangatta as part of the day’s ride. Leaving about 7:30 in the morning while there was still a hint of a frost was certainly an experience, but the wind was generally behind me going towards Old Tallangatta so the lack of sunshine in some places to warm me up wasn’t that much of a problems. At Old Tallangatta the rail trail ends, although it is possible to ride another section higher up on the mountain range if one has a mountain bike.

I turned around and headed back towards Wodonga where the car was waiting patiently for my return. The scenery of the area the rail trail traverses is beautiful and serene. Following are some photos of the scenery…

DSCF5748-Scenery DSCF5749-Scenery DSCF5787-nearOldTallangatta-lakeHume DSCF5788-nearOldTallangatta-lakeHume DSCF5794-nearTallangatta-SceneryThe ride back to Wodonga was very much into the wind, and was (I thought) quite difficult. I had to fight against the wind even going down hill (not good). Although there were some places where the wind was less intense, it always wasn’t long before I was back to fighting the wind just to keep going. Interestingly enough, when I checked the average speed of the rides for the two days there was very little difference in the average speed. So even though it was hard going on the Monday the average speed didn’t really indicate the level of difficulty. I arrived back in Wodonga about 2.5 hours later and just in time it seems as the dark clouds started to roll in again and the air temperature dropped dramatically. So after having a bit of chat to our church pastor in the warmth of his office I headed home for some lunch. What a great mini-holiday!

The rides have been uploaded to me Strava profile and are accessible via the links below:

Family Holiday Highlights – Wed 17th April


From Tuesday 16th to Friday 19th April, we were able to have a family camping holiday. We camped at the base of Mount Bogong, the highest mountain in the state of Victoria (Australia), at a camping place called Mountain Creek.

Here are a few highlights of the activities we did on Wednesday…

Bogong village and Fainter Falls

Bogong village was created in the late 1930s by the State Electricity Commission (SEC) to provide accommodation and services for workers constructing the Kiewa hydro-electric scheme. A post office, a primary school and a shop were also established. When the Kiewa hydro-electric scheme was completed in the early 1960s, the SEC planted various terraced and lakeside gardens. In the Spring various flowers bloom, in Summer the gardens take on a cool and leafy green appearance, turning to a kaleidescope of color in the Autumn when the leaves of the deciduous trees announce that Summer is over and Winter is on the way. Autumn is the time of year we visited there, and the various colors of leaves throughout the region made for a very colourful vista. But it isn’t just the gardens at Bogong that provide beauty – there is Lake Guy, a man-made lake built as part of the hydro-scheme.

Above: Lake Guy wall

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Above: Lake Guy, looking upstream

While the wall itself is somewhat utilitarian and made of concrete, the lake that it holds in the valley is very pleasant to behold as are the various visual elements associated with the village. A little upstream from Lake Guy, there is a beautiful parkland setting where the Kiewa River is joined by a creek. A bridge crosses at that location, providing a good view up the valley.

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Above: Bridge across the Kiewa River at Bogong Village

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Above: Looking upstream from atop the bridge in the previous photo.

Photos really don’t do the scene justice (as is often the case with scenes of such beauty) – much less a wordy written description. A short drive from Bogong Village is Fainter Falls. According to the signage on the walk, it flows all year. This is hardly surprising as it has the High Plains to feed water to it. Winter snowfalls and seasonal rains recharge the ground water, springs and alpine wetlands which¬† slowly and continuous feed such water ways.

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Above: Looking downstream towards the Kiewa River.

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Above: The falls

While we all went on the walk, only Jesse, Rebecca and I actually went up to the closest viewing platform to the falls. Zoe and Eliana stayed at the viewing platform a few hundred metres back.

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Above: the family minus Dad (on the other side of the camera) at the intermediate viewing platform before Jesse, Rebecca and I went on to the next platform.

Falls Creek Alpine Resort

This was the first time we had visited the Falls Creek resort, but I had been there before, having been somewhat enthusiastic about snow skiing before I got married. I think the last time I was there was before Rebecca and I got engaged, so it would have been some time around 1994 when I was last there. Things had changed. New buildings had been built, but some of the ski runs looked somewhat familiar (but some had what looked like snow-making apparatus which they didn’t last time I was there), and the mountains themselves hadn’t changed (at least not noticably).

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Above: It wasn’t there last time I was.

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Above: Wishing Well. This also wasn’t there last time I was.

Another thing that I noticed was the non-ski-season marketing. Once upon a time a ski resort was basically just used for skiing. But it seems that the marketers for Falls Creek and Mount Beauty are recognising the potential for other non-Winter sports such as mountain biking, etc.

A ‘ruined castle’ and a Basalt Hill

Above Falls Creek, on the Mt McKay / Pretty Valley road is a naturally occurring feature called Ruined Castle. The feature is evidence of a basalt flow as a result of volcanic activity in the area years ago. The cooling of the lava caused cracks which divided the rock into close fitting columns, usually hexagonal (6 sides) in shape. The “Ruined Castle” formation is one of a few remaining examples of columnar jointed basalt in the area.

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Above: view of all of ‘ruined castle’ formation

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Above: Close-up showing hexagonal shape of columns.

A short-ish drive further up onto the high plains on the road between Falls Creek and Omeo, past the Rocky Valley Dam near the Wallaces Hut walk and car park, are some formations which also are apparently of volcanic origin according to the signage. One of the formations is called Basalt Hill, which I suppose is indicating what it is comprised of.

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Above: An example of a basalt topped mountain, where the basalt on top helps to protect the rock underneath from erosion.

From there we decided to continue on to Omeo, as if it might be some sort of Shangri-la nestled in the hills.

Omeo, Omeo, wherefore art thou, Omeo

According to the road signs and our calculations it would take us about 1.5 hours to get to Omeo, but none of us had ever been to Omeo before and so we had no idea what we would encounter. The Omeo Highway and the song “Life is a highway” (which our son decided was an appropriate song to have playing) somehow just don’t seem to fit together. For one thing, the Omeo Highway is not the sort of road that one would like to ‘ride all night long’. Why it would be called a Highway at all might even be questioned. Maybe it was to get government funding for it, or something like that. It may not be what would often be thought of as a highway, but the drive is spectacular! Jutting rock faces and deep gorges are the major features, and with an average speed of around 50 kmh we (except the driver) had plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. Sadly there were no places to pull over and just gawk at the scenery as the road is so narrow and winding.

As the kilometres passed we could all have been mis-quoting Shakespeare and thinking “Omeo, Omeo, wherefore are thou Omeo”. But eventually we made it! And here is the proof…

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Nestled in the mountains seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Omeo is a small country town surrounded by beautiful scenery and farmland. To the north is Mitta Mitta, and Dartmouth and Corryong, and to the south is Bairnsdale. Gold, that precious and allusive metal, was the reason the town came into existence, but as the gold rush ended farming became the main activity of the region. Very picturesque, the town has a number of old buildings, and has the winding streets seemingly so common in gold mining towns and towns in the mountainous regions.

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We couldn’t stay long in Omeo as we wanted to be back at our camp site on the other site of the High Plains in time for tea and it was about 3:30pm when we arrived at Omeo. We also didn’t really want to be driving on the High Plains as the freezing temperatures descended below freezing point! So we had a brief look along the main street and then, with a sense of urgency, we headed back along the Omeo Highway from whence we came and over the High Plains. But we decided fairly quickly that a holiday to Omeo was a must-do at some point in the not-too-distant future.

The big wet


For the last month or more we have had no rainfall and with the Australian summer heat everything was showing the effects of it – the lawns were turning light brown, the lake just beyond our back yard had more or less dried up, there were a number of fairly impressive dust storms, and the vegetable garden had to be watered every night or the plants would start to wither and die. The water tanks (40,000 litres worth) were getting noticably lower too.

Over the last two days there has been a big wet. Rain, rain, rain…

It started with a few high humidity days, and some fairly impressive cloud formations and colorations.

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DSCF4955_500And as a result of two days of fairly solid rain is that the lake is once again back – not full, but there – with some of the bird like that was there before the heat of summer hit. Our water tanks are overflowing, and the driveway is competing with the lake to see who has the most water in them.

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Above: The lake

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Above: The driveway

And it looks like there is still more rain on the way – very overcast skies, low clouds, drizzle and more rain seem to be the order of the day!