Batlow Biking


Batlow, not far from of the Snowy Mountains, and somewhat succeptible to snow itself, was the decided destination for a cycling holiday with a difference. Normally I look for rail trails to ride, and often in the state of Victoria – a veritable mecca for rail trails! But on Wednesday 5th April, right after I finished work, the car being packed the night before, I left home and drove 2 and a bit hours to Batlow Caravan Park, my base camp for some days of cycling adventure. The plan was to stay a week and ride as many roads and see as much as possible. As I had never ridden any of the roads or tracks in the region except south of Tumbarumba. So it was really virgin cycling territory for me. I was somewhat aware of the terrain, though, because I had driven through the area on a number of occasions.

Batlow_CaravanPark_2664

My ‘home’ for a few days while exploring the Batlow area

The first bike ride which took 11 hours from start to fnish was quite an adventure. I left the Caravan Park on Thursday morning at arounf 7am, and didn’t get back until around 6pm. It was one of those bike rides that was not necessarily fun at times, but even now a few days later I look back on it with pleasant memories. Here is how the ride went.

I rode from Batlow along Bago Forest Way, and stopped first of all at the Pilot Hill Arboretum. I had been there before, but never ridden there. The ride was uneventful, and quite enjoyable along logging roads and mostly through pine forests with the occasional breathtaking view across to the Snowy Mountains.

From Pilot Hill, the plan was to ride along roads and tracks I had never been along before (driving or riding) through to Talbingo via Snubba Road, and Browns and De Beauzevilles Tracks. Buddong Falls is about 30kms from Batlow, and has a small (very small) camp ground and it quite isolated no matter how you plan to get there. Browns and De Beauzevilles Tracks would be quite slippery and muddy after rain as would the approach from Talbingo. Thankfully there had not been any rain for a while and they were nice and hard to ride on. One thing that I did notice was the large amount of piles of manure – evidence of wild horses. Brumbies marking their territory I was informed. Buddong Falls themselves were quite beautiful, but I suspect there was more falls even more spectacular further along the walking track but as the walk was quite precipitous in places (increasingly more so the further I walked along it) and as I was by myself I decided it would be best to not go too far from where I had left the bike at the Buddong Falls camping area.

From Buddong Falls I headed towards Talbingo, a small ex-Snowy Mountain Scheme town nestled at the foot of the Snowy Mountains, a ride of about 20kms. From the Falls there was a 2 or 3km climb to the Powerline Track which as can be imagined followed the high voltage power lines over the mountains. The Powerline Track itself was mostly downhill, of varying steepness. The disk brakes on the bike really had a workout on this section and I had to stay very focussed on the road surface and my speed to ensure the bike was under control. As I am not a reckless downhill rider this presented no real problem! Although it did take me quite a while to descend to Talbingo. The views on this section were amazing with views right down into Talbingo, and across the mountains, especially where the track was on exposed ridges.

BuddongFalls-Talbingo-Ride-Map

Not long before Talbingo is the Tumut 3 Hydro-Electric Power Station. probably not very big by world standards, but quite impressive with the very large pipes snaking over the mountains from above it to feed water into it.

At Talbingo I stopped for some lunch, although I knew I couldn’t stop for too long – by then it was about midday, and I still had (I thought) about 30 kms to get back to Batlow and I knew there was going to be some major climbing to get back with the possibility of that section avergaing about 10kph. At Talbingo the battery on my Polar sports watch went flat as using the GPS and heart rate monitor on it will do that after about 5 hours of riding. So I switched over to the phone for the rest of the ride, and when I did so I found that the phone only had 30% charge on it. Oh well, I still wanted to track the ride as far as I could so I turned on the Strava app. Then after riding along the Snowy Mountains Highway for a few kilometres I go to the turnoff to Batlow along Yellowin Access Road. At this point the climbing started. And it wasn’t just a few percent climbing grade, this was sometimes as much as 16-20% incline (thats 1:5) according to Strava! I certainly felt those climbs.

About 17km from Talbingo there was a nice big yellow sign saying “Detour to Batlow”. So I turned right onto the road indicated. I thought, and hoped, it was the Snubba Road. But as it turned out it was an un-named track that went down to the Lake Blowering foreshore to detour around some areas closed for logging purposes. It was along this road that a kind of panic set in for a while when I realised what the time was, and how muich further I had remaining to get bacl to Batlow. What added to that was the realisation that the looming mountain range on my left had to be climbed before I could get back to Batlow, and I was starting to experience some pretty painful leg cramped and a general lack of energy. I was also not entirely trusting of there being any further detour signs or that I would reach a “dead end” on the road, as when I drove this route in the opposite directions some time ago when trying to get to Talbingo from Batlow we were confronted by a closed road sign which meant we couldn’t get to where we wanted to, and I was a bit concerned the same thing might happen this time.

It was about that time in the day that I checked my phone, which had been happily tracking my ride by GPS, but was now down to 4% battery charge. I decided to stop tracking the ride on the phone to conserve the battery, as I realised that it may have been after dark that I got to Snubba Road and that I might have to “camp” in the bush over night if I ran out of light. And I wanted to inform Rebecca (my wife) of this possibility once I got onto Snubba Road where I was fairly sure there would be mobile phone signal. There certainly wasn’t much signal for at least an hour before I would reach that road.

Along this section by the Lake Blowering foreshore I encountered some kangaraoos on the road, and while I was concentrating on those in front of me I saw out of the corner of my eye another one crouched on the bank, and as soon as I saw it, it jumped OVER the back of my bike! That was scary! A few kilometres further on I heard a single screach / growl / snort kind of sound. Where on earth had I come? And what on earth produced such a sound?I decided the best thing to do was to keep going. Thankfully no other scary sounds or anything like it happened, and it wasn’t long before the climb up to Snubba Road started in earnest. By this time I was walking the bike rather than riding it as the climb was just to steep for my cramping and unenergetic legs. And about every 30 minutes I was taking a 5 minute rest and eating some trail mix to try and build my energy. After about an hour or so of climbing I finally reached Snubba Road. And after one last hill to walk the bike up on Snubba Road, and then I finally was able to hop on the bike and pedal along as the road levelled out. Man, was I thanklful to be on Snubba Road. Not long after I arrived at the turnoff along Yellowin Access Road, which led me down into Batlow. By the time I saw the apple orchards on the outskirts of Batlow and the townhip itself nestled against the opposite hill it was just before sunset. I don’t think I have ever been so happy to see a town before as what I did that evening. By the time I got back to Batlow I had travelled an estimated 100+ kilometres, 80km (and 1800 metres of climbing) of which was tracked by GPS on Strava. The rides on Strava are:

The next day I decided I would drive to Tumut and ride some of the trails there. I found out that Tumut has Mountain Bike (MTB) trails in the state forest on the edge of town and I wanted to experience them. I started with the Mundowie Loop, and then part way along turned onto the Womboyne Loop. This brought me back onto the Mundowie Loop again which completed by riding back to the car park. Then I noticed a loop that wasn’t on the map – the Creek Loop. So I rode that as well. While the previous day’s very long ride was very suited to a mountain bike (mostly dirt roads and vehilcle tracks), most of the trails at Tumut State Forest park are single track – that is, about the width of a walking track. I haven’t done much MTB single track rides, but thoroughly enjoyed the hour or so I enjoyed riding those trails. Then after I had done all the intermediate level trails there, I proceeded down into town and rode the town trails along the riverside, and the wetlands areas next to the Tumut River. After the very long and arduous ride I did the day before, the 20 or so kilometres ridden while exploring Tumut’s state forest and riverside was a welcome change.

The next day was Sabbath. Normally I don’t ride my bike on Sabbath (although occasionaly I do). I decided to explore some of the walking tracks in the state forest around Batlow on foot and contemplate the universe (yes, men can do more than one thing at once). I am still not sure whether I walked all the ones on the signage I saw, as I only saw the two signs – one at the start and one a short way along – so I don’t know whether I got to the destinations mentioned on the first sign. But I did see some good views of orchards (of which there are many around Batlow), and views over to the distant hills. I also explored the Reedy Creek park a short distance from the Caravan Park. It was the site of the first Olymp[ic-sized swimming pool to be built in the entire district. The swiming pool was suggested by Mr Sam Ross, the president of the Batlow Progress Association. This is recognised as the beginning of the “Learn to Swim” campaign. The original pool had wooden board sides, and the concrete construction was completed in 1934. Because the pool was the only Olympic-sized pool in the district many other towns travelled to Batlow by car, bus and train to hold their swimming carnivals at the pool, even from as far away as Wagga Wagga (115km away), Cootamundra (120km away) and Junee (105km away). Today all that remains of the pool is what looks like a section of concrete that might have been part of the sides of the pool and a green expanse of grass.

Saturday night or maybe before dawn Sunday morning the rain started. And the thunder and lightning. I thought maybe it would stop by sunrise. But that only revealed looming dark grey clouds moving quite quickly over the town, and with each new batch of clouds another heavy shower. No riding today! So I spent most of the day driving around the district exploring roads that I might have otherwise ridden the bike along. I tried, in vain, to find the site of the Kunama railway terminus. I think I was in the correct general location (I travelled along Back Kunama Road to try and find it), but if the remains are on provate property, which the nswRail.net states is the case, then that explains why I didn’t actually find it. The nswrail.net site did have some photos of the Kunama station, including this one of the station platform and building.

I also found saw interesting local points of interest, including the “White Gate” at the corner of Tumbarumba – Batlow Road and old Tumbaraumba Road and a poem about a “Fallen Tree Hotel” at the same location.

"On the lonesome line of traffic
Where the Tumbarumba track
Forks for Bago and for Taradale as well
Where the wallabies and wombats
And the kangaroos have combats
I once beheld the Fallen Tree Hotel"
(Will Carter)

I explored the now very disused and somewhat derelict railway infrastructure at Batlow. It’s a pity such railways aren’t still in use and I always find it a bit sad seeing railways that were once an important part of a community being neglected and disused. There is talk of the Batlow railway being converted to a rail trail for use by walkers and cyclists. That would be much much better than letting it rot and rust away, and at least the general community and visitors could enjoy the scenery of what must have been a very scenic railway to travel on in it’s day. But alas some landholders think that turning the old railway into a rail trail on still government-owned land is somehow disrepecting the landholders that border the proposed trail. It’s a pity those landholders don’t have the same progressive spirit that drove Sam Ross to suggest doing something new in the district which led to the building of that Olympic sized swimming pool in Batlow all those years ago! He encouraged the building of the pool, and people came from miles around to use it, and I dare say some of the visitors money got spent in the town, and there was a general community benefit from having such an asset. A rail trail to Batlow is likely to generate the same sort of economic and community benefit. Narrow self-interest too often gets in the way of real community progress.

As the rain was not slowing down, and the forecast was for more the next day, and as my sleeping bags were wet, and the forecast was for near-freezing temperatures overnight I decided to cut my Batlow adventure short and head for home. So after a very fast packing up of gear, I settled in for the drove home and arrived home at about 9pm to cuddle up to my wonderfully warm wife for a good nights sleep.

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.

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.