2000km later…

The new Jamis Durango mountain bike

The new Jamis Durango mountain bike

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


Mud - there has been plenty of that this winter!

Mud – there has been plenty of that this winter!

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


A bit of Edgehill Track in the tyres of the MTB

A bit of Edgehill Track in the tyres of the MTB

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


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

Eliana negotiating a large mud patch on Wyoming Lane near home

Eliana negotiating a large mud patch on Wyoming Lane near home

Hickman Lane flooded - very bug puddles

Hickman Lane flooded – very bug puddles

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

So here is the run down…

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

Gluepot Road calls

Gluepot Road calls


Family Holiday Highlights – Fri 19th April

(This post follows on from the 2 previous ones, so if something in here doesn’t make sense try reading the previous two posts).

Trappers Gap Track

The Mountain Creek Camping Ground where we were camped is accessed via a road from Tawonga that continues beyond the camping ground to the Omeo Highway near Mitta Mitta. Between the camping ground and the Omea Highway the road is called Trappers Gap Track. On Friday we decided that a non-energetic day was in order, and so we decided to go for a drive to Mitta Mitta and explore around there. This meant travelling along Trappers Gap Track. As far as mountain roads go, it’s not a bad road. A little rough and steep in places, with very steep mountain sides above and below the track in quite a few places. But we have been on worse roads (the backwoods ‘road’ through the Wollondilly River valley to reach the Wombeyan Caves, for example). The road climbs steadily and provides some great views of the Bogong ridge. And I am fairly sure that it gets up above the snow line ad when I got out to take some photos it was very cold.


Above and below: Views of the Bogong ridge from Trappers Gap Track.

MountainCreek_TrappersGap_roads_view_5175_500The photos above give the impression that the road is about the same altitude as the road, but I don’t think that would have been the case as a sizable portion of the Bogong ridge is above the treeline (not just above the snowline), and the road still had plenty of trees on both sides of it for it’s whole length to suggest it never gets above the treeline.


Above: Trappers Gap Track

Averaging about 30kph, it took us a bit over an hour to travel the 38 km from the Mountain Creek camp ground to Mitta Mitta.

Mitta Mitta

Mitta Mitta is a small town nestled into the steep sided valley where the Mitta Mitta River and Snowy Creek converge. Actually the name Mitta Mitta means “meeting of the waters” in the Aboriginal language. The first settlers are believed to be William Wyse and Charles Ebden who took up cattle grazing leases in the area. Gold was discovered in the 1860s, which brought many more people to the region, as gold finds tended to do back then. The Pioneer Mine was opened in 1861 and was the principle claim, and the site is reputedly the largest open cut gold mine in the southern hemisphere. The mine is so huge that the road goes into the mine for a way, and then there is a 1.5km walk inside the open cut itself.


Above: One of the walls of the open cut.

The Pioneer Mine used hydraulic sluicing methods to extract the gold. This needed a large volume of water which was brought in open channels (water races). These water races were hand cut on the contour to bring water from nearby creeks to the mine site. The water used for the hydraulic sluicing was channeled through iron pipes from the top of the mine to the bottom where it was channeled through a hose with a nozzle. The pressure created by this method was so great that it generated a huge jet of water that was used to hose down earth from the walls of the mine literally washing away the walls of the mine which was then ‘sluiced’ in sluice boxes to separate the gold from clay and loam that held it. Two men were needed to hold the nozzle to direct the water at the mine wall. A nozzle could deliver 18 MegaLitres of water a day. Thats 18,000,000 litres!


Above: Remains of a water race inside the Pioneer Mine open cut.

Also in the area was the Mammoth Flume, which was built during the 1860s and was 35 metres high and 210 metres long. Made of timber, the flume was constructed to carry water across a creek as part of a 22km water race. The water race is still visible in places but the flume was dismantled in 1908.


Above: The Mammoth Flume

Not far from the Pioneer Mine site, beside the river near the edge of Mitta Mitta township, is a historical reserve with a number of static displays related to the history of the town and it’s gold mining past.


Above: Buckets used by ‘The Dredge’ which overturned large areas of the Mitta Mitta riverbed and discovered 5376 ounces of gold.


Above: A replica miners cottage.


Above: Poppet head used to crush quartz as part of the gold extraction process.


Above: This wheel seems to have been used to generate power to operate the poppet head. Many things relied on the power of water to power machinery in the 1800s.


Above: A mine tramway wagon used to haul rock out of a mine.

The town of Mitta Mitta today is a lot less busy’ than what is was in it’s heyday, but it still has a general store, hotel, caravan park, ambulance and police stations. It still has a number of old buildings around the town…


Above: Union Church.


Above: Mechanics Institute


Above: I am not sure whether this building is really that old, but it captures the style of gold mining era buildings.


Above: The hotel. While I am a non-drinker, I still appreciate the architecture of buildings such as this.


Not far from Mitta Mitta is the township of Eskdale. The township was first surveyed in 1887 and was named by the first shop owner, James Aitken. A bakery was opened around 1890, and the original hotel was opened in 1897. The discovery of gold in the area and early farming effected the development of the town.  Also in the 1890s, Eskdale had it’s own butter factory.


Above and below: Remains of Eskdale Butter Factory. The chances of this being restored seem somewhat remote as the dreaded Asbestos is in the factory and it would probably take a large amoutnt of money to extract it before restoration could begin.

Eskdale_old_butter_factory_5195_500A declining mining industry saw the ascendancy in importance of farming, particularly dairying, as a viable regional pursuit. The area is very suitable for dairying. Farmers brought their milk to be separated at creameries from where the cream was transported to the butter factory. In 1967 the company that run the butter factory was merged into the Murray Goulburn Co-op, and when bulk milk road transport became viable the butter making activity was closed down.

Back home

This is not so much a highlight of the holiday (for me at least, as I was still eager to explore), but as everyone else in the family had by this time developed an ailment of some kind I reluctantly heeded the suggestion of the Wife and when we got back to Mountain Creek we packed up the campsite in record time and headed for home.

Thus endeth the holiday!

So much to see, so little time. Part 2

Sunday 21st October

We slept in, and slowly emerged from our nylon cocoons. Zoe got the fire going without using matches. For breakfast we had Cup-O-Soups, Baked Beans, Apples. Then we packed the car and once again we were on the road. This time our destination was Victoria, and the Burrowa – Pine Mountain National Park. We also had a very interesting drive along the shoreline of Lake Hume, a huge man made lake which was more full than we have every seen it.

Burrowa – Pine Mountain National Park has a number of interesting features, not least of which is a gigantic monolith (‘single massive stone’) called Pine Mountain. It is reputedly about 1 1/2 times the size of Ayers Rock (Uluru) in central Australia. We didn’t visit Pine Mountain itself. We decided we could come back another day or weekend and do some further exploring. But we did visit Bluff Falls. Bluff Falls cascades over the Cudgewa Bluff and down the steep valley to the valley floor. Due to flood damage access to some of the falls weren’t possible but what we were able to see was great.

Along the walk to the falls there were some great views of the rock face that towers over the valley.

The landscape reminded us a bit of the Grampians mountain ranges in western Victoria, where we spent a number of years, and still visit from time to time. There was some interesting flora too.

From Burrowa – Pine Mountain, we headed to Cudgewa, and a not-so-permanent way. The Wodonga – Cudgewa railway’s terminus was at Cudgewa. During the building of the Snowy Mountain Scheme this station was a busy place, receiving some redevelopment to allow for the moving of heavy freight between railway cars and road transport. Today it is hard to find anything that would suggest a railway, although the telltale signs of ballast in the ground, what looks like enbankments and cuttings give some indication that a railway was once there.

To get back home from Cudgewa requires travelling over some fairly high mountains, and at the top of the range there is a lookout called Lawrence Lookout. As it was around lunch time by the time we got there we decided to have lunch at the lookout, and have a gaze at the scenery.

To get back home from Lawrence Lookout we decided to take a road less travelled and get off the highway at Old Tallangatta and go along Lake Road to Bethangra and Bellbridge, then on to Thurgoona, Gerogery and home. Lake Hume was more full than we had ever seen it, and at the Hume Weir we saw this…

The full lake and the thunder of the water coming out of the vents at the weir suggest that the big dry is over, at least for the next year or two.

The weir was the last photo stop, and within about an hour from there we were 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.