I have made a discovery!
Australia has got hills.
And not tiny little ones like we do at home. Not big massive ones like in Nepal either.
But real ones… you could almost call them mountains, with Kosciuszko at 2228m the highest on the mainland. I cycled to the top. For no particular reason except that I could.
I set off from Wayne’s and his Mum’s place in Melbourne with a bag full of maps, not only had Wayne given me very detailed maps of the Dividing Ranges and the Snowy Mountains. He also gave me a severe warning about the road conditions. But do you think I listened…? (thanks anyway Wayne!)
But before I started riding my friend Rhett came down on a camping-trip and we set up camp at the beautiful Mitchell River National Park where that evening we noticed our fire was magic, the campfire that is. It also seemed to attract some interest from local wildlife we discovered as the possums flocked in to try to climb in my panniers,up the wine-cask and nearly in my camera…
I do like wildlife when it isn’t flat on the road. Then they stink…
So staring at Wayne’s maps, I saw a track named ‘Tom Groggin Track’ it looked good on the map. ’4WD-only’ it said. Now, as I discovered in Australia they exaggerate it a little at times. The only time ”4WD-only’ actually means ’4WD-only’ is in sand-dunes (I found out the hard way north of Perth) for the rest of the time it means; “4WD-only, and-bicycles-are-fine-too,-but-stay-away-with-cars-and-trucks-because-girls-on-bikes-don’t-like-you“
So you imagine my surprise when this track turned out to be fairly difficult. It was beautiful! But steep. Often people warn me a road is going to be steep, and usually it turns out to be just fine. I had to push my bike a bit. And often I could take only about 10 steps before having to catch my breath.
Pushing over the last steep bit of that 9-km track that took me 5 hours I was so knackered I just about collapsed onto the main-track. But I’ve spotted a hut on the map Wayne had given me and it seemed the perfect spot to camp the night. It got a bit confusing with the amount of roads going all through the hills. They’re made by the logging-crews. Lucky I only took a wrong turn one’s and it was good because one km down the track the loggers had a camp where I could fill up my water bottles and even got some cans of tuna. :-)
The hut was excellent. A bit off the track next to a small creek, a big fire-place and nice flat ground for my tent… You don’t think I actually stay in the hut… They’re full of spiders! Eehlw…
Going down the steep track the next day proved a little easier than pushing up. Still needed to get off my bike in places, sliding down with my hands firmly on the brakes.
One more hurdle before I hit the bitumen again. The Murray river. Normally a fairly easy crossing, but with the amount of rain lately the water came up to my tights. But after going up and down about 5 times I got everything across dry and pitched my tent on the banks, where that evening I got a whole lot of curious kangaroos visiting my camp… But when I sneaked up on them to take some pics I was surprised when instead of jumping away because I’m big and scary they all hopped towards me, which reversed the big and scary-role a bit and made me jump in my tent in a hurry. I’m such a hero…
I thought the worse was behind me when I hit the bitumen at Tom Groggin Station. Until I realised the road was climbing one km in altitude within the next 15 km. Not that it was a problem, by now I’ve got legs of steel. It was just rather slow…
And the higher I climbed the colder it got. This too shouldn’t surprise me… But by the time I made it to ‘Dead Horse Gap’ I was glad to see the roofs of Thredbo down the road in the distance. I rolled down and decided to treat myself to a hot soup before making the descent into Jindabyne.
That did not happen.
As I stopped at a cafe in town I realised that I was too late to get a soup but just in time to get a glass of wine. A group of about 8 friends were enjoying an extended sunday-lunch. And on discovering that today was my 4-year-0n-this-bike-trip-anniversary I was offered (more) wine, a warm bed in 4 star hotel and taken out for dinner!
Obviously the dinner extended into a big night out (more wine) and when Monday morning came around I was in no state to leave my luxury apartment… It didn’t help that somewhere along the way I picked up a stomach-bug wich made me run to the toilet every 10 minutes or so. How lucky I had a toilet and wasn’t somewhere on the side of the road in my tent!
When I finally did feel ready to go I managed to get to Jindabyne and up around towards Kosciuszko. The mountain is only a ski-lift ride up and 8km walk from Thredbo, or 90km around if you take the long (but not as steep) road.
I spend the night on the mountain in Seaman’s hut. A hut build in memory of a guy called ‘Seaman’ who’d died on the mountain in 1928. There were also 4 young snowboarders who disappeared on this mountain in 1998. Their pictures are on the walls in the hut. And at night, with the wind howling and the hut shaking I had the feeling that I wasn’t there by myself…
In the morning, before the rangers came up, I rode my bicycle to the summit of this highest mountain… A bit of a anti-climax as the wind and the rain just wouldn’t bugger off. So no view for me. But I got the picture :-)
(I did go back up a few days later just to go and see the view… And take this picture)
I rode down the ski-slopes back to Thredbo where a bunch of hard-core down-hill mountainbike-boys were so impressed with my efforts that they handed me a bottle of beer on arrival. It was 8.30am.
I met up with Jane, a lady who was working at a ABC-project in which she has to portray strangers. She’d heard about me and figured I’m strange enough so she made this
Not just that, she also invited me back home where her upstairs neighbours Michelle and Heinz invited us for a true and proper dinner party! And, when I left she set me up with her mum who lives a few towns down the road :-) Thanks for all that Jane!
After all the beer, wine and food I felt it might be time to get some cycling done. But lately the weather has gone funny. I still firmly believe Australia is supposed to be hot and dry. But it’s been trying hard to prove me otherwise. People keep telling me this is the first year after a 10-year drought it’s raining again. Great. Excellent timing.
So off there I went again, the weather seemed lovely as I said goodbye to Jane’s mum in Cooma… But heading into the hills again the clouds rolled in and it got rather wet. Lucky I picked up a super-sized raincoat somewhere along the way. Not that there was much wrong with the bin-bags I used in Tassie, but a raincoat does the job as well.
I camped, cycled over hills (again no views) and made noodles in the rain. Fun!
Till I hit a place called ‘Ballababallabala’, or something similar.
I ran into Robert there, who kindly sent me to see his wife Joan. They live in a house up a hill with one of the steepest drive-ways I’ve cycled up so far. So Joan opened the door to a huffing & puffing cold and wet girl and didn’t had a clue what was going on. But invited me in anyway.
I could tell they’re big into there horse-sports by a cabinet chock-a-block of awards. And when she showed me her daughter’s room I could use there were a million ribbons on the wall!
I heard her mention a rodeo in town coming weekend!
So there’s a plan.
To be continued…