Snowy Mountains: The journey to the top of Australia (January 2015)

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This ride had been in the planning for a while and also marked the first time – after a year of slowly acquiring gear – that we were ready to camp off the bikes. As it turned out, the weather made the camping part a bit of a challenge, but the riding was great. A bit less dirt than we would normally have chased but I was only a couple of weeks out from having a small knee operation and didn’t want to risk things too much.

Day 1
Sydney to Braidwood (340km)
Great ride out of Sydney down through Royal National Park – always a good way to get out of town. Stopped to see some para-gliders at Stanwell dIMG_0795Tops, then coffee at Austinmer. It had started to heat up and it was a hot ride down to Nowra via Gerringong and Gerroa (which is a great alternative to the main road). Supplies for lunch from Nowra supermarket (talked with interesting local) then onto Nerriga-Braidwood road. Really interesting riding but strange landscape that was hard to pinpoint – you felt like you could be in so many parts of Australia. Little bit of dirt, and very interesting around Sassafras where there was a weird micro climate going on. Into Braidwood for a beer at the pub and to fill water then out to campsite at Werri (10km). Strange site quite close to road but ended up being brilliant as a stopover point – with some interesting chats with other campers. Of course the big one was that it was our first experience of camping off the bikes and it went really well.

Day 2
Braidwood to Thredbo (250km)
IMG_0809Packed up camp nicely on a great morning then awesome road from Braidwood to Cooma with great dirt and scenery. Stopped at Cooma for supplies then started out towards Adaminiby but big thunder clouds made for revised route down to Thredbo. Still got rained on around Berridale, but clear by the time we got to Jindabyne for a late lunch. Up the alpine way to Thredbo which brought back amazing memories for me as I lived there for four years 25 years ago! Decided to take the nostalgic option and checked into the Thredbo Alpine Hotel (I worked there). Took chairlift ride to the top then had a walk around the village before settling in on the bistro bar deck for a couple of drinks and some food. Saw a couple of people who I’d worked with back in the day! Felt guilty taking the glamping option but so nice to have a good shower and sleep in comfy bed!DCIM100GOPRO

Day 3
Thredbo to Thredbo(360km)
Left Thredbo at 8am after waiting for bakery to open so we could buy a sausage roll! Headed for Dead Horse Gap then down to Tom Groggin – heaps of cyclists on the road. Stopped at Leatherbarrel camping area which looked nice but small. At Tom Groggin we were amazed by the campgrounds – so much room with great spots, fantastic fire pits and okay looking toilets. Heaps of roos around in the morning sun. It’s a spot we will definitely head back to. Followed the road to Khancoben with a detour of 10km each way out to Olsens lookout – really fun dirt road and amazing view back over the ranges. Through Khancoben then onwards to Cabramurra – fun dam crossing at Tumut Ponds with a narrow road that Andrea found interesting! At Cabramurra we duly ate our sausage roll – “It’s a long way to the top if you wanna sausage roll…” – then had a nice lunch at the DCIM100GOPROlookout up the top. From there on to Kiandra – stopped at a couple of huts, checked out Mt Selwyn ski fields and the Three Mile Dam campsite (another awesome one!). Ride back to Thredbo via Adaminiby and Berridale with a couple of stops as we were getting quite tired. Heading up Thredbo road the sky was looking threatening and some awesome lightning forks across the sky at Ski Tube meant we dug the wet weather gear out. Sure enough last 15km into Thredbo was raining but apparently we’d just missed the “hide under the bed” storm a bit earlier. Very lucky to have got through the day with so little wet weather. Another nice dinner at the hotel and crashed!

Day 4
Thredbo to Taralga (370km)
A tough start to the day trying to work out what to do with the weather now having really seemed to have turned. We decided to start by heading for DCIM100GOPROCooma rather than the coast (via Dalgety) as inland seemed to have a better forecast. A nice breakfast at Jindabyne while watching water ski racing then got to Cooma. Snap decision to try the Shannon’s Flat/Thawra road to Canberra ended up being gold as it was a great dirt road with cool views. A nice stop by a small creek that had some of the most massive trees in it – showing just how big it must be post heavy rains or snow runoff. From Canberra headed to Bungendore, before heading to Goulburn via the Bullamalita back roads. Along one a 6ft black snake came charging across the road with its head a good foot off the ground. I think it ran into my front wheel as it was still there as Andrea came past a couple of seconds later. Both of us squealed like schoolgirls and legs were brought up as high as possible! Quick refuel in Goulburn then out to Taralga, with the rain starting to fall just as we arrived. No question staying at the pub rather than camping was the right idea as the weather really did come in and while we DCIM100GOPROare well set for camping there are a few things we need to work in to be truly comfortable setting up, cooking and sleeping in the rain.

Day 5
Taralga to Sydney (315km)
Left Taralga at 8am after a sleepless night due to the hot weather and big overnight storms. Really nice ride north along the main road to Oberon which we hadn’t ridden before. Turned off for a 20k dirt section at Isabella and had some great dirt action. Saw a couple of eagles and yellow tailed black cockatoos – my favourites. Into Oberon for a coffee then basically back down through the Blue Mountains and home on the freeway. It was a really tiring riding despite being pretty short, but the bad nights sleep hadn’t helped and I think we were a bit saddle tired too. Lots of great lessons from this trip, especially around getting ourselves better prepared for camping in wet weather. Overall a cracker of a journey.

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