March 2013

March 2 — Castlemaine to Marong 54.34 klms, Avg speed 18.4 kph, Cycling time 2.57 hrs; Total kms 33,182

We stopped for an average cuppa in Maldon described as “undoubtedly the best preserved of Victoria’s gold mining towns”.  The streetscape features old weatherboard homes, solid stone buildings & charming historic shopfronts.  After that nothing exciting to report about this morning’s ride except lots undulations which were fun to ride.  We had booked dinner at the Marong Pub but cancelled, we were so impressed with the caravan park & camp kitchen that decided to eat in.  Good chance to catch up on admin stuff. The weather is warming up again after a couple of rather cool days in Castlemaine so ‘Ol Alberto is once again smiling in the sun. Gettin’ too hot for me thou’.....

March 3 — Marong to Elmore 70.95 klms, Avg speed 16.2 kph, Cycling time 4.21 hrs; Total kms 33,253

Rode today on a mixture of flat & mild undulations through the guts of wheat belt country on quiet, back roads battling a blustery 20 kph head wind grrrr ..  After 40 klms had morning tea—scrumptious cape seed bread, lashings of peanut butter, bananas & a bucket of tea to wash down our gullets.  Passed through the sleepy town of Raywood into the lush, green caravan park that a week ago was under 100 mills of water.  Nice town Elmore & lovely caravan park too.  There’s many a morning that we’re woken by the delightful sounds of birds & this morning it was Willy Wagtail.

March 4 — Elmore to Echuca 54.75 klms, Avg speed 15.9 kph, Cycling time 3.26 hrs; Total kms 33,308

Lovely quiet roads on unsealed & sealed roads, blustery head & side winds, moved from dry cropping & grazing to irrigated dairy country.  For some reason I found the last 3 days really tough & felt tired, we’re not riding long distances so put it down to the head winds or else I’ve gone soft, must be the latter!  We’re only going to stay in Echuca for 2 days but we’re staying for 3 as we like the place.  When we travelled up the Murray last year & stayed in Echuca the caravan park was deserted, today it was chockers, a huge caravan group have arrived before the long weekend and have taken over the place.  We’re not sure if we prefer parents shouting at kids, kids shouting at parents or old people shouting at eat other, have decided on the latter!

March 7 — Echuca to Mathoura 46.35 klms, Avg speed 17.2 kph, Cycling time 2.41 hrs; Total kms 33,354

An exciting day:

1) After 5.5 months & 3,136 klms later (with a 4 months break in Tassie in between) we sadly said cheerio to Victoria

2) We rode into our 6th State/Territory, New South Wales at 8.50 EST

3) After 5 years we’re back in our home State NSW - last time 13 May ‘08

4) We passed the 33,308 klm mark

Can’t believe that “next month” we’ll be home but there’s still lots of peddlin’ to be done first.

Looking at the 7 day weather forecast it’s getting hotter by the day all the the temps are in their 30+C with a 37C day forecast next Wednesday!!  So with a warm headwind we rode through a funny mix today—cropping, grazing & the closer we got to Mathoura, irrigated dairy country.  We arrived at Mathoura at 11.30am just as the temp hit 30C and made a beeline for the only cafe in town, Two Rose Cafe Bakery.  Now Mathoura’s not a huge town, pop 1161 so we were amazed that this lovely little town could support 2 pubs & a bowling club dishing up food 7 days a week.  However, after reading it’s wonderful website About Mathoura you can understand its charm being the gateway to one of the largest Red Gum forests in the world & being a bird watchers paradise with the Reed Beds Bird Hide just down the road at Picnic Point.  Another great find was staying at the Gulpa Creek Caravan Park, wow, this was paradise too, its owner, Gary, having built this tiny resort from a decrepit service station.  If only we could stay longer but sadly had to keep moving, bummer, definitely will return one day.

March 8 — Mathoura to Deniliquin 35.00 klms, Avg speed 16.4 kph, Cycling time 2.11 hrs; Total kms 33,392

Because of the hot weather we hit the road just after 8am, scenery same as yesterday and a couple of hours later arrived in Deniliquin, or ‘Deni’ as it’s locally known.  Having a population of 8,100 it seemed to have so many caravan parks (5) but then when you’ve been here a couple of days you realise it does have lots to offer—fishing, fishing, fishing in the magnificent Edward River, bushwalking, camping, bird watching (third of Australia’s bird species spotted here), history, sport & just delightful weather, it has more sunshine hours than the Gold Coast with summer temps avg 31.8 degrees, spring & autumn 23.7 & winter a mild 15.4—no wonder ’Ol Alberto’s happy!  Deni has also written itself into history claiming the Guiness World Records title for the largest parade of legally registered utes in the world, an amazing 2839 utes took part on 2 Oct 1999, amazingly a World Record count of 10,152 utes hit the headlines at the 2010 World Record Ute Muster.  At the same time The Guiness Book of Records Blue Singlet Count stands at 3500 here in Deni, we’re staying for a few days to explore this “real aussie country’ town.

March 11 — Deniliquin to Finley 61.17 klms, Avg speed 18.2 kph, Cycling time 3.21 hrs; Total kms 33,453

Another damn hot week forecast so tent packed by 7am while beating off humongous mozzies, followed by a quick brekkie in the camp kitchen.  For some strange reason our 60 klm ride seemed to go really quickly,  they rarely do, must have been the cooling slight head wind & flat road.  Today’s scenery was—beef, lamb, corn, rice, dairy, we were going to have a cuppa at Blighty but the town was virtually non existent so we peddled on.  We heard a beautiful sound we hadn’t heard for a ages, that of the butcher bird but the flies are shocking, driving ‘Ol Alberto crazy.  By 11am we were making a nuisance of ourselves at Finley’s Teapot Cafe where they served up a pretty good coffee.  After that we peddled up the road to The Finley Lakeside Caravan Park to be offered by the cheerful manager an O’Nite non air conditioned van for $20.00 per night, we snapped it up!  It’s next to the Olympic Sized pool & next to the beautiful Finley Lake so a perfect spot to sweat it out over the next 2 days.  Finley (pop 2000+) is a peaceful Riverina rural town surrounded by broad acre crops & horticulture, sheep, beef & dairying.  It’s also home to the largest irrigation channel in Australia, hence the rice growing, it was all enjoyable rural scenery peddling into town.

March 13 — Finley to Jerilderie 46.42 klms, Avg speed 14.4 kph, Cycling time 3.13 hrs; Total kms 33,500

7.30am start, another hot day forecast.  We headed north along the South Coree Road to avoid the Newell Highway with its trucks & road trains, it worked, the road was deserted, flat, we must have crossed at least 6 irrigation channels full to the brim with water.  Saw a crop couldn’t quite identify, ‘Ol Alberto thought it could be spuds but I thought it could be broad beans.  Also saw more rice, dairy, cropping & sheep.  By now you’ll realise the wind is always mentioned, pretty boring really but it either makes or breaks your day.  Today is was “breaks” as we battled 25 to 35 kph head winds thence side/somewhat tail wind for the last 10 klms.  My riding buddy kindly let me draft behind him most of the way, no wonder he complained his legs were hurting later.  We arrived in the southern Riverina town of Jerilderie (pop 768) at 11am & stuffed our faces with 2 large slabs of carrot cake & coffee just as the temp reached 28C.  It’s a major merino stud area as well as producing a large percentage of the State’s tomato crop, plus it’s the only NSW town visited by the bushranger Ned Kelly & his gang as is evidenced by the numerous Kelly statues dotted around the town.  The only caravan park in town is also a motel receiving great reviews.  We had the camping area to ourselves, on grass with shade & a cool breeze flowing thru the tent perfect for an afternoon nap ..  ‘Ol Alberto?  Anybody seen ‘Ol Alberto?

March 14 — Jerilderie to Urana 58.18 klms, Avg speed 20.0 kph, Cycling time 2.54 hrs; Total kms 33,558

Had a superb Chinese meal last night at the Sports Club, the chef had only been there 5 weeks and already was getting great reviews about her food.  It was absolutely delicious & with bellies still full of short soup, steamed dim sims, fried rice, garlic prawns, Mongolian lamb & mixed vegetables plus a brekkie of weetbix & fruit we hopped aboard Crazy Ruby & Horsey & enjoyed the tailwind virtually all the way to Urana, 60 klms away.  We cycled away from the irrigation channels to dry cropping & grazing through the flat Urana plain listening to the Butcher Birds, what a great morning’s ride.  It’s still exciting to ride into towns we’ve not been to before but we rode into Urana feeling quite sad seeing all the empty shops in the main street, the town (pop 300) seemed to be struggling to survive in this district known for raising sheep & growing wheat.  We popped into the take away shop/newsagent & watched a steady stream of people come in, some locals, some like us, blow-ins enjoying a cuppa, it was doing a roaring trade.  A group of locals on the next table were finalising plans for the upcoming Tennis Ball being held in the magnificent Soldiers Memorial Hall this weekend.  Despite numbers being down their enthusiasm for this local event was infectious & we rode to the Urana Caravan Park with our spirits lifted.  They lifted more on arriving, it was one of the best council owned parks we’d stayed at-great location overlooking the lake, grassy sites, friendly managers, quiet, clean, cheap & more importantly comfy chairs to sit on around the BBQ.  So that’s where we sat in the evening drinking cool beers & feasting on Wellys’s creamee, tomatoee, cheesee, sausagee, pasta & salad,  ‘Ol Alberto declaring “it’s beautifull’ - overall a perfect, perfect day.

March 15 — Urana to Lockhart 46.57 klms, Avg speed 16.8 kph, Cycling time 2.46 hrs; Total kms 33,604

There’s been a weather change, autumn has arrived & the 7 days of 21C-35C temps are over, a chilly morning & ’Ol Alberto is not happy!  We’ve also had a few gear breakages, not surprising after 5 year’s constant use—the laptop is held together with sticky tape, my stained cup’s handle fell off last night, the tent is ripped & a pannier strap broke yesterday, we’ll limp home with these damaged goods, hopefully.  With a slight head wind, minor undulations, stunning cropping & grazing vistas today’s ride was jaw dropping with the most spectacular mirages occurring in the wide expanses of flat land, now this was definitely “Big Sky” country.  Mountains came into view on the horizon, a portent of riding conditions to come as we draw near to the Great Dividing Range for our final descent into Sydney.  Lockart (pop 800) is at the centre of an agricultural heartland that produces wheat, sheep, cattle & poultry.  The picture postcard town is listed by the National Trust & its old world charm lies in its buildings—the verandahs, ornate lacework & carefully restored facades.  With its star studded night skies & stunning sunsets it captures the essence of country life.  Our 1 night stay in the local pub (cheap, $35DR) with huge verandah has been extended to 2 nights.

March 17 — Lockhart to The Rock 43.16 klms, Avg speed 15.6 kph, Cycling time 2.45 hrs; Total kms 33,648

HUGE celebration this morning—on this date FIVE years ago, yep, FIVE years ago we shut the door to our unit in the city, rolled our bikes down to Circular Quay and hopped on a ferry to Manly to begin this cycling adventure & we’re still going!!  Our motto was “if it stops being fun we’ll return to Sydney” so having been back to Sydney since we can proudly say “it has been fun”.  Alberto was not celebrating on another subject thou, he didn’t get his cup of tea in bed this morning, whoopsee I’d run out of his particular teabags (extra strong).  I did offer him what I was supping on, peppermint, but he declared he’d have a miso soup, yukky!  Main thing was I’d had my cup of tea and it was good too.  And on top of the missed tea it was a cool start so Alberto also declared it was the end of short sleeved cycling.  Blustery head & side winds knocked us about as we peddled through flat & increasing undulations as we approached, for the last time, rolling hills on the western side of the Great Dividing Range.  From Lockhart we followed the railway line via French Park & Tootool & rode around the northern edge of The Rock after which the town is named.  We staying at The Kings Own Hotel Motel in a wonderful  70s style furnished room, this is real country living with the cockies squawking out the front & a horsey in the field out the back, we love it.  The visual domination of the majestic mountain of rock frames the character of the town.  The Rock Hill towers 250 metres over the surrounding countryside & The Rock Nature Reserve is an island of natural habitat for native animals, including the turquoise parrot and glossy black cockatoo.  On a clear day, you can apparently see Mount Kosciuszko and the Victorian Alps from the top of the three kilometre Yerong nature track.  The only cafe in town stank of fried food with no coffee machine in sight so out came the stove & downed a couple of great cuppas thanks to our Little Red Devil.  What a bargain that machine has been, purchased for $24 at Swan Hill a year ago & still going strong.

March 18 — The Rock to Wagga Wagga 32.67 klms, Avg speed 16.8 kph, Cycling time 1.56 hrs; Total kms 33,680

Flat to undulating, headwind, sporadic shoulder on somewhat busy road & rode into NSW largest inland city of 60,000 people which means traffic lights, roundabouts & more aggressive drivers.  Wagga lies on the banks of the magnificent Murrumbidgee River, its a university town & from our first quick look around you can tell its a vibrant & cosmopolitan city with a good mix of eating houses & younger faces.  The visitor guide welcomes you with “a 100 little reasons to visit, looks like we’ll be busy over the next 2 days.

March 20 — Wagga Wagga to Junee 41.18 klms, Avg speed 13.5 kph, Cycling time 3.02 hrs; Total kms 33,721

We left Wagga with the impression it wasn’t a cycle friendly city, this was confirmed when we popped into a cycle shop & spoke to the owner.  What a pity, with a city full of uni students & beautiful, wide streets you’d think it would be the perfect place.  Anyway, Alberto’s comments on today’s ride was “Bloody, sheer bloody hell” - 41 klms of flat to a bit of climbing (150m) into 25 kph head winds—it’s extremely rare to hear those sorts of comments from ‘Ol Alberto & yes, I had to admit it was HORRIBLE.  But, again the scenery was magical, tracking the Sydney to Melbourne railway line with many a toot from the drivers.  Junee (pop 4,400) is a significant rail centre having the largest working railway roundhouse in the Southern Hemisphere.  It’s also filled with beautifully preserved historical buildings & surrounded by aromatic lavender fields & colourful countryside.  They also make licorice here .. yummm .. And we’re staying in a cabin for 3 nights with an en suite with the excuse it’s apparently going to pour down!!

March 23 — Junee to Cootamundra 54.83 klms, Avg speed 17.1 kph, Cycling time 3.12 hrs; Total kms 33,776

We watched the rain fall from the comfort of our cabin, feeling smug we weren’t camping in it, haha.  The “mini tornado” that hit NE Victoria was ferocious, destroying many buildings in the high street of Rutherglen where we house sat last year.  A quick email to Moira & Robert & other friends, Mary-Helen & David confirmed all OK thank goodness.  Cycling 50+ klms today went so FAST, I put it down to the cool start, the sunny blue skies, the picture postcard scenery, the quiet road with shoulder & the slight tail wind.  Although the altitude didn’t change, 318m, there were lots of ups & downs to get here, lots of wheat & sheep & we zig zagged across the Sydney to Melbourne railway line 4 times.  We’re trying out a new accommodation website called airbnb, bit more upmarket than couch surfing & cheaper than staying in a cabin or B&B, have to say we’re disappointed, it’s grubby & messy but our fault as the photos of the granny flat “were coming, yet to be uploaded”, in this technology world there’s no reason not to have them loaded on the web.  Still we’re making the most of our time in Cootamundra, pop 5,600, it’s the birthplace of cricket's greatest batsman, Sir Donald Bradman.  This prosperous rural town surrounded by crops of canola is  popular with nature-lovers who travel to see the extravagant blooming of countless Cootamundra wattle trees in July and August.

March 25 — Cootamundra to Harden 41.54 klms, Avg speed 15.7 kph, Cycling time 2.37 hrs; Total kms 33,818

Cool start, less than 10C this morning, hopefully not a sign of things to come, Alberto will definitely not be happy!  Increasing undulations into a very light head wind on our ride to Harden with spectacular views.  Stopped at the rest stop at Wallendbeen for a cuppa & chatted to some lycra lads from Coota’.  The historic twin towns of Harden-Murrumburrah lie in the gently undulating Southwest Slopes region of NSW, an easy 340 km  from Sydney (3.5 hours from the CBD), 185 km from Wollongong, or 90 minutes from Canberra, Goulburn or Wagga Wagga.  The shire (pop 3,600) is known for its scenic beauty, particularly during spring & the area produces more than a dozen different grain, fruit crops & lavender; when the latter are in flower, they provide a magnificent landscape of colour.  We’re here in Autumn so will miss this blaze of colour, just means we’ll be back one day.

March 27 — Harden to Yass 65.28 klms, Avg speed 15.1 kph, Cycling time 4.17 hrs; Total kms 33,883

Initially hillier than ‘Ol Alberto had anticipated as we climbed towards Binalong, amazingly I didn’t find it that hilly, was too busy being mesmerised by the outstanding views.  Temperature climbed rapidly too, we grumble when we have a head wind but boy these tail winds certainly don’t cool you down, but we’re not complaining, never complain about favourable winds!!  And .. this combined with a good shoulder made it a stress free morning.  Wheeled off the Burley Griffin Way to check out the quaint village of Binalong where fellow cyclists, Mark & Denise had built a house many years ago & had subsequently moved closer to Canberra.  Surprising we found a cafe cum glass blowing gallery open & had a decent cuppa chatting to the owner and taking in their peaceful surrounds.  When she mentioned she’d been there for 30 years we said she would possibly know Mark & Denise, & she did!  We wound our way back to the Burley Griffin Way & veered left to roll down the hill to Bowning, it was a toss up of controlling Crazy Ruby & Horsey on the very bumpy bitumen or staring at the beautiful scenery.  Rolled into the caravan park to find the manager had gone to lunch even though he knew we’d booked a cabin, perfect time to have our lunch as we waited for his return.  As we chomped on our sandwiches another tourer, Nick, arrived having ridden all the way from the UK & down the east coast of Australia from Cairns, he was now making his way to Melbourne.  In 10 months he’d covered 19,000 klms, what an amazing effort & adventure.  Invited him over for brekkie the next day to hear more of his adventure stories.

March 28 — Yass to Murrumbateman 22.16 klms, Avg speed 16.7 kph, Cycling time 1.20 hrs; Total kms 33,905

Over weet-bix & several cuppas we exchanged “life on the road” experiences with Nick.  He was travelling on his own (his wife back in the UK didn’t ride) so was happy for a chat with like minded people.  We waved him goodbye as he continued his journey to Melbourne down the Hume Highway & we got ready for ours under darkening skies.  Had a quick glimpse of Yass  this morning, many of the buildings built prior to the 1900s still dominate the high street making it one of the most significant heritage sites in NSW.  The town & the one we’re heading to today, Murrumbateman, & others we’ll visit after Canberra, lie in a region called the Yass Valley which is just so beautiful.  Being just 45 mins from Canberra, together with a proud heritage connection to early rural Australia, a good food & wine scene you can understand why the valley is so popular.  By the time we reached our motel in Murrumbateman we’d beaten the rain & the crawl of heavy traffic heading away for the Easter long weekend.  Lucky for us there was a wide shoulder & a fantastic tailwind so by mid morning we were snugly settled into our motel room downing several mugs of warming tea.

March 29 — Murrumbateman to Canberra 56.00 klms, Avg speed 16.8 kph, Cycling time 3.19 hrs; Total kms 33,961

Riding into Canberra was much flatter than we anticipated & 5 or 10 klms away from Murrumbateman we could see Canberra’s Telstra Tower on top of Black Mountain marking the high point of Australia’s capital.  It’s been said that the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) should be renamed “Australia’s Cycling Territory” such is its extensive network of fabulous cycle paths & 28 klms from our destination we were riding on a cycle path, how good is that.  At the same time we rode into our 6th & last State & 2nd & last Territory on our tour of Australia.  We rang Mark & Denise, who we met in Qld in 2009 on their circumnavigation around Australia by bicycle, & Mark generously guided us through the labyrinth of Canberra’s excellent cycle paths to the centre of Canberra where we lunched on the lawns of Parliament House.  It was then off to Sarah & Matt’s place in Chifley for 4 days followed by the YHA in the heart of the CBD for the following week. 

Sarah & Matt live in a great apartment overlooking a park with a cycle way running right through the middle of it, which for us made it all the more comfortable. Over the next few days they very generously took us hither & thither to sightsee and coffee. We rode around part of Lake Burley Griffin covering over 30klms. No problem for Matt, but Sarah was not a happy camper.  We cooked, wined and dined and finally leaving them after four days much, we’re sure, to their relief.  It was nice to catch up with Sarah who we’d not seen in over 5 years when we were last in her home town of Noosa.  Meeting Matt was a first for us and we both enjoyed his company very much. Their cat Booboo gave us a scare to remember him by by hiding in Sarah & Matt’s wardrobe. We thought he’d escaped through the front door even thou we’d been very careful to keep him in. We searched high and low calling his name. Ol’ Alberto cussing and swearing as he searched outside. Eventually he was found to be safe and well nestled amongst the shoes and bags and the bottom of the wardrobe. It was now safe for us to leave Sarah and Matt’s, relieved in the fact we didn’t have to tell them their much loved cat had absconded.

What a fantastic time to be in Canberra for its Centenary year which celebrates 100 years since the foundation stones were laid for one of the most successful planned cities in the world.  There’s lots to see & do, our photos will do the talking, we’re too busy.