Racing the Shoalhaven

The trip ended up kicking off on the 23rd of December, a day later than I was expecting but I was grateful for the extra day of rest after my Dad’s 60th birthday. It was a still and quiet morning riding in to the city and it was nice to give the legs a feel for the mass they would be hauling for the next 2 weeks or so.

I started pretty early and I was well and truly asleep by the time the train was exiting the city. In a half groggy moment of realisation it occurred to me that I didn’t bring a knife or any cutlery, which meant I was spreading peanut butter onto bread with my fingers at Campbelltown station as I waiting for the transfer – it was ok, and I knew I could find a knife and fork when I got to Moss Vale.

After a slow start I was gifted with a few beautiful long shady straights to find a rhythm. It made the morning shift fantastic and it was enough to make the torrential rain to come feel like a light shower. When the rain finally came I was unfortunately legging it along a 4km stretch of the Hume Highway so I had to manage the water coming sideways from the traffic as much as the stuff falling from above. Luckily there was a service station up ahead and I could find somewhere to dry off and wait it out for an hour or so.

The long haul on towards Cooma

The long haul on towards Cooma


I pushed on through the afternoon and made it as far as Bungonia where I found a little campground on the edge of the Morton National Park and set up for the night. Nice test of the old cous-cous and gnocchi routine before having a quick shower (luxury) and knocking off for the night. I was up and out before 7am to get a head start on the day.

The second day of riding had a large unsealed section for about 35km which was a bit of a test. The combination of the partially drenched track and the fact that I was testing out some new clip-in sandals meant that I came off the bike a few times and took skin off my knees – I can safely say the clip-in experiment was largely a failed one (though maybe it’s just about getting used to them).

Right when I got back on to a sealed road I realised that it was the Kings Highway to take me the rest of the way in to Braidwood. Anyone that has every seen this particular highway knows just how terrifying it is, fast moving, windy and with no shoulder. The 15km or so in to Braidwood was horrible, so when I finally made it the beer and chicken parmagiana was gladly welcomed. I’d been thinking of a pub feed for the last hour, and when I dropped in to the first pub I saw I was disappointed to find out that food wasn’t on offer – not to worry, a cold VB well earned and I went off in search of a pizza. Not 100m up the road I found another pub of the same name that was selling dinner – you don’t need to tell me twice.

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My nomadic friend

While I was sitting in the pub I did a bit of scouting and found that there was a nice campground about 10km out of town. I felt like I was flying through that last section with a nice breeze behind me and a whole lot of fresh carbs to burn through. When I finally got to the campground on Bombay Road I was pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful spot right on the engorged Shoalhaven River. I quickly set up camp and make friends with a German chap named Ollie who was sleeping nearby in his car, road company is the best company and shortly after we were sharing his beers and trading stories around a fire. We agreed to try to organise a kayaking weekend in the near future which I’m hoping will spark up in the next month or so, and I rinsed off in the river before packing up and hitting the road.

Day 3 was a long one with no shortage of interesting things to look at. I peeled out of the campground via a different exit, and spent the first 15km or so on an unused dirt track which snaked through the hills and through peoples properties before crossing over the Shoalhaven River to continue South towards Cooma. When I got to the river I was only partially surprised to find it flooded from all the rain a few days earlier.

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One of the gates between Braidwood and Cooma

I waded across the causeway initially because it looked fairly deep and it was certainly moving quickly, as I cautiously made my way across I was hoping beyond all else that it was passable so that I didn’t need to drag my tail back 30km to try to get around the crossing. Luckily I made it across so I walked back to collect the bike and push on through the river, and as soon as I’d made it back to the main road I changed into my sneakers, finally giving up on the clip-in sandals.

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Flooded Shoalhaven River. This was the far bank, you can just see the entrance on the other side of the river, about a 50m crossing

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Rudolpho’s first major swim

After the River crossing it was a nice little sealed section of track before an unsealed section which tapered towards a significant climb through an unsealed pass. I’d intended to try to push on and find somewhere near the top of the mountain to sleep, but as the evening drew in I knew I couldn’t find the energy to make it to the top. Instead I let myself in to a paddock and found somewhere nice and discrete away from the road and out of sight to set up and sleep for the night. More gnocchi and a few pages written in my notebook and I was very quickly asleep again and lost time before skipping out before 7am. All in all it was a beautiful way to spend Christmas 2014 and one that I’ll remember for a long time yet.

At this point I was out of water and knowing the climb was coming soon meant that I was forced to fill all by bottles from a flowing river. It was an educated decision given all the rain before Christmas, but I couldn’t help but think the risk was a real one since I didn’t have any aquatabs on me. I pushed on all the way to the top of the climb and met a passing cyclist on a recumbent trike who had ridden from Darwin through to Adelaide and Melbourne, around Tasmania and was now headed North to Sydney – a true tourer and a pretty happy looking bloke all in all. The chap was truly bronzed having spent so much time in the sun and looked to me like he’d found a rhythm I could only dream of.

 

 

As I coaxed myself onwards to Cooma I was feeling more and more queasy, I was slowly realising that the water I needed probably wasn’t as clean as I needed it to be. The last hour or so in to Cooma was slow and lethargic and when I finally got in to town and found a campsite I was quickly on the way in to town to find a feed. I stopped at the first bar I saw and was greeted with a pretty horrible frozen pizza which was sold to me as home made – I don’t know how to describe it, I can’t sell it as good though. I ended up spending 2 nights in Cooma to recover from the big days of riding before heading further on up in to the mountains.

While I was in Cooma I met a passing couple from New Zealand who were snaking their way North to Sydney, I was stoked to find that when they headed off they had left me the maps for the areas they had come through, which showed all the single trails through the mountains and the alpine huts available to stay in. It meant that for the next 3 nights I could push small distances to make the elevation and know that I would have some shelter at the end of each days riding. I managed 3 days of this before passing through Khancoban and admitting that the bad water was getting the better of me (read: riding and gastro).

Luckily the mountains are full of mountain bikers in the Summer and I was able to find someone with a ute in no time to give Rudolpho and myself a lift onwards to Albury to meet up with my train home. I wasn’t quite making the time I needed to pass through the Snowy Mountains in time so the lift was welcomed wholeheartedly.

All in all the trip was great, I won’t take on a ride like that again without proper aquatabs, but it was a beautiful 10 days or so on the road none the less and a great way to spend Christmas.

Paddock wild camp after a long day in the saddle

Paddock wild camp after a long day in the saddle

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