In the heat of late November, the planets aligned; the weather gods worshipped; and the bike packed with the Blue Poles Motel, Trangia Kitchen, Topeak Breakfast Bar and stool, as well as an assortment of other things, and it was off for a week of bike touring around the southern highlands.  This time I’d managed to keep the AUW of bike + bits down to a measly 45kgs - less food, water and cold weather gear.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter whether you’re away for a week or a month, most of the stuff needed is usually the same.  How heavy is the stuff that those in 4wd’s take on their hols?

With leave pass in hand, on Saturday I rode into the usual headwind along the Fernleigh Track past a Police peloton to Newcastle for a late breakfast with the Saturday mob at Money$uckle.  From there it was a mid-morning dawdle to Broadmeadow Station to catch the first of a conga line of trains needed to get me to my first overnight stop at Bargo – just south of Picton.  As usual, CityRail had arranged 2 lots of their usual weekend “track work” along the way between Newcastle and Bargo, purely to make the trip more interesting of course.  The train got me into Strathfield in time to take the bike + gear into the local streetscape in search of food.  Fortunately I didn’t have to go far and was able to return to the shade of the nearby park to wait with some of the park wildlife (human and otherwise) for my next train, an hour or so later.  The change over from the electrics at Campbelltown was relatively quick to the diesel service – just a platform change - and after about 20 minutes delay due to track work elsewhere, we were soon rattling along through some of the interesting countryside of the southern highlands to Bargo.  It was almost 5 when we got there, so it was a quick pedal down to the caravan park to pitch camp with the luxurious Blue Poles Motel, shower and a walk across the secret path over the rail line to the sports club for dinner.  (It’s a tough life, but someone’s got to do it!)  They were having a burlesque show there that night, so I watched some of the rehearsals.  They were good, and the kicks were just as high as those that I'd seen in Paris.  One of the dancers had spoilt a lovely canvas by having body art inked over her.  The singers were great.  I had dinner and then headed back to the Blue Poles Motel as I had seen a number of real burlesque shows in Paris, and was mindful of the necessary early start on Sunday.

Sunday saw me leave Bargo around 7am to try to beat as much of the heat as possible.  It was 20 deg when I left, and by the time that I'd got to Mittagong, it was 30 deg.  I'd altered my planned route before I'd left to enable me to safely pull the pin if it got too hot, so I went through Moss Vale rather than the original plan of Berrima - more motels/pubs there.  By the time that I'd reached Moss Vale the temp was in the high 30's, but it looked like it was dropping (as the weather bureau had forecast for the route), so I headed off for Marulan - about 40 k's away.  Just out of Sutton Forest, I went through some broken glass and ended up with a puncture - piece of wire, not glass.  It was no fun swapping tubes over in that heat.  By the time I reached the Hume Hwy, temps were up into the 40's.  At one stage, I stopped under a bridge to get some shade and have a rest.  My water was lower than I'd planned, so I scrounged some from some grey nomads at a rest area along the road.  (I drank over 7 litres of water that day.)  The top temp that I saw when checking my bike computer was a balmy 48 in the sun and on the road.  So much for the weather bureau's forecast!  I had no adverse effects from the high temps, but I think that the wide brim on my helmet helped substantially there.  I stayed in a motel at Marulan to get a decent night's sleep in air conditioned comfort.  When I went out to the nearby trucking stop for dinner, the rain began.  The rain drops were huge and they hit quite hard, so I ducked back under shelter until one of the many showers passed.

Monday was an easier ride to Gunning.  The temperatures were lower, I encountered light showers for the last 20k's and the winds were variable.  I stopped at Goulburn to get a replacement tube for the one punctured.  The hole was almost next to a mould seam so it was irreparable.  None of the 3 bike shops in the town had any tubes in the 28-35mm range.  Amazing!  Some drivers in Goulburn aim at cyclists.  Water was again an issue, and by the time that I got to the little community of Breadalbane, it was lunch time.  I rode up to the local school to replenish my water bottles.  Waltzed into the office - no one there, all teaching, so I helped myself to some water from their cooler.  I proceeded to consume lunch under the shade of a large tree outside the school grounds.  At Gunning, I pitched the Blue Poles Motel in the free camp adjacent to the creek.  Signs warned of snakes near the creek banks, so I kept all bags inside the tent overnight.  I didn't want to be greeted by the smile of a brownie when I was packing in the morning!  There is a local theatre there owned by Max Cullen - a TV actor - and apparently that'd had a great Melbourne jazz band playing there on Saturday night.  Total roll up of about 40 people @ $15 ea!  It rained heavily overnight and the tent developed a decided left leaning during the night as the winds strengthened. 

Tuesday was an interesting ride to the sleepy Canberra dormitory suburb of Bungendore.  The first hour out of Gunning was slow, and I averaged only 12kph.  The winds changed a bit and turned into cross winds and then a tail wind allowing me to achieve a much better time for the rest of the trip.  I averaged 17kph for the day, no doubt helped by the big downhill into Bungendore where my max was 72kph – the bike was rock solid with panniers on front and rear.  I was keeping up with the cars!  Bungendore is trying to be a tourist destination.  It has galleries and coffee shops all eager to put their hands in your pocket.  I arrived there around lunch time, and after lunch I headed back to the brick motel for an eyelid inspection - no cracks found!

On Wednesday,  I had a further eyelid inspection along with some gentle exercise, and felt reasonably well rested after 260+k's.  I came across the Wood Works Gallery in my wanders around the sprawling town.  They have some amazing timber carvings and artworks.  Probably the most famous timber work is the Hannan Cabinet which was shown on ABC TV some time in the last 12 months.  It took about 6 years to make, and it is absolutely superb craftsmanship. 

They also had some marquetry (things like paintings, but using pieces of timber to show the image and they were some indescribably magnificent pieces of work.  There were a few that I thought about, but the numbers of zero's on the price raised the question "marquetry or new bikes?"  Needless to say the marquetry didn't win.  There was a similar question on a beautifully carved rocking chair, but at over $14k, I couldn't change the answer to the first question.  I'd thoroughly recommend a visit to this gallery if you are anywhere within cooee of Bungendore - just some outstanding displays!

To find out more about it, have a squiz at their website at http://bungendorewoodworks.com.au/exhibitions/hannah-cabinet  They also have catalogues of other artworks. 

One of the marquetry pieces that captured me is this one below.  Unfortunately my photography just doesn’t do it justice.  It is all made of small pieces of different types, grains and colours of timber – just beautiful.  New bikes?  Marquetry?  New bikes?  Ahhh, what the heck, new bikes!

When I was leaving the Motel at Bungendore on Thursday, the owner was telling me of a new and very popular MTB destination in the Kowen Forest along the Kings Highway between Bungendore and Queanbeyan.  He claimed that there were hundreds of people going there and camping in the farm property adjacent and riding the bush trails. 

I’d stopped at Goulburn to get some supplies for the evening, and a bloke came up to me and asked for directions to some place.  I felt like telling him where to go, but I knew that he’d mistaken me for a postie!  Often happens.  I had one bloke abuse me while I was having a rest in a park in Grafton a few years ago.  He accused me of bludging, and was pretty apologetic when I forcefully pointed out that I was a touring cyclist, not a postman!

The Friday ride through the Southern Highlands to Moss Vale has some fond memories, but they are a bit like how my wife once explained childbirth – you forget the tough bits and only remember the good bits!  There were lots of little ups and downs that made it hard to get into a constant rhythm and maintain a good speed.   I saw a number of trainspotters with their photo gear waiting at vantage points along the way, waiting for the next loco to be working hard up the grade that they were at the top of.  The railway runs next to the road through to Bundanoon, so it’s a trainspotter’s paradise.  Must be great when they bring the steamies out for a run down there – a bit like this perhaps http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYVpJvk1gKY  or preferably this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1EWpCQP7eE – there’s some serious horsepower in the latter!

I had to have the obligatory stop at the Ye Olde Bicycle Shoppe at Bundanoon.  I like their advisory sign above the window – ride more work less.

Saturday was the final day down the mountain and it was broken by a visit to Fitzroy Falls.  There was very little water flowing over them, and what was there was only due to them pumping from the dam.  It’s steep cliffs and valley made for a great panorama.

I stopped at The Famous Roberston Pie Shop for my 3rd meal of the day – usually 4 or 5 daily while touring.  It’s the south coast equivalent for cyclists/bikies as is the Pie in the Sky along the old Pacific Highway near Cowan for the Sydney cycling/biking contingents.  It lies at the junction of the roads to Macquarie Pass to Wollongong and Jamberoo Pass to Kiama, whereas the Pie in the Sky is at the top of the descent to Hawkesbury Bridge.  I found the ride to the top of Jamberoo was great.  No trucks, buses or caravans allowed on the road.  I did learn that the best way to supplement the dietary intake of protein was not through direct strikes on my epiglottis by kamikaze flies.  No fun at all!  The profile below for the day gives an idea of why I enjoy going down Jamberoo.  I never have/never will ride up it!

Unfortunately a couple of grey nomads in their motorhome got in front of me, and that kept my max speed down to 61kph on the descent.  It is lots of sharp bends, some of them hairpin, and many with recommended speeds of <25kph.  The road looked like it had been recently resurfaced, and was in far better condition than it was on my last trip.  I was really pleased with my disc brakes.  The last couple of times that I’ve ridden down with touring gear on was with rim brakes.  I had to stop periodically to let the rims cool a bit so that I didn’t pop the tubes.

The temperatures for the rides from Bungendore > Tarago > Goulburn (Thurs); Goulburn > Bundanoon > Moss Vale (Fri); and Moss Vale > Fitzroy Falls > Jamberoo Pass > Kiama were all comfortable – mostly mid 20’s with Thursday starting out below 15.  The 2 nights in the Blue Poles Motel at Goulburn and Moss Vale were OK, despite Goulburn putting on its usual overnight chill.

After riding down Jamberoo Pass to Kiama, I managed to catch an early afternoon train home to end my week’s bike touring.  Arriving in Newcastle on dark, I enjoyed the short ride in the cool and still evening air.  I’ve always enjoyed a night ride, and I just don’t do it enough.  The next morning, I think that my legs woke up about 2 hours after everything else.

After all of that, I’d lost my usual 1kg per week, despite the significant food intake of 4-5 meals a day – sometimes more!  I did about 520kms at an average speed >16kph and climbed nearly 5kms in height gain.  Some of the hills were steep – Saturdays steepest climb was 13% - and the descents into Bungendore and Jamberoo were a hoot – especially the 72kph max into Bungendore.

Now for the next trip!

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Replies to This Discussion

Great Trip Dabba and a great report on it. Well done!!

Ta!  Time you did another isn't it!

a bloke came up to me and asked for directions to some place.  I felt like telling him w[h]ere to go

(Boom-tish)

But that would have been falling into his clever trap.

Shoulda pulled a letter out of your bag and asked if it was his...

BTW, Coolah Pie Shop must have been on a different trip. You mean Cowan. ;-)

Mt Coolah!

Repeat after me - pedants are important, pedants are important, etc

Couldn't agree more. Where would we be without them?

You mean Mt Colah, I presume.

But Pie in the Sky is still at Cowan.

OMG, so it is!  :-)  Why do we need Google when we've got Neil?  Ask Tony for a knighthood!  :-)

BTW, there is a nice bakery at Coolah too.  I plan to re-visit it on my tour up that way in spring.

Why do we need Google...?

Umm, better maps?

In a coffee shop in Ireland.

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