Extracurricular Ride: Nowra – Bairnsdale


This cycling adventure variously traversed the country of the Wandandian, Ngunawal, Yuin, Ngarigo, Bidwell, and Kurnai people. Sovereignty of these lands was never ceded and I pay respect to elders past, present and future generally. Additionally, I specifically thank the traditional custodians for their role in creating and maintaining such beautiful and welcoming places that I visited. Thank you.

I would also like to thank all of the people whom I met along the way. You helped me with advice, conversation, food and hospitality, particularly I would like to thank the incredibly kind and beautiful soul who drove me up to Nowra. Though many interactions may slip past mention I have not forgotten their kindness.


Route part 1: “Attack of the Buns” (Nowra – Braidwood)

Route part 2: Braidwood – Bairnsdale


Chapter One: Beginnings

Chapter Two: Look Mum, No Hands!

Chapter Three: Just be Normal, Okay?

Chapter Four: Distractions

Chapter Five: Push it!

Chapter Six: Fat Bikes are slower than Road Bikes

Chapter Seven: Back in the Forest

Chapter Eight: Like Lightning!

Reading Note:

The Instagram posts at the end of many of the chapters contain multiple images, hover to see the slider. This is a new style of adventure story and I welcome your feedback at the bottom.

Chapter One: Beginnings

Never pretend that Day 1 is going to be easy!

I started early afternoon in scorching heat. It was the middle of January and expecting anything less was wishful thinking. I was sweating by the time I put all of the bags on the bike, let alone started pedalling. The bike was heavy. As usual when I go to a big supermarket before a trip I had bought enough food for a small army and not done the due diligence of only buying enough to get me to the next supermarket. It made me comfortable knowing that I was able to take a few rest days but it also made the start of the roll fairly sluggish. To give you some perspective, I had at least eight different kinds of snack bar.

It quickly became apparent that even though I had paid a subscription fee to RidewithGPS and hit download for the routes I was planning to follow, I was high and dry. They didn’t function offline and I wasn’t going to sit by the roadside on day 1 for a few hours trying to fix it. Looking back I can think of worse things to do but thankfully I had transcribed the start of the route and also committed a decent proportion of it to memory. I enjoy the use, but don’t trust technology and it turns out to have been time well spent.

I didn’t really know what was on the menu for ‘Attack of the Buns’. I had read the article on Bikepacking.com but not studied it and I knew that the route designer had won a Surly Krampus and a series of Revelate Bags for their work so it must have been pretty special. I was extremely excited to be following someone else’s line rather than reading maps and making my own decisions. I hadn’t really done any research beyond asking the hive mind of Bikepacking Australia for suggestions. I was confident in myself and my bike setup, all I wanted to do was ride and see new places. It was a holiday from riding in the Great Forest National Park and I wanted to do things a little bit differently.

Haven’t found anywhere quite like this in the Great Forest National Park – Yalwal

The route did not disappoint. Arriving at the top of the hill in Yalwal I was greeted by stunning views across to volcanic outcrops and knew instinctively I was in for a treat. Wandandian country is where I was standing. Yalwal was the name of an old goldmining town they had built at the bottom of the hill. The town is no longer, flooded when the Danjera Dam was constructed as part of Shoalhaven’s water supply. All that remains is a camping and picnic area, where I encountered another cyclist. He was having a less than ideal day, intending to head back up the hill I had just come down and ride back into Nowra. It was a decent hill and it was very hot. He didn’t appear in the best shape so together we decided it would be more sensible when it cooled down. I helped him out with a small pile of assorted muesli bars from my collection, advised him to drink heaps of water and stay in the shade until then. It was nice to be helplful and I kept riding.

I didn’t get too far up the hill before I had to heed my own advice. It was a tumultuous time for day one. Sitting around doing nothing with heaps of energy in the tank. I even considered setting up for the night as there was a toilet and nearby water but I figured I had only gone about 20km and the idea seemed preposterous. I pushed on, and then the pushing really started. I rounded a corner to come face to face with a Goanna, a Lace Monitor to be more precise. It was at least 60cm long with spots along its back and a stripy tail. It had large claws and was incredibly striking and impressive in its wrinkly appearance. This is an animal I had never encountered before, in the wild or anywhere, at least to my recollection, and I knew not whether it had an appetite for human flesh. Scratch that, I knew it couldn’t have an appetite for human flesh or I would have known about it. Nonetheless I wasn’t running over to pick it up and I think it knew I had no intention of disturbing it because it wasn’t bothered by my presence. I watched it for a few minutes and then slowly walked the bike past.

Pictures don’t do this creature justice, as far as I was concerned it literally controlled the entire path. Scoff at your own risk.

Slowly walking the bike was the remainder of the afternoon. Pushing it with all my might and not getting anywhere quickly. There was even a section I elected to take the heavy bags off the bike and hike them up first. It had been a long while since I had used that trick and it is a memory of the fabled “Type 2 Fun” variety. Type 2 Fun is not fun at the time, but afterwards, when the wounds have healed, it can be. This climb and pushing adventure wasn’t actually as rough, steep or as troublesome as some I have tackled in the past (read: Mt Terrible) but it certainly had me straight in at the deep end. As night approached so too did the clouds, rain, thunder and lightning. I had the impression of having reached the top of the hill as the track widened significantly but didn’t have time to keep riding to figure it out. The rain came in very quickly.

It was a perfect storm. I picked some trees, dropped the bike and strung up a tarp. Within seconds enough water fell to fill swimming pools and I took a brief shower to wash the sweat off. I put my Jetboil and its plastic protector under opposite corners of the tarp and collected a heap of rain water, chugging it every time one of the containers filled. I had plenty of water when I’d started the climb, but it was rather demanding and I wasn’t sure how I would fare if there was more of that tomorrow. I took full advantage of the rain and loved every second of it. I strung up my hammock under the tarp and took up residence with my dinner. Then the show started. Lightning was everywhere. Continuous and loud, in every direction, it was amazing. It confirmed my top of the hill hypothesis. I didn’t even need a head torch to go about my business in the dark. The main business was getting the bike the hell out from underneath me in case it wanted to get fried and that was just about all I had to attend to. I fell asleep to the rain after doing some posting to social media and was dry and comfortable in the hammock.

Chapter Two: Look Mum, No Hands!

The next day was incredible. I can barely contain my excitement writing about it. The morning went by quickly with coffee and breakfast and I was rolling as the heat started to creep into the day. Starting from the top of the hill meant the whole morning was flattish, rolling along a ridge with only the slightest gradients to contend with. I imagined to myself that this was why they called this area tablelands. I saw another Lace Monitor scampering up a tree to get away from me and enjoyed imagining what lay down all the little tracks I saw around me, knowing I didn’t have the time or will to go exploring. I was on a limited water clock traversing unknown terrain, there was excitement and anxiety mixing together to keep the pedals spinning.

After a few hours of grinding across the magnificent table, I hit the main road. Cars whooshed past and I was at once relieved and disappointed to know there were other people in the world. A few km later I walked onto a local property where I could see some blokes having a yarn and they kindly filled up my water. Shortly thereafter I plunged once again into wilderness, beyond the reach of automobiles and thought kindly of the generous human who had designed the route and the others who suggested I take it. I encountered more volcanic cliffs and it got me thinking there must be ancient caves in the area. The whole place screamed sacred and I rode with fire in my heart. I kept entirely to the formed track and left no trace. I was blessed to have the time to visit this magnificent place and humbled at every turn by jaw-dropping vistas. So much love and respect for the Budawangs, may it live forever more.

After a jaunt through some warm temperate rainforest, and a roll into a magnificent forest I was grinning ear to ear. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was the greatest day of riding ever. I rolled past an ideal manicured campsite with a worn out springy welcome mat at the path. I knew that I was welcome but the blood was still pumping and there was plenty of light left in the day, I pushed on. The first fork in the road I had been travelling appeared and crossed a river. It wasn’t flowing with much force but the crossing approached knee depth. I knew the route I was supposed to take went up the first fork, but I hadn’t remembered seeing a river at the intersection. I hadn’t seen another human all day and knew instinctively that if I got into trouble, even on the trail, I might not be found for a very long time. There was no sense waiting around for directions. I left my bike and crossed the river, walking a good 15 minutes along the trail to confirm it did in fact exist and go somewhere. Then I went back for the bike and rode that way.

Half an hour later things got really interesting. The track had been difficult to follow until this point though was somewhat evident. It was all but entirely grown over with grass, and now traversed flat country that was unlike anything I had seen before. There were plenty of trees and other plants but they were spread out like a garden, kangaroos and wallabies were everywhere. The ground was mostly clear with a thin layer of grass and some fallen vegetation but everything seemed in order and well kept. It was not scrubby bush that you could get easily lost in, it seemed like you could walk in whatever direction with very little hindrance. However it was here I lost the trail. I rode on in hope of finding it again but turned up nothing, except another really nice place to camp. That was the last thing I needed, sure, the afternoon was getting on and that river wasn’t far back if I wanted more water but being a little uncertain where I was I found myself more inclined to panic than peacefully fall asleep.

Being alone in the wilderness started to seem like a bad decision at this point. I retraced my trip and found the path. Acknowledging what led me astray, I paid less attention to my surroundings and followed the faint tire tread marking the track. It was clear nobody had driven through here in quite a while because what had been the double track of 4wd tyres was now just a difference in grass density. After a short while I found the continuation of the track and kept riding. It was now single, rather than double track and my heart was riding in my throat. I was in awe of my surroundings but starting to worry I would have to ride out the way I had ridden in. It was not a pleasant thought, despite how great the scenery was. The afternoon ticked on towards sunset and I was still unable to check my location against any map I had brought and I had no offline map of the area on my phone. The whole while I knew I would be okay but I think the idea of potentially doing something in vain was weighing on me.

I can’t actually express how impressive this vista is in real life. It makes you want to scream and laugh and cry all at the same time but looking at the picture only makes me think I need a new camera.

I emerged from one wilderness ecosystem into another, dominated by a view of massive volcanic cliffs to the North and East. I had seen pictures of these cliffs on the route description and knew then that I was probably in the right place. I still had a rather burning desire to prove that to myself and the only way I could think of to do that was to get out. I rode on into the sunset and eventually exited the park just as darkness was descending. I found a sign that pointed towards a town with a pub I had driven past a week earlier and I was sold. Would I get to eat a warm meal someone else cooked, see another human face and have a cold beer? Was this really the same world where I had been worried about being lost just hours before?

I arrived at Nerriga Pub well after dark and quietly gulped down my first beer. I assured myself everything was okay and relaxed into an amusing conversation with the publican and guest over another hour before setting up my bed in the small garden next to the pub. I realised it was still only day 2 of the ride. What a full on day I had, what amazing things I had seen, what a wild ride my head went on when I rode off the track. I would love to go back and ride that section of wilderness again with the firm knowledge of where I was going, or a GPS and better maps. I would love to go back and walk it, stay a few nights and enjoy the peace. As it was I bit off about as much as I could chew.

Chapter Three: Just Be Normal, Okay?

I slept in until 9 and was very happy to enjoy a quality barista coffee from the front of the pub. I went over the day before in my mind and laughed at how very close I had come to losing the plot. I was rather annoyed that the offline map function wasn’t functioning, it made me wonder how I was going to manage the next few days when I was planning to ride a few hundred km of the Monaro Cloudride. The information I had received was a lot of up and down over a long distance without regular water resupply. It was a disturbing prospect to consider getting lost under those conditions.

I didn’t know this at the time but when I got home I decided to weigh some of my gear. My bike, tools and spare tube combined was 22kg. That is the effective base weight of the whole rig, as the spare tube and tools stay on the bike at all times. My bed and clothes is probably another 4kg, my food bag another 10kg then there were some books and odds and end plus 3-4L of water. I would have been surprised to know my bike was in the 40kg ball park but I knew it was reasonably heavy. I recently read an article where the writer described their 26kg setup for the Cloudride as on the heavy side. Granted that is racing weight but I am glad I didn’t sign up for the event regardless.

The final day I rode the attack of the buns route took me into Braidwood via back roads. There was a little bit of up and down but ostensibly wide gravel most of the way and a good chunk of pavement towards the end. Very little traffic. I reconnected with the edge of the Morton national park for a while and already felt sentimental. It’s funny how just a few hours can change your life forever. I rolled past some big fat pine plantations too and my romantic nostalgia for wilderness ran head on into realisations of economic realism and I was rather taken aback by how sad I suddenly felt.

Braidwood is a beautiful town that is perfect for tourism. Located on the King’s highway there are a series of pubs, cafes and restaurants. Unfortunately there is no free camping location in the vicinity of the city, or on the path I was planning to ride out of it, and by the time I had arrived I was not interested in riding another 10km to sleep. I left my bike on the street and went straight to the bakery, ordering two pies and two sports drinks. I demolished the pies and one of the electrolyte filled sugar waters then went to the park to pass some time. I lay in the grass and did the research that turned up blank on free places to sleep within my laziness radius and decided I’d get a room at the pub instead. At $65 I was over the moon to jump into a bed, have a hot shower and take a nap. Later on I wandered down the street and had dinner at the other pub. It was a hard life.

Bet you weren’t expecting the gratuitous coffee in bed selfie! Riding bikes is hard, reward yourself by enjoying the little things 🙂

In the morning I made myself a couple of cups of coffee from the included kettle and started the day with a chuckle, electing to enjoy a little bit of a sleep in because nobody needed me to be anywhere and I felt like it. I rolled out around check out time and travelled all of 100m to a food van where I ordered a brekky wrap and an egg roll. The wrap was full of good bits, like spinach and chorizo and I gobbled it down with a green juice. High as a kite on good nutrition I rolled out of town towards Captain’s Flat.

It was another hot day but I was getting used to the temperature. I added the two sports drinks bottles to my water supply, extending me to 4.2L and topped up the electrolytes from a big jar of powder I’d purchased in Colburra Beach. I was rolling well but the legs were definitely heavy. The dodgy thing was I didn’t have a clear idea of where I was going. I was between the Cloudride and the Attack of the Buns routes, carving off a corner to get South in a hurry. I spoke to a few locals in Braidwood about roads, which I am beginning to realise is a bad idea. Unless they are cyclists who also ride a fat bike, or genuine nature lovers who get out and about, unfortunately they probably don’t have the information I need. The consensus pointed me up ‘The Badja’ and over to Cooma. A little bit over 140km from Braidwood. I wasn’t convinced, thinking I might do a little bit of research when I hit Captain’s Flat and see if I could take the Cloudride route South and get back into the bush.

My mind’s map was starting to fall apart. Captain’s Flat was not in the direction I was trying to travel, the turn off pointed off to the right hand side of the Badja road. I had no mobile reception. I was in a pickle. I thought about my options and realised I had never visited Cooma or Bombala before. Why not go on a road trip? I was a long way from my house in Melbourne, the rules of the game were unchanged and virtually non-existent so why not take the safe option and make doubly sure I don’t end up lost. Big major towns are always signposted and it would be unfamiliar territory I could explore. I was less than super excited about it, but I was pumped for something else.

See, the whole while I have been ‘Riding for the Great Forest’ I have been getting a little bit fitter, faster and better prepared for the next ride. Sure, I get lazy, and the first couple of days on the bike usually kick my ass but the capacity is growing with each trip. Reading this account I can understand why you might doubt that statement but everyone climbs a different learning curve. I was excited because I decided this year I might try my legs at a couple of bikepacking events. I am not in any way planning to compete in a race but I am beginning to believe I am more than capable of participating and finishing. If I can get my hands on GPS navigation and a SPOT tracker (If you can help, get in touch) all I have to do is ride, and I can do that. I don’t mind taking three times as long as everyone else, I will get to the end well rested rather than dead in a heap. Maybe I’ll get my hands on a bike with skinnier tyres that weighs a bit less and go further faster too. I see it as an opportunity to see some great places and ride there, maybe visit some eateries along the way. If I do have any aptitude for speed and riding all night I can imagine that over the years to come these events will become a great opportunity to push myself. If not, well I’ll know that from my own experience rather than guessing and doubting myself.

Chapter Four: Distractions

The decision to stay on the Badja road to Cooma was settled and I decided I should try to push myself a little bit. Tomorrow! I will push myself, Tomorrow!! I got as far as Deua National Park and decided to roll in and take a break. Arriving at a stunningly beautiful and deserted campsite I made the executive decision that it was a half rest day. It hadn’t been long since I pulled over and demolished the egg roll but it was already time for another meal. What a great day for lentils. I spent the next hour steeping them in stock and bringing it to the boil every 15 minutes. It was a great afternoon for knocking off one of those dastardly book things I was lugging about too. The memoirs of Sidney Poitier are an incredible read. As a white person, I grew up with a pretty imbalanced view of racism, definitely didn’t know what I didn’t know, call that privilege, ignorance, entitlement or whatever. I was kind of under the assumption that the extent of racism was some rather distasteful jokes and immature kids scribbling swastikas in between all the dicks they were drawing. Kind of like how I figured the government made the best decisions they were able to using reason and evidence. Can’t remember when the pennies started dropping but it was a fun time to be alive.

It was this place in my childhood that Sidney took me back to, when the world is fresh and abound in possibility. His story is not mine to tell, but it is an interesting one with more than a few sections that opened me to the reality of the world he lived and worked in. He lived in a different time in a different place under different conditions but there were still lessons that were seemingly timeless. He writes well and I kept reading all the way through my lentils, the following meal of pasta and deep into the night. I woke up in the morning and kept reading while I ate breakfast in bed, when I finished the book I got back on the road. I had eaten a heap of food, drank a ton of water and not done a lot of activity for close on 20 hours since yesterday. Surprising how much stronger I already felt, maybe the bike was getting lighter too. I was chasing a truck too, I had a purpose.

Ground zero for memoir reading station. Also an experiment in whether my hammock makes for a passable bivvy – it does.

Ok, that does sound a bit random. But allow me to digress once again. The campsite might have been empty when I arrived, but it did not remain so. A father daughter ensemble showed up for a camping trip and that was all good except they washed their dishes in the river with Jif detergent. I was pretty keen on having some words and explaining the chemistry of how surfactants and phosphates affect aquatic systems but all I got out was ‘Are you serious? I’m about to drink that’. My larger gripe was with some council workers who showed up for morning tea while I was finishing the book. They showed up in a big truck and made a bunch of noise, which was fine. However, one of them left a flavoured milk box on the ground and another one half a tuna sandwich. Then they got back in their truck and went off to whatever job they were working. For all I knew they were the crew who came in once a week to clean up the place but it still wasn’t on. It was one of those “…that’s why we can’t have nice things [accessible by roads]” moments. On my journey to clean up their shit I encountered two red bellied black snakes in the grass and decided it might be better to get rolling. Instead of trying to jump the snakes or waiting around for them to head elsewhere I would chase down the truck and have some words. Transform that anger I was feeling into some activity with the legs.

Good theory. Forgot about it pretty quickly, too be honest. Instead I was in roadkill fly city. Dead wombats and roos in varying stages of decomposition littered the road, a few snakes too. Worse was the flies, I needed corks on my helmet. Legitimately they were climbing into my eyes and mouth and so I was pretty much limited to riding with only one hand on my bars. I took care of the legs though, I didn’t tell them too loudly but I was going to put them to the test. I set a timer on my phone and made sure to stop for snacks once an hour. The flies disappeared when the climbing started and I was glad for it. The climb over the Badja was awesome.

Chapter Five: Push it!

For a couple of hours it was all gentle uphill and I rocked it. I even found myself upping the resistance when it levelled off on the climb and did a bit of climbing out of the saddle just to keep things interesting. I was rocking the post rock all the way and tranced out into a blissful state of exercise and adrenaline as I reached the saddle point. From here I was wrong to think it was all downhill to Cooma, nope, there was another good hour or three rolling up and down on high plains. I liked it a lot. I felt like I was in a secret valley in the middle of the dividing range, like the land before time. I kept expecting to see dinosaurs come charging out of the forest, but alas. Instead, in the middle of this rather strange and beautiful land I came across a Neighbourhood Watch sign. I was a bit sceptical, having not seen another human for a while, and expecting to see a dinosaur before another car I wondered who exactly was watching what. A little further along I ran into some sheep on the timeless plain and I knew I was just getting loopy. I stopped for a proper meal by the side of the road and wondered if I could make it the rest of the way to Cooma before the pubs stopped serving meals. Again, I mistakenly assumed it would be all downhill from here but thankfully it was a lot more down than up. The road became sealed again and I thought I must have been getting close, wrong again.

Really fast rolling hills like this dominated the road down from Badja to Cooma.

Do you know the person who designed the road between Countegany and Cooma? That person was nuts. Roads work well when they are moulded into the contours of the land. Not when they go up and down sequential hills to the same height so you end up going from 50kmph to 4 and back again. It was pretty ridiculous. I was set on getting to Cooma though, and my legs were in gear, we went on. I hit a quaint little town called Numerella and was disappointed to learn there was still a way to go. It was certainly late enough in the day to consider stopping, and I was totally saturated in sweat but I didn’t. I didn’t even stop to smell the roses, I rolled straight through town and up the hill on the other side. It was now about 5/6pm and traffic started streaming in towards me. People were leaving work and going home. I had forgotten about my council truck chase and was instead trying to get to a kitchen that cooked dinner before it closed. Definitely a bit strange how I strove to buy food when I was already carrying so much, but it had been a big day. If I made Cooma it would be the first 100k day of the trip. That deserved a meal and a beer.

The last bit of road into Cooma was really disheartening. It was all grassland dotted with introduced trees and full of sheep. Research I have done led me to understanding that sheep and cattle did a fantastic job of destroying native grasslands and yam daisy fields within the first wave of colonisation. Their hooves and appetites totally destroyed the existing indigenous food systems that had been feeding people for thousands of years. Sure, there might be some native grasses left but it’s a long way from what was here before colonisation on those plains. It was interesting for a little while before I wanted the comfort of trees again.

I rolled into Cooma around 7:30pm and quickly realised it was a big town. You don’t know what you don’t know and I didn’t really know what I was expecting. I was a bit lost on where I was going to camp but a kind local pointed me to The Bunkhouse. I figured I could deal with a night in a dorm but instead I asked for a single when I was talking to the receptionist. I’m glad I did, because he put me in a family suite. For $60 I had three beds, a kitchen and a bathroom. It was total luxury. I took a shower, then walked back down the street to the pub and had dinner. Feeling like a millionaire I rolled into a Woolies that was still open (Cooma is a big town) and picked up some more snacks. Before I went to bed I filled my electrolyte bottles with electrolytes, filled the camelback to the brim and stashed them all in the fridge overnight. It was a quality choice.

Roughing it to the max.

Chapter Six: Fat Bikes are slower than Road Bikes

I rolled with purpose the next morning. I had made an effort to devise an interesting route for the day that would have me crossing the Snowy River closer to Delegate than Bombala and went for it. I also made the genius decision to make my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist available offline. So I had three hours of tunes I’d never heard before to guide me through undulating high plains. The heat was incredible, and there was no shade to be found anywhere. The first shady stop I took was on the side of a bridge, hugging the railing. The next one was another 30ks down the road. I was not amused but I kept rolling. I missed my turn off somewhere, and with no reception decided against backtracking and stuck with the Snowy River Way to the highway. It was pretty ordinary to spend the whole day on tarmac doing gentle undulations on a heavy as hell fat bike in the full sun. For a day rolling from one town to another, an unloaded road bike could have cut my travelling time in half easily and I’m sure the ‘whoosh’ feeling could have helped with the heat. I was far too aware of all this all day.

I rolled through a big field of wind turbines and along with acknowledging that wind power is now so cheap to produce you’d have to be insane to think about building another coal power plant I couldn’t help but remember a certain disgusting politician. Funny how people like that can spoil your whole afternoon if you let them. Wanting to build Snowy Hydro 2.0 is a bad idea, as we’ve discovered there is heap of real estate in the area that is prime for wind turbines and they’re super cheap now. The government is just clutching at straws to find big construction contracts for their buddies so they can give away more of our taxes to companies that support election campaigns. It would be comical if it wasn’t so serious. Compare the levelized cost of energy, I dare you. As a side note that politician should be sued for selling the Darling River to cotton farms. Yuck.

Beautiful, simply beautiful!

Regardless, I kept riding and the heat kept coming. I was actually getting really angry at the lack of roadside trees. I was exhausted and probably dehydrated but I didn’t want to stop in the sun. I was riding in a long sleeve shirt and had reapplied sunscreen to my face arms and legs several times throughout the day but it wasn’t enough. I had been burnt through my shirt, and my entire back was thoroughly flambéed. If someone was going to show up and ask for my opinion, it was that there were not enough trees and it was too hot. As you can tell, my wit was on fire like the rest of me. Possessed by a simple rage I made it all the way to Bombala that day, which would have put me in the 100km ball park once again. I found a nice patch of grass as the sun was setting and slept like a baby.

I woke up fresh and ready to rock. I was not getting tired of how spritely my mornings were. In fact I was getting to the point that I wanted to wake up every day with that much energy. I was thoroughly ready for the forests of Gippsland to engulf me in a great big hug. I can appreciate that grasslands are immensely important and highly endangered but they are not a good place for bike riding in 36+ degrees. Unfortunately, I wasn’t yet in the forest and there was still a way to go.

The road to Delegate was a good morning challenge. My legs were on the up and up after a couple of decent days back to back and I was keen to keep the momentum flowing. The road basically winds through a massive series of pinus radiata plantations. Trees that can fulfil the need for timber without damaging the remaining native forests are a good alternative in my books. Not perfect but the forests have been battered enough and there is enough timber in plantations. There was also a big mill just out of Bombala so saving gas miles is somewhat of a positive too.

Delegate was a champion little town. I could go back and stay there for a long time. Everyone was wonderful, even the pack of kids rolling about on their bikes were polite and friendly. No-one made bad jokes about how hard it must be to push my bike around and were instead really supportive of me being out on my bike. I did spend a little bit of time arguing with a lady about rolling via Bendoc or Bonang. But it was a friendly discussion and I was going via Bendoc whatever she said to the contrary. Why? Bendoc has a great mountain. It is a UFO landing site and ancient volanco. Nah I made both of those things up, though neither is impossible but it’s a big hill/small mountain that rises out of the flat countryside in a straight cone. It was truly a pretty special place, but I didn’t see the road to the top so I didn’t head up there.

Instead I saw my first eucalypt plantations around the Victorian border. They looked pretty sad to be honest, but it goes against the claims I’ve heard that loggers need access to native forest because there are no eucalypt plantations.

Chapter Seven: Back in the Forest

Bendoc was a no stopping town. It looked reasonably pleasant, but I was back in the forest and it was time to rock out. I was ecstatic to find myself under the canopy of native forest once again, it was if my legs were entirely reset. Those southern tablelands of NSW were interesting to visit, but this is where I belong. I was home. And I had never even seen this part of the world before. I cruised the length of the Bendoc-Orbost road with gusto, it was a pretty rad windy forest road with many familiar species and a decent swathe of pine plantations. Just over the Delegate River I encountered one of the biggest clear fells I have ever seen. I was beside myself until I realised it was pine, and then I was still less than impressed. The coupe appeared to run about a kilometre back and would probably have been within a stone’s throw of the river the whole way. I am no expert in hydrogeology but I’d say that would have to affect the flow, whether by increased sediment content or reduced surface run off. Saying all of that, I know virtually nothing about where the river goes and who or what depends on it.

Did I say it was a big clearing?

What is one to do? Keep riding… So I kept riding. Despite the plantations and what appeared to be a couple of native clear fells ‘hidden’ off the edges of the road I was in awe of the state of the environment in this part of the world. As I edged closer and closer to “The Gap” things got better and better, and then, just past a funny little sign about some bullshit waste of space government at odds with its own policies sign I ran into entire hillsides of ferns. Half expecting more dinosaurs to come roaring out of the brush with a lust for flesh I laughed so hard I was glad there was nobody around to hear me and then laughed harder because I looked around to check. Oh, was I glad to be back in the forest. It had been hot in Delegate, very hot, but in the forest it was all chill. I was pleased. I wanted to share the news with all of you wonderful people following the journey online but alas I was in a dead zone. I had been warned it would be dead all the way to Orbost. Nonetheless I was surprised. Apart from likes I had everything I needed and more so things could have been much worse… I kept rolling.

It was a dream to be back in the forest after even a couple of treeless days daze

I had heard rumours of this magical place called Goongerah, and I knew I wasn’t far away so that’s where I headed. I ended up on the main road down that way, the Bonang Highway, but only encountered one empty semi-trailer coming the other way in a whole heap of fast wonderful downhill ks. To be honest one car is probably more dangerous than hundreds because you can get a little blasé about hitting blind corners at speed when you think you’re the only person on the road. It was after all, a highway, but it felt more like a quiet country road. I got lucky and ran into a wonderful human named Ed from the Goongerah Environment Centre Organisation (GECO) and he gave me an overview of issues facing the area and a run-down of sweet places to ride my bike. Within the week GECO were blockading a stand of old growth near Granite Mountain because our insane politicians still think it’s okay to log old growth. If you’ve got some spare coin chuck it their way because they do awesome work and could use all the help they can get.

Stealth level: room for improvement

A little past where I ran into Ed I found the Goongerah Campground. It’s a wonderful site on the river and I was inclined to rest there awhile. The next day was scheduled to be around 40 degrees so I decided to call it a rest day. I sat in the shade, read my Ludlum novel and ate half a dozen meals. It was a hard day, alternating between my place in the shade and the river to fill up my water bottles and soak my hat. It went back and forth like that for several hours before night time came along, I finished my book and it was time to sleep again. There were other campers in the vicinity planning a night-time wildlife survey but I knew that if I was up all night there was no way I was going to make tracks the next day and my food supplies were running fairly low. I knew it was roughly 170km back to Bairnsdale where I could catch the train and I’d probably hit Orbost for dinner and could resupply there so that was the plan.

Chapter Eight: Like Lightning

The next morning I had a spring in my step as I piled out of the hammock and into my riding kit. I packed the bike and chowed down breakfast with gusto. I had slept in a little but I felt like my whole body was rejuvenated from the rest day and I was keen to hit the road. It was probably around ten when I waved a cheery goodbye to all the wonderful people around the site and headed up the hill to continue my journey. Back on the road it was a hot day and it didn’t take long for me to be sweating from every pore. The bike was a lot lighter than when I started and the legs in a lot better form so together we smashed it. No longer was I resigned to my lowest gear for every incline and the downhills were fast and flowing. I reached Orbost early in the afternoon, far earlier than I had expected and with a lot of light left in the day. I was rather chuffed with myself and sat down to a lunch of toasties and deep-fried goodies at the chicken shop before deciding to see just how far I could push the day. I downed a coke, reasoning that my body could more than handle the increased blood glucose and the caffeine and I’m no sports scientist but I did feel it pretty quickly.

The Bairnsdale to Orbost rail trail is an absolute treat and I had a blast. The only other trail users I encountered in the first 50km were trail bike riders and they were polite enough to slow down and not leave me in a dust cloud though I am fairly sure they weren’t supposed to be there. The trail started out near the longest rail trestle bridge in the country/Victoria/the world? Who knows, I was enjoying being on the bike so much I stopped long enough to take a picture but not long enough to read the sign. The trail seemingly went on and on forever but I kept telling myself I would keep riding until it got dark and then I’d figure out the closest town and head there for dinner if it was still possible. The trail was genuinely beautiful just about the whole way, and traversed a variety of different ecosystems from dry to wet and back again. My legs felt good and I just kept going, knowing that every metre I rode was one less for the next day. Before it got completely dark I found a pub and ordered a pizza.

I was drinking a deliciously cold VB that tasted just like I imagine heaven might when I did the maths and worked out I’d ridden 140km. That was easily the longest day I’d done loaded touring, on any bike. I was pretty pleased with myself, and it probably explained why I was enjoying the VB so much as I’m typically known as a craft beer enthusiast. I ate my pizza, had some interesting conversations with the locals including a fabulous moment when someone asked me if I’d ever heard of a motor so I looked at them dumbly until we both laughed and then I decided it was time to find somewhere to sleep.

It bares noting that until this stage much of the rail trail had been passing through forest so given I was still feeling pretty pleased with myself I decided to get back on the trail and keep riding until I found a nice spot. This turned out to be a pretty stupid idea. I ended up riding through the night for a few hours until I got into Bairnsdale at silly o’clock. For whatever reason my legs were still feeling good the whole way and I knew I would be doing some night riding later in the year so part of my brain just decided to keep going until it got too hard. I hit up the servo in Bairnsdale for a cold sports drink to reward myself and then found a quiet secluded spot to rest for a couple of hours. It was already the am and I knew there was a train in a few hours so I didn’t really feel the need to cough up dollars for a campsite in town. I thought about riding up and back on the trail to bring my ride up to the 200km mark (it was at 170 by my calculations) but decided against it for obvious reasons. As the sun came up I rolled on to the train station and jumped on, painfully aware that even after swapping into my off the bike clothes I could probably be smelt from further than I could be seen. I fell asleep as the train pulled out and woke again at Southern Cross, happy days!


Route part 1: “Attack of the Buns”

Route part 2: Braidwood – Bairnsdale

Feedback and Contact

This was a holiday ride, there were no rules, I started out with one plan and ended up doing something entirely different. It’s just how the cookie crumbles, this was a week of my life I enjoyed living and I hope you enjoyed reading about it. That being said I quite enjoy writing about it too so if you felt I could have done a better job expressing myself get in touch so I can improve with the next one.