High Country Jaunt – Extra Curricular Ride 2

Words and Photos by Aidan (@GreatForestRider) and Holden (@HoldensDayOff)

This ride traversed country of the Bidwell, Wiradjuri, Wavereoo, Jaimatang, Ngarigo, Dhudhuroa and Gunai-Kurnai. We honour and respect elders; past, present and emerging, acknowledging sovereignty was never ceded. It always was and always will be Aboriginal land.

This ride happened way back in 2018 and has been composed in a different style, reflecting the way some memories grow and others fade over time. There are gaps, highlights, and more photos than usual.

The Setup

I was invited to ride Kosciusko to Croajingalong by an acquaintance planning a ride with several friends; ‘the boys’. The route sounded exciting and I invited Holden along. Rather than try to figure out the elaborate carpooling and shuffling logistics the boys were planning, Holden and I elected to ride to the start and figure out the other end when we got there. We were starting on Thursday morning, with close to 200ks to cover before a Friday night rendezvous near Kozi with the boys.

Early Morning Train

With nowhere near enough sleep, Holden and I embarked on the first train to Albury out of Melbourne in the morning. I had borrowed a SPOT tracker from a supportive follower and we educated ourselves on its operation and helicopter summoning abilities, should we require them. It was a busy train with all sorts and I am sure this would have been an amusing if not concerning conversation to overhear.

Albury and Surrounds

Here we go again 🙂

We got some brunch in Albury and in conversation with the café owner found out about a rail trail in the vicinity of the Albury Dam. Route confirmed. Yeah, for those of you playing from home, we did make this section up as we went along.

If the train was still operational it might have been nice to get a nap in and a head start

High Country Railtrail into Obscurity

The winding rail trail that was well signposted and groomed to begin with gradually but surely became rougher and rougher. The trail started to cut up into the hills and got further from the road. We went through a dozen gates and round a bridge in need of building. It was a good gentle introduction to unfamiliar terrain.

Flat Tyres

When we got off this incredible bench we realised we both had flat tyres. At least neither of us had to wait for the other while we patched them.

The Grandmother of Glitch

Holden will soon be exhibiting his series of Aidan is still in bed photos.

Dugga-dugga-dugga-dugga-wa-wa-waaaa-wowwwow-yeah. If you don’t know about Delia Derbyshire, (or glitch) consider this the prompt to educate yourself.

The Boys, Corryong, Khancoban

Starting a day with rail trail is lush. After a couple of hours of winding in and out of the main road and the increasingly potholed rail trail we decided it was time to make up some distance. We had a long way to go to our planned rendezvous so we jumped on the black snake and lifted the pace. A few minutes short of Corryong a sedan pulled over and half of ‘the boys’ emerged to nod at bikes, confirm their existence and plans, then continue their car shuffling adventure. Optimistically, we told them we’d polish off the next 100km to our planned meeting spot by the evening. They only had so many days for their adventure due to jobs or uni or something, so they weren’t waiting for us. Game on.

Of course, we weren’t about to sacrifice the quality of our experience just to make up the distance. We stopped for a couple of pies in Corryong from the fabulous local bakery and got on the performance enhancing sugary caffeine power drinks.

Geehi Firetrail, VBs and the Bush

We continued our decadent adventure in Khancoban with a Kosciusko Pale Ale before pointing the bikes at Dead Horse Gap. Rather than battle every other joker on the main road, we took the very scenic Geehi Firetrail. A winning choice, we enjoyed beautiful forest, fast descents, a creek crossing and a missed photo. The ever crafty Holden arranged to swap a scavenged fish hook for two icey VBs and we laughed our way further up the trail to bed.

Delays are okay for snacks and beers but re-shooting action shots is not our style.

The Big Climb, Tom Groggin and Dead Horse Gap

We came here to ride our bikes and climb mountains, and yeah, not heaps of riding in this section. 1150m of gain over ~20km between Tom Groggin and Dead Horse Gap (the whole day ended up being twice that gain, the most by far of the whole trip). It was just on that edge where it felt silly walking but riding was extremely hard work in the lowest gear and could only be done in stretches. It felt like it would still be a seriously difficult climb on a carbon road bike without gear. We were exceptionally glad we hadn’t made the now obvious stupid decision to try and do this in the dark the night before to make the rendezvous.

I will maybe sit up and smile… After a nap on this magnificent soft concrete…
Achievement unlocked. This definitely felt like a milestone.

Selfie culture can often paint a one sided picture of a situation. Sometimes more than one is necessary to capture the feels.

Sunset roll into Cascade Hut

Hell yes!

(And, wtf! It’s dark!?)

Still not at the top of Bob’s Ridge and already so dark

Clocks and errant rabbits and lots of yelping. Throttling down Bob’s Ridge in the dark by spotlight was a lot of fun. Daylight saving had ended but nobody told us! Without reception by that point we were left wondering if maybe it just got dark earlier in the mountains!? We plowed on into the night, knowing there was a hut somewhere with our names on it.

By a stroke of luck we found Cascade Hut in the dark and a group of hikers had the fire going inside. I had lost my footing crossing a creek in the dark and was glad to have the opportunity to dry some gear.

Shredding Hut Day

Cascade Hut

The Pilot is the kind of magical place that makes you wonder and realise what colonisation did to the rest of the continent. I would ride through again at the drop of a hat. While the night before had seen us dodging horse manure at every opportunity, it quickly became apparent it was a futile task and by lunch time my eyes were barely registering the mounds let alone trying to avoid them.

Tin Mine Huts. Our lunch stop.
Blue Steel? We were made for this.

It is pretty obvious why so many people have fallen in love with this part of the world.

Just going to check the map and lie down on the road

The trails are great too. Overgrown double track with plenty of bumps and natural berms and creek crossings and I am frothing just remembering the fun.

Holden waves to some Brumbies

Ingeegoodbee Hut

Could we maybe stay forever and crack walnuts?

The Crash

Fantastic Mr Fox did a radical jump and broke his horns. Thankfully that’s all that was broken and we didn’t need to call the helicopter.

A nice place to catch our breath

Ingeegoodbee Track, Mt Menaak

…And up…
And up…
Some people take the Nine Mile Trail out of the Pilot to the Barry. We didn’t.

The RWGPS database does not accurately understand the severity of the hellevation. Be my guest and return to that hectic part of the world. It is beautiful but a very hard push/ride/walk/skid. I am pretty dubious about returning, glad as hell to have pulled it off once.

And the way down was just as steep as the way up. Skid central

The Boys Bailed Out

The School House

Caravan wielding road angels deliver the news of the century. After emerging from Ingeegoodbee onto the Barry Way I let out a series of highly emotive expletives, glad to be alive. We rode onto Suggan Buggan in high spirits and killed a bit of time in and around the old schoolhouse. A couple wandered over from their campsite and talked about seeing half a dozen other touring cyclists in varying  states of exhaustion organizing a hitch out of the area earlier in the day. We were able to figure out that these were ‘the boys’ and were surprised and a little relieved to realise our semi-forgotten chase was over. The road ahead was ours to shred our own way.

The Best Sunset Ever on The Barry

After nearly breaking an axle (my back wheel came loose a couple of times dealing with the Ingeegoodbee and I was worried the axle had snapped) a +2-3% incline with stunning views over the high country was awesome. The section out of Suggan Buggan towards Seldom Seen is truly one of the best roads I have ever seen. With a considerable fall on one side, cliffs on the other and pink velvet underneath, we were flying up hill. The pictures won’t do it justice, we got a bit lost in the moment.

Number #3

Welcome to Fuckin’ Buchan

Because that’s just how you fuckin’ say it. We embraced double dinner power mode.

The only photo from Buchan, taken from dinner spot #1

The Buchan Nowa-Nowa Audioslave Scorcher

No pictures because shredding and blasting Audioslave. Double dinner meant full tanks, the hectic climbs were nowhere to be seen and the legs had never felt better. This was a wonderful section of gravel and dirt connecting the Buchan road with Nowa Nowa as the main road was starting to get a bit busier.

The Best Roadhouse Burger

This place was almost too much greatness for one demi god like Michelin star worthy burger blacksmith. Next time you’re travelling through Gippsland, make sure you stop in Nowa Nowa to visit the Temple of Ra and have a feed. (Yeah, I should start documenting the feeds too, it’s an important part of the story.)

Carving to The Quarry

Rail trail ks were almost boring at this stage so the tempo just went up and up and up. The discovery of the Gippsland Lakes discovery trail did not disappoint. Our food supplies might have been nearly empty and we dreamt of resupplying and continuing the adventure.

Said Quarry

Breakfast IPAs and All the Pies

Back on the East Gippy rail trail early in the morning we rode into Bruthen for pies and had a couple of seriously great Hell’s Gate IPAs from the Bullant Brewery. They have a tough local crowd to please, so I wouldn’t be expecting any hazy NEIPAs in the imminent future but they know their craft and I’ll be checking in on every future ride past to see what magic they are making. And yeah, before we left town we had some more pies.

The Greatest Ride Ever?

I’ll leave that up to you to judge, but even years later I am glowing to remember it. Here’s the map:

The Follow Up

So what exactly happened to the boys? Well that’s their story to tell… From my point of view I will always be grateful to them for their role in creating this experience. While we can hold onto the idea that maybe one day they will tell their story for now there is but one publishable comment from the crew;

“I can’t believe you cycled up from Khancoban to Dead Horse Gap. The road almost killed the car, don’t know how my fully loaded bike would take it.”

If you enjoyed this story, you might enjoy the first extracurricular ride I took from Nowra to Bairnsdale, encompassing a lot of the famous ‘Attack of the Buns’ route. Click here.