This year, with our families in various countries for Christmas, Seb and I decided it would be fun to get out and do some cycle touring, just the two of us. Much better idea than sitting at home getting fat eating too much food! So, on Christmas eve we caught a bus to Albury with a plan of riding home over the next week. Of course these things require a small amount of planning, as the cats had to take a holiday at the ‘cat hotel’.
There is something very satisfying about getting to a destination, ditching the bike box, rebuilding your bike and riding off on an adventure. Within 30 minutes we were on the road to Bright, Victoria. Being Christmas eve, the shops in Bright were apparently open until 10pm but nothing on Christmas. So even though it was a stinker of an afternoon, we pushed the pace a bit on the hot tar to make sure we made the supermarket. After a great big Italian feed and our bags stuffed to the brim with snacks, we were all set to go for the next day. We were staying at a friends house luckily, as the heavens opened and a torrential thunderstorm passed through the valley.
Our plan for the next days consisted roughly of Bright, up Mount Hotham and over to Omeo, Pilot Wilderness, Thredbo, Jindabyne, then back over the main range through Cabramurra, Blue Waterholes and home via Brindabella. We were entirely flexible except to be home to collect the cats by the 30th December.
Mount Hotham was pretty darn hard in the 35+ degree heat on a fully loaded mountain bike, compared to the times I have raced my roadie up there! At the top we ate a Christmas lunch (melted cheese, jerky and chip wraps) in the searing heat with the march flies and headed off towards Omeo.
The temperature soared to 38 degrees and we were pouring as much water over our heads as we were drinking! The flies were INSANE!!!!! We stopped at Victoria Falls campground for a quick swim and ate lunch in the shade while playing some afternoon cards. As it cooled a little we ventured back into the sun and made the final dash to Omeo. It was a ghost town, so we camped a little bit out of town to come back for the supermarket that opened at 6.30am boxing day!! Packaged pre-cooked rice, rice pudding and chocolate for Christmas dinner without the usual trimmings!
Our third day we were on the tar again for a while, then eventually after Benambra the road turned to dirt. The heat was up and the vertical meters were also starting to tick over quickly. After lunch we turned off Limestone Road and onto the Australian Alps Walking Track towards Cowombat Flat in the Pilot Wilderness. Spectacular country. The road was slow going double track which didn’t get much vehicle use as the gate was now locked quite close to the beginning of Cowombat Flat Track.
I started handing gear over to Seb as the pinches started to get the better of me. Cowomabt Flat is a big grassy plain where you cross the headwaters of the Murray River and soon after you go from Victoria back into New South Wales. By this time we had seen evidence of a LOT of horses: piles of poo as high as your knees on the firetrails and also very disturbed banks around all of the waterways. Just before our campsite that night we saw a few brumbies running off into the bush, and when we arrived at Tin Mine Hut there was a group of them just chilling out near the hut! We had to stand our ground and try to intimidate them a little so that we could get some water from the creek. That night when I went to pee in the early hours of the morning there were horses right near our tent!
Day four promised more spectacular scenery, brumbies, and a lot more climbing. After having cramps all night and making a dash to sleep in the hut after it started pouring, I was feeling less than fresh. Seb was a champion and carried a whole lot more of my gear so I could at least try and enjoy the ride rather than turning it into a Christmas touring death march. We rolled into Thredbo looking pretty bedraggled and starving, the Christmas tourists were a bit perplexed by our smells and the amount of food we consumed at the bakery… and then at the kebab shop! We rode the Thredbo Valley Trail down to Jindabyne and got a room so we could shower and eat pizza. Luckily again we had a room when another insane arvo storm came through.
I was pretty wrecked and we decided riding the main range back to Canberra was going to be more slow going double track and hills, and I was getting pretty over it! I made the call to ride to Merimbula and spend a few days chilling out at the beach. This meant a long push in the heat (180km) but it was on the tar mainly so it was ok. It was my biggest day since I finished Tour Divide in 2015. Eeek!
We had a great relax and some coffee rides in Merimbula. Seb had a spin on his dad’s fatbike. Then we got a cheeky lift home with friends. It was great to get some scenic riding in, some serious sweat and some fun times. It was also super nice not to have a hard and fast schedule and to be flexible. It paid off in the end. All up about 580km with 9000m of climbing. Hottest day 38 degrees with most averaging about 33 degrees, so good heat and hills training. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all the Biking Bethany followers.