Tag Archives: epic rides

Kiwi Brevet – finishing strong

Day 4 – Near Moana to Maruia Saddle

182km, 3155m elevation

Day four was the day I nearly pulled out of the Kiwi Brevet. I had already had some tough days but mainly they were mentally tough, not physically. I started day four in the drizzle, a little damp but happy to be riding. After an hour or so my left knee started hurting. It went from hurting to excruciating and within a few hours I could hardly pedal. I adjusted my seat to give me slight relief but it was far from fixed. I worked out where I was going to pull out and started to figure out how I could get back to Blenheim from there. While I was sitting on the side of the road I caught a glimpse of my left cleat. It was skewed off at a hideous angle, definitely not straight. I had given myself a sore knee. Fark! I got out the allen keys and quickly rectified the problem. Would you believe that that was it, no more problems. Pays to check these things!

So back on the horse, I refueled at Ikamatua, bumping into the Iride guys who had had a great night sleep at the Blackball Hilton. Jealous!!!! The climb up to Waiuta was glorious. Fresh air, lovely gravel gradient and beautiful green forest. I was (almost) grinning with happiness at how things can turn around if you keep on keeping on.

The next section on the Brevet takes you into the gold mining area know as Big River. The Victoria Conservation Park apparently has some of New Zealand’s finest native beech forest and I would happily attest to that! Despite walking nearly the entire 9km section, it was almost my favourite part of the brevet. Every type of fern you could imagine was sparking and spectacular in the rain, classic New Zealand!

FullSizeRender

Unfortunately I had assumed the section after Big River was nice gravel road into Reefton, but it was in fact a long-ass haul on old mining kart track with river boulders the size of my head the whole way. Needless to say I again did more walking. It would be a cool place to visit with more time, exploring the old mining buildings, the DOC hut and mine shafts. Finally popping into Reefton I was in surprisingly high spirits, gobbled down some pies and goodies and headed back on the road.

The climb up to Rahu Saddle, with the setting sun and quiet evening road, was just delightful. I hung my socks out to dry on my bar ends and “wahoooed” my way all the way down to Springs Junction.

IMG_0092

The evening was getting fresh but I was feeling great and happy to keep pushing on. I decided to aim for Murchison or close enough to get breakfast there in the morning. As I started up Maruia Saddle in the dark, the temperature plummeted and my enthusiasm waned. I rounded  corner to see a grassy corner, sheltered by the wind by large pine trees. I quickly set up camp and had the best, albeit freezing,  slumber of the trip so far.

Day 5 – Maruia Saddle to Nelson

226km, 3270m elevation

I luckily escaped an awkward naked hello as Peg and Mike rounded the corner as I was packing up camp. They continued on but we were soon to be new criss-crossing buddies until the end of the brevet. I couldn’t quite work out how Peg had ended up been behind me, I thought she was way in front, but soon caught up and found out she had skipped 200km after she had stitches in her knee at Hanmer Springs. HARDCORE! The early morning ride into Murchison was peaceful and passed quickly as I was looking forward to a big breakfast. I passed Keith Payne who was bleary eyed and looking freezing after a night in a ditch on the road side. We rode the last few kms together into Murchison and both devoured a delicious hot breakfast while I enjoyed my first WiFi of the trip! This is also where I started my obsession with Snickers as the ultimate bikepacking food. By the end of the trip I counted I had eaten 13 Snickers bars!!!!

The next section of the brevet was a steady climb and descent down to Lake Rotoroa. Then started some epic hike-a-bike up Porika Road. The views were sensational, but I would never ever voluntarily go up there again!

image_2

The next hours and kilometers rolled on nearly effortlessly. Pretty passes, pine plantations and lonely small towns. Eventually they all gave way to civilisation as we headed in towards Nelson on the Great Taste Trail. I had grand plans of getting into town and getting a motel room for my first real shower in five days. I rode around and around looking for somewhere but evertything said full or was closed. I eventually decided on Burger King and the campground up the road. I bumped into Peg and Mike again and we rode together to the campsite out of town. I had shower and got some shocked side glances from another female camper (bad tan lines, rashes and general disgustingness), ate cold Burger King in the tent at about midnight and had a glorious sleep until my air mattress got a hole and then I froze my tits off! I was absolutely stoked that by tomorrow night I would be finished!

Day 6 – Nelson to Blenheim

151km, 5185m elevation

Tough day!!!! Somewhere in the back of my mind I envisaged a bit of hike a bike up Maungatapu and some hills along Port Underwood and I’d be done by lunchtime. 10 hours riding time later and some serious vertical meters and I was back in Blenheim. Maungatapu was the hike-a-bike hill of doom and by far the longest and biggest mountain (up to 1014m) that I have walked my bike up. The scenery along the coastline before and after Picton was jaw dropping. I was so worried that I would run out of water on the relentless hills of the Port Underwood track (or Port Underpants as some were calling it). Jut to give it even more sting in the tail if that climbing was not enough, I had a ripper of a headwind all the way into Blenheim. Luckily Seb and Ed came to keep me smiling all the way into town.

image_1

Kiwi Brevet was the best experience! Many thanks were required including Bruno for not leaving me on Wharfdale in the dark despite my protests, to the YHA owner at Authur’s Pass who refused me a room and demanded I ‘get back out there and harden up’, and to Peg and Mike for fun crisscrossing company and also the Iride guys. Thanks to Jo and Scott for their organisation of a such a grand adventure. Mostly thanks to Seb for putting up with my higgledy piggledy pre-event (dis)organisation. You rode an inspiring event to finish 2nd male!

image

Kiwi Brevet – plans which don’t go to plan

The Kiwi Brevet is a self supported 1100km cycle event around the top of the South Island in New Zealand, mostly on gravel roads. In February this year Seb and I headed over the give it go. After a few months of 15hr work days, I am finally able to sit here on this rainy arvo and do some writing. I wish I could have written about everything that happened but spending an average of 12 hours a day for 6 days on a bike means that there are far too many experiences to share!

Day 1 – Blenheim to Pool Hut (?) on St James Cycle Trail

205km, 2950m elevation

Standing at the Seymore Square fountain in Blenheim in light drizzle I was so nervous I was actually shaking a little bit. After our briefing in the cinema, it was now 9:50am and I was full of espresso and madly trying to get my GPS to turn on. It dawned on me that I was about to head out for a little 1,200 km spin around the New Zealand South Island with a little GPS arrow as my tour guide. Shit!

image_3

There were a few group photos and I said my goodbyes to Seb and Ed and then it was 10am and this peloton of eager-beavers were screaming out of town in a blur of every colour of rain jacket you could imagine. I found myself comfortably about 10th wheel, keen to sit in for as long as the tar lasted at least. We covered about 35km in the first hour and it felt like warp speed. As soon as we hit the gravel I silently waved goodbye to Sebba who I could see was off the front of the pack, that was the last time I saw him for nearly six days! I dropped back and found myself alone and all of a sudden instantly happy. My own head space, my own speed. And that was where I stayed for the whole of the brevet.

The first 150km of day one passed quickly, the kilometers ticking over effortlessly as I settled into my own rhythm. Passing and chatting to a few people here and there and being passed by a few people too. Mainly I rode alone and began my bikepacking ritual of talking and randomly singing out loud to myself. Gradually the route took us up the valley, riding parallel to the Wairau River for most of the day. As we turned away from the river and over our first big pass, we headed towards the St James Cycle Trail.

Now the big views started. Surrounded by snow capped mountains with the setting sun breaking through gaps in the peaks and illuminating the valley in beautiful oranges and pinks.

IMG_0074IMG_0070

As all plans never go to plan (my plan being that I wouldn’t ride slow off-road sections at night due to my bad light setup), of course I found myself bumping and bashing along the St James Cycle Trail at night, my dynamo flickering like a disco, accentuated by the rigid fork vibrations and the connector plug popping out with every big bump. I urged myself to remain happy and slowy push through, I was determined to make it to a hut although I hadn’t decided which hut it would be. At about 210km one popped up out of the dark and into my light beam, possibly Pool Hut but I can’t be sure. I poked my head in the front door but there was some snoring and all beds appeared full. So I set up the tent outside and drifted easily to sleep after an almost indigestible can of chicken meat and a packet of cold fried rice. Very happy to have day one under my belt and eager to tackle a new day of riding tomorrow.

Day 2 – Pool Hut (?) on St James Cycle Trail to a hedgerow near Springfield

200km, 3100m elevation

It was a glorious morning when I got out of the tent, happy to find the hut-riders had left and I was free to nude up and change clothes outside 😉 I rode alone until I came across Chris Bennett who had stopped for a caffeine pill. According to him that is a big thing so he must have been feeling pretty flat. He had also struggled on the St James track in the dark, having only a dynamo light after his head lamp malfunctioned. We rode the whole morning together into Hanmer Springs, chatting about bikes, jobs, Tour Divide and everything in between.

DSC_0090DSC_0093

At Hanmer Springs we shared a table for breakfast, our first real meal since breakfast the day before. I devoured coffee, juice and amazing pancakes with banana and bacon but was astounded by Chris’ ability to eat a serve of scrambled eggs, followed by a serve of pancakes, followed by another serve of eggs! It dawned on me that I really needed to learn how to eat big and still be able to ride out of town, a skill Chris noted was essential for Tour Divide riders! We parted ways as Chris went to buy a new headlamp and I continued out into the heat.

The day warmed up to be a scorcher and the bitumen was hot and I was saying out loud I wanted to get off this bitch-umen. Where were the trees? In Culverden I downed an ice cold coke and got a toasted sandwhich to go. This is where I started my brevet-long crisscrossing with the IRide guys, Jesse and Kirk. I was a slower rider but pretty spot on with my nav, they were faster but less than spot on with their nav! I passed them just before heading into MacDonald Downs, a large cattle grazing property which the brevet goes through. It was hot, windy, treeless and generally smelt like cows. Slowly and steadily I wound my way up and down through the dry desert-like property, running out of water fast. The guys passed me as I was lying under the only tree we saw for hours eating my amazing toasted sanga, but I soon passed them again as they began ducking into every farm house on route looking for water. Begrudgingly I filled up from a semi-flowing stream with rocks which were covered in cow shit and cows standing on the other side of the stream. I decided that I was happier with giardia over death by dehydration, but put about 10 puritabs in my water bladder and began the slow 30min ride until I could drink it.

The afternoon turned to evening as the guys and I started out on the much talked about Wharfdale section: a walking track in Oxford Forest which can also apparently (??) be a mountain bike track too. I had heard it was hard and there would be some walking and pushing, but I was totally not prepared for what lay ahead in the dark. Hours upon hours of pushing, lifting, shouting, cramping, crashing, more pushing, pulling and whimpering. Somewhere along the way Bruno Geldermans appeared and we trudged along together. The only saving grace for me was that Bruno declared I was not in any state for him to leave me alone out there by myself. At one point I stopped in the middle of the track and decided I was camping right then and there. Bruno headed off and it took me less than 5 minutes standing there in the dark to rush off again to find him! We escaped the forest at about 11pm. I camped in a hedgerow at the bottom of the hill to escape from the strong winds, he decided to head closer to town to get water. I washed myself down in a muddy river crossing on the main road by a farm house and filled up my water from the steam with the sound and smell of cows nearby (eeewww again). Completely exhausted and now cramping from head to toe, I hardly slept a wink. Probably the toughest day on the brevet for me. If I was sensible I should have camped at Wharfdale hut and done the track fresh and early in the morning, but as always, plans never go to plan.

 

Day 3 – A hedgerow near Springfield to near Moana

210km, 2650m elevation

Day three was groggy start, I packed up early and headed into Springfield to find some much needed food as my last proper meal was breakfast the previous day. Luckily I stumbled across the Yellow Shack cafe, where I ate my body weight in delicious homemade goodies including egg and bacon pie, Camembert quiche, a muffin and a much needed coffee. Bumped into the Iride guys at the servo, they had spent the night at school ground around the corner. We headed off to tackle the bitumen section over Porters Pass and on towards Arthur’s Pass. Everything about day three was slow. I knew I was wrecked from the day before so I decided to take it very easy and set no goal destination for the day. The wind was howling and the rain was setting in as I approached the township of Arthur’s Pass. I had all my rain gear on and it was bucketing down. Torrential rain. I ummed and ahhhhed and eventually decided I didn’t want to be caught wet and freezing in the dark on some epic New Zealand mountain pass. It was only 4pm in the arvo but I stopped in at the YHA to get a room. A keen cycling enthusiast and brevet fan, the guy at the front desk  kicked himself for not realising the Kiwi Brevet had started. We chatted and I did some more umming and ahhing, expressing my concerns about the cold and rain. In the end he convinced me I’d be up and over the pass in about half and hour, so he kindly declined my request for a room and told me to get back out there. “Think of how much stopping at 4pm will kill your daily average” he protested.

It was torrential rain, but he was correct. In no time I was indeed up and over the pass, slip sliding down the other side in a river which was running down the road. Over 4 hours passed and I merrily rode along in the easing rain, so glad I had kept going.

As it got dark I looked at the cue sheet and decided Moana was only a short way off course and I could get a room there to dry out for the night. When I t-boned Arnold Valley Road I turned left off course, thinking I only had a few kms to Moana. By now it was dark, I was soaked to the core, freezing and it was torrential rain again. More than 6km down the road I got out the map and realised I had misread the cue sheet, the turn off to Moana was many many kms before Arnold Valley Way. Very sad, I bailed and headed back towards the route. At the intersection again, I noticed a house with a light on. I knocked on the door to ask how far Moana actually was. A lovely old Samoan lady opened the door and she looked a bit shocked to see this bedraggled looking crazy wet Australian standing there. To be honest I don’t know why she didn’t slam it shut again in my face! After agreeing that Moana was too far she kindly offered me her veranda for shelter. Her husband headed off to the midnight shift across the road at the abattoir, and after a handful of rain-sodden cold potato wedges, I drifted off to sleep to the sound of cows being beheaded. I wondered where Seb was and hoped he was dry. I wondered where the Iride guys where, they couldn’t be too far from this horrid weather. Some days bikepacking is not glamorous, and this was definitely one of those days.

A Path Through the Forest – Part 2

The morning of day four of our adventure I was in struggle town a bit. It was taking me ages to get going, I was super sleepy and my diesel engine just wouldn’t warm up. Poor Seb was doing well to keep his cool while I plodded along half-asleep, even taking some of my gear in an effort to speed things up. I hadn’t slept again, three nights in a row now, due to crazy heavy smoke from nearby burning off and a nightmare about being caught at the hut in the middle of a bushfire. I need to get myself some sleeping tablets I think! We cruised along through beautiful forest with more oranges, blacks, greens and reds. The grass trees were magnificent, I wish we could grow them like that back home! Seb tried to make friends with some too.

P1030171The rest of the morning was very pleasant with wide rolling fire trail and some pretty bush sections including a rickety, long old bridge. Kilometers ticked over nice and easy to Pemberton. There is a section of pretty wicked switchbacks up to the famous Gloucester tree. Seb raced ahead to see if he could get the strava segment while I hung back and took some photos of the mind-bogglingly huge trees. I got a bit wrapped up in the serenity of the trees and bell birds and by the time I found Seb he was considering making an ascent of the Gloucester tree in his cleats but I talked him out of it with the promise of a cafe lunch in Pemberton. The Gloucester tree is a giant karri tree which is 72 m tall and was used as a fire-lookout tree. It had metal rods driven in all the way to the top platform and a measly cage which wouldn’t stop you from really hurting yourself. Not a chance I was going up there thanks!

P1030176 P1030181 P1030184  P1030182
Later that afternoon it was pouring with rain and I was feeling the effects of having so little sleep. We pulled into a caravan park in Quinninup and got a cheap little cabin ($25) with a non operational shower and ancient single beds. We ordered take-away fish and chips, had a beer and that night I had the best sleep ever!!!!

Day 4 stats: 126km, 1827m vert. (Strava Day 4)

Day 5 for us was a bit shorter than the rest. It was easy to keep thinking ‘more-of-the-same’ but then you had to pinch yourself and remember that you were riding through these spectacular and unique old growth forests. Occasionally we stopped for a bit of tree hugging and to fill up the food bag with goodies. But that afternoon when we reached the Karta Burnu campsite at 68km, there was nobody else around and the views from the hut were glorious. So what the hell, we stopped at about 3pm! We enjoyed the afternoon eating chocolate, going for a walk, playing cards and drying out wet clothes from the day before. It was a welcome break.

One thing we hadn’t really though of in our planning was that the sun was rising just before 7am and setting before 6pm. That means nearly 12 hours of darkness which we didn’t really factor in. Usually when we are bikepacking we would put in much longer days and collapse into bed but unfortunately on this trip we only had 2 x 6hr  batteries between us.

P1030194  P1030201P1030205Day 5 stats: 68km, 1029m vert. (Strava Day 5)

Eager to make a move after being idle for so many hours, we headed out in the rain on Day 6. The ground was pretty sodden and there was a section of fresh red-dirt track that had just been cut or cleared. It was very hard going and not many words were spoken. We emerged from the red goop only to find a long detour rerouted around a forestry bridge which had been removed years before, so we hoped for a nice coffee spot when we got into the township of Donnelly River. Instead we found shoeless children chasing emus and kangaroos around with a bit of a sketchy ‘forgotten forestry community’ feeling. We were pleasantly surprised to get a fantastic fresh cup of coffee and gluten-free chocolate cake at the (only) local store. We relaxed on the veranda and spent some quality time with the emus and roos.

P1030217 P1030221 P1030228

The next section took us on some nice forestry roads to Nannup. We stopped at the Blackwood Cafe (opposite the supermarket on the main road) for AMAZING burgers. Go there, you won’t regret it, then headed out of town on the rail trial to Jarrahwood. The rail trail was fantastic! We zoomed along at what felt like warp speed compared to earlier that day. There is a Munda Biddi hut at Jarrahwood and the plan was to stay there that night. However, if you blink you miss Jarrahwood and the population of about 100 people. The place was a dust bowl and the hut was set up kind of between two backyards. Broken down cars and barking dogs gave the place a really bad feel and it wasn’t more than 10 minutes before we were back on our bikes and riding on to find our own camping. It was a totally random spot considering there was forest less than 100m away and compared to the spectacular huts of previous camps which were not accessible by car. Far different from the “picturesque, historic town” that the maps and website describe.

Jarrahdale is a picturesque, historic townWe rode along until we felt we were far enough away from the bogans to not be disturbed that night.

P1030239 P1030251

 Day 6 stats: 103km, 1326m vert. (Strava Day 6)

We had already decided that it would take at least two really big, hard days to get back to Perth to pick up our hire car on time and so instead we opted to ride off the trail out to Bunbury and catch the train back to Perth. It could have gone either way but I guess labeling it as a honeymoon ride, and the simple fact that I wasn’t riding as well as Seb, made it an easy choice. The road to Donneybrook was not great and there was one section of corrugations that rattled me inside out. I knew Seb was up the road thinking ‘oh Beth won’t be liking this’ and it made me grin and keep at it. We didn’t even take any photos except some of my blurry stream of attempts to capture black cockatoos (of which I seem to be obsessed with).

The road was quite up and down and the gravel was getting a bit more hardcore now. Pea gravel, ball-bearing gravel. Whatever you want to call it, it all rides the same: sketchy as! Just about every downhill I’d be literally gliding across these balls thinking, uoh, it’s crash time. We made it to Donneybrook, the apple capital of the south west, to find we had missed the apple festival by one day and so grabbed a coffee and continued on. We said goodbye to our last Munda Biddi trail marker at Boyanup and headed towards Bunbury on a terribly busy and dangerous road congested with Easter holiday traffic. Hanging out at the Bunbury train station was not the best end to our adventure, but that is what it was, so we embraced it and celebrated with lunch at Maccy D’s. Now it was time for some R&R, wine and cheese in Margaret River. I love WA!

Day 7 stats: 74km, 497m vert. (Strava Day 7)

P1030259    20140418_132022  P1030266

Touring the route from start to end is a solid ride for anyone. We set a reasonable pace considering the terrain although we had planned for some much longer days. I wasn’t expecting the riding to be as physical as it was and were slowed considerably by sand, leaf litter and debris covered old trails and then gravel. I would not recommend doing this ride on anything except a mountain bike (we had rigid forks which were fine). I am dubious about the ‘family friendly’ promotion of the trail, some bits were really tough going! I can’t talk for the northern part as we didn’t ride it, but the southern part was spectacular, magical and something I will never forget. Exploring this region by bike is something that you must do, so get that bucket list ready for another adventure!

Yirra Kartta Campsite

A Path Through the Forest – Part 1

N.B Grab yourself a cuppa and settle in, these two posts are pretty long but mainly because we have so many awesome pictures to share!

For our honeymoon adventure back in April, Seb and I cycle toured the Munda Biddi trail in Western Australia. The Munda Biddi trail has been created to mirror the adventure of the famous 1000km hiking trail the Bibbulmun Track, but for mountain bikers. In Noongar Aboriginal language Munda Biddi means ‘path through the forest’. Although the trail is about 1000km in entirety, it is segmented up into very accessible sections each with its own map and a signposted route. A good breakdown is on the official site here, where you can also order the maps. It passes through a town every day and there are also custom built huts along the way which you can use if you aren’t staying in the towns. In all seriousness, in the right weather you could cycle tour this route with just a credit card and a toothbrush! We decided to take all our gear, giving us the option to camp where we wanted or stay in the huts.

locale

In terms of logistics, we chose to fly to the most southern point of the trail in Albany and ride north towards Perth. In the end, this was the best choice as the southern end is by far the most spectacular. We also had a time limit because we had a hire car booked in Perth the following week, so we would aim to see how far we could get in a week.

Being true to the trend-setting bikepacking style, we flew to Albany in our bike gear and traveling with only our bike boxes. We found a great spot on the lawn out the front of the airport to build our bikes up, found a big skip to chuck out our boxes and in just over an hour we were on the road into the seaside town of Albany. We dropped into a local bike shop who recommended the best burgers in town, Dylan’s on the Terrace. After great burgers and huge choccy milkshakes we headed off for a quick lap of the headland for some ocean views. It was really hot and the ocean was aqua blue so we talked about going for a swim at the beach. That idea was quickly shelved when we got to the beach as a bulldozer was putting a washed up dead whale into a truck. The whale had attracted large sharks in the area, the beach was closed and it even made the news!

P1030052

Swimming aborted we decided to get on our way for the day. We rode fun single and double track through very dry bush. The colours were just beautiful: orange gravel, green and black grass trees, red gum blossoms and a vivid blue sky. We didn’t really have a plan for the afternoon as we probably wouldn’t make the first huts or town before dark, so we just took it in and enjoyed the ride. Camping was meant to be nice at Cosy Corner, but we were riding well and totally overshot the turnoff. In the end we stopped around at a little spot on the edge of the Wilson Inlet. On dusk we were greeted, to our surprise, by a car full of guys who were fishing at the river mouth. Luckily they weren’t 30 minutes earlier to witness our nude bathing! We didn’t sleep well, the 1.5-man tent isn’t the best size for two of us tall people and when I get hot I tend to dream more. A restless night for us was made worse for me by a horrible nightmare, leaving me drenched in sweat. Eeww.

P1030063  P1030066 P1030067Day 1 stats: 89km, 575m vert. (Strava Day 1)

The next morning we packed up and rode the last hour of rail trail into Denmark for breakfast. There is something both pleasant and rewarding about riding before breakfast, but mainly I guess it is just the lessened guilt one gets when ordering food bikepacking style. We found a fantastic little cafe called Mrs Jones cafe at the Old Butter Factory Galleries with fresh yum food and free wifi – highly recommended!

Once we had restocked at the Super IGA with supplies, we we off towards the coast. This section of the trail was one of my most favourite parts of the trip. A winding iron ore gravel path had been hacked through the thick scrub and white sand that lined the southern coast. It is wider than singletrack but smooth and flowing and occasionally emerged above the scrub and treated us to views of the wild and windy coast. It reminded me very much of a place we rode to in Wildside stage race, Granville Harbour on the west coast of Tasmania.

P1030091 P1030092P1030094

The next section of riding was not so great as there was a long detour (marked) on bitumen and the roads were a bit boring. Once back on the dirt we enjoyed some super fast firetrail and then some hilarious ‘track’ to get to our lunch spot at the fantastic Jinung Beigabup campsite. These purposely built campsites have camping spots, open bunk houses, tables, bike racks, pit toilets and the best bit is that they are off the road and only accessibly by foot or bike, not car! While eating lunch we discovered that the campsite log book would prove to be great entertainment each day: a few tales of woe but mainly stories of others thoroughly enjoying themselves.

P1030097P1030098For the past day and a bit we had been riding past some beautiful red flowers that were a kind of bottlebrush but not familiar to me. I kept asking if we could stop and get a photo but by the time I saw them they were gone before I could be bothered to get the camera out. The next section to Booner Mundak campsite however, proved to be too spectacular for me to resist, and stop I did. Many times!

P1030104 P1030109P1030111

Eventually, the road into Booner Mundak campsite turned to crap and the last 4km were just sand. I found riding on the sand hard and walked a fair bit but Seb rode the whole stretch, except this tiny bit which I got a photo of and he says that isn’t fair! But with salami and cow cheese wraps in our tummies, we were ready for bed after a decent day of riding. We shared the camp with an older couple from Berowra NSW and another couple of very loud and grumpy men arriving after dark, with bob-trailers and swearing about sand, sand, sand. Again I hardly slept a wink, this time the fat men were rustling around, tossing and turning and all I wanted was to go sleep outside.

P1030113P1030114

Day 2 stats: 112km, 1226m vert. (Strava Day 2)

On a crisp and sunny morning, day three, we set off back to the sandy road for sand, sand and more sand. It was perfect weather for arm warmers… but I had left mine hanging over the bunk ladder back at camp. Afraid of getting scolded by an angry I-told-you-so Seb, I braved it with bare arms or rain jacket for the rest of the trip! Eventually we started to gain some height and climb into the Valley of the Giants. First stop was the Tree Top Walk near Walpole, which we thought might have opened at 8am but it turned out to be 9am. It was a great attraction and even by 9am there were plenty of people buzzing around. The highest point of the suspension bridge walk takes you 40 meters off the ground and there are still trees towering above you. I am very afraid of heights and I wasn’t super keen walking around in mtb cleats over a metal mesh, but it was totally worth it! And it was even possible to put Seb in a picture with something that dwarfed him in size for once!

P1030134P1030141  P1030150

The ride into Walpole was also stunning. We continued on through towering Tingle, Jarrah and Karri forest, straining our necks to see the tree tops. It was pretty lumpy terrain with bark and leaf litter fire trails intermixed with some totally rad singletrack sections which eventually popped us out onto the  more sandy flat land around Walpole. We stopped for an early bakery lunch in the park, obligatory iced coffees and set off in soaring temperatures and sun.

P1030151walpole  P1030159

The afternoon was hot, dirty and hard work. By the time we had pushed through to Fernhook Falls we decided it was definitely time for a swim to get rid of three days of grub. It was a magic little spot but we decided to push on into the sunset and try and make Yirra Catta campsite just after dark. It was gorgeous riding into the sunset, the best we could do for our romantic honeymoon!

P1030164P1030163P1030170We arrived just after dark at Yirra Catta campsite, where we stayed with another cyclist who was touring the trail south by himself. He noted that the gravel started getting worse further north and hinted towards the most northern part of the trail being the part to miss if we bailed early. Good to get news about the trail in the other direction, so we kindly told him about the sand!

Day 3 stats: 124km, 2201m vert. (Strava Day 3)

End of day three and still happily married… good news. Time to top up your cuppa for Part 2.

Booner Mundak Campsite
Booner Mundak Campsite

Booner Mundak Campsite
Booner Mundak Campsite
which means path through the forest in the Noongar Aboriginal language – See more at: http://www.mundabiddi.org.au/explore-the-trail/about-the-trail.html#sthash.chJsaVVt.dpuf
which means path through the forest in the Noongar Aboriginal language – See more at: http://www.mundabiddi.org.au/explore-the-trail/about-the-trail.html#sthash.chJsaVVt.dpuf

An inkling of form – MBC Stages 4 & 5

Stage 4

After the kerfuffles of Stage 3, the organisers announced we would get a bit of a sleep in and that Stage 4 would be shortened from 175km to about 120km.

Stage 4 brought out the true ‘roadie’ in me with the racing being fast and relatively flat. Cam and I got in an awesome group of four just smashing turns and motoring along.

Pacelining on dirt is a lot harder than I imagined, especially when there is a lot of sand. All of a sudden the rider in front starts to slow and swerve all around. You also really have to trust that you can handle whatever the rider in front rides over, because the vehicle ‘tram tracks’ made it hard to change lines quickly.

Nothing exciting happened in Stage 4 except that we got to the finish at 95km, fully expecting we had taken a wrong turn and missed 25km of racing. The carefree organisers shrugged their shoulders and said the 120km was approximate. And so with that, we were finished by 12.30pm with a free afternoon ahead!

The campsite was a makeshift Ger camp on the stony banks of the Kherlen River. A mostly stagnant creek gave us something to wash our bikes in, but later we found the water was actually flowing and further downstream the water was being used in our little single-man cold water shower tents.

Bike washing with a drink bottle and toothbush

Bike washing – Mongolian style

Inside our Ger we had a large piece of felt (obviously a spare side panel for a Ger) on top of a large red carpet. To our surprise, none of the other Gers had this and people were complaining about the dirt floors. We kept our mouths shut but later that evening one of the Mongolians came an took the Ger felt. Doh, at least we still had the carpet!

Enjoying the sunset

That evening the Mongolians killed a sheep for dinner.  I am all for fresh and I know that meat has to come from somewhere, but there was something about seeing the sheep’s head on the washing up table that put me off the mutton pasta and dumplings that night.

Dinner?

Dinner? (Photo Scott Biddinger)

Strava route – http://app.strava.com/activities/82240821

A video interview of me, Bleeksie and others about the day –

Daily MBC video –

Stage 5

My body seemed to be warming to the idea of racing day in, day out, and after the opening 20km of Stage 5 I found myself riding in a bunch which included Sonya, Erin, Jess and Jennifer. Bleeksie and Seb both dropped back in the group at various times and had confused looks on their faces, not expecting me there!

The stage began with a KOM at the 30km mark and another climb to follow soon after at 52km.

After the climbs the rest of this stage was furious and flat. I found myself in a group of six riders which split on the descent into three pairs: myself and a guy, Jennifer and a guy, and Erin and a guy!

Slowly me and ‘my guy’ reeled in Jennifer, then us four worked together to pull back Erin. Erin and I rode together briefly on the next climb before she looked around at me with that “I am going now” look, and sped off. I rode the last 10km by myself, only to hear someone approaching at the 1km mark. Jess screamed past and yelled for me to “get on”. I tired but her technical skills left me for dead on the sandy descent to the finish.

It was great to be able to feel a bit more competitive now that my health was on the way up, and actually feel like I was bike racing. I was lucky enough to escape a fairly large batch of food poisoning that went through the camp that night, forcing a few rider to retire from the race, and left others facing an unpleasant 170km stage the next day. Maybe it was worth avoiding the sheep after all?

Sadly in the afternoon while Seb and I were asleep in the Ger, two Mongolians appeared inside, one with arms firmly crossed, the other pointing at the rug. After playing dumb for a while, we gave up and the Mongolians confiscated the rug from under our feet. Onto the dirt for us that night!

Strava route – http://app.strava.com/activities/82240811

Seb and Nathan both on the podium for Stage 4

Seb and Nathan both on the podium for Stage 4

Sharing the germs around – MBC stages 2 & 3

Stage 2

In my opinion, Stage 2 had the best scenery of the whole race! The first 80km were quite uneventful as we rode from open plains to big rolling green hills, through some lush green forest and up valleys encircled by beautiful rocky outcrops. The last climb of the day came at about 80km. Far in the distance we could see riders traversing the enormous ridge to the left but it was so spectacular I hardly noticed the pain. We were grinding along at such a slow pace it was easy to take everything in. Yellow, purple and white wildflowers, the smell of cedar and pine trees and the cooling air as we climbed and climbed.

I was feeling OK: still a raging sore throat but it seemed all the congestion in my head was slowly making its way out. Our Aussie buddy Cam on the other hand, was not so lucky. He seemed to have some mutation of the thing I had and was feeling crap at best and so we ended up riding the whole stage together.

Cam and I enjoying the mid-race views

Cam and I enjoying the mid-race views

On the decent of the final hill I was giggling and yelling at how amazing the track was but all of a sudden had to screech to a halt with blood spurting out of my nose. The rapid change in altitude had given me an epic blood nose and because my heart was pumping so fast, it just wouldn’t stop. Cam and I spent a good 15min on the side of the hill with every rider stopping to see me lying there with my face covered in blood. It looked so hardcore, but it wasn’t.

Even after a mid-race face clean it wasn't pretty!

Even after a mid-race face clean it wasn’t pretty!

Drama over, we continued on towards the end of the stage still alone in our pair of misery. At about the 90km mark we started crossing rivers. Once had you gotten off, heaved your bike to your shoulder and waded through the freezing water, you were back on for maybe five minutes tops, before having to do it all again. Some of these rivers were deep and flowing fast, so I was very happy to be riding with Cam in case I got completely swept off my feet.

When we finally reached the end of the stage we were both ruined. It had been such a long slow day, with our elapsed time being close to eight hours. The goal of ‘just getting through’ was a struggle in itself and I envied all the race talk that was going on around camp. RACE!? I could hardly ride. With a 170km stage looming for the next day, we ate a huge meal and got to bed early. It was raining heavily and I fell asleep overhearing a local racer saying that rain was forecast and it would be about five degrees in the morning. Mongolia was really putting the hurt on us.

bethgoats

Strava route – http://app.strava.com/activities/82240843

Really awesome Stage 2 video –

Stage3

stage3

river crossing

Ger

Our breezy Ger

Stage 3

Indeed in the morning it was frigid. We started in the drizzle and nearly every rider had their long pants and raincoats on. It was quite an amusing start to the stage, with riders spreading in every direction dodging mud and huge puddles. It quickly became apparent that these freezing muddy puddles were impossible to avoid and within 15 minutes we were all drenched from at least the knees down.

I found myself in a group with my friends the Spaniards again and we set about pacelining across the valley into a bitterly cold headwind. A bumpy, ass-pounding climb brought us to the top of a swampy marsh like area. We headed partway down hill, the bog getting increasing deeper, until we came across the convoy of bogged race vehicles. Through the swamp (finally) we bombed down a crazy steep downhill and crossed a raging river. Around the corner we came head to head with the race leaders. “WHAT THE HELL?” We thought initially they had gone the wrong way or something but it turned out a river was impassable and we were being sent back the way we came.

Back across the raging river, up the hike-a-bike hill of death and, of course, back through the swap and passed the convoy of vehicles who were now bogged going in the opposite direction!

stage3bog

Bogged in the bog

We spent a few hours holed up in a friendly local lady’s Ger where we were fed some peanuts and coke. 40 riders sitting around in wet muddy lycra which they had been in since 7am. You can guess how good that Ger smelt. Poor lady, she will have probably built herself a new house by now.

Eventually we got transported to the camp at the end of the stage in the race vehicles. In true Mongolian style we were told it was maybe 40km and shouldn’t take more than an hour or so. Very vague…

Four hours later the sun was setting and we were still driving. Getting thrown all over the vehicle, smashing heads on the roof and crashing into each other as we careered through the Mongolian countryside. We passed time in our car (which was two guys plus Erin, Jess, Marina and I) by conjuring up meals that we would like to eat. It seemed roasts and Asian food were the flavour of the day.

So from race start to getting the camp the ordeal was about 11 hours. That is a long time to be cold, hungry and in the same set of lycra! By far worse than riding the 170km which we were mean to. Some of the amazing volunteers didn’t get back to camp until 1am. What an adventure!

stage3ger

Pungent wet and muddy cyclists crowd around the fire

Most photos are © Eric Peterson

Getting to the start line of Mongolia Bike Challenge

Rolling under that start arch of Mongolia Bike Challenge Stage 1, I breathed a big sigh of relief. I was here and this was finally happening. Getting to this point in time had been more of a challenge than I hardly dared to admit to myself, let alone the riders around me.

My training leading up the event was focused and with two weeks to go I was feeling strong. I had done a lot of hours on the road bike, working on moving my big enduro base to more high end intensity. I had also done some big and long hills on the mountain bike. Things were looking positive!

But somewhere between that good feeling two weeks before and the start line of Mongolia Bike Challenge, my health fell in a bit of a heap. Antibiotics and off the bike for a saddle sore. A terrible yeast infection. Then two days before we left the country I got some kind of viral chest infection. I started on a second round of antibiotics the day we flew out. Flying with a head full of mucus was heinous and I hardly got a wink of sleep due to the crazy pressure build up in my ears.

Walking around Ulaanbaatar I was in a bit of a daze. I could hardly keep my eyes open, I had a raging sore throat and ringing ears which I couldn’t relieve the pressure from. The city was confusing. There was so much construction going on; dirt and pollution everywhere. Old buildings that looked like once they had been beautiful but now were completely run down. Parks full of weeds and rubble which looked like at some point they had been nice places to relax. The traffic was a honking, hectic mess of SUV, luxury 4WD and Toyota Prius. Shops were boasting Gucci and Prada and things that I couldn’t quite comprehend would mean anything to nomads who were now living in suburbia.

That afternoon I was too sick to do anything. Seb ever so kindly put my bike together while I slept up in the hotel room, desperate to get some ounce of recovery into me before this adventure even began.

We loaded bags into the race vehicles and buses and headed out of the city. Ahhhhhh! It was a nice to leave the craziness behind and head for the rolling green hills. When we arrived at the enormous Genghis Khan statue, you could feel people’s moods lift.

In the lovely afternoon sun we went for a ride to freshen the legs (my first ride in about five days)! We explored our custom made Ger camp (Mongolian version of a yurt) before being treated to a fantastic opening ceremony and banquet. After a decent night of rest that was it, the gun was off and we were dashing away from the Genghis statue towards what I would soon find to be the toughest day I had ever experienced on my bike.

Stay tuned for a recap of our ups and downs, excitement, tears and crazy stories from seven hardcore days of stage racing around Mongolia.

P1020627  P1020621            P1020631   P1020658

statue

The Mawson Trail – Day 2

Day 2 – Bivy near Hawker to bivy near Spalding (282km, 2063vm)

Setting off at 5:45am, I was annoyed I hadn’t risen earlier. I had been awake since about 3:30am tossing and turning. After eating my still warm garlic bread for breakfast, I had about an hour of riding with lights before sunrise.

There is something magical about seeing sunrise while riding a bike. As the blanket of darkness rises everything around you starts to take shape. Suddenly things seem more achievable and much less scary. I love sunrise and the stark difference a few minutes can make.

It took me a few hours to finish the ride to Quorn. The roads were fast open firetrail with hardly any climbing. I arrived at the visitors center just after 9am and inquired about the road to Melrose. Apparently “easy going, more wide open gravel roads”. It seemed my last tube was hanging in there now that there were no more deadly prickles, so I would continue on instead of waiting for the bike shop to open. I grabbed a Farmer’s Union iced coffee, some bananas and a few liters of Gatorade. Did someone say second breakfast?

The ride from Quorn to Melrose was entirely uneventful. The road from Wilmington to Melrose was 30km of the most dead straight, flat, mind numbing road I had ever been on. We did a whole bunch of right angle turns around some farmer’s paddocks, obviously just keeping us on dirt instead of the main highway. I had no idea when the Melrose bike shop closed but I thought 1pm on a Saturday sounded like a time I would close if I worked there, so I set about hauling ass to get there by 1pm.

The team at Melrose Over the Edge cycles were nothing short of amazing. They knew I was coming and they said they would have been open until I arrived. They knew I wanted to buy every tube in the shop and probably a new tyre too. Wow – news travels fast! They had been watching our trackers and as it turns out Seb and Arran had both been through and said hi. They even had lounges and a TV in the shop, and were keen to show me they were playing the Tour Divide DVD. I enjoyed a huge burger at the take-away shop while I got a new tubeless tyre  installed. They tried to convince me to come back for the Melrose 18hr enduro later in the year and after hearing how fantastic the singletrack is there, we might just do that!

From Melrose we were treated to 60km of sweet riding. A mix of open white gravel roads, pine forest and flowy double track amongst the gums kept things interesting. I was singing out loud and enjoying myself all too much for someone with well over 200km in the legs for the day. I did witness a sheep get hit by a car which was less nice.

outside melrose

After my big night of rest the night before I was keen to ride for most of the night and hence bought a lot of supplies in the little township Laura. I was really keen for some decent food and managed to find  a huge selection of pre-made salad and meat rolls. The tuna looked fantastic and would go down well later that night. The route notes said about 80km from Laura to Spalding, so could probably stop there for a bite to eat.

The headwind climbing out of Laura was getting quite ferocious. The sun had set and I was again riding in the stars. The Bundaleer State Forest was not so fun. I had heard of the famous Bundaleer Forest folk festival and the pretty maple tree walking track. We seemed to miss this bit, bumping over a hardly-there grass track and through countless gates. A bit dejected, I was glad to be free of the forest and out into the open once again. Around 9pm I noticed a waypoint message on my GPS “follow the creek”. The track turned right off the highway and into the Bundaleer Channels.

Bundaleer Channels by day - photo courtesy Jeremy Carter

Bundaleer Channels by day – photo courtesy Jeremy Carter

The channels were constructed between 1898 and 1902, and fed water from the local catchment area into a reservoir. It would have been nice to see this section in the daytime, though it is quite exposed. The riding was interrupted every few hundred meters with a ‘double gate’ combo as the trail zigzagged from one side of the channel to the other. I didn’t complain once, I was so thankful that the gates were OPEN, unlike in the GDT a few months back.

By 10pm I was playing mind ping-pong with myself. I wanted to stop, I wanted go. I should bivy, no I should make it to Spalding. My mood changed from mad every time I saw a gate to happy after getting through and the gate and riding again. Eventually I found some trees and decided that it was dinner time to stop this monotony.

Unfortunately the roll must have been made early that morning, as the bread was hard and stale. And to my dismay, the lady had given me turkey not tuna. Noooooo! When you are all in your little own world of riding and eating, these things matter. I was sad. I picked off the fillings, left the roll for the ants and carried on towards Spalding.

tuna

Spalding was dead quiet at 11pm. A wrong turn led me face to face with some red eyes in the dark and a very unpleasant growl. The dog seemed satisfied with my pleading to leave me alone as I backtracked and headed swiftly out of town. When the trail turned onto yet another water channel the wind was howling. I couldn’t play the mind ping-pong anymore and decided to bivy in the trees before heading anywhere more exposed. In bed at 12am I set my alarm for 4am and settled down for some shuteye.

At 3am I was woken by some light rain. The wind had picked up and was now pelting me at a good 30km/hr or more. THIS is why there is 95MW of wind turbines installed at Hallett wind farm.

I made a split decision to get up and ride. I chucked my rain jacket on and headed off down the water channel. The tailwind seemed amazing until we turned back onto firetrail and it was a headwind again. I could hardly pedal it was so strong. And then the heavens opened. By now it was about 6 degrees and I was wet. I hadn’t taken rain pants, just tights. It hadn’t rained in over a year and the overnight temperatures had been above 10 degrees for the past month, so I had decided against rain pants. I decided it was time to bunker down and wait for this storm to pass.

I passed an old abandoned homestead which had a nice sheltered verandah which made for the most perfect bivy spot. Here I waited, kept company by a little tricycle, until sunrise came so I could assess the weather situation.

bivy

At around 7am it was raining on and off. I left the homestead to make the 30km dash to the next township Hallett. As I battled against the wind and rain, I became aware how acutely cold it had become. Isn’t it meant to be 10 degrees with no rain?!?!?! The road turned right from gravel onto a more orange looking side road. I didn’t think twice until I was about 10m up the road and my tyre was slipping around. I looked down to see everything caked in mud, wheel not turning, and the massive gorge in the road I had created.

So this was the mud that all the websites talked about. Un-rideable in the wet, they all had said.

With kilograms of mud on the bike and attached to my shoes, I stood and pondered my options. I looked on the map. I looked at the road. Browny-orange road as far as the eye could see. I couldn’t walk 30km  in this clay. God, I could hardly walk my bike 10m back down the road to the gravel again. I scratched as much off as I could with a stone.

bikeclean

This was ‘clean’ after I spent 10 minutes scraping of kg of mud.

Luckily for me there was a house at the intersection. I wandered up to the house and knocked on the door. Nobody there. The car was covered in bird poo and had flat tyres and the yard looked like a bomb had gone off. Maybe it was abandoned, maybe not. I went around the back and hosed the mud off my bike. What to do now?

I got out my phone and looked at the forecast. Huge rain over the whole of Adelaide. A few hundred kms away at Nuriootpa, Jesse was at a subway posting pictures of unrideable mud. I called Seb, who was down the road at Clare subway. He had just changed a flat in the rain and mud and was freezing. Arran was somewhere out in the storm between Hallett and Clare.

Even if the rain stopped by the afternoon, this track would not be rideable for days. I had planned on making at least another 300km today. Stupid rain!

With that, I called it, ride over. I chucked on every bit of clothing I had and rode back to Spalding. It is amazing how a 30km/hr tailwind is blissful compared to a headwind. It was freezing and I swear it was almost sleet. I went straight to the petrol station / supermarket / cafe thing that was the only open thing in town. I got out my wallet and sleeping bag and over the next few hours I consumed a lengthy breakfast. Two toasted sandwiches, 20 chicken nuggets, a coffee, hot chocolate, kit-kat, Farmer’s Union iced coffee and an OJ. Yum!

I was collected by my grandparents after they picked Seb up in Clare. They couldn’t have gotten there soon enough, because with three hours sleep and a freezing eventful morning I could not entertain the 5 year old  servo-child on school holidays any longer. We made the trip back through the storm to Adelaide where we had some R&R in the hills for a few days.

The Mawson Trail is spectacular and I would recommend it to any cycling enthusiast. I think in my 500+km I managed to see the most spectacular sights. Wilpena Pound is true beauty. Another day I will get back to do the winery trails from Clare to Adelaide.

Some thoughts on what worked and what didn’t

There is not much I would change in terms of my ride setup. Things were going along pretty smoothly, mechanicals (flats) aside. I was super happy with the bike setup and that fact that I was able to ride over 500km in two days. I blew my expected ride times out of the water and was very impressed with how calm and collected I stayed.

My 6L water bladder was far more than I needed but it worked. I only half filled it each time but the capacity was there if I needed it. I never ran out of food or water, in fact I think I carried too much food on the first day as I ate it at the servo at Spalding waiting to be picked up.

Besides a bit of a knee niggle when out of the saddle, my body felt great.

Some thoughts on what I would do next time:

  • Put a new tyre on before starting
  • Use time-trial bars
  • Take rain pants
  • Don’t bivy for too long: the first few hours were needed, the last few were wasted time spent awake but not moving
  • Take lots of chamois cream. I mean LOTS.

Route

http://app.strava.com/activities/51321848

The Mawson Trail – Day 1

The Mawson Mega Marathon is over for 2013. I am hanging around in the rainy Adelaide Hills getting some R&R, but really I wish I was out there on the trail again. The Mawson Trail was spectacular and I can’t wait to ride it again sometime. Unfortunately for us who started the ride, South Australia received about the biggest downpour in the last 12 months, right on top of us. Many sections of the trail are un-rideable in the wet as the roads turn to sticky clay. Just over two days in and all five riders had pulled out of the ride. Here is how things unfolded for me.

Getting there 

We were fortunate enough to have legend Stevo Partridge drive our hire bus six+ hours for us from Adelaide to Blinman.  Upon arrival to Blinman we chucked our bikes together, loaded unwanted belongings back into the van, had a pub meal and then Stevo headed off back to Adelaide. Apparently there were thousands of suicidal kangaroos and emus on the Blinman – Wilpena Pound road late at night, so thanks Steve for taking time out to help us, you really are a champ and it would have been much more complicated without your help!

At the pub I asked the girl if we could have jug of water for the table and she said replied with “no, the water at Blinman is unsuitable for human consumption”. Shite. None of us had water for riding the next day! Seb, Arran and I bought the town out of 1.5L Mt Franklin bottles while Liam and Jesse proceeded to boil and cool water back at the accommodation. Little did we know that the undrinkable water would be a common theme for the next few hundred kilometers.

Friday morning saw Liam instructing us in some morning sun salutations and yoga in the middle of Blinman main road before all setting off at 7am on our 900km adventure.

Blinman

Day 1 – Blinman to just bivy just past Hawker (230km, 1250vm)

The first 20km of the Mawson Trail is bitchumen before turning right onto a combination of firetrail and double track. I was just off the back of the three fast boys (Seb, Liam and Jesse) and Arran was a bit behind me, spinning it out on the SS. I set about getting comfy at my own speed and enjoying the scenery.

Wilpena Pound, with St Mary’s Peak towering above, drew closer and closer and the hours passed by. With the rising sun, temperatures began to warm and the reds and purples of the rocky formations began to glow. After riding through Bunyeroo Gorge, the road just before Wilpena Pound turned to purple gravel through some type of native pine tree. Very pretty.

Arran and I rolled into Wilpena Pound at the same time. There were lots of campers around with the 4WDs and I really wished I could have stayed and explored. Not today. Bladder empty and water bladder full (with nice filtered fresh tourist water) we set off around the base of the Pound.

wilpena

The scenery as we left Wilpena Pound was by far the best of the whole ride. Majestic hills battered from years of weather. The road swapped between bitumen highway and rocky double track and back to bitumen. The fast road sections stretched on for kilometers and they were just begging for TT bars. I tucked in and got down on my forearms. Note for next year: time trial bars are a must.

My iPhone photos just don’t do justice to how spectacular the views and colours were. But imagine something like this and you get the idea:

wilpena

Wilpena Pound

After Wilpena there were some rocky sections, but nothing much worse than large pebbles, so the decision to go fully rigid seemed to be paying off. On the last 20km coming into Hawker I managed to develop a gash in my tyre from a sharp rock. I stopped on the side of the road and stuck a tube in, my Stan’s was all gone. Arran rode past and spun madly off into the distance.

wilpena1

Flat fixed, the afternoon rolled on. The trail took one final turn off the bitumen and into a bumpy old cow paddock full of large water tanks for the cows. As I approached one of the tanks the  stupid animals freaked out and started running towards me. As recommended, I gave them a wide berth, veering off the track. Instants later I was into the dry grassy thistles resulting in an instant puncture. After speaking kind words to the cows they seemed to lose interest as I fixed my flat and got on my way.

Not even 10 mins down the road and I notice my rear wheel is sliding all over the place. I look down and sure enough it was going down fast. Grrr! By this late in the afternoon it was hot, I was hungry and the blowflies were incessant. It was so windy and the buzzing flies so thick, I didn’t have a chance in hell of hearing where the puncture hole was. I felt and checked every millimeter of the tyre before putting another one in. There thorns were just going straight through my tyres. I wanted my Stan’s back!!

I rode for a bit further, maybe not even 20 minutes, before I got a fourth flat. Now I was getting a bit more worried. No more tubes and still a bit of off-road with more damn prickles to Hawker. Nothing to do but put it in and get going. I avoided anything that looked even remotely like a plant or a large rock. I walked up over the ridge to find a guy in a big grader, clearing the trail. From there on I was treated to a smooth and dusty trail nearly all the way to Hawker. Sunset came and went on the horizon with an artistic mix of orange and purple hues.

After dusk I rolled into Hawker and dropped in at a local bike hire company. They had slime tubes, score! I was getting out some money when I confirmed they where 29″ tubes. She had never heard of a 29″wheel. Damn it! Deflated, I headed over to the pub but perked up a bit when I saw Arran’s bike out the front. We shared some stories over pizza until he headed out for some more riding. I stayed for a bit, mending all the punctures.

I left Hawker and rode into the starry night; happy about my mended tubes, pizza in my belly and warm garlic bread in my back pocket. I bivvied about two hours ride from Hawker, sheltered by a large grove of river gums. 11pm was early for bed, but I was mentally a bit frazzled following all the tyre dramas.

Route

http://app.strava.com/activities/51321773

And we’re off again!

This weekend Seb and I will be taking part in the Mawson Mega Marathon, which is another bikepacking style event. There will be five starters heading to Blinman in SA and we’ll start riding on Friday morning (19th April). The course follows the iconic Mawson Trail from Blinman all the way back to Adelaide, nearly 900km in total. If you are a fan of dot watching, you can follow us here. The call-in feature may also be up and running live during the event on Spooncast.

We can expect some amazing scenery around the Flinders Ranges and Wilpena Pound. From the vast open desert we’ll head into classic South Australian wine country, passing through the Clare and Barossa valleys. On the outskirts of the little German town Tanunda we will also pass a very special winery, Bethany Wines! I am sure that after 800km of cycling I will just have to stop in for a wee tipple. Blog post will follow a bit later after the event ’cause I am hanging out in Adelaide for the week with the grandparents for some well earned R&R (and wine)!

Earning our Chocolate

On Easter Friday morning Seb and I set off from Canberra on our bikes, headed for the town of Tathra on the NSW South Coast. Our 300km planned route headed down Boboyan Road through Shannons Flat to Cooma, then East through Wadbilliga National Park, Cobargo, Bermagui and then South to the mtb haven of Tathra.

We had given all our ‘normal’ clothes to our friends who were driving down and so we just had a little bit of gear for the ride and one night camping.

In the beginning the going was fairly slow but it was a cracker morning as we headed South towards the mountains. I have ridden to the end of the bitumen many times on my roadie but definitely never ridden over Fitz’s Hill on a gear-loaded mountain bike!

P1020472

Unfortunately our scenic ‘back route’ was completely spoiled by bogan 4WD drivers heading off to Lake Eucumbene for the weekend. There was a lot of traffic and they were not nice drivers either. You could hear a majority speed up as they overtook us, leaving us with our hearts in our throats in a cloud of dust.

The views were classic and we tried hard to focus on that, trying not to let them ruin our day too much. We stopped at what is nearly the highest point on Boboyan Road where the lookout offers views toward Yankee Hat and Mount Gudgenby. Beautiful!

P1020482

We rolled out of the national park and through Shannons Flat, which I might add, is not as flat as it sounds. We got to Cooma just after lunch and gorged ourselves on McDonalds and Subway.

The next section of the ride was on bitumen as we left Cooma and headed to Numeralla. We met some other cycle tourists at the start of the dirt road into the Wadbilliga National Park, though with the huge amount of gear they had (including a bottle of wine) they wouldn’t be venturing too much further that afternoon.

P1020495

With the setting sun we entered the National Park and the roads turned rough. We were both riding rigid and the large sized rocks made it hard to ride smoothly. We pressed on into the dark, keen to get to the campsite at the bottom of a 900m descent so we could sleep a bit warmer!

The descent was hard. Very rocky, very steep. My bar mounted dynamo light was shaking and flickering so crazily it was like I was in the middle of a disco. Brakes heated up and we came squealing to a stop at Wadbilliga campsite next to the river. The campers wondered what the hell had just arrived in the dark making that noise and stumbled out of their caravan looking confused.

With 185km in the legs and over 3000m of climbing, we quickly ate Subway in the tent (thanks for carry it from Cooma Seb) and fell asleep easily to the sounds of the peaceful Wadbilliga River.

The next morning we ate squashed and semi-stale McDonalds muffins and doughnuts while trying to convince an old German guy that his Subaru was going to really struggle towing his huge caravan up that 900m rocky, loose climb. He didn’t seem phased. I bet he didn’t make it.

There was a big climb to get back out of the park, where we emerged in lush green cow farming country.

P1020504

Arm warmers and vests were off, sunscreen was on – we were bound for the coast now! Our last 60km was on the rolling bitumen roads to Tathra and to be honest nothing too exiting happened! We stopped for a great hamburger in Bermagui though. At one point we rode past this maddog old dude old walking his dog. He was only wearing a pair of running shorts and a cap. As Seb rode by he tipped his cap and said “Morning Boss”. As I rode past he said simply “Mrs Boss”. Something I’ll remember that for a long long time.

We arrived in Tathra for a long weekend of sunshine, sweet singletrack, hanging out with friends, lots of cider and a wicked coast house with an in-built sauna!! Nothing like the satisfaction that you rode your bicycle from Canberra to the Coast! Oh yeah, we definitely earned our chocolate this year!

photo

The GDT

I’m sitting here watching Reveal the Path and laughing out loud a bit because in about the first five minutes, the groups Scottish bikepacking route has turned quickly to ‘bike mountaineering’…. my arms start aching again just thinking about it.

So rewind two weeks and it is Saturday morning, 9th March, and I am at Bendigo train station at 7am with a bunch of other nutters ready to ride 400km along parts of the Great Diving Trail, local singletrack and who knew what else. I didn’t know what else, that’s fore sure!

Admittedly, having only heard about the GDT bikepacking event through some FB stalking a few weeks before, I was going in the deep end a little. I had never been to Bendigo, Castlemaine, Ballarat or even heard of Bachus Marsh. But apart from being an awesome new adventure,  I desperately needed some acquaintance time with my GPS and SPOT, some time to get to know the nooks and crannies of my bike. Only experience can determine what works and what doesn’t!


So here we go, rolling off the start line into the bush and the unknown…

Leg 1: Bendigo to Castlemaine

This was probably the best bit of the trip for me! The group quickly started to split up: the fast boys with little-to-no gear sped off never to be seen again. A group of us including Courtney and Al rode together for a while as we got used to riding the singletrack on fully loaded bikes.

The rocky but flowing singletrack was split up by sections of firetrail alongside water races. There were some decent hills which rewarded us with some great views back to Bendigo and surrounds. It took me a while to get into the swing of things and hours soon rolled into each other in a blur of fun.

Courtney cruising next to the water race

The only real thing I struggled with on this leg was the gates. So many gates. My bike was heavily loaded and even with fresh arms, by the time I had hauled that thing in every way imaginable over more gates than I would dare to guess at, my shoulder was feeling niggly. It is definitely a weak point which I often don’t use because I am riding (not bench-pressing) my bike.

Leg 2: Castlemaine to Dalesford

We rolled into Castlemaine well before lunch with no real dramas. After a restock of the tummy, the water and the food bag we were off. Temperatures were rising quickly and by 12pm it was well over 30 degrees. We had left town in dribs and drabs, our group was now quite split up. After not being able to ride the singletrack with the finesse of others around me, I found myself riding alone for a while. It was nice to set my own speed and navigate with the GPS myself.  I was quite impressed that I got the hang of the Etrex quite quickly. Not too much to do really though, point and ride!

Leg 3: Dalesford to Ballarat

Dalesford lunch stop

Dalesford came and went and as we approached well over 150km for the day the legs were getting a bit weary and crampy. I had guzzled my water in the heat. Silly. And with every corner we were expecting Creswick. I don’t think we really knew what we expected, just some form of civilisation that led us to a town. It never came. Instead we were treated to some twisty and technical singletrack that stomped my previously high spirits right into the ground. I was out of water and I was hungry but I couldn’t eat without water. Why didn’t I even bring a gel?

Mistake #1: not knowing your route and not having a cheat sheet handy.

Then the cramps set in good and proper. Straight up the hamstrings and adductors in both legs.  I was whimpering along in such a miserable fashion, poor Courts must have thought I was goooooone.

We rolled into Ballarat around 10pm and I went straight to Maccy D’s. I guzzled down water, french fries, a burger, banana bread, sprite and two hot apple pies. Delirious and so dirty that I could have easily been mistaken for a lycra-clad hobo, I stood around out the front of MacDonalds deciding what to do.  A few others were keen to keep riding. I went along with the idea but after about 10 minutes cramps returned and I knew I needed rest. I stopped on the outskirts of town with Jarrod Dellamarta and setup camp for the night.

Mistake #2: not having a plan and going to bed without setting an alarm!

Leg 4: Ballarat to Bachus Marsh

I woke up with the sun, but this was close to 7am. Having not set my alarm and getting away in the dark, little did I know the detrimental effects this would have to the rest of my race!

This leg cruised by. Jarrod and I riding together sometimes, sometimes not. Maybe he got sick of me asking a thousand and one questions about Tour Divide, cause after a while the gap between us stretched far enough for no conversation. Open roads, a fair bit of downhill, superb views. We could see Melbourne sykscrapers on the horizon as we made our final descent down into Bachus Marsh.

I that Melbourne I can see?!

Our VERY matching Niners parked at BM subway, I watched Jarrod devour a footlong Sub and then a six-inch a few minutes later. I was jealous as I struggled to get mine down in the heat. It was 12pm and I was looking at the elevation of the next section: uphill for about 50km and it was already 36 degrees….

VERY matching Niners at BM subway

Leg 5: Bachus Marsh to Dalesford

I left before Jarrod but would later find out he had decided to pull out, the heat was getting to him. Smart move!

I began the uphill crawl out of town, taking many stops to sit and rest up that god-awful hike a bike to the Telstra tower. It was like riding your bike in an oven. Sweat was pouring off me like a river and there was next to no shade.

This was me and Aaron at the top of the hill outside BM. The faces say it all:

This was me and Aaron at the top of the hill outside BM. The faces say it all.

The firetrail hike-a-bike mountain was fine, I could deal with that because after going up up up I knew we were going down.

The ‘singletrack’ section of O’briens however, was just plain hard. I am deliriously scared of heights and as a consequence walked for over two hours here.  The combination of the deadly drop to the right, the cliff face on my left and awkward logs and rocks to scramble over left me screaming Ryan’s name out loud for hours.

In Blackwood I met a lovely man who let me use his brand-spanking-new outhouse (it was very very fancy but also traditional looking with the wood shingles) while we got me some cordial. I must have looked like sh*t because he seemed pretty concerned.

After Blackwood I pushed, shoved, sat, cried, swore, dragged, sang, shouted and whatever it took to get my bike through the rotten section of ‘singletrack’. It got to about 8pm and I was struggling to see. I knew Daleford couldn’t be that far but I was moving at snails pace.

Mistake #3: not knowing your equipment (the dynamo doesn’t work below about 10km/hr!!!!)

I had neglected to take a good head torch, all I had was my dynamo light and a small camping head torch. I was walking five meters, spinning my wheel to get some light, walking again, spinning… this lasted all of about 15 minutes and I stopped to make camp.

With only a few gulps of water in my camleback I saved it, had half a muesli bar and attempted to sleep. I was in agony with cramps. Rigid straight legs, whole body shaking from heat exhaustion. This is quite a bit more scary for me with epilepsy because it almost feels like a seizure. It wasn’t, but it made me panic and I lay there awake for hours.

At 1am I saw a light and heard a “hello?” B-RAD! We chatted about how far it was to Dalesford (neither of us could really estimate), about water and the trip in general. He pushed on and I went to sleep with comfort in the fact that I was only semi alone out here in the middle of the state forest, and at least B-RAD knew where I was to be found if I never returned!

I got up early (5am) and made tracks to Dalesford in the dark. It was easy going and I wish I might have persevered those final few hours the night before.

Leg 6: Dalesford to Castlemaine

In  Dalesford at 8am on a public holiday I just looked for the closest place that was open. Some fancy snob cafe with eggs and bacon. PERFECT! Having not slept really all night, not showered or washed for now the third day, I got some good looks. I sat down, changed SPOT batteries, called Ryan and then proceeded to eat their ‘big breakfast’ a juice, coffee and water. I filled up all water capacity and rolled out in high spirits  just before 9am to make the last push to the finish.

Ryan had said people were taking five hours to complete this bit. While rolling over nice firetrail and down huge hills and fun singletrack I thought cockily to myself “hmmm, maybe I am fresh and it will be fine?”

As before, firetrail turned to singletrack, singletrack to rocky pinch-climbs, rocky to hike-a-bike and then to completely horrifying and unrideable moto track.

I was physically shattered and emotionally pretty distraught. I was standing at the top of these entry lines to big creek beds and erosion gullies balling my eyes out. At one point I just pointed my bike downwards, let it go and ran down after it.

I made it back to the highway and sat down under a tree. It was 36 degrees, I couldn’t think straight.  I rang Ryan to ask what the final 12km were like and he was brutally honest “like that bit but worse, very rocky, very technical”. And with that, I was out. I called Courtney from Fryerstown and got a lift back to Castelmaine. I tried so hard to put on a positive face but I was so demoralised. All over red rover.

Pizza, pasta, chocolate milk and a good arvo snooze got me back on track. I was feeling pretty good the next day and was a bit more open to the experiences I had just put myself through!

An awesome amount of organising went into running this ‘not-event’ and so big thanks to Ryan and the boys for that. Well done to all the other riders, and big thanks for Courts and Al for giving me somewhere to stay and looking after me.

Biggest thanks go to Seb who helped me for days setting all my gear up and for giving up his front suspension over the long weekend just so I could ride.

Bikepacking in Australia is well and truly alive!

P1020457

Some vert for the long weekend: GDT Bikepacking

This afternoon I am jumping in the car and driving 7 hours to Castlemaine, Victoria, for the inaugural Great Diving Trail (GDT) Bikepacking event.

The loop is about 400km in length and circular-ish: starting from Bendigo we’ll head -> Castlemaine -> Daylesford -> Ballarat -> Mt Bunninyong (all via the GDT). From the top we’ll make our way down to Bacchus Marsh via Ballan singletrack and then follow the path Bacchus Marsh -> Daylesford -> Castlemaine.

GDT Route (elevation numbers incorrect)

GDT Route (elevation numbers incorrect)

All up there should be around 9000 vertical meters climbing, so not a walk in the park!

With temperatures expected between 30 – 35 degrees C during the day and not dropping below about 12 overnight, I have decided to go without a sleeping bag. I have my Tarptent tent, sleeping mat and silk liner. Hopefully combined with my puff jacket (should it come to that) I’ll be fine!

This will be my first time navigating with the Garmin ETrex, so here’s hoping I come out of the Victorian bush alive… My only goal is to finish, or complete what I can without injury. It will be a steep learning curve I fear, but that is what adventures are about right?

There is a dedicated tracking page for all us starters, so you can watch our dots: http://www.trackleaders.com/gdt13

Report to come later next week!!

-Beth.

New Zealand bikepacking days 3 & 4: sweaty business

Day Three: Wedderburn to Cattle Creek (137.8km, 1926m elev.)

I had been dragging anchor and struggling with a cold during our hike and the last two days of our cycle touring. Pushing myself too hard in the hot sun had driven me to exhaustion and heat stroke the day before, so Seb was kind enough to let me decide the pace and call it quits at anytime. I was determined to keep going and knew I was on the ‘getting better’ side of the cold, just needed to take things down a notch.

The day started with a cruise through Naseby Forest. With the long ride ahead we were not as enthused about finding the Great Southern Brevet singletrack as we thought we might have been. We rolled into Naseby town to find a very informative welcome sign. So, worry-free, we headed out to find Damsey’s pass.

Tussock grass was about the only vegetation as we climbed higher and higher. A great climb and jaw-dropping views from the top.

Damseys PassIt was getting hot again, average temperature for this day was 31 degrees. The climbs were getting very sweaty.

After some very nice downhill we cruised along into Duntroon where we stocked up on water, ice, iced chocolates, sandwiches and cookies. We had so many good cookies in NZ. And carrot cake. Amazing carrot cake! Ride to eat, isn’t that what they say?

The next stretch through to Kurow was possibly the most demoralising bit of bitumen I have ever ridden on a mountain bike. It was hot, damn freaking hot. We emptied litres of water on our heads and buried ourselves in the riding – not a word was spoken between us for that 20km. We arrived in Kurow and went straight to the shop for more water and icecreams. It was getting towards afternoon and we had to think about our plans.

looking satisfied

looking satisfied

We had thought that today we might get to Lake Tekapo and tomorrow we would smash out the flat ride to Christchurch. Unfortunately for us there was another large pass between us an Lake Tekapo and nobody could really guarantee us any water along the way. I was very worried about riding in more swealtering heat all afternoon and not being able to freely gulp at my water. We decided we’d get the map out at the cafe over coffee.

As it turned out, the owner of the cafe had a property up the Hakataramea Valley where we were headed. He suggested starting out that afternoon and staying at an old abandoned school along the way (Cattle Creek), that way we could tackle the pass in the cool morning and be at Lake Tekapo for brunch. Glorious!

feeling like a sheep who wished it was shearing time. wool was too hot!!

feeling like a sheep who wished it was shearing time. wool was too hot!!

We crossed the border from Otago to Canterbury regions and began up the valley. It was truly disgustingly hot (did I mention HOTTTTTTTTT) in that valley and I was dying in my icebreaker jersey. I think about 90% of the time I had it pulled up around my ears for some ventilation!

Cattle Creek was very abandoned little town: a school, a town hall and one other building with not a soul in sight. We set up camp around the back of the school near the playground and had a delightful swim in the creek. For dinner we shared a pack of pre-cooked rice and a can of shredded chicken in mayonnaise. Yep, it was a interesting and gross as it sounds. Night brought a cool breeze and made sleeping easy.

Day Four: Cattle Creek to Lake Tekapo (72km 970m elev.)

In the breaking dawn light we set off early from our school hideaway at Cattle Creek. We were faced with a short ride up the continuation of the Hakataramea Valley before starting the Hakataramea Pass climb.

Sheep ran along next to us as we made our way past the final farm and began our ascent. It wasn’t actually a huge climb but the weather was heating up by 7am and we were glad to get to the top. We were treated to views of the vast open basin leading to Lake Tekapo with Mount Cook National Park in the background. Dripping with sweat and again with my icebreaker jersey pulled up around my ears, it was odd to look out across at Mt Cook, majestic and covered in snow.

The best way to start the day

The best way to start the day

The next  downhill whizzed us down to the basin where we were spat out into the middle of this big, dry open space.  We rode until we met Haldon Road and turned right, heading towards the (8) highway to Lake Tekapo.

At that turn, the wind hit us. At first we thought it was just a gust and it would disappear. But 15 minutes later and we were crawling along at 8km/h being battered by a direct headwind that must have been 30km/hr or more. An hour later and we were still battling it out against the wind. I was trying with all my might not to fall apart. Tears were coming but I couldn’t let some nasty wind do this to me. It was terrible. We were no longer riding together, Seb was far off in the distance. I was doing less than 8km/hr now. An eerie misty was pouring over the mountains from Fairlie, like the apocalypse was coming.

so pretty and we got to enjoy it at snail pace!

Tailwind to Tekapo!

Eventually, we turned left onto the highway, greeted by a 30km/hr tailwind. After that we didn’t really pedal until we got to Tekapo! We had a huge breakfast and a swim in the vivid blue and freezing glacial lake.

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

I made the call here. I couldn’t face 200km tomorrow across flat boring plains to Christchurch. I didn’t see the point. We spent a lovely afternoon sightseeing around Tekapo and lying on the grass between food runs to the supermarket and nearby cafe. We ended up catching a bus to Christchurch that night, leaving us plenty of time to find new bike boxes, pack our bikes and leave the country!

A whirlwind journey full of adventure, emotions and scenery. Utterly exhausted after all that hiking and biking we nearly needed a holiday to recover from our ‘holiday’. My left hand ended up developing very bad nerve damage in the ulnar nerve and I was forced to take a month off the bike directly after our trip. I am in the process of rethinking rigid forks, or at least my bike setup needs modification.

If I feel enthusiastic I might try do one final post with a gear rundown and hopefully some GPS files. We’ll see, sounds ambitious 🙂

NZ: Love on the rails… the rail trail that is!

It has been well over a month since we got home from NZ and I must confess the whole blog writing thing just hasn’t appealed. I got through day one of our bikepacking trip and hit a writing brick wall. Now though, there are lots of very exciting adventures in the pipeline so I thought it is time to get this written and get on with things!

Where I left off last time we had just completed day one and had found a nice camp next to the river near Arrowtown.

Day Two – Arrowtown to Wedderburn (160km, 1523m elev.)

We got up nice and early, feeling a bit guilty as we rode past all the ‘no wild camping’ sign. We rejoined the great Queenstown trail we had been following and headed out of town towards Cromwell. After some amazing gorges with spectacular swing bridges that took my breath away, we snaked around next to the Kawarau River on the bitumen for quite some time. We stopped to have a look at the Roaring Meg lower hydro power station. On the other side of the road a small dirt track starts to ascend up into the clouds: The Cardrona-Roaring Meg pack track which is used in the Great Southern Brevet course. We hope to be coming down that very track next year!

Epic suspension bridge just for walkers and cyclists

We cruised into Cromwell for a very nice late breakfast, coffee and obligatory fresh fruit from the roadside stall.

Giant fruit

From Cromwell we pounded out some more bitumen km’s before descending down to Clyde. We asked around and were advised to ride the ‘river track’ into Alexandra instead of the start of the  Central Otago Rail Trail as it was meant to be pretty fun. Turned out to be a wicked, windy and flowing dirt track next to the river. Needless to say, on our first real dirt for the day, much ‘woooooping’ was done!

Eventually the river track brought us out at Alexandra where we refueled and readied ourselves for the Central Otago Rail Trail. We didn’t particularly have a plan as to where we would get to for the day, just see how we felt as the day went by.

The Central Otago region has sweeping views of vast open plains and treeless hills; famous gold-mining country. It was hot, the sun was out and there was nowhere to hide. We started stripping layers off as the hours went by, climbing up a slight but ever-constant gradient towards Lauder.

As we approached the top of a one hill, Seb asked if we should stop at the seat coming up and swap out of our SealSkinz socks ’cause our feet were sweltering! Oblivious to what was unfolding in front of my eyes, I stopped, changed socks and was ready to move on. Seb, on the other hand,  had unpacked what looked to be his entire bag onto the ground, very unusual for his usually quick and punctual stops.

I’ll spare you the mushy details but there was a seat with an inscribed Irish blessing, a killer view and a romantic proposal! Couldn’t have been more perfect for two sweaty cyclists in love!

Our seat!

Our seat!

Selfie of the newly engaged lovebirds

Selfie of the newly engaged lovebirds

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a soul around for me to tell and we still had a fair bit to ride if we wanted to stay in Ranfurly. We got to go through some more pretty spectacular scenery plus over another huge bridge and through two old train tunnels! I got to test my KLite dynamo light in one of the longer tunnels which was great, good to get some use even if only for 1km!

KLite dynamo light on and into the tunnel we go!

KLite dynamo light on and into the tunnel we go!

We made it as far as Wedderburn  where we stumbled across some very cute rail trail cottages made to accommodate the normal folk who don’t carry their own tents….

We were starving, sun burnt, engaged and there was a king bed and free breakfast! No way we were passing that one up! Turned out to be quite lucky as that night I suffered from very bad heat stroke; shaking, hot cold feverish and feeling very unwell. Was very glad to have a cool shower and some normality to get me back under control.

Wedderburn cyclist accommodation. Very trendy.

Wedderburn cyclist accommodation. La-di-da fancy (compared to the tent)!

A long and eventful day in the saddle. Very obvious niggle starting to occur in my left hand: feeling weak and a bit tingly. Tomorrow we would leave the rail trail and head through Naseby and over Danseys Pass.

Snow, a steam boat and cookies: Te Anau to Arrowtown

Day 1: Te Anau to Arrowtown (146.5km, 1074m elev)

Our New Zealand bikepacking adventure started in Te Anau, a small town on the west coast of the Southern Island. After surviving days of treacherous rain while hiking the Milford Track, we were hoping the sun would be shining.  We woke up to views of snow on the hills and a very crisp breeze blowing, but it was sunny and there was no rain so we were happy! Already a day behind plans because of the extra night we had to spend on the hike,  we were just going with the flow and didn’t have set-in-stone plans for where we would end up that night. So easy to do when you are carrying everything you need on your bike!

Leaving Te Anua behind us.

Leaving Te Anua behind us

Our route took us on the main bitumen road out of town towards Queenstown, but we took a sneaky left turn which headed us onto the dirt and towards Mavora Lakes. The mountains around us were impressive and made the backdrop on the horizon such a nice distraction. We passed Jane Peak (2022m), a popular tramping and climbing and mountain, covered in snow from the fresh dump over night. We rode for about 70km up the valley against one of those gradients which you never really see, but by the end can definitely feel it in your legs. The ever-so-slight-upwards grind combined with loose gravel roads and icy cold wind off the snowy peaks made for a slog of a morning. I was really struggling with a head cold I got while hiking and was crawling along at caterpillar pace.

My remedy: CookieTime! These things are the yummiest cookies I have tasted and the best bit is that they are about as big as your whole hand. We bought them in bulk from a girl at the supermarket who was as crazy- excited about them as we were. I think this day I munched at least three of them.

CookieTime - Nom nom nom!

CookieTime – Nom nom nom!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a quick detour to check out South Majora Lake, we returned to the road, climbed a little hill and were over into another hugely vast valley. The downhill was short lived however and we were back to battling the slow gradient and odd temperature changes from freezing to sunny and back to freezing again! This part of the road was far less travelled as it was a dead end for cars. The ferry at the end takes you across to Queenstown, but only by foot, not car. The only people we really saw were the same farmers, driving up and down between their properties doing routine looking stuff. One ute had a little wagon on the back and was pulling into all the farms collecting dead sheep. They were tossed in upside down, this way and that, the poor things bouncing  around from the corrugations. I think we saw the same dead sheep about 10 times that day.

Heading for Mavora Lakes

Heading for Mavora Lakes

We were on a bit of a schedule as we needed to make it to the ferry in order to get across to Queenstown, but my snail pace meant that we had already missed the first of the only two trips for the afternoon. So, in the nicest way possible, Seb told me to get those pedals cranking over a bit more of a lively fashion! The road became a little more undulating with some more noticeable ups and downs but what we didn’t expect was at the bottom of one of the downs: a freezing water crossing with no bridge and far too wide and raging to ride across. With our shoes off, we waded through, and I learned that what I had previously called cold feet was far from this current numbness.

Getting chilly feet

Seb getting chilly feet

Eventually after some more riding up the valley…

Brrr

Brrr

and after another freezing river crossing we got to a massive and wicked decent,

Downhill!!!!

Downhill!!!!

and then after some traumatic experiences with heard of cows on the road, we made it to the ferry!

The boat arriving (not sure what I am doing, but I seem to remember trying to flick off the cow poop)

The boat arriving at Walter Peak Station (not sure what I am doing but remember trying to flick an extraordinary amount of cow poop off the bike)

The TSS Earnslaw is the last operational coal-fired steamer in the southern hemisphere. It runs daily trip between Queenstown and Walter Peak Station Lake Wakatipu, saving tourists a 300km long drive around. We enjoyed a venison pie while watching men shovel filthy coal into the ships fiery boilers for the 90min journey across.

Once at Queenstown we met my brother and his girlfriend and all made tracks for Fergburger, the most popular burger joint I have ever heard about! The line was epic and we waited 30 mins before we could munch on our burgers, but woahhhh they were worth it. Melted blue cheese and garlic aioli, yes please!

After coffee we had to decide which way we would go. We originally had planned to head south towards Kingston and then up over the range but everything was covered in snow and snail pace Beth had put us quite behind schedule. We could have stayed somewhere in Queenstown but our bikepacking adventure had already turned into a lazy lunch ride. We decided to change tactics and headed towards Arrowtown.

On the Queenstown Trail, heading towards Arrowtown

On the Queenstown Trail, heading towards Arrowtown

We joined up with the Queenstown Trail which is a signposted and totally awesome trail and only opened in October 2012. We felt like practically the first ones to ride it! It would be amazing to see more dedicated cycling tracks like this in Australia! The trail took us across some huge bridges while we wound our way through the historic gold mining district. Eventually we made it to Arrowtown and by chance stumbled across a mountain biker who advised us of a good spot for some ‘free camping’. Generally free camping is allowed in NZ, but as you get closer to towns they have big ‘NO FREE CAMPING’ signs, so we snuck quietly into the bush across the river on the other side of town. Perfect.

After what was a long, adventure filled and exhausting day for sick Beth, I was glad to finally be able to rest. This was our trip to test out all the new gear we had been procuring over the last year, so out our new Revelate Designs Sweet Roll we pulled our sleeping gear and fell straight to sleep our cozy new Western Mountaineering sleeping bags in our new Tarptent tent. We were not sure what Day 2 would bring, it would be decided based on how I felt in the morning. The route had already changed so much due to the snow that we were open to trying what ever took our fancy and that made it exciting!

Mountains for perspective

The worried emails were getting more frequent, so I thought it time to pull myself out of my big sulk and let people know that I am indeed alive and well (sort of). Maybe with a little more Christmas pudge and numb fingers than before the holidays, but I am back and eager to get writing (and riding) again!

Tales of our New Zealand Christmas adventures await, so while I gather my thoughts about what we have been up to here is something to whet the appetite.

I love mountains. I love everything about them. The challenge on the way up, the rewarding and most often breathtaking views at the top, the buzz you get coming back down again and the perspective they give to your life. How young, tiny and insignificant I seem compared to them. How they magically make all my worries seem so nonsensical.

NZ has some of the most spectacular mountains I have even seen. Here is a sneak peek of how we explored them.

Viewing mountains by boat.

P1010961

There was hiking in the mountains.

P1020074

There was  riding in the mountains.

P1020196

Smiles in the mountains!

P1020294

There was even a proposal in the mountains 🙂

Proposals in the mountains!!

Hiking the Milford Track will be instalment number one. Thanks goodness it is a public holiday tomorrow, time to get writing!!

BB .

The most epics of epics

On the weekend we took to the hills of Kosciuzko National Park for ‘Around the K in a Day’.  The ride was a road loop  starting and finishing in the alpine village of Jindabyne and passed through the towns of Berridale, Adaminaby, Cabramurra, Khancoban and Thredbo . Covering a distance of 320km including 6500 vertical meters of climbing, we clocked up over 14 hours riding time and saw both sunset and sunrise from the saddle.

It was by far the biggest one day ride I had ever attempted and I must admit surprised myself a little by how OK I felt for a majority of the day. I arrived back at our accommodation on a bit of a high, still pretty amped about what I had just accomplished. Sunday, however, was a different feeling altogether and when I rolled over at 6am after barely sleeping (too exhausted?) this quote pretty much sums up an awesome day of riding:

“Can I have some Nurofen?”

“Yeah, what hurts?”

“Umm…. what doesn’t hurt is a more appropriate question!”

It would appear that I officially lost the race with Ed to be first to get a blog post up about the ride, so rather than recap I though I’d put up the route and let the few pictures I took tell the story. For a great writeup, you can read Ed MacDonald’s writeup here.

The route -> If some computer whiz can tell me how to embed these in the future….

http://app.strava.com/runs/31575909/embed/586157c08e5f38013eba412c3722d5821915452e

The yellow lines begin as we climb out of Adaminaby.

The yellow lines begin as we climb out of Adaminaby.

Ghostly gums as thick and as far as the eye could see. About to descend down from Khancoban.

Ghostly gums as thick and as far as the eye could see. About to descend down from Cabramurra.

Crossing the Tumut Pond Reservoir

Crossing the Tumut Pond Reservoir.

Heading into Khancoban, the mountains still to be climbed a clear presence on the horizon.

Heading into Khancoban. The mountains still to be climbed had a painful presence on the horizon.

The two groups reconvien at Khancoban and discuss the next 95km of uphill over some well earned iced coffees.

The two packs regroup at Khancoban and discuss the next 95km of uphill over some well earned iced coffees.

A final shot before dark: taking a breather with Seb, getting close to the top at Dead Horse Gap.

A final shot before dark: taking a breather with Seb, getting close to the top at Dead Horse Gap.

Hot Stuff at Awaba Singletrack Mind Series Finale!

After a sweaty practice lap and some spicy Yummy Thai in Morisset , things were hotting up for the Chocolate Foot SRAM Singletrack Mind series finale at Awaba Mountain Bike Park. Most categories in the series promised some nail biting action to produce the over series winners, while others such as the women’s open solo category were decided even before the race began! For me, with a free entry to the event from Hammer Nutrition and a guaranteed series second place, Awaba was more about enjoying the trails and enjoying the weekend away!

Somehow amidst the fluster of trying to leave Canberra before lunch on Saturday, I managed to only pack one riding kit. Usually that would be fine, how sweaty could you get after one 40min practice lap?  Very sweaty is the answer! And especially after nearly crapping my dacks riding  down that oh-so-steep concrete ramp section, the clothes situation for Sunday was looking to be less than desirable! Nevertheless, clad in my clammy racing outfit I headed out with the pack on Sunday morning, following Gumby to the start line for what would be our final eight hour for 2012.

Awaba: Steep hills, lush gullies and freakishly steep concrete ramps…

The race started out well with myself finding good positioning mid-pack and, thanks to the nice sharp pinches of the opening fire trail, the first lap congestion was not too bad this time. There were a few obstacles that I had flagged as ‘iffy’ in my mind on the practice lap rather than actually practicing them, (oops) so I paid careful attention to watch riders in front and I rode everything comfortably which is a nice change for me.

Nutrition wise, after a terrible experience recently in the 100 mile Highland Fling, I was very focussed on eating enough and not bonking this race. I seem to struggle a lot with eating in the heat, so this race I turned back to the good old Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem. My nutrition plan for this race was a lap with a perpetuem bottle followed by a lap on an electrolyte bottle plus a gel and it seemed to work really well.

There were three Canberra ladies in the solo open women’s category this race, with our buddy Eliza Kwan attending her first STM race and Libby making the change from masters to mix it up with us in open. Janet was along to make it six from six races but no Liz this time, so it was fun to ride with Eliza and Libby for at least one lap! I really enjoyed the course and loved how varied it was. One second you were thinking how much this hill was hurting, only to be careering downhill the next second and riding through lush cool gullies the second after that. Awaba would be a great place to camp on a weekend and mountain bike with some buddies. Heck, it was a great place to hold a round of the STM series, it was just this heat that was killing us.

After 5.5 hours of laps, it was clear the temperature was taking its toll. My feet were incredibly painful; loosening my shoes and pouring water on the each lap wasn’t helping. My core temperature was skyrocketing and it felt like I was on fire from the inside out. This white, pasty and fragile Canberran was wilting in the 30 degree heat and humidity that Awaba had turned on for us and it all started going downhill from here, literally…

I was taking it very slow and steady up the Camelback climb for the seventh time when I started to cramp a little in my left hammy. I went to shake it out at the very top but it was a bit rocky, I completely overbalanced and rolled ass over face down the very steep embankment. Lying there with trees poking into my back and then carrying my bike above my head back up the side of the hill, I decided this was not fun anymore. Joe confirmed for me at the end of that lap that I was now 22 mins off third place, so I rolled around to our transition area and plonked myself down in a comfy seat. So comfy it would seem, that I stayed there for the rest of the race, cheering others on and eating copious amounts of ice and salty chippies. It was the right choice for me, as I wouldn’t have gained anything from continuing other than more cramps, pain and the inability to drive The Seb home to Canberra!

I take my hat off to those other solo riders that managed to make the full eight hours. Ed just looked happier and happier each time he rode past and Libby seemed to be as consistent and nonchalant as ever. And to the screaming guy wearing just his bib knicks who was yelping in pain from his cramps but still riding somehow, big kudos!

We hung around for presentations and series awards where Seb Johansen *aahrghgh* I mean Seb Dunne, even managed to score himself a new set of SRAM wheels! The Canberra contingent we traveled with went very well with Sebria taking third for the day and third overall in the series; Ed winning the Awaba event and the men open solo for the series; and Libby storming through the women’s open solo field to win the Awaba race and get third for master’s women’s series. I managed to hold onto second for the series, proving that consistency is key but really I know that Janet and Liz flogged my every time we all raced! Big congrats to you Janet, I don’t know how you kept backing up after all those races in between including Backyamma and the 24hr!

Thanks for an awesome series of racing Chocolate Foot. Joe and Fi you put a lot of effort into making the events accessible to all types of riders and somehow you manage to take an event where we grind ourselves into the ground for eight hours, and you just make it really FUN! I’ll definitely be back next year and hopefully with some sharper singletrack skills to hit out laps with more speed and confidence.

For now though, it is time to go get started on my food training for Christmas.

The racing season is over, so let the Christmas feasts begin… are YOU ready?

Beth and Seb tackle their inaugural 3fidi 350km

Last weekend saw us take part in our first ever “3fidi 350”. This annual Canberra tradition is an epic ride of 350km around the Canberra region in one long slog, but of course stopping at some cafes along the way. This year, the challenge nicely coincided with the Strava 79mile Challenge weekend.

BMC 79 Mile Challenge

Celebrate the 79th rainbow jersey with a 79 mile ride.

16/11/12 — 18/11/12

This September, 79th running of the UCI World Road Cycling Championships was won on a BMC team machine SLR01.

To honour that huge accomplishment, BMC is challenging you to go out and complete a ride of 79 miles (or greater) in one day.

Pick your favourite long training ride, prep your bike, fill up some bottles, maybe even sport a little bit of Belgian red/yellow/black, and push yourself to make it happen!

Now who, you might ask, is 3fidi? Well they are a great bunch of guys and gals from Canberra Australia, who started the group way back when the cost of a coffee was $3.50. More affectionately known as the 3fidi grind riders. Now of course neither BikingBethany or The Seb possess the prestige of this elite Canberra crew (with five finishes of the 350km ride between people on this ride alone); however on occasions such as this they could use all the leg power they can get!

So, at a tad after 5am on a crisp Canberra Saturday morning, our group of seven riders rolled out of West Canberra towards the Brindabella Ranges. Here is the route that we took so you can follow our commentary along the way: The Seb’s Strava file.

The first section of the ride is very pretty. There are a couple of dirt sections along Fairlight Road and Mountain Creek Road, the longest being under 5km, which were taken at ease due to a majority of us being on carbon road bikes. The promise of bacon for breakfast got Milly cheered up and we rolled into Yass for a quick egg and bacon roll and some instant coffee to keep us going. We had managed to get this far with only one flat between us, a good outcome considering the dirt roads. It was a well timed flat by Seb anyway, allowing us to catch our breath and enjoy the view.

Views of the Murrumbidgee River (photo by Milly)

Having just left Yass, Seb got a second flat outside of town. Milly got her first flat after a very pot-hole riddled section of road just after passing through Dalton. Steve also had a bizarre mechanical here, which started with us not really knowing what he was doing shaking his bike upside down and all the bearings falling off into the grass. Headset fixed and drama avoided, we were on our way but a bit behind schedule.

Next stop on route was a great little cafe in Gunning which served amazing banana bread and most importantly, good coffee!  This is also where we happened to bump into Martin, who was blaming his sleep-in on his non-functioning alarm.  Excuses! Martin and Milly headed a different route towards Goulburn while the other six of us headed the long uphill way to Crookwell to Goulburn. The hills just kept coming but it was lovely rolling terrain. The hills were not too big but big enough to blow me (Beth!) apart.  Dropping off and on the back of the boys like a yoyo, I was glad to ride the last 30km into Goulburn at my own pace (albeit with a two flats which eventually led to collection by car 15km out of town).

Goulburn brought the promise of pizza, pasta, more coffee and new riders with fresh legs! I am super happy to say that I have completed my first 200km road ride, and look forward to the prospect of exploring further and further out of town, now that I know how far I can make it in one day!

Topping up the energy stores in Goulburn (photo by Aaron)

I’ll hand over to The Seb here, as I got a lift home to Canberra in the car so I don’t know what shenanigans went on!

There’s nothing like fresh legs to inject some momentum back into a steam train running short on coal. Martin, Ron and Simon provided fuel in spades and mercifully the riding out of Goulburn in the Tarago direction was straightforward and our peloton of eight made excellent time for a pub stop around 4pm. Aaron Coles ‘Jackson’ duly punished yours truly in the traditional town sprint after a textbook display of how not to get a surprise jump on the pack. We received some unusual looks from the locals at the Tarago pub which is fair enough but this didn’t detract from the enjoyment of a cold coke which seemed to be the drink of choice by popular vote. Next stop was Bungendore however this section was rather undulating and provided significant resistance to our tired legs. Martin and Simon pulled a monsters turn and the long downhill into town was way too much fun.

A watermelon stop had been a topic of discussion for much of the day but I was sure that the slight nip in the air and impending climb would put heed to such shenanigans on what was to be the last stop of the day. Chris T was not to be denied though and duly walked out of the supermarket with half of an enormous watermelon and got stuck into it. I’m assured it went down a treat although Chris was looking rather chilly before we started riding so it may have impacted his core temperature more than desired.

Smith’s Gap out of Bungendore had been dreaded by all but passed without too much fanfare. Once we all regrouped our three chaperones left us to take the shortcut back to Canberra and it was left to the five souls remaining to finisher ‘er off! The wind hadn’t been overly kind to us throughout the day but a nice little Nor-Easter had been brewing during the afternoon and it was time to reap the rewards. Shingle Hill Way passed in record time and not even the multitude of bogan d!ckheadsin utes on Sutton Rd could dampen the increasing sense that we were on the home stretch. Turning onto the Fed with a tailwind to roll along at 40+kph after almost 350km of riding great way to ride back into town and it was high fives all round when the time came to part ways.

Unfortunately for non 2602 residents like Sebbeth, a lot of inner city-centric rides end with a plod home and while the other finishers tucked into food and beer. It was time for me to get payback for the extra half hour sleep I got in the morning and do my final 20km. I’d mentioned the idea of finishing with a rep of Black Mountain because it seemed an entirely unnecessary thing to do after such a long ride. Steve had jumped on the idea and proposed a case of beer should I actually do it. I must admit part of me did seriously think how nice it would be to head straight home to a shower, nice meal and Beth but the other part was saying what a beaut evening it was and how I’d be an idiot to pass up on 15mins of discomfort for the easiest case of beer I’ll ever receive. So sanity prevailed and I was rewarded with an amazing sunset over the Brindabellas from the top. I hope this becomes a traditional finish to this ride.

I can’t help but feel an amazing sense of achievement doing such a ride and privileged to share this day out with a great group of people. All full and partial participants succeeded in finishing the Strava challenge and we were even leading for a while until some even crazier people uploaded their adventures. It is extremely comforting seeing there are thousands of other like-minded insane people around the world willing to ride their bike silly distances for the sake of adventure and some internet kudos.

Bring on the next one Sebbeth says!