The stars were extinguished, one by one, as the sky moved through shades of deep blue and then orange. Then the sun burst through as I watched at Waterhole Hut. The sunrise is the theme of my little video – cycling through Namadgi National Park.


I cycled through the gate onto a grassy patch with paragliders waiting to jump over the cliff. Below me were the plains of Lake George and the Federal Highway snaking its way from left to right. I didn’t know I’d have this view, but it’s the unplanned things that are often the best.

Looking over the cliff

On the first day of the cycle trip, my goal was to get to Canberra as quickly as possible to have time to go into the mountains. Returning, I had the whole day and tried a different route – one that avoids the highway as much as possible.

I had time to pass Parliament House.

Parliament House

I have discovered Camberra’s cycle path network. There are at least 7 long routes. I followed C4 into the city and C1 out. Nicely marked, they keep the cyclists out of the traffic and make it a pleasant experience for cyclists.

The Canberra cycle network

Filling up with water, I started talking to a cyclist who was resting in the shade. He had a good tip of a side road to Gundaroo.

A peaceful gravel road rather than the busy main road

Getting from Gundaroo to Collector involved a bit of climbing on a dirt track. It was beautiful, quiet bush, and I took it slow. On one of the climbs I realised the bike has gone 81,000km.

81,000km

I had had enough by the time I got to Collector and decided on taking the highway to Goulburn. Not pleasant but mostly flat and quick. I quick stop to take a photo of the Goulburn sheep and then into the town for a celebratory meal. My short Christmas biketrip in the mountains was at an end.

The giant sheep


Everything was covered in an early morning frost as the sun burst over the neighbouring hill to announce the start of the day – a day of lots of pushing, some river crossings, and a beautiful, remote feeling.

Waterhole Hut at dawn

I spent a few hours playing around at the hut, including flying the drone around.

Waterhole Hut

And poking my nose in Westermans Hut.

Westermans Hut

Then it was off to continue the ‘challenging’ route along the Naas Valley. The challenging part was the constant steep up and down. Often it was a case of inching up the inclines, two steps up and one slide back. I loved it though.

Naas Valley
Naas Valley

I was quite looking forward to the river fords up to your waist. Today they were up to my shins. One was up to my knees. The waters from the recent rains have subsided.

Now I’m back in civilisation. Yesterday night when I was looking up at the night sky, I saw the glow coming from the north. Now I’m inside that glow. Canberra.


“There’s the challenging route and the less challenging route.” If my cycling friend says its challenging, it is. I like challenges, and so I did a lot of pushing in the glorious weather on the most beautiful roads.

A steep drop into the gully.

Steep, pushing up and sliding back down, cramp, beautiful wide grassy valleys, kangaroos galore and a shooting star. And some beautiful huts. The road along the Naas Valley was beautiful.

Naas Valley – easy bit
Naas Valley – easy bit
Turn off out of the valley

The push up to the Brandy Flat Hut was a struggle. Once, I realised I just wasn’t going to make it, and I carted up the luggage separately.

Up to Brandy Flat Hut
Brandy Flat Hut
Spot the road up on the other side.

The road out of the gully took some time as I had to stop to let some cramp subside. Then onto the Old Bobayan Road which was stunning. Rolling hills through alpine fields.

Old Baboyan Road
Old Baboyan Road

And the kangaroos were everywhere, jumping along the road and in front of me. So beautiful.

Kangaroos

It was a dash in the failing light to get to the hut. I’m now lying in the tent listening to the crickets and frogs.

Waterhole Hut

“We can chuck it under there,” he said jovially, pointing to under the bus. There was noone else in the bus anyway. I was just happy I could get to Goulburn in daylight and have time to cycle to Canberra.

In the train replacement bus she goes.

The goal was to get to Canberra by public transport. The journey through the mountains starts from there. It was a bit grey and it drizzled a bit. Fine for knocking off some kms after lunch through the undulating countryside.

Thistle en route
20km to Queanbeyan
Molonglo River

After a quick dash through an outer arm of the Australian Capital Territory, I’m back in New South Wales for the evening, snug as a bug in a rug.


“What’s that highrise building on the top of that hill?”

“It’s the highest private residence in Australia.”

I looked a bit stunned. This high rise building was in the middle of nowhere. The guy just shrugged and chuckled.

Today was sticky and warm with the ever present threat of rain that didn’t eventuate.

Time for a day off. Tomorrow will be wet with thunderstorms.

https://www.strava.com/activities/6303746141


“The track might be muddy but you should be able to get through.” The track was lovely but not the adventure I was expecting.

Old Gibber Track

The road today started through koala country – or so I’m told. I cycled with the eyes up in the branches. Didn’t see any koala but I did see long stretches of sandy beach.

The road to Bulahdelah was a bit up and down, and I arrived quite early, all ready for an early dinner.

 

https://www.strava.com/activities/6299611300


The ramshackle collection of tin shacks lies in the sand dunes, windswept, at the end of the world. I love this place.

On the way to Tin City

The drizzle cleared and the sun poked through. The Tin City shacks were waiting.

Tin City shack
Tin City from above

I took side roads when I could, but the main road was a stark contrast to the desolation of Tin City.

Port Stephens is busy, and Hawks Nest is a quiet, laid back version of it. An amazing thin line of sanddunes stretches out to a headland. That’s where I cycled.

Yacaba spit
Yacaba spit
Yacaba spit
Yacaba spit

Tomorrow more new places to explore. Here is an old post of Tin City.

https://www.strava.com/activities/6295756568


“Where are you guys going?” asked the kid in his souped up hoonmobile who had pulled over as I inched up the hill in the dark.

“Newcastle,” I replied.

“F*ck me!” I guess lots of people had been wondering what these hundreds of cyclists were doing cycling though the rain in the middle of nowhere in the dark.

Newcastle Overnight checkpoint at Mt White

The Newcastle Overnight is an annual event where a wierd bunch of people (including me) leaves Observatory Hill near the Sydney Harbour Bridge at 9pm to cycle through the night to Newcastle, 173km to the north. It includes some longish ascents and descents in the dark to Gosford before the brain enters spaced-out mode, cycling past the Central Coast beaches and lakes when all are sleeping and only the crazies are out.

I met with Jo again. We have met on several of these rides and shared stories about the crazies. The famous one is of the 20 year old guy walking down the street naked at 3am near Budgewoi holding nothing but a branch. The event pulled the brain out of its inner processes to focus on the now. Once focussed, I had passed. No evidence photo was taken. Only me, Jo and dozens of others had seen it.

This year, no naked guys with branches but I did pass 80,000 km on the bike, just a few km from naked man road.

80,000km for the bike

Just after 80,000 on naked man road I passed a hungry man. There was no Budgewoi checkpoint this year and nothing open for about 20km. Luckily I like taking a lot of stuff on these trips. Although I couldn’t interest him in a kitchen sink, he was interested in some fruit cake and bread.

As is usual on these trips, you start together, have short stints cycling with others and having a chat, but most of the time is spent in a meditative brain state. I started cycling with Jo, and we met up again at the end.

Before departure in Sydney
Made it! 173km later in Newcastle

Thanks to Josh and Annie who both Jo and I had chatted with en route, for taking us back to Sydney in the car!

With the weather forecast of rain all week, I have decided to not cycle in the Snowy Mountains this week (through snow, sludge and freezing temperatures) but rather to take the Newcastle Overnight cycle as day one of my cycling holiday north of Sydney.

https://strava.app.link/l29O1teCnlb


With the lockdown in Sydney about to end, I have put together a little video of exploring my Local Government Area (LGA) during lockdown. Soon my horizons will be extended again!