|Today’s Distance: 28.4km
||Total Distance: 762.4km
We only needed to cycle a short distance today to set us up for the next days. Merimbula to Tathra is only 28km but there are some very steep hills. Nothing high or particularly long, but famously steep. Straight out of Merimbula the road rises steeply to get over a hill. At lunch a couple of days ago, the friendly roadside mower told us he sees many cycle tourists pushing their bikes us the hill. That spurred us on to not push the bikes and we ground to the top in granny gear. It’s certainly the steepest hill since leaving Melbourne.
After the first hill it was rolling from sea level to about 180m over a couple more equally steep hills. We arrived in Tathra with pumped legs though not particularly tired. Tathra is a pretty seaside town with a real holiday feeling. We checked into the Big4 holiday park and setup the tent. The friendly lady from the reception brought us some home baked banana cake made because the ‘big boss’ from Big4 had visited this morning. As a result of the inspection, the place is spick and span.
This afternoon we went for a walk along the beach and up the cliff stairs to the pub and shop. It was nice having a beer on the hotel deck with a great view of the ocean.
Highlight of the day: Making the top of the brutal hills.
Camping under palms
A rare selfie (we took 6 trying to get one with Jennie’s eyes open)
|Today’s Distance: 0km
||Total Distance: 734km
After arriving relatively late yesterday, and the forecast of wet weather today, we decided to have another day off. Overnight it poured with rain and the locals are really pleased as the area needed it. By morning, most of the bad weather had passed and the day got better and better.
We had a lazy morning sleeping in then doing laundry and visiting a bike shop. This is the first bike shop since Bairnsdale. After lunch we went for a long walk around town and along the beautiful beach. Merimbula is like a seaside version of Wanaka in that it’s a small town with lots of motels, restaurants and bars. It’s certainly been worth spending a day here though we suspect Merimbula is typical of coastal NSW towns and we’ll see a lot of this in coming weeks.
Tomorrow we start the push north through the little towns of Tathra then Bermagui and Narooma. We estimate we will be visiting Dan and Em in Shellharbour in two weeks and passing through Sydney in not long after that.
Highlight of the day: A long walk around town and along the beach.
At the beach in morning while the weather cleared
Jen at the caravan park
windswept Jen in Merimbula
Kite surfers on Merimbula Beach
Happy to be beside the seaside
|Today’s Distance: 87km
||Total Distance: 734km
Today was our longest day of cycling dropping from the plateau down to sea level. We woke to a cold foggy morning in Bombala. We learned later that nearby Cooma got down to -7C overnight. It wasn’t frosty in Bombala probably because of the fog but that made it very cold with no sunlight. We have all the gear for cold weather cycling which made it OK. Will looked like a Ground Effect fanboy wearing his Daddy Longlegs, Juggernauts shorts and Storm Trooper jacket.
We left Bombala at 8am and made our way through the mist to the old town of Cathcart. Not long after Cathcart the sun game out and the fog dissolved. The scenery was spectacular and reminiscent of the Lewis Pass in NZ. We made good time getting from Bombala to the top of the pass which separates the plateau from the descent. This also marked the shire boundary as we entered the Bega Valley Shire.
From the top which was 920m above sea level, we dropped rapidly down the Mount Darragh Road. It wasn’t as cold as we expected and after 20km of coasting we got to the pretty little town of Wyndham at 300m. It was hot and we felt overdressed so stripped off down to shorts and a t-shirt. We had lunch in the domain and chatted to a very friendly council roadside mower who was also having lunch. He was a mine of information and was also interested in our trip. We asked all the questions that had built up, things like “what is the bird that makes that sound” etc. He told us about the route ahead.
After lunch we dropped down to Pambula at sea level. As we approached the coast we could smell the sea and the air felt thicker and warm. Just before Pambula we met friendly cyclist who is a retired Physio. He is planning a cycle touring trip and we chatted for 20 minutes on the roadside about cycle touring gear and local area.
From Pambula we cycled the remaining 6km on a flat cycle path. 4km short of our destination it started to rain. It poured down. We arrived at the friendly Merimbula Big4 Holiday Park at 3pm and checked into a cabin for 2 nights as the weather tomorrow is meant to be bad. We can hear the surf pounding above the sound of the heavy rain on the roof of our cabin.
If we’d biked faster today, or not chatted so much, we would have arrived dry. But we wouldn’t change the day for the world. The scenery changed from high country tussock and grasslands to coastal beach. It was a great day of cycling and meeting people.
Highlight of the day: The interesting friendly people we met.
The clearing mist on the plateau
Approaching the top
|Today’s Distance: 0km
||Total Distance: 647km
Today we are relaxing in the pretty village of Bombala. After the two big uphill days then the shorter day yesterday, we felt we needed to give the legs and body a rest. Tomorrow will be a big day so having a break sets us up for the ride ahead. We plan to bike 84km from Bombala to the tourist town of Merimbula on the coast. Although it’s a long distance, it is mostly downhill which will be nice. The weather today is cold and overcast and it is forecast to be slightly colder tomorrow with a high of only 12 degrees. We’ll have to dress warmly as hours of downhill will be cold. We are looking forward to getting to the beach again.
As we are having a day off today, we thought we’d reflect on cycling in Victoria. Most of our riding was flat, very flat. Gippsland has a reputation as an industrial area but we saw very little industry. If your route doesn’t go near a desalination plant, coal mine or power station, all you see is farmland. Mostly we saw farmland and forests as we made our way across Gippsland. Victoria is very well endowed with rail trails, cycle paths and facilities for cyclists. In some respects it’s sad so many railway lines have closed but Victorians have made full use of them as cycle paths. We found drivers were almost all very considerate of us and we felt safe cycling in Victoria.
We developed our route as we went. Originally we planned to follow the Lonely Planet route but this is over 10 years old and things have changed. Most of the rail trails seem new and many of the cycle paths are the same. So each day we would look ahead, consider the LP guide, local advice, Google Maps and any other information before deciding on our route. In general Google Maps routing for cyclists does a good job of providing a route. It includes rail trails and cycle paths so we generally follow Google Maps unless we get local advice to the contrary. Sometimes Google wants to send us down gravel roads but we generally prefer to stick to the seal if possible. Our touring bikes and posteriors thank us for not cycling on gravel.
We enjoyed Victoria and found people friendly. We are a bit of a novelty cycling at this time of year. It seems we are also a novelty that we aren’t Germans as most cycle tourists seem to be. We haven’t seen a single other cycle tourist and only seen a handful of other cyclists on the rail trails. Probably most Australians think it’s too cold at this time of year, but we think the day time temperatures are perfect, although it’s cooler up on the plateau in NSW. Temperatures between 15 and 18 have been normal with suits us fine.
So tomorrow, we head down to tourist land. Most towns we’ve stayed in so far have one Caravan Park. Merimbula has five which is a sign of it’s touristiness. We’ll have to dress warmly for the descent!!
|Today’s Distance: 36.4km
||Total Distance: 647km
We had a great night’s sleep at the Delegate Hotel. We breakfasted and were ready to leave when we found Jennie’s back tire was flat. This is the second flat her back tire has had, the first on day 20. We found the leak in a different place to the first hole, changed the tube and fixed the spare.
We were on the road by 10:30am with the short destination of Bombala. New South Wales is renowned amongst cyclists from being rolling, and it certainly is. There was no flat riding between Delegate and Bombala with some steep little ups and downs.
We arrived in regional service town of Bombala at 1pm and checked into a motel. We REALLY needed to do some laundry and reorganise ourselves. We plan to stay here two nights before a big day down to Pambula Beach on the Sapphire Coast. We did groceries and walked around town and managed to find a thorn proof inner tube as another spare.
Highlight of the day: The friendly people in Delegate and Bombala.
The Delegate Hotel
|Today’s Distance: 56.5km
||Total Distance: 610.6km
It rained overnight and we woke up to an overcast day. We got on the road at 9am and within 10 minutes the road started to go up. We climbed up 700m through dense forest. As we approached the saddle, a place called The Gap at 955m, the trees started to get shorter with altitude and we entered the clouds. The mist was wet but as we were climbing it was refreshing as it was hot work.
From the top we dropped down to the collection of houses called Bonang. It was freezing going downhill and was cold when we arrived at Bonang. We stopped and had lunch and warmed up. Bonang was our original destination for day 2 in the mountains but we had made good progress yesterday and great progress this morning. So we decided to push on to Delegate in NSW. The road rose up again through forest from Bonang to the state border. As soon as we crossed the border the scenery changed from trees to rolling open grass farmland similar to North Canterbury in NZ.
We made to Delegate at 3pm very happy but tired. We checked into the Delegate Hotel, a classic friendly country hotel. The hotel wasn’t serving dinner on Sunday night so the bar lady phoned the café across the street and they cooked us a great vegetarian dinner, for $9 each.
It was a great day biking on a superb road. We can highly recommend the Bonang highway to other cyclists as a great way to travel between Gippsland and Southern NSW.
Highlight of the day: Biking up the big hill through magnificent forest.
The Bonang Highway in the mist.
The Victoria/NSW border on the Bonang Highway
|Today’s Distance: 71km
||Total Distance: 554.1km
We started out early at 8am with a little trepidation about the hills to come. The weather was clearing and we made good progress out of town and into the forest. The trees were spectacular and got better and better the further we biked. Large old rain forest gums got older and older the deeper into the wilderness we got. We had the road to ourselves with less than one car per hour which was nice knowing that someone would come along if we needed help.
We originally planned to bike to Martins Creek picnic area which was 46km. We made good time and the hills seemed easy to bike up. The previous 500km of cycling has built up our leg muscles and slopes that would have been in bottom gear two weeks ago are now easy in higher gears.
We got to Martins Creek at mid-day, well ahead of expectations. We revised our days destination to Goongerah, the only settlement between Orbost and Bonang. We rolled into Goongerah at 3pm and set up tent in the free campground. Goongerah has a reputation (according to the Orbost Caravan Park manager) of self-sufficient hippies. It’s beautiful here and it’s easy to see why people would want to live here.
Camping in a non-serviced campground means there is no camp kitchen, lounge etc and therefore no light after dark. At this time of year that means it will be pitch black at 6pm. We will cook, clean-up and be in the tent by 6pm. It won’t be hard dropping off to sleep early after a long and very rewarding days biking.
Highlight of the day: The spectacular trees and the surprising fitness we’ve build up.
Lunch at Martins Creek
Spectacular Trees on the Bonang Highway
Writing the blog at Goongerah
|Yesterday’s Distance: 41.2km
||Total Distance: 483.1km
Yesterday we cycled the remaining 41km from Nowa Nowa to Orbost on the rail trail. The trail was almost entirely through forest and was a great ride. The day started with great weather but rain threatened by late morning so we put the foot down and cycled fast to Orbost before it rained.
We checked into the Orbost Caravan Park then went about the normal routine of unpacking, showering, walking into town to do grocery shopping, then having a schooner at the local watering hole.
Today we are having a day off for logistical reasons. We feel we don’t need a rest, but the next section will be tough. We have to carry food for 4 days and will only get a rest at Delegate in NSW. So having a rest today means we are setup for the next section. That decision works well with the weather as today it’s forecast to rain and tomorrow less likely to rain.
Here’s the plan. We will cycle from Orbost to Delegate in NSW on the Bonang Highway. It’s remote but not as remote as our original plan of cycling the Barry Way to Jindabyne. Chatting to the friendly caravan park manager, we gained lots of information about the Bonang Highway. It’s sealed for most of the way, has no shops, the road will be quiet, and it’s not too steep. Steepness depends on the mode of transport as most cyclists on the internet say it’s steep. Google maps app says there is a total rise of 2971m!!
It’s interesting the difference between drivers and cyclists point of view. When we arrive at a town we are smiling and happy to be there. People wave and smile at us as we work our way to the local caravan park or café. Pulling up outside a café we must be interesting as locals comment or chat to us. We see out-of-town drivers getting out of their hermetically sealed cars looking dazed and tired and they don’t have the same point-of-view of a town as us. Often the drivers are just passing through doing 100s of km and a town is just a place to refuel. For us it’s been the destination all morning or all day and we are happy to be there and we interact with the locals.
This will be last post for a few days as there is no mobile coverage until near Delegate. We will try to write posts each day then upload them when coverage returns so you’ll get a flurry of posts.
Highlight of yesterday: Cycling on the Rail Trail and beating the rain.
Rail Trail all day!!
Jen looking happy on the Rail Trail
The ‘once’ mighty Snowy River at Orbost.
The planned route up the Bonang Highway.
|Today’s Distance: 61.5km
||Total Distance: 441.9km
We were unsure whether to call this day 11 or day 17. In the end we decided that our trip back to NZ is part of our adventure, so this is Day 17 even though we haven’t biked for nearly a week.
The trip to NZ went well and it was great to see the family gathered for a joyous occasion. The travel was easy but cumulatively hard as it was 15 hours each way which included a bus, train, airport shuttle then flight. Flights across the Tasman seem to be at unsociable hours (apparently because landing fees are less early in the morning and late at night). We arrived in Christchurch at midnight on Friday and left again at 6am on Monday. This meant we got very little sleep in NZ and were very tired when we got back to Bairnsdale. We decided we needed Tuesday off and spent the day relaxing, planning, shopping and visiting the art gallery.
Today we set off again on the bikes, a day with 100% rail trail. We had the luxury of biking from Bairnsdale to Nowa Nowa on the East Gippsland Rail Trail. This is the longest rail trail in Victoria and it is superb. The first 10km were sealed then the rest was a nice riding surface. The trail passed through tea tree groves, manicured horse estates, wineries, groomed lifestyle blocks, beautiful farm land then many km of state forest. We went through tunnels, along impressive raised embankments and saw an amazing trestle bridge.
The Caravan Park in Nowa Nowa is nice and we have the well-equipped facilities to ourselves. Incidentally, Nowa Nowa means Mingling Waters. We pondered while biking how the words Nowa Nowa translated into Mingling Waters and decided some artistic license had been taken in the translation, though we are yet to find out.
Tomorrow will be a shortish day on the rail trail to Orbost. Orbost is the last shop and town for some time as we will be heading inland, up, up, up into the highlands. It might be the last blog post for a while too as internet connectivity drops out.
Highlight of the day: Being back on the bikes on a wonderful rail trail.
Starting the rail trail in Bairnsdale
A great trail!!
Biking through tunnels
The fire was a surprise.
Until we found out it was an official burn-off.
Impressive rail bridge.
Impressive rail bridge.
View from Nowa Nowa caravan park.
Camping in Nowa Nowa.
|Today’s Distance: 45.7km
||Total Distance: 380.4km
Today was the perfect biking weather. It was warm early, but not too warm. We packed up in Hollands Landing (we now call it ‘My Name is Earl”) and hit the road at 9.30am. As we only had 45km to bike it was leisurely although now our legs are fitter we keep a good pace and motor up hills. The road was rolling and there was very little traffic.
As we approached Bairnsdale we saw the normal signs of a population centre. First we might see the ‘school bus turns here’ sign. The houses get closer together as we transition from farms to lifestyle blocks. Next comes the gun club or aero club and as we get closer traffic increases, golf courses or pony club, and roadside rubbish increases. Most towns we’ve visited then have a cycle trail but Bairnsdale didn’t. We joined the A1 Princess Highway 3km outside Bairnsdale which was busy but had a nice wide verge.
We made it to the Caravan Park and were greeted by friendly staff and a really nice cabin at a great price. After showering and unpacking we took our bikes to the bike shop for a tune-up, went to the train station to get tickets back to Melbourne, then did some groceries. We came back to the cabin and ate, ate and ate, with a beer or two.
We are happy to be in Bairnsdale. Tomorrow is a day off to do laundry and relax then on Friday we catch the 6.05am bus then train to Melbourne. Normally trains travel from Bairnsdale to Melbourne but in what ABC Radio is calling a debacle, Vline discovered the tracks need cleaning and have been waiting for 6 weeks to get a machine from WA and then NSW. So we get a bus that connects with the train in Traralgon.
Highlight of the day: Great weather and Bairnsdale which is nice.
My Name is Earl
Will happy with the apostrophe
Great road to bike on
Mitchell Gardens Caravan Park
Mitchell Gardens Caravan Park