Bikepacking the Hunt 1000 with Claire and Gerty

Bikepacking the Hunt 1000 with Claire and Gerty

Claire Stevens is one of our incredible Curve ambassadors. Any spare time she can get, is normally spent squeezing a long ride into a small amount of time. In this instance Claire had her sights set on the Hunt 1000. Encompassing the Kosciuszko, Alpine and Namadgi National Parks, the Hunt 1000 route takes riders into the heart of these remote and uniquely Australian alpine wilderness areas. As always her GMX+ Gerty was along for the ride.

Words and photos by Claire Stevens.

It wouldn’t be an adventure if it were easy. I left Canberra mid-morning on Tuesday with plans to get to Melbourne via the Hunt 1000 route by the following Tuesday. What happened was a little different.

Canberra to Cabramurra via the Hunt 1000 route was hilly, dry and hot, with magnificent trees, birds and views.
I have recently moved to Geelong permanently for work reasons, and it has all been rather stressful. The week before last, I cleared the decks for a bit of adventure with almost no planning other than to download the route, grab a cheap flight up to Canberra and buy a few things on the morning of departure. I set out from Canberra, ready to go with the flow and immerse myself in whatever came my way. I had seven days to get home. It was fiercely hot, which in collusion with my lack of fitness, slowed my enthusiasm for fast progress. I was filling my bottles at every opportunity. The scenery was amazing and quite different to that of the Victorian high country that I knew relatively well. There were plenty of yellow tailed black and sulphur crested cockatoos, maggies, rosellas and even gang gang cockatoos to keep me company. There was evidence of brumbies everywhere (they are clearly destructive to the fragile ecosystem), and their screaming in the night was rather unsettling. However, not as much as the fast-approaching hooves that came my way in the moonlight and forced a hurried leap out of my sleeping bag to make sure I was seen and avoided. I may have been overdramatic, but you know how the night can magnify things.  Anyway, they are magnificent creatures, and I saw quite a few up close. Still, I was not stopping to take pictures. If the New Forest (UK) ponies could bite and do damage, these magnificent wild creatures indeed appeared more dangerous!
If you do ride this route, be warned that the Cabramurra shop is only open to the public on Saturdays, so there is no resupply from Canberra until well after the Jagungal Wilderness.
The Jagungal Wilderness presented my favourite kind of bikepacking terrain. It was remote and wild and had all the best surfaces: double track, single track and incredibly steep ups with all rideable downs (on sturdy Gerty, anyway!). It was wonderful, with lovely wildflowers, alpine trees and soft wild grass for laying out the bivy in the wild weather.
This section of my ride began mid-afternoon; stopping to eat as I entered the wilderness area, I was soon hurried along by the lack of shade and hungry march flies. It was boiling, and I hoped for some cool air as storm clouds quickly rushed in. The first drops of rain were a relief, and because of this, I delayed putting on my raincoat until it was too late. I was soon wet through, got cold and then the hail came and stung my exposed skin. Wow! Lightning struck close by, and a snow gum was smashed to a billion pieces, rain meant no fire. Phew! There was no shelter; all I could do was keep moving through trails like rivers. Thankfully, I came upon Derschko’s Hut and shivered as I brought myself in from the hail. I lit a fire, warmed and dried myself, and was tempted to stop for the night. As the sun came out a few hours later, I had to go out and enjoy it some more and left the hut as the sun was low. I rode on into the night. The wind ripped along as I reached higher ground. When I had finally had enough for the day, I rolled out close to some low scrub for shelter. Rain woke me early, and I scrambled to pack up before it got too heavy. However, it was soon thunder storming again, and I briefly took shelter to make a morning coffee in the ‘closed for renovation’ Valentine Hut. What a way to see this place! It rained for most of the morning. I popped out of the Wilderness and onto Schlink Pass Road for a massive descent towards Geehi. I must go back to Jagungal sometime for more. Magnificent! Five stars.

My adventure continued as I launched Gerty out of the Jagungal Wilderness and onto the brilliant Schlink Pass Road for a descent filled with all my favourite types of cockatoos, lyrebirds, and currawongs loving the moody weather. It was about 40km of absolute magnificence. Thankfully, this speedy section compensated for hiking uphill, crossing rivers and faffing around at Valentine Hut making coffee while trying to avoid the worst rain.
I spoke to a Snowy worker and then some Parks people who were closing Olsen’s Road due to all the downed trees from the storms. Consensus was that crossing Murray River at Tom Groggin was not possible. They were amazed I had gotten past the zillion trees over the road and that I was in the wilderness area for the storm. I considered ignoring their warnings but decided to listen and detour to the Bringenbrong Bridge. The day soon turned hot as I climbed the Major Clews Hut track on the off-road route to Khancoban for my first re-supply since Canberra. As I rode over the bridge and to Corryong, another thunderstorm had me wet through again. I spent the night in town on a secret veranda with a power point while I charged things in the dry. Slipping away early, I was off through Nariel Valley, over the dirt climb of the Benambra-Corryong Road and into Benambra. Who knows whether it was a punishment from the veganiverse for having a very rare milky ice cream or filling my bottles from a branch of Sassafras Creek. However, my stomach was not right after Benambra, so I crawled the last 20 km into Omeo. Soon after, an uncontrollable bowel movement had me motel bound, so I stayed for two nights in lovely Omeo. Well rested and better, an early morning departure up the climb towards Dinner Plain and then Hotham was an absolute delight. So lovely to be back in the familiar Victorian High Country. I soaked in all the views and said g’day to all the roadies. I stopped at the turn-off to Dargo and contemplated the journey so far. I wouldn’t make it to Melbs in time for work. Time to descend Mount Hotham instead.

The last section of my most recent adventure had me leave the Hunt 1000 route behind and descend Hotham towards Bright. Getting to work on time would now be a doddle as all I had to negotiate was an alpine descent, a brewery selling all the most excellent beers, and a load of bike paths.

I was surprised by how much I had to pedal through the ‘flat’ section of Mount Hotham descent Also, The Meg can be descended much more quickly when you can corner at the bottom on the most stable bike ever built! Woooo! Compared to the many times I have descended Hotham on a road bike, it felt like a completely different road on Gerty the GMX+. Harrietville was buzzing with roadies, happy to give out a few hellos and waves!  I hopped onto the fantastic bike path just after Harrietville, bound for Bright with the biggest smile! Hot-mix, no cars, close to the river and teeming with wrens, maggies and flycatchers. What’s not to love? It was a hot old trip, and after a refuel at the brewery, a dip in the river was delicious! I retired early, already starting the recovery from an excellent adventure. It had been a wonderful smiley day up from Omeo and through well-loved terrain. The following day was a pleasant roll along the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail to Wangaratta, a massive brunch and a couple of trains to take me home to Geelong.

Thanks for following my adventures. Hope you are getting out enjoying nature and bikes also!
You can follow Claire and Gerty here. You can learn more about Claire's GMX+ here.

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    Andrew Harvey “Pearhead150”

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