Nathan Pasco has been a Kevin rider for many years now. Late last year, he plotted out a long flashpacking trip from his home in Emerald, Victoria to watch the worlds in Wollongong, NSW. Read on for a diary entry blog on his adventure, plus ride files for those looking at trying something similar in that area.
Words and pics by Nathan Pasco
My mate Rob and I both love gravel riding, we’d both previously done a few 2-3 day flashpacking rides – I’d had the privilege of a few Curve adventures! - and were both struggling to find time to ride as much as we wanted.
We’d catch up most Thursday nights after work for a ride that would go for anywhere between 1hr and 4hrs, and usually ended up with beer & pizza. On one of these Thursday nights in February or March, we’d been talking about the upcoming world championships in Wollongong, and one of us said ‘we could ride there?
We subconsciously started doing a bit of “training”, but life got in the way, fitness wasn’t great, and a plan never really got put together. I’d put some draft routes together on ride with GPS, but up until about 3 weeks prior to departing, nothing was really organised.
After getting the bike serviced, throwing together a last-minute trial overnighter (only 112km, 2200vert in two days), and the stars aligning around work and family, I finally set off. Accommodation booked, 10 days’ riding planned, no fitness, low confidence in my own abilities, but man - when the cleats clicked into the pedals and day 1 started, I was more excited than I’d ever been for a ride.
Day 1, Emerald to Marysville, 97km 1627vm https://www.strava.com/activities/7805311153
My first 3 days were solo, and I relished this opportunity – familiar roads, good weather, and a day with short kms meant a great feeling of having plenty of time. After a huge 8ks from Emerald to Cockatoo, it was time for a coffee, and to show a few people at work the loaded bike. The sun was out, and it made the Eastern Dandenong Ranges Trail from Cockatoo to Gembrook very pleasant. Skirting the edge of Kurth Kiln regional park on some trails, then a brief few ks on Woori Yallock Rd, it was onto the Warburton Rail Trail at Woori Yallock for a beautiful run into Warburton. Procrastinating – I changed my bottle of chain lube over at COG, picked up a pastie from the Warburton Bakery, some more food from the IGA, and sat by the river for lunch. Out of Warburton, the climb up the bottom half of Donna Buang certainly felt slow on the loaded bike, but was very pleasant. After negotiating with a road worker in the ute at the road closed sign at the Acheron Way turn-off “yeah mate, you can go through, just listen out for a couple of tippers driving through”, the Acheron Way (on a closed road!) was awesome. Peace and quiet, great views, massive mountain ash, bubbling streams, a mini waterfall, and the legs were feeling good. The promised “tippers” came flying through, and whilst I had two front lights on and was riding on the extreme left of the road, fair to say they didn’t expect to see me. They were looking out for me on their way back, and one of the drivers waited at the other end for a ‘friendly chat’ with me (who the f##k let you through, etc etc). Smoothed over, and on to Marysville, I rolled into town at about 4pm, feeling very pleased with the leisurely pace I’d managed, and arriving at the caravan park with some time to spare. Quick bike clean, chain lube, walk past the lovely Steavenson River, resupply from the supermarket, and into the Duck Inn for dinner. A sizzle plate, chips and a stout, and then to bed.Day 2, Marysville to Bonnie Doon, 109km 2053vm https://www.strava.com/activities/7810841685
After porridge and a cup of tea in the cabin, starting riding around 745am, and so pumped to be doing this ride, day 2 started – straight out of Marysville and onto Lady Talbot Drive. After being introduced to this amazing road by Jesse and Sarah 4 years ago, I was rapt to be doing it solo, as part of such a huge adventure. After the tipper drivers the day before, you’d think I’d have learnt, but no.. after encountering 4 gates saying “road closed, public safety hazard, falling trees” etc – I stubbornly decided to push through Lady Talbot Drive. And despite the karma risks associated with that, I was glad I did. It was muddy, a bit drizzly, and very slow going – but not unsafe, and the road itself (and views) were stunning. It stayed drizzling, but after getting off Lady Talbot, and onto Blue Range Rd, the riding itself felt great. Too wet for any photos, a quick descent down to Thornton, and then Eildon for a bite for lunch. Lady Talbot had taken its toll timewise, which meant not rolling out of Eildon - after a water top up, salad roll, and some snacks - until about 2pm. Bonnie Doon wasn’t much further along, but with Skyline Rd, some drizzle, and me being a cautious descender (down Maintongoon Rd), it took a good few hours. The riding was great, and the legs still felt ok. Skyline Rd in particular was fantastic – cool, with low cloud, but not thick enough to stop the views. My Dad met me in Bonnie Doon for dinner at the pub where I was staying – so after arriving around 5pm, a quick bike wash (accom provided “towels for bikes” – how good!) and shower, I was rapt to find a vegan eggplant parma on the menu which went well with a beer with Dad. A quick re-supply at the Bonnie Doon Roadhouse before it closed at 8pm in town, for brekky and snacks the next morning, and then into bed.
Day 3, Bonnie Doon to Milawa, 116km 1316vm https://www.strava.com/activities/7816018104
Porridge and tea in my room again, made up some bread rolls and stashed a few mini-packs of cereal (thanks Bonnie Doon Hotel!) for the day ahead. The rail trail towards Mansfield was magnificent – but I was “welcomed” by about 40 magpies over the hour and a quarter it took me to get to Mansfield. The weather was great – cool & sunny – and after a couple of decent days climbing, I was looking forward to an easier day. After a coffee in Mansfield with Dad, where I happily procrastinated, I set off towards the Old Tolmie Rd climb. The views out the back of Mansfield before the climb started were spectacular, and briefly blocked out the one previous experience I’d had climbing Old Tolmie.. the climb isn’t much on paper - about 6ks with 460m elevation gained, and despite my last time up (4 years ago) being really hard work, it was very enjoyable this time – however the legs did feel it! After a nice slow steady roll up a beautifully surfaced sealed road, I turned off onto some dirt for a few ks, back onto the main road towards Whitfield, and then turned onto McDonalds Spur Track. A steep, dry weather only 4wd track, that I knew would drop sharply – I guessed about 2.5km and dropping about 400m elevation, and I wasn’t far off! I managed to ride around 2ks, then needed to very slowly walk the rest.. it was a really cool track, dropping me down onto Christophers Rd, through some previously unsigned – but also un-gated – private property, and onto Upper King River Rd. This included an unplanned creek crossing (hint – freezer bags under socks are ok for rain, but not creek crossings!), but once on Upper King River Rd, the ride into Cheshunt was really smooth and easy. Wineries dot the sides of the road, and the views of the hills from the valley floor are really good. I took the main King Valley Rd into Whitfield where I pulled in for an unnecessary food stop (which was still good!), and whilst rain threatened I didn’t really catch any of it. After a couple of ks out of Whitfield on the main Rd, I turned off onto dirt again for what turned out to be 30ks of unexpectedly great scenery. Through Edi and towards Moyhu, the roads were in good condition, there were a few little climbs to keep it interesting, and I had to stop for cattle crossing which was entertaining. The last 10-12ks of the day were flat, straight, and a bit head-windy, which saw me pull into Milawa at about 515pm. Upon checking in at the caravan park, I met 4 guys who were also riding to Wollongong on a similar route, slightly quicker schedule with a support vehicle. Turns out they’d been told a couple of days prior they couldn’t go through the closed Acheron Way, because “some idiot was allowed through there the day before on a bike and nearly got hit” – I told them, yeah I’m that idiot!! Anyway it gave them a laugh. A bike clean, a bit of a resupply from the general store (dodging storms & puddles while walking in socks & thongs), another successful plant-based pub meal, a stout, some snacks in my cabin watching the Cats win, and then bed!
Day 4, Milawa to Bright, 102km 310vm https://www.strava.com/activities/7820329874 After deciding to put a bit of air in my tyres, and negotiating re-inflating my front tyre after the valve core stuck to my hand pump & came all the way out.. I scoffed some fruit for brekky and looked for coffee.. Milawa Bakery didn’t let me down! From there I had about a 15k cool and drizzly roll into Wangaratta to meet Rob, who was getting off a V Line train, arriving from Southern Cross around 10am. Rob was pumped to be on his “day 1” which started with an 80k ride from his place to Southern Cross, meaning his day would be about 160km vs my 102km. I’d really loved the 3 days solo but was equally happy at the prospect of doing the rest of the ride with a great mate. We had a hot brekky and coffee in Wang’ before hitting the rail trail towards Bright. The 70+ ks of sealed trail was a nice respite – and well needed as I was feeling some saddle sores appear. Other than magpies (my theory of flashing helmet lights deterring them worked occasionally!), a food stop at Myrtleford, a bit of rain, plenty of photos and some banter, it was an easy uneventful roll into Bright. We got into Bright around 4pm, headed to the Bright Brewery for a sports drink & some chips, and checked into the Alpine Hotel. Our gear needed drying off - so after sorting that, and a resupply at the supermarket, we headed back to the Brewery for dinner. Fairly early night, looking forward to a big day ahead!
Day 5, Bright to Tallangatta, 135km 2457vm https://www.strava.com/activities/7826780481
The night at the Alpine Hotel was a great sleep in a nice room, however punctuated by ‘vocal’ neighbours enjoying themselves on the first weekend of school holidays.. but overall we still woke up pretty well rested. Our clothes had all dried well overnight, and after rugging up against the cool drizzly morning, a liberal application of chamois cream, buying a pair of sunnies from the Bright servo (after locking mine in the hotel room!), and scoffing a bit of fruit for brekky, we set off towards Tawonga at about 730am – we were both really looking forward to todays ride! The climb up Tawonga was slow, but a bit like Old Tolmie Rd a few days earlier, it was quite pleasant – spinning slowly on a heavy bike, talking to cows & magpies, we got to the top for the obligatory platform photo. A careful descent into Mt Beauty saw us stop for a few photos at the unusually high & fast flowing Kiewa River, before heading to the Bakery for second breakfast. Coffee and foccacias, and then a few snacks for the day from the Supermarket (including a bag of chips artfully taped to a saddle bag), a chance meeting with Jai Hindley’s aunt – who was also headed to Wollongong – and we headed out of town towards Mountain Creek Rd. Still drizzly but not overly cold, it was a really nice stretch of riding. We’d both ridden Mountain Creek Rd before, and were both looking forward to heading up Trappers Gap Rd – where neither of us had been. We stopped at the intersection for a snack and a stretch before turning left up Trappers Gap Rd. Still cool and drizzly, it meant the views on the way up weren’t amazing, but the riding was great. Constant even gradients (5-8%) and the surface was good considering the damp weather. Heading down the other side got colder quickly, so we stopped and layered up for the descent. We also stopped halfway down for ‘saddle bag chips’. We hit the bottom of Trappers Gap Rd around 3pm, and with the thought of Potato Cakes on our minds, rolled into Mitta Mitta. The general store/takeaway was still open, so we got lucky, and procrastinated (potato cakes, coffee, fruit, soft drink..) a bit more before heading out of town along Mitta North Rd, and then onto Bullhead Rd. There was still enough daylight to appreciate how good this bit of riding was – great gravel, gentle climbing, and lovely farmland to look at (including saying hello to plenty of cows 😊). It felt like we were rolling through private property as we got to the bottom of Bullhead Rd, but there were no signs or closed gates, so all good! As we turned onto Yabba Rd, the sun was setting, and it was getting a bit wetter. We caught glimpses of how beautiful this road must be, as it followed the Mitta Mitta River into Lake Hume. It was dark after a few ks though, and raining more steadily, so we ground our way into Tallangatta without being able to fully appreciate it (although very grateful for what we had seen), arriving at the Tallangatta Motor Inn around 745pm cold and wet, but very happy with the day’s ride. I’d called the pub earlier knowing they’d be closing as we got into town, and asked for a take away serve of chips, veggies, and plain pasta – a suitable 3 course meal in the basic confines of the nights accomm – went down a treat, followed by a beer and more chips with Rob before tucking into bed.. (after the evening ritual of charging, laying out the wet gear, and cleaning the bike).Day 6, Tallangatta to Khancoban, 117km 1395vm https://www.strava.com/activities/7831812979
Clearly I’d jinxed us both by mentioning the day before, and again this morning “this is our easy day amongst a few hard ones” On paper, it looked like pleasant rail trail, very little climbing, and a potentially early finish. It certainly wasn’t our hardest day, but “easy” was not entirely accurate either.. It was a nice leisurely start, brekky at the bakery and stocking up at the IGA in Tallangatta. The supermarket stock-up was a big one - porridge sachets and cupasoups in anticipation of a very early start the next day, and not being 100% sure if we’d find a major food stop on the way today before Corryong. I’d pencilled in the Koetong Pub (36ks in for an early lunch) and then the Berringama fire station (possible water stop at 63km), but neither of those were certain, and Corryong was at about 90km. Anyway, starting around 830am the roll out of Tallangatta was beautiful. The rail trail was nice and flat for the first 20ks, allowing us to see some of the scenery we’d missed the night before. Lush green hills and farmland, the Mitta Mitta River and Lake Hume, Tallangatta Creek, and a fantastic rail trail! The next 30ks had us gradually climbing, gaining about 500m elevation all the way to Shelley. We missed the Koetong Pub – we were enjoying the trail too much! – the bridges, waterfalls, valley views, up & down sections made it one of the best bits of trail I’ve ever ridden. On the way up to Shelley, I noticed a squeaking which turned out to be my rear brakes rubbing. My very mechanically minded mate Rob gave them a quick adjustment which seemed to do the trick. After Shelley the scenery changed quite quickly. We descended for about 16-17ks, dropping about 400m in elevation on the way into Berringama. We went through pine forests, switching between trail and dirt roads for a while, we then had a repeat of the day before – dropping through farms/cattle/paddocks – with no closed gates or private property signs we pushed through, and it was beautiful. Berringama was literally just an intersection, and we decided we had enough water & food to push on to Corryong. We had about 20ks of riding along the Murray Valley Hwy which felt daunting after so many quiet backroads, but was actually fine. Courteous (and infrequent) traffic, and a good shoulder meant it was fairly stress free. On the way down into Corryong we caught glimpses in the distance of snow capped mountains, before jumping onto some welcome rail trail about 5ks out from town. We got into Corryong around 330pm, and after a big day of snacking, quickly ate a bit and re-stocked at the IGA – primarily for the next day, as we knew nothing would be open in Khancoban tonight, and we were off for an early start the next day. We left Corryong just after 4pm, with about 25-30ks of riding left to get into Khancoban. The roads and views were amazing – closer looks at the alps, magnificent green pastures, rolling hills, and our first close up of the Murray as we crossed into NSW near Bringenbrong. We took a few photos of the state border, and some NSW alps signage, and thoroughly enjoyed the roll into Khancoban, arriving at the caravan park around 545pm. We checked into our shared cabin, did the charging/cleaning/showering (no wet gear today!!), and then found the pub for dinner. “Cooks night off” meant a very limited menu, but we managed to enjoy a good feed (AFBOC for me, and a parma for Rob), a beer, and a recap of an absolutely stunning day on the bike. Back to the cabin, Rob further investigated my rubbing rear brakes (gave me some resistance training for pretty much the whole day!!) and thankfully after an adjustment and putting some new pads on, they looked good to go for the next day. We tried to get to sleep relatively early for what was a huge day coming up.Day 7, Khancoban to Cooma, 173km 4313vm https://www.strava.com/activities/7837707116
We were up at about 4am, ready for – well we didn’t really know what we were ready for – but we knew a big day was coming. We had porridge and tea in the cabin, loaded the bikes with food for the day – knowing we couldn’t resupply until Thredbo (90km), and grateful for our supplies from the day before. I used my two collapsible water bottles for the first time, putting them in jersey pockets, meaning I could carry 4lt in total. It was cold and misty when we got rolling just before 5am. The first climb started after about 2km, and we saw the sun rise whilst climbing into the Kosciuszko National Park. We warmed up, climbing up to over 1000m elevation and whilst still a bit cold, it was looking like an amazing day for weather. 20ks in, and over the first climb, we pulled off the Alpine Way and into Scammells Ridge Lookout. It was perfect timing – there was a toilet, a quick leg stretch, and stunning views off to the western side of the snowy mountains. We took 15 minutes for some photos and were feeling great. We got going again around 730am, and had another 30k stretch of the Alpine Way, which included a 9km climb. The scenery on the way down to the Tom Groggin campground was spectacular. We skirted the base of the NSW alps, seeing them disappear and reappear off to our left, whilst looking to the right and seeing the ‘back sides’ of the Vic alps – we think Dinner Plain and Falls Creek. With the sun shining, undulating sealed roads, and those views, we were having a sensational day. Early lunch stop at Tom Groggin campground.. we were extremely proud of ourselves for carrying what we needed – tortillas and beans for Rob, hommus & cucumber rolls for me. It was an awesome experience seeing the Murray River right there, not too far from its source, flowing really fast & quite wide – that lunch was one of the highlights of the ride for me. We procrastinated a bit, before gritting our teeth and rolling out for the start of the climb up Thredbo, about 18km in length, gaining around 1100m. We’d never ridden it before, and had mentally chalked it up to looking like a ‘pinchier Buffalo’, which was pretty close. It was really hard in parts, with some sections around 16-18% gradient, and it started to warm up which made layering/de-layering a regular thing to stop for. But the slow grinding pace, the sensational views, and then riding above the snowline for half an hour before getting to Dead Horse Gap (1582m elevation) made it a really great ride. The sun was out (I copped a sunburnt nose and strips on my legs), and we were quite warm as we rolled down from Dead Horse Gap towards Thredbo Village at around 130pm. It turned out to be a long, expensive and probably unnecessary food stop, but we soaked in some views and took on some sustenance, then climbed the stairs and steep ramps to get back out of the village. Initially, on the ride down towards Jindabyne the 80kph single lane highway was ok, traffic wasn’t too heavy, and we were in pretty good spirits after more food. About halfway along the 35km stretch to Jindabyne, traffic got heavier, road shoulder got narrower and bumpier, and the speed limit increased to 100kph. It wasn’t a pleasant stretch – although there were no real close calls or incidents – amplified by the contrast of all the riding previously, where we’d had no traffic or highway riding to speak of. Arriving into Jindabyne was a shock too. Tourist buses coming down from the snow, a very busy town, everyone in a hurry, and Rob and I were both tired, and a little rattled from the 20ks highway riding before getting to town. As most would know.. when you’re tired, minor niggles feel bigger than they are (like my saddle sores and Rob’s neck), so we weren’t feeling good. Rob wisely said “I need to sit for an hour” which I welcomed. We resupplied, ate a lot, stretched our legs on the grass in a park, and silently debated in our own heads whether we could push onto Cooma. By now it was about 5pm, still a bit of daylight left, but we had 60ks riding – on similar roads to what we’d just experienced – which we guessed would take about 4hrs. We felt like giving it a go, and with no real contingency plan we pushed on. Rob was feeling a little uneasy in the stomach, I was tired and sore, and we were told there was a ‘little climb out of town’ to get started. It was a good hour or so as the sun set (beautiful in spite of how we felt) before we got the climb done, and onto the only stretch of gravel (about 5km) we’d see all day. Rob’s stomach told him he needed an urgent stop, where we thankfully made it to a bridge off the dirt road, as the sun had set. The last 45ks after that were a bit of a blur, but after a flat wahoo, failed charging on the go, running over a wombat (which did Robs stomach no good!) and silently pedalling along hoping it would be over soon, the day finally ended in Cooma at around 930pm. We found our motel and a 24hr maccas, and after airing gear (not wet thankfully!) having a cupasoup, and checking in with family at home, I think we finally managed sleep by about 1130pm. It was an amazing day on the bike, and despite the few hours we struggled with, I’ll remember this day in a massively positive way forever.Day 8, Cooma to Braidwood, 147km 2549vm https://www.strava.com/activities/7843559196
After the day before, it was a very subdued and late to the day. We packed up the bikes, ate some fruit in the motel room, and then needed to throw a plan together for the day. My original ride with GPS file had no services for the day, and while 140k doesn’t sound long, we knew it would be after the day before. Our options were – along the Monaro Hwy for a service stop at Bredbo, about 35ks in, but then unsure of anything after that. Or a slightly longer overall route than the original 140k planned, but a later service stop at Captains Flat – only an option due to some earlier online communication with the new owners of the pub in town, which hadn’t been reopened after closing down over a year prior.. more about that later! Captains Flat was about 100ks in, so after choosing that option, our first job was to load up with enough supplies for most of the days’ riding. We found a supermarket, I made us hommus and cucumber rolls (which Rob was considering a better option for his stomach than the refried beans and tortillas from the day before) for us both, and for a second day in a row I carried the 2 1lt collapsible water bottles. After resupply we wanted a coffee, so found a Café in Cooma and didn’t get rolling until around 10am. Rob was feeling a little worse for wear, and worried about his stomach, I wasn’t too bad – but the saddle sores required a fresh tub of Vaseline to be purchased during the morning’s resupply. The first 25ks were on sealed secondary roads to Numeralla – a little locality with some houses and a public toilet. We were grateful for a public toilet stop that wasn’t a bridge, so quickly pulled in – and due to not knowing what was ahead, I topped up water too. It was a cool and cloudy day, a bit of drizzle but not unpleasant at all. Out of Numeralla we were on sealed roads, and immediately into a 7km climb that took us up to about 1100m elevation. Once at the top of this climb, we stayed on a plateau for the bulk of the day, mostly between 1000m and 1200m elevation. There was around 60ks of gravel roads, lots of up and down climbing, and in a very different way to what we’d seen previously, it was great scenery. Srubby farmland, rocky outcrops, great gravel roads, a nice h&c roll lunch stop by a creek, passing through the localities of Peak View and Jerangle, before some sealed roads near Jingera and then the turn off to Captains Flat. From Numeralla to this point was a really fantastic ride. We’d been trying to contact the Captains Flat pub all afternoon while jumping in and out of service which slowed us a bit. I’d originally thought we’d get there early afternoon for lunch, but as the hours ticked by (filled with some great riding), we didn’t roll into Captains Flat until dusk, around 530pm.
A bit about Captains Flat.. I knew when I did my original route that this would be one of the only resupply options for the day. A bit of google/facebook research told me there was a pub in town (the only business in town), but apparently it had closed down. A few phonecalls back and forth (weeks before the ride), and I’d spoken to Greg the new owner, not planning on reopening the Pub until March 2023, who’d said “we love cyclists, would be happy to open up and put some food on for you”. I checked in again with Greg before I left home 8 days earlier, and he reiterated they’d be happy to do that for us. So on the day, after the delirium of the day before, knowing we were looking at dinner and not lunch, and not being able to contact Greg due to no reception, we weren’t sure what (if anything!) would greet us at the Captains Flat Pub.. so we pulled into this huge building in the middle of a ‘nothing town’ as dusk fell, and I called Greg. “yeah we’re here, will be out in a minute” he said. We were met with a couple of hours of wonderful hospitality, with Greg and his wife happy to use us as guinea pigs for their prospective reopening in 6 months. A place to lean our bikes under cover, a coffee, wedges, soup, bread, an offer made to stay (which we politely declined), an offer of wine (which we also declined!) made it a fantastic part of the day. Greg had had some bikepacking experience, and knew the type of riding we were doing, so we had a bit in common to chat about. Rob and I really hope this lovely couple get their business off the ground. Only around 55ks from Canberra, keen to make themselves known to cyclists, and holding the title for the longest pub bar in the country, they’ve certainly got a few things in their favour – check them out if you get the chance! We didn’t get rolling from Captains Flat again until almost 7pm, but unlike the day before, we made the conscious decision to stop for dinner knowing we had about 45ks to go for the day. A drizzle was falling as we left town, in great spirits, with a 10k gravel climb in front of us – we spun slowly up to 1100m elevation again, on what were probably very scenic gravel roads. Then for about 35ks, we had a mixture of gravel descents, sealed secondary roads, and much more pleasant conditions than the night before, before rolling into Braidwood just after 10pm. We shared a bag of chips that had made the 147k journey with us on Rob’s saddle bag, and got to sleep around 11pm in a very comfortable room at the Cedar Lodge Motel.
Day 9, Braidwood to Huskisson, 129km 1390vm https://www.strava.com/activities/7848147704
After another late finish the night before, we woke late-ish again! I was greeted by magpies at the motel room door at around 745am. They must have been used to food from there before, but unfortunately I didn’t offer them anything.. We took our time getting started again after another late finish the night before, and (jinxed again) thinking it would be an easier day, we happily took our time. We packed, cleaned, chamois creamed, tiger balmed and checked out of the motel. A resupply at the IGA, and a great brekky & coffee at the bakery, then we were good to around 945am. We ran into a couple of guys as we were setting off, who were doing a 4 day bike packing trip in the area. We chatted for a couple of minutes, and found out they were heading in a similar direction to us for the day. Re-supply during the day for us was a pub in Nerriga at the halfway point – around 60km in – and nothing else either side of that, so I carried the collapsible water bottles again as we were unsure of water top ups too. It was a drizzly day but not too cold, and we started on a nice sealed secondary road towards Mongarlowe, before what looked to be about 30ks of gravel. The roads were undulating without any major climbs, and it made for a very pleasant morning. Plenty of nice scenery, not too much rain, and we passed the guys from the bakery a couple times (who were going at a much quicker pace than we were!), before we turned onto the Nerriga Road after about 43ks of riding. A fairly non-descript 15ks then got us to the Nerriga Pub at 145pm. Thinking it was our last ‘real day’ of riding, and envisioning a fairly straight-forward afternoon of about 70ks, sealed roads and not a lot of climbing, we allowed ourselves the luxury of a lunchtime beer. It was a great country pub, with a few farmers having a long lunch, dogs wandering happily (and safely) across the main road, bowls of hot wedges & chips, and the aforementioned beer. We knew there was a climb out of Nerriga, and despite the drizzle, and our full/relaxed state, we enjoyed it. It was pinchy at the start, but beautifully scenic – dramatic rocky formations right by the roadside, and despite a fairly narrow shoulder, the traffic was courteous. We got to the top with our only disappointment being the cloudy conditions concealing what were probably great views back across the plateaus we’d ridden across, and down to the coast in front of us. The drizzle set in again, but the riding was pleasant. Around 20-30ks along the road, it looked like our first mechanical for the whole trip, Rob’s front tyre was low. Stopped for a quick pump up, and it looked ok for 10 minutes before it went down again. Rob could see a small tear, just big enough for the sealant not to work.. It was wet, we were both conscious of our ‘easy’ afternoon, and civilised arrival time into Huskisson slipping away, so probably weren’t thinking too clearly! After mentally checking through our gear/tools, we thought it best to put a tube in, whilst not the perfect fit it was close enough. Unfortunately it wasn’t until about 15 minutes after we got rolling again (after being stopped for an hour in drizzle) that I thought of the tyre plug kit I had packed safely in one of my bags.. huge face palms all round…! So that led to a couple of hours of ho-hum riding, not being able to see any views, mentally drained by the “downhill” to the coast not really being downhill, and the prospect of another night time arrival. It was a simple route until we got to Tomerong, where we knew we’d have to cross the freeway – which looked straight forward on a map, but in the dark and not knowing the roads it took a bit of guesswork. We were only on the freeway for a few hundred metres, but managed to get tooted and abused a handful of times. Thankfully we spotted a side road, climbed over a concrete barrier, and were back on route on back roads again. About 10ks was all that was left, and into Huskisson we rolled, wet and a bit down, but excited by the prospect of some take away and a drink. We found our beach bungalow, and I set off on a food/drink mission which involved about 10ks more riding, some Dominos being delivered, and my entrance into the (busy!) Club Huski in wet lycra, asking for take away booze which I rode back to the bungalow. Gear airing out, bikes cleaned, pizza eaten, champagne & bourbon drunk, we crashed out around 1030pm, tired and happy.
Day 10, Huskisson to Kiama, 73km 644vm https://www.strava.com/activities/7852807158
The original ride was planned to finish in Wollongong, which would have meant 100ks today, but with our accommodation booked (with friends) in Kiama, it was a bit shorter – which we were happy with! We woke up and had a leisurely start – some fruit in the room, and a walk on the beach with a cuppa. It was nice seeing the town we’d rolled into in the dark the night before. We packed up, left the bungalow and headed into town, where we found a great café for breakfast – excellent coffees and pies, and a small stock up at the supermarket. We got riding after that at around 1015am, in warm-ish muggy weather, and in high spirits after a great breakfast, and seeing a picturesque coastal town in the daylight after 9 days of “inland riding”. The roads were good, for about 12ks we were on quiet sealed roads, before crossing the Princes Highway. We followed my original ride with GPS file, which had us running parallel to the highway on a dirt road for a only 2-3ks, before crossing over the highway again. This 2.5ks became one of the best unexpected finds of the whole trip. The road we were on became smaller, then it became a trail, which became a dead end. We walked in the direction we thought the road continued, and the scrub opened up to a rocky creek bed. We kept walking, following the creek bed, and it turned into a 270 degree waterfall, all being fed by the tiny creek we’d been walking along. Falls Creek NSW – look it up! We stayed, took photos and wandered for about half an hour, before getting back onto the road (which we found easily enough) and crossing over the highway, for 7ks of trails & tracks along the edge of the Nowra State forest. We passed plenty of signage saying we were close to a rifle range, so stayed well & truly on the trail! Once back on the highway, the second best discovery of the day – bike paths! After yesterday’s tyre incident, and both of us resorting to Vaseline instead of chamois cream, we were on the lookout for a bike shop. On the outskirts of Nowra we stopped at a servo where Rob picked up a pair of sunnies, to replace the pair he’d dropped into the water at Falls Creek. The servo person told us there were 3 bike shops in Nowra, so we headed in. No luck with Rob’s tyre, we’d have had to wait a few hours – but he got a spare tube, and we both splashed out on new tubs of chamois cream – a successful visit! On our way through the main street, we heard someone calling us, and there, parked up and sat at a café, were the two guys we’d met at Braidwood the morning before. We chatted again for a few minutes, hearing their stories of camping out at Sassafras the night before, in cold and damp conditions. We were glad of our choices hearing that! After negotiating a few main roads, bridge crossings and roadworks, we got out of Nowra and onto secondary roads at around 130pm, with about 40ks to go for the day. It was still relatively warm and muggy, and very pleasant riding with beautiful scenery – rivers, estuaries, glimpses of the coast, and rolling green hills. After a nature break near an intersection, we decided to turn off the route and head into Shoalhaven, where we found potato cakes (big and delicious!) and cans of coke, which made for a great last-meal-stop before the last 25ks into Kiama. The last bit of the ride was more of the same scenery, with a bit of drizzle, some more bike paths, a couple of ks of narrow-shoulder-highway riding, before arriving at our accommodation at about 430pm. My mate greeted us with beer and potato chips, which we happily enjoyed, knowing we didn’t have to unpack/pack the next morning, which felt great! For the first night in 10 days (for me) we were in an actual house, with 4-5 other people, eating and drinking – it was a bit surreal but a good night. We happily shared the ups and downs of our travels, and fell asleep quickly and comfortably.Day 11, The last push, (36km 311vm)
This short push was the remainder of what had previously been the original day 10 – about 35ks to Wollongong. We rode in with 3 other guys who were staying with us, and it was a nice roll into Wollongong. Bike paths, nice sealed roads, and a bit of “city” negotiation, with a great ‘finish line’ photo for Rob and I. As it turned out, we saw the Women's World Champs Road Race up close, from a pub right outside the feed zone, while also watching the AFL grand final on a TV inside. A great day, topped off by heading to the finish line to see Anameik Van Vleuten win in an epic finish. We rode a few km to the station in Wollongong, jumped on the train, a bit tired and fuzzy headed after plenty of hops based sports drinks, before a 2k ride back to the accommodation in Kiama. A roast dinner, a few more drinks, and we were in bed ready for the next day. Day 12, Kiama to Campbelltown, 100km 1218vm https://www.strava.com/activities/7862722350
After a day of not packing up the bikes, it was back to it this morning! We made the 35-ish km ride into Wollongong again on a beautiful sunny morning, via a coffee stop in Kiama, with the goal of finding somewhere on Mt Kiera to watch some of the Men's Road Race. The 5 of us were all rolling in together again, which was again a very pleasant ride. We met another guy along the way (who happened to be from Warburton) who joined us in finding a spot up Mt Kiera. A servo resupply for Rob and myself, then we followed some back streets to land about ¼ of the way up the climb, which turned out to be a great spot. We saw the race go past, then the 6 of us climbed to the top of Mt Kiera – spectacular views, plenty of photos, and then a good-bye to the guys we’d shared the last two days with. A few ks further up the road, and Rob & myself turned onto Picton Rd towards Sydney, while the others turned back towards Wollongong to see the finish of the Mens Road Race. We had plenty of time, knowing we were catching a train from Campbelltown at 920pm, and needed to be there by 730pm. A bit of planning and confirming was needed in the week before the trip started, and then again the previous day – around making sure bike boxes were available at Campbelltown station, as NSW Trainlink will take bikes (for an extra charge) provided they’re boxed up. So whilst we had heaps of time (left the other guys around 1pm, with about 55ks of riding to do), we wanted to push on so we weren’t rushed to pack the bikes and get boarded. Despite the 20-25ks of major highway, the ride to Campbelltown was very enjoyable. We stopped at a highway-side fruit truck, then got off onto some secondary roads, a very cool bridge crossing of the Nepean River, and then through the picturesque little village of Douglas Park. We stopped at Douglas Park hoping for Potato Cakes, but happily settled for an icy pole and crisps. From there it was only 20ks to go, rolling through the last of the picturesque countryside (on very nice roads), which suddenly became suburbia about 5ks out from the train station. The roads were very easy to follow in, and with a couple of hours to spare we found the station, and then set off to find food. Potato cakes, cans of coke, and then noodles, we were suitably nourished to box up the bikes! The staff at the station were great, and (thanks to Rob) the boxing was pretty straight forward. We checked in, changed clothes, filled our newly purchased “hobo bags” for luggage, and with time still to spare, went to find a beer. Mission accomplished, we were back at the station, boarded, and settled into our “first class seats” (not sure what was first class about them!) for the overnight journey back to Melbourne.
Day 13, Southern Cross Station to Emerald, 60km 840vm https://www.strava.com/activities/7868292062
After a few hours of uncomfortable sleep, but still feeling good, we arrived into Melbourne about 830am, an hour behind schedule due to some delays. Off the train, set up the bikes (thanks again Rob!), back in our kit, bike boxes and hobo bags donated back to NSW Trainlink staff, and we rolled out of Southern Cross at about 10am on the hunt for a big brekky. After 12 days of following Ride with GPS files, and my complete lack of knowledge of city bike paths, it was Rob leading the way – firstly finding us an awesome brekky and coffee spot (which we took our sweet time and enjoyed!) and then getting us onto the bike paths, and heading east. We were pretty quiet – sad that the whole thing was almost over, but also looking forward to getting home to family. I said goodbye to Rob about 10ks from home, and rolled into Emerald around 3pm.
It took a few days for the saddle sores to disappear, and other than a sore shoulder (old injury), sore elbow, and numb toes (still there as I write this 6 weeks later!) I’ve physically recovered well. Emotionally it’s been difficult, as others can attest – when you have an event to look forward to and plan, and you enjoy it so much, it is difficult when it’s finished. Only thing to fix that… plan the next one!
As a recreational rider with low/moderate fitness, plenty of self-doubt, and minimal mechanical skills (thanks again Rob!) – I hope I can say to a few other people who might read this.. “you can do it, you won’t regret it”
It is genuinely one of the best experiences I’ve had. The simplicity of being outside in nature, seeing the world 100ks per day, only “worried” about eating, sleeping and riding – it was absolute heaven. Yes: the saddle sores, late finishes, wet weather, smelly clothes and tired body parts were challenging, but the positives outweighed the negatives by so much it isn’t funny.
The highlights that go through my brain 6 weeks later – climbing Thredbo, rainbows at Mitta Mitta and Khancoban, rail trail out of Tallangatta, Bullhead Rd, Trappers Gap Rd, pie at Huskisson, Falls Creek NSW, Tom Groggin Campground lunch stop – and so many more.
Although I’m not a bike nerd, I know how good the bike I have is. My Kevin Ti GXR was amazing. Didn’t miss a beat for the whole 13 days. I knew it before, but I know more-so now, the Curve folks build their bikes to be taken on adventures. I’m happy to answer anyone’s questions on what I packed, used, didn’t use… but I feel I’m far less qualified than most of the other authors on here!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this half as much as I’ve enjoyed reminiscing while typing 😊