Rob 'n BOB on the BNT

Omeo, NSW - 24 March 2004

Well Mates, here we are again, a little sooner than anticipated, which I'll explain in a moment.

From Canberra it was a matter of following the excellent city bike trails to the southern end of the city.  Oh, did I mention in my last update that I hadn't had any broken spokes yet?  That was a direct challenge to the Spoke Gods, because, yes indeed, the very next day, while heading out from Malcolm's on my way to Tharwa, I broke my very first spoke!  It broke in a funny place too, an inch or so from the rim, very unusual, since they invariably break at the hub.  But I was able to repair it without even taking the wheel off.  At the southern edge of Canberra I went to a carwash to hose off the bike - especially the drivetrain - and the operator insisted on paying for the wash!  Here I joined the BNT again and followed the (lesser used) road to Tharwa.  
Wurrumbidgee River camp
Tharwa has a general store, and a school, but that is about it.  I camped by the Wurrumbidgee River, just past the community, and it was wonderfully peaceful and quiet, amazing really when you consider how close to the city I still was.  

The next day it was on gravel roads and tracks again, slowly heading up the valley, and I realised that, since I collected my cold and wet weather gear in Canberra, I was now carrying an obscene amount of gear.  At my first opportunity I would have to get rid of some less essential stuff, because hauling this load through the "High Country" just doesn't make sense.  Now, I don't carry a lot of luxuries, so this will be a tough decision, what to mail on and what to keep, but something has to go!  However, the first post office won't be until I get to Khancoban, so I'll have to suffer from the weight for a few more days.

Horse Gully HutHorse Gully HutI broke another spoke nipple, bizarre, that's the third one, but the last time that happened was at the end of December, so I've been lucky in between.  For the next several days I stayed at huts - a bit of a novelty, since I've lived in my tent for five months now.  The first one was Horse Gully Hut, where a group of teenage girls had just arrived moments earlier.  They were on a group bush walking and camping experience, and luckily they were tenting and I had the hut to myself!  They were accompanied by one of their dads, Brian, and we had a nice visit - a good yarn, I should say now!  

burnt Kosciuszko
        National ParkFrom here on the forest track and gravel roads continued to Yaouk, which I finally discovered, is pronounced "Ya-yak", in a wide, flat open valley.  It was still early in the day, so I decided to push on to Oldfield's Hut (no joke),and a push it was!  As soon as the track entered Kosciuszko National Park it became exceedingly steep and I needed all my strength to push my heavily loaded bike the 400 m uphill.  However, once there, the track became blissful and quite enjoyable. burnt forestVery different though from the way I remembered it, and that is because of the ravages of last year's fires.  Ninety percent of Kosciuszko Park were burnt!  And although many eucalypts have a remarkable capacity of recovering from forest fires, Snowgums don't.  They're dead.  

For the next several days, the forests were all open, without canopy, all grey and black trucks, with some trees sprouting new leaves from the trunk or base, but most totally barren.  This was a long weekend, and just before I reached Oldfield's Hut I passed two groups of bushwalkers.  Oldfield's HutBut, again, one group used their tents, and since Oldfield's has TWO bedrooms - it really is a luxury hut by mountain hut standards - I had a room to myself.  Although most of the forest around the hut was burnt, the hut itself was in fine condition.  However, many huts in Kosciuszko were burnt as well.  One of the blokes was a keen bushwalker and knew a lot of the huts in the area, and he suggested that Circuits Hut was a nice one to stay at.  This is off the official BNT route, but it is on a track through a much prettier valley, and since I'd done this section five years ago, I was pleased to do something a little differently this time.  It even included a bit of singletrack.  Circuits is a marvellous hut - FOUR rooms -  and since I was here all by myself, I could pick the one that suited me best.  I had a nice little fire in the fireplace that night, while contemplating all the great places I've stayed at over the past few months.  

Happy Jack's PlainThe following day it was over a ridge and then a long and sometimes steep descent down to Lake Eucumbene.  The lake was so low, that I was able to cross the river right at the Providence Portal campground site.  The little shop was open, so I had a couple of meat pies and a can of orange squash for lunch.  Always beats crackers and peanut butter!  On my way across the river I somehow lost one of my socks, and now I was forced to finally start wearing the second pair that I've been carrying for five months now.  Wow, new socks, they feel so good!  Once across, it was a long steady climb up into the high country again, where I camped at a little creek (Tibeaudo Ck) on Happy Jacks Plain.  

The night was eerily still, no wind, no bird sounds, no insects, only the quiet little murmel of the creek.  It was only 2̊ in the morning, quite a difference from only a few weesk ago, when I would still be sweating, uncovered, on top of my mattress.  Now I do need my sleeping bag!  Across Happy Jacks Plain, down to Jappy Jacks Pondage, one of the stations in the Snowy Mountain Scheme.  a
        lot of burnt countryThe bridge was out - burnt in the fires last year - and even though they are about to put a top on it again, it still had a big hole in the middle, so I had to ford the river.  Once across, a parks ranger had just arrived on the other side, and during the conversation we had, he mentioned that the flies were down considerably from a couple of months ago.  Isn't it all so relative?  I keep cursing the little pesks daily - can't imagine what it would have been like two months ago!  

Blackjack Fire TowerAnother long but gradual climb out of the alley, over a ridge, down the next valley, and up again, to Blackjack Fire Tower.  Dave, the fellow who works there as an observer, remembered me from 1999!  We had a great visit again, and he invited me in for a cuppa, and when I left he gave me a bag full of fruit, fresh tomatoes and cucumber, AND a can of beer for the night!  So, when I got to my campsite at Pounds Creek, after a long and steep descent along the Murray Powerline Track, I had a beer to go with my beer nuts!  It was also a real pleasure to enter some living forest again that afternoon - something I hadn't seen for days.  

I love my new little bicycle computer, which I had mail ordered and installed while in Canberra.  It showed that my maximum rates of ascent and descent that day were 20%, the average up was 7%, average down 8%, I went up 1059 m and down 1881 m.  It shows all kinds of other information as well, but some of it even I am not really interested in.  

Another enormous climb out of the valley the next day, requiring a bit of pushing, but mostly rideable, and then a screemingly fast downhill ride on bitumen towards Khancoban.  I collected my parcel at the PO, a new set of tires - my fourth, and final - and food packets.  Also got a few other groceries, called Gwen, and mailed on some stuff that I don't really need, or at least think I can do without.  

Keebles HutI didn't leave Khancoban until noon the next day, and it was an easy day's ride to Keebles Hut.  Although it was a very gradual climb over Geehi Walls, the descent on the other side was quite steep.  There were a few other people around the hut, but nobody stayed in it, and I had it all to myself again.  This was truly a magic spot, a beautiful stone hut, on a nice open grassy plain, beside a clear clean river, with glorious views onto the mountains.  Mt Kosciuszko you couldn't quite see, because it is just behind Mt Townsend, which is 10 m lower.  Mt K, by the way, is the highest mountain in Australia, and it is all of 2228 m tall.  To put that in perspective, Highwood Pass in Kananaskis is 2224 m!  

From here on to Tom Groggin, and this day I broke through the 6000 km mark - another milestone!  It was an easy day, following the bitumen Alpine Way.  At Tom Groggin Station I crossed the Murray River, the longest river system in Australia, but a very tame river at this point, and into Victoria.  The last couple of meters of the crossing were a little deeper than I thought and BOB actually floated!  But he kept my stuff dry - it was only for a few seconds anyway.  I didn't stay at the hut here, it was too grungy, so I tented right by it, at a picnic table.  A few other campers were nearby, and in the course of the afternoon a number of 4WD-ers came cruising by, one of whom offering me a nice cold brew - Cheers Mates!  

Connelly's Hut siteAnother steep climb along a 4WD track, then a fantastic ridge ride with great views onto the Great Dividing Range and Mt K, a boring section on a newly gravelled road, and a delightful descent on a smooth little track to my next hut.  Oops!  It's burnt down.  But a nice grassy field to camp on.  It's the first day of fall, and appropriately the next morning I woke to a frozen tent (0̊ outside).  This day, at 1472 m of climbing, was now my second best uphill day.  

        trail is sometimes hard to find........On to Limestone Creek, but again, a good steep climb, with a lot of hard pushing to start the day with (400 m up in 3 km, of which almost 200 m in 1 km!), followed by a VERY steep descent to Limestone Creek.  Then and there I disovered that my rear brake pads were worn out!  They'd lasted all of almost 400 km - I only just had them put on when in Canberra.  The previous set lasted over 6,000 km!!!  I hadn't counted on this scenario, have no spares, and will have to bail out, along regular roads, to Omeo.  

So that's why I'm here, early (only by a day), and now having to wait until the postal service shows up with my new pads, which I ordered from, an Aussie internet merchant.  They just emailed me that they are shipping them today, express, at no extra charge.  So hopefully they'll be here before the end of the week!  OmeoOmeo is not exactly a metropolis - a cute little town though - and calls itself "Gateway to the High Country".  I'm sure I can amuse myself for a day or so.  Other than that, the bike is okay, so is BOB, and I only have some bruised ribs, from a slide while following brumby pads (wild horse tracks) along Limestone Creek, to avoid some exceedingly steep sections of 4WD track, of which Martin Gibson wrote two years ago, that he and his brother TOGETHER had a tough time pushing one bicycle up at a time!  Now, every deep breath - and I use deep breaths a lot these days - I'm reminded of my slip, and coughing is a definite no-no.  As my wise old dad always said when we were little - it'll go away before I turn into a girl..........  In Omeo I checked into the Hilltop Hotel, where I have a simple but clean room with FOUR bunk beds, lots and enough to spread out.  $30 per night, including a cooked breakfast and all the cereal you can eat - I can put on some weight for the next section of steep hills!  With internet at the Shire Office, a well stocked little grocery store, a museum next door, a nice looking town, with lots of old buildings in good repair, I'll be happyo in Omeo for the next couple of days!

Seeyalater Mates,

Rob 'n BOB

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