Waking up to the dulcet tones of my phone alarm I bounced out of bed and ate breakfast while packing all of my bits and pieces onto the bike. I went with the International roast coffee kindly provided by the motel, proving that I am no coffee snob. It also saved me 30 minutes by not having to wait for the local bakery to open.
It was only about 40km(24mi) from Batlow to Tumut but I was wary of what that 40km might entail. The lady at reception had told me last night that it was all downhill to Tumut, however she would have been thinking about the main road, not the adventurous route that I would no doubt take.
I pedalled out of this pretty little mountain town playing tourist as I gently warmed my legs up.
The route took me out of town via the Batlow showgrounds and the golf course.
Everything about the first few kilometres was very picturesque. There were wombat holes in all of the roadside embankments with little muddy paw prints all over the road, leading back into the entrance of the hole.
I was winding my way along a quiet country lane that before long came to a gate. It was the entrance to an apple orchard and someone's farm. I didn't realise there was private property on this route so I pedalled slowly with the intent of saying hi to whoever I saw and explaining what I was doing. Of course asking permission to proceed was my intent. I passed the shed and saw nobody. No dogs barked but I could hear a tractor out in the orchard. Everyone was at work,
The road dropped down to a gate and back onto Crown Land so I pressed on. No harm done.
Through the gate the trail dropped down and down. There can only be one result when a trail drops steeply. Yep, a creek crossing.
This one was almost knee deep and at 7:30am, bloody freezing. I had a quick look for a shallow crossing point but there was none so it was off with the shoes and socks to walk the bike through. My toes were numb within 20 seconds.
The trail then began to climb and climb. It was rideable but slow going and I was soon very warm from the effort.
Just as I was beginning to think that this 40km was going to be a real slog I popped out at the top of the hill at a plantation forest. The road turned left along the forest road and I was speeding along again.
What I had done was climb to the top of a ridge line, then begin to follow it along. I got my first hike-a-bike in for the day and took a Coke break to appreciate the view. I could see the forest just outside Batlow in the far distance. It is always nice to see progress being made.
The road was fast and flowy along here, not unlike South Boundary Rd in Brisbane Forest Park. By powering down the drops and keeping my momentum up I could crest the rises. This kept my average speed up for a while.
The ridge top opened out to views over Blowering resevoir. Stunning views abounded and from a different angle for me. I have seen the dam from the eastern side plenty of times but there can't be too many people who see it from the western side. Ken Warby set the world water speed record of 511km/h(318mph) here in 1978.
The trail was getting rougher and steeper with a few episodes of pushing uphill. There were some sketchy downhills that required some judicious braking and hopping of ruts while in the drops. Fun stuff but fraught with danger if I stuffed it up.
Then I came to a descent that there was zero chance of riding on a loaded tourer. So, in a first for the trip, I walked down the hill. Photos never show the slope but it must have been over 35% down.
I was then dropped out onto the dam access road, an old 60s era looking seal. There was a blocked off section of road, so guess where the line on the gps went?
The hum of a sealed surface was music to my ears as I soon saw a sign that indicated Tumut and hence morning tea, was a mere 7km(4mi) away. Once I jumped a few fences and poached some sweet, secluded Snowy Mountain Scheme blacktop that was.
Looking back toward the hill I had just descended, I could make out the fire road that I walked down(small scar, on the left about mid way up).
Once in Tumut I hit the local bakery for some food. No, not some food, a lot of food! I love this bikepacking. It is a licence to EAT! The first pie didn't even touch the sides.
I lubed my chain in front of the local court house for the first time since leaving Canberra, two days earlier. 313km on Ride Mechanic's new blend of chain lube was pretty impressive as I had dragged the chain through a creek this morning too. I don't think you can buy it yet as it is still in the testing phase but it looks very promising for Long Rangers.
Tumut in Autumn is beautiful and it was hard to drag myself away from my sunny position out front of the bakery but time was ticking. Quiet shire roads was the description of the next 30km(18mi) or so.
I passed the trail head for the Hume and Hovel trail, an early European explorer's track from the 1800s.
This gate marked the end of the sealed road and a return to dirt. It must be a flash resort as I saw empty wine bottles littering the roadside, not the usual beer stubbies.
The road eventually came to a bridge across the creek and a gate. Through the gate and to the left and I was heading for some one's farm house. Private property again.
The trail went over those hills in the background
Well, it was a gazetted road, the Stokes Hut Trail but it went through some one's property. As I approached the sheds a couple of young guys walked over toward me. I stopped and said 'G'day". They asked me where I was going and I said "Wee Jasper". They said "Where? Wee Jasper is that way" pointing off to the northeast. I went on to explain what I was doing and we had a great chat. Their mother wandered over to chat and it turns out she was from Toowoomba originally, so we were virtual neighbours. They said it was fine to continue through the property and gave me an appraisal of the trail conditions ahead. "Watch out for wild dogs" one of the boys warned me, "they chased us out of there last time we went for an explore". Great, now I would be watching over my shoulder for wild dogs all afternoon. After a good 30 minutes chatting it was time to say goodbye and pedal on. I wished I had got their names.
Through a couple of gates, then a lift over a locked gate and I was back in Kosciuzko National Park. I didn't realise it extended this far north.
The trail along here was very pleasant being reasonably smooth and quite grassy in places.
It followed the Goobarragandra River along for quite some time, crossing the odd rivulet that ran into the river.
Until I came to the main crossing point. This was wide, fast moving and cold. Off with the shoes and socks and straight across. No time to dally.
I stopped on the other side to munch the salad roll that I had been carrying since Tumut. All the while keeping an eye out for dogs. I really wish he hadn't mentioned the wild dogs as it made this whole afternoon's ride slightly edgy. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
You may be able to see my sunglasses in the photo above. They are on the front bag between the orange aero bars and the green of the stuff sack. See them? Yeah, well I didn't! That is where I left them when I pedalled off.........The track went steeply uphill, which I pushed up. As I crested the ridge 5 minutes later I realised that my sunnies were gone. Bloody......! I grabbed my Spot tracker off the bike(remember the dogs?) and trotted back down the hill to find the sunnies. Of course they were right at the bottom so I got to climb the hill again but at least it was easier without the bike!
The trail slowly climbed. Then it went straight up the mountainside! I could see from the contours on the gps that it went up and up. I was immediately reduced to pushing my bike at a crawl. This was fine as I have been doing the training for this. I was eventually reduced to pushing my arms out and hence the bike forward one arms length, grabbing a handful of brakes, then stepping up the hill one step to repeat the process again. It was that steep!
Looking at my gps trace, it took me 50 minutes to climb that 405m(1330ft) hill. I felt fine at the top and had not taken any rest stops on the way up but I think I may have sown the seeds for sore Achilles tendons tomorrow. I sure was glad to see this bush gate at the top.
The track become forest road which alternated between smooth clay and cobblestone rock. the clay was awesome because it was dry but the rock was reminiscent of the horrible road into Batlow last night. Clearly, it was there for when the clay was wet..and to slow me down. I didn't take many photos through here as I was trying to make good time.
The gps trace kept turning up little used tracks that were stick and bark littlered like Black Jack trail had been on day 2. This slowed me down a lot and sapped my sense of humour. This was one of the better trails.
I eventually came to a turn on the gps that didn't exist. Meaning that the actual trail on the ground turned left. Naturally I followed the trail before noticing a few hundred metres later that the gps said I had to go straight back there. I backtracked to that point but there was no sign of "Brindabella Road", only bush. I zoomed out the map scale and noted that if I followed the trail I was on, it joined another trail that I could used to backtrack to Brindabella Rd. It was now getting dark so I put Plan B into effect and it paid off. I dropped out of my "track" onto a major forest road, then backtracked to where I was supposed to be. A glitch in the gps track I guess but it had me scratching my head for a few minutes.
Being on a major forest road improved my pace, as did turning on all of my lights. I passed by the edge of a huge clear cut section of forest right on last light. It was spectacular!
I had no idea how far it was to Wee Jasper from here so I just put my head down and pedalled. It was dark, there were kangaroos hopping around then I began to drop off the hills.
My speed shot up to around 40km/h and I was flying! I crossed a cattle grid that denoted the Tumut/Yass Shires and the road improved markedly. I then saw some bright eyes in the beam of my lights. Bright and twinkly like a star. What sort of animal was that? Foxes are orange, spiders are pink, kangaroos are red, sheep are green but what was white? Then my lights illuminated the little bulldozer. It was a wombat! Cool, as I had never seen one in the wild before. I then began to pass dozens of them. They weren't concerned by my presence at all and made little effort to get out of the way. I tried to get a photo of them scurrying across the road but I was in serious danger of pranging into one so thought it best to keep both hands on the bars.
Leaving nature's little bulldozers behind and dropping down a series of tight gravel switchbacks I again had the brake levers pulled in to the bars. After 10 minutes of this white knuckle ride I popped out onto a flat grassy area to the sound of running water. The sign announced Micalong reserve campground. There were a couple of RV/caravans there with a roaring fire so I thought "stuff it, I'll stay here". While short of my goal, Wee Jasper couldn't be too far along the road anyway.
I quickly set up camp and ate dinner, some sort of lamb with olive concoction but I wasn't that hungry. My RV neighbours invited me to sit by the fire. I thanked them but decided it was best I get some sleep.
My stats for the day were 131km(82mi) in 9h 05m moving and 2980m(9780ft) of climbing. I felt ok with just a slight twinge in my calves.
It proceeded to get very windy that night and sleep was hard to come by as I fretted about whether the weather was changing for the worse.
Tomorrow would tell.................