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Barrington Tops Cycle Tour
Day One

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Thursday 21 October 1999

Comments on the map bits
This is forestry country so the map is wrong, there are roads not marked, old roads missing, and trees gone or new since the map was published. But we entered on the Moonan Brook Trail, an official bicentennial trail (there's a sign saying so), which means it was signposted to excess in 1988 and then ignored. So there are those silly speed suggestion signs, "road narrows" and "loose gravel" signs in odd places. Polblue Swamp has a camp ground (picnic table and toilets), but no easy track leading 1km up the valley to the Barrington Trail where we want to be. So we do the other three legs of a square instead. This is forestry road, easy to travel in a big rig if you have one. Easy to get lost because the major roads are the ones the loggers use, and the map often does not show them at all.

We bike along nice country roads looking at the scenery. Amazing how being on holiday makes everyday farmland look much nicer. Despite Ken's conviction that most hamlets on the map will be a couple of houses and no shop, there is a general store where I buy bread and vegemite to compensate for my lack of breakfast material. Shortly after this we get to the end of the seal and into real farmland. No more post and rail fences, horses and boutique city retreat farms selling handcrafted wine bottles. Into Landrover country where anything without a V8 and bull bars is obviously lost. Or it's an old trashpile doing 80kph sideways round the corner because the local inside knows the road...

The first 40 or so kms are gentle country, rising slowly but not so as you'd notice in a car. We cruise along, me at about 30, Ken at more like 25. Once we hit the gravel we slow down, and I get used to riding a recumbent on loose surfaces. Normally I steer to balance, so there are lots of small, sharp steering motions at low speed as I react to the bike and me moving more or less as a unit. On gravel it's not that easy, steering wallows more, like a car at about 50kph. So I have to lean forward and use the handlebars more as a lever to lean left or right to balance. This means that the slight looseness of the mountings is annoying, Wayne seems to build all his USS bikes so that you can't tighten the handlebars solid, they always rotate in the mount if you pull hard. More on this on my HPV pages when I get round to it. Anyway, it makes riding on gravel a bit harder on the upper body that I'm used to.

We get to the last shop about 10am I think, time is Ken's department, I'm on holiday. And he's the one with a watch. It's the usual end of the road setup - a tiny kiosk with post office and a bar fridge with cans of lemonade and Coke. The pub has more in the way of refreshments as well as a restaurant. We have a lemonade each and start the real day. Climb 1000m or so in 23km of road.

It's now getting hotter, and we're climbing fairly steeply. I discover that the 12-23 rear cluster I like so much for commuting on has big disadvantages for this sort of thing. My lowest gear is higher than Ken's middle chainring range, so I either climb at 10kph or walk. Neither really appeals, so I alternate, riding most of the way but pushing the bike when it gets too steep. Ken does much the same. I went through about 5 litres of water in the 6 hours we spent climbing, as well as a loaf of bread. Big discovery is that I eat more or less continuously while I'm working, but Ken eats three meals a day, full stop. I do the sandwich an hour thing, Ken stops for lunch sometime.

Finally we reach the bush at the top, we're at about 1300m now at the entrance to the state forest park. My event for the day was finally seeing a real live wild kangaroo. Gosh. They're weird things, this leaping along thing looks bizarre. And requires skill too, if my experience of such things is any guide. And Australia has a much different approach to the state forest thing than NZ, this looks more like a big selectively logged site than I'm used to. Basically it's a logging forest with a nice label. And there's a dirty great dingo fence with a gate in it. Does not look too effective, there gap underneath seems large enough to take a border collie which was how big I thought a full size dingo was. Apparently not. Kelly tells me later that actually that is how big a dingo is.

The vegetation is interesting here. We've biked through farmland that could be in NZ except that the trees are usually gum rather than pine, but that's the only real difference. The plantation forest we went through has been red gum and ironbark, which is basically tall straight gum trees to the uninitiated eye. Once we hit the park entrance we get snow gums and tussock (snow grass). It's also bringing home to me what exactly the Australians mean by "fuel loading" as a measure of forest condition. Gum trees shed bark and branches continuously, and those don't seem to rot. They just dry out and accumulate. So the fuel load is how much of that there is, and it's fuel because the forest burns it. That and the plethora of ants are the main things for today.

I'm sunburnt in new places, the patterns are different on a recumbent. Of course the #1 haircut means I've got sore spots on my scalp which I suspect are burnt, but the tops of my legs are quite red and that's the most obvious burn. More sunscreen tomorrow for sure. And I have a sore butt from sitting down all day, seems as if the lack of suspension has conspired with not being able to lift off the seat to bruise my poor bottom. Will need to think about this, add it to the list of bike notes I'm accumulating.

We bike down to the official picnic area and get water, but it does not look like a pleasant place to camp so we return to the park entrance and camp there. We also see the "dingo fence" degenerate into a standard 6 wire fence, so apparently the gate and so on is just to impress tourists. Back at the entrance the view is nicer, we get a really good sunset and so on. The road is fairly busy, we saw maybe 30 cars during the day. And once again we camp without the tent, my big worry being waking up with a marsupial chewing on me but Ken assures me that they are stupid enough to do that but not curious enough. Which is good, our camp site would put a kea into raptures and a weka would have a field day. All those shiny things lying round...

Now I've stopped biking and washed myself a little I'm basically ready for a cup of tea and a lie down. But Ken wants dinner, and since I have the stuff that needs to be eaten soon I cook dinner. Ken likes it. Relief! I eat, even though I'm not hungry, and wonder about whether I should have it for breakfast instead since I don't have my muesli. Hmm.