Barrington Tops Cycle Tour
Friday 22 October 1999
As seems to be usual now, we wake at first light and spend an hour getting organised. Ken breakfasts, I nibble on the first of the days sandwiches. I begin to worry about how much food I have because if we do another three days without towns I'll have to eat a lot less than I did yesterday. I'm also paying for the shitty container I got the peanut butter in, the press fit lid has come off and so I have peanut butter in a plastic bag instead. Of course it was always in a bag, so I add another one just in case.
Today is the navigators nightmare, we have to find an old trail to get to some place that I can't remember the name of. I suffer because this map has 20m contour intervals to compensate for the lack of elevation. We belt down big wide gravel roads that are flat as anything, even potholes are mostly absent. I puncture because I'm running my rear tyre soft trying to keep my butt happy. Twice. So I fix them and add a liner bit I get from Ken to cover over a hole in the tire from a bit of glass I picked up in Sydney.
We eventually end up at Polblue Swamp, which is not where we were heading. On the way we pass through a tiny plot of pine trees which seem to be there as a tourist gimmick, there's not enough even to be worth logging I suspect. Ken is disconcerted by the evidence of logging right up to the road edge, usually they leave a 200m corridor like they do in NZ. Not in this forest apparently. Polblue Swamp is flat and swamplike, we grab water and look for a track going up the valley to the trail we want to be on. No joy, so we bike around the long way. Where we want to be, apparently, is a closed track that is now walkers only. Everything here is vehicle track, unlike NZ. There are no hand-cut tracks, only bulldozed ones. And everything will take a 4WD, most of what we've seen you could drive a prime ministerial limousine over.
The track, when we find it, is obviously just a gated-off 4WD track. So we bike down that, fairly easy going still. I have an advantage that in the deeper ruts the recumbent does not hit the pedals on the ground because they're up in the air. But Ken can handle the rougher bits more easily. Then I hit a real obstacle - mud. Only a little bit, everything is still very dry compared to NZ. But the bent is impossible in mud, I can't steer to balance so I fall off. Duh.
The track gets steadily less rideable as we progress, with both of us walking more and more as we go. By the time we get to "The Big Hole" it's pretty much push/ carry the whole time. And there are a fair few trees fallen on the track. Obviously no-one has driven through here in a while. In places there are signs that the broom eradication program have been through spraying, but that's about it. And horse shit, there are feral pests here for sure. Plus a bit of wombat sign and some digging.
The big hole is just that, a puddle of muddy water that must be at least 20m across, and looks muddy. There are signs of civilisation, cigarette butts and broken beer bottles. Obviously a popular place when you could still drive here. Ken and I decide that it's too early to camp, we'll push on to somewhere else.
The track out is getting really grotty by now, but it's still dry rutted gum forest track. Bumpy, I can ride some downhills but not the uphills. Going down is hard work, I lean forward and bounce all over the place steering the bike more or less where I want it by wrestling the handlebars left and right to move the mass of the bike as well as using them to steer the front wheel. My butt is *really* sore by now, I'm trying to lift off the seat by pushing back hard with my legs so the weight hits my hips on the seat back, which is a little easier. I am definitely going to move the steering pivot down some, it's right under my tailbone. And I hit it...
I also managed to get some kind of small stinging ant down my bike shorts, and by the time I'd killed all three my scrotum was quite sore. The bites are invisible but there's a red swelling and it doesn't seem too pleasant. But we also transition over a ridge into beech forest, which seems much more like home. It's wetter, and there are ferns even. Wow.
But you know the mud thing with recumbents? Well, we have 20km or so of muddy beech forest track. It must be rare, because they made this track just by driving a 'dozer thru and that's it. Which is a really stupid way to make a track if it ever rains in the area. So it's muddy hell for me. I think I've pushed the bike for about 20 of the 28 km of walking track for the day. About 10km from the end we pass a turn off and I ask Ken about bailing, because this has become unpleasant. Between sore bum, sore crotch and just plain shitty with dragging my bike through mud I'm not at all keen on continuing. But there is no bail option, only alternate exits. And Ken does not want to use them, he is keen to continue. We do.
After a long, long time we get out to the road. Once again in gum forest, we see signs of bureaucracy. There is an information station and a gate at the end of the track. And a km or so down the gravel road is a washed out culvert. Well, a culvert with a big hole in the middle. We bike over it, and on the other side is a laminated notice telling us that the road is closed to traffic for a least a week. Notice dated 11 June 1999. Laugh cynically. It's also been clouding over for a few hours, looks like high raincloud and Ken agrees with me. But it doesn't rain and seems to be clearing again. Maybe we win after all.
We camp at a picnic area near a waterfall, but reach it after dark so that's all I got to see - the picnic area. We both wash our bikes because they're covered in mud. As we start cooking it starts raining. I make tea while Ken pitches the tent. It stops raining, we keep cooking. More rain. Ken makes pasta with dried vegetables, looks nice. I decide to sleep and eat it in the morning because I'm tired and not hungry. Day two and I've eaten most of a loaf of bread. Day three will be OK, but that means no food for day four. Hmm.