The Mighty Murray River!

The Mighty Murray River!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Coolah to Gulgong

Coolah to Gulgong = 97km (Coolah to Bushcamp 50km, Bushcamp to Gulgong = 47km)
Cummulative total = 7404km

Next to the campground at Coolah there was a paddock with 3 cows and a calf and they were seperated by an electric wire but this did not stop the little calf from waundering over to the campground as I think he found a way to go around it. While we were cooking our dinner on the BBQ the calf decided to come over and have a nosy at us and he was very curious about Kouta so Kouta waundered over to the calf and tried to play with it but it was very timid and unsure with Koutas quick moves ... for the brief time that Kouta tried to play with the calf I think he enjoyed himself!

in the above photo Kouta was trying to get the calf to chase him around the table ...

... as you can see Kouta is in full flight around the table but the calf hasn't moved ... the calf couldn't quite get the jist of the game with Kouta!!!
We woke the next morning to a very bright sunny day and it ended up being a very tough day indeed. There were 4 range climbs over a 30km distance. The uphills were around 3-4km long and at around 6% gradient except for the last hill and that was not so steep. All the hills had a down hill but as per usual the road was bad so you had to ride in the middle of the actual road which was easy to do as there was hardly any traffic along this road.

This is the view from the first climb and you look back at the range that we climbed to get to Coolah from the north.

The scenery is really nice around here all full of rolling hills. At the end of this road we joined the main road to Newcastle and went along it for a few kilometers and then turned south onto the Ulan road.
At this junction I got a flat back tyre so we had to pull over and fix it. Fortunately it was at the junction and there was plenty of areas flat enough to pull over safely and fix it. The flat was because the tube at the seam had a hole from wear and tear.
The Ulan road is nice and probably the best road we have been on in NSW ... we figured out why it was in such a good condition - at Ulan there is a coal mine and so the road is good to and from it and around it! There were a few trucks but the road is wide enough for them to pass easily. 8km along we came to the locality of Turill and we thinking of staying there at the local hall but decided not to and initially we headed off with the idea to camp near the Goulburn river as there was a rest area but the book said no dogs as it is a national park ... so as we were riding along we decided that what if someone turns up when we are camped there and reports us? and since it is a the school holidays there probably would be someone there so we decided to pull over and find a track in one of the conservation parks near Turill - they also don't allow dogs but if we just go in the bush and not a picnic area then we will be okay - so we found a lovely spot in the end!

The ground was covered in lichen that was dry so when we laid on it it felt like you were sleeping on rice bubbles! The park is full of native pine and gum trees and while having a cuppa we got the shock of our lives ... about 5 meters from where we were sitting a goanna about 1 meter long passed us! so Neil got up with the camera and began to take photos and walking behind it. The goanna didn't like Neil following so it climbed up a tree to escape and by this time I had come along to see ... (Kouta had slept through the entire episode and missed the goanna!)

... we haven't seen a goanna since being in the Northern Territory and all our bush camping we have done on this trip this is the first goanna we have come across!
Since there has been alot of rainfall everywhere the wild flowers certainly are blooming and near the tent we found this little bush - I think it is some type of Grevillea
and a close up of the beautiful flower

one thing we have noticed alongside the road is the abundance of small flowers and they are either purple or yellow and occassionally white!
We both had a good nights sleep with the exception of Kouta who I think spent the whole night scratching himself and so he didn't get much sleep (don't worry he is sleeping as I do the blog!).
It was a cool night but the morning wasn't too bad but for some strange reason Neil must be getting old and feeling the cold as he decides to put on his footy socks ... and pull them up to keep warm!

woo hoo what a spunk!
We left around 8am and like I said before the abundance of wild flowers is just amazing and we had to stop to take another photo of one

and a close up of the flower

It was not too bad riding to Ulan - it was a gradual ups and downs but the wind was blowing strong from the south west and it was very cold. Just before Ulan you come to the Ulan mine and I tell you it is a real shock seeing this mine sticking out like a very sore thumb in the middle of nature and all the National and Conservation parks!

For some strange reason the mine being there really offended me (and if there were protestors there I probably would have joined them!). The ones up in Queensland sort of really blended in with the surrounds as there wasn't much to look at in terms of natural beauty ... but after viewing nothing but green hills, ranges full of trees and lovely looking fields and farms and really nice scenic country and then you come to this damn mine it really did destroy the beautiful scenery.
We turned onto the Cope Rd to Gulgong and straight away you noticed the road surface became worse so this wasn't a mine road! You climb ever so gently and we had a full strong head wind at this point but it wasn't that bad. About 10km along you come across this sign ...

we didn't realise that we were in the area of the dividing range we thought it was further over east of us!
We decided to take a break here anyway and while drinking our cuppa we noticed that we were surrounded by at least 5 different wild flowers so we took photos of some (are you sick of photos of wild flowers?!)

and a close up (I could be wrong on this but this bush looked like a Boronia type bush?)

and another

and a close up
They are just so pretty!
From the dividing range sign it is a gentle down hill (hard to tell as we had such a strong head wind that we had to pedal) and then a gentle climb to Gulgong. Which by the looks of it is a very old town (a bit like Maldon in Victoria). The main road through the shops is very narrow and they have allowed parking either side and I am sure it is not wide enough for 2 cars to pass each other with the cars parked at the sides!
We will stay here for a rest day tomorrow and I will walk into town to look at all the old buildings.

Tamworth to Coolah

Tamworth to Coolah = 176km (Tamworth to Caroona = 67km, Caroona to Premer = 55km, Premer to Coolah = 54km)
Cummulative total = 7307km

It was a fine sunny morning and we picked up the road heading south of Tamworth for Quirindi and for a Friday it had heaps of traffic on it and no shoulder and typical of NSW roads the surface was bad! It is a gentle climb up to Werris Creek. Before there we stopped at Duri for a quick break and in the small rest area they had a restored
Moffat wagon (not sure what that is used for!)

From Duri we were still gradually climbing to Currabubula but we cut through between 2 ranges and go down a bit to Currabubula. From there you climb a bit more and then begin to undulate. The scenery is really nice with all ranges around you but you are sort off on flattish plains.

Just before Werris Creek you have a nice 5km gentle downhill and this is where we had our cuppa at the football ground - apparently home of the magpies - not sure if that is related to AFL or not - I don't think so as this is still NRL territory! We picked up water at the football ground as Caroona Hall rest area doesn't have water. One thing about this football ground is that we couldn't find the womens toilets so I had to use the mens toilets!
From Werris Creek we turned west to Caroona which is another 24km away. It is a flat quiet road that crosses the Quirindi - Gunnedah road and joins at the Quirindi - Coonabarraban road. It was a nice quiet back road full of pot holes!

While along this road we saw a dead brown snake (killed recentely) and 2 crows were going hammer and tongs at it until we rode by and they flew away - I suppose with the warm weather starting the snakes will start to emerge again.
We got to Caroona Hall and all it is is a corrugated building with toilets in the corner block - the womens didn't have toilet paper and were a little grubby and since Neil and I were the only ones there I used the mens toilet again as they seemed remarkably cleaner and also had toilet paper!
our campspot

Doesn't Kouta look cute in amongst the daisies - he and I are beginning to suffer from allergies now - for him it is the grass that makes him scratch and for me it is the grass and pollen that is blowing seeds etc.
So Caroona wasn't a bad place but okay for us. This is the place that is trying to stop the mining explorations that are going on as it is prime pastoral land and the mining companies want to buy up all the land.

We woke to another beautiful spring morning and were heading for Premer. It was a flat ride to there and along the way we took a drinks break at Spring Ridge and I must have left my drink bottle there as when we stopped for lunch there was no bottle in one of my bottle carriers!
The road to Premer across the Liverpool Plains is particularly bad in places but the scenery is nice. This morning we heard on the ABC that Premer was holding the Lions cricket tournament so we assumed that the rest area would be crowded during the day. We got to Premer just on lunch and it was full of cars and rowdy but not quite drunk (yet!) me. We heard that this tournament is on during Saturday and Sunday and we assumed that it was some district thing and they would go home at night so we set up tent in preparation to listen to the AFL grand final on the radio and then we realised that these men are not going home tonight as some have come from Toowoomba and Woollongong!!! So it was too late to pack up and camp further on in the bush so we stayed put and had to put up with them. At night they watched their NRL preliminary final of which we fell asleep through it but we did have a very disrupted sleep as every now and then you woke up to some loud drunken lout screaming away at 2.30am in the morning! At least they didn't hassle us!
In the morning we were okay and glad to get out of there (we should have bushed camped!) - there were 30 teams there and we couldn't believe the amount of alcohol that was consumed and the behaviour of some men (not all necessary young!) and the language - what is happening to the education system when every 2nd word is 'f' this and 'f' that!!!
We left there pretty early in the morning and I tell you most of the men looked absolutely 'green'!!! and the day was very warm and sunny and I am sure there would have been a few vomit piles on the cricket pitch today!!!
It was a 5km climb to get out of Premer and then a 2km downhill to meet up with the Black Stump Way. We have been on this part of the Black Stump to Coolah before but we forgot what it was like and all we could remember was a 6km climb out of Coolah which meant that today we would have a 6km downhill into Coolah!
From the intersection it is a gradual 10km climb and then just up and down and along through the valleys! We also forgot that this road is also quite rough in places ... in fact ALL NSW roads are absolutely atrocious! even the highways are bad!

Despite all the warnings people did not slow down at all and as a result some pour caravan in the past has probably broken some part where it connects to the towbar and come off the road and down the embankment! I think the constant uneveness and potholes in the roads have put alot of stress on vans and trailers and eventually they snap under the pressure - a bit like our back wheels the constant jarring and bumpiness has put the bike under alot of pressure and spokes and wheels just have to give!
Due to recent rain the fields and pastures look very lush and when you look around you most farms have green paddocks and yellow paddocks and apprently the yellow ones are canola as these yellow flowers can be seen alongside the road just growing. Apparently the canola are expensive to sow so that is probably why they only have one of their fields full on canola because that is all they can afford!!!

We think the other green fields are probably wheat.
The last 20kms into Coolah are up and down through 4 gullies and everytime you go up you go up a little higher - we forgot about the uphill to get to the down hill!!! in fact we could only remember 2 gullies but instead there was 4!!!
We got to Coolah just after lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon reading out in the sun. Since it was a Sunday we had pizza for dinner as everything was closed. Another 5 vans turned up later in the evening and 2 were full of children that just ran amuck - sometimes I think caravan parks should ban little children and not dogs! Those kids were just noisy and yelling all the time and this morning (our rest day here) they were in and out of the toilets and made a little bit of a mess with the toilet paper etc everywhere - the poor cleaning lady! As these amenities, although the decor is very 70's, are very clean.
Coolah is a lovely country town and while waiting for Neil in the supermarket I got to watch the comings and goings of everyone in town - you can tell it is the school holidays as the teenagers are home from school and are taking Mum to the cafe for a coffee! this town has 3 cafes in it! and funny enough only one side of the main street is busy and the other is full of empty shops all except 1 cafe so not sure what is going on there.
Later on in the morning it absolutely poured down with rain and the temperature dropped dramatically It rained for about 1 hour and some of the down pours were very heavy ... after the rain it cleared to be a nice sunny day!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Uralla to Tamworth

Uralla to Tamworth = 101km (Uralla to Moonbi lookout = 64km, Moonbi lookout to Tamworth = 37km)
Cummulative total = 7131km

It was a wet rest day in Uralla and between showers in the morning I managed to duck into town to by some socks (very limited in choices at St Vinnies!) but I managed to find me a pair and Neil a pair of football socks (orange, purple and white - not sure who's team colours they are!). Nevertheless they were warm. Uralla is an old town and is really pretty and it is a shame that it wasn't a fine day for these photos.

Main street

an old pub/hotel

another old pub/hotel

One thing Uralla is famous for is it is the resting place of 'Thunderbolt' or Fred Ward who is an outlaw and off course you can see from the photo above Kouta has all the respect for him and walks all over his grave ... don't worry as much as Kouta likes to pee on absolutely everything now he didn't pee on his grave!!!
Just south of Uralla on our way to Tamworth the next morning we passed the rocks where apparently 'thunderbolt' use to hide out and watch the surrounding area.

We left Uralla and it was very grey and threatened to rain and it did rain a little while we were heading out along the tablelands

It was a very fine misty rain but enough to put the gortex on - but eventually it got too hot to ride with the rain coats on so we took them off.
For the first 20km you are steadily climbing up to 1100m and we have joined the New England Hwy and this is a very busy hwy and for the first 10km or so the shoulder was a bit suspect and sometimes very narrow in places! Then eventually is became very wide but unfortunately it was very rough, full of holes, glass, crap and generally not very nice to ride in - in fact the whole bike just rattled as you rode along - very disappointing riding in it as you know on the other side of the white line is a perfectly good and smooth car lane that you can't ride in as cars and trucks won't like it! So we were forced to stay in the shoulder the whole way.
After 20km there is a major down hill ...

basically it looks like you just drop of the face of the earth! but you don't you go down to about 800m and at times it is steep and you couldn't pick up speed because the shoulder was just too rough and I always fear that I will loose control or do what I did in Canada and that is come of the bike - 2 things I have no faith in ... 1)my bike being able to cope with rough conditions and 2)any councils (whether is be here or overseas) ability to make roads!!!
Once you are at the bottom you begin to climb back up to 900m and only to go back down again to Bendemeer. At this point I am beginning to get annoyed with having to ride in the shoulder in atrocious conditions and I am beginning to tire of the undulations (yes we are suppose to be going downhill!). At Bendemeer we picked up water and continued on to climb over the last range - the Moonbi range and at the last hill of this I realised that I hadn't had lunch so was feeling a little worn out and moody so I ate a muesli bar and continued on feeling alot better to the top.
From here is you have one hell of a down hill (I am glad we didn't come up it!!!) basically it is divided into 3 lots - the first 2km is steep and full of emergency truck arresters (which means that should the brakes fail they make their way to one of these and go up one of these sand tracks and that it acts as a brake!) for this 2km these arresters are on the other side of the road so they do have the potential to take out oncoming traffic. The next 2km is not so steep also has truck arresters. The final 2km is where the hwy divides into 2 (one way lanes so to speak) and is again very steep but this time the truck arresters are on the left side of the road so that means that should I look in my mirror and see a truck careening out of control behind me and I am near one of these emergency truck arresters then either I pedal like crazy to get past one or slow down!!!
Just before the final hill our turnoff to the rest area that we are staying at tonight is there so we cross over the one way lanes (perfectly safe!) and climb a 'munter of a sooty grunter' (remember that dad!) of a hill which was worth it in the end as the view from our camp spot is absolutely stunning. I tried to piece the photo together but it hasn't quite worked!
... but you get the jist of it - there is a stunning view of the plains below from the lookout.

and being on pushbikes we can generally camp in spots where cars and vans can't!

So I was rather relieved to get here and I think for me the day was probably one of my worse days riding - I didn't enjoy it at all riding along the highway and it confirmed that we won't be going to Scone (as we have to go along this highway). In fact it was just like the Bruce hwy - I don't like being forced to ride in a shoulder especially when it is bad!

Oh is that a nice photo of us!!! I am not sure what Neil is thinking at this point ... he certainly has a funny look on his face ... but gosh don't we look like vagabonds!
During the night it really blew a strong wind and lucky we were camped by the stone wall as I think it sheltered us a bit - so all night long you could hear the trucks grinding up in low gears going up or grinding down in low gears going down and the howl of the wind!
It was a lovely morning and we got to Tamworth a little earlier than what I though so we pulled over at the nearest rest area and had a coffee. But at this rest area was a sign about the sister cities to Tamworth and I would like to point out the 2nd town listed ...

... I think this is a sign that we should move to Gore - since Neil always says we are going to move there.
The road is busy going into Tamworth I suppose because it is peak hour traffic and the shoulder is really bad now even Neil is complaining! and the roads around Tamworth is not that great either. So after popping into the not so helpful information center we found the supermarket and bought food and continued through and south to our caravan parks - which by the way are all way out of town (except 1 which doesn't take dogs) so it is a 6km ride tomorrow to pick up more food supplies for our next haul to Coolah and then onto Wellington.
The campground is nice and quiet and we will look for a road that cuts across from here that will get us to the road heading south to Quirindi so then we don't have to go back into Tamworth itself!
Believe it or not staying at this campground is a couple that was at Morven (around 3 months ago) and he recognised us immediately from the dog!
Oh below is the 'golden guitar' since Tamworth is famous for its' country music festival which is held in January

and no Dad I haven't seen Patsy Rigger and not likely to since the town has 32,000 people in it!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Inverell to Uralla

Inverell to Uralla = 120km (Inverell to Bushcamp = 74km, Bushcamp to Uralla = 46km)
Cummulative total = 7030km

Inverell to Bushcamp -
We woke this morning a little depressed after listening to last nights AFL game against Collingwood - after the first 10 minutes I think we both thought that was it for Geelong and turned the computer off at 3/4 time with disgust! In the morning we couldn't resist but listen to the news to see just how much Geelong lost by ... 41 points - Collingwood must have gone home in the 4th quarter!!!
We sat there eating our brekky lamenting over the game - it was a sunny day but very cold - we woke with a frost on the tent and guessed it was below zero during the night and maybe only a few degrees whilst eating brekky.
We started out cycling early and there was a fair bit of traffic with us and I thought that this must be a busy route the Thunderbolts way but they all turned off at Gilgai and went to Armidale! It is all climbing from Inverell to just after Gilgai and from here is is up and down to Bundarra. While cycling along going up hill I thought my toes would warm up but they were very cold indeed and my arms were very cold so at our first stop I made the decision to sacrafice my maroon socks and cut the toes and make them into arm warmers! Below are the results!

It was so good riding along with them as the body and legs are warm but the arms get cold as by now the sun was always hiding behind the clouds so as dorky as they look they serve their purpose. We had a cuppa at around the 33km range which was at the top of the range before you have a nice 4km hill descent and then into Bundarra which is at 45km.

Instead of unloading the chairs to have a cuppa Neil got Koutas blanket out for us to sit on and Kouta immediately thought it was for him to have a rest on!
Not much at Bundarra which is at 660m above sea level but there was some nice old buildings and above is one of them.
Bundarra does have a local caravan park which has toilets, showers and power - $10 for a van and $7 for a tent - so we will remember it for next time we pass through. Originally we were going to stop at the rest area which is a few kilometers south of Bundarra but we decided that the main hill climbs will be around the last 20kms to Uralla so since Bundarra is about 74km from Uralla we decided to do another 30km and camp wild tonight. It was a good decision as you went down to the Gwydir River and then up a bit and the next 30km was relatively flat and easy going and the clouds even blew away with the tailwind we had so I was able to take my new arm warmers off! Beautiful country riding through here but one thing we noticed is that it is alot drier this side of the range (the one just before Bundarra) as it is quite rocky and the grass is long and brown.
We found a spot around the 74km mark and that left about 45km for tomorrow which is hopefully enough time to get into Uralla before lunch and before the rain that is forecasted starts!
Sitting there having a cuppa we soon realised that Kouta wasn't around ...

... he is quite camouflaged isn't he! and this was only a few meters from the tent.
It has been a while since we bushed camped and it was a lovely spot.

Around the tent and in the surrounding long grass you occassionally get these little white flowers which are quite pretty with their maroon centers.

Bushcamp to Uralla -
At least last night wasn't as cold as the night before and we reckon it was only around 5 degrees during the night and this morning it was very cloudy and grey but not damp and frosty. We packed up and left around 7.30am knowing this was going to be a hilly day.

The above photo is just typical of the area this side of Bundarra but there is alot of cattle and sheep which look very warm to us - and one flock of sheep had yet to be shorn (spelling?) and we did think that maybe they could give us some wool for some socks - we both didn't have socks on our feet and the toes were absolutely frozen and they just wouldn't warm up - everything else got warmed up when climbing the hills but the toes wouldn't. So at the first break we got them out and again as dorky as we both looked they served their purpose - I did look a sight with socks and sandals and my socks come arm warmers on!!!
Even Kouta wore his coat throughout the ride and in the photo below you can just see my feet with my socks and sandals.

It was incredibly undulating all the way to Uralla and the down hill parts were a real killer as in the time to go down you cooled down very quickly only to begin again at the bottom. Generally the down hills were steep and the beginning of the uphill a little steep and then they tapered off for the majority of the hill so you certainly went through you gear changes! From Yarrowyck to Uralla it is still up and down but the majority of it is up with the final 5km into Uralla very undulating and steep at times.
The legs felt okay riding the hills but I found the downhills a little difficult as my leg muscles would cool down too quickly and were very stiff when it came to the climb again and wouldn't loosen up until they warmed up again!

As you can see from the photo above Uralla is quite high up - 1000m above sea level and this is not the highest we go - when we leave Uralla for Tamworth we climb up to 1100m I think!
We got to Uralla around 11.40am which is good timing as the Supermarket was closing at 12.30 and a few drops of rain had started to fall.
We picked up supplies and got to the campground frozen and set up the tent - we had a shower to warm up and are now currently in the tent with another heat warming device - Neil came up with the idea to put hot tap water in our large drink bottles and use them to warm up our feet - he got the idea from a book he was reading set in the 1800's where they warmed their feet on heated bricks - the closest we could come up with is heated bottles and I tell you our toes are warm!
Tomorrow we will find an op shop to by some warm clothes as it is currently 13 degrees (todays high) and it is raining and I think the rain is here for a few days - it is not heavy rain just a light sprinkling.