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Well, the first day started inauspiciously enough. I awoke early because although I’d finished packing, I hadn’t actually tried to fit everything onto the bike and secure it yet – so I was leaving it kinda late! Once I had thrown the panniers, backpack, tent and sleeping roll on my first problem was immediately obvious – all the extra weight of gear was compressing the rear suspension so much that it wouldn’t stay on the side stand. One slow drop in the garage and one outside on the pavement gave me second thoughts about my preparedness for the trip, but instead I quashed those and started culling things. Foremost to go was the tent, a relatively large and bulky cylinder that I ditched in place of an Army style hootchie – essentially a 2m x 1m piece of canvas. It’ll keep the rain and dew off but that’s about it…much lighter and smaller though. I also ditched some of the spare clothes (I guess I can always buy some en route if really required, or just be a bit smelly). Finally, I had filled all my water containers prior to loading them, which totalled 8L – great for when I’ll be crossing the desert, but completely unnecessary for the first leg of the trip.
I was meeting a friend of mine for the first leg down, as it was his birthday (27 is so old, other Dave!). Pity he couldn’t even get 10 kilometers before breaking down!
We started by heading down the Royal National Park just to the south of Sydney, a popular trip for bikers of all varieties due to the flowing corners and great scenery. A quick rest stop at Bald Hill with the lovely Jess, other Dave’s pillion:
Once they’d had their day trip, it was time to part ways as I pushed further south. This photo is taken at the base of the Macquarie Pass, another fantastic road that’s very common for sports riders. The mountains you see in the background are part of the Great Dividing Range, and the Mac Pass winds its way up circuitously – making for a great road for bikes.
A quick food stop at the Pie Shop at the top (amazing cheese and bacon pies, om nom nom!), then I dropped down into the Kangaroo Valley, with some spectacular scenery as the road dropped over the edge of the ranges – sadly, there’s nowhere to stop and capture photos. I did however manage to photograph the Hampden Bridge, a historic structure in the township itself:
Climbing out of the valley and heading ever south, as I followed the ridgelines of the Great Dividing Range, I saw a sign for the Jerrawangala lookout inside the National Park, so I decided to take a look. After an inadvertent detour thanks to the Rangers not signposting an intersection, I was treated to an amazing view over the bush out to the south coast:
Shortly after, there was another lookout, this time for Tianjara Falls just off the main road. A mighty waterfall it mightn’t be (more of a minor leak, if anything), but still a spectacular cliffside – it certainly puts into perspective the difficulties the early explorers had in trying to cross the Great Dividing Range.
Continuing ever south, the weather started to look ominous. The forecast had called for showers however the day so far had been fine and clear – but it seemed my luck was about to change. Some of the clouds even appeared pink and orange, although sadly the photos don’t do them justice. Fortunately though, after a dozen very large and threatening raindrops, it seems I managed to thread the needle and pass through with storm on either side, without getting rained on.
My destination for the day was Cooma, a town high in the Snowy Mountains near the Victorian border. I had thought the day was tracking well in terms of distance covered and lack of problems (except for dropping the bike twice before setting off!), up until I started to get up into the mountains themselves. The bush closed in, with ghost gums and stringy barks looming over the track:
Then the fog started rolling in. It was thick, cold and wet, and dropped visibility down to around 20 metres at times. It was starting to feel like purgatory, and endless track with no other souls on there. Adding to my concerns was the time; it was late afternoon and with the monumentally stupid and suicidal Australian wildlife I didn’t want to be riding at dusk. After what seemed like an eternity, I breached the top of the mountain and as I descended, a bright ray of sunshine pierced the gloom, lighting my path. I’m not at all religious but couldn’t help but laugh at the imagery and allegory I had constructed in my head.
I’m now checked into a pub in Cooma, with a belly full of steak and beer, ready to tackle tomorrow’s challenge – across the Australian Alps and into Victoria.