|Setting out into the weather on Sunday morning.|
|Leaving Waddamana for the big climb of the day.|
The dates were pre-ordained by leave and rostered days off, although the forecast was not promising. Cold temperatures, rain, snow and wind do not make the best riding weather. All the same, Benny, Kiwi and I set off from Ouse at 9am on Saturday ready to take what came our way. All three of us rode steel bikes, lightly loaded. Two of us sported mudguards hastily fitted in the days before.
|Ben admires the view not far south of Miena.|
Less than an hour later we turned onto the gravel again, passing through Hermitage and its pack of chained and very vocal hunting dogs and the momentary bad weather then climbed steadily alongside powerlines leading to the hydro electric village of Waddamana. There was a thrilling and scenic descent before we rolled past the well-preserved old village to our lunchstop at the power museum staffed by a delightful volunteer who was knitting following the Australian Football League grand final on the radio. We ate our lunch on the steps and took a quick tour of the museum, the only people to sign the visitor's book in three days.
|Kiwi powers through the forest.|
A hot, fast and filling meal was consumed and some beers downed in short order and we settled in for the night in the bunks of a fisherman's cabin. It was sufficiently cold outside to deter anyone from taking advantage of the shower block and the heater ran all night.
Morning dawned crisp and overcast and after a couple of toasted ham and cheese sandwiches and a breakfast pie from the local shop we were on our way again. Though rain looked possible there was little wind and there were fewer hills on the gravel Malborough 'Highway' so the going was much quicker than the day before. The scenery was starker too, more alpine compared to the forests we'd traversed on Saturday. I kept stopping to take photos which kept me well off the back of our small peloton. We rested at the shop at Bronte Park for a drink and to top up our supplies of chocolate for the last leg of our journey which we were hoping to complete before we needed lunch, as there were no other facilities on the way.
|Heading across Stockyard Flats past Dee Lagoon.|
The best of the ride came right at the end. We raced along past Dee Lagoon an into some stunning farming country before turning off towards the locality of Strickland. Here the road turned downwards and for a good 20km we were able to sit back and coast, dodging the rock on the descent through the pine plantation. Kiwi suffered a trio of punctures here on the rougher road. Reaching the highway we turned east and picked up a tailwind to propel us down the last six kilometers of highway to the car, thrilled at the stunning finish to the ride.
Gravel rides are becoming more popular worldwide - I suspect in part thanks to a desire by cyclists to seek out quieter and safer roads. We saw perhaps half a dozen cars on the dirt sections on Saturday (the grand final would have kept many inside) and maybe a dozen on Sunday. Even if we caught a lucky weekend with the weather and the traffic, I know I'll be heading back to the central highlands for daytrips and longer rides. It's stunning country and well worth a visit for the intrepid cyclist.
|Nearing the highway to Miena near Shannon.|
|Dodging potholes near Bronte Park.|
|Onto the highway for the final run into Ouse.|