Sunday, 11 March 2012
Khancoban to Jindabyne
What a day!
Woken by a million varieties of birds and made my way to a tiny cafe, where, like the motel, there was no wi fi. Started the day's (epic) journey and discovered a whole new part of town where there was a cafe with wi fi, so had another coffee and skyped Laura. So much for an early start... Cavalcades of bikers come along this, the upper Murray valley; I guess they like its twisty, wild terrain. The way they drool over each other's parked machines always reminds me of dogs sniffing bottoms. And then I was off. For once I was wrong to scoff at someone telling me that it was all uphill, and what followed was, without a doubt, the hardest ride I have ever undertaken. About 40 miles of (OK not quite all) nasty, uphill windiness, where I was often in my lowest gear (AND slaloming) at 3.5 mph. I'm surprised I didn't keel over with the lack of inertia. Then there would be a slightly flatter bit and I felt quite heady speeding along at 5. Had to stop and regroup twice in the first 10 miles. If this continued, dividing the total mileage by the avearge speed so far, I worked out I'd still be on the road at midnight. Stopped again and again, including at a couple of official rest areas, which are actually little more than car parks with barbecues. There was no running water, so in the end I had to fill up my bottle from a creek, which are thankfully now no longer muddy, but sparklingly clear. It was at one of these rest areas that I saw four kangaroos. They watched my approach with big black eyes and then at 50 feet they started up their funny bouncing motion into the bush. In other nature news, I tried to encourage a spider to come out of a rolled up leaf attached to his web, by prodding it. He knew I wasn't a fly however and stayed put.
Eventually I reached a sign which read 'Great Dividing Range 1,580 m' and praise be! I was at the summit. Down, down, down. Not a single house between Khancoban and Thredbo (where I planned to have lunch, but arrived at 5.45 pm) just thick forest. There's a limit to how much chocolate, dried fruit and bananas one can have until only chewy meat and stodgy starch satisfies, and that is what I had in a pub in this alpine style ski resort. Australians really know how to have a good time and even at this early hour the pub was buzzing. Some of the men here wear vests and sunglasses permanently resting above their baseball caps. I'm not sure if this is a good look, especially as I am not a snappy dresser myself, but I suspect perhaps it's not. The women dress well, neither tartily nor snootily, mostly with comfort in mind, as well as a degree of femininity. It was dark by the time Jindabyne came into view and looked like a town beside a Scottish loch, nestling amidst bare rolling hills; that is, if you ignored the buzz of the crickets and the whoop whoop birdsong. At the Jindabyne Hotel I had to make enquiries in the bottle shop (off licence) as reception was closed. When explaining I had a bike and didn't fancy carrying it upstairs some wise guy asked if it was a mountain bike, to which I said yes, and he replied, "Well then you can ride it up the stairs." Such was my fatigue I could barely carry it upstairs to a room with bare brick walls. At least they don't go in for swirly carpets and hideous paintings here, I'll say that for them. Sated myself on Cole's supermarket own brand licorice allsorts. This is the kind of fare I crave after a long day in the saddle and this variety are delicious. Did they know I was coming? The main reason for undertaking a bike tour like this is so that I can scoff double the amount of chocolate and sweets without waistline expansion.