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  • Steve Watson

Terra Australis Leg 4


BYRON BAY - CANBERRA 1470k 17,560Vm

DAY 24 MOUNT WERONG - CANBERRA 235k 2,100Vm

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/32866190

After yesterday’s punishing 3,700Vm ‘it’s all downhill’ to Canberra for today’s ride target. Canberra heralds the arrival and end point for racers doing Leg 4 Byron Bay - Canberra. Total 1,463k and at out ride pace, in a little over six days for 246k per day….. possible for the focused and fit? Maybe 8 days for mid-pack and 10 for those on a more leisurely timetable. Just where riders doing the full 6,250k Terra Australis will be in this mix will be revealed come late September this year.

​Away from the Mount Werong Camp Ground riders have a 50k ride through to Taralga. The first 25k on nice fire trail then shire roads into Taralga.

The Tangled Vine Cafe is the goto in town … and that’s it… it comes with recommendations from past racers!

A new backroad section through to Crookwell awaits this years riders and another refuel opportunity in this busy country town. A recent ride down through here revealed just how this country has transformed since the summer rains…. it’s now lush green pasture looking a million dollars after being bone dry and bare for the past half decade.

The hillside horizon lines give the game away after Crookewll …. massive wind farm towers adorn the countryside, a positive sign that there’s some wind about. Fortunately it’s mostly W, NW not perfect but better than straight ahead. A lot of this section from Crookwell through to Canberra is paved and generally descending so makes for good ride times through the day.

Over the Hume Highway at 149K there is more work to be done on the way up to Marked Tree Rd that rolls up and down for tired legs before finally a plummeting descent into Gundaroo. Here the local Community Showground promises a ‘free’ hot shower and overnight camping. Both our 2018 riders Steve Halligan and Brendan Corbin optioned for this stop with the purpose of hitting the bike shops in Canberra at opening hours for service work.

So ends our ride for the day. Canberra is the only major city on the Terra Australis route and offers plenty of cafes, accommodation and re-supply options in addition to bike shops, outdoor camping supplies etc. There’s some cold, tough, slow snow country ahead and riders will need to make serious strategic safety based decisions to cover contingencies through the next 2-3 days.

There are 3 or 4 riders who have lodged EOI’s planning on doing the final Canberra - Wilsons Prom Leg 5. heading out Sunday 27 September. Our ‘virtual’ ride is at Day 24 so the Thursday before their departure.

Tomorrow….

DAY 26 CANBERRA - DRY DAM HUT

DAY 23 GLEN ALICE - MOUNT WERONG CAMP GROUND 189k 3730Vm

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/32853148

These are the days when the decisive moves are going to be made for riders doing the full Terra Australis and perhaps those just racing the ByronB-Canberra Leg. The capacity to push on a little further into the night or early hours of the next day and back up the next day with an equally grinding day in the saddle.

Today is one of those days after ….. either succumbing to the temptation of Sandy Camp Hut and an earlier stop, maybe a warming fireplace some sleep cover or pushing on in darkness through the technical 50k descent down to Glen Alice.

Our overnight choice to push through to Glen Alice puts us in the hard man basket and so it’s more punishment but perhaps closer to our 30 day race target?

From Glen Alice at sunrise it’s warming the legs for the immediate challenge for the day from 25k is to summit the Baal Bone Gorge.

There are some savage one step at a time HAB sections on this climb that parallels an amazing still functioning early water line engineering masterpiece that once serviced mines down below the escarpment that we’re climbing. Magnificent sandstone escarpments present photo opps if you can get your vision up beyond your front wheel.

On arrival at the top of Baal Bone Gorge climb riders enter the splendour of the Gardens of Stone NP with stunning sandstone rock scapes and vistas … take it in, take some memorable pics keep riding. Plenty of technical sections through here for riders… take it carefully, safely and push on through to Lithgow for plenty of re-supply options.

Beyond Lithgow there are continuing magnificent vistas across the Megalong Valley from Hassan’s Wall and further on some unique snapshots on the transit through the Jenolan Caves.

The descent down the iconic 6ft track to the caves offers another challenge as it narrows to a rubble rock strewn single track in the final few kilometres to the tourist precinct.

Jenolan Caves in normal times is a busy tourist destination and with attractive dining and some low cost Backpacker sleep options can be a fly trap for a tired racer bikepacker … again it’s an opportunity to push on.

The immediate challenge is a brutal 3k and 400Vm climb to resume normal duties on the way through to this evenings destination at Mt Werong Camp Ground. Once on to Bastard Point Rd, despite the name things get better and there’s some good fast riding through shire and forest roads.

Mount Werong Camp Ground offers sleep cover, fire place, water and has been a popular staging point for past Terra Australis riders aiming to make it through to Canberra the next day.

Just 189k for the day but 3,730Vm in the bank is a good day.

DAY 22 LYALL CREEK RD - GLEN ALICE 248k 3070Vm

Just a few short k’s of dirt from our overnight rough camp then it’s paved roads all the way through to Singleton at 40k and on to Widden Stud at 162k. First stop,

Singleton a busy service town and dormitory for the workforce for the surrounding open cut mining operations that scar the countryside. Plenty of services for resupply but no bike shop. Riders need to make a decision here to re-supply for the tough slow country ahead or chance catching the smaller General Store open in Denman a further 70k and a short way off route.

Once through the mining precincts the traffic volume drops appreciably and the countryside opens into horse country home to many famous thoroughbred nurseries.

Most famous of these is Widden Stud at the top of the Widden Valley. Here, in late afternoon from this morning’s start the one lane patchwork bitumen finishes as the race route continues on along an avenue of high fenced foaling paddocks.

By late September, of an evening, these will be ablaze with floodlighting and monitored by Vets and stud staff expectantly awaiting arrival of new million dollar foals…. tomorrow’s champions.

Another 10k on the race route enters into the Wollemi NP and the Myrtle Trail. Huge swathes of this NP were burn during last’s summers fire storms. One frequent outcome of fire impact is that the access roads on fire trails through NP’s are cleared for urgent access and can be in improved condition that might not have been the case over time as complacency seeps into the management system. Post fire season Wollemi NP like most NP’s through the SE of Australia were deluged with life giving drenching rain … sadly this often has resulted in savage trail damage as sections are washed away and guttered by the powerful water run-off. Just where this leaves our riders heading up the Myrtle Trail remains to unfold. From the 175k it kicks up with some violence and it’s off the bike for several k’s of HAB. Keith’s Lookout at 177k offers a pleasant respite, distraction and photo op…. if there’s some twilight remaining for today’s ride.

Back on the bike a few k’s further along Sandy Camp Hut arrives, it has a rainwater tank and Visitor Book to add your name to the luminaries who have traveled before you. Gradually the ride flow returns and after negotiating a high wire [past life Deer Gate] it’s back on maintained local shire roads. Finally at 203k it’s relief from the incessant climbing over the past 30k and another challenge for the day’s ride … downhill under lights, 45k’s maybe nice at the end of a tough day but exhausting when tired, fatigued and the splendid scenic, lost in the blur of the day’s accomplishment!

Arrival at Glen Alice… in the main a locality but conveniently at the Glen Alice Public School … schools always have water.

Day 21 KIMBRIKI - MYALL CREEK RD 170k 3420Vm

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/32800798

Over the next few days riders will need to take a re-check on what they are physically capable of achieving and the logistics of food and water to achieve their goals. The Barrington Tops looms large on the horizon. Ride speed will be at a premium and the capacity to grind out the climbs and remain focused a gold asset!

From Kimbriki it’s across rolling farmland tracks through to the village of Bundook. No services so it’s ride on … not even a social media hook up with Ant. Duff who has been a regular at greeting riders as they pass through his local patch…. Anthony’s planning on being on the Terra Australis start grid this year … maybe a self interview?

It’s a pretty morning ride into Gloucester a vibrant, convenient and necessary re-supply for the challenge ahead. Excellent Bakery, Woolworths and alternatives for the bikepacker.

A decent length of pavement [25k] on the 40k gentle climb up to the foot of the Barrington Tops … open pastureland and multiple shallow ford river crossings over the Gloucester River along the way add pleasure to the ride.

The maintained hard packed well worn tourist drive climbing up to the Barrington Tops is however … a long haul. Steep 15%+ sections with few ‘free’ k’s. Give or take it’s 15k and not much change out of 2-3 hours on the bike. On summiting the climb riders break right to join the Link Trail, again another 15k.

This time it’s a slow overgrown walking trail that has minimal hiking traffic and as a consequence difficult riding conditions. Fallen trees, overgrowth, remote and slow, off and on the bike…. there goes another three hours.

Arrival at the top of the Corker Trail heralds another challenge … a mtb technical downhill that invites but could be a ride ending threat if you fail the test. 10k of wrist/hand cramp enduro trying to maintain a line, not locking up remaining vertical! Down lower there’s some better lines if the motoXC boys have been recent visitors.

Once the main descent is completed, it’s back on to fast shire roads for the flowing descent through to the village locality of Allynbrook before turning west on to Cross Keys Rd and then Myall Creek Rd. The late evening journey from here is on farm paddock tracks via a public road reserve.

It will be slow going and after a 3,000Vm+ of climbing fo the day the temptation to call it a day will be overwhelming around the 170k mark.

Day 20 URUNGA - KIMBRIKI 298k 2230Vm

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/32788104

Opportunity knocks … today offers the possibility for some big k’s. Modest elevation, a following sea breeze and 70% [215k] paved roads to assist with the quicker ride time. A smorgasbord of food, water, beachside showers, campgrounds, motels. Your $’s are the limit.

From the get-go this morning its a quick 15k spin down to the Valhalla Tourist Park across to a pretty beachside boardwalk that leads to a sand slog for two k into Nambucca Heads [21k].

Plenty of options here for coffee, breakfast, re-supply and you get to exit town on their delightful boardwalk before the more challenging life threatening link road [once was Pacific H’way] down to Macksville at 34k.

First challenge for the day is the 10k NP section through the superb giant timbered Yarriabini NP. Nice fast forest roads with some pinch climbs to wake the legs.

After it’s 56k of paved happiness winding your way riverside along the Macleay River. If this doesn’t warm your heart, get off throw your bike in the river and go home….

Hat Head through to the paved Loftus Rd at 119k has some challenging sand sections… then it’s a lunch opportunity in Crescent Head at 130k.

Another 30k down to Port Macquarie is a mixed bag, fast at first then a series of waterholes and sand traps.

The Hastings River Ferry is a 24H shuttle so there’s no waiting issue … if you turn up at 3:00am and it’s on the Port M side of the river make sure you give them a flash of your lights for a collect!

Lots of services and supply options in Port, take your fill and keep moving south. Like Coffs H don’t get trapped in the headlights! Not the safest ride south on Ocean Drive, be bright and well alight! Lake Cathie, Bonny Hills, North Haven, Laurieton tumble past in quick succession and then it’s back into NP as we transit Crowdy Bay NP along our race route south.

Good maintained fast roads and then paved most of the way through Harrington. Here we head west leaving our coastal cruise as we head to Taree and the challenging Barrington Tops.

All of the race route from Port Macquarie to our overnight stop tonight is on Street View. Taree offers enough early evening refuel opps to enable a couple of hours riding to reach out 298k day target at the Kimbriki Tennis Club… water, toilets, cover.

DAY 19 EVANS HEAD - URUNGA 260k 2870Vm

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/32776071

One of the shortcomings of loosing focus in any serious endeavour is that mistakes happen… in our case last night in Ballina, nice meal couple of beers and eventually when the fog cleared there was the realisation that the maths the race route [75k] and the expected ride time through to the Iluka Ferry don’t look a good fit!

So up and away at 4:00am to try and remedy the situation. Fortunately breakfast is still on the menu … 10k down the road from Evans Head, Woodburn is home to a rarity, a 24H cafe, a remnant of and on the old Pacific Highway and about to be bypassed by the new.

Breakfast to go leaves at best 4 hours for the 65k to get to Iluka to make the 8:45am sailing over to Yamba = 16.25kph….. 20k on bitumen. I’m not going to make it but you can, let’s get going! Bundjalung National Park is the tricky bit 40k of NP roads is always a lucky dip … some are maintained some suffer from the budget and are poor.

The Iluka Ferry is a delightful journey on a sunny day, more delightful for Seniors, it’s half price, sweet. Yamba hosts a decent Bike Shop, Coles and cafe’s for any rider services. A few k’s and it’s into some two track sand tracks across Day 19NP hopefully in regeneration after being razed during last summers fire season.

Brooms Head at 103k, a little off route has a general store and a good Chinese at the Bowling Club. The race route swings off on to more NP roads, most of the next 100k is on Google Street View .. it’s DIY.

From Corindi Beach at 180k it’s back on to paved roads for the next 80k, Woolgoola, Moonee Beach, Big Banana, Coffs, Toormina, Sawtell merge into a blur of suburbia on our way to out destination, Urunga.

This journey is the time to stay focused, re-supply, ignore the bright lights and take advantage of the faster road conditions… no running red lights!


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Ride Co-ordinator: Steve Watson
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