It was a fresh 10 degrees as we met at the Orroral Tracking Station ready to depart on a journey through the mountains. Half of us were planning to turn around at Murrays gap while others would venture all the way to Blue Water Hole.
It was to be a long trip so we all had quite a bit of food. I carried three litres of water, breakfast bars, hot crossed buns, Allens mixed lollies and gallons of GU; as well as my tools and some emergency clothing. GPS were on every second bike and Flip was carrying an EPIRB.
Simon had done the trip to the gap before and regaled us with chirpy accounts of how much walking we would have to do up the mountains. We started heading up these 'hills' and began to doubt Simons ratings, they were very rideable and slowly carried us up until we could see the peaks and valleys surrounding us.
We stopped often to regroup and refuel and found a couple of huts on the way, decked out with wood fires and running water for campers/hikers (will have to investigate for future reference).
The hills started getting a little steeper........
.......then almost everyone started walking. Unfortunately Simon was right.
The pain seemed to cloud any concept of time, I think we spent hours on that hill, but it felt like days. False crest after false crest, without exageration, it was the most consistently steep hill I have ever riden.
We eventually reached the top and refueled again.
The grade leveled out and we ventured into the 'fragile eco system'. Less formed roads, greener foliage and much more water.
A note for next time - if Zed is waiting on the other side of a water crossing and says go right, go left.
We finally reached the gap after over four hours of riding. It was quite a contrast to the rest of the ride - open swampy plains and lush green grass that engulfed entire wheels - probably the best place on earth to crash!!!
Zed was keen to get moving back to the cars so we took the photo without waiting for Jason - we figured they'd catch him on the way back, and worst case would be able to relay a grid to the SES for body collection.
Zed, Simon, Me, Flip and Jeff.
Flip, Jeff and myself decided to head on to Blue Water Hole - another 16 kilometres.
More open plains.
And some friends. The sound of the brumbies running across the plains was awe inspiring - a rolling thunder.
Eventually, after far too much ascending (as you ascend down any hill on an out and back journey all you have in the back of your mind is the sinking feeling that you will have to climb it on the way back....) we reached Blue Water Hole. A beautiful and magical place where pure blue waters flow out of the rocks and tumble their way down the mountains.
We filled our Camelbaks and headed back to the Orroral Station.
The climbs in general were less steep than the outward journey, with a few exception where i actually had to walk. Unfortunately the down hills were just too steep and loose to enjoy at any real speed, so it was a slow journey back. Jeff started to bottom out and was in dire need of some sustenance, which came in the form a KFC on the way back to Canberra.
I wouldn't hesitate to say the ride was one of the harder non-racing days I have spent on a bike, mostly due to the amazingly long and steep climbs. All in all the weather was great, we kept a good pace and the scenery was priceless. Zed and Simon are planning on repeating the entire journey to Blue Water hole with camping gear - not something I'd contemplate but good luck all the same (the fact that there were numerous screaming kids and overweight parents who had driven the three hours to the campsite tends to reduce my enthusiasm). The day ended up at 9 or 10 hours and just under 90 kilometres of riding.
Can't wait for the next epic.