The extremely hot week preceding the ride, and the Southerly change forecast for Saturday did not put off the 8 riders booked in for the ride. (3 had pulled out for other reasons - Davis's had some little World Rogaining Championship competition, and Gill's excuse was a broken hand courtesy of a previous MTB ride I had led). The 8 of us - myself and Michael, Peter and Louise, John Souter, Denise Davies, Fiona, Cathy Bennet -all met at the Braidwood Bakery on Saturday morning. After fuelling up, we mounted our 3-day loaded steeds and pedalled out of town.
There was an extremely strong wind blowing and there were a couple of scary moments as the wind tried to push us off the road. We didn't have to go far, however, till we turned South and the strengthening wind was behind us. Awesome - several kilometres of being literally pushed along like a freight train. As our road curved around, so did the wind direction and the wind stayed right behind us almost all the way to the Monga Forest. We hit the dirt on the border of the Monga N.P., and were sheltered from the wind by the wonderful tall trees. Some were complaining of the heat as we rode up some small hills (some complained about the hills too) - hard to keep some people happy - I organise a tailwind and a cooling breeze and they still complain!.
Before long we passed through the small township of Monga where the welcoming signs read something like "no stopping, no telephones". Apparently the locals were not too happy about their forest being turned into a N.P. From Monga it was only 2.5km to the Dasyrus Picnic area where lunch was devoured. (Did I mention that people had been complaining about hunger?) After lunch, we followed the Mongarlowe River upstream on the Forest Rd - a gorgeous tree-fern lined track closed off to vehicles. It was very dry looking though, and we were a bit concerned about water availability. The troops kept stopping to look at possible camp sites, but I had one in mind from a previous nocturnal visit to the area (you'll have to read my article in the last Australian Cyclist magazine). To cut a long story short, we pushed on, over and under tree branches, carrying the bike up and down ditches etc. and found the area I had spotted in the dark - it was CRAP!!!! So we backtracked over the trees, ditches etc. and decided on a lovely spot discovered earlier by Peter. This site, about 4km from the picnic area, was replete with wonderful Gippsland waratahs - quite different to our usual variety, but still very beautiful. Only 200m down the road was a gorgeous rainforest creek where we could wash and replenish water supplies. We'd done about 30km for the day.
We set up camp, and laughed at John's $10 kiddies tent (cheap and lightweight was his claim). It was a step up from the beach shelter he had mistakenly brought on the Budawangs long weekend walk, at least he could fit in this one! We had a lovely calm night (unexpected after the strong winds we'd had).
We awoke to a cool grey misty rainy sort of day - while not bemoaning the rain, I was in no hurry to get up. We looked at the topos, picked a shortish ride for a day trip and set off before 9am. Peter and Lani both crashed on the way out of the campsite - wet slippery sticks across the track being the cause. Then, a few hundred metres from camp John's tyre was flat. After a repair job, we finally headed off up up up the Milo road through unbelievably lush beautiful green tree-fern endowed rainforest. The mist and light rain actually enhanced the forest, bringing out the rich smells and colours. It was quite a climb with some resorting to pushing. We cycled up to Milo trig at 1051m, an ascent of 300m., and took a photo for Karen. Then I led off into the bush on foot in search of the giant pinkwoods (Eucryphia Moorei) which I had promised everyone. They did not disappoint.
We opted for the least hilly of the roads back to the Monga road we'd cycled in on, and as the weather was deteriorating, after lunch headed directly back to camp. On arrival at camp, the first thing we did was to check out John's tent which had changed from a kiddies tent to a kiddies swimming pool. Sometimes you just need to carry a bit more weight or pay a lot more money! We were in for a cool wet evening, but a campfire kept us warm and Fiona and others kept us entertained with some ribald jokes.
Day 3 began as a "comedy of errors". We got up to another misty, atmospheric day. Denise and Fiona decided to head back early and not do the short walks and side-trips I'd planned. They were packed up and ready to go before the rest of us, so went around the group bidding their fond farewells. They mounted their steeds and headed off down the track and while we were waving them good-bye we hear a loud yell of "Oh F--k!" followed by Denise hitting the dirt. Her back tyre was flat. She sheepishly wheeled the bike back up the track to our laughter. I told her we wouldn't help her as she had officially left the trip.
After fixing her tube (with assistance) they left again with much less fanfare. John was the next to leave as he needed the services of the dunny at the picnic area. As the remainder of us departed we noticed John's pack was still with us. More laughter as Michael picked his pack up for him and we cycled out. A few kms down the track we found John on his way back having realised that cycling felt too easy and that he was missing something. He cycled right past us all as Michael told him his pack was still at camp. He was called back though!
After ablutions, we did the two short sign posted walks to admire the rainforest with interpretive signs and to see the Monga Waratahs which were not quite out yet. We then cycled back through Monga and kept following the Mongarlowe River 3km downstream to another picnic area at the start of the Corn trail. Here were some beautiful flowering Monga waratahs. After an early first lunch, we backtracked to Monga, and back to Braidwood for a yummy warming second lunch at the Deli. My computer reading was 99km. All in all a great weekend - to be repeated again next year.