Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Snowy Mountains Part 1 - The Murray River Road

6 months after returning from New Zealand, I was itching to get back in the saddle and go on another tour.  I ended up picking a tour of about 5 days, but I couldn't have chosen a much harder route.  Huge climbs, few services, dangerous roads, and unforgiving surfaces.  However, it was through some of the most stunning areas of the the most mountainous part of Australia.

Three fantastic roads, starting in Albury on the Murray River Road, then leading up to Australia's highest mountain on the Alpine Way, then crossing the alpine wilderness to Bairnsdale on the Barry Way (sometimes called The Snowy River Road).  To start things off, it was the relatively simple stretch along the Murray river road.

This leg was to take about a day to complete and was a pleasant, gently undulating ride along the Murray River, starting at Lake Hume.

The Dam at Lake Hume must have changed the landscape of the Murray river as the river was vast in some areas and drowned trees dotted the landscape, making for a fairly unique looking backdrop.

I left Melbourne on the train in the early hours of the morning and arrived just before lunchtime in Albury.  I had a target of about 85Km on this first day and would finish at a free camping reserve by the river to camp overnight.  I didn't leave the river the whole day and it was a scenic, easy ride.

I wasn't expecting too much from this first leg and was focusing much more of the mountains on the Alpine Way and Barry Way.  However, the Murray River was wonderfully scenic along the whole length I cycled.  As usual, Australia didn't disappoint with the wildlife as well, parrots, parakeets, cockatoos, eagles, kangaroos, and freshwater turtles on the banks of the river.

Last year, when I cycled the length of Australia from Darwin to Melbourne, I was actually at the other end of the Murray River in South Australia.  The Murray River is the 15th longest in the world at 2373Km long, and the longest in Australia.  I was at the end of it that time, this time I was near its source.

After camping by the river overnight, and sleeping incredibly soundly for about ten hours I awoke feeling very refreshed and followed the river on for another 50Km or so until I reached the high country and the start of the Alpine Way.  Along the way, I made sure to savour the beautiful weather and the peaceful misty morning on the river.

As well as the hills to come, this cycle imposed some logistical challenges as well, one of them being finding food and water.  With so few towns and services on all three of the roads I would be cycling on, I had to make sure I could fill-up the bottle and re-fuel the body wherever I could.  It was with great relief then, that I found a perfect water stop at a small village called Walwa, just before heading to the high-country.  I was pretty keen on not carrying too much weight in water, about 4 litres maximum.  I suppose I could have sourced some of the water from the Murray river with a bit of filtering and treatment, but it is always good that this is a last resort measure.

Fully stocked-up on water, and with plenty of food, I made my way to the high country and the expected hard-yards on the bike.  It certainly wasn't going to disappoint in this regard.

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