Friday, 7 April 2017

The Snowy Mountains Wilderness Tour Ahead

After the raging success of my first two bike tours, I am not about to stop anytime soon. However, finding a spare few months isn't always easy, so with that in mind, I have a couple of shorter tours planned this year of between 5-10 days each.

The first of these is back in Australia.  I've had a couple of months out of the saddle and now I'm itching for another tour.  I can't go far, money isn't too bad, but I do have to establish some consistent work so I can save for something really epic.  

I decided to not stray too far from my base here and spend 5 or 6 days in the Australian Alps, scaling the highest mountain in Australia in the process, Mount Kosciuszko.

The ride is a picturesque one, along 3 beautiful rural roads first following the Murray River East on the Murray River road and then up to Thredbo, a town at the base of Mount Kosciuszko, via the Alpine Way, and then down to Bairnsdale on the Barry Way, an unsealed narrow mountain road through the mountains.  Despite this ride taking place in the Easter holidays, I am not expecting much in the way of traffic on any of these roads, especially the Barry Way and the Murray River Road.

This is not an easy ride, so I had to squeeze in some training bikes beforehand.  The roads are steep, and large sections unsealed, and as usual in Australia, when you go a little way outside the major cities, very remote, with little in the way of facilities.

Early April tends to be the most settled time of year weather-wise in Victoria, the extreme heat of the summer should be gone, and also there should be some pretty autumn foliage around, so that seems the perfect time to go.

As you can see from the above cycling profile, the route is not an easy one.  It passes right through the great dividing range, taking the highest route through the Australian Alps.  These roads are actually higher than in New Zealand, and the elevation gain over the 5-6 days I will be cycling is probably the hardest I have faced over such a distance.

To make matters worse, between Bairnsdale and Thredbo (Just under 300Km), there really is virtually nothing in the way of services, just a whole lot of high-country wilderness.  Whereas I faced long distances in the Outback without support, the road was flat and fast.  This promises to be pretty slow-going.  The named landmarks spaced-out on the map, like "Suggan Buggan", are not really towns or villages, they are literally just one or two farmhouses with no shops or any other amenities (in fact, only 3 people live there).  I'll have to make sure I am loaded-up with supplies.

Obviously, I don't live in Bairnsdale or Albury, so I plan on getting out to Albury on the train and coming back to Melbourne from Bairnsdale on the train.  Doing a whole loop starting and finishing in Melbourne would take too long.


Obviously, some dangers apply.  This particular journey is not going to be a comfortable one, staying in hostels like I did in New Zealand.  Most nights I will be wild camping in the forest.  This obviously leaves me at a slight risk from the local wildlife, the usual nasties, like snakes and spiders, but also ticks, which apparently kill far more people in Australia by spreading disease.  

I also know from previous experience of running in the forests of the high country last year, that in wet weather, leeches are present in unbelievably large numbers.  They aren't really dangerous, but they are definitely unpleasant.

Safety on the road is always an issue, and I suspect my main danger in this regard will be drivers on narrow roads and blind corners on the switchback roads up and down the mountains.  At least logging trucks shouldn't be a problem, as I will be in a national park for most of the time, with logging activities not allowed.

The weather, however, is my greatest concern.  It shouldn't be snowy yet at this time of year, although it is certainly possible, but rain could really make things difficult and potentially dangerous on the narrow unsealed roads, especially as many of these roads have sheer drops without barriers.

I only have a narrow window for this trip and then it is back to work, so if I need to bail on it, I need a back-up plan of another place to go.  However, with few roads in this area, finding one could be difficult, so fingers crossed!


The wildlife is always a pleasure in Australia.  You almost always see something of interest, whether it be the ample and varied colourful birds, or the many marsupials for which Australia is famous.  Koalas, wombats, kangaroos, wallabies, possums, and maybe even platypus in the streams, inhabit the areas I will be travelling through.

It is quite exciting to hit the road again, and this should be a really great tour.  6 days in the remote mountain wilderness of Victoria and New South Wales, on some of the most picturesque roads in the country, and camping out under the stars in the bush.  There's nothing better.

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