The Orange and Villages Bike Trail is a tour of Central West New South Wales through the traditional lands of the Wiradjuri people. If you're looking for a bicycle tour full of great country towns, lots of country hospitality, food, booze (except the one pub that closed early booooo), without the need to carry a tent this is the tour for you.
It's Easter so my usual hash brown quota has been replaced with hot cross buns and easter eggs.
Hot tip: Massala Library, the Indian restaurant in Cowra is outstanding. Leftover curry is a delight in wraps the next day.
It's just dreamy out there.
How to get there: We drove out there as the trains required packed bikes.
Day 1 - Orange to Cudal via Molong (93 km)
Day 2 - Cudal to Cowra via Canonwindra (90 km)
Day 3 - Cowra to Neville (83 km)
Day 4 - Neville to Orange via Millthorpe (85 km)
Wagga Wagga you did not disappoint. The first Gears and Beers festival I joined in October 2018 was in canola season, full of seas of yellow against a blue sky. This year the blue skies were out again no canola in March but the backdrop of the countryside was still just as stunning.
Saturday's mystery ride on that took us along the Wiradjuri walking track that is a 42 kilometre off road loop around the city. It is a walking trail that is open to bicycles. But warning that first climb can get your heart rate to 200 bpm (there is no shame in walking it). When you're not eating gravel you're on wide shared paths that connects you to the city.
I won't lie, I'm a bit disappointed Sunday's Filthy 50 didn't get me more filthy but it sure was pretty out there so #noregrets. The fresh air (read lots of head wind) after a month of rain in Sydney is just what was needed.
It’s been 2 years since I left the state that I live in. It was actually about the same time 2 years ago, the summer of 2019. For the end of 2021 I decided to go bikepacking up the same mountain range with the same group of friends. This time we were a little wiser and decided to find a better balance of adventure and relaxing. We opted to ride less, eat more and appreciate the surroundings by travelling a bit slower. We even went on a hike (although we may have regretted not riding)! Maybe we were able to relax a bit more as we weren’t panicking about the ravaging bushfires that seemed to follow us like last time.
Note to self and a warning to others: bushfires travel fast. Trying to bikepack “around them” isn’t a smart idea.
It was surprisingly nostalgic visiting the same mountain. Realising how much has and hasn’t changed in the past 2 years. We bumped into the same group at the top of the mountain who had been celebrating new years on Mount Stirling for 13 years in a row. It made me reflect and wonder how long my friendships would last. Is this how traditions begin, by doing something more than once? I wonder what spaces we will continue to hold and share together? Will we continue to have adventures and traditions? Don’t know. It just makes me cherish the adventures we have had and the memories we have created.
This year instead of tormenting us with fires, Mother Nature and her mountains offered refuge from the pandemic that was/is escalating quickly through the country. Unfortunately the mountains aren’t completely out of reach of the telecommunications satellites. A few of us were able to check the daily news to update the rest of us with the increasing tally of COVID cases. Being in the clean crisp mountains was a huge relief.
As for the bikepacking we were able “glamp” a bit by having a car and leaving our gear at a base camp to do day rides and visit a cafe at Mt Buller, I highly recommend their hashbrown burger which is served with a side of hashbrowns, and resupply at the tiny, tiny grocer at the top.
The Victorian government has done well to invest in a summer economy in the Victorian alps by offering loads of well maintained mountain biking trails to cater for a lot of abilities and ages. It made me so happy to see young children, young families and some teenagers out there on their mountain bikes. Much more properly equipped than I was on my gravel bike. Not sure if starting on the Stonefly trail which is rated a black diamond was a good or bad idea. Most of the trail down was hike-a-bike but it did mean trails after that were “easy”.
Highlights of the trip:
Thank you mountains for the memories, reflections and refuge.
Day 1 - Telephone Junction to campsite (Bluff spur memorial hut)
Sleep: Bluff spur memorial hut
Strava link - here
Day 2 - Stonefly MTB Black run - Mt Stirling to Mt Buller loop
Sleep: Bluff spur memorial hut
Strava link - here
Acknowledging the custodians of the lands on which I had the privilege of riding around this week, the Wonaruah, Biripi, Worimi, and Gaewegal people. These lands are some of the most magically places I've ever seen.
Before setting out on this mid week adventure a friend asked me if the reason why people like bikepacking is because you have to work to earn the reward. Yes, my friend, I said. That is called Type-2 fun and yes, that's a part of the reason why I enjoy bike packing. Pushing the body and mind, making life/death decisions nearly every second, constantly doing a risk assessment, listening to the body when it says it can't, adapting on the fly as things and conditions change. It's not just about pedalling and the gram shot. It's finding the beauty wherever you go, and challenging yourself.
This trip to Barrington tops was a last minute adventure I madly researched over 24 hours as I started to feel the anxiety of starting a new job in a week. Thanks to the lovely folks on the Bikepacking Australia facebook group I sourced lots of information, pored over maps to create a route that allowed me to public transport my way without packing up the bike to Barrington tops.
I was warned, it'll be cold carry warm socks and The Corker is hard and they were right. They were also right about the Barrington tops being a special magical place.
Day 1 technically started at 4am (although I didn't really sleep due to the anxiety of missing the train) to catch the 5am train from Central to Dungog. The last station you can get to with the Opal card on the Hunter line. A quick stop at the local bakery to pick up an apple pie and salad roll with beetroot no butter please. After 40 kilometres of road riding with a few big trucks in between I was at Lagoon pinch, or The Corker trail. The rain and 15% inclines weren't going to stop me from getting into the rainforests. It was worth the hike-a-bike for 2 hours to arrive at the hut were 3 other hikers had already started a fire.
Day 1 stats - Dungog to Selby Allen's Hut via The Corker
Start: Central station 5 am train to Dungog. Roll out of Dungog at 10:30 am
Finish: Selby Allen's Hut along The Corker
Route: Strava link
Distance: 57.6 kms
Elevation: 2,089 metres
Difficulty: The Corker was steep and I hike-a-biked most it. Otherwise the Ride out of town wasn't too bad with the occasional truck, and a few road works.
After much deliberation the night before while listening to the rain fall on the tin rood of the hut I decided to abort my original plan to do a loop to Gloucester and Dungog which freed me to choose my own adventure. The number of ecosystems in the Barrington tops is varied and stunning, the electric green of the rainforest has every shade of green growing from all nocks of the forest. It's straight up Studio Ghibli inspiration material. The bird life is pumping in there too.
Day 2 stats - Carey's peak and nearly Gloucester Falls
Route: Carey's peak, Black Swamp, Link Trail - Strava link
Distance: 21 kms
Elevation: 600 metres
Last day of any trip is a mix of emotions. The sadness of leaving your reception free, peeing in nature, simple lifestyle but also the excitement of heading home to not stressing about where to get water. Again I changed my plans on the spur of the moment to take a detour to see the Ladies well, taking a punt based on some hot tips.
The detour took me through the state forest and state forest camping grounds. I'm so glad the Barrington tops is World heritage listed. I can't image someone logging all those trees in the rainforest. Thank you to all those who fight tirelessly to protect the forest.
Day 3 stats - Barrington Tops to Dungog via Salisbury Gap Road
Route: Strava link
Distance: 61 kms
Elevation: 806 metres
Doing an overnighter in Bouddi National Park on Darkinjung land mid week was the best decision I made last week. Although the ride up isn't all too pleasant along Barrenjoey Road, and out Empire Road, but to get a beach to myself with an epic sunrise was worth it.
Part 1 - Manly to Palm Beach ride (strava link) - 32 kms
Thank goodness the Palm Beach hotel was kind enough to sell me a can of Balter XPA and a bottle of sparkling water.
Part 2 - Palm Beach to Wagstaffe ferry (check timetable)
The 4pm ferry is the tradie home time ride with BYO eskies and roadies.
Wagstaffe general store/post office has 2 freezers of ice-cream to choose from. However they are not next to each other so make sure you look around before making your final selection.
Part 3 - Wagstaffe to Tallow ride (strava link) - 3.3kms
Dinner: Ramen and corn.
Sleep: Tallow beach camping site (booking site)
Part 1 - Tallow to Gosford ride (strava link)
Woke up to a firey sun rise, had a solo dance on the beach soaking up the serenity before the trek home. Empire Road is not the best, brace yourself.
Part 2 - Gosford to Sydney train
Another weekend adventure, this time riding through the land of the Gundangurra people.
Day 1 - Mittagong to Taralga via Wombeyan caves
Distance: 100 kilometres
Elevation: 2,108 metres
Start: Mittagong station
End: Taralga hotel
Day 2 - Taralga to Mittagong via Penrose state forest
Distance: 130 kilometres
Elevation: 1,876 metres
This will be my third Easter holiday spent in the Jagungal so I knew what lay ahead. Is there a word that describes that emotion of excitement mixed in with utter fear? Whatever it was there was a build up of excitement with every hour as I thought about the fresh air I'd be breathing into my lungs. The 6 hour drive cut up with News updates about the latest known COVID cases and the obligatory pie stop. FYI: The best vegan and gluten free pies (but I forgot to take a photo).
While the mind and heart gets excited there's a sick feeling in the stomach brewing as I think about the pain that lay ahead.
Day 1 - Guthega to Botherham
Unload the car, repack the bikes, fully loaded bikes are offset with fresh legs.
Start: Guthega power station
End: We were supposed to sleep at Botherham plain hut, but ended up rolling a bit further to the river crossing at Gungarlin and slept under the milky way.
Distance: 26 kms
Hike a bike: No hike a bikes today!
River crossings (without getting feet wet): 1
River crossings (where feet get wet): 0
Road conditions: Guthega Road (sealed), unsealed dirt, some gravel
Day 2 - Botherm to Mackey's hut
It was one of those cold nights where you wonder is it really worth freezing or can I just pee in my sleeping bag and no one will notice, kinda nights. I decided it was worth getting out to the bright moonlit starry night to take a pee. Confirmation that it was definitely a cold night came in the morning as i cracked open the frozen tent door to see a misty sun rise.
Somehow the Easter bunny found us out here and left several chocolate eggs for breakfast. Much appreciated as today was supposed to be the dreaded "big day" with a 20 kilometre climb from the dam. Luckily some sweet chance led us to meet some people with local knowledge who suggested a "shortcut" which worked out. I was able to map out a new route using the app map out hands down the best mapping app out there.
All day rolling along on the new route I couldn't stop smiling. Absolutely loving life and loving the 20 kilometre climb I didn't have to do. Despite all the bush bashing and hike-a-bikes I was so happy we made the right choice.
End: Mackey's Hut (Mackay's Hut a bit on controversy about the name)
Distance: 35.3 kms
Elevation gain: 1,046m
River crossings (where feet don't get wet): 1
River crossings (where feet get wet): 0
Dinner: Tomato paste with brussel sprouts, broccoli and pre-cooked rice
Day 3 - Mackey's hut to Valentine hut
Distance: 30.57 kms
Elevation: 1,036 m
Lunch: Mt Jagungal walking trail start (Tumut river crossing)
River crossings (where feet get drenched): 7
River crossing (where feet stay dry): 2
Dinner: Dhal, with precooked rice, slab of peanut tofu
Day 4 - Valentine hut - Guthega power station
The bittersweet last day of a bikepacking trip. A night in the toasty warm hut meant I didn't have much to pack. So made the most of the warm morning sun and went for another sneaky skinny down at the river.
Most of the ride is a smooth descent. So much descent that Tim's brakepads started to smell.
It was so sad seeing the Welcome to the Jagungal Wilderness sign.
Best weekend bikepacking trip.
Especially thanks to the hospitality of Ina who let us use a portable gas stove to cook a massive pot of Dhal and gave us extra gas to keep us going.
Catch the early train from Central station to Mittagong (change at Campbelltown). Get there early to get the bikes on the train and avoid the crowds.
Ride Start: Mittagong station
Distance: 80 kms to Wombeyan caves and back to camp at Wollindilly river station
End: Wollindilly river station campsite (book ahead)
Start: Mudgee, New South Wales, Australia
Total distance: 412 kilometres (256 miles)
Riding condition: Unsealed country roads, some gravel, sealed country roads and about 40 kilometres of highway shoulder.
CWC Website : link
If you're looking for a week long get away with your bike, some mates and have a thirst for pubs and salad rolls. The Central West Cycle provides. Rolling hills of yellow rapeseed fields, grain silos, disused train lines, abandoned petrol stations, solar power farms and more importantly the colourful locals.
Where you can buy mountains of crocheted tea towels, whiskey infused marmalade (yet to be sampled and vouched for), and lamingtons.
I have to admit that being vegan on adventures like this isn't easy. My saliva glands override my ethics at the sight of a fluffy lamington. I know it's just a sponge cake coated in chocolate and dusted with coconut. But just they go so well with a coffee in the morning.
Just follow the yellow CWC stickers and you're set for a week of country love.
Day 1 - Mudgee to Dunedoo via Gulgong
Distance: 86 kilometres
Accommodation: Camping at Dunedoo caravan park
After a night at the pub (the Courthouse pub) first port of call is the local bakery*. Followed by a last roll around town and obligatory group photo we roll out loaded up and fresh (except the 3 who rode in from Lithgow the previous night). Ok correction, I rolled out of Mudgee with fresh legs.
*Warning: some bakeries have a 'supreme' edition of a salad roll which usually means a pineapple. You have been warned. I wasn't.
If you thought Mudgee was a cute adorable country town, wait until you hit Gulgong (pronounced "gull" gong).
After loading up on more baked goods, cafe treats and barista coffee we hit the road to ride through pastures of grain silos, rapeseed fields and arrived in Dunedoo at a decent our for a pub feed.
Day 2 - Dunedoo to Ballimore via Mendooran
Distance: 110 kilometres
Accommodation: Hair of the Dog pub (camping and cute rooms available)
Some fun facts about Dunedoo.
Rolling up tents when it's still below 4 outside isn't ever fun, but we were all keen to roll out of camp not the least because the camping site was next the B-Double truck route but we were all keen for some baked goodies.
Hot tip #1: Chad's bakery in Dunedoo do a killer blueberry pie and salad rolls for take away.
By lunchtime we hit the Mendooran. When you roll through the main street please wave to the lovely ladies of the Craft shop who are often seen sitting outside their craft store. Do stop and check out their wares of cute tea towels, and knitted goodies. Some of us chose to eat at the pub. I decided to sit out at the picnic area trying to fix my punctured tube.
Hot tip #2: Be careful where you roll your bike, as the "cat eye thorns" can lead to punctures with a slow leak. Don't be like me who suffered 3 punctures because of these thorns this trip.
Hot tip #3: Check you brought the right sized spare tubes before you leave home or risk having to beg your riding mates for a spare.
Luckily I was riding with some generous people who were able to spare me a spare tube and we hit the road.
Hot tip #3: When in the state forest follow the yellow stickers. You don't want to be stuck in the state forest close to sunset with a broken derailleur and have to ride a single speed bike the last 40 kilometres into town. That's doing a Stewie.
Riding through the state forest at sunset was just delightful. We rolled into the Ballimore "Hair of the Dog" pub with a half moon shining down on us.
I think I can speak for the group when I say this pub and its owners were just super. No judgement when we started drying our socks over the fireplace. Also the only vegetarian burger at a pub on this trip.
Day 3 - Ballimore to Dubbo
Distance: 61 kilometres
Accommodation: Camping at Dubbo caravan park
After much flaffing about at the pub drying tents and clothes in the sun, and trying to find an appropriately nice angle for a group photo of the Ballimore sign (maybe next time install the town sign in front of the trees), we set out for our short roll to Dubbo. With a short roll ahead of us we were able to afford more frequent stops to say hi to some of the four legged locals.
Hot tip #1: Dubbo St vinnies closes at 4pm (we got to Dubbo at 3:50pm)
Hot tip #2: The Indian palace resto in Dubbo may just be the yummiest Indian restaurant in New South Wales.
Day 4 - Dubbo to Wellington
Distance: 78 kilometres
Accommodation: Camping at Wellington caves
Dinner: Wellington pub
Hot tip #1: If you wake up at the right time you might meet Kim in the kitchen in her bathrobe and words of wisdom. Kim is a retired mental health professional visiting her friend in Dubbo. Kim doesn't ride a bicycle but her husband does. Kim says in her mind she's always 29 but her body says otherwise. Kim might also tell you that she's not one of those mums who hassles her daughter to get married and have babies. We all need a bit of Kim advice in our lives.
Hot tip #2: Dubbo RSL has a fitness centre with a sauna that opens at 6:30am.
Hot tip #3: Dubbo is the kinda town when hot chips is served at all hours of the day. Pies are served with hot chips. No time limit. No judgement. So try to not be too surprised when you're half way through your breakfast pie and a plate of hot chips arrive at your table, try not to say "chips at 9 o'clock?".
Wellington once known as the South Pole for its ice addiction (report from 2015). Unfortunately it did not live up to its junkie reputation. It was quaint, clean and beautiful and full of great things.
Hot tip #4: Wellington cave (7 kilometres out of town) has camping grounds with amazing views of the milky way. Book the cave tour in advance, they get booked out.
Day 5 - Wellington to Gulgong
Distance: 88 kilometres
Accommodation: Camping at Gulgong caravan park
Food: Breakfast donuts and take away salad rolls for lunch from Sang's hot bread, Wellington.
Dinner: Gulgong pub
Day 6 - Gulgong to Mudgee
Distance: 30 kilometres
Food: Breakfast ice cream and takeaway salad rolls for lunch from the bakery