Be careful what you wish for. The big wet, which descended on the east coast of Australia, hammered the alpine region too. Effectively 4 days of intermittent-to-constant rain had us bunkered down in our hotel room, although it did provide an opportunity to catch up on sleep, see a movie (the disappointingly formulaic Star Wars rehash – Peanuts might have been the smarter option) and get some reading done. Attempts to break the monotony with forays on the mounties only led to soakings and shiverings, which on one occasion required rescue from Thredbo by GK, who had also made the trip down, and on this occasion thought better of such foolishness.
Wednesday. With the forecast and radar promising a definite improvement, Anita, and I headed up to Thredbo for the second time, accompanied by GK, and Sara (staying at Lake Crackenback), whom we picked up en route. Having enjoyed the briefest of sunny spells at the bakery, the weather closed in once again to reward us with intermittent drizzle as we grooved and sloshed our way down the Thredbo Valley Trail, which was holding up remarkably well given the circumstances. Naturally enough conditions briefly improved during the Crackenback Café stop, before we got pummelled by stinging rain on the big descent back to Jindabyne. A seasons-worth of sweat flushed down through my helmet padding into my eyes, with the consequent stinging rendering vision to just about zero. Suffice to say we dragged our sorry backsides home.
By this stage GK had had enough and the following day departed at warp speed direction Khankoban encased in a much more weatherproof and muscular vehicle. Thursday. With the forecast finally apples, Anita and I aimed for the top of Australia, but didn't even get to rumble the gravel road onward from Charlotte’s Pass, instead turning at bitumen’s end due to icy cross winds and zero sun. Both of us had numb feet that didn't thaw properly till back in Jindy. Yet another foray requiring a reviving coffee. But come the afternoon, the sun finally made an appearance, and we enjoyed bumbling round the singletrack between Jindy and Tyrolean Village. Caught up with Ansha and Bec in the pm.
I was keen for another adventure-crossing of the alps in the form of the Cascade Trail, but with GK having departed, and despite this time having an EPIRB (albeit with battery 10 years out of date), we decided to shelve it this year, on the proviso that we at least have a crack at riding to the Cascade Trail-end (Pinch River Campsite) and back via The Barry Way (60 km each way).
A clear morning beckoned and we left Jindy and ground up The Barry Way, past the Dalgety turnoff. From here the road was devoid of traffic, unmarked, gently rolling but gently rising, from 900 m to a peak of 1250 m, just as the asphalt turned to dirt at 27 km. It was surprisingly hard yakka, made more so by a gentle headwind. At one stage a small herd of deer startled to a gallop in the field next to us, dispelling my assumption that it was exclusively sheep and cattle country. This was thrilling enough until the herd wheeled, then lept the fence, crossed the road 50 meters in front of us, then lept a more challenging fence, to gain the adjacent paddock and gallop out of view.
From the top a hair-raising descent on dirt awaited, the main segment being a sinuous ridge-hugging drop from 900 to 300 m over 10 km to the Snowy River. But not before we had to negotiate a nervous horse on the road that, unlike the deer, was clearly going to struggle with any fence leaping attempts. We eventually snuck by. Speed on the descent-propper was tempered by segments of corrugations, eroded channels, blind sketchy corners, and a total lack of any guard-rails. Unlike anything I’ve ridden before, but not dissimilar to your standard Pyrenean descent, albeit on dirt. Once at the bottom an easy trundle led us to the Pinch River Campsite, where we met Sara, Giles and Moira, who’d driven down to check out the area. Bird of the day/trip was a pair of Yellow-Tufted Honeyeaters, hanging by the road at the bottom.
The exertions of the morning left me feeling quite toasted, and I was somewhat relieved that Anita had decided to catch the car home, as I anticipated it would be a heinous grind. By this stage the day was heating up quickly, so after a quick snack augmented by salty olives and a magic coffee (thanks Giles!), I hit the dirt for the exposed haul home. The climb actually wasn't that bad, as the grade was extremely even. A reasonable tempo kept the breeze moving over my skin and the temperature sane.
I topped out at the lookout (900 m) then pushed on to the 1250 m mark where the tarmac once again beckoned. The combination of gentle tailwind and gentle incline allowed large chunks of the remainder to be motored at 30-50 km/hr, almost beating the occupants of the car home, who were concerned they might have somehow missed me passed out in the dust. I was pleasantly surprised to have done the return trip just inside of the 3 hrs (2:52!) we took on the way out. A quality outing!
Saturday. The flip side of the “Cascade-avoidance-proviso,” was having another day of fun on the Thredbo Valley Trail, followed by an afternoon at Tyrolean Village. Once again, we picked up Sara at the Crackenback Resort. This time the weather was perfect. Warm, sunny, and the trail supper tacky. I’ve said it before, but the TVT really must constitute once of the best additions to the Kosciusko Nat Park. Can’t wait till they push it all the way to the Lake. Maybe by this time next year some of this extension might have become a reality!
So, despite the wet start to the week, we still got 4 solid days riding in, which as in past years, should set us up nicely fitness-wise for the adventures of 2016 to come.