Friday 22 Feb 2019

It rained overnight and it was fairly windy, so from the noise of the wind in the trees and on my tent I couldn’t detect any wombat sounds. Too bad, I missed them again. The day started drizzly too, so I slept in and didn’t get going until 7:30.

Can you see it? The trail straight ahead, a marker on the left tree?

After 2 kms on Nullo Mountain Road the BNT turns off onto Middle Hill Road. It looked dicey, lots of leaf litter and with it being all wet I feared it was going to be slippery too. I scouted around on foot a bit and slippery it was not, but I was still leery. Was I going to follow Nullo Mtn Rd or the trail. Was I going to make a terrible mistake if I chose for the trail? In the end I did decide to go down the leaf littered track. But why this is called a “road” is and will forever remain a mystery to me. You can barely call it a 4WD track and there had obviously been no vehicle on it for ages. The track descended briskly and soon it wasn’t just leaf litter, but rocks (hidden under leaves), sticks, branches and downed trees as well. Oh f#@k! And yes, the first tree that I oh so carefully maneuvered around and over did it to me again. How I don’t know, but another broken derailleur hanger! After one (1) kilometer of following Middle Hill Rd!

I decided to roll and walk further until I’d find a level area, which appeared after another 1.5 km. First I noticed a white ute through the trees, then a great number of beehives. But there was nobody around. But as I started my derailleur repair another ute drove up with three blokes who came to inspect their hives. I had a good long yarn with the leader of the mob who advised me strongly to NOT go down the Never Never Fire Trail since it wasn’t even navigable with a 4WD vehicle. Not that I really needed his advice, because I am now on my 5th (FIFTH!) derailleur hanger and I had made the executive decision already that I regretfully will have to forego the rest of the BNT route from here on. IT HURTS, I’m somewhat depressed, but I have to be realistic. I just cannot afford to break this one too, the last of my derailleur hangers! From now on I’ll have to stick to roads. Roads without leaf litter, without rocks and branches, without erosion, without any unexpected hazards of any kind. I’ll try to follow the BNT route, but from a safe distance on a decent paved or gravel road.

So I took the sand road that the blokes had driven in on back to Nullo Mountain Road, and from there down to Olinda (there isn’t anything there other than a Fire Brigade station), where I took a short smoko break.

From there the paved road to Rylstone, where I set up in the caravan park. After pitching my little nylon cabin, having a nice hot shower, washing riding clothes, it was off to town where I enjoyed some great coffee. I also bought a bottle of Shiraz and a chocolate bar for less then $10! Then I discovered Oma’s Café and just had to have a savoury Dutch pancake. It was delicious and I had a nice long yarn with Oma herself while she was preparing my order. Then back to my camp and updating this blog.

Dinner, I mean tea, at the Bowling Club next door to the caravan park. Many bowling clubs are like RSLs, very posh dining and drinking establishments with some gambling on the side. Since I already had a terrific pancake earlier I just had a mixed sandwich platter for the most reasonable price of $6.50.

Today’s totals 36k 2:45h 195m+ 610m-

Nullo Mountain

(actually about 5 km south of Nullo Mtn)

Thursday 21 Feb 2019

Walking my bike from the hut back to the road the tires picked up a half dozen goatheads. But also along the sandy road to the entrance of Wollemi National Park another two dozen or so. I know the weed well from back home, so as soon as I would see it I’d stop and check the tires, plus regular checks every 200m or so. Once in Wollemi NP the soil changed and no more puncture vine. Phew, lucky I got them all out right away!

In the park the track started to climb steeply and it was pretty well 5 to 7 kms of pushing until Sandy Camp Hut. The track was also pretty rough and eroded which made it very slow going. After the hut it improved, but I could feel my arms and legs from the heavy workout. However, the scenery was spectacular once I got near the top, at Keith’s Lookout.

Before I got to the hut I saw a glimpse of a lyrebird crossing the road, the first one I’ve seen on this trip. Had smoko at the hut and signed the guestbook, then continued on. Soon after I got to the aboriginal paintings at “The Livery Stable” cave.

Three kms further I came to the 8ft high deer fence and ……… the gate was locked. So much for leaving the owners a phone message two days ago. It’s sort of miserable of them to have this locked gate since some of the fence is rather dilapidated in places. I was able to squeeze through a hole in the fence but unfortunately it was on the wrong side of a very sturdy 4ft fence. So, unhitch BOB, take the bag out of the trailer and lift bike, bag and trailer separately over the fence. All in all a half hour delay.

After that the track became a much better gravel road and the going became much easier. But I was pretty well spent and when I noticed a beautiful clean dam at the side of the road 5 kms south of Nullo Mountain with an open gate beside it I decided to camp there. It’s at 1100m and the temperature had dropped to 17º. I was in low hanging clouds again and it was a bit drizzly too. After a quick washup I made a cup of soup and then had a snooze and warmed up in my tent. Still have to make tea though.

My camping area is riddled with wombat holes, some obviously old but others look newer. Will I finally get to see a real live wombat?

Totals 33k 4:35h 675m+ 305m-

These totals can be somewhat deceiving. I actually was going from 6:30 until 14:30, so really 8 hours including little rests, smoko, walk to cave, and another snack break.

Myrtle Grove

Wednesday 20 Feb 2019

A relatively flat day, mostly on paved roads. The Bylong Valley Way is in a wide valley initially, but it gradually narrows and becomes more scenic with fantastic eroded rock formations.

Phipps Cutting, at the edge of Wollemi National Park, was an interesting little walk in. It is a hand hewn track/road that was built in the early 1900’s.

Not long after that the BNT turns into the Widden Valley. More great rocks and at the end is Widden Stud, a very prosperous looking place.

After the stud the road becomes gravel and after about 7 kms there is a hut named “Myrtle Grove Hilton Hotel”. It belongs to Widden Stud and I had asked them for permission to make use of the hut today. The lady I spoke with said she wasn’t sure in what condition it was and I must say it has deteriorated considerably since the last time I stayed here in 2004. The shower doesn’t work any longer, nor is there any 12V electricity. And cobwebs galore. Yet it has drawers and cupboards full of dishes, cutlery, and kitchen utensils, enough to prepare food for a small army. Other than 21 year old Vegemite (which looks and tastes alright) there isn’t anything edible. But it has walls and a roof, a rainwater tank, table and chairs, there are mattresses, and it eliminates having to put up my little nylon cottage. And it is super peaceful, no traffic.

But as I was sitting reading on my little covered patio, I saw my rear tire go down again. This time I was able to confirm that it is definitely puncture vine. And it must then have happened just before getting here, so this horrible weed must be somewhere in the field between road and hut. Be careful tomorrow! I’ll walk out and check constantly.

All in the last few days I now have 6 patches on my old tube and 1 on the new one.

Today’s totals 51k 3:40h 455m+ 360m-