IP Day 49 – Bungendore to Moss Vale

Friday 13th May, 2022

148.3k +1276m
Moving 6:37 Elapsed 10:00
Max 60.5 kph Avg 22.4 kph

We were cautiously optimistic about the day as we set off just as it was getting light – about 6.30. No rain – it was looking pretty clear! 30k to Tarago -and there was now a cafe there that had opened since we stayed there in 2018! Cool!

Today we were really getting back into familiar territory, with the Indipac route touching and overlapping much of our Sydney-Melbourne ride.

Today’s ride between Bungendore and Moss Vale in blue, (and tomorrow’s in burgundy, heading east to the coast.) In 2018 we came into Moss Vale from the north (through Bowral), took an unsealed road (in green) south of Bungonia to Tarago, and then went off south through Braidwood.

It didn’t take long for Marc to acknowledge that the road condition was actually pretty crap, with lots of potholes, and it would have been pretty dangerous to have ridden it in the pouring rain. There is a huge (bioreactor) landfill project on an old mine site not far out of Tarago. It apparently takes about 40% of Sydney’s ‘putrescible waste’, but also a lot from Canberra and Goulburn. It’s the trucks from Canberra doing a lot of the damage to this section.

While we were stopped for a snack break on the side of the road about an hour in, a car pulled up. These dotwatchers pop out in all sorts of unexpected places! Rod lived along that road and was heading south on his way to work.

He told us that a few k’s the other side of Tarago there was a causeway that was flooded after all the rain. Hmmm. HAndy to know, but nothing for it but to get to Tarago and evaluate.

We rocked into Tarago at 8am. Breakfast time. Marc looked up the local Tarago community Facebook group, which had posts about the flooded causeway. At 5.30am it was around 500mm – but 3 hours later, and with no rain, we could probably assume it would be going down. We chatted a bit with a few locals. They reckoned that we’d easily get a lift from someone in a truck or ute, and also gave us the tip that it was shallower on the downstream side by 100-200m. That would be on our left.

We would just have to set off and play it by ear. There wasn’t really a viable alternative around it. Well, there was the dirt road (Lumley Rd) that we had ridden the other way in 2018, but it would undoubtedly be extremely muddy. Maybe we would have to walk the bike through – possibly even carrying it. (This was one downside of the full-on frame bag, as opposed to easily removable panniers whereby we could wheel the bike through without wetting any gear.)

Well, we remembered this hill immediately as you ride out of town, as we’d ridden back a few kilometres this way last time, before turning off south towards Braidwood. After the hill, we had then run the gauntlet of a kamikaze magpie that had swooped us on the ride in. At least this time it wasn’t magpie season.

It was only 5km to the flooded causeway. There were cars parked up on either side of it, a couple with the bonnets up. Uh-oh. Water in the engine. A couple more were clearly debating what to do.

Marc had decided he would have to just get his off-bike shoes wet to walk through and gauge the depth. He changed into them and was heading into the water, while I held the bike. Just then a woman in a dual cab ute pulled up alongside me and asked ‘Do you want a lift across?’. Dumbly debating in my head about how the tandem would even fit, I called out to Marc “Um, do we want a lift across?”. “OF COURSE WE DO!!! Tell her YES PLEASE!!!!!!”

We loaded the tandem into the back, with the tailgate down, and Marc sat with it to make sure it didn’t slide out! I clambered into the back seat as she drove slowly through. How good was that?!

Her name was Sarah. She hadn’t heard of Indipac; she was just a lovely local trail angel and wonderful human! For good measure, as we got ourselves sorted, she drove back and forth another time for some random guy in his Kia Carnival to drive super closely behind her in the shallow bit behind the wave that she created with her ute.

On a high from our good fortune, we quite enjoyed the next 30k from there to Johno’s Corner General Store and Cafe. It’s just a shop out in the middle of nowhere, on Oallen Ford Rd, in between Windellama and Bungonia -and there’s bugger all in either of those localities! We ended up having a pretty long break there – nearly an hour. Had a bit of a chat with the two guys who owned it, about where we’d ridden from!

So far it was a day of 30k hops – another 30 to Marulan – which is on the Hume Highway (and involves 2km on the Hume Highway shoulder before turning off into the town.) We had lunch there – another far too long break, really. 97k down and about 50 to go, so all we had to do was break that up into manageable slices. We were feeling pretty weary at this point, so we just had to pace ourselves.

After another 500m on the highway shoulder, we crossed over the dual carriageway onto Highland Way -retracing our 2018 ride. (Well, we’d actually been retracing it since the Lumley Rd turn-off just south of Bungonia.)

At just under 20k we stopped at Wingello Village Store – Gatorade time. We chatted with a guy who was interested in what we were doing, and then a cyclist turned up. It was Kev, another dotwatcher, and he’d ridden out from Moss Vale just to ride back with us.

He also rides a tandem (very competitively) as a vision-impaired stoker, and he and his tandem pilot are keen to do Indipac. (We had seen some of his comments about it after last year’s ride.) They couldn’t get there in 2022, or 2023. Hopefully, they’ll get to tick it off their bucket list soon! It’s always great to talk to another tandem aficionado!

He was riding solo today – relying heavily on a Garmin Varia radar (which was going beep beep beep quite a lot on that road!) It was interesting to ride with someone who had one. It probably should be on the must-have list for a solo Indipac rider. We had kind of considered it, but the tandem has me – with my mirror – on the back and not having to be watching the road ahead. It was quickly obvious that I clocked the vehicles approaching from behind significantly sooner than the Varia! I am also far more entertaining (albeit prone to the odd ‘mood’), and as a bonus, I look after the navigation.

17km to Bundanoon, and it’s compulsory to get a photo of the bike with this mural at Bundanoon, isn’t it?

131k down… just another 17k – still with Kev – to Moss Vale.

At Exeter, we diverted from our 2018 route. The Indipac route took us over Mt Broughton Rd (which I had deliberately avoided in ’18 !) It was a bit crap for traffic – but most of the roads on the Southern Highlands aren’t that great in that regard.

We said our goodbyes and thanks to Kev, and checked in at the pub – taking the ‘don’t ask/don’t tell’ approach with regard to taking the tandem up into the room.

Marc’s colleague, Adrienne – who lives on the south coast (also working ‘remotely’) – just happened to be travelling through Moss Vale for a weekend away. She had messaged Marc earlier today to organise a rendezvous. We did a quick change act, and met her down in the bar.

For dinner, we caught up with Cameron – Camo – a former colleague of Marc’s from when he worked down here – at the Highlands Taphouse – of which is a co-owner. We had also discovered earlier that he and Kev had been classmates at school!

Tomorrow was going to be a BIG day – made harder because of having to take the detour down Jamberoo Pass. The Indipac route takes Macquarie Pass down to the coast, but it had been closed from rockslides for a while. (We had wondered if we took long enough it might reopen by the time we got there, but unfortunately, we got there just a bit too soon. I think it did in fact open about a week later!

We got a message from a dotwatcher wanting to know what time we were leaving Moss Vale in the morning so they could ride up Jamberoo to meet us and ride with us. We have always found riding any downhills, in traffic, with other bikes, to be difficult – especially with the tandem/single bike speed differential. (I actually find it a bit difficult anyway, as many bikes riding with us tend to block my mirror view of the approaching cars.) Marc knew Jamberoo Rd reasonably well; it is particularly steep in some sections. It was going to be pretty difficult for a loaded tandem as it was – so we felt it would be too dangerous to ride with anyone. I felt bad having to say ‘um, look, no… but we’d be happy to meet at the bottom’, but in the long run, you have to look after your own safety.

We headed for bed – the first time we’d had to take a room with single beds, which was a bit frustrating because I can’t thump I mean nudge him when he snores! The rooms had been fairly recently renovated, but geez it was a bad job. It was clean, and freshly painted, but the old sash window in our room didn’t actually close properly, so the noise of the pub below, and the traffic outside, was loud. The toilet seats in the shared bathrooms kept sliding around, and during the night when I had to pee, I couldn’t wash my hands because the only basin was in the room with the shower, and another hotel guest was using it – at around 1am!

I rarely do reviews on accommodation (who’s got time on a cross-country ride?) – but you can bet I did this time when both the hotel itself and the booking site sent emails asking us to rate and review them! $160 was overpriced (even in the context of 2022 prices) for badly renovated pub accommodation with shared bathroom facilities. This is the Southern Highlands for you. Avoid!

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