Written by Freya
Lucky to join the Adventure Gang on their second last Rail Trail Challenge. Never having blogged, I’m wondering what you readers want to know – if it’s: Should I do this rail trail? Or is this gang really that adventurous and awesome? The answers to both are a clear yes, yes, yes!!
Day 1: Wodonga/Bandiana/Tallangatta/Pigs Point (54km)
Heading off into the start of many torrential downpours didn’t hamper the high spirits of the Adventure Gang, completing the crazy Rail Trail Challenge clearly wins over the temptation to stay warm and dry.
Some setting off from Wodonga Railway station meeting the others at Bandiana it was a great initiation to the Rail Trail Challenge and the determined Gang as our feet were saturated from wading through a river crossing within minutes of setting off. The trail from Bandiana to Bonegila definitely needed a bike suitable for off-road but a raised platform is being built so hopefully smooth riding to come and the rest of the section to Old Tallangatta is a smooth gravel track.
Sunshine started to appear as we made it to the impressive Sandy Point bridge before being drawn into Tallangatta town for a little dance to the live band playing at the weekend show, refill water, warm up under the hand dryers and stock up on the requisite boxes of port at IGA.
Pedalled on to Pigs Point campground, about 8km detour from the trail before Old Tallangata for a beautiful night camping, sun was strong enough for a icy swim and adventure gang classics of Cards against Humanity finished off a great day as we all went to bed wondering, “What does the fox say?”
Day 2: Pigs Point/Old Tallangatta/Shelly (43km, 560m ascent)
Rudely awakened by the resident fox stealing Jon’s rubbish and the clap of thunder, we had minutes to pack before the storm hit, finishing our packing around the toilet block and again proving the Adventure spirit headed off in the rain.
Stopped at the lovely Old Talangatta lookout for breakfast, energising us to tackle the next section that is not yet officially a trail but in ambitious spirits followed the original rail line, which involved a few muddy but rideable paddock crossings, encounters with H-o-o-o-o-o-rse, and finally resorting to the road just before Bullioh since there were no bridges. The gradient profile on the map was not wrong and we climbed straight up along the road, starting the next official Rail Trail section somewhere before Derbyshire. While most of us thought to wait until we saw a fancy rail trail sign, Vanessa and Jon headed off to explore what Jon thought was the start, with a loose plan for the rest of us to meet them somewhere further up. Not surprisingly the loose plan was too loose and probably due to Vaness & Jon’s super speed we didn’t find each other, thinking we may have sat waiting for each other a few hundred meters apart.
The trail was off-road but fine for hybrids (and a good attitude), but the constant uphill was tough, added with high humidity and running out of water (topped up at a stream after Koetong) we were keen to get to Shelly. Unfortunately when we were almost there a loud pop of Rick’s tire, followed by the loud thunder as the rain that had been holding out all afternoon let out some hail storms right as we were trying to fix Ricks shredded tire (no idea what gashed such a hole).
Despite the tough day, the ride to Shelly was absolutely stunning and a definite highlight for everyone. However the biggest highlight was the incredible hospitality of Lyn from the Shelly Forest Camp, clearly feeling sorry for us wet cyclists and a strong supporter of the Rail Trail, Lyn not only let us sleep inside and use the facilities, but had gone shopping for us –delivering a fridge full of food to cheer everyone’s spirits. And seeing the torrential rain creating a river of the road and gale force winds, we question if our tents would have even survived out in that storm.
Day 3: Shelly to Wodonga (80km)
Dry and with full bellies from our wonderful night at Shelly, we headed off excited for our downhill reward and with enough sunshine to stop and enjoy the sights on the way down. The bumpy ride to Derbyshire caused a few panniers to fall off but the trail was in great condition despite the previous days downpour.
On the road to Old Tallangatta we somehow made a change of plans over lunch after realising that the total distance was not the 105km of the proposed trail and the prospect of another rainy night, made the call to all head back that night. Which meant a 50km sprint for Rick, Caroline and Freya to get the last train from Wodonga and a leisurely ride for the rest. Headwinds were not helping but some good slipstream riding certainly did, we got near the outskirts of Wodonga thinking we had enough time for a quick last swim. Just after on probably the smoothest section of trail, a stick somehow wedged into Caroline’s mud guard, bending into the front wheel and causing a terrible looking over-the-bars crash. Luckily Caroline’s super power strength after a few minutes of mopping up blood, she was back on in a sprint to Wodonga station, making it with 10mins to spare and grateful for the tough day to be finished but sad that my first trip with the Adventure Gang was over.
Hopefully I can join next year’s wild challenge! Special thanks to Caroline and Rick for organising the amazing weekend and also for helping me drag my mountain bike through the wind – superstars 🙂
High Country Rail Trail (outbound and return)
Total Ascending: 1496m
Total Descending: 1496m
Total Distance: 177km