Since overseas travel is off the agenda for the rest of this year, we thought it was time to take the Ghostriders on a series of rides in our own country. The plan was to combine rides through the Snowy Mts and High Country instead.
  • Day5

    Exploring Albury/Wodonga

    May 3 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 20 °C

    The last time Maggie and I had been in Albury was more than 47 years ago. We had been married for about 2 days and were on our way to Canberra to spend our honeymoon.

    Of course the world of travel was a bit different way back then. The only resource we had to plan our accommodation was the RACV Accommodation Guide. There was no Internet, no mobile phones, no email, no GPS to help guide our way. We really were on our own.

    After looking at maps and studying the brief descriptions of each motel that the guide book offered, I chose a place in Albury for our overnight stay and received a printed voucher to present on our arrival.

    We left Melbourne with our little Renault 10 loaded to the rooftop with about everything we owned at that time. Although I had promised Maggie that we would have a lovely place to stay after the long drive, we soon discovered that the place did not live up to the description. The room was tiny, the bed situated right under the front window, only partly protected by an inadequate flimsy curtain. Every time sometime walked past the room (which was often), we felt like we were meant to say hello to them. It was an uncomfortable night.

    When our plans were made to spend a couple of nights in Wodonga as part of this trip, we were obviously curious to see if anything had changed in almost half a century. We soon found that the city was nothing like how we remembered it. Albury/Wodonga is now a thriving metropolis with very well-developed infrastructure. The shopping centres were modern, the coffee shops welcoming and the traffic appeared to flow smoothly. In addition we found a wonderful rage of beautiful parklands and bike paths to explore. Our main regret was that we did not have enough time there to do the place justice. If we repeat this trip next year, all agreed that we should include a day of cycling around the city.

    And as for our motel of 1974 ? To our surprise we found that it is still there. In fact it had not even changed all that much, apart from a sparkling new paint job. Apparently, such "retro motels" are now all the rage. It even has a huge hotel and restaurant added to the complex. But will we ever stay there again ? I really doubt it.

    On the other hand, we all left with very positive feelings for the city and a desire to return well before another 47 years had elapsed.
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    Michael Slattery

    That’s a very weird dinosaur 🦕 😁. We missed that one.

    Dennis Dawson

    It was in the special children's section of the Botanical Gardens.

    Kay Sweeney

    Awesome Dennis!

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  • Day4

    High Country Rail Trail

    May 2 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    Maybe it was because it's a long way away, or maybe it was fear of the unknown. Even though the High Country Rail Trail has been open for many years, the Ghostriders had never explored it prior to 2021.

    When we first started thinking of riding the Tumburumba Trail, I started looking at combining it with several other trails to make a week of cycling and exploring. If we were going to come such a long way from Melbourne, we might at least make maximum use of our time. Over a few days, the plans evolved to include the Tumbarumba, High Country and Murray to the Mountains Trails.

    The High Country Trail starts in the centre of Wodonga and stretches about 40 km through Ebden and Bonegila to Tallangatta. Much of the trail runs along the side of the massive Hume Weir, but in case you might be thinking that it must therefore be a flat trail, you have another think coming. Although there are no extended climbs, there are many smaller undulations along the route.

    Once again we started the ride in brilliant sunshine. The thermals and leggings were definitely not required, but the sunscreen was. The start of the trail is quite close to the Motel 24, where many of our riders were staying.

    The first few kilometres are high quality smooth bitumen, but the surface does not last too long. Once you reach the site of the old Bonegila Migrant Hostel, the surface deteriorates to fairly rough gravel. In some places it is actually quite loose and potentially dangerous, but the less than perfect surface is compensated for by the magnificent scenery across the Weir.

    Because the lake was artificially made, there are still hundreds of drowned trees poking through the water surface. These certainly add a certain moodiness to the scenery.

    All our riders made it safely to Tallangatta, where we settled down to a lengthy lunch at the Bakery. Then it was time to remount the bikes for the long ride back to Wodonga.

    Although the surface of the trail is not as good as the Tumbarumba Trail, we all agreed that it really was an enjoyable ride. Maybe this will become a regular part of the annual calendar ?

    Tomorrow we have a free day to explore Wodonga.
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  • Day3

    Riding the Tumbarumba

    May 1 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    I am not sure when I first heard the name "Tumbarumba", but I suspect it might have been many years ago when I listened to the haunting sounds of Smokey Dawson singing "Ghosts of Old Khancoban". The evocative words certainly stuck in my mind, and painted mental images of rough bush country. The sort of place where men were men (and probably smoked a pack of Marlboros a day) and women worked all day in the kitchen, preparing meals and darning socks.

    One line in the song goes something like "we rode a 100 miles for a lady's smiles at the dance at Tumbarumba". It is certainly a name that rolls off the tongue, the problem is that it rolls off the tongue differently every time someone tries to pronounce it. Ever since I first announced that I planned to ride the Tumbarumba Trail, its name has been distorted into a multitude of strange permutations and combinations - so much so that I have now found myself calling it anything from Tummamurra to Tipperary.

    Whatever the place is called, it certainly is a spectacular location, made all the more beautiful by the palette of autumn colours that have painted the hillsides so vividly. Of course, every place also looks better when the sun is shining and the sky is blue. That is exactly the sight that welcomed us when we gathered at the start of the rail trail this morning.

    After the obligatory group photo shot, we were soon on our way to Rosewood. I explained that we needed to split into smaller groups to avoid the chaos that would undoubtedly ensue if 25 riders all descended on the Gone Barney cafe at the same time. The large group progressively separated out into a succession of smaller pelotons (minitons ?) and one rider quickly disappeared into the distance, riding in his own uniton. (Yes it was David).

    This gave us a chance to see just how good this brand new trail is. The smooth sealed surface, regular distance markers, clear signage and incredible scenery certainly combine to provide a wonderful riding experience. It is little wonder that hundreds of riders travel large distances to ride this trail every day. We could certainly see the boon it has already provided to local businesses. That should serve as a clear example that such trails do not constitute a threat to the local population. To the contrary, they can be just the sort of stimulus that struggling country towns need to thrive again.

    One unique feature of the trail was a succession of cattle bridges, constructed over the trail. These allow the cattle to safely cross over from one side of the trail to the other. It was something of a strange sight, seeing a large bovine calmy walking overhead, while I rode underneath.

    Although the trail is not very long (around 23 km) it is certainly a joy to ride. At the current time it terminates at the small town of Rosewood, where we were welcomed by the thriving Gone Barney Cafe and a nearby host of gnomes (I am not kidding).

    After a cheap and delicious lunch, we climbed back on the bikes and headed back to Tumbarumba. Although it is a rail trail and has no serious climbs, the final few km back to Tumbarumba is a steady ascent (great when riding an e-bike).

    At the end of the ride, I asked several of our riders what score they would give the trail. They agreed that 10/10 would not be an exaggeration. It had been a marvelous day, and one that we will remember for a long time.
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  • Day2

    Free Day in Tumbarumba

    April 30 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 12 °C

    Question - What do you do in Tumbarumba when the sun is shining on a perfect autumn day ?
    Answer - Anything you feel like.

    I don't think that anyone in our group has ever travelled to Tumbarumba before, but there is no doubt that we have all been captivated by its charm and beauty. Of course it is possible that it might not have looked so idyllic if the rain had been falling and the biting winds had been sweeping in from the alps. But today it could not have been more perfect.

    After breakfast in our rooms, a few of us decided to walk into the town in search of a real cup of coffee. We soon spied a sunny courtyard which liked like the ideal place for a cappucino and a chat. No sooner had we sat down than we were joined by a very sociable black cat. It stayed with us for the next 60 minutes, enjoying the autumn sunshine just as much as we were.

    We had heard about a nearby waterfall with the exotic name "Paddy's Falls". How could we resist that ? It was only 16 km outside of Tumbarumba and the drive was cerrtainly worth it.

    Although the falls were not exactly spectacular, we had to agree that they were really quite charming and the walk down to the base of the cascade was not overly taxing. That was also a great bonus.

    After admiring the falls, it was back to town for a late lunch at The Nest Cinema Cafe. Another couple of hours slipped delightfully through our fingers. Such moments really are like a precious medicine and we could all feel our souls being rejuvenated as we sat, laughed, chatted and ate.

    Tomorrow's forecast is for another superb day. That is just as well as that is when we will all be climbing onto the bikes to ride the rail trail we had come all the way from Melbourne to experience.
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  • Day2

    An Indian Summer in Tumbarumba

    April 30 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 19 °C

    For most of last year Melbournians endure a crippling series of Covid 19 lockdowns, curfews, travel restrictions and toilet paper shortages. It was terrible. During the worst of the lockdown we were not even able to share rides with our Ghostrider friends. All overseas travel was banned and we couldn't even travel more than 5 km from our own homes.

    As our freedoms were gradually restored, I looked for alternative avenues to experience cycling adventures. A couple of months ago I heard about the brand new Tumbarumba to Rosewood Rail Trail that had only just opened. It seemed like a suitable place for the Ghostriders to explore. Although Victoria is spoilt with a surfeit of cycling choices, it is surprising to discover that the Tumbarumba Trail is exactly the first such rail trail in NSW.

    Plans were quickly made to combine the Tumbarumba Trail with the Wodonga to Tallangatta and Wangaratta to Bright Rail Trails. It did not take long for the word to spread and very quickly we had over 25 riders recruited.

    Of course, everyone knows that the Snowy Mountains are called that for very good reason. "It will be freezing", I warned everyone. "You will need thermals, hats, gloves, coats, scarves, leggings, arm warmers, leg warmers, and ear warmers", I added. "And then the really cold weather will set in".

    I figured that it is always better to be prepared than be sorry. Our riders set about packing cases full of arctic gear and snow riding clothes. We were prepared for the very worst that the Snowys could throw at us.

    It was only when the weather forecasts started to come through that we could see that maybe the conditions would not be as brutal as I had anticipated. After a rather gloomy couple of weeks in Melbourne, the clouds finally scuttled away, the sunshine broke through and we were presented with the very best day that we had seen for some time.

    Our riders set out from Melbourne for the 500 km drive to Tumbarumba in high spirits. We all felt like kids on the eve of Christmas. It just felt so good to be finally heading away on a trip.

    The sunny weather followed us all the way to Tumbarumba and the long drive was made all the better for the never-ending kaleidoscope of vivid autumn colours that followed us the whole way.

    We stopped at Yea for our morning tea stop and a chance to meet up with Gordon and Sue and Gael and Gerry. From there we formed a sort of three-car convey to complete the rest of the journey. It did help the long km to flow past relatively quickly.

    Our final stop was at Holbrook. A late lunch in the park, indulgently feasting on sandwiches and cakes, seemed like an appropriate way to punctuate the drive. From there it was only another 80 km of absolutely delightful driving to reach our destination of Tumbarumba. I was glad that we had taken the time to clean the inside of our very smeary windscreen before we left Melbourne as the scenery was breathtaking. There was no doubt that this was absolutely the very best time of the year to explore this region.

    After checking into our motel, 17 of us decided to head for the nearby Tumbarumba Hotel for a pub dinner. Then we enjoyed a short walk back under the stars to our waiting rooms. We are so looking forward to the next few days in this beautiful region.
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