Here where we live, cycling has a large following of competitors and followers. Our local cycle club runs a road race series and also track racing on the council maintained track circuit.
Our house is situate on a road regularly used by the local club for training rides and each time we see a group pedal past we contemplate regaining some fitness and joining the local club to participate in the veteran class. Alas, common sense, advancing years and arthritis quickly remind us that our real cycling days are behind us.
However the thought of it all had me sifting through some of our photographic memories and I came across a series recording one of our more interesting cycling adventures.
Back in the dream time we were members of the Sydney Cycling Cub. After one exciting cycling weekend away with the club we decided to take a couple of weeks leave from work and go on an extended cycle tour.
It was 1982 and SWMBO’s mother had recently passed away in Goulburn, New South Wales and we decided to make her final resting place our first overnighter.
Goulburn is a little over 200 kilometres from Cronulla where we lived at the time and we knew we could cycle that distance comfortably in a day. SWMBO’s father was delighted we were coming, we didn’t let on we would be on our touring bicycles and the look on his face when we arrived in the late afternoon was priceless. Our arrival cheered him up no end and our visit on two wheels provided him with lots of stories to tell his mates.
Our original plan was to use Goulburn as a base and do day rides around the Southern Highlands. After a couple of day trips through familiar territory we decided to depart Goulburn and ride over to Canberra, base ourselves there and explore the Australian Capital Territory, a cyclists paradise with bike paths everywhere.
It’s less than 100 kilometres from Goulburn to Canberra and we paused for a photo opportunity at the welcoming sign on the City’s approaches.
This image is a scan of the print I made of SWMBO on 1st November 1982. I have to remind myself it was 35 years ago.
We spent a few days in Canberra, riding around the tourist spots and on one occasion persuaded a fellow tourist to take our photo on the pathway around Lake Burley Griffin, near the National Gallery with Black Mountain in the distant background.
The next place on our tour list was Cooma, the gateway to our Snowy Mountains, Australia’s winter wonderland. I was able to make this image of SWMBO riding on what then passed as a cycle path beside the busy Monaro Highway en route to Cooma. It wasn’t a difficult ride but the repetitive hills certainly made us appreciate that we had good road legs.
As we travelled along, passing motorists would slow and the passengers would yell encouraging comments and occasionally bike haters would shout abuse and occasionally hurl objects. That sort of behaviour isn’t uncommon and provided the missiles miss the events just add to the mystique of long distance cycling.
Leaving Cooma, we decided to ride up to Thredbo, the jumping off point for access to the top of Mount Kosciusko, Australia’s highest mountain at 2,228 metres or 7,310 feet if you haven’t gone metric. There is a walking path to the summit and there are lifts to various vantage points in order that access is available for almost everyone, in the summer months that is. The mountain range is known as The Snowy Mountains for very good reason, particularly so during the winter months.
After enjoying the delights to Thredbo village for a day, SWMBO and I decided to ride around the area and get a good feel for the place. Early on the morning of 5th November 1982 we set off to explore some of the tracks around the mountain. Of course our first destination was the track to the summit.
November can be quite warm, even hot in the Snowy and we were surprised to see so much snow on the higher ground. Never the less we determined to press on and see where we ended up. The weather looked pretty good, the day’s weather forecast contained no warnings so we carried on, without any cold/wet/snowy protective clothing at all. Stupid really but after all, we were much younger then.
As we rode a little higher and the going got steeper, we paused at one of the mountain streams for a refreshing drink, a breather and time for more decisions. Here is a pensive SWMBO in decision mode.
The decision was made, all steam ahead and I took the lead. We hadn’t ridden very far before the snow was too deep for our road tyres to grip so we dismounted and pushed our bikes along through the snow. Interesting indeed. Fortunately the track was marked by the occasional post and I made my way towards one to wait for SWMBO and to take a well earned breather.
We set off towards the summit and it wasn’t long before this sign was reached. Only one kilometre to go to the very top of Australia.
SWMBO followed my foot and tyre tracks as the climb got even steeper.
When we finally reached the summit, the snow was quite deep, the wind was freshening, the temperature was dropping and we decided to start our descent immediately to lessen the chance of anything risky taking place.
In the following image, just below the summit you can see traces of cloud beginning to roll in ands we knew that speed downhill was of the essence. This following image of SWMBO shows how steep the descent is from the summit. Not an easy task pushing the bike, keeping upright whilst maintaining reasonable momentum.
We made it back to Thredbo without incident and enjoyed hot showers, a change of footwear and clothing before venturing out for coffee and some delicious snacks whilst we planned our route away from Thredbo the next day.
In our post mortem that night, we kicked ourselves for ignoring the safety rules we always applied when exploring isolated ares. We always told someone where we were going and how long we expected to be away, carried food and water, weather protective outerwear, a small first aid kit, torch,matches and map and compass. Apart from water, all of our emergency gear was back in our motel room. Never again would we be so absolutely stupid.
Anyway, I’ll leave the rest of our long distance 1982 cycling adventure till next time.