(written by Nancy)
We had a great dinner last night at Jasper’s Retreat and both slept quite well. We understand the drumming went late but it certainly didn’t keep us awake!
We were up at 6, trying to get an early start on the hill. I think we left about 7:30 – it always takes a bit of time to eat breakfast and get everything back in the bags. We had a pretty good 2k climb out from the retreat back up to the road – I think that was the steepest part of the whole day!
It wasn’t raining when we started but the clouds were heavy over us so we figured rain was in the cards at some point. We started climbing from the time we hit the road and didn’t really stop going up until 50k later. Yes, 50k of uphill, the climb was pretty relentless – we spent a long time in our granny gears today! It was scenic, and I am sure it would be very pretty in the sun and on a lighter bike. We were surrounded by mist and fog so couldn’t see much except right in front of us. We did have several kangaroos hop alongside us as we made our way up the mountain – that was a nice distraction.
We had expected to reach the top of the major climb at about 34k, which is where our Google map said Yarrowitch was located. It became clear that we had a bit of an issue with the Google mileage – we had a long way to go after 34k to reach the top of the major climb. We continued the relentless slog uphill, now in the rain. There was a little bit of up and down but it was pretty much up. We were starting to get low on water and were aiming to resupply at Yarrowitch. The extra unexpected 16k to Yarrowitch meant we were very low on water when we finally got there. And then we discovered that there really wasn’t anything in Yarrowitch – no pub, no store, no nothing. Hmm, 60k to go with about an inch of water in our bottles. Dave promised to stop at a house or somewhere to see if we could get water – but I do confess to being a bit nervous about how we were going to make it.
The terrain eased off once we got through the Dividing Range and up to the Tablelands. It was by no means flat though – lots of ups and downs as we went over various creeks. We finally stopped at a roadside rest stop and Dave walked over to a nearby house to see if we could get some water while I made peanut butter and jelly wraps. Thankfully he was successful in getting water, so after eating a bit we set off to ride the remaining 35k into Walcha. By this time it was 2:30pm so we needed to make good time to get to Walcha before it got dark.
We finally rode into town about 4pm, both pretty wet and cold and exhausted from the day. Other than our quick lunch stop we really only had very quick stops along the road to eat some energy bars, so we really had a good 8+ hours of hard riding today, with some pretty challenging terrain and weather. We have booked into the Walcha Royal Hotel for two nights so that we can have a soft bed and a rest day tomorrow to recover from today. We have had dinner at the local Chinese restaurant (part of the local pub) and are about ready to collapse into bed – I don’t think we will have any problems sleeping tonight!
Tomorrow we will explore the little town of Walcha and try to spend some time planning our route for the next few weeks. We are aiming for Armidale on Tuesday, where we hope to stay with a Warmshowers host and get some local knowledge on the area.
Lastly, a fun photo from the hotel balcony. Let’s pretend that they were all heading home after a shear and not somewhere more sinister.