Australia – Cycling through the Snowy Mountains from Goulburn to Jindabyne

A Dendroglyph carved on a tree

We started this trip in Goulburn, NSW, up on the Tablelands. The weekend before we were due to set off gale force winds descended on New South Wales and Victoria bringing a thick dust storm over Goulburn and storms, rain and snow to the aptly named Snowy Mountains.  In the week that we have been here we have had typical Tablelands weather ranging from 8 degrees C to 31 degrees C.

We woke to a perfect day to start an adventure. After days of gales, dust storms then rain, this morning there was no wind at all and the sky was grey with dark clouds and it was lovely and cool.

Setting out on our adventure

The first 20 km was dead flat so the lack of wind was much appreciated. We had started early and the road was really quiet so we could enjoy all the birds that were about at this time of day and the odd kangaroo that didn’t seem to notice us until the last minute. We saw a lot of different parrots. Bright scarlet and blues, green and some white and yellow that I think are Cockatoo’s. In the past when cycling in Australia I have always missed the delicate bird song from home as the birds all seem so raucous here. But today there were a lot of flocks of small birds. While stopped for a drink we heard a really loud sound like a melodious police siren followed by a very loud tuneful song. We stared at the tree looking for a bird big enough to make all this noise and eventually noticed a tiny bird that looked just like a Chaffinch. We also saw a kookaburra flying over.

I had been a bit worried by the fact that we had done almost no cycling for the past month for one reason or another. But, probably due to the first 20 km being totally flat my legs were still feeling great by the time we arrived in Collector 40 km later. The great little Some Cafe is the only one on the route so we had planned on having lunch here, but we had made such good time we had coffee and cake and got them to make up a lunch to go.

The Some Cafe in Collector

Having cycled this way on a day ride last year we knew things were going to get really steep from here. We headed up the escarpment that runs along the side of Lake George. The road goes almost straight up and we were both puffing hard by the top, but it is worth it for the views on both sides of the gravel road, which undulates past bush and farms. We had a pleasant picnic lunch of avocado and goats cheese on rye which we had got at the cafe.

The road is called Marked Tree Road so we were on the lookout for the Aboriginal carved trees we had found last year. The first one we found was about 1 metre long. It is a Dendroglyph (tree carving) which are mainly found in NSW and are generally the work of Gamilaroi or Wiradjuri artists. They were traditionally used for Aboriginal grave posts or as part of elaborate initiation ceremonies. Many of the older carving have been lost by people cutting down the trees to sell as art or were removed by farmers who were afraid the marks were claiming back the land they now thought was theirs.

A Dendroglyph carved on a tree
Another Dendroglyph
Marked Tree Road
View down over Lake George, only there is no water in it
Cycling along Marked Tree Road

Before long we were back on the tarmac and dropping down to Gunderoo were we had booked a room for the night. It was only about 3 p.m. but we had wanted an easy day to start.

Heading into Gunderoo

We headed out of Gunderoo towards Canberra with the early morning rush hour traffic, but soon turned off on to Mulligans Flat Road which was quieter but not flat as its name implies. It was another lovely day. Sunny but not too hot and best of all no wind.

It didn’t take us long to get to the outskirts of Canberra where we stopped to stock up with 4 days of food, and coffee and cake of course.

I hadn’t been looking forward to cycling through Canberra but it was wonderful. Well surfaced, two way cycle tracks wherever you look. Along dual-carriageways, through parks, along rivers and around lakes. We didn’t see many other cyclists until we got to the centre.

Heading into Canberra of one the the many cycle tracks

We stopped at the start of the Hunt 1000 route (an off road route along the top of the Snowy Mountains to Melbourne that some people race) to take a selfie. Then headed off the route to the museum for a good lunch before heading for the Mountains.

After eating way too much and taking too long over lunch we emerged to find the day much hotter and a brisk head wind. Oh joy!

Cycling around the West Lake in Canberra

We set off around the beautifully landscaped lakes on cycle tracks that took us through the uninspiring Canberra Arboretum then off and up into the hills.

The lake next to Canberra

We were back on the road now. Then we dropped down steeply to the river and our campsite. It can only be up from here tomorrow!

Our tarp at Cotter Campsite. This was luxury camping there were even hot showers. We wouldn’t see one of those again for a while!

I had an interesting night in my bivvy – sleeping bag combination and now have a different interpretation of the phrase ‘get knotted’. When I woke during the night the sleeping bag was so twisted inside the bivvy that I couldn’t move.

After packing up we set off by 8 a.m. and it took us 4 hours to do the first 27 km. It was all climb and didn’t turn to gravel until halfway up but by 12.00 we still had 63 km to go to get to the first hut campground. I was relieved to find some downhill after that but it was steep and short and we lost all our hard earned height but the valley we arrived at was beautiful. After the dry Euclip forests we had been cycling through the Brindabella valley was lush emerald green grassland, with a homestead and cattle. There was also a river so we filtered some water while we had the chance. As it was hot and dusty we were drinking 4 to 5 litres of water each.

Evening Primrose
Filtering water from the Brindabella River
The Brindabella Valley was lush and fertile after the dry bush

From this point we had a really steep climb, they had even had to tarmac some of the corners as the gravel would have disappeared down the hill. We were passed by a few cars that kicked up lots of dust and stones which meant wearing our buffs for breathing protection even in the heat.

Despite how dry the side of the track was there were quite a few herbaceous flowers growing there and we had plenty of time to look at these as we alternatively slowly peddled or hauled our bikes up the hill.

Finally at the top we had some pleasant easy flat cycling before our route took us steeply down a deeply rutted, hard packed mud track that led through a small farm.

Heading down off the beaten track
Hoping to find a good place to camp before dusk

We were very tired by this point so after splashing through the second stream we stopped to pump enough water for our supper and the next mornings ride and started looking for somewhere to bed down for the night. I don’t know why we had ever imagined we would cycle the 90 km to the first hut in these hills and it took a lot of will power to get back on the bike for the last few km while we looked for a good spot.

We were surrounded by dense bush but eventually found a small area beside the track with no trees and that was not directly under a eucalyptus tree, which can drop heavy branches at any time.

After a quick supper we set up just the mats and bivvy bags and dived in zipping up quickly against the onslaught of mosquitoes that descended in clouds at dusk. I still managed to get about 50 bites which itched for days.

Still smiling, just! Exhausted at the end of a long days climbing. Hot and dusty.
Our campsite in the bush. Just using the bivvi bags tonight

The noises at night in the bush were odd. There was a bird, possibly an owl, that made a low pitched cookoo sound fairly constantly, we later heard the same echoing sound during the day. There was also regular yapping noises that could have been mammal or bird as well as the constant orchestra of mosquitoes just above our head nets. The stars were fantastic and clear as there was a new moon.

We were up by 6 and off after a quick breakfast. My legs were still feeling tired so we did more hauling than peddling initially. And just maybe one of us may have spent sometime sitting on the bank saying they couldn’t go any further, but of course, in the end you have to!  The bush here was dense but really pretty with some flowering shrubs in amongst the Eucalyptus. The overall route today is up, but it undulates gently most of the time with just the odd long, steep climb to keep us on our toes.

An ant next to my bivvy when I woke up. He had quite a few friends!
My bike having a little lie down!

We had just entered the Goobarragandra Wilderness in the Kosciuszko National Park when we met a cyclist coming the other way. He had started near Melbourne and was travelling light and about 3 times our speed. Mind you he was probably 3 times younger than us too.

Again we only managed 26 km by lunch time but after lunch things got a little easier. We finally turned off Broken Cart Road, I can see why the cart broke, and onto Long Plains Road. This had a better quality gravel surface and was a little flatter, mostly. It was nice to see the odometer clocking up some kilometres at last. In fact we were bombing along so fast we nearly missed the Cooinbil Hut Campground.

Broken Cart Road

We stopped at the river nearby to get water and as it was so hot and we were so dusty we had a wonderful cold swim. That made me feel so much better.

Up on Long Plains Road, flat at last
There are lots of wild horses or brumbies up here
Feeling hot and tired, ready for a swim in the river
Stopping off for a swim in the river and to filter some more water

At the camp we found you could camp either with or without your horse and there were paddocks provided. There were a couple of horse boxes already there. There was also a school group on the last day of their Duke of Edinburgh bush walking. It was a really nice site and the old guy with 2 horses came over for a chat and to discover how to make a light weight tarp like ours for his saddle bags. He was the president of the Snowy Bush Walking and Riding Association and our photo will be in their next newsletter.

Camping at Cooinbil Hut Campground
Arriving at the Cooinbil Hut Campground
The school group doing their Duke of Edinburgh bush walk for 8 days
Our neighbour on the campsite riding past

Just before we went to bed the tree next to us filled with Kookaburras making quite a din. During the night the campsite was raided by wild horses looking for food. There are hundreds of them on the plains. I could hear their hooves go past our tarp and was hoping they wouldn’t catch our guy ropes which would cause our bikes to tip over on to us.

I ought to just mention the historic hut. There are a series of them up there but you can only sleep in them in emergencies. They were originally used by miners and shepherds.

The historic Cooinbil Hut
Inside the historic Cooinbil Hut

As there was bad weather, rain and high winds, coming in tomorrow we decided to head down from the mountains to Jindabyne for the weekend where a Warm Showers host, Syd Winer, has offered us accommodation.  We were currently at about 1400 m and the snow was forecast for over 700 m.  After a chat to our horse riding neighbour he came up with a good route that missed out a big hill. Now, how often has a non bike rider told you a route will be flat? We should have known better, but it was a good route non the less.

Just as we were leaving the school group leader came over and gave us several litres of filtered water which was great as it saved us half an hour of hard work.

We passed lots of family groups of wild horses. Usually several mares, a couple of foals and a guarding stallion who could look quite aggressive.

As we rolled passed the other huts we also passed more groups of tired teenagers all heading to the end of their bush walk.

It was very hot riding on the plains as there was no shade but the route was generally down so we made good time and had wonderful views. We were heading down to the Tantangra Dam Causeway that can be under several feet of water but due to the drought was just surrounded by horsey smelling mud. Being a Friday there were a lot more 4WD vehicles about, most of whom slowed down but some just steamed past showering us in stones and dust.

We stopped for a snack in the shade near the Currango Homestead. This is the most intact snowbelt homestead which has been occupied since 1830.

The Currango homestead
One of the old barns on the 1830 Currango Homestead

Next came the bit our horse riding friend had forgotten to mention. A really hard climb the was really energy sapping and that had very little shade. At the end of this we were higher than when we started, at 1517 m, and I thought that we were going downhill!

From here, we thought it looked easier and must be going down as we were heading around the dam. The track undulates along with nice views over the dam that actually had some water in it at this end. Then just before the end of the dam we had to go up a monster of an unnecessary hill that the road could easily gone around.

We stopped at the dam spillway to pump more water then set of on the last 18 km of gravel before reaching the Snowy Highway. I probably didn’t appreciate how pretty it was as I was really tired.

Luckily, being Friday evening, the Snowy Highway was not busy and it didn’t take us long to reach Adaminaby.

I was a bit reluctant to walk in to the bar to ask for a room as I was covered in red dust and with hair sticking out stiffly in all directions. But having looked around at the others in the bar I felt quite at home! We were so tired all we could manage was shower, large supper and bed.

I slept really well that night but I had noticed there seemed to be the constant roar of motorbikes. We had been going to take a day off today but as the surroundings were not that salubrious and it was not that far to Berrydale we decided to keep going. As we left we noticed the town square was full of motorbikes and the odd market stall but still didn’t twig.

The hotel in Adaminaby surrounded by motorbikes
Part of the Snowy Ride festivities in Adaminaby

The ride was amazing. We had a 25 km/hr tailwind and down a couple of hills we hit 70 km/hr. A record for us on a Fat Bike and a bit scary. There was no traffic on the road, just us, and oh, 3000 motorbikes doing the Snowy Run Charity Ride. At one point we had about 50 passing in one direction while 50 more passed in the other. The noise was quite something.

Snowy Run Charity Motorbike Ride
It was just us and 3000 motorbikes in the road

We could see the snow on the tops of the mountains and ominous black clouds piling up in front of us.

We got to Berrydale in record time and had lunch with some of the motorbikes who were a jolly bunch. They had been terrorizing the local population all weekend.

We had lunch surrounded by a lot of bikers.
I don’t know anything about motorbikes but I thought this was probably a good one

As it was so early we thought we would try to make it to Jindabyne before the rain so I sent Syd a message to say we were on our way. Now, of course, we turned off and had a headwind. It was a hard 25 km.

This area was covered in large granite boulders
Under attack from an Australian Magpie. I was wondering who was going to chicken out first, him or me. In the end it was me who ducked

Syd kindly rode out to meet us as we cycled around the lake. Jindabyne it a beautiful place and I can see why it is a popular holiday spot.

Our Warm Showers host, Syd, rode out to meet us
Dropping down into Jindabyne

This was our first warm showers experience and we have been so well looked after and had such fantastic food cooked for us, especially the dosa’s and sauces, yum, it has spoiled us for ever staying with anyone else.

Crossing the dam into Jindabyne

We took a day off while it rained and now, as the weather still doesn’t look good, we have changed our route and will be cycling down the Snowy River, hopefully in a rain shadow area. One wall of our room here is covered in printed maps of the area making it easier to plan.


3 thoughts on “Australia – Cycling through the Snowy Mountains from Goulburn to Jindabyne

  1. I commute for work daily on a FatBike and have done now for 5 years. Going home I take a lovely long sweeping highway into noman’s land at about 30mph max. But blow me away… 70km/hr on a FatBike? Someone give these chaps a medal!

    1. I had no idea these bikes would go so fast and was quite worried as to how they would react. But they stayed firm with no wobble. I think its probably a maximum. I wouldn’t want to go any faster

      1. Well I’m not surprised they maintained stability, but I am surprised they maintained acceleration. I guess then given a long enough descent they will. Nah, don’t worry about wobble on a FatBike… hell, wouldn’t hit a badger on anything else!