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Racing, riding and adventure by bike

Making friends: Bulga to Sheep Skin Hut & return

Sometimes when you plan a ride a couple of weeks out, everything lines up and it is winter sunshine and cloudless skies. Other times, you look at the weather forecast with 4 days to go and realise it’s going to be a total crap shoot. Cold, raining and miserable. Then someone goes and invokes rule #5 which leaves you with little choice but to pack some warm clothes and some chain lube.

Jase had proposed a ride out to sheepskin hut and Harvey and I quickly decided it sounded like a great idea. I’d always wanted to see that part of the world since the Gateshead crew had ridden it 3 years earlier and the tales of manical possums and the land of many waterbars had only grown over the interceding 3 years.

As I sat in the car outside the cockfighter tavern, the rain beat a steady rhythm on the windscreen and I decided i should throw an extra jumper in the frame bag just in case things went badly and I needed additional warmth. Plan for the worst and hope for the best.

We were rolling past some farm properties about to enter the National Park when a local came out of no-where and indicated he wanted you join our ride. We were a bit unsure as we didn’t know whether he was up for the full length and his single speed rig didn’t seem like the best weapon of choice since our intended route more or less climbed for the first 17kms to reach California Hut.

Never the less, he seemed pretty excited to be heading out with the group so we figured he would either make the whole thing or peel off somewhere and head for home. He was pretty skinny so we figured he’d be a climber and it didn’t take us long to nickname him ‘Strava’  because when we got to the first climb, he dropped us all and had enough energy left at the top to tear off after a kangaroo for a few laughs.

We were rolling along having a chat and not particularly mindful of the scrubby bushland around us when we crossed a small stream and were immediately in rainforest. It was like someone had drawn a line in the sand and said “This is where the beauty starts”. It was magical and I stopped to soak it up for a while while the others pedalled on up the hill

We reached California Hut and stopped for some food and to check out the hut. It’s a pretty cool little shelter with wooden floors and a roof that was doing an admirable job of keeping out the persistent rain. I could well imagine what a joyous find it would be on an epic bikepacking mission. Pulling up to a cosy little shack in some beautiful surroundings and getting warm and dry for the first time all day. Rad.

So the pattern set in that Strava would smash us up every hill and we’d drop him down the back of next descent as he spun out madly trying to keep up. He had nothing with him, no water, no food and no wet weather gear so we figured he couldn’t last too much longer.

Alex was on his first big ride and was travelling well however there was an ugly grinding climb at the 30 km mark that saw him visited by the cramp fairy. With another 20kms to go until we reached the turnaround, he made the right call to head back to the pub early rather than wind up in the middle of no-where with nothing left to pedal home with.  We figured Strava would probably choose to head home with Alex but he wanted nothing to do with it and came along with us even though the pace had picked up a little.

The goal for the turnaround point was Sheep Skin Hut. Another awesome little tin shack in the middle of no-where. Unlike California Hut, this one had a dirt floor, although it did have a water tank, long drop toilets and a nearby stream Another bikepacking gem for those so inclined with a rather inviting looking fireplace for those cold winter nights. A perfect relaxed pace tour as an out and back from Bulga.

Stava was looking pretty weary and had a little lie down and we took pitty on him and gave him some of our food. He was pretty chuffed with that and i kind of wish i had brought along a dozen pies for him since he looked like he could use a good feed. We offered him some water but he was happy to drink out of a puddle so we left him to it while we explored.

The best part of turning around was the knowledge that although it was 50ks back to the car, the last 17 were essentially downhill so it was only 33 k’s to go. These K’s flew by. My back had started to complain at about the 40 k mark and by the time i hit the 60-70k mark, it was killing me. I stretched wherever possible but there wasn’t much I could do other than tough it out and pedal back to the car. I knew it wasn’t good.

Reaching California again was awesome. A crazy fast and slippery descent which saw me spending as much time pumping my brakes to try and get some leaver feel as i did smiling. Waterbars to launch off, creek crossings at speed, rocks and mud being thrown everywhere. What more could you want?

It was about here at the 80 km mark that we saw the last of Strava. He was still climbing well but he dropped off the back on the last descent and slowly gapped him as we tore down the hill. Since he was a local, we figured he’d know his way home and we were freezing from descending in the pouring rain so kept on trucking until we got to the car for a full ride of 95.5 kms.

I felt a bit bad about leaving Strava at the top of the hill but we figured it was probably for the best since we’d have a hard time stopping him from following us home and the last thing we wanted was and angry farmer with a bunch of cattle to round up and no-one to do it for him. You see, it’s about time to disclose that Strava was in fact a dog. A dog that ran 100k’s!

A Kelpie to be precise and he was the most amazing trail dog I’ve ever seen.Never once was he under your wheel at the wrong time as he very quickly learnt to go to the front up the climbs and drop to the back at the top as we’d outpace him.  Kelpies come with a reputation of being able to ‘run all day’ but this little guy made it look easy and would have completed a genuine 100kms in about 8 hours by the time he got home. Without a doubt he would have kept running straight past his house and all night if we’d let him. Simply amazing

 

Of course, the moment I got off the bike my back went into full spasms. Nearly dropping me to the ground as I laboured to get things into the car. The drive home was decidedly uncomfortable and I was stiff, sore and spasming ever more by the time i got home an hour and a half later. All I could do was lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling waiting for some nurofen to kick in and hope to be in good enough shape to make it to work the next day. Thankfully, it is much improved today although exactly what that means for this weekends ride remains to be seen. There is one filthy and under performing bike to give some mechanical love too before heading off into the Barringtons too 🙁

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