Toni is definitely the more adventurous out of the both of us, however Carly-Marie isn’t one to chicken out of (too) many things. This bike ride ended up thrilling the both of us (albeit at different speeds, especially when going down the hills!) and provided a very entertaining morning. If you’re looking for something to do, not far from Swan Hill, we can’t recommend this special place enough!
Let’s be honest; we are all looking for that something different to partake in on the weekend sometimes, but it is easy to get stuck in a monotonous rut of seeing and doing the same things. Stuck in a bit of a groove of familiarity myself lately, and as a bit of a local NSW virgin (apart from the odd trips to Murray Downs and a few bike rides over the bridge), I decided to bust out of my rut and act on a little mountain biking tip I was lucky enough to stumble upon recently.
As soon as the words ‘trail,’ ‘sandy,’ ‘hills,’ ‘bike’ and ‘30km from Swan Hill’ were mentioned to me a month or two ago, my adventure radar was pulsing at full strength. Unfortunately the batteries were running low because before long, I had forgotten about my NSW hideaway and was back on my routine tracks. Life gets busy.
Busy or not, this weekend it was time to recharge with some exploration of the Swan Hill region, so when my co-contributor and partner in all things creative, embraced my proposal to join me on a mountain biking adventure with enthusiasm, it would be fair to say I was a little shaky with anticipation. Eager to cast a mountain biking spell over her, it did concern me that I was acting impulsively over purely hearsay, but- just like me – she was up for something unique!
After both banking a hefty three hours sleep and feeling slightly delirious, we eagerly loaded the bikes up and set off in the dark for our mystery destination in the early hours of a Saturday morning.
However, the delirium was quickly dispelled as we cast our eyes over our serene destination, nestled to the right hand side of the bridge after passing over the eerily calm Wakool River. Void of any traffic and human existence, as well as an oasis of trail discovery that lay at our feet (or should I say wheels), we were in for a treat.
With the temperature predicted to soar to 39 degrees, we ensured our hydration packs and drink bottles were filled to capacity and set off on a gentle off-road car track, following the river as our guide.
Don’t mistake the Wakool River as one of the Might Murray River’s insignificant nearby cousins. She might be smaller in stature than her striking relative, however, this dark horse packs an awe-inspiring punch of elevated cliffs, camping hideaways and narrow passages of water that are perfect for kayaking, fishing off the bank or simply floating down the river on a lilo in the warmer months without venturing too far from the safe clutches of land.
As we ventured north along the river, we had the option of following the milder car track running adjacent to the river, or if you are feeling extra adventurous, there is an array of single-track on offer in the scrub land to the left, complete with some short but steep descents/ascents and little jumps for those who enjoy a little more action on their leisurely weekend strolls.
After several kilometres of flawless photo opportunities and vertical drops into secret camping spots (that was our view on an otherwise flat Mallee landscape) – and as we were confronted with more sandy terrain – the tracks began to recoil from the river slightly.
This is where the pedalling was slightly more challenging, but fun, as we were presented with more unsteady ground and a ‘choose your own adventure’ type of ride as the trails scattered in multiple directions.
Once we reached some private property, we followed the fence line (off course from the river) along a single motorbike track as far as we could go and looped back around through the scrubland to our west. We soon realised there was little concern for getting lost as the Moulamein Road provided a definitive border to our west, leaving little room for straying too far.
Before long, we were back on our familiar riverside route, pedalling south bound to where our car awaited.
It is worth noting, that what goes down must come up, and if you decide to roll down an adrenaline pumping embankment in search of a camping hideaway beside the river, make sure (as we are ashamed to admit) you can get back up. If you can actually pedal all the way up (you must have buns made of steel or good tyres or something), you are my new hero.
However, if you are more like us; getting a run up and reaching half way, only to roll to your demise once again, then the ‘pushing and braking every 30cm to pull yourself up the hill’ method might be more to your liking.
On our arrival at the car, we mounted the bridge for a photo opportunity, then journeyed to the other side of the road for a cool down on our boogey boards in the river. The steep, rocky cliffs provided the ultimate backdrop for a relaxing and peaceful swim to end our morning, and sent us home on an adventurous high. Our quest for diversity had been conquered (for now).
However, as we devoured our post breakfast feast back in Swan Hill, a distant memory came flooding back into my lively mind, hastily knocking us off our high perches. In all the swimming excitement, I had left my most faithful Garmin watch on the bonnet of my car and driven off. The after effects of three hours sleep were obviously still lingering.
So without a moment to spare – and another fleeting trip across the NSW border – we arrived at the scene of the crime. After a detailed inspection of the swimming area and the elevated track leading out on to the road, as well as a clever re-enactment of a Myth Busters episode involving a paper pad on the bonnet to test the flight path and point of deviation from the car’s bonnet, we yielded in defeat. Nature was a bitch and science sucked.
We dolefully dragged ourselves to the car and set off for Swan Hill empty-handed and despondent. The choices were: scan 30km of barren road for a watch (ummm, no), scrutinize the ‘bike man’ we saw on route earlier (we may end up on harassment charges) or write an applauding letter to Garmin about their exemplary service and hope like hell they give me free stuff. Or I could just drive home and think myself lucky that I have a house to go home to.
It was like déjà vu as we crossed the bridge for the second time that morning and began to pick up speed. Then from the passenger seat I heard a sudden screech that almost sent me into a tree, ‘Oh my god, oh my god….THERE IT IS!’ I jumped about four feet off the driver’s seat as I slammed on the brakes in fright. There it was; my precious piece of white Garmin gold, gleaming up at us at just three inches from the edge of the road. Turns out I have picked up enough papers in my lifetime.
So after an eventful morning, and the joyful reunion with my watch, it is safe to say we are eagerly seeking out our next exclusive trail adventure. Stay tuned for April…