The plan is for a relatively easy trip, giving a taste for carrying overnight gear in our panniers.
There will be a combination of sealed and unsealed road.
We will cycle from Bell Station, heading down into Hartley Vale.
Admiring the views from Hassan Walls we will have completed about 1200m total ascent. After around 40km of cycling we will arrive at our camp site.
The Sunday will leave us with a short cycle to Lithgow train station.
Want to buy panniers?
I only just bought my panniers and rear rack. I went to the four cycling shops on Clarence Street and also Omafiets in Redfern (and one in Nth Syd).
Both Clarence St Cyclery and Omafiets seemed more geared to touring (and both had very friendly/helpful staff).
Glow Worm Bikes was also recommended to me, but I didn’t get there.
I ended up going with a set of panniers made by Ortlieb.
Sometimes its hard to pin point when exactly an adventure starts. In this case I think it was cycling from the SUBW koala workshop to catch the train into the mountains. Jemma and I where heading up early so we could easier distribute the bikes on the replacement buses the following morning (we had already lost someone out of their dislike of buses!).
We spent the night in Hazelbrook and didn’t really have the best of sleeps, nevertheless, in the morning we where up early and soon on a bus to Mt Victoria. On the way we received the bad news that Ruby had become sick and wouldn’t be able to join us… so now Justine would be the third and final member of our party. We had to wait quite some time for Justine’s bus to arrive, not only because we were very early, but also because there was no room for bikes on the first bus at Central so she had to get on the next one!
Eventually we where all ready to go, and with some friendly tips from a fellow cyclist we started out into the spectacular sunshine that alleviated my previous concerns of poor weather.
The trip started with a fire trail that was a bit rougher than expected. We soon left this and cycled a short way along the Darlington Causeway and then down into Little Hartley. The temperature noticeably dropped and I was thankful for the gloves Justine had reminded us to bring.
I don’t know if it was because I was travelling slower, or because I wasn’t looking through a glass window, but the surroundings seemed more immediate, enveloping and indeed more beautiful than all the times I had driven through this area.
We had made some kind of unspoken agreement not to check the time and even though our stomachs where telling us it was around lunch time we decided to press on up the main steep hill of the trip.
On the way up we met the cyclist from Mt Victoria and almost accepted an easy lift to the top, but as it worked out we all made it without any motorised aids (we did have lunch half way up though!).
Soon we were back on unsealed road winding our way up onto Hassans Walls. We passed some great lookouts that gave us a commanding view of the vale and also offered a great perspective of the ground we had covered and height we had achieved.
After lazing in the sun we continued down into Lithgow valley. We locked our bikes together and split up. Justine had just got back from overseas and needed to get some foodstuffs and I would fetch some sleeping gear for her to use.
It was getting late by the time we rendezvoused at the bikes. We set out for our camp-site negotiating a number of river crossings involving some wet feet.
The area hadn’t changed much since I had camped there in High School and indeed didn’t look like it had been used very much since.
We used the last failing light to collect fire wood and by the time I was pitching my tent it was quite dark.
We created a communal Scroggin and set the billy up on the struggling fire. After eating and sharing dinner, we huddled ’round, feeding small sticks to the hungry fire until some larger pieces finally caught alight.
After a long day and with temperatures dropping, we doused the fire and headed to our tents for an early night.
I was surprised to find the morning well away when I emerged from the darkness of my sleeping bag. And even more surprised to see the fire going when I peered out of the tent. Jemma had woken up and put some water on to boil for us!
We had a lazy morning waiting for the frost to melt (apparently it got to around -2degC). We then headed up the valley for a short walk.
By the time we got back the tents were pretty much dry, so after some more tea we packed camp and headed off to the train station.
I had an amazing trip and seeing as it was the first touring-style trip for us all, I think we all did very well.