The scenery was absolutely magnificent for the first 50 km as the road wound its way through the forests of gums. “Windy Road for 34 km” proclaimed a road sign below an illustration of a snaking road, and so it was, with lots of ups and downs to boot. I found that the road signage on the trip was generally very good, with a strong emphasise on keeping the public aware of safety issues, but also providing a great deal of other information.
Many of the road bridges that we crossed on this section of the Bruxner Highway had been damaged during a flood that inflicted itself on this part of New South Wales just two weeks ago. The majority are being repaired by numerous teams of workmen. The road-surface of some of the bridges consists of tarred-over planks of wood with sizeable bolts protruding through the planks, bolts which constitute a very real threat to the 23mm tyres. There are just too many and they are too close together to avoid them all.
I made rather slow progress as I wound my way up the steady incline to a signboard marking the crest of the “Great Dividing Range” at an altitude of 888 metres. Not really much of a mountain range when pictured next to the Himalayas, the Andes or even the Drakensberg, but the pride and joy of a generally low-lying Australia. The “Great” Dividing Range? The entire country of Lesotho is more high-lying than this. How about the “Little Dividing Ridge”?
Tenterfield refers to itself as the “Birthplace of our Nation”, which may sound a trifle grandiose for a settlement of 3200 people, but it was here that Sir Henry Parkes made his impassioned plea for “a great national government for all Australians”. That was on 24 October 1889. But Tenterfield also has another claim to fame. Good grief! Isn’t “Birthplace of our Nation” enough for one little town? It was in Tenterfield that Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Patterson, who wrote the immortal words of Waltzing Matilda, was married in 1903. Which is as good an excuse as any for me to include –
Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong,
Under the shade of a coolibah tree.
And he sang as he watched and waited ’til his billy boiled,
You’ll come a-waltzing matilda with me.
(Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Patterson, 1895)
Outside Tenterfield I parted company with the Bruxner Highway and joined the New England Highway on its way to Glen Innes.
Of course the perfect cycling weather couldn’t last and within just a few kilometres of Tenterfield the dark clouds made good on their threat and it started raining really hard.
I came to quite a steep hill, called Bolivia Hill according to a signpost at the top, which crested at 1023 metres, and found the road very slippery, probably due to oil generously deposited by a series of passing motorists. I heard a truck coming up behind me and moved over to the edge of the tar to allow it as much room as possible. Well, that was my intention, but my front wheel suddenly whipped sideways and in a split second I was lying on the tar next to my bike. Luckily the truck was still a little way back and I had enough time to jump up, snatch up the bike and gaze with great interest into the bush at the side of the road as if this was something I did every day. Just standing in the pouring rain next to my bicycle in the middle of nowhere, looking intently at nothing. I wonder what comments passed between the truck driver and his mate.
Just a few turns of the pedals after I restarted and the rain was back. In buckets.
The road took us over many creeks, most of them dry in spite of the rain and some of them carrying really splendid names. Perhaps my favourite was the Black Swamp Creek. Not all those involved with the christening process were blessed with such originality of thought, though, and we crossed over no fewer than six “Sandy Creeks” in as many days. The fact that they were all sandy is really no excuse.
The last stretch into Glen Innes passed relatively uneventfully. Glen Innesviews itself as “The Celtic Capital of Australia”, presumably because of the early Scottish settlers who made their homes in the area from 1838. At an altitude of 1075 metres I had climbed only one hundred and fifty metres since Tenterfield, but it felt a great deal more.
Jane located a caravan park adjacent to the New England Highway where we were to spend the night. I only stopped cycling a few minutes before four o’clock, after a slow and tiring day in the saddle. My legs were weary and I enjoyed a hot shower and a rest before supper.