Our final proper day of riding (if you discount a blast on the motorway back to Sydney) took us over Mount Hotham and through a substantial section of the Omeo Highway, Victoria’s first gazetted state highway.
We were greeted this morning by freezing conditions and ice on the bikes, winter sure is on its way. I say this because this is snow country and only the most hardcore bikers would attempt this route in the winter months. I’m not one of those.
Leaving a little later than usual around 9am, we wrapped up warm and started to ascend the Great Alpine Road. This is one of the highest elevation roads in Australia providing access to the ski resort at Mt Hotham. Glad of our layers, despite the blue sky, the temperature dropped further as we climbed the twisting roads to the summit. Fortunately the roads had dried a little so we escaped any ice however we discovered later, from another biking couple who’d stayed at Mount Hotham overnight, that it had snowed overnight so ice was a serious risk.
As we approached Mount Hotham, we were greeted by the most incredible views of the surrounding mountains. The road appeared to have been built on top of a ridge with stunning views either side. This why so many pictures…
Upon arriving at a deserted Mount Hotham (it is primarily a ski resort, after all) we discovered it was 3 degrees centigrade.
Mount Hotham is perched on top of a ridge. Most ski villages sit at the bottom of the slopes whereas many of Hotham’s slopes descend from the village. We didn’t know much about Hotham and believed it was quite a small affair compared to the bigger ski resorts of New South Wales (Thredbo and Perisher). Turns out Hotham is quite substantial with a lot of accommodation and facilities. Maybe we should get ourselves up there in winter one day and ski it.
The road down the mountain in the other side was surprisingly straight, with limited bends, making our descend to (relative) warmth quite quick although it would take us a while to defrost.
We stopped for a cup of tea at a viewpoint where Australia’s highest mountain (Kosciusko) can be seen, and met a Ukrainian couple riding two-up on a motorised armchair (BMW K1600 – with a 1600cc inline 6-cylinder engine, heated seats and inbuilt stereo system…) who mentioned the previous night’s snow. And they insisted on taking photos for us, so here we are with our cheesy smiles…
Kosciusko is the most distant peak. At 2,228 metres it is a tiddler of a mountain compared to any other continent. It’s excuse is that it is very old and has been weathered and eroded for millions of years.
After a mandatory petrol stop at Omeo (no petrol for 1,000 kms or something like that) we set course North for Mitta Mitta.
This road, two thirds of the Omeo Highway has only recently been sealed (2014) and is also incredible. Winding through low-lying, dry valleys, sparsely populated by white-trunked gum trees, it then climbs back to the winter snow line (this is apparent as the white lines on the road turn yellow) and twists through tall red trunked gum trees. It also provided spectacular views of the mountain range although with not many places to stop, I only managed one picture.
This stretch of road was just over 100km long and took two hours to navigate and, despite its beauty, was quite exhausting. I was glad to discover a fabulous pub at the end of for lunch – the Mitta pub at Mitta Mitta (AKA the Laurel Hotel).
Even though we had travelled only 200km so far this day, it was already 3pm. We needed to get close enough to Sydney to make our final day not too long but not kill ourselves in the process. We settled for 2 more hours of riding plus a couple of quick breaks, to a place known to us, Tumbarumba.
The road took us through the beautiful Mitta Valley, flanked by lush green hills and farmland.
We did expect the rest of the ride to be quite easy but our route took us through a logging area with a great road but ‘high risk’ for suicidal wombats, kangaroos and deer. Fun times. I was commenting to Gary about how crazy deer could be but I had never actually seen one crossing the road in Australia when one of them decided to prove me wrong and passed right in front of Gary, prancing around like some stupid suicidal creature it was. Fortunately Gary missed it but we decided to slow down until we had exited that particular stretch of road.
Arriving at Tumbarumba it was becoming another chilly night. Dinner at the local pub was fun as the local AFL team (the Tumbarumba Kangaroos) had beaten the Corryong Demons, another local team. Sadly the netball team had lost its match. Oh well.
The cold night proved to be very cold with a frosty start. Note to self, the next time it looks like it’s going to be a very cold night, pop the covers on the bikes, which we did bring with us.
The final leg of our trip was pretty uneventful, save the temperature jump from 3 degrees centigrade to 23 upon arrival on Sydney. The blast up a long straight motorway is the price we pay for adventures in this huge country, and this photo says it all… 10 days 3,719.9 kms. Time now for a big sleep.