Well the planned sedate Nagambie Meander turned out to be a lot more epic than expected. Heavy rain, between 1 and 2 inches in an hour, will do that.
For those interested, details of the ride route are here.
After a run of days with temperatures close to or above 40 degrees we were happy that Sunday was finally cooler; the forecast was high 20s with possibility of rain in the afternoon. We started the ride a bit earlier to avoid some of the heat and perhaps some of the rain.
As we approached Kirwens Bridge, a local stopped his ute to tell us to make sure we walked our bikes across the bridge as he had seen two riders go over the bars when their wheels dropped into a gap between the timber planks. We had already planned to walk the bikes across. It is the prudent thing to do; one of my wheels dropped into a gap even walking.
We progressed down the gravel roads on the west side of the Goulburn River without any concerns. There was very little traffic and the road condition was good. Occasional patches of corrugation were avoidable as they did not extend all the way across the road.
The area feels more remote than it actually is. It was a good opportunity for fauna spotting – we saw kangaroos, a group of emus, and flocks of corellas erupted from trees ahead of us in a series of waves. Mark claimed to see turtles from every bridge we crossed.
After stopping for water and coffee at Michelton we headed on to Tahbilk.
As expected the last kilometre to Tahbilk was more difficult riding. The road gravel isn’t local – I think the natural surface here is silty clay. It looks like river gravel was brought in and graded over the road to make it usable all year round without becoming too muddy. This gravel is hard riding on bikes because it is thick, soft and loose all across the road.
We were happy when we finally arrived at Tahbilk Cafe. And happier still after our meal – the food was excellent. The cafe was busy, many people had travelled to eat lunch there.
When we left the cafe we could see storm clouds gathering in the west but we decided to take a detour through the 4 km of wetland trails anyway as it wouldn’t take long on our bikes. I’m glad we did, it was quite beautiful and dramatic as we rode around the wetlands with darkening skies and flashing lightning in the distance.
We decided we wouldn’t be able to outride the rain, so it would be better to head to the Cellar Door and have a few wines till the rain passed. It was a good plan, unfortunately the storm hadn’t read the script.
We reached the Cellar Door just as the rain started; it was heavy and big drops, not a good sign. However, the Cellar Door was quite a pleasant place to be waiting – tasting the local reds, reading the information guides, and wandering through the barrels in the cellar.
We came back up to inspect the weather. Rain was falling in sheets and it had also started to hail. We switched to tasting the ports.
Before long people started to arrive telling us the roads were flooded and we wouldn’t be able to get through unless we had a 4WD. We noticed some people were wearing life jackets. We switched to tasting the Muscat.
After a brief discussion we decided to continue the ride. The Cellar Door was closing soon so we couldn’t stay there and we didn’t want to delay much longer as visibility was already poor and it was probably going to get darker. I had driven the return route and knew it was flat and we didn’t have to cross any creeks or causeways – so any water we came to should be just shallow surface water.
The photo below shows the exit road on a dry day. However on this day the road was underwater for long patches. We rode along the ridge in the middle of the road as this was the highest point. Sometimes the ridge was just was poking above the water, often it was a few inches below the water level, and occasionally 10cm below water level.
Surprisingly the road didn’t collapse as much when it was under water as it had before lunch – water pressure helped us here. When I reviewed my strava file it showed we rode this waterlogged section at the same speed or slightly faster than the dry section before lunch. Because all the pebbles were rounded they tended to hunker down and hold their positions. We didn’t come to any sections were the slowly flowing water had gouged out parts of the road surface.
We passed one car that was stopped on the gravel road. However our bikes just kept rolling along; up to 10cm of water didn’t trouble them at all. It rained all the way back to Nagambie, but we made it without incident.
After packing up our bikes and changing our clothes, we met up in the local pub for coffee and hot chips. We admired Sue’s nice yellow rain jacket that she was wearing now, but had decided not to put in her ride back-pack that morning as it was going to be hot. Everyone was happy. It was a good day and a fun ride. The day was made more epic and memorable by the rain, but we had survived, as had the bikes and any cameras and electrical devices we had with us.
I check the rainfall when I got home. Graytown, about 20km west of Tahbilk, had recorded 79mm of rain so far for that day. That’s 3 inches! I reckon we saw a lot of that.
Anyway a big thanks to my riding companions for their company and good spirits throughout the day. It was a success. The Nagambie Meander is a ride well worth doing – just take notice of the weather forecast before you head off.
Other photos from the route (click any photo to open gallery) –