Picture of the Day 15: Tumut Plains Hall, Tumut Plains
Well! Now that I’m back in Tumut, we’ve entered a dark age of internet (namely a crappy net deal, a crappy connection, and a modem without wireless and which overheats and turns itself off every half hour), so if I can’t post on the day, that is most likely why. TO make up for it, there are a million billion things to do here, at least as far as outdoor adventures are concerned, and I have a mind to do every single one of them over the summer.
Six months ago, I couldn’t ride a bike. Thanks to Ryan, I learnt, and look at all the places it’s taken me! Tumut Plains Road and its adjacent Little River Road, leading into Goobagandra, are two of my favourite roads in the country. It was here that I learnt to drive, learnt to speed, came off the road once, drove through flood waters in an incredibly fun day spent with my nephew, and have many fantastic memories of swimming, scandals and friends. The roads are particularly beautiful in summer, as the long grass of the plains dies, creating a gold-green, sharp sided sea lapping at the feet of the mountains. The Tumut River here is a series of switchbacks, fronted by paddocks. Apple orchards and grazing fields are overlooked by mountains forested in eucalypt trees. The Goobagandra or Little River joins the Tumut River in a wide, grassy park called the Junction, where the deep, slow water makes for one of the best swimming spots around.
It was to the Junction that I thought I’d ride. I’d never ridden that road before, and never walked it, though I’ve driven it so many times I couldn’t tell you. I wasn’t sure if I’d make the distance. Imagine my surprise, then, when twenty minutes after setting out from my place, I crossed the iconic white bridge, and cruised into the Junction parking lot. The river, fed by Blowering Dam eight or so straight kilometres away, was incredibly full and fast. Though the park was alive with swimmers, picnickers and fishermen, people stayed away from the rapid water of the Tumut River, instead hanging around the slower Goobagandra.
Note in the second to last picture you can see the merging of the two rivers.
I watched the fishermen for a while, waved at a passing boat, and decided what the hell, I’d keep going. The easy option here would be to return along the Junction road, into town, and go around the river park. But… the infinitely more challenging and adventurous thing to do was continue along Tumut Plains Road, all the way to the highway, go through Springfield and head back into town that way.
It’s a track I know well. Over a narrow bridge, Tumut Plains Road splits – left onto Little River Road, or on a long straight through various farms to the highway. Because I’m not totally mad and didn’t want to ride the 12km to Little River, I headed down the straight. The day, still bitingly hot in the late afternoon, was cooled by passing clouds. I hit the end of the straight (which I gauge is a good two kilometres long), took the bend, and still felt good. What else was for it? It’s a long loop back into town – in fact the ride was 18.5km, which I happily did in 90 minutes with plenty of photo stops. The challenge was to see if I could do it at all.
Past farms, orchards, a junkyard where two sheep were apparently eating rusted cars, I turned right onto the highway, where poplar trees, once the industry of Tumut, line the road. I crossed the Tumut River again at the bridge above. It was a little hair to hold onto the rail as a semi trailer roared by, but no worse for wear, I continued on down the highway. This was the home stretch. A small distance from Tumut Plains Road was a left turn to Blowering Wall, where you can see the hydroelectric station and used to be able to drive across the dam wall. I think that may have been banned in recent times as Snowy Hydro has modified the wall, bracing it for the “ten thousand year flood”. When I was a teenager I was quite fond of driving to the end of the wall, as it looks like you’re driving on air, so high are you above the plains and the vast blue dam. A quick hike down the rock wall onto the spillway, and it was great fun to write your name or slogan with pieces of slate. My best one was a giant skull (of course). Water ran over the spillway two years ago, for the first time in 21 or so years, so my skull is washed away. Not to mind! I’d do it again in a heartbeat if the road was open. >:)
But that’s for another day. Day 15 I focused on getting home, up the several long hills at the end of the ride, and was rewarded with the several long downhill coasts into town, as well as a peak of distant blue mountains over gold and green fields.
Riding Tumut Plains Road was something I never thought I’d do. Yet it was one of the most beautiful and rewarding rides so far. Anyone who can get to this wonderful, quiet and lonely part of the world, please try it!