Tuesday, April 22, 2008

At the ski bar at Thredbo village

April 1st

Today I climbed from bush camp still with mountain cold about 5 km outside of Khancoban. My last night ended with a climb and the day with more of the same. I can’t lie, today intimidated the hell out of me. Yesterday I had passed through Corryong right into the heart of Man from Snowy River country. My altitude there was roughly 300 meters, and I knew that I would be climbing a least 1280 meters more to Dead Horse Gap. Five km past Khancoban, I was in the middle of climbing my second ridge and had enough downhill in between that I had a feeling that despite my efforts I was no where closer (height wise) to my final goal of the day. I didn’t know how many ridges lay in between and with 75 km to ride, there were a lot of unknowns. I really had no idea how much of an ascent I was really in for.

My first climb brought me to the Murray 1 dam and its power station. This is part of a huge system of dams and power stations that provides 70% of the power needed for the greater southeast part of the country (the most populated). The tropical dull green of the gum trees and the power house complex and concrete make it look like a set from a James Bond movie. In the early light, it looks like a lair that the most nefarious of Drs. Evil could hide. I regretted not being able to stick around till nine when the visitor center opened up, but I could not justify the wait. I pushed along up the hills praying I would not turn a corner and start coasting downhill again and thus loose all the sweat equity I had put into this set of mountains. It was a ripper of a decent for seven km and roughly a third of the way into my day’s ride. It seemed as good a place as any for break. It was a gentle gold and green valley with a cold rippling stream running through it. My body shifted form hot to cold as I moved in and out of the shade. I lingered and finished H.G. Wells’ "The Island of Dr. Moreau." From that point on, it was hard not to put human attributes to any animal I saw.

I continued to the cattle station of Tom Groggin - home of the Man from Snowy River. The hills were quick and undulating, and the mass of valley was wide enough that one view could not soak it all in. After this, the pain set in, and my bike went slowly up and along the mountain. Small lizards barely an inch long scurried from there invisible spots on the road to avoid getting crushed. I learned the meaning of sweating bullets. I struggled, pulling my handlebars involuntary from side to side swaying like I was punch drunk. I climbed like a man possessed and prayed for no more down-hills. An old bastard passed me downhill in his truck and yelled at me to peddle harder. I wanted to strangle him with my bike chain. Then came another descent and another uphill. Fortunately, a stream lay in between them, and I tapped out for a late lunch. Rested one hour and got some dodgy intelligence from a man who had no idea what I was asking for when I asked him what the road was like up ahead. Turns out it was just one last uphill to Dead Horse Gap and then a last 7 km to Thredbo. I saw my challenge from a distance and felt like yelling. So, I did – He-Man style.

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