Yesterday evening was one of those instances where you know you shouldn’t do it, but you do it anyway because in the end you know you will be just fine. Starting to explore and find another campsite an hour before dark is rarely a good idea. Especially when the campsite cannot be found. I setup my tent on the side of a forest road, inhabited by ants and spiders. The ground was just gravels.
I found myself hammering the tent pegs with a stone in pitch dark while making dinner. On the way there I saw what I thought were wild horses. They kept getting scared of me and making that strange noise to alert their friends of the coming danger. I later realised they had antlers in their head so they were most likely dears.
At that time I should have realized I was going deeper in the wilderness, at the wrong time. Note that the previous campsite (Woonangatta station) had a river, paddocks and picnic tables. But I thought it was too windy…
I had already added 35 kms to the 21km initially planned for the day, including some serious climbing. Therefore riding twice as much as in a normal day. But the temptation to impress, to arrive early in Dargo was great. I could see myself reading the newspaper, eating and drinking at the terrace of the Dargo pub.
Once in the tent, after having cleaned the dishes (after I learnt one cannot leave dirty dishes in the wild because some animal will smell it, make a lot of noise and try to get it, forcing you to wake up in the middle of the night and eventually clean it all), I finally fell asleep.
Not for long. Suddenly, a noise…
Something resembling a wolf calling his mates. The other ‘wolves’ respond.. One of them is not far. They seem dispersed in the hills. Another call, this time very close to the tent. The others respond again. I can hear it walk. It can’t be a wolf so it must be a dingo (an Australian wild dog).
Off the top of my head I don’t recall anyone getting seriously hurt by dingos, but I put my clothes back on and make sure my knife is not far from me.
I start pondering: are they after my food? Would they attack me? How? How do I get them to go away?
The prospect of being facing 5 dingos at night, armed with a pocket knife and multi tools is highly unpleasant.
Silence for 30 minutes. What is their plan? Was the one next to me indicating to the others a target? Was it getting the others to come help out? What do they communicate about?
I remain awake. In all that confusion I hadn’t been reading the routes noted carefully. So I start reading the route notes to keep myself awake and alert, just in case…
After 30 minutes, I hear another call… No response this time!
I slowly go back to sleep, clothes on. I want this night to be over. I’d rather be climbing the worst hill. Just a few hours to go.
All things considered,maybe the dingos were just wishing each other goodnight.
Dingos are not my friend!
At 6.30AM, I wake up, go clean myself and get ready. I take my time, trying to make peace with this improvised campsite. But I’m looking forward to the ride. Another hill climbing before Dargo: give it to me, I won’t lose this battle.
200m away from the campsite, it’s on! Climbing, steep and it won’t get better for the next 5 hours. This time my mood is different. I feel rather happy with the hard work and I’m listening to some good music to make it more pleasant. My body is not aching yet. Even my appetite has recovered. It’s extremely steep but not loose. I have a good grip on this hill.
Finally, my knee starts to complain. It’s been too much for the day.
I need to stay put a little longer. The campsite was at 430m. I reach 900m, heading towards 1,200m.
The first downhill comes. They are here to fool you in thinking that you are done for the day. They are just insulations, up and downs, here to destroy your soul.
After a fast downhill, my rear tire loses some pressure, for the second time since yesterday. This is weird. I top it up. Something must have happened.
Eventually, I start to make my way down the valley. I manage to get some rare and precious phone reception. I can confirm meeting with my friend in Dargo the next day. I also ask my mate to send the next food parcel to Omeo. Omeo is a big deal. Half way from the start (Healsville) to Canberra. It’s where things start to ease down, I’ve been told, with less extreme hill climbing.
After some serious downhill (having to walk some of it), I make it to the bottom. My tire is low in pressure again. Pumping in, I notice a spoke is loose. The weird thing is that is not actually broken, it just hasn’t been tightened. That could be the cause of the trouble: another mystery to solve.
A four wheel drive stops and comments on my crazy downhill. They have been following my traces. Often people stop to ask me whether I’m alright, especially in more remote areas.
Most of them are having a hard time believing that I’m doing that on a push bike. I have to continuously make ‘Ok’ signs, every time a car or a dirt bike approaches.
On top of the damaged wheel, I have also damaged my spare shoes from rubbing on the tire, and my helmet from hanging on the handlebar when going uphill.
Apart from all, that I had a very close encounter with a snake. I could have touched him with my foot and he could have done the same. I might start wearing my gaiters more often…
Finally I reach the campsite, it is superb: fire pits, river, toilet and bogans nothing is missing in Talbotville.
- Distance: 31.7 km
- Moving time: 3 hours 59 minutes
- Average moving: 7.9 km/h
- Stopped Time: 5 hours 10 minutes
- Ascent: 1,264m
- Descent: 1,407m
- Max Elevation: 1,173m