Bek and Steff's
China Challenge
2 - 14 Dec 06

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Undulating Hills of the Southern Highlands

When a mad keen cyclist provides a possible route with the description:
"One or two interesting hills on this section but they are not body breakers"
and the area through which you are cycling contains the word "Highlands" as a poetic description instead of using the more accurate word of "Mountains", take the words with a grain of salt and follow the directions with caution!! The ride was absolultely exhausting.

By way of background...

Yesterday Team Canberra (yes, both Bek and Steff) continued with their Sunday afternoon training tradition but couldn't face another Canberra bike track. We thought that a change of scenery was necessary and decided to drive the one and a half hours from Canberra to NSW's Southern Highlands.

Here is a map of the area which I have pinched from the Southern Highlands Indulgence website. I would recommend visiting their site as their map is larger and completely interactive - it is possible to link through to more detailed maps of the towns named.

My godmother and her husband live in Willow Vale, a little spot just out of Mittagong. As Greg is an avid cyclist, I consulted him for an appropriate ride route. He kindly provided us with a list of possible rides. We narrowed the list down by excluding rides with descriptions such as:

- Approximately 11 kilometres of dirt road;
- Fire trails – fairly rough; and
- This ride has a creek crossing which may be awkward after

We chose the Four Towns Ride. I'll translate based on the original description...

"Route: From the car park at the rear of Bowral’s Empire Cinema" - the Empire Cinema is hard to find because it is closed for renovations. So, we parked near where the map said the cinema was!

"ride via Station Street and join the Biketrack to Moss Vale entering Moss Vale via Suttor Road." - after a wrong turn, we found the bike track which was a lovely (mostly downhill) ride along the river. You'll share the track with kids on scooters, parents with prams and the occasional dog.

"Take Lackey Road to Berrima for a short break.(Approx 20 km)" - Lackey Road is a long, flat road along the railway line and after a while of going straight you'll wonder if you're on the right path - you are! After a couple of name changes, the road goes past Ingham's factory and you turn onto another road which has a decent hill but an awesome downhill ride* into Berrima. We stopped for a picnic in Berrima, and a good thing too cos we needed the energy the food gave us!

*We clocked our fastest speed at 50.8km/h!

"From Berrima travel along the Old Hume Highway to Mittagong. One or two interesting hills on this section but they are not body breakers." - Almost immediately past all the antique and crafty stores in Berrima we met our first real hill. They just don't make 'em like that in Canberra! After travelling up the hill in what I believe is called the 'granny gear' (ie. the lowest gear on my bike!) there is a small bend in the road which is very deceptive. The hill doesn't end there, it keeps going!
The second hill is almost immediately after you've recovered by coasting down the first hill. And it's worse. For Bek and I, this was the body breaker! Not far from the top we had to get off the bikes and push them to the crest.

"Along Range Road out of Mittagong to the Old South Road intersection and take a right turn back to Bowral. This section includes a long uphill and a great downhill which simply proves the old adage “What goes up must come down”, “ No pain, no gain”, etc, etc. Along the Bowral biketrack to the finish." - We cheated and didn't take this option. Having completed 40kms of "undulating" hills we called Aunty Kath and cycled to her place for afternoon tea. We found out that Range Road would have been the worst of the hills, so we'll leave that for another day!

A big thanks to Greg for the ride and to Aunty Kath for warning about Range Road and providing the alternative route of coffee and fresh muffins, and for their very generous donation to Oxfam!

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