Day 22: Hay

What a great ride today was; 148km from Griffith to Hay with a tail wind! Better even than this was the route I took.  The main road goes from Griffith to Darlington Point on the Murrumbidgee River and then follows the Sturt Highway another 115km to Hay on the south side of the river. I took the north side road.

Murrumbidgee River Road

This road has 10km unsealed dirt; it is overstating it to say that it is a metal road. But the 10km was still capable of being covered at 20km per hour. It keeps the semis and most traffic off the road, so that I saw 11 cars in 101km, less than the number of cars I saw on the last 15km into Hay where the road joins the Mid Western Highway.

The road goes close to the river, unlike the Sturt Highway. A couple of times I could have slid off the bitumen down into a backwater of the river. There are some massive irrigation areas along the road, and everything is overgrown and thriving from the rains.

Carathool is about half way between Darlington Point and Hay, a little inland from the  river. Thanks to theMurrumbidgee from the roadcool weather I did not need to ride up to get water but continued straight on. Past the Carathool turn off the road moves further away from the river, but this second half was also much wetter. Water birds were constantly taking off from the roadside and I would find when I looked carefully that the table drains were full of water.

Murrumbidgee Forest

On one occasion, here in the far inland, I found a fresh fish lying on the middle of the bitumen! I can only assume that some high fight got so serious, that no one had the energy left to go and reclaim the booty that caused the ructions! I’ve never actually found a fish on the road before.

Murrumbidgee Forest

The bitumen is mostly a cyclist’s dream, smooth and fast. It has suffered from the weather, and for a few kilometres I  could hear it crackling underneath as I rode over. This is a sure sign it is breaking up.  In Hindmarsh in Adelaide they have a significant tree near one of the major bike paths on the Torrens west of the city. To protect the tree they have a few metres of a kind of tarred carpet, which is permeable to water, instead of bitumen. It feels like riding on... carpet.  For a few stretches today, the bitumen had patches that felt like that. I  could feel them slowing me down, pulling at the bike, and yet could see no track where I had passed.

Murrumbidgee Forest

I could hardly complain about speed. I averaged 24.7km for the trip, which is faster even than yesterday, my fastest day so far. I’m very glad not to have been riding into the wind; speeds would have been below 20 for sure.

The Murrumbidgee

I was astonished by the sheer size of the irrigation I saw. A 200+ acre paddock of pumpkins is astonishing. There was an olive grove which literally disappeared over the horizon, and vineyards that appeared to go

Olives as far as I could see

Olives as far as I could see back over a mile from the road. I  also saw large irrigated paddocks of Sudax or Sorghum, again in the  hundreds of acres, and other grain crops I  could not identify. I saw trickle irrigation on one young fruit orchard, but most everything else was being run with flood irrigation out  of channels, which is hugely inefficient in water usage.

The north road has no verge. Mind you, there is no white line, either.  Weeds are growing across the road, with the richest Caltrop (Cathead) I have ever seen spilling across the tarmac like swathes of pumpkin. The Khaki Weed is like lawns, and Portulaca Weed is thriving, all along with pasture grasses. Someone had been droving cattle along part of the road. The feed is so rich they were leaving a trail like a dairy herd fresh off a swamp!

In one place I sprang a flock of water birds which were as numerous as the big mobs of cockies we used to see  almost darken the sky as kids. When I followed the signs down to find Captain Sturt’s marked tree ( I couldn’t find it!) the Murrumbidgee was constantly plopping with baby fish chasing insects, and eddying with a deceptively languid current. The country is awash with life. It has clearly been a couple of metres higher than it is at present.

A great day.

Tomorrow the target is Balranald, 130km further west. No stops. Rain forecast, but also east winds.

 

There is something wrong with this sign!

 

 

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