We had an indulgent day of doing nothing in Thredbo, enjoying the comforts of the YHA and eating well. Rain showers came through as predicted so it was nice to be in the dry.
Legs were fresh for the climb up the road to Dead Horse Pass – a local had warned us there would be quite a bit of pushing if we followed the river track so we avoided it. We turned onto the Cascade track that lead us through the Pilot Wilderness area. We followed the track up a beautiful valley with enjoyable riding back up to 1800m and rode a fun descent to the historic Cascade Hut and onto the larger Tin Mine huts. Continuous ups and fast downs along the Cowombat track took us to the Victorian border at the Cowombat camping area. By the time we reached the Bulley Creek informal campsite we had accumulated 1700m of ascent and similar descent. Time to call it a day.
The next day (day 7 of riding) we veered off the 2018 Hunt route and followed the Limestone Black mountain road west to shortcut onto the 2016 route which would save us 1300m of climbing, 30km’s and what looked like a fair bit of pushing. Call us soft or call us discerning! We had 35km of paved road to the small Victorian town of Omeo and found good eating and accommodation at the Hilltop Hotel. The town is set to get a lot busier with the nearby gold mine getting back into action and 200kms of local bike trails promised by the government in the near future.
We were on the road by 6 for the paved road climb to Mt Hotham ski resort. En route the small ski resort of Dinner Plain surprised us with an open cafe and a yummy brunch (open Wed through Sun in the summer). Mt Hotham was only another 10km and the only business open pre Xmas rush was The General (hotel, general store and accommodation). The Ski Club lodges offer reasonably priced accommodation but none were open so we wrangled a deal for an apartment at the General. At less than 1/4 of the winter rate we were happy to enjoy a wee bit of luxury.
The forecast for the next day was pretty bad so we planned a rest day with perhaps a move 4km to Diamantina hut late in the day. We missed the only weather window eating a late lunch so ended up with a 2nd night of luxury. West of the dividing range at Wallangata there were big floods because of a weather bomb and a recorded 230mm rain in a 7 hour period.
We left Hotham in the rain and low cloud early the next morning (day 9 of riding) and after 11km on the Great Alpine Rd turned left on the Dargo High Plains dirt road. We rode through some heavy rain showers and with the road not dropping below 1200m for 60km we got pretty wet and cold. But there came a brightening and pretty soon the sun was out and all was good again.
The last 20km dropped us a fast 1000m to Dargo (population 80). The town has a general store/cafe and a hotel. We ate, talked to locals and waited out a thunderstorm before the last 10km to a lovely camp beside the Wonnangatta river. Our stats for the day were surprising – an impressive 3000m of total descent to our camp at 150m, from our starting point at 1700m, so doing the maths the uphills added up to 1450m, our horizontal was 95km and it is the lowest altitude we have been since transiting at Melbourne airport. It is nice to be camping again after 3 nights in accommodation especially with the ceasing of the claps of thunder and rain and nearby sound of rifle shots of what we hope is shooting practice!