Inspired by this post, and in search of something fun to do with his visiting cousin Henry, Ollie organised for the three of us to ride from Lithgow to Mittagong. We’d pass Jenolan and Wombeyan caves. The guy who’d written that blog had done it in 11 hours – surely we’d be able to make it in 2 days!
We set off from Lithgow at 9.30am, filled with pastries and hope. After a short bit of highway riding, we turned off and then were on our first hill out of Lake Lyell. Excitement! Dirt! But hard packed, and if you were paying attention you could mostly avoid the corrugations.
The 5km or so between where we met Jenolan Caves Rd, and where Duckmaloi Rd turns off for Oberon, had the most car/truck traffic we saw for the rest of the trip. Once clear of that we had a beautiful run along past Jenolan State Forest (with a brief stop to forage mushrooms).
Then down, down, down into the valley… We relaxed and enjoyed the stunning descent to Jenolan Caves. We ate lunch, watched a platypus swimming in the Blue Lake, took ourselves through the Nettle Cave.
Then reluctantly, we started up the hill back out. Bloody hell it was steep. 4.3km, 11.2% average gradient. I was in my easiest gear from the very start, and even then had to zig-zag towards the top. Ollie caught me up after stopping to take photos, and we had a race in the last 50m, though gentlemen’s discretion prevents me from revealing who won (it was me).
(Above, Ollie models the excellent Vivente World Randonneur touring bicycle. You too could own one of these bikes!)
We rode through pine plantation country, camping somewhere in Gurnang State Forest. Ollie prepared what seemed a giant pot of curry and mushrooms, though we still needed to eat some nuts, chocolate, bread, extra wraps from lunch, and a few other snacks before we felt satisfied. Some amateur stargazing followed, and we were in bed by 7.30pm.
The next day we hopped back into the saddle and set off down some more beautiful country roads, although it would have been nice if there was slightly less pine forest (which my ecologist friend calls the equivalent of a carpark). Eventually we reached the Blue Mountains National Park, and followed the Oberon-Colong Stock Route for a while.
At some point we turned off down the Mt Werong fire trail instead of the Mt Fatigue fire trail. I’m not sure what the condition of the Mt Fatigue fire trail is, but the Mt Werong trail was: Rocky. Sandy. Loose. Steep.
This next photo shows a massive downhill – Henry has just hit the last berm, with Ollie following behind. It was so steep that I was just barely slowing down without locking up my wheels on the loose surface.
There were also some uphills.
And some creek crossings.
And then some uphills that we walked/rode up, depending on how steep/loose/rocky that section was.
Eventually we reached the tarmac on the descent into Wombeyan Caves, which was truly joyous after all that dirt.
We enjoyed lunch, tea, coffee, and several chocolate bars at the Wombeyan Caves kiosk, and then began the climb out, which was extremely gentle in comparison to what we’d become accustomed to. The view from the top was stunning – steep slopes of thick trees, with a thin dirt road winding down the side.
So it was back down, this time descending to the Wollondilly River. This was probably my favourite section of the trip – seemingly endless downhill, swinging around on a dirt road that dropped off in a very threatening way. We felt like we were on some European mountain pass.
If you squint you can almost see Ollie riding past the base of this landslide.
We reached the Wollondilly eventually, and crossed it to start up the hill. Which was, again, exceedingly pleasant and gentle.
We were even treated to some bush humour.
At the top of the hill, we were greeted by Ollie’s mum, come to collect Henry and whisk him away to some other family engagement.
All in all, we had an excellent adventure. However we thought that, if you had 3 days, it would be more fun to do this as a 3-day trip, either camping, or staying at the Jenolan Cabins and then Wombeyan Cabins. That way you’d be able to explore the caves, and not thrash yourself. But then again, we kind of enjoyed trashing ourselves.