Bikes; they are wonderful things - governed only by your own sheer lack of effort. Bikes can take you anywhere. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to Google 'Bike Adventures' to see the abundance of places that are ready to take you on.
There are also many ways to conduct a bike adventure - some people like the regime and certainty of the destination; a latte in the morning followed by 10kms of fire road then into the day spa for a nice foot rub.
Well that just sounds whack if you ask me.
Simon, Tom (more on Tom another day) and myself - we like the pick a spot and get lost kind of route.
The three of us decided it was time to escape the well known layouts of single track in the local vicinity and to go and explore a little; with a very rough location and enough supplies tucked into the camper trailer we hit the open road - Majura Pines being the first stop for us on our way through to Batemans Bay.
Majura Pines is what I think the feather in the cap for Canberra's MTB selection - I haven't ridden Stromlo Forest Park (I hear nothing of uninspiring reports about it) and post Kowen MTB parks ride (later in this piece of fine literature) but Majura was right down my alley.
The climbs weren't too tough - the last pinch on Larry was a breath taker but once you know what your climbing for it makes it well worth it.
We never ventured over to the Eastern(?) side of the Pines - sticking with what we were told were the gnarlier descents.
Dropping into the descents your given two choices; either one is amazing and either one you can ride to your limit. There were no moments where I or Simon - who was on a chromoly hardtail, thought "how did we get HERE". Simon did conclude that having some travel would have made the doubles and gap lines a lot more desirable. Tom was too far ahead to consult with... :)
Departing Majura we legged it across to a town called Braidwood based on the false pretences that there was a camping ground in the area - we had planned to stay in Kowen Forest however due to logging that was closed. Options were limited for self sufficient camping and we threw the dart at the board, fuelled up and headed off.
After driving down what we thought was the correct road we pulled into a little gravel pit to collect some firewood - the spot sure smelt horrid and after a quick scout around we discovered what we collectively called 'The Dead Zone'.
'The Dead Zone' must have been the town roadkill/stillborn/gunshot victim dumping ground - there was every type of animal known to man in either skeletal or decomposition form.
From here we travelled into the forest a ways further where I later lost my brand new Kincrome 120 piece set until we finally decided we didn't want to drive into the abyss any more and set up camp on a rocky outlay. The rocky outlay was beneath some very tall Eucalypts and whats better than tall Eucalypts? Tall Eucalypts in gale force winds and dense rain... It was a hairy nights sleep with the weather turning foul and the worry that we would hear the almighty 'crack' that our wonderful flora is well known to do.
Next morning we were up, packed and out of there - heading back out past the dead zone and onto Batemans Bay to find our next destination.
Not much happened at Batemans Bay; we drove in, looked around, stopped at a camping shop (Toms swag was drenched from the night before and he was forced to sleep in the car) and called into the Information Centre. With the invention of the iPhone and Google its easy to think that these vital little hubs are now redundant but I think they serve more of a purpose than ever - the internet can give you false information and hope but the lady behind the counter with the local knowledge and experience isn't out to ruin your few days off!
Mogo was the go - down to the little old mining town and into the forest to ride some more single track.
I really liked Mogo - it was humid and granitic sand like Beechworth but it was covered in lush fern and undergrowth which made it feel little exotic! The trails were poorly sign posted but still a lot of fun - the Snake Pit ( I think it was called) descent was also a lot of fun - super flowy and very safe but fast. Nothing too outrageous to get caught up on.
We spent quite a while riding across a random log that Simon spotted on the way down and I filmed a quick little bite of Tom bashing through a creek crossing. We probably spent longer riding the log than we did riding single track - and thats not a bad thing.
From Mogo we wandered into the Devu forest - a very dense and steep forest drive that is all gravel (but 2wd accessible). Its amazing how many houses are situated along the road which at its farthest point is 45kms from the nearest town. The Devu river system is insanely clear; no trout though only Australian Bass.
We pulled up at the walk in camp spot on the Devu river around about 4pm - it took a little while to drive in and guided only by the under-descriptive map we got from the Information Centre we guessed our way in (well and truly no phone service out there).
It was a nice clear night, no wind and no traffic - not a soul anywhere near (except maybe Fergus who was creeping on us). Thats what it was all about. Oh some wallabies.
The last day... Before packing up and getting out of the Devu forest old mate Fergus showed up out of nowhere and was collecting money for the camp ground fees - yep, Sunday morning he collects $5 from each person for use of the little site. I was going to play the 'I only carry card' story but I think he knew I was a wog and always carried cash. We paid the man after a chat about the area and what it has to offer - there are allot of cave sites around the Devu forest that I would like to go back and explore later on. Cheers Fergus you weird old sod.
We shot out of the Devu forest and back into Braidwood (The home of the Dead Zone) fuelled up and back across to Queanbeyan for some riding at Kowen MTB Park.
Not one of us had ever ridden Kowen - and only one of us will probably every go back! Its not that its a bad place; the trails were well laid out and sign posted, it all linked up nicely. But it was so damn flat and smooth! Hardtail delight! It was good to pedal the legs out a little after the last couple of days and it actually teaches you a bit about your bike control - its a chance to get off the brakes and see how far you can lean over, push into the berm, pedal out... Sometimes riding steep descents you don't have the chance to push your safety limits and learn those little things.
The end of the 20kms at Kowen meant it was time to head on home - I wasn't really ready ( I missed the missues and the dogs), another 7 days of the adventure is what I needed. But Simon had to go back to work and Tom and I decided we would spend the following day digging some single track locally.
What did I learn on this trip - Tom really hates flat single track, what GeoCaching is, how far I can push my bike into certain situations, better ways to set up my bike, Simon has NOT seen Hot Tub Time Machine... the list goes on and on.
I didn't learn any of it from Google, Facebook, a blog or forum; I learnt it all from two of my buddies whilst the phone was off and the traffic wasn't there.
Do youself a favor - pack up the bike, some buddies and go get lost; even if its just over the weekend. You'll come back a better person every time.