Cycle Touring Near Sydney: Marulan to Nowra

M2N2

An open stretch of rolling pastureland along Oallen Ford Rd in the Southern Highlands.

Essentials:

  • Total distance ~150km / 2 days
  • ~80km day one to Nerriga / ~5 hours
  • ~70km day two to Nowra / ~3 hours, mostly downhill after initial climb to the pass
  • Total vertical ascent over two days ~1100m
  • Train, Sydney Central to Marulan departs daily 5.21pm from platform 22. Change at Campbelltown. Arrive Marulan ~8.30pm
  • Train Bomaderry (Nowra) Station to Sydney Central departs every two hours on weekends, roughly on the half hour. Change at Kiama. Total travel time ~3 hours.
  • Check train timings at http://www.transportnsw.info/
  • Total trip time: ~48 hours (Leave Sydney 5.30pm Friday, Arrive Sydney 5.00pm Sunday)
  • Total cost: Accommodation = $0, Transportation = $11.50 (Opal card), Food = $45
  • Route: (Marulan) Hume Hwy to Jerrara Rd to Oallen Ford Rd to Braidwood Rd. to Albatross Dr (Nowra)
  • Navigation: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 / Google Maps
  • Photography: Samsung Galaxy Note 3

…..

Inspired by the fine folks at Omafiets (my local bike shop in Sydney), I decided this was the weekend for the two-day, ~150km ride between the town of Marulan in the NSW Southern Highlands and the south coast town of Nowra.

I hopped a train after work on Friday with my Surly Disc Trucker from Sydney Central Station, a 5.21pm departure with a change at Campbelltown to a smaller regional train service (with bike racks!) on the same platform. This 3-hour journey runs only once a day at this time, so it’s best to go straight after work on a Friday if you’re keen to do the ride on a weekend.

I arrived into Marulan in the cold at nearly 9pm, having gotten off at a station 10km early in the dark and cycling the difference to town. At this hour the little town centre is effectively buttoning up for the night, so if you’re after something more substantial than a beer at the town pub, you’re best off having eaten already or bringing your own food.

Stealth camping spot hidden behind the soccer fields at Marulan.

Stealth camping spot hidden behind the soccer fields at Marulan.

I knew I’d be getting an early start in the morning, so I scoped out a convenient camping spot hidden between some pine trees and a fenced pasture behind the town’s athletic fields. It gets down to near freezing in the Southern Highlands at the beginning of winter, so I was well rugged-up in a 3-season sleeping bag and bivy with thermals on, and slept comfortably thru the night, awakened by sheep grazing a few feet away who’d been turned out to pasture at dawn.

A couple of kilometres along the shoulder of the Hume Hwy and I was off south onto Jerrara Rd, riding the undulating hills down thru the town of Bungonia and onto Oallen Ford Rd. Like much of this ride, it’s quite difficult to find a place to wild camp along these roads as almost all land is fenced, making the area around Marulan town itself a better spot for the night.

Because why shouldn't there be a

Because why shouldn’t there be a “Smurf the Llama Farmer”?

About 30km in, I stopped at Johnno’s Corner General Store and Takeaway, the region’s lone commercial instuitution, selling essentials like dry goods, hot crab rolls and rat baits, as well as that supremely desireable quantity: longnecks of cold beer. One of these I decanted into a 1L plastic bottle and then headed on my way after an altogether pleasant thirty minutes of country-style chin-wag with taciturn Johnno and his more loquacious wife, filling my water bottles at a tap before I left.

The couple had recommended as a camp spot what turned out to be a dismal caravan park at Oallen Ford itself, where a new, under-construction bridge span was in the process of replacing the old plank bridge that I rumbled across, briskly passing this offical ‘campsite’ by.

Wombats ahead.

Wombats ahead.

The road wound south for hours through the golden grasses and scattered trees of pastureland as I admired flights of crimson-breasted rosellas and wrinkled my nose at the regular appearance of hulking roadkill wombats, plus the occassional mashed and headless kangaroo. Oallen Ford Road bent east towards its end and I followed it, my legs firmly shot after 80km and almost 700 vertical metres of climbing, into the highlands town of Nerriga.

Nerriga has a pub, the Nerriga Hotel, and the Nerriga Hotel has altogether reasonable chips and hamburgers and schooners of beer and friendly locals and a wood stove that is an unqualified godsend after you have been cycling into a 10-degree C headwind for much of the day.

Not ready for the long climb up to the pass thru Morton National Park a few kilometres past the edge of town, and with the air already growing nippy at the end of day, I found a lovely stealth camping spot behind a wooded berm off the highway where the presence of a drainage channel pushed the fence-line of the property fifty metres back from the road. The 80 or so kilometres had taken five hours in total.

Camping outside Nerriga.

Camping outside Nerriga.

Asleep at dark and up at dawn and with the night very cold, I rose in the morning to eastern grey kangaroos grazing nearby, then packed my panniers and churned up to the pass before beginning the long, mostly gradual descent towards the coast, 400m or so up on the day but nearly 1000m down, catching sight of the ocean blue on the horizon from the top of the mountains. It was down down down into Nowra then, stopping for a kebab near the train station at Bomaderry where the proprietor had adorned the wall with a single framed picture of a head of iceberg lettuce, as if he were proud that it was the first in the family to go to college. From Bomaderry Station, a short jump (departure every two hours) leads up to Kiama, with regular services back into Sydney. Total travel time returning on the train, three hours. From the train window, as in a state of great exhaustion and happiness I listened to obnoxious bogan teenagers ostentatiously swearing, I saw paths running along the rocky seaside, thinking to myself that those would certainly merit a return visit.

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