Campbelltown to Buxton via: Menangle, Picton and Thirlmere
I rode down to Fairfield Railway Station and caught the train to Campbelltown. I was running later than expected. I had wanted to get onto the 8:10am train, but ended up on the 9:10am train. I slept in just a little. I got to Campbelltown Railway Station at 9:46am. There is a train at 9:54 which goes to Macarthur (it comes via the Airport and East Hills Line). I got off at Campbelltown to go to the camping store in the spotlight centre. It's gone. A pity, because years earlier when I was in the Navy Cadets I used to get a lot of gear from there.
Bicycle Lane on Menangle Road, Macarthur.
I rode down the Hurley Street to Macarthur Square and made a right turn on Bolger Street then a left onto Menangle Road. I thought that things bode well for me initially, as I was surprised to find a cycle lane and then a cycle path which ran parallel with Menangle Street for some way. Unfortunately, this was not to last, as all too soon I was riding on the verge, which was quite a good quality and width for bicycles. I found most of the next 10km or so into Menangle had a good verge for most of it's length, and I only needed to ride on the roadway proper for short sections.
Nepean River Reserve
Just past Menangle bridge I found Nepean River Resevre which conveniently had a public toilet. A good time to apply the 3B cream to my nether-regions, which I had neglected to do earlier. There was only one bit of a climb which wasn't too difficult and the ride was fairly pleasant into Menangle, where I arrived at 11:00am, and treated myself to a meat pie and an isotonic sports drink. I explained my trip to the people sitting in from of the local store and they had a look in their eyes which I discovered the meaning to later on. They even suggested I ride to the railway station to catch a train to Picton! On my way out of Menangle, I saw that there was a Catholic Church there. I resolved to do some better research so that I could fulfil my faith requirements on a future trip.
"The Store" at Menangle
Out of Menangle there are a couple of scary-looking hills. In fact there are about 5 big climbs over the next 20km or so which took a lot out of me. After about 2 or 3 of these hills was a very long downhill leading towards Douglas Park. I sailed past Camden Road at about 50 km/hr or so (I dread to think what sort of panic I would have been in if I had a speedo to tell me exactly how fast I was going). On my trip back I saw that there were a few local shops on Camden Road, close to the Railway Station, so if you are seeking refreshment, there is a place to get it in Douglas Park. Once I sailed past Douglas Park, I was committed to Picton. There was no turning back!
About 3 big climbs and downhills between Douglas Park and Picton. By the time I reached the end of Menangle Road, I was in high spirits, but my legs were not. I turned right onto Picton Road and made the slow ride with jelly legs into Picton. I made it onto Argyle Street, and I pulled over, and sat down in the shade for a while. A local asked me where I was from and I explained the trip I had just undertaken. He was amazed that I hadn't had a heart attack! 1:10pm I was in Picton, so I did a good job getting there. I mentioned wanting an electric-assist motor on my bicycle.
The end of Menangle Road, and the start of the road into Picton.
Further down the road I saw another Catholic Church and enquired about services at the neighbouring convent. The Sister who answered the door was very generous and offered me a cold lemonade which I eagerly accepted. I then went all the way to the Corner of Menangle Street and Argyle Street to visit the local tourist information centre. The guy there turned out to be a member of the Bargo BUG and was very helpful in explaining the hills around the area and offering advice on the best ways to take. I was there about an hour finding out about accommodation and places to go and things to do.
From Picton I headed to Thirlmere along Argyle Street. DON'T TAKE THE THIRLMERE WAY! It has a very nasty hills which made me almost feint just looking at it. I headed further along until Bridge Street which was mostly uphill, but very gentle. About a kilometre out of Thirlmere, my water supply ran down very low. I was fortunate in a local resident filling up two of my water bottles for me and having a short chat, letting me know where the shops were in Thirlmere. I proceeded down to the end of Bridge Street and turned left onto Thirlmere Way. There is actually a Cycleway which takes you to Tahmoor if you wish to follow it, but this wasn't part of my planned trip. It was already late in the day (about 3:30pm) and I wanted to get to my camp site before dark. I turned right at the round-about, crossed the railway line and turned left at the next round-about onto Barbour Road, which heads straight into Buxton.
The road from Thirlmere to Buxton was the hardest section. Not that it was a steep climb or anything, but after 35km with several steep hills to wear me out, I was thoroughly exhausted. Barbour Road turned into West Parade, which parallels the Picton-Mittagong loop line. I came to Couridjah and rested a while before proceeding into Buxton.
In Buxton I stopped at the local newsagents and bought 500ml of milk to cook dinner and help me sleep (as though I needed any help!) I then went all the way through Buxton and turned right onto Boundary Road. This street has a curve at the end and a small road heading down, which is listed in most places as Government Road. I followed this to the end to a locked gate. Beyond the locked gate is the Nattai National Park, where you are permitted to camp for free as long as you follow hiking camp minimum-impact techniques. If your bike isn't too heavy you can pass it through the gate frame (you'll figure it out once you are there). I camped in a spot down the path onto the right. Don't go far, because there are steep drops around. It looks like one part used to be a quarry years ago.
Dome, Sweet Dome Tent, Nattai National Park, near Buxton
You would never have known that I was there - the art of stealth camping.
Water in a big hole near my camp site.
I cooked dinner on an army hexamine stove (69-cent coles pasta mix). Apparently it needed butter - oh well I just made with water and milk and it turned out okay. I chained up my bike against a tree (force of habit), climbed into my tent and rested. After dark I needed to go to the toilet - great! torches and head-lantern out. Walked some distance away, turned over some dirt and did my business - covered it over with dirt, washed my hands with some disinfectant wash, drank some water and went to sleep (9:00pm).
I awake at about 7:00am. 10 hours of sleep. I gave myself a disinfectant wash in my vital areas and then applied the 3B again. Muesli bars for breakfast. I packed up my gear and made sure that my previous night's business was properly covered. I took some pictures of my camp site, and once I was packed up - you'd never have known that I was there save for some disturbed direct, footprints and tire tracks. A local resident was up and kindly let me dispose of my rubbish in his bin.
The ride back to Thirlmere was easy. It's basically downhill all the way, with a few small climbs out of the dips. "Every uphill has an equal and opposite downhill". In Thirlmere I met up with some colleagues from the Australian Air League and discussed things with them and told them about my adventure. Yes, Menangle Road is hilly. No, I'm not doing it again in a hurry. No, I'm not going home that way either. I rode around Thirlmere enjoying the sights and sounds of the festival. I didn't have much money left over, so I figured I should just enjoy the best of free things in life. The highlight was the gala parade at about 1:30pm.
My steel steed and me, at Thirlmere.
At about 4pm I decided it was time to head home. I took Bridge Street back into Picton, turned right onto Prince Street and then found my way to Picton Railway Station. I arrived just before 4:30pm and had a good chat with the local station staff and a couple of other blokes who were on the station with their bicycles. One fellow was from Engadine and he also loved getting around on bicycle - he didn't own a car any more. He as very impressed when I recounted my travel story. 4:55pm I boarded the train home. Changed trains at Campbelltown, train to Fairfield and a short ride back to my home. Mother was glad to see me. I was glad to see her, a nice bath, home-made dinner and glass of white wine.
Locomotive 3642 of the NSWR at Picton.
Now that I am laying in my bed, typing on my laptop, I think to myself was it worth it - YES. Would I do it again tomorrow - HELL NO! I'd wait until I had lighter-weight gear and had money so that I could buy most of my food at my destination instead of carrying it there.
My advice to anyone else who would attempt this trip:
1.) Be a weight-weenie and save as much as you can. My 3-man tent weighs 3kg's. A Mosquito camping net and fly sheet weigh about 1kg.
2.) Buy your food there. There are shops about every 10km.
3.) Carry Lots of water - I had 7.5 litres, and almost ran out before I got there.
4.) Check the weather. It was over 30 degrees on the Saturday.
5.) When you see a scary hill, don't give up. Once I was past Douglas Park I was commited to Picton, no matter what. On some hills I stopped several times to rest and catch my breath. I made it eventually!
Now that I have completed this trip, I won't moan at the hills on local Brenan Street any more. They are ant-hills compared to what I found on Menangle Road.
According to http://www.whereis.com.au/ the whole trip from Campbelltown to Buxton was 46km - which is what I would normally ride over the course of about a week!