The Hunt 1000 - the odyssey that taunts every adventurous offroad bike-packer. Over 1000km in length from Melbourne to Canberra, one would think that was challenging enough. But The Hunt 1000 offers something more. Something that is far more daunting than distance. Climbing.
Bicycle NSW Better Streets Coordinator, Dominic Nevin recently took on this challenge. This is his inspiring story of 12 days on the road.
View from Billy Goats Bluff (Photo: Dominic Nevin)
Crossing the Australian high country, The Hunt 1000 manages to pack in 25,000 metres of elevation. For anyone that's new to the concept - that's a lot. Being equivalent to climbing Everest three times over the course of 10-12 days, it quickly becomes evident that distance is not the main talking point here. It doesn't even make the front page.
At the start line in Edinburgh Gardens a bunch of us wait nervously. All fresh faced and eager to put all our gear, muscle, and knowledge to the test. The invention of a Grand Finish date on December 3rd, instead of a Grand Depart, sprinkles riders out over the course with some aiming to finish in 15 days whilst others try for as low as 5. It becomes clear that this is no race. This, as its founder Dan Hunt so aptly described it, is a beautiful challenge.
My partner Sarah and I are aiming for a 12-day finish and at 11am on Tuesday the 22nd of November, we're finally off. The first day passes nervously. Bikes are adjusted and bags are repositioned and repacked. We ride on some of Melbourne’s best rail trails on our way to Warburton and can’t help but notice the beauty of the landscape we are riding through.
Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail (Photo: Dominic Nevin)
Going into day 2 gives us our first reality check. 116km with 3000 metres of climbing. Turning the pedals steadily on a bumpy offroad track, we inch our way up the first 3-hour climb and down into the beautiful little town of Noojee. The day is rainy and cold, and we hear word that it is snowing at the top of Mount Baw Baw. Thankfully, we've brought a wardrobe for all weather conditions and as we pass 1300 metres, we don long fingered gloves and leg warmers. We grind our way to the top, zigzagging up 30% gradients. Motorists look on bewildered as they pass us by. It takes another 3 hours, but we get there, and descend the other side.
The days roll on, and as we get deeper into this ultra-endurance event, we become familiar with the challenge of gaining over 2000 vertical metres a day. It’s a tough and gruelling task. Each day we are faced with another climb that can stretch on for over 3-hours. Our secret weapon becomes a portable speaker that we threw in at the last minute, and on every climb, we play podcasts, audio books and music. Anything to take our mind off what we feel is truly, the daily grind.
As we get further into the Victorian Alps, the scenery becomes more alpine. Knuckled windswept trees litter the roadside and we get the sense that we are riding on the rooftop of the Victorian alps. Steep drop-offs make for stunning views as we wind our way slowly towards the most infamous challenge of all. Billy Goats Bluff.
A steep uphill section on the descent down Billy Goats Bluff (Photo: Dominic Nevin)
A steep four-wheel drive track that drops 1200 meters in 7km, Billy Goats Bluff is considered one of the hardest drives in Australia. And we were attempting it by bike. Sitting on top of the descent felt like we had a window looking upon the world from above. The track stretched on below, far into the distance. The wind had an icy chill and the descent looked treacherous but exhilarating. Skidding and bumping our way down the trail we quickly checked ourselves and attempted to walk. Part walking, part riding, part sliding we made our way to the bottom. It was hard to believe it was behind us, but gratefully, we rode on.
Rolling through Dargo on Day 5 we felt on top of the world. We’d descended Billy Goats Bluff and were well on our way. But on The Hunt 1000, reality hits fast. 30km up the road, two sharp ascents loomed. 5 and 7 kilometres in length, with an average gradient of 15%, this was true hike-a-bike territory. How 12 kilometres can turn into a 4-hour effort can only be experienced on The Hunt. As the sun slowly descended in the sky behind us, we climbed higher and the views got grander. Pushing, walking, pedalling, we summitted and breathed a sigh of relief.
Hitting the halfway point on day 6 was a momentous occasion. Passing through the small town of Omeo, we rode on to stay at a wilderness retreat that had been kindly booked for all Hunt riders by Dan Hunt. Kicking back around a fire and sharing stories with our fellow riders left us rejuvenated and enthusiastic for the course up ahead. We passed through Benambra, making our way towards the Victorian border where, with a cautious walk across a creaky 19th century bridge that crossed the Murray River, we entered NSW.
Riding through the Jagungle Wilderness Area (Photo: Dominic Nevin)
Climbing out of Khancoban, we faced 40km of steady ascent to the Jagungal Wilderness. Over 4 hours later, we shared the spoils of our efforts. Having all the splendour that only an extreme environment can give, we pedalled on through burnt skeletal trees and pale exposed plains. Rejuvenated by the scenery and inspired by our fellow riders we pushed on to Round Mountain Hut, where we were met by a gathering of tents and bikes on a little knoll beside the alpine way. Taking a quick rinse in a small creek we quickly became acquainted with the alpine chill. It was beyond cold.
The last two days passed quickly and before we knew it, we were riding along Canberra’s urban bike paths, making our way to the finish. Surprised by a welcome party we did not expect, we cross the finish line in a daze of disbelief. Nostalgic and grateful for all the riders we met, memories we made, and experiences we had, it’s hard to believe it’s finally over. Settling in for an afternoon of guilt free eating and being as lazy as we possibly can, we can’t help but look forward to doing it all over again next year.
You can follow more of Dominic and Sarah's adventures on their Instagram @plant_based_overlanders!
Finishers photo with the founder Dan Hunt (Photo: Dominic Nevin)