The Golden Black Track
Words & photos by Harry Harris
I didn’t growing up riding bikes. My brother was the sporty one and I was the bookworm. I didn’t learn to ride a bike properly until I was probably 29, and I am now 31. I’d always had peculiar injuries growing up that seemed to come and go. My body ached and I never seemed to heal properly.
I started having dislocations when I was 15; out popped my right patella, a thumb, a shoulder etc. I was later diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos syndrome in 2019, a connective tissue disorder which means your body doesn’t produce enough collagen and that’s why I had poor healing time and the dislocations.
This is probably why I felt adversely towards sports, I was always really afraid that if I moved the wrong way, something would give out. Anytime I start a new hobby, I get intensely obsessed with learning everything about it, and go all in. Like when I realised I liked hiking, right away I bought a dehydrator to start making my own meals.
When I discovered that bike packing existed, I decided I was going to get a proper bike and learn to ride. I fell in love with it quickly. I felt the freedom immediately (well, after the fear of riding itself eased up). I finally found a power in my body, an ability within my body that I had never felt before. It’s the first time I’ve felt strong. That feeling of strength gave me the encouragement and motivation to start a specialised weight training regime and I have not had a dislocation since.
My first bike packing trip was the Wangaratta to Bright trail last year. I had about 20kg of gear strapped to my bike and thought I was going pretty lightweight. Ha!
My friend was with me and it was also her first time and she was pretty much crying by the end of it as we didn’t yet know about bike shorts and the friction was all too real.
We stayed in caravan parks as we felt that we had back up utilities if we had forgotten something. This year I decided to do a solo trip where I would find my own camp sites rather than using caravan parks. It was the Golden Black track scoped out by Nick Hansen. He posts everything about the route on his site: https://nixtrader.wordpress.com/
I had not been able to do any longer rides since lockdown so my bike legs had very much disappeared.
The Golden Black Track – Day 1
I started out in Murchison where there are heaps of spots along the river and it’s all free camping. After packing up my gear and tent I rode the 65kms to Dargile reserve, going towards Heathcote. My GPS took me through a track to get to the site that wasn’t ridable and only just walkable. I didn’t make it all the way to the reserve because I found a clearing that was amazing. White trees everywhere and a dam. There was no drinkable water though so I was lucky to have my cranktank with me as it has a 4L capacity.
Being on my own in the middle of the bush was amazingly peaceful. I got a better view of how insignificant I am when everything is so vast, and it’s a relief when everyday decisions can feel like they carry a heavy and important weight.
I am a nurse and working during covid was so stark in comparison to being in the beautiful bush space. It was such a relief to be out there and only having to be thinking about shelter, water and food. I felt safe in this spot. There was no one near and I bush bashed to get there so I doubted that I would see anyone.
The ride itself was type 2 fun. I loved the first 30kms and the last 35 were a slog that I pretended I hated but a part of me loved. The biggest struggle was the mental struggle. It was a slow ascent and the elevation was not huge, but the consistency of the elevation was exhausting. I kept reminding myself that we don’t reap the rewards of cycling struggles until after the fact and that the hard part today is going to make my ride in two days much easier. It helped a little but not much. It was quite warm and so I had sun screened myself but ended up pulling off layers and forgot to sunscreen the new bits of exposed skin and did end up quite crispy. The other thing is that when I am riding I don’t have an appetite and I can’t tell when I’m thirsty. On day 3 I ended up setting myself a drink and snack alarm. I really need to work on the nutrition side of things. I’m not really sure what works for me in this regard.
The Golden Black Track – Day 2-3
The next day was a short ride to Heathcote where I stayed in a caravan park as my folks were there. I was fed homemade pizza and cocktails, so the mental struggle was absolutely fine on this day. After saying goodbye to my folks I set off again.
My body felt fine on movement, but my quads were definitely sore to touch, not made any easier for the absolute lack of sleep. I think I got 3 hours over the last 2 days, so my muscles had no time to recover. I just couldn’t get a proper pillow configuration. Pesky pillows. I am just going to have to buy a really UL tent to make up for bringing my actual pillow from home.
Even though there was a lack of sleep I still had a real energy buzz, maybe because I knew I had to keep riding to get back to transport. I rode from Heathcote to Greens campground and passed through Rushworth to have the obligatory bakery visit and some choccie milk.
This was around a 60km day and when I rocked up to the campground I was pretty zombified. There were others camping here and I noticed myself feeling a bit nervous. One dude lived in a caravan there and was pretty wasted. When he peeked his head into my tent when I was having a nap, I felt a bit vulnerable. He turned out to be alright and I think because he lives out there he was probably just in need of chatting to people.
I felt a little bit uneasy in this spot and was wondering how to put myself at ease as a solo female bike packer. I haven’t figured this out yet.
Final Day Reflections
I rode back to Murchison the next day (just a short 25km one) and headed home from there. I only saw 5 cars on the track for the entirety of the trip which was awesome. It was 95% gravel. I’d definitely use a GPS as it would be super easy to get lost. I mostly rode through state and national parks.
It was tiring and rejuvenating, and as I was riding I was thinking ‘I fucking hate this. Why am I doing this!?’ but was then planning the next one on my way home. I have heard that this is a common experience.
I also found myself judging myself for how hard I found it considering people like Sarah Hammond who would eat the trail before I even got to my first camp spot on day 1. But had to remind myself that 65kms is something I would have never thought I could do a few months ago, especially with a loaded up bike, and now I have done it, slowly for sure, but done none the less.