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The Caves and Country Route, Day 1: Mittagong to Wombeyan Caves

Alia Parker's picture
Cycling in Nattai National Park, Wombeyan Caves Road, on the Caves and Country Route. Source: Cycle Traveller.

Distance: 63km
Cumulative elevation gain: 1,300m
Cumulative elevation drop: 1,340m
Average slope: 3%
Maximum slope: 14%

Get into Mittagong early because while today is only a 63km ride, there's a lot of climbing and it's all on dirt. There are some nice cafes in town if you would like to start your day with a hearty breakfast and there are also a few supermarkets if you haven't yet stocked up on supplies.

You'll need two-days worth of food because you won't come through another town until you reach Crookwell at the end of the second day. Take enough water for the whole first day.

Leaving Mittagong, you'll ride along a decent shoulder for about 4km until you turn right onto the dirt at Wombeyan Caves Road. This is where the fun begins. You'll gradually work your way higher throughout the morning and the mountainous bush scenery along the edge of Nattai National Park will get better the higher you climb. The dirt road is well packed and in good condition, although some parts can get a little bumpy due to water ruts and there are some loose rocks on the road.

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There's a lot of wildlife about on Wombeyan Caves Road and we were lucky enough to see kangaroos, an echidna, owls, parrots and cockatoos. Unfortunately, we saw more wombats that we would have liked -- all road kill -- and I stopped counting once the death toll got into the double digits, a staggering amount given the road has a reasonably low volume of traffic.

You should emerge into some farmland at the top of the hill at about 33km. This is the half-way mark and there is a small patch of grass and rock to the right-hand side of the road that makes a nice informal picnic spot. You'll then have a nice downhill run, easing you into the afternoon ride.

You'll pass the Wollondilly River at about 48km and this marks the start of your afternoon climb. It's a non-stop grind of 11.5km to the top of the pass and you'll be gaining more than 500m in elevation. The last few kilometres downhill into Wombeyan Caves are fun.

There's a campground here with both tent camping and comfortable dorm accommodation, which includes a heater. The camp office here may close early, so if you plan to stay in the dorm, book ahead and the office will leave the key out for you. There are communal cooking facilities here as well, but make sure you have some $2 coins if you plan to use the stove or oven.

There's a small kiosk at Wombeyan Caves with some snacks and you can also grab a coffee here in the morning, but don't rely on it as your main source of food and be aware that if you get into Wombeyan Caves late, it may have already closed for the day. If you are relying on picking up some supplies here, call the Wombeyan Caves office on 02 4843 5976 to confirm when the kiosk will be open and what's in stock prior to leaving Mittagong.

If you would like to see the caves, it may be a good idea to add an extra day to your itinerary to enjoy the area because it will be a full day of riding on Day 2 to Crookwell. The Caves are open between 9am-4pm. More information is available on the Wombeyan Karst Conservation Reserve website.

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Image: Cycling through Nattai National Park on Wombeyan Caves Road. Source: Cycle Traveller.

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