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Bicycle Riding Holiday Around Goulburn: Prologue

After my mid-life gap year, after my foray back into American politics, I came home to Sydney and began looking for work. In time, I got a temp position, which became a permanent position and, with permanence, came paid leave. This is the first paid leave I’ve been eligible for this century, it’s such a novel concept it’s taken me a while to get around to using it for a holiday.

During the week of Anzac Day 2018 I wanted to go for a bicycle ride someplace quiet and beautiful. I settled on the area around Goulburn, New South Wales – about two-thirds of the way from Sydney to Canberra.

This is the telling of that journey in words and pictures. I’ve split each day into three pieces – the story, some history, and the details (of route, accommodation and food). I’ll enjoy writing it, as I hope some will enjoy reading it.

Thursday 19 April 2018

The story:

I’m on holiday! And that’s a wonderful feeling. Strange and wonderful. I have a full week off. I’m leaving town. I’m getting paid for it. The last time I took holiday time and was paid for it was in 1999 or 2000. So, I’m feeling relaxed and excited for the week to come.


When I went on my midlife gap-year I got Spot Gen 3  – an emergency beacon. But as they (ridiculously) only offer an annual subscription (for US$199.99) I won’t be taking it with me on this trip. But as I’ll be riding solo and on (hopefully) lightly trafficked back roads through a region where I’m likely to be out of mobile range I’ve asked my friend Vickianne to be my spotter.

I’ve provided her the details of my expected route and the accommodation I’ve booked. I’ll ring, text, or Messenger her every night. If she doesn’t hear from me by sundown she’ll start looking for me. She’s happy to do it; I’m happy to have her do it. It would suck to have a broken leg on the side of a road and have no one even know I’m missing.

Friday 20 April 2018

The Story

The day is sunny but cool. I don’t leave for Goulburn until late afternoon, so I spend a leisurely day getting ready and become increasingly giddy about going on holiday. I even find myself singing little holiday diddies and dancing about the flat.

I ride to Central station to catch the 4 pm train from to Goulburn. The train leaves from platform two – which is the part of the station from which the long-distance trains depart. Simply leaving form those platforms adds a little excitement to the journey for me.

Smiling woman with train in the background
Happy to be going on holiday!

I spend the three hours looking at scenery until the sun sets and reading Papillion which I got from the library this morning on my friend Maryanne’s suggestion. I’ve removed Facebook from my phone, I’m aiming to have a device-light week. We’ll see if I can hold out.

It is fully dark under a star-filled sky when I disembark at Goulburn. The air is autumn-crisp and, at 702 metres (2,303 feet) elevation, decidedly cooler than Sydney. I’ve booked into a motel near the station and am soon rolling my bicycle into the lobby.

The receptionist asks about my ride and I describe my plans: Collector, Gunning, Crookwell, Taralga, and back to Goulburn. A woman sitting in the reception area warns me of the roads – that trucks and people coming from further west use them and they are, at times, narrow and without a verge. She knows someone who was a lollipop man near Crookwell and a tradie drove at him most days, just for a laugh.

I’m planning on visiting the tourism information centre in the morning to get their advice. But for now, I store my stuff in my room and go find dinner.

Red neon signs saying
It’s hard to go past the Paragon

How could I go past the Paragon Café? “Serving Goulburn Since the Early 1940s”. I’ve been here a few times before – it’s good, I like it, I keep coming back, but it’s never quite as charming as I expect.

It’s an old-school Greek-Australian institution serving Italian and Greek food plus cakes and ice creams. They have booths, and a long counter, an arched façade held up by columns. They have fantastic neon signs and there is an ANZAC Day Lest We Forget painted on the window.

Since the 1940s it’s been owned by Jim Sophios and Jack Simos; Steve and June Karagis; Michael and Cynthia Pandelakis; Jim, Theo and Nick Karkatzis; John, Nick, and Con Nissirios; Nick, Arthur, and Bill Distas; the Kontos and Ganiatsos families; later the Ganiatsos family retired and were replaced by the Fatouros family; but since 2007 it’s been in the sole ownership of the Kontoses – Peter and Maria and their children George and Anastasia.

Three country teenagers, maybe 15 years old, just came in – one in a checked shirt and those fringe-tongued boots you only see on country people. I bet they get sundaes. I just saw one come over the counter – in a glass dish, heaped with whipped cream and toppings.

I’ve ordered the lasagne and veggies with a glass of house red.  The meal is tasty but not as hot as I would have liked. Still … the holiday is good so far. Time to go see a movie.

This is a different Australia than the one I inhabit most of the time. Sydney is a mosaic of multiculturalism and a mix of families long resident in Australia through to brand-new arrivals. Here, this Australian, is almost entirely white. Watching the people coming into the cinema and coming out of the earlier showing, and everyone is white and mostly of a kind – Anglo-Irish – pale-skinned, freckly.

I go to the cinema, in part, because I’m on holiday and I like going to the cinema in general. But also because it pleases me that Goulburn (population 22,890) has a multi-screen independent cinema: the Lilac City Cinema – so I want to support that.

All that said, given the films on offer, I struggle to pick something and go with I Feel Pretty.  It’s … disappointing. The message seems quite garbled. The premise is that a self-hating 20s/30s woman living in New York City bumps her head and suddenly sees herself as beautiful. But she looks the same to everyone else. Then she gets her dream job as a receptionist at a cosmetics company full of snobby people. I think the message was meant to be about how self-confidence and being comfortable in your own skin makes you attractive. But Renee, our protagonist, was shallow to begin with, shallow in a different way when she thinks she’s beautiful, and then misdirects the message when she discovers she’s been the same all along. It had a female co-director though – and I like to support female-directed films.

Afterwards I walk back to my motel in the cool quiet autumnal night. The Goulburn Courthouse looks great lit up so I stop to try to get a nice photo – hope I got a good shot.

Tomorrow: I ride!

19th century stone colonial courthouse flood-lit at night
Goulburn Courthouse – quite pretty unlike, I’m sure, what goes on in its courtrooms

About Goulburn People

Goulburn is now a city of 22,890 per the 2016 census, with a median age of 40. They are overwhelmingly multi-generational Australians of English, Irish and Scottish descent. 83.7 per cent of Goulburnians were born in Australia – compared with 65.5% of all New South Welshmen. Only 10.9% had both parents born overseas – compared with 37% for the whole state. A language other than English is spoken in only 6.3 percent of homes (compared with 26.5% state-wide).

The area now covering Goulburn, Cookwell and Yass was home to the Mulwaree people of the Ngunawal and Gandangara language groups prior to the European invasion. As of the 2016 census there were 982 people who identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander living in Goulburn – or 4.3%.

A Bit of Goulburn History – Sort of

Goulburn was Australia’s first inland city as it was established by letters patent by Queen Victoria in 1863.

It was named after Henry Goulburn (1784-1856) then Undersecretary for War and the Colonies. In addition to being a parliamentarian he made his income off the blood, sweat, and tears of the slaves who worked on his 2,000 acre sugar plantation in Jamaica.

While he never visited his plantation, Amity Hall, he often wrote to his agents there in frustration that it wasn’t making as much money as he’d hoped for when he’d inherited the place. Like so many slavers before and after (hello Thomas Jefferson et al) Goulburn is said to have grappled with the morality of slavery as he was a Godly man of evangelical temperament. This dilemma, however, did not lead him to free the humans he was enslaving and making some sort of reparations to them. No, no. But I’m sure he prayed about it – so, that’s something. The men he entrusted to run the place and make him money, seemingly, didn’t have the same moral dilemmas. One – Thomas Samson, who ran the estate from 1802-1818 earned a reputation for unusual cruelty.

Drawn portrait of an 19th century English gentleman
Henry Goulburn – Slaveholder, man who owned men, women & children for his enrichment

The beautiful Goulburn Courthouse was completed in 1887 and is a heritage listed building designed by James Barnet (1827-1904, Scottish-born Colonial Architect 1862-1890).

Barnet’s works included 169 post and telegraph offices, 130 courthouses, 155 police station, 110 lock-ups and 20 lighthouses. These included the Sydney General Post Office building, Callan Park Asylum, and the Australian Museum.

Goulburn and Area Politics

While my journey will take me into other Local Government Areas, the whole ride will be in the State Electorate of Goulburn (Pru Goward, Liberal) and the Federal Division of Hume (Angus Taylor, Liberal).

Goulburn is in the Local Government area of the Goulburn Mulawaree Council.

To a certain extent whether an electorate votes Labor or Liberal reflects historic and cultural habits, however, I think how people voted in the 2017 Same Sex Marriage Postal Survey says something about the character of the people. In Hume 79% of the electorate returned their surveys, 59% of voted yes and 41% voted no. Nationally, 80% participated and it was 62% for and 38% against, and the state as a whole was 58% for and 42% against. When the conscience vote for the bill legalising same sex marriage came before the Australian Parliament, Angus Taylor voted as his electorate had and supported the bill.

The Details

I caught the 4pm CityRail train to Goulburn – a few trains a day, on the Southern Highlands route, come all the way. The train splits in Moss Vale and only the front two carriages go to Goulburn. There is an alcove with hooks to hang two bicycles. The train was pretty full when it left Central and another cyclist turned up to claim the second hook – so I was glad I’d arrived about 15 minutes before departure. When I tapped off at Goulburn the cost of my three-hour train ride of some 168 kilometres was $8.50.

I devised a route at home using Google Maps and looking at streetviews to get a sense of what the roads were like. On that basis I’d planed this:

Day One: from Goulburn south on Braidwood Road, angling right into Currawang Road and right again into Lucky Pass Road (just past St Laurence O’Toole Church), then right into Collector Road.

On Day Two: I’d continue on Collector Road all the way to Gunning.

On Day Three: I’d take Yass Street into Cullerin Road, turn left on Grabben Gullen Road to Crookwell.

On Day Four: Laggan Road, then a right on Laggan-Taralga Road to Taralga.

On Day Five: the Taralga Road to Goulburn


Paragon Café, 174-176 Auburn Street. I had the lasagne with vegetables and a glass of red which came to $28.50

Cheese-toped lasagne in a dish on a plate with a mound of green beans, carrots, and potatoes. Glass of red wine.
Could have been hotter, but it was tasty.

Lilac City Cinemas, 1 Lilac Place. All tickets are $9 (!) and my choc-top was only $3.

In Goulburn I stayed at The Alpine Heritage Motel, 248 Sloane Street, which I booked through I had a small room with a single bed on the 1st floor overlooking the courtyard which cost $77. I brought my bicycle into my room with no objections from the motel. The room was tired but fine but for the guests ignoring the signs urging them not to smoke in the courtyard. I had to close the window and put towel at the base of the door to try to keep it at bay.

A three-story, 19th century building flood lit at night with a sign
My Goulburn motel


Small motel room with a single bed.
My room at the Alpine Heritage Motel


Other motel rooms seen across a narrow courtyard from my motel room
The morning view from my room

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