THE GRANYA GAP ROAD - my favourite drive in North East Victoria and the Southern Riverina
Short, sharp, but oh so sweet
Words/picture: Darryl Starr
FOR the past 54 years I have had the variable terrain of North East Victoria and the Southern Riverina region of New South Wales to put thousands of test cars through their paces.
The majority were driven over ‘everyday’ roads, many were put to the challenges of off-road driving, while a select few were put to the ultimate test – the short, sharp, but oh so sweet Granya Road, also known as the Granya Gap Road.
It is my favourite of numerous test routes I have used over the years.
The ‘Gap’ road has not always been the road it is today – far from it – but from my first drive along it, I knew it would be my go-to ‘special occasion’ road where I would pit man, machine, and mountain against each other.
The special occasions would be for those cars deserved of the road, and vice versa.
These would be sports cars and those of the GT ilk.
My most memorable drive across the ‘Gap’ road was in a $750,000 Lexus LFA 420kW, 4.8-litre, V10 super-coupe, with 1980 F1 World Champion, Australian Alan Jones, riding shotgun.
When we came out the other end Jones remarked: “Wow! That’s a road”.
To begin with, you might not think of it as a great road, but once you start the climb out of the village of Granya, it takes on a very different persona.
A firm favourite of thecountrydriver.com, the Granya (Gap) Road is a steep and windy sealed section which claws its way up and through the Mount Granya State Park, before dropping down to the Murray Valley Highway at Bullioh in the Upper Murray region of North-East Victoria.
The road is 15-kilometres in length and is just under 950-metres at its highest point but, boy, is it a ripper.
You can have some street-legal fun on a couple of other great local roads, the Great (Murray) River Road from Bethanga Bridge to Corryong and the Great Alpine Road from Wangaratta to Bairnsdale being two that spring to mind, but if you love a challenging drive, this is the one.
To get to the Granya Road you follow route C546, or the Great River Road, which is a cracker of a drive, or ride, any time of year.
C546 snakes its way almost its entire 156-kilometre length from Albury-Wodonga to Corryong following the route of the Murray River which separates New South Wales from Victoria.
As the course of the river meanders through the Upper Murray, so too does the Great River Road, with plenty of slow in, fast out corners, winding bends, tight curves, crests, flat straights, and several causeways.
And that is before you turn onto the Granya Gap Road.
From Albury-Wodonga you follow the Riverina Highway to the Bethanga Bridge which spans Lake Hume.
This impressive - and historic - nine span bridge was built between 1927 and 1930 and is the only permanent crossing place between New South Wales and Victoria until 91 kilometres upstream at Jingellic.
Once across the bridge the road veers left, and it becomes windy for about 15 kilometres.
Just east of this section is the Wymah ferry which takes vehicular traffic across the Murray arm of the lake.
At the 60-kilometre mark is the Granya Gap Road (read Fun Road) turnoff.
The only signs of civilisation along the road is the farming community village of Granya at the northern end, a couple of farm houses scattered here and there, and a couple more at the southern end of the road.
Granya, which has a population of 90 people, was established in 1860 during the gold rush days.
The small village sits in an idyllic setting but has no services.
Places of interest include Hotel Granya located on the Great (Murray) River Road, the old Granya Scout Group log hut, the Pioneer Cemetery, and the Pioneer Museum.
Mount Granya State Park is a dominant, 6140-hectare outcrop in the Upper Murray landscape, its steep, forested slopes rising dramatically above the upper reaches of Lake Hume and surrounding valleys.
The Granya Road, which climbs abruptly out of Granya, has many sharp bends and plenty of hairpins and some corners are slippery owing to the lack of sunshine at any time of the year.
Between Granya and the other end of the road is the fun bit.
The road squirrels its way up the mountain, with nary one straight section, but plenty of left-right-left-right curves to the summit where the Mt Granya Rd (more a dirt track) takes you to the summit proper where there is a picnic area and lookout (best attempted in a 4WD from this point, or by car from the turn off in Granya village).
Going down the other side of the mountain is just as much fun, and one must thank the Shire of Towong for upgrading, then keeping this interconnecting mountain road in such excellent condition.
At the Murray Valley Highway intersection at Bullioh you turn right towards Tallangatta, the town that moved in the 1950s.
And where did it move from?
Old Tallangatta, of course, and at a roadside lookout just east of the Murray Valley/Omeo Highway intersection, you can see a plan of the old town's streets that are etched in the rich, alluvial soil where the town once stood.
But you can only see the street 'map' laid out before you when the waters of Lake Hume have receded enough.
It was the raising of the lake for downstream irrigation purposes that prompted authorities to up stumps and move the town to higher ground.
From the lookout it is an easy drive back to Albury-Wodonga, following the Murray Valley Highway and, for most of the way, the High Country Rail Trail.
A railway line ran from Wodonga to the Upper Murray township of Cudgewa between 1921 and 1981.
The highway skirts the once whistle-stop railway sidings of 'new' Tallangatta, Huon, Ebden, Bonegilla, and Bandiana, before ending in the Rural City of Wodonga.
The only services on this drive are at Tallangatta.
The Granya Road has a couple of provisos.
It can dangerous. Very dangerous.
Beware of cyclists and motorcyclists, and caravans are not recommended.
Drive to the conditions – and speed limit – and you can’t go wrong and, when you do get to the other end, no matter from which direction you tackle it, I bet you will want to turn your car, or bike, around, and have another crack at it.
It is that good.
Granya Road: Route number C546
Distance: Great River Road to Murray Valley Highway via Granya - 15-kilometres
Road surface: Fully sealed, two-lanes, narrow, windy, steep
Towns/villages: Granya, Tallangatta