Thornbury to Orbost
So, after all the anticipation and preparation, the day of leaving finally arrived. It was really an incredible feeling cycling out of Lewis Street, the place where I have grown and changed so much over the last few years. I have so many fond memories of that house and could probably wax lyrical about the meaning of place, and love of the suburb that I have spent the last 4 years in. However, this is supposed to be a blog about cycling so I should probably get on and write about that. After being fed amazing breakfast by Key our next stop was for delicious coffee thanks to Tan, Dusan and Zozo at Farouk’s Olive. It was here that we also picked up our first awesome cycling buddy, Pablo.
And then it began, through the stirring suburb of Thornbury and then along the eastern freeway bike path. We peddled in silence, on unfamiliarly heavy bikes, through parklands and awakening suburbs. The heavy morning mist eventually lifted and a brilliant sunny day showed her face. At Blackburn road Kev joined us and guided us the back ways through the eastern suburbs of my childhood. We even cycled through Eastland (aka the vault of human suffering, or more simply, the vault). Finally after a grinding climb we were in Mount Evelyn. The hardest part done. Here we were joined by a whole group of awesome friends and the afternoon was spent cruising down the Warburton trail, chatting and trying not to cause a head on with other cyclists by riding side by side. It was a party atmosphere and I kind of wished they could all come with us to Scotland. We rolled into Warburton about 3.30pm post a beer/lunch stop at the Launching Place hotel. There was even an awesome, cheering welcoming committee to meet us. At the caravan park, family and more friends joined us and the party atmosphere continued. It was truly a wonderful send off. Thanks to everyone who came to our parties, who met up with us for breakfast, lunch, dinner or drinks in the last weeks and those who came to Warburton. We feel very loved and will miss every one of you.
After some teary goodbyes, it was just Astrid and I cycling down the road towards Noojee. I really didn’t know what to feel, so instead I just cycled. It really was quite surreal. It was now just the two of us, our lives condensed down into 4 panniers and a handle bar bag each. That in itself was quite liberating, considering our culture screams at us to consume and fill our houses with things we don’t really need. Not that we are not guilty of a few luxury gadget’s ourselves but we certainly have a lot less stuff now. The road to Noojee was mostly gently undulating, surrounded on both sides by forest with the occasional break of farmland. We liberated some apples from an orchard and generally settled well into the rhythm of the road. At Noojee we bought dinner supplies and then got directions to Toorongo waterfall, approx 9km out of Noojee and off the main road. The ride into the valley where the waterfalls were was truly spectacular. The kind of place that is nestled amongst the forest and hills and that makes you want to settle there and start a hippy commune with all your friends. Rolling into the campsite I felt a sense of achievement as well as being slightly overwhelmed by the reality that this was now our life, at least for the next little while.
The following day we were more or less broken by a hill. We kind of set ourselves up for this by having a meandering walk to the waterfall (very awesome), meditating, drinking a cup of tea and a leisurely breakfast and not hitting the pedals till about 11am. Then we were confronted by an arse breaking climb out of Noojee. All I can say is that it was hard and I felt a little jealous of the road cyclist that seemed to effortlessly pass us. Once over the hill we turned onto the Moe road and continued to wind our way out of the Yarra Ranges, into Gippsland. The road was beautiful, winding and small, surrounded by trees and tall man ferns and barely a car insight. At Blue Rock Lake we made the executive decision to call it a day after only 35km. We were tired and it was nice to have an afternoon to relax by the lake. It was also our first time sussing out an area to put our tent when it clearly indicated camping was not permitted. We found a spot away from everything and waited till it got dark. No one bothered us or even turned up before we left the next morning. Stealth camp win!
The day dawned smoggy as the DSE and the CFA are desperately trying to achieve the government’s questionable 5% burn. It appears that half of Gippsland is burning. We haven’t had a smog free day yet. Anyway, sometimes the right people just turn up, right at the moment you need them. We left Blue Rock lake early and were flying along until I felt my left pedal bend. First mechanical hitch of the trip, caused by my failure to tighten the pedal sufficiently. It was bad news as the thread in the crank had been worn away and we could not make it twist back in. Enter Grub, a road cyclists who just happened to be passing as we were seriously considering hitch hiking to Moe (and who really wants to go to Moe if you don’t have to?). Grub returned with a better selection of tools and a fair bit more know how and managed to force the pedal back into the crank. It held till Bairnesdale. Cycling takes you to places that you wouldn’t normally see by car, let alone stop at. Yallourn North is one of those places that if you weren’t craving peanut butter sandwiches you would gladly cycle on by. Seriously weird vibe, views of mines and power stations but very nice Foodworks employees who let us charge our phones while we ate lunch.
Down the road a bit we met Brett. He had pulled over specially to speak to us. A keen cyclists he was very excited about our trip and gave us valuable information about the rail trails we were planning to ride ahead. We could have chatted all day but eventually we parted and cycled on toward Tyers. Here we stopped for a snack in the park and had only been there 5 minutes when Brett turned up again. He took us for a drive up to the Tyers lookout while letting us charge our electronic devices in the CFA station where he is a volunteer. The lookout was great and what was even greater is that Brett had been involved in building it and was so proud and enthusiastic about his community, putting in hours of volunteer work in a broad range of areas. All through Gippsland we have been confronted by this sense of pride and community. It really is refreshing and inspiring. It’s not something you come across in the city quite as readily.
Our next stop was Glengarry for a massive vanilla slice of awesome. Here we also joined the Gippsland Plains rail trail. Another kind stranger help us out by giving us the heads up about a broken bridge on the trail and the directions to get around it. I felt elated to be off the road, even though it hasn’t been heavily trafficked. It’s nice not to think about cars at all. The morning had been the last of the hills, we were in flat farmland now and the going was fast, even with the rough surface. We camped in dry forest right beside the track. The sense of freedom of just being able to camp wherever really is superb.
The rail trail ended in Stratford, here we met Beth a great lady in the information centre who gave us really good advice about where to camp that night. I got the real sense that Stratford is a town worth a revisit. It has an arty, vibrant and alternative feel to it. We took the back road to Bairnsdale, through farmland and eventually turning off and bumping our way through dirt road and paddocks to find ourselves on the shores of Lake Wellington. An amazing place to swim and spend the night.
We woke to rain but it was only light and by 1130 we had done 50km and reached Bairnesdale. It feels good to be getting slowly faster, or is it just the lack of hills? At Bairnesdale we began what I think is the best rail trail in the state. The East Gippsland Rail Trail. It winds its way through farmland at first but then spends most of its time in dense forest, well away from the road. What could be better, beautiful scenic riding away from the cars? Another highlight was the Bullant Brewery in Bruthen and man was I glad to see that. The day was cold and with the constant threat of rain and after nearly 80km I was feeling fatigued and I need of a pick me up. All through Gippsland we had been hearing great reports about this micro brewery and I was keen to see it for myself. Both if us are pretty enthusiastic about micro brewery beer (hipster I know). Finally we were there and I was again reminded about one of the great things about cycling. You may spend all day outside, battling fatigue, hunger and the elements but when you walk into a warm brewery and get served your first delicious beer the experience is so much sweeter then if you had just driven there. This rule applies to bakeries too. Needless to say we had a great hour or so there, tasting brews and chatting to the bar tender. And looking at cows out the window. I must say I was feeling pretty content and happy after that. We only cycled another km or so after that and camped down an embankment right beside the trail.
The following morning there was more rail trail awesomeness with a quick stop for lunch at Nowa Nowa which is a very cool town. We got talking to Heather, one of the ladies that runs the shop there and she showed us pictures from when the railway was being built during the early part of last century. I really enjoy hearing people telling their stories about the towns they live in because often those towns have changed from thriving centres to tiny, half forgotten outposts. It’s important that someone remembers their stories.
After kilometres of forest, including a race with emu’s (they won, they always win) we reached Orbost, found the caravan park and SHOWERED. Although we have swum almost everyday, it was delightful to shower and wash our clothes. Later we were joined by Vari and Mish who had driven across from Melbourne. Mish came with an amazing amount of delicious food, and yes I totally scoffed it all up. Well a lot of it anyway. It was lovely to have a day off the bike and we spent the weekend at Cape Conran, swimming, playing bad Frisbee and enjoying being with family.
So week one is over, our new life has really begun. It still feels not quite real. I miss people but technology really helps and I am having such a wonderful time. It’s hard to describe exactly but I guess life has become very simple in some ways, cycling, finding food, finding water, finding somewhere to camp. It’s soothing and reassuring but also exciting because everyday is different. We see stunning sun rises, swim in rivers and camp in forests. Its beauty is in its simplicity.
Sunrise, Lake Wellington
(more photos will be added once we have more wifi time and I figure out how to do it quicker. Ah, technology).