June 2012

June 1 – Echuca to Rochester 37.45 klms, Avg speed 17.5 kph, Cycling time 2.05 hrs; Total kms 28,681

Winter’s here but  ‘Ol Alberto declared he was snugly warm sporting his new, fleeced lined, Hi Viz, riding vest, even my “lugs” were cold, unusual for me to even feel the cold.  For the past 2 months we’ve been riding through the flattest area since we left Sydney, today’s ride was no exception, it was as flat as a pancake, no wonder it was flooded in Jan 2011.  Surprise, surprise, we did see a hill in the distance but didn’t have to ride up it.  We’re in an area that obviously gets a lot of rain as there’s grass growing to the edge of the road, something we haven’t seen for a long, long time.  Great riding today, staying in Rochester, a small country town with some gorgeous, old buildings including 4 pubs!  Had booked a cabin without a shower but the owner of the Caravan Park upgraded us for a small cost, how nice was that!  Rochester shows few signs, other than the odd marker, of being inundated by water in a huge flood during January of 2011.  The Campaspe River which we’ve been following sine Echuca broke its banks  in the biggest flood since 1916.  Apparently the river drops quite quickly so the water hung around in town for only a few days but the agricultural industries suffered for longer. The upside of this flood was that our cabin had been refurbished with a new kitchen, bathroom and floor coverings.  All very nice and warm and very welcoming.  I managed to do a loaves and fishes thing and served up a variation of what was originally Osso Buco three days ago and this evening turned into veal shin ragu.  Fortunately His Grossness was too hungry to notice.

June 2 – Rochester to Bendigo 63.87 klms, Avg speed 17.0 kph, Cycling time 3.45 hrs; Total kms 28,744

Following the Campaspe River we must be in a horsey district, the fields were full of them, beautiful creatures, we always call out to them, they must think “crazy buggers”.  Seems to be lots of mixed farming around here, beautiful farm houses too.  We stopped for morning tea after just 23 kilometres at the small township of Elmore.  The bakery was busy with people buying bread, pies, pasties, cakes and a whole assortment of things we shouldn’t eat.  Tempting as it was, we just had coffee before continuing our ride to Bendigo.  It was only a 64 klms ride today but think we both struggled & more so when we hit some ridiculous undulations, surely we can’t be that unfit, our iPod certainly got a workout.  For the first time in a very long time we even had lunch on the road and we ate quickly as we cooled fast even sitting in, what can very loosely be called, sunshine.  We’re in Bendigo for 4 days & what a beautiful city, reminds us of Melbourne but on a smaller scale with a regional population of approx. 100,000.  It’s the buildings with historic beauty that have the WOW factor, where did this wealth & their design come from?  Then you find out the following:-

· The most gold in the world was found here between 1850—1900

· Once the richest place on the globe with nine billion dollars worth found

· The city founders set out to recreate London giving a distinctive European feel

Bendigo has a great cosmopolitan feel.  And...how lucky are we that we’re seeing the Grace Kelly Exhibition too that’s brought thousands of visitors from all over Australia.  4 days wont be long enough to explore this vibrant city.  We meandered the streets and lanes of central Bendigo and lunched and coffee’d at some very civilised places.  We must be close to Melbourne.... The parks are showing the signs of a cold Autumn with the ground carpeted with golden leaves and even a few brave Daffodils and Jonquils showing their heads.  The trams plied their path along streets lined with beautiful old houses and gardens and we thoroughly enjoyed all that Bendigo had to offer.  But it was cold with one morning being less than –1°c.  On our last full day in Bendigo we walked the 8.7klms to town. The wind howled in from the south with gusts boring the cold right to the bone.  We were very relieved to arrive at our destination of The Dispensary for a very pleasant lunch.  Such civility!  Wait staff that knew what they were doing, a neat seasonal and interesting menu and what obviously amused Greg for hours, a very impressive wine list.   Certainly beat our usual cheese tomato and onion sandwiches.  The forecast tomorrow does not bode well and we’re looking at cycle booties in an attempt to keep our feet warm and dry.  We now have so many layers on when we cycle that we can barely move. 

June 6 – Bendigo to Heathcote 55.00 klms, Avg speed 14.2 kph, Cycling time 3.51 hrs; Total kms 28,799

Thank god we weren’t cycling yesterday, we would have been lashed by rain, wind gusts of 80 kph & headwinds.  Thankfully we woke to milder weather today & for the first 23 klms rode on the O’Keefe Rail Trail, a closed railway line now converted into a multi-purpose recreational pathway linking Bendigo to the rural township of Axedale.  The sandy gravel surface usually means a slower journey but cycling through a beautiful & peaceful corridor of bushland far outweighs cycling on a noisy road.  The effects of the wild weather yesterday were evident with broken branches & fallen trees blocking our path.  The rivers & creeks were filled with water, more than we’ve seen for a long time.  We still get excited seeing kangaroos & saw 2 today, a huge fella & another one, carrying a Joey, crossing ahead of us.  From the trail the McIvor Highway beckoned, with a great shoulder it wasn’t a hassle but with undulations & battling a constant headwind (well Greg did, I draughted behind he-he) we stopped after 40 klms & had a cuppa tea & peanut butter sarnie while sitting in the sun.  It’s amazing the restorative power of a break, the last 15 klms into Heathcote flew by, a welcoming village nestled beneath the stunning McHarg & McIvor Ranges & fast becoming one of Australia’s most loved wine regions, they have decent coffee too.  We strolled up to the supermarket after lunch (hard to leave our warm cabin) & trawled the shelves looking for inspiration for dinner.  Not the greatest choice so in the end Pasta with Slow Cooked Broccoli Sauce it was, it was meant to last 2 nights but we scoffed the lot!  2 very content piggys snored well that night.

June 8 – Heathcote to Seymour 53.46 klms, Avg speed 17.6 kph, Cycling time 3.02 hrs; Total kms 28,853

It’s Friday and we’re hibernating in Seymour for the next 4 nights to avoid the traffic madness on this June long weekend.  We ended up in Seymour cos it was the only place with an available budget cabin reasonably priced, we’d been told “it wasn’t that nice” but the Goulburn River Caravan Park got great reviews which sealed the deal.  Hard to belive we’re only 112 klms from Melbourne.  What a scenically beautiful, quiet & undulating ride to get here via Tooborac & Mount Puckapunyal (yes, also of army fame),  it was fun to be riding up & racing down hills again & before I knew it we’d arrived in Seymour, there’s very few rides when that happens.  Our cabin is tiny, warm & perfect & doesn’t need a clean, a rarity.  We’re surrounded by enormous red gums & birdlife & can see the Goulburn River from our veranda, it’s the perfect spot to be even if the town isn’t.  We’ll report back in a few days.

It’s the Seymour Town Report—if you drove through Seymour you probably wouldn’t stop, there’s nothing attractive seeing the main street from the comfort of your car seat but wander around the back streets & you discover streets lined with beautiful, large California Bungalows most you’d want to buy.  Hopefully one day the council folk will improve the main street scape to attract more visitors. We Uummed and Aaahhed about dining out but in the end decided it was too cold so stay in. If we had a couch in our cabin we’d have been couch potato’s or lounge lizards but we didn’t so we sat in our chairs and watched Tele while stuffing our faces with roast pork & veg, bangers & mash and the like. All very healthy and sooo good for your figure....We did manage to celebrate the arrival of some sunshine with a trip to the Royal Hotel for a Sunday lunch. We were so drunk with delirium with the arrival of some heat from the sun we even sat outside for about 2 minutes and had a celebratory beer. Then rushed inside to the warmth of the heated dining room to continue the glutinous theme of the previous few days. We justified this excess with the fact that next week we’d be cycling 5 days straight! Something we’ve not done for a very long time. Not, I hasten to add, that the cycling is of any great distance or over any significant hills. Just bloody cold!!! Have we mentioned that?

June 12 – Seymour to Murchison 55.52 klms, Avg speed 18.3 kph, Cycling time 3.00 hrs; Total kms 28,908

A frosty morning & .6 degrees so it’s not much fun riding early morning at the moment, today it took ‘Ol Alberto 10 klms to warm up, lucky for us the sun was out but it doesn’t radiate much heat until late morning.  We headed up the Goulburn Valley Highway to Nagambie, fantastic shoulder & no wind, for once the forecasters got is wrong, the 15 klm wind didn’t appear.  After a fair cuppa at Nagambie we did a left turn to avoid the Highway & disappeared down a country road, magnificent riding & scenery especially seeing 2 enormous eagles perched close to the road then more animal sightings of horses, ponies, donkeys, cattle, sheep, alpacas, geese & guinea fowls.  The Strathbogie Shire is The Horse Capital of Australia, oh goodee  ....  Nagambie is of course the birth place of a very famous race horse called Nelly. Some may know this horse by its other name of Black Caviar. Whilst we don’t claim to have seen the horse as it was en-route to England for the Diamond Jubilee but we think we did see the stud where she came from.  No cabins at the Murchison Caravan Park so we’re “trailer trash” in the Park snuggled closely next to the burnt out hulk of a van that caught fire and was destroyed not long ago, fortunately the inhabitants were spared.  It’s a community owned park and the new managers are making in roads, our van with annex is probably the best we’ve stayed in having had a recent make over.  Cups of tea in the sunshine followed by more of last night’s casserole (with just a dash of red wine) & a new bed to sleep on, it was another great day.

June 13 – Murchison to Kyabram 60.34 klms, Avg speed 17.5 kph, Cycling time 3.27 hrs; Total kms 28,969

When plotting our return journey north to Rutherglen from Seymour we decided to stay in small country towns rather than the larger towns like Shepparton.  We love the smaller towns full of character but they also give us an opportunity to ride on back roads & experience what the countryside throws at us, at the moment we’re riding through dairy country.  Take today’s ride, after 20 klms we were having a fabulous coffee at a quirky motor racing cafe in Rushworth, an old goldmining town of Rushworth which we loved & declared “we could live here”.  17 klms further on we had another cuppa at the bakery at Stanhope, passing a huge cheese factory as we rode in, our last 22 klms saw us riding through the centre of a rich irrigation district in the Goulburn River Valley.  ‘Ol Alberto declared the last bit was tough battling the head wind, I hadn’t noticed as I drafted behind so easy for me!!  Kyabram (pop 6000) is surrounded by dairy & fruit orchards, we stayed just one night in a lovely cabin with en-suite, didn’t really have time to explore as the day was over by the time I caught up on clothes washing and ’Ol Alberto had had come back from the supermarket with the evening meal.  No Cordon Bleu for us tonight, pasta and a 400grm jar of sauce with salad.

June 14 – Kyabram to Nathalia 41.81 klms, Avg speed 15.2 kph, Cycling time 2.45 hrs; Total kms 29,011

Boy it was tough today, rode for just under 3 hours but felt we’d been riding all day thanks to a strong head wind.  After riding for only 31 klms I caught up with ’Ol Alberto who declared he was starving & was feeling “rather pooped”, after a short break stuffing our faces with an orange the last 9 klms seemed much easier into Nathalia, pop 1875.  What a pretty town spread over both banks of the Broken Creek & a main street still boasting some wonderful historic buildings from the turn of the nineteenth century.  Today the main industries are dairy farming, cropping & grazing.  Still feeling the effects from our ride we made a bee line for the bakery, an orange & poppyseed muffin & cuppa did the trick, we felt much better. We made our way to the caravan park and into our cabin for lunch before heading back to town for an explore.  We arrived just in time to see one of the obviously long term residents leave town for the last time in a very long car with curtains in the back and lots of flowers.  No... not a shagin’ wagin’ but a very well attended funeral with police escort and blocked roads.  Too much excitement for us so we headed back to our cabin to get warm having stopped at the local butcher on the way. The butcher seemed like a nice fellow but he’d obviously failed the Tafe topic “Retail Butchers Hygiene 101” as the shop was filthy.  With some trepidation we bought some bacon to spice up our otherwise boring dinner of a jar of pasta sauce tipped on a bowl of pasta and salad.  If there’s no entry in the log after today, you’ll know what killed us.

June 15 – Nathalia to Numurkah 26.60 klms, Avg speed 19.1 kph, Cycling time 1.23 hrs; Total kms 29,037

We’re alive!  No food poisoning for us and no obvious ill effects from last nights dinner.  Swift, short & scenic riding along Broken Creek all the way to Numurkah, it wasn’t a clear, bubbling creek, this one was wide, muddy & filled with lots of fallen trees, could have been the after effects of flooding in the area earlier this year.  Sandbags & levy walls still surrounded a few houses.  We had heard that Numurkah was flooded but could see no evidence when we arrived.  It’s the town of “lakes & roses” & being 1 klm off the highway is tranquil & attractive.   Tonight we’re staying at the Shamrock Hotel, friendly staff & a great motel room out the back. We walk the streets doing our usual impersonation of a couple of vagrants looking for an easy mark.  The rose gardens have retreated from the frosts and offer only thorns and only a few water birds, oblivious to the cold water, paddle the river.  We too return to our room for a warming cuppa tea and I watch with increasing alarm as ‘Ol Alberto tries to bring some life to the newish looking tele’ bolted to the wall.  It has all the usual parts, remote, TV, aerial cord, wall socket, but no reception or at least not to the two stations we watch.  In disgust ’Ol Alberto finally gives up and slinks to the bathroom for a shower a technologically defeated and depressed man....How frustrating it is that when we enter the Pub dining room for dinner the walls are festooned with TV’s that you can’t bloody turn down let alone switch off.  Still the curative properties of beer seem to be having the desired effect and we enjoy a pleasant meal by the fire.  I say hello and introduce myself to the daughter of the hairdresser where I’d had my Busby Coiffed.  News travels fast out of a hairdresser and there was no exception in Numurkah. The daughter of the pre mention Busby tamer already knew all about our travels, where we’d been, where we were going etc.  Small town stuff....

June 16 – Numurkah to Cobram 34.37 klms, Avg speed 18.0 kph, Cycling time 1.54 hrs; Total kms 29,072

Today’s ride was the “animal spotting” day—3 beautiful, heavy horses (no Wellsy you ain’t gettin’ one when we get back to The Connaught), lots & lots of not so heavy horses, new born twin lambs (gorgeous, don’t even think about their outcome, ‘Ol Alberto keeps yelling at them to eat more Rosemary!), new born calves called Dianne & Oscar, startled ducks, white-faced herons & ibis scattering into the sky as we rode by, the sweetest looking Jersey milking cows & the funniest thing-seeing a cat run a mile trying to escape from 2 weird looking machines fast approaching him, boy he was fast.  The surrounding rich agricultural land is filled with orchards producing apricots, nectarines, peaches & pears whilst the grazing properties are mainly dairy with cropping being popular into NSW.  Yes, we’re back on the Murray River with the twin towns of Cobram-Barooga (pop 7000) being separated by it.  In 1950 14 local dairy farmers started the Murray Goulburn Cooperative, today more than 3000 farmers are part of it supplying in excess of 2 million litres of milk to the factory every day.  Also well known in the area is the olive oil from Cobram Estate and it’s at Cobram that you’ll find Thompsons Beach claiming to be the largest inland beach in Australia.  We’re staying for 4 days so we’ll be busy, there’s lot to explore.  At the caravan park we’re allocated our cabin, a two room double brick structure with a column heater, perfect.  But no en-suite, bugga!  More evening dashes to the showers and toilets 100 meters away and floors hewn from solid ice.  We shop, wash and generally get organised, it is still quite cool with winds and mist in the mornings.  In a sign of Greg’s undying love for me he arranges for the courtesy bus to come from across the border at the Barooga Sporting Club where for something less than $20 you can stuff yourself on three courses on the Sunday evening Roast Night.  The food isn’t bad but the dining experience leaves a lot to be desired.  Brightly lit under the glare of 4 foot florescent tubes we sit and listen to the dulcet tones of Poker machines slowly relieving fellow patrons of their hard earned....We quickly finish our meals and head back to the courtesy bus and beat a hasty retreat to our warm cabin...

June 18 – Cobram to Tocumwal return 46.61 klms, Avg speed 19.5 kph, Cycling time 2.17 hrs; Total kms 29,118

Whilst at Cobram rode out to Tocumwal & also rode back into New South Wales as the town’s on the other side of the Murray.  We visited this pretty town via car some years back, we liked it then & still do.  Great to ride without the panniers & the weight. The sun was shining but not with much conviction so we had our morning coffee at one of Tocumwal’s cafes inside next to the fire before heading back to Cobram on the northern side of the river where we had lunch in the Barooga gardens.  Some genius had thoughtfully fenced in the attractive water feature to make it now look like Stalag 13.  Presumably this is to stop “little Mights” from drowning in the 12 inches of water.  All very thoughtful but whoever this was had failed to fence the entire banks of Australia’s largest and the worlds 3rd longest navigable river just 200 meters away.  Still we’re sure the local authorities' insurers are happy.   Amazing....

June 20 – Cobram to Lake Mulwala 43.07 klms, Avg speed 15.3 kph, Cycling time 2.48 hrs; Total kms 29,161

Jack Frost visited during the night so our ride today was COLD, COLD, COLD, COLD ....by the time we arrived at Lake Mulwala 3 hours later the temp hadn’t reached double digits.  The only highlight of the day was our route, scenically quiet on a back road.  Oh, there was another highlight, our cabin has an en-suite so no more dashing outside to the loo in the wee hours of the morning, yippee!  We rode across the river/lake along the strangely bent bridge to the Victorian town of Yarrawonga and found good coffee and the papers at Nosh Deli, before heading further up the road to the supermarket.  The weather is not all that nice so we are forced to retreat to our cabin on the NSW side of the border.  The following day after some considerable confusion on ‘Ol Alberto’s part we caught the bus into town to again partake in the coffee and papers at Nosh Deli.  We ummed and ahhrrred about whether we should go out at night but not much grabbed us and it’s tough to leave the warmth of our cabin in the dark and cold so we stayed in instead.  The cabin is air conditioned but it’s not very good so I attach the “little white waster” of a fan heater I’m carrying to a power point.  The lights dim in the park when we turn it on and I’m sure we’re responsible for at least half Australia’s green house gases but by now I don’t care.  It’s just too cold.  At the lake’s edge ducks and swans make their way to us in the hope of a feed but to no avail.  The sunrises across the water are stunning but the developing rain soon pushes us back inside.  On our final night in the cabin the air conditioner dies a sad a tragic death and so with another flick of my wrist I crank the little white waster to full bore.  It’s enough to send the cabin’s power board into conniptions, so we need to time the kettle, toaster, stove and lights to ensure we can keep the whole place humming.  In fact we think we can hear the power meter spinning so hard it’s about to take off, but we don’t care.  We’re environmental anarchists!  But we’re warm.....

June 23 – Lake Mulwala to Rutherglen 52.90 klms, Avg speed 19.1 kph, Cycling time 2.46 hrs; Total kms 29,214

Clear skies greet us the next morning and this close to the winter solstice and this far south we cast very long shadows indeed.  We set off for our last fully loaded ride for at least a few weeks.  We’re on the NSW side of the Murray because it’s a bit quieter and as we follow the river’s bank we pass through some very attractive farming country. We’re soon at Corowa and after a quick lap of the main street we settle on a bakery for our morning coffee.  It was, as expected, unexceptional....So without any further adieu, we make our way across the river to the Victorian side of the Murray and into the small township of Wahgunyah.  We weren’t disappointed.  Our sunny, superb morning’s ride with mild favourable winds was topped off with a great lunch at The Pickled Sisters Cafe, love the name.  Having downed our lunch, a glass of wine and a very good cuppa coffee we made our way a few kilometres down to our house sit, Redgate Stud Rutherglen.  Rutherglen is where we’ll be for the next 6 weeks, in the warmth of a beautiful home looking after Molly, a 10 year old Red Cattle dog, whilst her owners are overseas. 

How lucky we ended up in this region in the NE of Victoria surrounded by picturesque gold-mining towns, grand old pubs, lush vineyards, an abundance of cafes & restaurants, wild country lanes & a huge choice of cycling tracks, it’s going to be a cycling & culinary adventure.

We’re staying in Rutherglen until early August—our photos will tell you what we’ve been up to.