February 2013

February 2 — Wye River to Apollo Bay 30.45 klms, Avg speed 16.7 kph, Cycling time 1.49 hrs; Total kms 32,514

Overcast, undulating, twisting & winding road, headwinds, scenic & at times within a metre of the cliff edge.  Slow start this morning, didn’t hit the road until 10am but with such short distances to ride why the rush, still doesn’t feel right leaving that late though, old habits die hard.  Apollo Bay (pop 1095) got the thumbs up, it’s smaller & quieter than other nearby places such as Lorne, hopefully it’ll stay that way & not get too over developed, top marks to its Chinese restaurant too. We walked the town and the coast, we enjoyed good coffee but lousy weather. Finally we settled on lunch at the “local” while the rain and wind did its thing. This “aint summer.!

February 4 — Apollo Bay to Cape Otway 31.62 klms, Avg speed 13.6 kph, Cycling time 2.18 hrs; Total kms 32,545

Yet another late start, 10.30am-what is going on!  Scenic riding through forests & dairy farms, SE wind, for a change not a head wind.  Today we rode in koala territory, have never seen so many in one spot, all happily sitting in their tall manna gums swaying in the breeze.  Our plan today was to stay 1 night at the Cape Otway Caravan Park (Bimbi Park) riding to the Lighthouse in the afternoon.  But Bimbi had the cutest caravans to rent, cheaper if you stayed 2 nights & a bargain at $50pn so Plan A went out the window & we happily settled into our O-Nite van.  In the local Aboriginal language “bimbi” means “a place of many birds” & with the park’s bushland  alive with bird songs & their manna gums filled with koalas it was so peaceful surrounded by areas of magnificent forests, beaches, secluded bays & spectacular coastline.

February 6 — Cape Otway to Lavers Hill 36.83 klms, Avg speed 11.8 kph, Cycling time 3.06 hrs; Total kms 32,582

Unusual, but as today was going to be hot & as we were climbing to the highest point on the Great Ocean Road we hit the road at 7.30am.  When the sun’s up at this time, it’s still cool & there’s little traffic on the road, we’d forgotten these early starts are a fantastic time to ride.  Lavers Hill is an area noted for scenic beauty it’s a tiny place with only a population of 208.  Perched at 470 metres (& we felt every metre we climbed, a long, slow climb for me, not ‘Ol Alberto who climbs most of the way standing up, he’s fit that boy!) the views of the rolling hills & timbered forests of the Otway Ranges were fantastic.  We’re camping in a field behind the Roadhouse cum Tavern, we’re the only ones here but it’s fine, there’s hot showers up the hill & cool beer & good food waiting at the Tavern...time to go!!

February 7 — Lavers Hill  to Port Campbell 53.03 klms, Avg speed 15.8 kph, Cycling time 3.20 hrs; Total kms 32,635

Wow, what a fantastic meal Ivan cooked at the Roadhouse last night, Garlic & Chilli Squid Salad followed by Lamb with Fetta (Alberto) & Lamb curry for me, we can recommend highly.  After zooming down from Lavers Hill then battling head winds climbing up then down again we stopped at the lovely general store at Princetown for a decent cuppa.  Chatted to a 75 year tourer from Germany cycling around the country on her own, what an amazing lady and then we saw what everybody comes to see on The Great Ocean Road  ..  The famous 12 Apostles, ancient, majestic and shaped by the powerful Southern Ocean for thousands of years.  Seeing them under a cloudless, blue sky & surrounded by the turquoise foaming waters made them even more beautiful, a highlight for us on this trip.  All the tourist signs indicate 12 Apostles but there’s now only 6, the rest having fallen into the sea from the constant buffeting of the seas.  We peddled into Port Campbell, small, perfect & picturesque set on a natural gorge at the mouth of Campbell’s Creek & set up camp for 2 nights at the Caravan Park.  A great spot with a fantastic camp kitchen sporting a huge plasma tele on the wall.  For us this is always a downside as we’re then subjected to Home & Away or Deal or No Deal.  But not tonight, the camp kitchen shook to the disco sounds being only enjoyed a one couple, the more they drank the louder the music got.  Everybody ate outside than night, perhaps they don’t know the word “consideration!”.

February 9 — Port Campbell to Peterborough 16.44 klms, Avg speed 13.1 kph, Cycling time 1.14 hrs; Total kms 32,652

Riding wise it was my perfect day, 16 klms up the road to Peterborough, only kidding!  Contemplated staying another day in Port Campbell waiting for the SE (tailwind) to push us through to Warrnambool on Sunday but decided to battle the strong head wind today to go and stay at Peterborough.  The caravan park got a fantastic write up and well deserved, friendly greeting, new camp kitchen, protected from the wind, grass to camp on & individual bath mats when you have a shower!  Congratulations to them for being nominated in the top 5 Top Tourist Park in Victoria.  We loved Peterborough too, set on the mouth of the Curdies River and the picturesque Bay of Martys, it’s a small, friendly, tranquil, low key fishing & holiday spot of about 200 people.

February 10 — Peterborough to Warrnambool 56.11 klms, Avg speed 19.1 kph, Cycling time 2.55 hrs; Total kms 32,708

Today we rode the flattest ride for the last half dozen riding days, a nice change & mainly favourable winds too.  We finally broke away from the coast at the stunningly beautiful Bay of Irelands and wound our way passing lots of dairy farms.  Landed in Warrnambool on a Sunday, saw an Italian cafe with Genovese umbrellas out the front (a favourite coffee brand from Melbourne) but it was very disappointing, our wheel chock of carrot cake was only slightly better.  Warrnambool’s a big city (pop 32,000) probably due to its spectacular stretches of coastline, fantastic beaches & breathtaking ocean views, beautiful parks & gardens, seaside walking & bike trails, visiting whales, notorious shipwrecks, unique volcanos, great food, exhilarating sports & a thriving city centre.  We’re only booked in for 2 nights but with so much to see & do we’ll probably stay for 3.  Weather wise, it’s still not summer, that rotten wind is chilly.

February 12 — Warrnambool to Port Fairy 42.57 klms, Avg speed 15.1 kph, Cycling time 2.48 hrs; Total kms 32,750

Only stayed 2 days in Warrnambool as we wanted to catch the favourable winds to Hamilton in a couple of days time.  Rode a fabulous rail trail today all the way to Port Fairy, after being on the busy GOR it was heaven being on a trail that had no cars.  Rode past lots of dairy farms which unfortunately bring the flies so lots of swatting done today.  Did a quick whizz around the town in the afternoon, should have gone on the bikes but said to Greg the town centre was only half a kilometre away, turned out to be 3 klms away, whoopsee!!  Port Fairy’s (pop 2,600) quite cute, a charming fishing village at the end of the GOR.  Wide streets are lined by 19C cottages, great Norfolk pines, old stone churches, boarding houses & inns.  It’s also one of the busiest fishing ports in Victoria but being on the coast the wind was strong & cold, luckily we were well protected by huge trees & hedges at our caravan park.

February 13 — Port Fairy to Hamilton 87.08 klms, Avg speed 15.4 kph, Cycling time 4.25 hrs; Total kms 32,837

A long ride ahead of us today, haven’t ridden this far for ages so on the road at 8.30am.  As we left Port Fairy we came across a terrible accident involving road cyclists & a motor car, it had just happened so the police & ambulance were busy in attendance but waved us through.  Didn’t look but I think we both reflected how vulnerable we are sharing the roads with motorists.  At long last we left the wind swept coast & entered into the dry sheep & grazing areas of the Southern Grampians.  Our tactic to ride to Hamilton today paid off winds wise & after peddlin’ for 50 klms we stopped at Macarthur for a break & feasted on peanut butter sandwiches & bananas washed down with cups of tea—yumm.  Liked Macarthur with its historic buildings, store & pub but there was no one around, felt a bit creepy really.  Before midday we headed for Hamilton 37 klms away, aimed to have lunch there but had to stop 10 klms short as it was getting so hot & I’d run out of steam.  After filling our faces with smoked chicken & coleslaw sandwiches the final leg passed quickly & we rode into Hamilton mid afternoon.  While other major centres in the region were built on gold, this city was built on wool.  At the centre of a massive & wealthy pastoral industry for more than 160 years its become a thriving city (pop 9,500), the skyline dominated by church spires & the William Guilfoyle-designed botanical garden & Lake Hamilton to be explored over the next 3 days.

February 16 — Hamilton to Dunkeld 35.52 klms, Avg speed 15.2 kph, Cycling time 2.08 hrs; Total kms 32,869

This week heralds the arrival of summer, finally!  For the first time in months our long sleeved tops didn’t make an appearance either early morning or late evening, bliss!  With the hot weather came terrific storms & lightening north of Hamilton which unfortunately started bush fires where we’re heading over the next week.  With more storms predicted we might get stuck at Dunkeld, bummer!  A major drawcard to the town is the acclaimed Royal Mail Hotel which is regularly voted one of the best country dining destinations in Australia & you’ve guessed it, we’re booked in for the degustation dinner on Sunday night.  Not wanting to draw attention to myself by arriving in crocks & casual cycling gear the Hamilton Op Shop has kindly  provided me with an outfit costing the huge amount of $6.50 to compliment my sock cycle tan!

Feb 18—The Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld.

Our 10 course omnivore degustation with matching wines was sublime, could not be faulted from the friendly, knowledgeable staff, venue, view, food & wines, 10/10.  The whole experience will stick in our memories for ever together with a return to this wonderful establishment.

February 19 — Dunkeld to Ararat 78.92 klms, Avg speed 17.6 kph, Cycling time 4.28 hrs; Total kms 32,948

With the Grampians on our left we tracked along their SE edge through undulating pasture dotted with wool sheep.  After a succulent morning tea at Willaura (peanut butter sarnies, banana washed down with cups of tea, yumm) Greg identified his future office across the road,  an abandoned AMP office.  We continued on heading due N with blustery tail winds to push us finally up the side of Mt Ararat.  Ararat’s another former gold mining town with about 9000 folk living there.  It’s situated within a rich pastoral, wine & fruit growing district & a major tourist attraction is J Ward which we visited, previously a goal then later housing the criminally insane.  Not having had anything to do with the insane it was interesting but also quite sad, to think one man was held there for nearly 60 years without being charged, he was discharged when he was 103!  We liked Ararat but couldn’t find a decent cuppa so out came our Little Red Devil, it was good too.

February 21 — Ararat to Avoca 63.74 klms, Avg speed 17.6 kph, Cycling time 3.36 hrs; Total kms 33,012

We left the E edge of the Grampians & travelled though more undulating sheep & wheat country peddlin’ by what looked like hessian covered hills, rain is so desperately needed.  I declared today’s ride was a beauty, the surrounding countryside scenically stunning & the gum trees so beautiful.  We said goodbye to the Grampians & hello to the S edge of the Pyrenees from whence we came 6 weeks ago, we’re back in Avoca having ridden a huge 1000 klms circle so we could ride The Great Ocean Road, wouldn’t have missed it for the world. After a bit of umming and arhhing from Chris the caravan park “manager” we secured a tiny little caravan for our accommodation for $30 per night. It was great and is now known as Kathy’s Kamper. We dined again at the excellent Avoca Hotel and this time oit was warm enough to sit outside, which we did for the entire evening, refuelling with both good food and great local wines.

February 24 — Avoca to Moonambel 20.19 klms, Avg speed 18.1 kph, Cycling time 1.07 hrs; Total kms 33,032

We’d heard good reports about the Moonambel Hotel so had to go there especially as a double room only cost $40.00.  We love these country pubs & tiny country towns, we came for lunch & stayed for dinner filling our faces with decent, home cooked food & sat outside chatting to the locals.  John, the manager, was excellent with a friendly smile too.  What a pity the pub has now sold & he has to move on but how lucky the next pub will be that employs him.

February 25 — Moonambel to Maryborough 47.50 klms, Avg speed 18.1 kph, Cycling time 2.32 hrs; Total kms 33,079

For some reason our 2.5 hours riding to Maryborough went really quickly despite unfavourable winds.  It must have been the sheer joy of riding through this part of the country, I love it and I know ‘Ol Alberto does too.  Dorothea Mackellar got it so right when she wrote ...

 

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of drought and flooding rains,
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me.

 

We’re staying in Maryborough for a couple of days, it’s a largish old goldfields town (7,600) & filled with grand buildings, historic cottages & gracious homes but we’ve also been told it’s a “welfare town” so will be interesting to see what we think.

February 27 — Maryborough to Castlemaine 48.43 klms, Avg speed 17.9 kph, Cycling time 2.42 hrs; Total kms 33,128

We both left Maryborough saying we couldn’t live there, who knows if our decision had been tainted with the previous unflattering remarks, yes it did have some beautiful buildings but good coffee was hard to find & the dining options seemed limited.  From what I’ve read about Castlemaine I think it’s going to be totally different.  The ride wasn’t that nice, lots of trucks on the road & little shoulder but scenery wise it was stunning.  Now ‘Ol Alberto loves “big sky” country as he calls it & this was, fields & fields of yellow grass & crops stretching to the horizon with hills in the far distance, I love it too & I love donkeys & saw 3 today, I don’t know what it is about them but a stupid grin always comes across my face when I see them, they give me great joy.  After the recent rains it was a humid ride so after 34 klms stopped at Newstead, a nice town.  Had a reasonable coffee served by a grumpy lady but an enjoyable chat to a local made up for her unwelcome.  Well Castlemaine has already made a good impression as we can again get Radio National, something missing from our lives in Maryborough, we just can’t live without this radio station!  The caravan park is within walking to town so we’ll go exploring tomorrow.  ‘Ol Alberto aka Jamie Oliver is tonight slaving over the stove cooking his superb but simple tomato pasta sauce with crushed coriander seeds, chilli & olives, yum, yum & I’m fiddling about planning my trip to the UK in August which is exciting but still hard to believe our trip will be over early April.

February 28 — Castlemaine (pop 8000 approx)

Once the richest alluvial goldfield in the world the burst of wealth is evident in the magnificent heritage buildings, stately homes & elaborate Victorian gardens.  It’s a vibrant, culturally rich & eclectic region & is now a much-loved escape for foodies, nature lovers, shoppers, history buffs & art aficionados all looking to discover their own version of gold.  With a 30 mins train ride to Bendigo or 90 mins to Melbourne it’s perfectly located in Central Victoria plus this town has such a huge biking culture, what a perfect spot to visit or could it be the perfect spot for us to live!! We spend our last evening at the Station Hotel having received good reports from tourists and locals alike. We were’nt disappointed the food and local wines again of very good quality. We were disappointed with a continuing bad luck  with the pub raffles. This one called the Dunny Draw as the tickets are drawn from and old timber dunny, again left us lighter of pocket but the two old ducks selling the tickets also left us with  a couple of good laughs which made up for it all.