January 2013

January 5 — Ballarat to Learmonth 26.40 klms, Avg speed 19.20 kph, Cycling time 1.22 hrs; Total kms 32,001

We had planned on riding to Learmonth yesterday but with searing hot 40C weather & wild headwinds decided to stay put for another day.  A great decision as cooler conditions & fantastic tailwinds pushed us to Learmonth in no time, perfect!  With dedicated cycle lanes out of Ballarat then a wide shoulder the rest of the way today’s ride was a dream.  Learmonth—Gateway to the plains—its early prominence was due to its location providing the easiest access from Melbourne through  a gap in the Great Dividing Range to the grazing lands of the Avoca & Wimmera rivers.  Today the 300 people of the pretty hamlet enjoy Lake Learmonth & what is has to offer, seeing the lake filled with birdlife & hearing the buzz of speed boats it’s hard to believe the lake was dry for 7 years and filled again only 2 years ago.  We were only going to stay 1 night but with the caravan park overlooking the lake, a cafe, pub & store lining the main street, cricket to be heard on the radio, no families interrupting our peace, we stayed for 2.  On a sad note the terrible bush fires in Tassie & especially at Dunalley have made us feel very glum.  We camped behind the Dunalley pub a month ago & to hear about 60 homes having been destroyed is devastating, we couldn’t possibly image what the community is going through & what the place looks like now, our thoughts go out to them.

January 6 — Learmonth to Beaufort 40.88 klms, Avg speed 15 kph, Cycling time 2.14 hrs; Total kms 32,042

Busy highways or back roads?  Back roads for us when we can like today, virtually car less so blissfully quiet, gives you time to take in the surroundings, the feel, smell, noise, sights—the sun warming you up, the smell of the yellow, dry fields, the noise of a snarling scruffy farm dog giving chase—haha, too slow—the sight of huge blades slowly turning in the windfarm, fields of sprouting green tops belonging to spuds,  a screeching of magpies giving chase to an eagle, the thundering trucks as we approached the Western Highway into Beaufort, we were jolted back into reality so we escaped to Sparrows Cafe for a caffeine hit.  For two tumultuous years during the gold rush, Beaufort was known as Fiery Creek and was home to up to 100,000 people.  Today Beaufort’s population has reduced to 975 , historic buildings remain but the town is now a modest service centre.  It is situated 387m above sea-level in a district given over, principally, to primary production: wool, farming, forestry, quarrying & mining.  Beaufort Lake backs onto the caravan park, its occupants include water skiers, families & dogs taking a dip, birds bobbing about on the water.  We did too, not in the lake but watching all the activities, another lovely, peaceful spot to be for 2 nights.

January 9 — Beaufort to Avoca 47.95 klms, Avg speed 21.8 kph, Cycling time 2.12 hrs; Total kms 32,090

Our peace at Beaufort was on edge last night as a bush fire raged 28 klms SE of where we were camping.  Lucky for us that the strong winds didn’t change direction otherwise we’d be pushing a fullen ladened Crazy Ruby, Horsey & ourselves into the lake right in front of us.  Unfortunately we woke to hear 10 houses including the historic Carngham Station & 100s of livestock had perished in the fire.  It’s frightening how quickly a fire can take hold & spread.  As we made our way to Avoca, again on a virtually car less, quiet back road surrounded by bush I started to make note of dams we passed & where we could race to if we got caught in a fire.  Lucky for us we didn’t have to activate our escape plan & rode into Avoca unscathed.  Usual routine—caffeine fix, supermarket shopping & caravan park check in.  Really friendly manager who was working hard to make the park more appealing.  After ‘Ol Alberto was getting directions on where to pitch the tent my eyes glazed over an on site van for $50pn & the deal was sealed, 2 nights for the price of $45pn, yeah, luxury with double bed, fridge, tele & all mod cons.  Another bonus was going to have dinner at The Avoca Hotel, wow what a find, fab decor, wine list, food, staff, apparently the owners came from Melbourne & totally refurbished the place 4 years ago.  After spending 2 days in Avoca (pop 951) we really liked this former mining town lying on the banks of the Avoca River.  The region is also home to an established agricultural and winery industry thanks to its Mediterranean climate, good soil and running streams, another good reason to like the place!

January 11 — Avoca to Clunes 46.35 klms, Avg speed 17.1 kph, Cycling time 17.1 hrs; Total kms 32,136

8.30am start as another “catastrophic” fire day declared, total fire bans in Victoria, NSW & Tassie, more noting of dams peddlin’ to Clunes where we could fling ourselves.  There’s definitely a feeling of venerability being on a bike at the moment.  Stopped for a cuppa at Talbot, fascinating unspoilt historic atmosphere from the gold rush days.  Same for Clunes which is Australia’s most original 19C town with more than 50 buildings of historic significance lining the winding streets where bookshops & collectable stores abound along with cellar doors & cafes.  The town is also Australia’s only designated ‘Book Town’ and one of only 16 in the world.  The biggest book fair in Australia is held here in May.  Our riding for the day finished at 11:30am just as the day was starting to heat up.  After checking into the local caravan park we sat on 2 borrowed chairs under the shade of a huge camphor laurel tree.  So with chairs, a table, cups of tea, shade & cricket on the radio we didn’t move for the rest of the afternoon, it was bliss to be soon by cool beers & cider down at the local pub.

January 13 — Clunes to Creswick 20.23 klms, Avg speed 13.3 kph, Cycling time 1.31 hrs; Total kms 32,157

What’s going on with this weather, boiling hot 40C temps then a couple of days later 15C, ‘Ol Alberto was not impressed, reminded him of being in Tassie, he took refuge in the tent in the afternoon cocooned in his sleeping bag.  Creswick (pop 3000—was 25,000 in the gold rush days) famous for its woollen mill, established in 1947 & is the last remaining coloured spinning mill of its kind in Australia.  The town’s surrounded by thick pine and eucalyptus plantations (lucky the area bush fires are under control!) many of which were first established when the Victorian School of Forestry opened in 1910.  The town is yet another old gold mining town with more beautiful historic buildings.  Soon they will be no more as, over coffee followed by lunch at The Red Fox Deli in town, we planned the next leg of our cycling trip along The Great Ocean Road.  Of course it’s still school holidays + Australia Day’s coming up too so it’ll be bedlam at the caravan parks but we’ve managed to secured accommodation until the end of Jan when all the kiddies are back at school & we’ll have the Great Ocean Road to ourselves, hopefully!  The ride to Creswick yesterday reminded us of crossing the Nullarbor, battling headwinds.  Scenic riding though as we climbed through cropping country as well as climbing 100 metres to arrive back where we were a week ago, not that far from Ballarat.

January 14 — Creswick to Daylesford 29.90 klms, Avg speed 13.2 kph, Cycling time 2.16 hrs; Total kms 32,187

Riding into Daylesford, it reminded me of Beechworth,  “What, the arctic conditions?” quipped ‘Ol Alberto.  I had to admit it wasn’t nice having brekkie this morning in temps that felt like 2.7C, not like me to ride in long sleeves but did this morning, anyway in a few days it’ll be HOT again......Also rode listening to Radio National, our favourite radio programme, we’ve declared if we can’t get good Radio National coverage we won’t be living there!  Didn’t know if we’d like Daylesford or not, being a resort town situated on a ridge over 600 metres above sea level we had visions of an unpleasant, tacky tourist town but we liked it and could get good coffee too.    At the peak of Daylesford's formative gold rush there were many Italians and Swiss living here and their influence on the gardens and architecture has been profound; bestowing upon the town a European feel.  Coupled with its beautiful mountain scenery, forests, lakes & decent eating places no wonder people flock here especially in winter to soak in a spa or two.

January 16 — Daylesford to Bacchus Marsh 60.12 klms, Avg speed 17.7 kph, Cycling time 3.23 hrs; Total kms 32,247

All the way down from 600 metres to Bacchus Marsh, it was fantastic, lots of freewheeling, yippee!  Made us realise why we had such a slow ride to Bacchus before, all that climbing.  Stopped again at the Ballan Bakery for several cuppas & what was called a “health bar”, probably wasn’t but what the heck.  Pretty disappointed with the BBQ area at the Bacchus Marsh Caravan Park this time, the cleaning seemed to have stopped & yet on our previous stay  it was spotless.  Wellsys’ Cleaning Service was summoned then for the rest of the afternoon we sat in the warmth listening to the radio stuffing our faces with BBQ’d Pork & Veal Meatballs simmered in tomato sauce, it was yummmmm.

January 17 — Bacchus Marsh to Geelong 63.64 klms, Avg speed 19.0 kph, Cycling time 3.20 hrs; Total kms 32,310

Both rode like Cadel again today, all the way down to Geelong with a bit of a tail wind too.  Now riding into big towns like Geelong (pop 250,000) really gives me the heebie jeebies despite Greg’s thorough research to ride along the least busiest approach roads.  All went well until we met the A10, 3 lanes of very fast moving traffic wanting to kill anything in their way.  A largish white van nearly succeeded, brushing my rear panniers as it passed then knocking my mirror sideways, it was that close!  I was so angry I tried to catch up to it at the traffic lights ahead but we steered into a side street before I had a chance & rode along the foreshore ride for a strong caffeine hit.  First impressions of Geelong— the city doesn’t give you the warm & fuzzys, there’s lots of traffic & not too many cycle lanes.   Still after only just arriving that’s really being too harsh, we’re staying for 7 days so will let you know what we think at the end of our stay.

January 21 — Geelong to Queenscliff return 80.56 klms, Avg speed 18.2 kph, Cycling time 4.25 hrs; Total kms 32,391

Like most places, if you only stay a night, you have a totally different perspective of a place than if you stayed for 2/3 days or even a week.  We’re so glad we stayed the week in Geelong, picked up brochures on where to walk the family dog, where to do some of the finest cycling in the area & read all about The Bellarine Rail Trail, a recreational trail for walkers, runners, cyclists & horse riders stretching some 35 klms linking Geelong to Queenscliff.  With our caravan park overlooking the Barwon River we did a super 20 klm circular ride around the river, rode the dedicated cycle lanes into the city & peddled the 70 klms return ride to Queenscliff in a car free environment, it was the perfect way to explore the environment.  Geelong really has lots to offer the outdoor enthusiasts.  It was interesting to read a newspaper article today from a local cyclist talking about the dangers of cycling in Geelong perhaps caused by the road infrastructures &/or frustrated motorist, it was comforting to know he felt like I did. 

January 24 — Geelong to Torquay 25.28 klms, Avg speed 17.8 kph, Cycling time 1.25 hrs; Total kms 32,416

The Great Ocean Road is an Australian National Heritage Listed 243 klm stretch of road along the SE coast of Australia between the Victorian cities of Torquay & Warrnambool—it’s world famous for many good reasons.  Imagine a road taking you within metres of pounding surf & winding its way to stunning vantage points offering some of the world’s greatest natural vistas.  Lush rainforest, volcanic plains, thriving coastal towns, charming villages & plenty of chances for surfing, swimming, fishing, walking, driving, coffee, wining & dining.  In winter you can spot migrating whales.  In all seasons the wineries & Otway Harvest Trail will delight & local markets run throughout the year phew.......we took the Horseshoe Bend Road from Geelong to Torquay, incredibly quiet thanks to some road works, obviously a favourite road with other roads cyclists as we passed loads today.  Torquay is known for its surf, savvy shopping & family friendly beaches ..  Being so close to Melbourne could also add coastal development.  It’s still school holidays so the place was buzzing & our camping spot is the most we’ve ever paid, $72pn, ‘cos they can.  Lucky we’re only here for 2 nights. The noise is horrendous and a huge variety of parenting styles on display for all to see including much to our amazement a Mum standing by the play area with a note pad and pen asking her little darlings in turn if they’d like “avocado?”, “yep”, “tomato?”, “yep”, “tomato sauce?”, “yep”, “lettuce?”, “yep”.  I had to restrain Greg from suggesting “a punch in the face?”. “ Our Nation’s Future” can sometimes be a frightening prospect.....That night we thought we couldn’t stand another night in the camp kitchen particularly as they had an outdoor cinema right next to the kitchen and the planned evening’s entertainment was the multi award winning film, Garfield.  Not for us was the Garfield being shown so we took ourselves off to a very good Indian restaurant and stuffed ourselves with pappadams and curry.

January 26 — Torquay to Aireys Inlet 28.61 klms, Avg speed 16.1 kph, Cycling time 1.46 hrs; Total kms 32,445

Perhaps it wasn’t the best decision to hit the Great Ocean Road (GOR) on Australia Day but peddlin’ along a relatively wide shoulder & seeing lots of lycra lads coming from the opposite direction (surely they wouldn’t chose to ride on this busy road without a shoulder?) made us feel happier, well me anyway.  Stopping at Anglesea for a caffeine hit & watching the bumper to bumper traffic turn in the direction we were heading made me a nervous nellie but the shoulder led us all the way to our caravan park proudly displaying a sign “NO VACANCIES”, lucky we’d booked.  What a lovely park with helpful owners & friendly campers too,  many of the families return year after year including our neighbours who’d been coming for the last 12 years.  The brochure on Aireys Inlet said “experience the warm hospitality of this peaceful hamlet while discovering its many charms”-a perfect description.  After exploring the Spit Point Lighthouse, walking the Cliff Top Walk, joining the crowds for lunch at the Aireys Pub, enjoying the ambience & coffee at The Aireys Inlet & Food store Cafe & patting a variety of pooches we left with very happy hearts.  It’s now the end of the summer school holidays and for both of us not a moment too soon.  Greg thought he was having symptoms of tinnitus, but I assured him that it was early onset industrial deafness.  Finally they’ve all been stuffed into a car and driven back from whence they came and life, we expect, will resume some normalcy....  

January 29 — Aireys Inlet to Lorne 19.75 klms, Avg speed 15.5 kph, Cycling time 1.16 hrs; Total kms 32,465

What a shock to ride into Lorne & still find it still chock a block with families still on holidays.  We found out some kiddies go back next Monday so many wont be leaving until the weekend  ..  ahhhhhh!  The council owns all 5 caravan parks in the town with not fantastic reviews, however, we lucked out & managed to get a spot overlooking the river.  According to the council it’s still peak season so we’re charged the outrageous amount of $60 pn, cos they can!  Our ride today was just over an hour with less traffic & a shoulder winding for most of the way but poor ‘Ol Alberto felt cold all day & it was, even I was muttering how cold it was.  What about Lorne? it’s described as a cosmopolitan coastal village with a magnificent beach again a backdrop of the majestic rainforest of the Great Otway National Park so no wonder the population of 1,400 swells to about 10,000 at this time, lucky we’re only staying for 2 nights.

January 31 — Lorne to Wye River 18.52 klms, Avg speed 15.7 kph, Cycling time 1.10 hrs; Total kms 32,483

Since being on the GOR we’re riding such short distances to avoid being on the road too long, although not much traffic today, and secondly cos we like to stay in all the lovely coastal towns along the way.  We never mind packing up camp, I suppose because it’s exciting to move to a new place.  Wye River is cute with only a General Store cum Cafe & a Motel/Hotel.  It has a permanent population of around 144 but again its holiday population is ten times that.  We rolled into the caravan park which was empty, most families had GONE, yippee.  We had the comfortable camp kitchen/TV room to ourselves, lucky we could shelter as we listened to the rain pelting down on the tin roof all afternoon.  At least we were dry but cold, lots of  grumbling from ‘Ol Alberto again, “it’s supposed to be summer, its too cold!”. We ate dinner at the very good little Pub and as usual after a large meal and a good amount of wine, we slept well while the rain reduced to sprinkles and finally the sky cleared.