In March 2016 I decided to set off on my first ever solo bike tour, riding 300+ kms in 4 ½ days through the Macedon ranges in Victoria. A few reasons for this:
- Andrew had his annual boys golf weekend in Deniliquin.
- Not wanting to stay home alone watching movies and eating junk food.
- Yearning for some peace, quiet & solitude.
- Wondering if I could actually do it…..
My first day, the Friday, was absolutely brilliant! It was an early start with a 10 km ride into town to catch the train to Ballan. From then on it was leg power all the way and after a toilet stop and muesli bar at Greendale, my very first 2km hill of course turned out to be the steepest one! Day one on the bike is always the heaviest because the ‘pantry’ is FULL. Top this off with the fact that I have to carry everything and can’t palm heavy stuff off to Andrew it was tough going.
The ride to Trentham through the Wombat Forrest was quite hilly but breathtaking. The weather was overcast but really humid. I drank 4 litres of water during the day but only did 2 ‘tiny’ wees….
Lunch at the Trentham Falls, or should that be ‘Trentham Trickle’, was a bit of an effort as I was starting to feel a bit weary with the humidity and riding.
It was then on to Daylesford, where I did some shopping for dinner and filled up my two water bladders adding, you guessed it, ANOTHER 8 kgs of weight! I was almost going to pull the pin and stay in Daylesford as I already had done 75kms for the day, but I was told it was all downhill to my campsite. Well yes it was, but you see I was staying in an old volcano crater called Mt Franklin, and to get into it, guess what, you have to go over the crater rim!
Anyway I got there after clocking up 88.08 kms for the day and it was spectacular! Of course there were a lot of campers being a long weekend, but no mind.
I pitched my awesome new tent, had a ‘bucket wash’, cooked tea and was then invited to share the neighbours’ camp fire for a bit before collapsing into my 2.5 cm mattress bed blissfully happy!
The next day, Saturday was just as good. I only rode 55 kms to Mt Alexander but with tired legs from the day before, more relentless hills and hot & humid weather the ride was heavy going.
I left my crater campsite about 10 am after a bit of sightseeing and a yummy breakfast of English muffins.
Google maps then decided to give me a bum steer when trying to avoid the busy A300 Midland Highway, when I was sent on a dead end gravel road. So 1 1/2 hours late I’d only managed to travel 8.7 kms further up the road and I STILL had a section of A300 to contend with. Grrrrrrrrr.
Never mind, I got to Guildford where I had a spell and a chat to the locals. Ahhhh the people you meet travelling as a lone female touring cyclist…. I wasn’t going to bring gender up but have to now, after being approached by two middle aged men in Lycra who were:
a) mesmerised by the weight of my bike “Wow that must be at least 50 kgs!”
b) were sure that there MUST BE an electric motor stashed somewhere. “Are you sure that red thing isn’t a motor???” (my stove fuel bottle that says FUEL).
c) proceeded to tell me of the HUGE hills coming up, especially the last one before Chewton (which turned out to be downhill).
d) Mt Alexander (my destination for the day) is a pretty big climb tut tut tut, which it was, but I got there.
e) seeing as I am DUTCH, I wouldn’t be used to mountains at all!
Hahaha, bless them…
Mind you, their passing remark was “Don’t you overtake us now!”
Whilst giggling to myself, I turned east into the most gorgeous, hilly, Fryers Ridge State Forest. The road was an abundance of old ruins, cute cottages and stretches of road so peaceful and quiet it was euphoric.
Lunch was at Fryerstown where a couple of noisy white cockatoos kept me company. I made it to Chewton around 3pm where I ran into 3 clowns hitchhiking across the road, I kid you not. I wasn’t expecting THAT!
They were crossing the road to make balloon animals at the Chewton pool and suggested I come too. I was so hot and sweaty I just couldn’t resist and had a quick dip and then a delicious shower all whilst being entertained by the coolest 60’s vinyl (!!!) music being played. I then refilled my water containers and set off again.
My last stretch to Mt Alexander was by far the toughest. It was only 13 kms with the last two a 200+ metre climb. It was nearly the death of me. However it was so worth it, as my campsite is smack in the bush on top of a mountain. Other campers were hundreds of meters away, just how I like it. The solitude I’d been looking for had been found!
Sunday, my third day of riding, was an ‘interesting’ day. I got up early after the worst sleep ever which I just couldn’t work out because it was so peaceful on top of Mt Alexander I should have been comatose, but noooooo, awake half the night, go figure.
Anyway, I had a lovely walk up to the end of the mountain spur and watched the sun rise.
Then fiddled around with my camera and had breakfast. A very slow pack up followed and I finally pulled out at 11 am. It didn’t bother me being so late, because I only had a short ride of 38 kms to Lake Eppalock Holiday Park.
The ride down Mt Alexander went way too fast, although the best thing was zooming past heaps of huffing and puffing road cyclists all scratching their heads saying “How on earth did SHE get up there?”. One group even had a SAG vehicle following them…
I then turned east and followed a nice undulating road through farming land. For the first time ever I saw almost as many cyclists as cars….. The weather was hot again but at least the humidity from the previous two days had finally gone.
Riding through the Kimbolton State Forest was nice enough except for the fact that it is exactly the same bush as around home. I prefer the tall tree forests.
I finally rolled into the Holiday Park at 1.45 pm and was met by a cacophony of long weekenders and their trail bikes, music & fishing boats. It was a real culture shock. But the pool was nice and I managed to give my smelly, sweaty riding gear a good wash.
I then ventured on my bike to the edge of the receding lake which was a bit of a rocky and sandy hike as the lake is so dry. Last time it was full was apparently four or five years ago. I was glad the bike was ‘naked’ as I don’t think I would have made it fully loaded.
I also decided to have a treat and gave the hiking stove a miss for the night. I ordered a nice meal of battered Flat Head Tails with chips & salad from the kiosk. Delicious!
After dinner, I ventured to my opposite neighbours camp fire who had invited me for roasted marshmallows for dessert, yum, I don’t say no to that ever! It was nice chatting to them and I finally crawled into my sleeping bag at 10.30 pm. Unfortunately not much sleep again because the camp behind me were in full on party mode ’till 4.30 am……
So all in all last night’s camp is certainly different from the previous one but then I figure anyone can find peace and solitude on top of a lone mountain. The TRUE challenge is finding that when you are surrounded by noise and other people. I think I (somewhat) succeeded.
Monday morning I woke up just before sunrise so naturally I grabbed my camera and bounded out of my wee tent to snap the event. Walking back after, the camp was finally coming alive and by the number of alcoholic beverages consumed by everyone in their tent parties the night before, I was probably one of only a few adults without a hangover.
I then had some toast and a cup of tea in the camp kitchen for breakfast. Packing up was getting quicker and quicker, although I nearly stepped on a rusty fish hook. Just as well I had thongs on! These fishing caravan parks are hazardous places I tell you what.
Then a quick tyre pressure check and I blissfully rolled out at 9.20 am heading 73 odd kms west.
The day was just perfect. Not a cloud in the sky with a slight southerly breeze, which, if you are clever and it’s side on (it was) you can turn yourself into a sail-boat-bicycle. The temperature had dropped a bit too, so for the first time I wasn’t sweating buckets like the previous three days.
I thought there might be lots of traffic being a public holiday and people would be heading home. Well they were, but home was the opposite direction to me. I did have two big trucks overtake me. They can be scary, but these two moved right over into the other lane and the second one gave me a friendly toot-toot when I waved a ‘thank you’.
I still hadn’t gotten the mountain thing out of my system so decided to head through the Diamond Hill Historical Reserve near Bendigo, where I encountered my first hair pin bend, yay.
Once I got to Kangaroo Flat I did a tiny grocery shop at the supermarket for lunch and dinner food. Then back on the bike.
The next section I could have ridden with my eyes shut as I’ve driven it so many times in the car. It seemed to go really quick and before I knew it I arrived at the Laanecoorie Reserve exactly 6 hours after leaving Lake Eppalock! This is the most amazing little spot right on the Loddon river. Usually it is packed with RVs, but due to a Blue Green algae scare upstream it was virtually deserted. Lucky me. The care taker assured me that there was no algae in the water, so I put the swimmers on and headed for the boat ramp for a lovely swim. Whilst swimming I was entertained by watching a son and dad trying to get their boat up the ramp, but that’s a story for another day……
Another bucket bath after my swim, hey I’m getting good at those, and then a quick bike ride upstream to the weir.
Once back, I fired up the little hiking stove and cooked a Mexican Bean thing for dinner. Then I did the dishes, updated my written journal (I keep one for all my adventures), watched 1/2 a movie on my iPad and then slept like a baby! It was just a perfectly uncomplicated day.
Tuesday was sadly my last day of riding, well half day really, I got home at 1.00 pm after a leisurely 46 kms.
I woke up after a pretty decent sleep even though my tent was lit up like a stadium by the ablution block lights. I went for a wander to the river and then had breakfast. I was suffering from a severe lack of motivation to get going, but I finally managed to get packed up and left at exactly 10.00 am.
I had a nice ride through the Loddon State Forest, followed by the Dunolly State Forest. Traffic was non-existent and the weather was superb once again.
I had a quick stop in Dunolly for a muesli bar and then took the long way home via Bromley, Betley and Bet Bet (yes the ‘B’ towns were very popular!
Here are some ‘fun facts’ about my 5 day trip:
Litres of water drank- about 20.
Alcoholic beverages consumed- nil.
Caffeinated beverages consumed- nil.
Electrolyte sports drinks consumed- nil.
Money spent on EVERYTHING-, $50.29.
Money found on the road- $0.20.
Times my bike fell over fully loaded- only once.
Shires visited- 6 (Ballarat, Moorabool, Hepburn, Mt Alexander, Greater Bendigo, Loddon and Central Goldfields phew!).
Number of times I though “Shit, whose bright idea was THIS?”- twice.
Number of times I got scared- once (when a possum in a tree above me started to screech in the middle of the night and I didn’t know what the hell it was!).
Number of clowns that crossed my path- three.
Number of times I FaceTimed my eldest son Clancy in Bali- twice (I so LOVE technology!).
Number of showers- two, eeeeeeuw. But, I had three sink baths so all good!
Useful road side treasures I picked up- a HiVis jacket, Earmuff stuff sack, a brand new Bic mini lighter, teaspoon, fork, two vinyl HiVis Flags and a number plate.
Did I learn anything about myself- I’m tougher than I thought I was, good to know hey.
Fastest speed- 63.31 km/h
Average speed- 14.6 km/h
Total ride time 21 hrs
Total distance 305.7 kms!!!
I had an absolute blast and can’t wait to do it all again.