Traralgon to Port Albert
We left our hosts in Traralgon with our bellies full from a couple of days of feeding. Just before we cycled away, our host kindly offered to deliver our panniers via car to the top of the mountain where we could then collect them. Although tempted by the idea of riding bare naked bicycles, we declined and loaded up the bikes, knowing that we had definitely eaten sufficient fuel to burn off. (One of our rest-day runs was called ‘the cheesecake plod’ – enough said.)
A long steady climb took us away from the power stations and up to the top of Mount Tassie, where we enjoyed spectacular views over the Strzelecki Ranges and admired the rows and rows of trees, like soldiers standing to attention.
During our break we were welcomed by a beautiful rose-red parrot who seemed to fall out of the hedge and plonked himself down on the ground beside us. He waddled around the bench, and then waddled around our feet – he seemed rather fond of us (of course it had nothing to do with the crumbs we were luring him with). Eventually, we had earned his trust and he hopped up onto the bench where we sat and greedily accepted Will’s offer of some bread. We were hoping this charming little mutton chops would come with us as we cycled off…
From the top of Mount Tassie, we cycled down through the Tarra-Bulga National Park where streaks of sunshine cut through the huge trees towering around us. It was like cycling through Jurassic Park – lush green ferns bowed in the wind, and huge trunks of Mountain Ash and Myrtle Beech caste big shadows and hid the view. It felt mysterious and secretive: no cars, no noise, just quiet, narrow, winding roads and green all around.
Once we had reached sea level, the ride to Port Albert was flat and fast, open and bright. We stopped at a lovely harbour and were invited to join a birthday party being held in the picnic area. With a delicious helping of birthday cake, we re-considered our plans to wild camp here (with the ‘no camping’ sign and promise of on-the-spot fines) and cycled to the recreation reserve.
The clouds were grey, threatening rain, and when we got to the reserve, there was tape across the track and a sign to tell us that this road and reserve was closed. We looked at each other: we didn’t really have anywhere else to go, and realised this was actually in our favour: with the track closed off, we wouldn’t be disturbed by cars and we could pretty much guarantee no one was going to be around and that no ranger would bother checking here.
So, we checked that no one was around to see and dived under the tape to continue down the track to the racecourse – it was empty and looked like it had been abandoned for a while. The oval was overgrown, and there were a few wooden sheds and benches behind a broken fence. We cycled through the gap, under the rickety wooden viewing platform, and into the ‘pen’ where the customers would have watched the race, placed their bets, and bought their grog. We were hesitant to settle and cycled slowly around the back to some old stables. It deserved historical site status, and it was eerie. However, our delaying was halted when the rain suddenly began. Quickly, we hid under shelter and just as quickly set up the tent to avoid the mozzies!
When it’s dark outside, and when you’re sitting confortably in the tent, it doesn’t really matter where you are. We were settling in for a good night’s sleep and had certainly forgotten about our eerie surroundings…
…until we hear something in the distance, moving towards us. With our head-torches on, Will and I turned and looked at each other – had the other heard this too? We stopped moving and listened. There was a definite continuous sound of an engine, getting louder as it got closer. Instantly, we turned off our head-torches, sat in the pitch black, and didn’t dare move a muscle. I was holding my breath as a car slowly creeped past us down the track. How and why was the car here when the road was closed?! We didn’t expect any company. Suddenly, the eeriness of the racecourse we were camping in came to the forefront of my mind. Waiting in silence, we hoped that the car would continue on past, leaving us unnoticed. Then, my heart skipped a beat as we heard the wheels turn into the paddock, towards where we were camping. It felt like we were watching in slow motion as the car made a full U-turn and the beam of the headlights swung round and fell on us and our tent. We were illuminated and exposed.
The car continued to turn, and for a moment, we thought it was going to drive away again…when it stopped, shifted gears, and reversed. The car door swung open. There was a long pause and the silence was suffocating, until out of the darkness of the shadows, a loud voice whispered: ‘Hey guys…’
In a voice that suggested we had been caught doing something we shouldnt, we greeted the man and soon realised he was really quite drunk. He explained that he was also camping here, sneakily, so that he could go fishing the next morning, and the reason he had stopped was to assure us that we shouldn’t be freaked out. Well, too late mister, I was freaked out. Before he continued a ramble about fishing, he then asked whether we would want to smoke a joint with him. At this point, we felt a little more relieved knowing that this would probably put him to sleep, if the alcohol didn’t. Although my heart rate returned to baseline, my dream-mind was racing and neither Will nor I slept much that night.
Port Albert to Tarwin
The first thing we did when we ‘woke’ the next morning was high-five to celebrate the fact that we weren’t murdered in the night. Though we never even saw the man’s face, we were so thankful to him not for lashing through our tent with an axe in the night in a mad, alcohol-fuelled rampage to slaughter us and take off with our bikes and baked beans. Today, with our lives intact, we were already so happy that not even the wind and grey clouds could put us down.
We rode up high and overlooked the sea and peninsula of Wilson’s Prom, which looked lush and green and textured like a crumpled carpet. Even the sun came out to say hello, but just as quickly, it disappeared behind a smoky cloud. We set up camp in a sports ground just as the cloud burst, and in the shadow of the trees, we peeped out as people arrived to play bowls. Will reckoned that if he started playing now, by the time he is an older gent, he would be a bowling champion.
Tarwin to Kilcunda
Cycling against a strong headwind along the cliffs, it was an excellent distraction to admire the beautiful coastal reserve of the Bunurong Marine National Park. During our break, we said hello to a couple of surfers who were making their way down to the sea to brave the icy water. From the viewpoint above the beach, we watched as they walked to the shoreline and hesitated for about 5 minutes. When we looked back, they were gone: not in the water, but their footprints told a tale of retreat.
When we arrived at Kilcunda, we paused outside a community hall that was today acting as a polling station for the election. A volunteer, eager to help, saw us dithering and shuffled over to us to check we were ok and not lost, oh and whether we needed any money or shelter. We were taken aback by his kindness but were a little concerned at how dishevelled we must have appeared!
Kilcunda to Rosebud
We cycled to catch a ferry from Phillip Island, but not before checking out the luminous-green-beaked geese at Churchill Island and the GP race track near Cowes. Boarding the boat was a little more exciting that we had anticipated: with a strong swell, the little boat rocked dramatically. We unloaded the bikes on the jetty and passed our panniers across to the crew one item at a time. We had to patiently wait for the boat to sway towards us to be close enough to jump on board.
We sailed across the bay and disembarked at Crib Point where we relished being able to grab our bicycles and be on our way again: no waiting around for buses or trains or taxis – just back on the saddle and away we go.
Through the forest, the scenery was reminiscent of home turf, and the hills just kept getting bigger. To subvert any feelings of fatigue, we introduced a little game to guess the number of pedal strokes it would take to reach the top of the hill. It worked a treat, and in no time at all we had arrived at Rosebud, where we were entertained by our superb hosts and their friends over roast turkey and crispy pumpkin skins.
Rosebud to Melbourne
The road to Melbourne took us along the coast where the city skyline grew closer and closer.
We were really impressed with the Bay Trail leading us safely to Albert Park, where we were due to have a couple of days’ rest. We really enjoyed the city, Smith Street, and the outdoor outlets that lured us in, but couldn’t leave Melbourne, however, without a run around the Grand Prix circuit, racing down the road and screeching around the corners.
After spending time with our awesome hosts, the following things are now on our to-do list: bikepacking, avocado smash, and making a coffee grinder out of a wheel hub.
Posted by Lindsay