Time for a Weddin

No. I am not getting married (again), or anything like that. Over the weekend just gone, Rebecca, Jesse, Eliana and myself went to the Weddin Mountains National Park, located in the New South Wales central-west region. The purpose of the trip was to camp and hike and generally enjoy nature. Or in other words, get a prescription strength dose of Nature-RX . My wonderfully organised wife had trolled the internet for suitable venues for this outdoor adventure weekend, and many of the places she found were having road closures and/or fuel reduction burns over the weekend, and Weddin Mountains National Park was just about the only one she found within a reasonable distance drive from home, which had some good tracks to walk and things to do. So Friday morn, the car was packed with all the stuff we thought we would need, less some things we should have tried to fit in to our Honda CRV but didn’t due to space. And off we trundled initially at the leasurely pace allowed by Learner drivers in the ever forward-thinking state of New South Wales (Australia), but then after Jesse (our Learner driver) had finished driving I took over and drive at the actual speed limit, where possible.

Weddin Mountain National Park is located about 30 minutes drive west/south west of the town of Grenfell, and rises up to a somewhat impressive height above relatively flat surrounds. It seems somewhat out of place surrounded by flat-ish farming land. The place we were going to be camping was Ben Hall Campground, on the western side of the park. The campground was very dry, the creeks in the area all dried up, but apart from that it was a great place to camp with lots of shade from eucalyptus and kurrajong trees. Ben Hall was one of a not insignificant number of bushrangers (ie, outlaws) who found that stealing, pillaging, and taking other people’s stuff was more lucrative than working hard for a pittance and buying his own, and he had a hideaway in a cave near the campground from the long, but probably not quite long enough, arm of the Law.


Kangaroo at the campground

Sabbath morning dawned with a little cloud, and a forecast top temperature of around 28 degress (Celsius). And so we embarked on what would become the longest hike Rebecca and Eliana have every done to date – more than 10 kilometres. Jesse and I have done longer hikes before. The destination was Eualdrie Lookout. The hike itself initially followed a dry creek ravine, with stunning multi-colored and variously shaped cliffs and rock faces, with layers of tress between various parralel cliffs and rock faces. The creek bed looked like it hadn’t had water in a long time. Along the way we saw a goat, which I think must have been wild, as well as hearing kangaroos and/or wallabies bounding through the bush above and beside us. And hearing the song of birds. Although it seemed that bird life was no apparent as in other places we have visited over the years. Rebecca and Eliana must be commended for the effort on this hike. Following the trail involved a fair bit of scrambling over rocks, negotiating fallen trees, and trying to avoid some pretty nasty spiky plants that we encountered in a number of places. Eliana had a fall, but with a some tears and a little encouragement she was back on her feet again. Rebecca kept referring to the last time we climbed “The Rock”, a towering edifice of a rock that stands sentinel over the township fo the same name about 40 minutes drive from where we live. I tried to re-assure her that this hike would be no where near as bad as “The Rock”, but I really had no idea what the hike would be like. We eventually arrived at the Eualdrie Lookout, and had some lunch while enjoying the views (which were quite stunning), and watching various members of a colony of lizards moving over the rocks.

Near the lookout we met a couple who we had seen at the campground earlier in the morning. They live at Ulladulla, on the NSW south coast. They were heading south to Victoria and visiting various places of interest along the way. At the campground, we met a number of other campers, some staying just one night, some longer – they were either going to or coming from Western Australia, Katoomba, Adelaide, and other places. The campground almost seemd to be some sort of ‘cross roads’ for all points of the compass.

Sunday we decided to go for a hike fairly early, then we had to go into Grenfell to buy some more water as there was absolutely no water at the campground excepot for washing hands in the toilet blocks. The hike we did was the Bertha’s Gully walk, which seemed to be named after the wife of Jim Seaton, who had a farm only a short distance from the campground in the years during and after the Great Depression. On other documentation the walk seemed to be called Black Gin Gully. But as a Black Gin is a racist term for an Aboriginal female, I am guessing that the gully was renamed after a white woman. This hike was described as a ‘pleasant walk’, and so we were thinking ‘easy’. But it wasn’t. This walk involved even more climbing and scrambling over rocks in relation to it’s length than the Eualdrie Lookout walk. But the scenery! There impressive towring rock formations and cliff faces, and some other differently shaped rocks which with that wonder of the post-modern age – the digital camera with impressive zoom capabilities – I was able to get some close up pictures of.

Upon our return back to camp we went for that drive into Grenfell I mentioned earlier. It was basically uninterering, so I won’t bore you with that. And lunch was minestrone soup with bread buns, then biscuits and fruit. After lunch, while Rebecca and Eliana rested after their earlier hikes, me and Jesse decide we would tackle the Lynchs Loop and Lookout hike. The sign at the start of the hike said it would take 2 hours, and was 2.5km in length. So we bounded off like a couple of mountain goats and slahed the required time in half! Including a 10 minute beark enjoying the views at the lookout. This hike had more impressive rocks. Impressive rocks are one thing this park has plenty of. And on the way down we, or I should say Jesse, almost collected a spider’s web. And it was a rather large spider that presided over his food collecting apparatus. After a rather un-manly scream from Jesse we negotiated around it and kept going.

When we got back to camp we all got in the car and drove to nearby Seaton Farm, a historical site featuring various Depression-era innovations and money saving examples. The farm buildings were constructed by Jim Seaton from second hand iron, mill offcuts, mud and earth, and hand cut timber from the surrounding trees. It seems that Jim Seaton would be what we might call a ‘hoarder’ today, as he kept anything and everything including bags of charcoal, tins and bottles, old tyres and car parts, second hand fences, correguated iron and farm machinery. But then when the times were tough all that assortment of thing could make the difference between making a living and not. The various items collected by Jim Seaton is testament to not only the difficult times he encountered, but also to his unique character.

The farm was a model of self-sufficiency – they grew their own vegetables, killed their own meat, grew feed for their sheep, cows and pigs. The farm house was made of iron, and had a packed earth floor – probably no “take our shoes off before you enter”, or “don’t bring those dirty boots inside the house” for the Seatons! The internal walls were made of mud over wire frames. But it did have sky-lights in some rooms, built by the Seatons of course.


Storm clouds brewing

After our visit to the Seaton Farm, we continued for a leisirely drive to the nearest settlement, a township called Bimbi. By the time we arrived back at camp it was time to cook some dinner. As we partook of our dinner, a vegetarian pasta bolognese, storm clouds seemed to be gathering and as we had heard that there was the possibility of it being a  stormy night. As we had no plans for the next day except to pack up and head for home, and as we had done and seen everything we had planned to by Sunday afternoon, we quickly as possible packed up all our belongings into the Honda, and departed for home. And we are glad we did. As we drove along towards home we had a fairly constant lightning display – sometimes close by and sometimes nearer – and when we got home and checked the weathr radar on our phones we noticed that two storm systems – one coming from the south / east and the other from the north could have collided not too far distant to where we were camped!

Un-Ordinary Otways

The Old Beechy, Tuesday 29/03

Tuesday. Holidays. Autumn. Put all those together, and there’s a good chance I will have been bike riding as part of a cycling holiday. For quiote a while I have wanted to do some cycling in the Otway Ranges in south western Victoria, Australia. And so as we attended a church camp at Elmore north of Bendigo over Easter and I would be roughly half way to the Otways I thought that would be a good opportunity to continue to the Otways after the church camp had finished. The venue for the ride today was the “Old Beechy Rail Trail”, or part thereof. I drove to Gellibrand and tackled the climb up to Beech Forest on a 20” K-Rock foldable bike. I wasn’t sure how the bike might handle the sorts of rides I had planned for the holiday, but it handled everything the trail threw at it.

The ride I did today was along the right-of-way of a long disused 2” 6′ guage railway which originally ran from Colac, in the south western region of Victoria, Australia, to Beech Forest, and then was later extended to Crowes. The maximum speed of the trains on the line was 32kph / 20mph, but normally between 16kph / 10mph and 24kph / 15mph was the norm. And interestingly I averaged not much less to what a heavy train might on the climb between Gellibrand and Beech Forest. I really got a feel for how the train would have had to labour up that climb. Along the way I saw lots of interesting railway-related features such as old trestle bridge remains, cuttings, an old water tank which apparently is still used as water storage to help fight fires. Although I am pretty sure part of it is rusted through as I reckon I could see daylight through the tank when I had a look at it. There were also some old boilers at a location called Dinmont. Most of the trail follows or is close to the original railway formation. Although there was a section between Banool and McDevitt that was not on the original alignment and was much steeper than a train would be able to handle.

By the time I got back to Gellibrand I was well and truly ready for a rest, even though most of the trip returning from Beech Forest to Gellibrand was downhill. Originally I had planned to continue on to Kawarren, a few kilometres further north from Gellibrand, but as I needed a rest I figured I could leave that for another day. Tomorrow, perhaps?

More of Old Beechy. Wednesday 30/03

As I didn’t finish the Old Beechy Rail Trail yesterday I decided to continue riding it today. The section I rode was between Gellibrand and Barongarook. What a different trail it was to yesterday’s trail! It had some ups and downs between Gellibrand and Kawarren, and more or less followed the main road that connects Gellibrand and Colac on that section. But after Kawarren…

There was a major hill just out of Kawarren, and it was steep. So steep that I mostly walked up it. And then there was some welcome downhill, almost as steep (as I was to find out on the way back). The section between Kawarren and Birnam was not on the old railway alignment, probably because the railway alignment went through private land. So it followed an electric transmission line for a while and then went through some state forest.


The section of the trail between Kawarren and Birnam. This section had quite a few steep and winding sections, and is not on the original railway alignment.

From Birnam, the trail was back on the railway formation, and was almost all the way from there to Barongarook. Along this section there was the remains of an old water tank that the trains used to refill their water, the 103 milepost, and some pretty major embankments spanning valleys and gullies. Eventually I reached Barongarook, and had a bit of a rest, a drink and some munchies to provide some fuel for the return ride. By this point I had ridden 16km, a large proportion of which was uphill.

All along the trail sections of the Old Beechy Rail Trail there are interpretive signage. And on the way back from Barongarook I noticed two signs I missed from the other direction – one at Birnam which gave some history of the area including a siding that wasn’t, which served a sawmill that was for a number of years and then wasn’t. And some history about Birnam ‘station’. I trundled off in the direction of the ‘station’ and found the station sign, all that indicates where the ‘station’ once was.

Eventually I arrived back at Gellibrand, but not before the bike starting making some funny sounds when I went over some bumps. Not sure what it was, and a little apprehensive that maybe a bearing in the hub was going to fail or something else major, I continued on. Once at Gellibrand I found the culprit – it was just the back mud guard had worked it’s way loose and was sometimes rubbing on the tyre. After some adjustments it seemed to be better although I am thinking I might take the rear mud guard off all together.

Today’s ride took a bit less than 3 hours. And so by the time I got back to Gellibrand it was lunch time so I had some more munchies and some water, and a banana. Then continued on to Fergusson, and visited two waterfalls – the Triplet falls, so named because there are 3 cascades; and Beauchamp Falls. There were 2 other waterfalls near them, but as time was running out by this time I thought I would skip them for now.

Then it was back to the Colac Otway Caravan Park where I am staying, to cook some dinner, etc. The campsite where I set up my tent has a very serene view over some paddocks. But during the day and sometimes at night there can be a fair bit of road noise as the Princes Highway, the major highway between Warrnambool and Melbourne, is on the other side of the park. And occasionally the sound of trains can be heard in the distance as they rumble between Melbourne and Warrnambool.

A Tiger, a waterfall, a volcano and some red rocks. Thursday 31/03

The itinerary, or plan thereof, for today was to ride the Tiger Rail Trail and explore around Forrest, then drive across to Cobden or Timboon and ride some of the Camperdown – Timboon Rail Trail, and on the way visit some more waterfalls. Here is how the day actually panned out…

I rode the Tiger Rail Trail, located in and near Forrest, in Victoria. Forrest is a pleasant little town and the information board near the Caravan Park claims, probably very truthfully, that the town owes it’s existence to the railway. The railway to Forrest was a broad gauge (5′ 3”) railway, branching off the main Warrnambool line at Birregurra. The trail itself is only short, about 4 km, but it links up with the mountain bike trail network that surrounds Forrest. The trail was very pleasant to ride on, nice broad pathway, mostly very easy gradients. And there were some interesting historical elements along the way – 3 bridges, one of which is used by the trail, and the other two only remains of once load bearing bridges; a 101 milepost, and the site of an old station site not far from Forrest. The trail officially stops in the middle of no-where, but there is a steep trail up to the main road which can be used to continue on to Barwon Downs, or access the mountain bike trail network.

Once I had finished the Tiger trail, I took off the rear mudguard from the bike, and lo and behold, the terrible ‘bearing failing’ type noise I mentioned in yesterday’s section disappeared completely and so I went and explored the Barwon West Dam trails, most of which were mountain bike trails but the little K-Rock handled the trails I rode on without any problems.

A short trip in the car from Forrest and I was at Barramunga, turning onto Lower Gellibrand Road (I think it was) I drove down, down, and down some more and eventually arrived at Stevensons Falls. This waterfall would have to be the best waterfall I have seen so far on this holiday. The water pouring over the rocks was more dramatic, and the rocky cliffs surrounding it were particularly awe-inspiring. After some positively un-interesting lunch (baked beans, muesli bars, and a banana) back at Forrest, and calculating how much petrol money and available day time I had left, I decided to head back to the caravan park. This was where the planned itinerary fell in a heap.

As it was only about 2:30 by the time I got back to camp, I decided I would pedal out to the Red Rock Reserve. I wasn’t sure what to expect, except that I felt fairly sure there would be some red rocks there. And there were. The rocks themselves are volcanic in origin, and I imagine the soil in the area around must be particularly rich. There were also a number volcanic craters, which look like they would be filled with water when there has been enough rain. In the centre of one of the large ones it looked like a volcanic plug poking out of the ground. In the distance I could see an imposing mountain, and large Lake Corangamite, the biggest and one of the many salt lakes that dot the area north and west of Colac. I also spotted some long-disused railway embankments and cuttings on the way around Caragulac. But lost track of the right-of-way the closer I got to Alvie and the Red Rock Reserve. On the way to the reserve, I had a pretty fierce headwind, and so on the way back I not only had the downhill run from the reserve into Alvie and down towards to Caragulac, but a tailwind for the rest of the way! Through all the riding I have done so far on this holiday the K-Rock has worked exceedingly well, except for that scary ‘bearing failing’ noise which really worked out to be nothing of consequence at all.

Tomorrow Cobden or Timboon or somewhere in between is the destination. Probably.

One more rail trail. Friday 01/04.

This was the last day of bike riding on this holiday. Tomorrow, Sabbath, I am going to be resting. And then on Sunday I make the long drive home, via Bendigo to have lunch with Zoe, Bec and Eliana as it’s Zoe’s birthday on that day.

Today the plan was to ride as much of the Camperdown – Timboon Rail Trail as I could. Having acquired a gradient map, and as it would be better to have the dpwnhills on the way back to where I parked the car, I decided to park the car at Curdies River trestle bridge. From there it wsa uphill in any direction so I headed off to Timboon a leisurely 5km away. The Curdies river trestle bridge had been restored some years ago, and was great to ride across. It made a lot of wood clunking noises as I passed over the various planks but I didn’t think that was anything to worry about. Then after I got back to Curdies River I decided to head the other direction and ride as far as Glenfyne.

The part of the trail that goes to Timboon, and the part of the trail that goes to Glenfyne are two very different beasts. Whereas the 5km section from Curdies River to Timboon is a quite wide nicely formed trail, the trail from Curdies River to Glenfyne is rather less well formed. On the latter section there are a number of trestle bridges which are not safe to go on, and as a result the trail winds it’s way down and up the other side whenever there is an unsafe trestle bridge. Thos bits of trail were often narrow and/or steep and I found myself being very careful riding down, and often walking up while pushing thee bike. There was also a section which had the rails and sleepers (ties, for those in the US) still in place which made that section somewhat bumpy and hollow sounding! I pondered why the rails would be left there while the rest of the trail has no rails or sleepers. Maybe it was because that section of the right-of-way was deemed inaccessible and so the rails and sleepers were simply left there.

I made it to Glenfyne, around 7km of mostly uphill from Curdies River, and proceeded back down the trail to Curdies River where the car was patiently waiting for me. Then I drove into Timboon and had some lunch which was about as ‘interesting’ as the lunch I haver had out on the various trails all week – a mixture of bananas, apples, trail mix (how appropriate), and ‘up-and-gos’ (a liquid breakfast beverage). Then I drove up to Glenfyne.

Once I had parked the car at Glenfyne I hopped on the bike and rode towards Cobden. And again, a headwind. A pretty fierce one too. Are thoe headwinds getting stronger?? At least I would have a tailwind on the way back! This section of the trail is not quite as interesting as the sections I rode earlier in the day, but it also wasn’t as steep which was a welcome change. At Cobden I found the the old railway goods shed, which is right next to the Cobden Miniature Railway – a good reason to come back to this part of the world! For the whole day I rode about 45km which either is a record or close to record number of kilometres I have ridden in a day on the K-Rock Foldable bike.

Then an hour’s drive from Glenfyne and I was back at camp. Time to relax.