A Whole Bunch of Firsts


For 5 days before Easter 2018, I had the opportunity to embark on that most james-like of holidays – a cycling holiday. But that holiday prooved to have a lot of firsts:

  • First time riding on the Bellarine Peninsula.
  • First time riding on the Mornington Peninsula.
  • First time on a ferry or ship.
  • First time I used a hiking tent and pack for a cycling holiday.
  • First time camping overnight away from towns on a cycling holiday.

Sunday 25th March, and the forecast was for strong winds, possibly rain, and fairly low temperatures. Not exactly the best weather for a cycling holiday, but it was that or spend my annual leave at home. After uneventful train trips from Springhurst, near Wodonga, in Victoria to South Geelong, I started the first ride of the holiday – the Bellarine Pensinsula Rail Trail. I always imagined the Bellarine Beninsula as a fairly flat place, but the rail trail was more undulating than a ‘fairly flat’ region would have required. And there were even a few descent climbs which got my huffing and puffing while lugging about 10kg of extra weight in the bike’s panniers and the hiking pack on my back. The first section of the rail trail was over or along side the old broad guage Victorian Railway branchline.

Cycling kit for the holiday: a 29 inch rim mountain bike, an old (as in about 20+ years old) Carribee hiking pack, and a Topeak bag and panniers.

Bellarine Rail Trail

Aleppo Pine decendant plaque near the rail trail.

Aleppo Pine decendant near the rail trail.

The old disued and somewhat overgrown broad guage railway line remains between Drysale and Geelong South.

But after Drysdale, the trail was beside the 3 foot 6 inch guage Pellarine Peninsula Tourist Railway all the way to Queenscliff. The Bellarine Peninsula Railway is on the formation of the broad guage branch, but re-guaged to 3’6″. Being quite insterested in railways, this suited me fine, and I pedalled along at a fairly leisurely pace, or at least it felt that way with the rather strong tailwind that blew me along. I was hoping to see a train or two while riding along this section. Eventually I did see a train or two, but it wasn’t until much closer to Queenscliff.

Drysdale railway station on the Bellarine Peninsula 3’6″ railway.

Drysdale railway station

Shed at Drysdale railway station

Looking towards Queenscliff at Drysdale railway station

Drysdale railway station

Carriages near Drysdale railway station

0-6-0T tank engine, and 2 carriages near Queenscliff.

o-6-0T tank engine at Queensliff railway station.

Shipwreck / marine disater alert bell.

Diesel locomotive and ‘Q Train’ at Queenscliff.

After reaching Queenscliff, I found the Queenscliff – Sorrento ferry, for the next leg of the day’s journey. The ferry was a rather large ship, but not like the huge cruise liners or sea-going ferries. It was large enough to inspire confidence in it’s ability to make the journey, always a good thing! By the time I got to the ferry it was about 2pm, much later than I thought it would have been so while on the ferry I purchased some lunch, hoping that I would not experience sea-sickness. Retrospectively, I needn’t have worried. Even with the up and down motion of the ferry, and a belly full of food I didn’t feel even a slight bit queasy.

Queenscliff Ferry Terminal

The ferry

Looking towards Sorrento from the ferry.

Once the ferry arrived at Sorrento, I continued my journey to the foreshore camping ground I had booked online for the night a few days before. After I had been riding for a while I started to wonder if I had passed it, but just about that time I saw the sign indicating that I was there. Phew! After setting up camp, I had to walk into Rye, a few kilometres away, to buy something for the evening meal and breakfast the next day. While walking back from the Rye shopping centre to Tyrone Foreshore Campsite I found a reconstructed Limeburners Kiln, shown above. A nearby plaque commemorating it said

“This reconstructed kiln is a memorial to one of the earliest industries on the [Mornington] Peninsula and is a tribute to our early settlers and their rugged enterprise. Duein the mid-1800s natural limestone was mined and burnt in kilns to produce lime, for making mortar. Most of the lime as loaded in barges and shipped to Melbourne for use in the building industry. The last commercial burning of lime on the peninsula was carried out in the Rye area”.

This was the very first time I had camped in a hiking tent when on a cycling holiday where I had to carry everything I needed. And so by the evening I was very thankful for the rest.

Private bathing boxes near Tyrone Foreshore Campsite

Campsite at Tyrone Foreshore Campsite

View from the campsite

Reconstructed Limeburners Kiln between Rye shopping centre and Tyrone Foreshore Campsite

Monday dawned overcast and windy, with threatening grey skies. So I wore 3 layers of clothing on my body – a cycling jersey, a second long-sleeved layer for warmth, and then a waterproof jacket just in case it started raining. Well, it didn’t start raining. But there were some places along the ride where I was thankful I had the waterproof jacket on. In places the route I took was within about 10 metres of the beach, and the wind was so strong that the normally docile Port Phillip Bay looked like a surf beach and sent sea water spraying over me from the waves breaking against the sea walls.

The Bay Trail

Lighthouse near Bay Trail

Waves crashing over the beach wall.

Mural on the Bay Trail

View across the water from near Safety Beach.

Bay view near Mornington

Statue of Matthew Flinders at Mornington.

Rougher than usual bay near Franskton.

After climbing through Safety Beach, Mt Martha and Mornington I eventually arrived at Frankston, expecting that I would have a nice leisurely train ride into central Melbourne. Alas, this was not to be. About 3 stations along the line from Frankston, the passengers of the train I was in were informed that the overhead wires that feed electricity to the train were damaged and that the train wouldn’t be continuing and would be replaced by a bus. Not one of this big coach busses with plenty of space to carry a bike in it’s metallic belly but those much close to the ground metro busses with no storage area at all. So I had to ride to Cheltenham, about 15km away. Thankfully it was fairly flat, and it wasn’t raining, and I could ride along the roads that followed the railway or I might have got somewhat lost. Eventually I arrived at Cheltenham railway station and caught a train to Southern Cross statuon in Melbourne. Then it was on to Bendigo, where I stayed at a caravan park about 10km from the railway station.

Bendigo has a good network of bike trails, but I only really got to ride on one of them that day, the Bendigo Creek Trail.

Lake Weeroona.

Chinese building near Bendigo CBD

Giant flower near the Bendigo Chinese Musuem

Flowers in the park near the Bendigo CBD

Flowers in the park near the Bendigo CBD

Flowers in the park near the Bendigo CBD

Flowers in the park near the Bendigo CBD

Sculpture near Epsom on the Bendigo Creek Trail.

By the next morning the weather forecast for the region was for sunny days, even as high as the high 20’s celsius. And I was on my way to Pyramid Hill. A place I had been through on the train numerous times, but had never actually explored the town and it’s environs. The plan was to explore the town, ride out to the town’s namesake – a pyramid shaped hill and stay overnight at the caravan park. This was been the least expensive caravan park I have ever stayed at, costing only $10 for the night. After a rather pleasant afternoon riding around, and talking to others staying at the caravan park, I went to bed early (there really wasn’t much else to do after dark).

Bendigo railway signal box at the south end of the station.

VLocity northbound, and locomotive hauled southbound passenger trains at Bendigo Station.

Bendgo railway station

Pyramid Hill caravan park

Commeorative Plaque to Major Mitchell, the disciver of the Pyramid Hill and surrounds.

Pyramid Hill, in detail

Pyramid Hill rock formations

Pyramid Hill, rock formations

Entrance to Pyramid Hill via the Golf Course.

Pyramid railway station, which serves the town of Pyramid Hill

Pyramid Hill memorial hall

Pyramid Hill IGA supermarket – rather ornate for a supermarket!

Pyramid Hill silos

Pyramid Hill railway goods shed – it’se not been used in a while.

Pyramid Hill Catholic shurch

An old style shop in Pyramid Hill

Result of my fall off the bike nearthe Mt Terrick Terrick Campsite

Result of my fall off the bike nearthe Mt Terrick Terrick Campsite

Then there was Wednesday. After a good night’s sleep on my self-inflating bed roll and with my self-inflating pillow to rest me head on, it was time to pack up camp and head south east to the Terrick Terrick National Park, near Mitiamo. When one travels through the region by train, it looks very very flat. But I was to find out that looks can be deceiving. Or maybe it was just the roads I rode along to get to Terrick Terrick National Park were more hilly than everywhere else in the region? The ride was along almost all gravel roads, with the destination being the Mt Terrick Terrick Campground, a free camping campground with no facilities except some tables and a drop toilet. After setting up camp I walked to the top of Mt Terrick Terrick, about 400 metres from camp. Mt Terrick Terrick is a rather large granite outcrop rising to about 120 metres high, and the view from the summit was amazing – 360 degree views, with flat land as far as the eye could see in all directions punctuated by the occasnial mountain range. I reckon one of them looked like the Grampians, but I wasn’t so sure it would be close enough to actually see from where I was. I also rode into Mitiamo to buy some food for the evening meal and tomorrow’s breakfast, and some water. On the way into Mitiamo I was not concentrating on where I was going. The bike went into a deep rut in the road, and as I realised it and overcorrected, the bike slid out from underneath me and I hit the gravel. It didn’t hurt much, and there were no broken bones or concussion. But there was plenty of blood oozing out of the resulting abrasions! So when I reached Mitamo, 7km away, I found the nearest public tap and doused the abrasions in water, to clean the wound and wash away the dried blood.

 

Cactus with flower between Pyramid Hill and Terrick Terrick National Park

Mt Terrick Terrick Camp Site

Mt Terrick Terrick

Mt Terrick Terrick

Mt Terrick Terrick

Mt Terrick Terrick

Mt Terrick Terrick

View from Mt Terrick Terrick towards Mitiamo

“Intrusion” in the rock of Mt Terrick Terrick

View from Mt Terrick Terrick

Mt Terrick Terrick

Bennetts Rocks, Terrick Terrick National Park

Bennetts Rocks, Terrick Terrick National Park, looking towards Mt Terrick Terrick (that bump in the middle of the photo)

Bennetts Rocks, Terrick Terrick National Park

After retuning to the campsite, I went for a short ride around what was called Bennett’s Rocks. Not quite as high as Mt Terrick Terrick, but the view was just about as spectacular. And the ride itself was enjoyable too. I also found the Mitiamo Cemetery, and it was interesting to see that the cemetery was still being used for recent burials.

Mitiamo Hall, 1885.

Old church at Mitiamo, now a private residence

Mitiamo war memorial

Mitiamo silos

Old country style house at Mitiamo

Mitiamo General Store

VLine passenger train passing through Mitiamo heading towards Bendigo.

The next day, Thursday, I packed up camp, and rode into Mitiamo where I had some breakfast. While eating breakfast, I saw the morning Swan Hill – Southern Cross passenger train rumble through town. Then I struck out for Elmore about 45km away. The ride was very flat, with very straight roads. Not exactly the most interesting places to ride, but the scenery still held a few surprises. After about 20km of straight road, the road turned very lazily to the left and, behold, hi-rise haystacks. And I thought to myself, for there was no-one else around, “you know you’re in the country when there are more haystacks than people”. Eventually I happened upon an asphalt road, and I continued to follow it towards Elmore, with a brief stop to inspect the grain silos and what was left of railway station (not much apart from a mound of dirt) at Hunter.

The very straight and flat road between Mitiamo and Elmore.

Welcome the really really really really flat lands

Haystacks between Mitiamo and Elmore

Hunter hall

Hunter silos. Once upon a time, a railway ran by here.

I though I must have been within a very few kilometres of Elmore, but the sign I saw near Hunter said it was still about 11km away. So on I peddled, a little less energetically than before, and within about half an hour or so I was at Elmore where I stopped for lunch. This marked the end of my cycling holiday, but my cycling activities weren’t over yet. Over the next few days, while camping at Elmore I managed a few more rides and one rather eventful single track mountain bike trail that destroyed the rear derailuer on my mountain bike to the point where I couldn’t even ride the bike.

Elmore silos

Elmore railway station

Elmore railway water tank

Once we arrived home I removed the deraileuer, and I am still pondering exactly what to do. That is the 3rd rear derailuer that has failed in about as many years. I’m seriously thinking of converting my mountain bike to a single speed – you know, those bikes that have only one gear. That would mean no derailuers! And from what I’ve read, it would make the bike much easier to maintain and repair, and would make it lighter. But it would be harder to peddle up the steeper hills. Maybe I need more of a challenge when climbing hills on my bike anyway.

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Along the Roads to Gundagai


There’s an old Australian folk song called “Along the Road to Gundagai”, and it lyrics are…

There’s a track winding back
To an old-fashioned shack
Along the road to Gundagai.

Where the blue gums are growing
And the Murrumbidgee’s flowing
Beneath the sunny sky,

Where my daddy and mother are waiting for me
And the pals of my childhood once more I will see.
Then no more will I roam when I’m heading right for home
Along the road to Gundagai.

Apart from the lines “Where my daddy and mother are waiting for me, and the pals of my childhood once more I will see” the rest of lyrics indicated above were my experience over the last week, especially when “home is where the heart is” (ie, anywhere my darling wife happens to be). But Gundagai was the end, the destination, of a cycling adventure.

September 11th, 2017.

The cycling adventure started on the date that has unfortunately etched itself in the Western pysche – September 11th. But the events of many years ago were furthest from my mind as I left Henty bound for Wagga Wagga via Mangoplah in NSW. This was day one which involved a long 70+ km bike ride, with my Topeak rack and bag on the back of the bike and a back pack on my back. Those bag and pack had in them everything I thought I would need for 5 days of cycling, minus sleeping gear as that was provided at the various places I stayed. The weather was good, but I did have a headwind for pretty much the whole ride so it was hard going and by the time I got to Wagga Wagga I was really looking forward to some lunch and a well earned rest. The cycling for day one was over roads I had travelled before on a number of occasions so it was all pretty familiar. I knew where all the hillss and all the major landmarks were. So that was more a re-acquainting that a true adventure, although it was the first time I was kitted out for a multi day ride along those roads. Wagga Wagga is a large town nestled along the banks of the Murrumbidgee River, which is also the river that the township of Gundagai is on.

September 12th.

One thing I did while in Wagga Wagga was I walked some of the Wirajuri Trail which I had never walked before – eventually I hope to walk and / or ride the whole 40lm trail around Wagga Wagga. After a fairly good night’s rest I left Wagga Wagga early in the morning, heading towards Junee about 40km away. This proved to be a very interesting day for me as I am very much interested in railways and trains, and most of the journey is close to the Main South railway line that connects Melbourne (in Victoria) and Sydney (in NSW). I saw a number of railway features and some trains during the day.

It was also the first time I had travelled that route between Wagga Wagga and Junee. But that head wind persisted and after about 30km I was really feeling the fatigue. That might seem strange when I can normally ride around 80km before the fatigue sets in but when I ride 80km or more I try and avoid headwinds on the last half of the ride and I have nowhere as much weight attached to me or the bike. I got to Junee a bit before lunch, and so went to the cafe attached to the railway station and purchased some lunch – a vegetarian club sandwich and something for dessert. As I had about 2 hours before I could book into the Junee Tourist Park I found a seat and had a good rest, watching the world go by. After I checked in to my accommodation for the night I went for a bit of an explore on the bike on the various trails and roads around Junee. Junee is a railway town. If iot wasn’t for the railway the town would probably not be the size it is. There is a 360 degree roundhouse, and it is the junction of the Main South line and a line that branches off to Narrandera and Griffith. In more recent years, the de-regulation of the Australian railway industry and the move to containerised freight has led to the establishment of a transhipment facility at Harefield and so the railway yards at Junee often have railway carriages bound for or moved from Harefield. I heard a number of freight trains rumbling through at various times of the day and night along the Main South line and the Griffith branch. So even today the railwys are busy in and around Junee – that warms the heart of any railways fan.

September 13th.

This day was to prove very different to the previous two.  It was a bit cooler, more overcast. But the best thing about this day’s major bike ride was that it had lots of downhill and a tailwind! My destination was Bethungra. I rode along Old Sydney Road for this ride, which in the days of the Cobb and Co coach service was the route they took between Junee and Bethungra. The road was great to ride on, the hills not beeing too steep, and through beautiful farming country. The reason I decided to take this road was that I don’t like riding on major highways, so to avoid the Olympic Highway, the most direct route between the towns I had to go along Old Sydney Road. This road was entirely unknown to me before I that day but I am glad I decided to ride it. Bethungra is another township very much connected with the railways. Nearby is the Bethungra Spiral, a railway feature built in the 1940’s to minimise the need for double-heading or banking of trains to get them over the mountain range. “Double-heading” means adding an extra locomotive to the front of a train, and “banking” means more or less the same thing – but the extra locomotive is often added to the back of a train to push the train while the locomotive at the front pulls the train. As the name implies, the Bethungra Spiral winds around and goes over itself, using the spiral to gain or lose height meaning gradient is less steep. Bethungra once has as many as 3000 people, but when the railways mechanised and restructured their track work gangs the town almost died, although today it seems to be a small but vibrant village of community minded people.

After checking into the Bethungra Hotel B&B at Bethungra I rode out to the Spiral to take a look, and to the Bethungra Dam / Lake which has a good camping area, and explored the railway features in Bethungra township itself. I also visited the Olde Schoolhouse T-House and had a good chat to one of the operators. It was interesting to find out that they are of the same worldwide faith community as me, and so I chatted for quite some time before going back to the B&B and engaging in some major relaxation – ie, sitting on the balcony outside my room and watching the world go by and hoping for some trains to pass by in easy view of the B&B. But alas the only trains that travelled by were an XPT passenger train (which I saw on the Spiral itself when riding out there) and trains going through at night! Oh well.

September 14th.

Old Sydney Road which I rode the previous day showed on the map as a fairly straight rode. The route for this day’s ride was a very winding one from Bethungra to Cootamundra very much away from the Olympic Highway. When I compared the maps for the two days, I figured that this day’s ride would be much more hilly than the previous days due to the constant changes in direction of the roads on the map. And I was right.From about 15km into the ride until about 10km from Cootamundra it was a fairly constant pattern of ascent followed by descent. Ans so 40 or so kilometres and about 2 and a bit hours later I arrived in Cootamundra. This day was a very cold day, around 8 degrees Celsius. While I was riding that didn’t pose too much of a problem as the effort required to ride up the hills and the 3 layers of clothing I had on tended to keep me warm. But once I stopped at Cootamundra and started to cool down, the wind also seemed to pick up. and so I had to add an extra layer of clothing. Thats’ right – 4 (four) layers of clothing and I still wasn’t feeling particularly warm! I was very thankful for the warmth of the cafe where I had lunch and the wonderfully working heater in the hotel room I had booked for the night. Like Junee, Cootamundra is a very busy railway town. On my exploring around town I saw some locomotives I had never seen before. There is also a foot bridge over the railway lines that gives a good view of the yards and station.

IMAG3788

White Ibis Hotel, Cootamundra. Where I stayed for the night.

September 15th.

This was the last day of my cycling adventure. The previous night I had developed a sneeze or hay fever.  I was hoping that wasn’t a sign that I was getting sick as this days ride was 50+km and I was expecting some major climbs along the ride. As it turned out I needn’t have worried about either as the climbs weren’t that bad and once I was warmed up on the ride the blocked / runny nose stopped being blocked / runny. This ride was in a south easterly direction to Gundagai through the locales of Brawlin and Muttama and for part of the way it followed the now disused Cootamundra – Gundagai – Tumut railway branch line. Spring is a beautiful time to out riding in the south-eastern Australian couttryside as the canola is in bloom and the blossoms of various flowing trees (native and introduced) are also blooming. But then there is the magpies, who also swoop in early Spring. Interestingly, most of the viscious swooping magpies were in the towns (what I call “Town Magpies”). The magpies in the countryside (“Country Magpies”) still swoop but often not as visciously as Town Magpies – another reason to be riding in the countrside in spring rather than in the towns!

I arrived at Gundagai not long after my wife and one of my daughters arrived there and once I Put the bike on the car the cycling adventure was finished. But I had made it. With 284km of riding, mostly through countryside that I had never been or seen before, it was very interesting and enjoyable. And I discovered, or maybe remembered, some things:

  • It is not impossible to find people with whom you have a common interest in the most unlikely of places.
  • Country hospitality really is the BEST!
  • Exploring new places is inherently pleasurable and interesting on a bicycle.
  • While the destination is important, the journey is to be savoured and enjoyed.

Ernest Hemingway once said of cycling “it’s by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and can coast down them”. Bill Emerson said “a bicycle does get you there and more. … And there is always the thin edge of danger to keep you alert and comfortably apprehensive. … And getting there is all the fun”. But for this cycling adventure (and many others), Charlie Cunningham sums up my feelings best: “You’re moving through a wonderful natural environment and working on balance, timing, depth perception, judgement… it forms a kind of ballet”.

One Everest in One Month


The first day of the year and month (of January) started out like most other months – just me wanting to enjoy my bike riding, but still challenging myself to do better. But from the 2nd day, things got much more intense right from there right through the month. I blame the weather – the second day of the year / month was forecast to be hot, and because of that I had the idea of doing an alpine ride to a place where the temperature would be cooler than the lower altitudes. In other words, an Alpine Resort. We are very fortunate to have 3 alpine resorts, and Victoria’s highest mountain within 2 hours drive from where we live. And so I decided the 2nd day of the year would be spent riding the mountain bike from Mt Beauty to Falls Creek alpine resort and back. The completion of that ride set a series of events in motion. After that ride I decided to join the Strava January Climbing Challenge, and trying to do the 7Peaks Challenge before the 2017 season for that challenge finishes. The goal of the Strava Climbing Challenge was to climb 7500 meters in a month, a not insignifacant amount of climbing, especially for someone like me who rarely does any cycling with decent altitude gains. The goal of the 7Peaks Challenge was to ride the 7 nominated rides between mid-October 2016 and the end of March 2017 —

  • Dinner Plains
  • Mt Hotham
  • Falls Creek
  • Mt Buffalo
  • Mt Buller
  • Mt Baw Baw
  • Lake Mountain.

Falls Creek was the first of those rides that I did, and apparently 100 or so other riders had the same idea to ride to Falls Creek on that particular day.

I very quickly got into a routine – do an alpine ride on Sunday, with more sedate rides Monday to Friday before work (the coolest / most pleasant part of the day). The second Sunday I tackled the Mt Hotham climb, which the 7Peaks website described as being “the most epic of all the climbs with the greatest views”, and then stated that many people fear the Mt Hotham climb and that even the fittest will be challenged by it. That sounded a bit ominous, and I found myself questioning whether the Hotham ride was really such a good idea. But in the end I decided to try it anyway. One particular part of that ride concerned me – the Diamantina Spur ascent. At around 20% gradient, it sounded like a real motiviation killer. And it was tough, no doubt about it, but I made it to Mt Hotham village with a little energy left in the tank. One thing about the 7Peaks rides (or any other mountain climbing ride, for that matter) is the wonderfully stated physics law : “What goes up must come down”. So after the hard slog up the hills, it’s especially wonderful to be able to roll back to the starting location of the ride. The Mt Hotham ride, at 32 1/2 km one way, provided plenty of rolling on the way back!

The next ride to complete was the Mt Buller climb. Much less “epic” than the Mt Hotham climb, it was nonetheless still a tough ride, especially the last km or so to the village. It was along this ascent to the village portion of this ride that I found my second “Gnome Home”, a quirky statement about Pygmy Possum habitat and protection of said possums. Rather than going back along the asphalt, I decided I would do something different for the return leg: do part of the Australian Epic Trail across to Howqua Gap Hut, then follow the Circuit road through Telephone Box Junction back to Mirimbah where I had camped for the night. After all, I was riding a Mountain Bike, so some mountain biking would be a good option to return to camp. That ride took just under 4 hours to do the 50km loop, the average speed being around 14kph. Because it was nearly always under the shade of tall trees the heat wasn’t very obvious at all. And then it was time to pack up camp, and drive home in the heat. That was definitely the worst part of the day, although I drove home through Tolmie and Whitlands which is almost alpine in altitute which provided some respite from the heat of the plains and valleys.

The next Sunday I didn’t do a 7Peaks ride, as I had the bike in the shop getting the drive train replaced. And I’m glad I did because the next 7Peaks ride on the following Sunday was the most daunting of all – the Mt Baw Baw ascent. This ride is described as the most feared and hardest ride in Victoria. At only 6.5km long, and what appears to be a moderate amount of climbing (741 metres) it almost sounds easy, until you look at the gradients – the average grade is 11%, and the steepest grades were greater than 20%. Mt Baw Baw was the closest alpine resort to where I lived up until I was about 30 years old. And in my younger years I used to go there nearly every Sunday to go downhill skiing. And I remembered the climb to the Baw Baw village being hard even for a car. I knew that if any of the 7 peaks rides would break me, it would be this one! I remember saying to myself a few times on that ride “it’s only 6.5km”, as if that was somehow reassuring while I pedalled ever so slowly towards the hioghest point of the ride. Funny thing is, I remembered the grades being somewhat steeper in the car, and some of the sections my memory told me were really steep actrually weren’t as bad as I remembered them.Well, I made it to the village. I conqured the hardest of the 7Peaks rides. Now I felt like a climbing cyclist! And then the same physics law (“what goes up must come down”) that brought so much joy on the other 7Peaks rides kicked in, and with more than a little trepidation I carefully, slowly made my way back down to the start of the ride – carefully and slowly because it was so steep in sections, and I didn’t want the bike to get out of control or the brakes to fail or fade.

The Mt Baw Baw ride was on Australia Day, and I managed to get the Friday off as Annual Leave, so that meant I had a 4 day weekend. So I had set up camp in Yarra Junction, and planned to do Mt Donna Buang (not on the 7Peaks list, but still worth doing) on the Friday and Lake Mountain on the way home on Sunday. The Mt Donna Buang ride was actually a lot harder than I thought it would be, although I don’t think I had any illusions about it being an easy ride. But it was beautifully cool at the time I did the climb to the summit, and the gradient was probably one of the easier alpine rides I had done up to that time – I actually spent a fair bit of time in the second front sprocket – all the other alpine rides I spent most of my time in the smallest front sprocket. The last few kms to the summit seemed to go on forever! On this ride, like on the Mt Buller ride, I decided to ride a loop, and from the summit I hearded along the dirt ride that passed by Ben Cairn and joined up with the Healesville – Launching Place Road, which passed through Don Valley. Between Mt Donna Buang summit and the the Healesville – Launching Place Road, the scenery was breath-taking, and the road somewhat narrow and rough and I stopped at a few places to enjoy the views. And I even saw a couple of other cyclists on this section (I only saw a few cyclists between the start of the climb out of Warburton and Don Valley), going the opposite way, on road bikes (or maybe CX bikes). The gentle descent along this section was really quite beautiful with lots of shade and some amazing vistas across the Yarra Valley.

The next day was Sabbath, and time for a well earned rest. So I headed over to my old church on Sabbath morning, and spent some time with my mum and dad and one of my brothers in the afternoon. I think that restday  must have helped prepare me somewhat for the last of the 7Peaks rides I would do for January – the Lake Mountain ride. This ride, the following day, started off tough with a climb of 4.5km at about 10% steepness. But after that, it was really quite a pleasant ride, through beautiful temperate forests (some of them burnt out because of bush fires). Like the Donna Buang ride, I found I was not in the lowest gears all the time, especially after the initial 4.5km was behind me, and found the ride to be “almost” relaxing. And the ride back to Marysville was also faster because I spent less time riding the brakes due to the steepness of the descents. Mostly I could just coast down instead of having to worry too much about using the brakes. By the time I had done this ride, I had ridden around 240km for the week (Strava starts the week on Monday), and had climbed more that the height above sea-level of Mt Everest (8848m metres) for the month. That produced a pretty satisfying feeling. So January 2017 will be one of those months I can look back on with fondness as the month I rode “virtually” to the top of Mt Everest.

Here are the links to the Strava data for the rides:

History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul


“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” (Thomas Jefferson).
As 2016 slips quietly behind, with little more than a few ticks on the clock (if you have one that ticks), it’s a good time to reflect on the year that has been. Lord Acton once said “History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.” And so with that in mind, lets turn on the light that was 2016.
I’m not one to make New Year Resolutions – mostly they are just one more goal to not fulfil. And there can be plenty of them without adding another. Mostly, this year has been an interesting, although at times stressful, year. My oldest daughter, Zoe, left home to embark on a journey of learning as a University Student. That was a little stressful, but no where near as stressful as my son getting his car licence and the subsequent having to compete with him for use of the car – those of you that have sons and have  gone through this will know what I mean (yes, mum and dad, that includes you). And then there was the health conditions that manifested their ugly heads that made it hard to exercise, as mentioned in previously entries in this blog. I have also had ongoing problems with my voice over the last year which has made certain activities and situations very frustrating, with lack of (sometimes no) volume and sometimes a very unreliable voice. Interestingly enough, my preaching hasn’t really suffered and has actually been enhanced somewhat by including my wife in my preaching appointments – it’s a quite unexpected blessing to be able to share the pulpit with my wife!
The year just gone wasn’t all stress, though. Actually there were some great things happen this year. Eliana and I got to travel on a railway that neither of us has travelled on before from Bairnsdale in Victoria’s far east. We had some great times away camping, hiking and exploring Australia’s eastern states with visitis to Griffith, Young, Weddin Mountains National Park near Grenfell, Jindabyne and Kosciousko National Park, Bombala and the South East National Park in New South Wales (NSW), Mitta Mitta, and Omeo (and the surrounding region) in Victoria. There were also a number of day trips. I got to explore some interesting railways that have been converted to rail-trails in the Otways in Victoria’s west, and to explore parts of Victoria’s high country on my bike. And while on the subject of bicycles, I saved up enough money in 2016 to buy a brand new mountain bike this year which has made exercising and exploring heaps more fun. The last time I got a brand new bicycle was about 5 years and around 15000 – 20000 cycling kms ago.
Here are some cycling stats for 2016:
  • Distance travelled: 5615km (more than the distance between the southermost point of Tasmania and the northern most point of Cape York Peninsula, the norhernmost point on the Australian mainland, via the most direct route. And roughly half way between the 2014 and 2015 distances).
  • Amount of time to travel those kms: 262.5 hours.
  • Average speed: 21.4kph.
  • Elevation gain: 23611 metres (2.66 Mt Everests).
  • Rides: 215.
  • Average distance per ride: 26kph.
I also became a member of a Gym in 2016, the plan being to increase my upper body and arm strength –  something my cycling generally doesn’t increase.
On a more intellectual note, I have been learning Biblical Hebrew for the last few years, and this year saw me actually starting to read a Hebrew Bible for myself in the original language, which has really been a very slow but extremely pleasant and mind expanding experience. I have gained a much greater appreciation and love for the Bible, and the God who inspired it, as a result. And I’m looking forward to more of the same as I continue through the dynamic and descriptive world that is the Hebrew Bible in 2017. I also almost finished a Certtificate III in Fitness, which when finished will allow me to be a Gym Instructor / Fitness Trainer, something I have been interested in doing for a while. While I enjoy the “software Enginerring” / Web Programming that I currently do (and will continue to do), I have been feeling a lack of human interaction in recent years since since I started working from home. And while the computer work is helpful and necessary, I want to be able to make a personal impact on peoples lives in the area of Fitness, which is why I embarked on the fitness courses I am doing in my spare time.