It only took 5 months!


Thats how long it took for me to complete the Great Victorian Rail Trail (GVRT, previously know as the Goulburn Valley High Country Rail Trail). In September last year I rode the Tallarook – Mansfield trail, which is most of the trail, but I didn’t do the Cathkin – Alexandra branch at that time. Today I rode that section, so now I have completed the whole GVRT!

Alexandra Railway Crane

Alexandra Railway Crane

The Cathkin – Alexandra branch is a 14km trail with all the old railway bridges rebuilt, similar to the Tallarook – Mansfield trail. The trail surface was a little corrugated in places, but not to the point of being dangerous unless you have no idea how to ride a bike! It closely follows the formation of the former Victorian Railways branch of the same name. There were some great views towards the Cathedral Range near the highest point of the ride.

View from trail near highest point on ride

View from trail near highest point on ride

View from trail near highest point on ride

View from trail near highest point on ride

I had left home at 9am, and travelled along fairly boring highways and freeways till Euroa then turned towards Alexandra via Merton. Arriving at Alexandra about 12:10, I got my bike ready and headed towards Cathkin. The trail at Alexandra starts with a fairly tough but short climb, followed by a deceptive descent. I say deceptive because it wasn’t very long and then there was another climb to the highest point on the trail. Then there is a fairly steep descent for a few kilometres followed by a gradual descent pretty much all the way to Cathkin.

Along the way I had a couple of snake-related scares – I saw one brown snake and managed to avoid it, but a few kilometres further on I saw another longer one and ran over the end of it’s tail. As I knew I was going to run over it I promptly put my legs up as high up as possible (with my feet at about handlebar height, if you want a mental picture). The snake didn’t seem to strike but I did a quick check for twin puncture marks which would suggest a snake bite but found none, and as I didn’t feel any strike I figured the possibility of being bitten was low so I continued on. That second encounter scared me a bit, but the snake didn’t seem to take much notice of my running over the tip of it’s tail. It should be noted that these two encounters with snakes were the first times I had every encountered a snake on a bike ride. And I wondered whether it was the time of day – most of my rides are early in the morning or late towards evening. Mental note: watch out for snakes on this holiday! Following are some photos of the trail.

Shelter near highest point on the ride

Shelter near highest point on the ride

Cutting

Cutting a few kilometres out of Alexandra

Eglington Gap

Eglington Gap – the highest point on the trail

I completed the ride at about 1:45 and as I had not had any lunch (I didn’t want to ride on a full stomach!) I then promptly found a take away shop and purchased a Vegetarian Burger which didn’t take long to get devoured.

Alexandra is on the Maroondah highway so I decided to continue along it to Healsville then turn south to my parents house where I was going to be staying for most of the holiday. But as there was a car hauling a large boat I decided to go the scenic route and turned off at Buxton onto the Acheron way which goes over the mountain range to Warburton. Travelling along the Acheron Way and through Warburton was probably no quicker than going through Healsville and the Black Spur. Actually it probably took longer! But it was really pleasant driving along the Acheron Way and I am glad I went that way as I only saw two cars between Buxton and Warburton – one was trying to turn around and had managed to block the road not far fro a corner. I’m guessing he got his licence from a cereal box!

From Warburton it was a veeery leisurely drive to Woori Yallock, then to Cockatoo, and then finally to my parents house.

GPS data for today’s ride can be found at: http://www.strava.com/activities/117097685

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2014 Cycling Holiday Plans


Last September I had the opportunity to do some bicycle touring around various Rail Trails in Victoria (Australia). One of the biggest bug-bears of that holiday was the swooping of countless magpies, which is s common occurance for cyclists between August and October in many places in Australia. So this year I decided that my cycling holiday would be about as far from September as it can be – March / April! So in just under a week, it’s time for another cycling holiday.

This one will be quite different to the last one, in which I stayed a different town each night. The plan for the March holiday is to stay at my parents house for most of the holiday (they currently have a spare bedroom) and do a number of day trips along various cycling paths – some will be rail trails, and others urban shared paths. Here is the plan:

  • Sunday 2nd: Travelling from home to Cathkin, where I will ride the Cathkin – Alexandra rail trail (the only part of the Goulburn Valley Rail Trail I didn’t ride last September), then travel to my parents house on the outskirts of the Melbourne ‘burbs.
  • Monday 3rd: Ride the Warby Rail Trail between Lilydale and Warburton.
  • Tuesday 4th: Ride various bike trails starting at Belgrave, and finishing at Melbourne CBD. Then probably get the train back to my parents house.
  • Wednesday 5th: Travel by Car to Foster in southern Victoria, via Wonthaggi. Ride the Wonthaggi – Woolamai / Anderson Rail Trail near Phillip Island.
  • Thursday 6th: Ride as much as I can of the Great Southern Rail Trail (Leongatha – Yarram).
  • Friday 7th: Travel by car from Foster to Mirboo North and ride the Mirboo North Rail Trail. Then continue by car to my parents house.
  • Sabbath 8th: Day of rest!
  • Sunday 9th: Travel by train into Melbourne CBD, then ride to Frankston on various cycling trails. Then by train back to parents house.
  • Monday 10th: Travel to Ballarat (or somewhere near there) by car, and ride as much as possible of the Ballarat – Skipton rail trail. Alternatively, travel by train to Geelong and ride the Geelong – Queenscliff Rail Trail.
  • Tuesday 11th: Attempt to ride up Mt Donna Buang (near Warburton, 1000 metre elevation gain), or maybe Mt Dandenong (around 600 metres elevation gain).
  • Wednesday 12th: Ride from parents house to Gembrook and catch Puffing Billy back to Belgrave (or ride back if train trip not possible).
  • Thursday 13th: Travel by car back home.

A number of the rides above are longer than 60km in length, the longest possible one will be about 100km (the Ballarat – Skipton rail trail). And even some of the rail trails will have some fairly relentless elevation gains. So it will prove interesting to see how I manage with the various rides, especially the longer ones.

Of course this is only a vague plan of the things I would like do over my holiday. It will most probably change. The weather may yet be the biggest influence for change of the above itinerary, followed closely by my level of fatigue as the holiday progresses!

Cycling Holiday Day 2 – GVRT – Yea – Bonnie Doon


Buying that packet of ‘Shapes’ savory biscuits that was on sale was not a good idea! I had a funny stomach most of the night and had to visit the ‘porcelain bus’ a few times to empty the bowels. And inspite of the 40km ride yesterday, I didn’t sleep very well. So I started getting ready about 6am, planning to depart Yea at 7am. When I left there was a fairly thick fog, but once I got through the Cheviot tunnel, about 9km from Yea, the sky was clear. There was a threatening sky around Molesworth, with banks of cloud rolling through the valley, but about 30 minutes later the sky was clear blue and it styed that way until Bonnie Doon.

Fog

Fog

The ride from Yea to the Cheviot Tunnel was across the Yea River flats, and so there were a lot of bridges. And then the climb to the tunnel began, which wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be but it was hard enough. The Cheviot Tunnel is one of the key features of the Goulburn Valley rail trail. It was (is) the only tunnel on the line / trail and was made using handmade bricks made from local clay. The tunnel is 201 metres (660 feet) long and is the longest rail tunnel in Victoria, although whether you would still call it a ‘rail’ tunnel could be debated as no railway runs through it today, only the rail trail. It is estimated that there are approximately 657,000 bricks in the tunnel.

Cheviot tunnel

Cheviot tunnel

Cheviot tunnel brickwork

Cheviot tunnel brickwork

Cheviot Tunnel marked a major cycling milestone for me: 500km in a calendar month (so far). The scenery so far on this cycling holiday has really been ‘good for the soul’. Around Trawool is very beautiful, but east of Yea is also beautiful. Here are a few pictures of scenery between Cheviot Tunnel and Molesworth.

Scenery between Cheviot and Molesworth

Scenery between Cheviot and Molesworth

Scenery between Cheviot and Molesworth

Scenery between Cheviot and Molesworth

After the tunnel, there was a pleasant down grade for quite a way, and a bridge (or more, I can’t remember) across creeks. Harvey’s Gully is in this area and was the scene of a derailment in 1911, and the picture I saw of it showed part of the train on the bridge and part of the train in the gully and the locomotive looks like it is upsidedown. I don’t know whether the picture of the bridge below are the Harvey Gully bridge, as the approaches to the gully in the 1911 photo I saw of the bridge looks quite different to the photo below. Also in the near vicinity was a concrete milepost, and a wallaby.

87 miles from Melbourne

87 miles from Melbourne

Bridge between Cheviot and Molesworth

Bridge between Cheviot and Molesworth

Wallaby

Wallaby

Molesworth Station area is now a car park, and had one iddy biddy section of track, which I assume is on the original alignment as it points in what appears to be the right direction.

Molesworth track

Molesworth track

Just to the east of Molesworth, the trail crosses the Goulburn River flats on a number of bridges. The two longest ones had concrete supports when the railway line closed, and some of the others were timber trestle bridges.

Goulburn River flats bridge

Goulburn River flats concrete supports bridge

Goulburn River flats bridge

Goulburn River flats concrete supports bridge

Goulburn River flats bridge

Goulburn River flats trestle bridge piers

Goulburn River flats bridge

Goulburn River flats trestle bridge

Cathkin, like so many other places that had stations when the railway operated, was little more than a few mounds of dirt and the occasional ‘evidence’ of there being a railway in the area. This location was where the branch line to Alexandra diverged, and apparently was quite a busy place when trains where split – 1/2 the train going to Alexandra and the other 1/2 going to Mansfield. I did see evidence of a web designer there…

Evidence of a web designer at Cathkin

Evidence of a web designer at Cathkin

Yarck and Kanumbra came and went, then it was the hard climb to the highest point on the trail – the Merton Gap, at 397 metres above sea level. The climb was long, and most of it I was using the lower gears on the bike. And just when I thought is was about to end, it just kept on going. Man, it was tough! But I eventually got to the top, and then it was a rather pleasand down grade to Merton, where I stopped to buy a fruit juice (Banana and Mango). I wish I hadn’t purchased the drink as after I drank it my energy levels seemed lower than they were before. Or maybe it was just that the climb to Merton Gap had used a lot of my energy reserves. Whatever the reason I found it hard going for the next 15km to Bonnie Doon. The scenery approaching Bonnie Doon was, well, rather than use an adjective to describe it why I just show you the pictures…

Lake Eildon approaching Bonnie Doon

Lake Eildon approaching Bonnie Doon

Pelicans on Lake Eildon

Pelicans on Lake Eildon

Lake Eildon near Bonnie Doon

Lake Eildon near Bonnie Doon

Old farm building near Bonnie Doon

Old farm building near Bonnie Doon

That brought the day’s ride to 62km. I guess I have a certain right to not have much energy after a ride like that!

A great, if somewhat tiring, ride! I would do it again, but not in Spring (swooping magpies gets a bit on the nerves after a while) and would probably not do it while wearing a pack on my back as my shoulders were getting pretty sore by the end of the ride.

For GPS tracking of todays ride, see:

Cycling Holiday Day 1 – GVRT Tallarook – Yea


I woke up this morning to the sound of rain, and by the time we were passing through Albury / Wodonga the rain had that menacing ‘raining all day’ look about it. But the further south we got, the better the weather got and by the time we arrived at Tallarook the day was warm, and sunny, with a little cloud. Perfect weather for cycling!

As I removed the bike from the bike rack on the back of the car, there was a magpie stuka that was swooping Rebecca and the kids, but it seemed to be content to leave me alone, so while I got the bike set up to start my trek, the rest of the family retreated to the car.

Tallarook railway Station

Tallarook railway Station

I had never been to Tallarook, or travelled on the road from there to Trawool, before today so that was a new experience. Tallarook was once the junction for the Mansfield and Alexandra railway lines. Parts of the rail trail are adjacent to the Goulburn River and the grades, being old railway formations tended to be up to about 4% (1:25).

Rail trail next to Goulburn river

Rail trail next to Goulburn river

Then at the end of Goulburn River Road, the trail follows the Goulburn Valley Highway towards Yea. There were a number of old railway station / siding locations, which basically showed very little evidence of being an important railway formation, and often the signage was the only real proof that a railway facility (apart from the track) was even there, as at Trawool.

Trawool

Trawool Station remains (I think)

At Granite, where there was once a station but today the overwhelming feature is the Trawool Valley Resort (I think that is the name of it).

Trawool Resort, Granite.

Trawool Resort, Granite.

A few kilomtres further on was Kerriesdale. At this point in the journey I decided to visit the Kerriesdale Mountain Railway (KMR), a privately owned and operated tourist railway that has a maximum grade of 1:12 (around 8%). The grades reminded me of photos I had seen of the Cass Railway in West Virgina, but the surrounds had a lot less trees.

The views from the Summit and along the journey to the Summit were amazing. The location on the railway called Strath View Siding offered views to the east towards the Australia Alps, and from the Summit the view was nearly 360 degrees with magnificent views into the valleys and mountains beyond! If you are ever in the Trawool area, I would say the the KMR is a ‘must visit’ location. And I am not just saying that because I like trains!

GVRT from KMR train ride

GVRT from KMR train ride

Views from KMR at Strath View Siding

Views from KMR between Strath View Siding and Summit

Views from KMR at Strath View Siding

Views from KMR between Strath View Siding and Summit

After riding the train to the summit and back we arrived back at the Bottom Points station, where I had some lunch. Then I gingerly descended to the rail trail (the road to / from the Kerriesdale Mountain railway was so steep I had to walk the bike up the last section on the way to get to the KMR), and had to navigate through the scrub for a little way to get back on the rail trail – not ideal when riding a portable bike. And then I continued towards Yea.

Not long after I got back on the rail trail at Kerriesdale, I passed over the King Parrot Creek Bridge. This is a fairly high bridge – I am thinking it is probably the second highest on the whole trail, the one over Lake Eildon being higher – but there may be others that I am not aware of. I wasn’t aware of their being a rather long tunnel on the rail trail either until I read about it a week or so ago, so there may be other high bridges I am not aware of too. Also in the area near the King Parraot Creek bridge, there are some old growth River Red Gum forests, which apparently have some trees up to 600 years old.

King Parrot Creek bridge

King Parrot Creek bridge

King Parrot Creek bridge

King Parrot Creek bridge

At Homewood, there was very little evidence of the railway station that once existed. But I did find this:

Homewood station, maybe?

Homewood station, maybe?

There were a number of long-ish grades on the section between Kerriesdale and Yea, but apart from a swooping magpie actually attacking my helmet (a first since I painted it black and added heaps of cable ties) the whole journey from Tallarook to Yea was without any major incident.

Upon arrival at Yea I had a look around the well preserved railway station and good shed, and then headed off to the motel where I was booked to spend the night.

Yea station

Yea station

Yea Goods Shed

Yea Goods Shed

Over all a very enjoyable and interesting ride.

For GPS tracking for this ride, go to :