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.

BenHallCampground-Kangaroo-7378

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.

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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!

Winter Wonderland Cycling and Railway Holiday


What follows is the diary of a mid-winter train and bike adventure, each day’s entry written on that day…

Tuesday 4th August

The start of this winter wonderland adventure started in character – the overnight temperature was about -2C. After a reasonable sleep in a warm bed I arrived at Albury (New South Wales) station around 6:10am, put my bike into the luggage van and then found my seat. The train ride was good (could a train ride be otherwise?) and it was good to see that the train was often travelling faster than the road traffic travelling on the Hume Freeway that is next to the railway. The plan for this adventure is to travel by train to Bendigo, then spend a day and a half there exploring by bicycle, then (weather permitting) ride along the O’Keefe rail trail to Heathcote, the day after that continue on to Seymour where I will to catch a train to Wangaratta where I will rendezvous with Rebecca and have a romantic weekend away to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. If the weather forecast for Thursday or Friday is nasty then I will head back towards home early and meet Rebecca at a different place.

The train journey from Southern Cross to Kangaroo Flats could not have been more different than the train journey from Albury. Where the journey from Albury was at a somewhat sedate 100 – 110kph (or thereabouts) with as much as 20 minutes or so between stops and the train itself was a 5 car deisel-electric locomotive hauled train the Southern Cross to Kangaroo Flats journey was in a deisel multiple unit (DMU) train called a VLocity travelling at up to 160kph with stops about every 10 minutes. The first part of the journey in the VLocity train was somewhat boring, being on suburban-standard track. But after we left Sunbury the VLocity was able to stretch it’s legs and there were a number of times it must have got close to it’s 160kph maximum speed. I had been in VLocity trains before, but I don’t think I have ever been on a train trip that was so un-nerving as the Kangaroo Flats journey. Exactly why, I don’t know. But the journey was finished safely.

Kangaroo Flats Goods Shed

Kangaroo Flats Goods Shed (disused)

Kangaroo Flats Railway Station

Kangaroo Flats Railway Station

After buying some lunch and booking into the motel, I went exploring on the tredlie. The Bendigo Creek Trail, and 2 loops around the Crusoe and No 7 dams were the subject of my exploration. The 2 loops around the dams were interesting with lots of historical vistas. The Bendigo Creek Trail is like many other urban bike trails with many different vignettes and experiences – suburban backyards, bridge underpasses, losing the trail, bike lanes on roads. Overall, though, it was an interesting trail.

Central Deborah Mine

Central Deborah Mine

Bendigo Creek Trail Brick Bridge

Bendigo Creek Trail Brick Bridge

Crusoe and No7 Dams Water Works

Crusoe and No7 Dams Water Works

Crusoe Dam Water Works

Crusoe Dam Water Works

No7 Dam - Old Pipes

No7 Dam – Old Pipes

Crusoe and No7 Dams Water Race

Crusoe and No7 Dams Water Race

No7 Dam Basin

No7 Dam Basin

No7 Dam Cistern

No7 Dam Cistern

Wednesday 5th

I awoke to the sound of rain. And the sound of water cascading off the roof. Hmmm! But I needn’t have worried. By the time I had finished breakfast it had abated somewhat. And by the time I had attempted to book my train ticket online and successfully booked accommodation for Thursday the sky had cleared up and there was even a fair bit of blue sky. I needed to somehow check that my attempt at booking the train ticket was successful and felt the best way to do that would be to visit the Bendigo train station. As it turned out I had not successfully booked the train ticket, so booked it while at the station. While I was doing that it was raining quite heavily. But a few minutes after I had booked the ticket it had almost stopped. So I continued on my ride.

One Tree Hill Tower

One Tree Hill Tower

Railway Workshops

Railway Workshops

Railway Workshops

Railway Workshops

Through the suburbs of Bendigo I peddled, and then turned south towards One Tree Hill, one of the highest points in the area. The ascent up One Tree Hill was somewhat difficult, but I figured there would have to be some downhilll upon reaching the top and so tried to ignore the aching muscles, rapid breathing, and thumping chest. From the top of One Tree Hill there was indeed some downhill. Yay! From there I rode to the Geographical Centre of Victoria, the location of Mandurang. It even has a snazzy plaque and a big X (which, incidently, ‘marks the spot’). From there I went back to the Kangaroo Flats Rd via a dirt road whose name I don’t recall.

Mandurang - Centre Of Victoria

Mandurang – Centre Of Victoria Plaque

Mandurang - Centre Of Victoria

Mandurang – Centre Of Victoria – X marks the spot

I arrived back at the motel a bit after noon, and then proceeded to dry out my riding attire. And then I availed myself of some lunch time sustenance which amounted to a cheese and tomato roll, some nuts and some fruit. The afternoon was spent doing some shopping and relaxing at the motel.

Thursday 6th August

The original plan has changed. Instead of cycling to Heathcote today and then on to Seymour tomorrow I have decided to travel from Kangaroo Flats to Southern Cross (Melbourne, Victoria) then to Wangaratta today and spend the night there. Then explore around there by bike. The major reason why I made the change was that I didn’t want to ride along the McIvor highway for about 20km east of Heathcote and the alternative routes suggested by Google Maps may be through a restricted military area. The last thing I need is to have to turn back about 10 or km into the ride, or worse. So the safest option was to not include the Bendigo – Heathcote – Seymour ride in the itinerary.

I installed a GPS Speedometer app on my phone last night with the express purpose of seeing how fast the train travelled on the journey into Melbourne. The train reached it’s maximum speed of 160kph on a number of occassions according to the app, even on the suburban trackage south of Sunbury although the track in the section was noticably rougher. Once at Southern Cross in Melbourne I had a 2.5 hour wait, so sat at the platform the train to Wangaratta was going to depart from and watched the trains come and go – a pleasant way for a rail fan to spend a few hours in spite of the drizzle and cool temperature. The journey to Wangaratta was uneventful, until a car collected a train going the opposite way to the train I was on. So the train I was on stopped at Benalla and we were all herded onto buses. I really wonder at the level of intelligence people must have every time I hear or read about a car collecting a train. When will people learn that those red flashing things on poles near railway lines means STOP before the silver parralel things so that the big heavy fast articulated metal thing on wheels doesn’t hit your car! It must be said that through the whole saga the Vline railway staff were great at keeping us informed and getting us to our destinations. They had buses available within about 30 minutes of us stopping at Benalla – no mean feat in the country where a bus may have to come from up to an hour away. Multiple kudos to them for the awesome job they did, and for the bus drivers that got us to our destinations.

So by the time I got to Wangaratta I was about an hour late. After riding to the motel via a wrong turn, and making some dinner, I proceeded to do some serious relaxing.

Friday 7th August

After collaborating with Rebecca, I decided that I would attempt to ride from Wangaratta North to Whitfield or further in the King Valley. So about 10am I left the motel and headed south. The first 20km was on a separate trail near the Whitfield road. I always prefer to ride on a separate trail rather than a road when cycling if one is available. After the Oxley turnoff I had to use the road. And it was a lot busier than I had expected.

Moyhu Church

Moyhu Church

Moyhu Church

Moyhu Church

Hume and Hovell Marker

Hume and Hovell Marker south of Moyhu

Lunch at Moyhu at the iNeeta Cafe

Lunch at Moyhu at the iNeeta Cafe

After a stop for lunch about 1/2 way at Moyhu I continued on towards our accommodation at Cheshunt South. When I started at Wangaratta North I had ‘some energy’, but the further along the road to Whitfield I got the more ‘tired’ I felt, especially after I had stopped for lunch and started riding again. At a place called Edi Cutting, so named because the narrow gauge railway that once travelled through the area travelled through a cuttung there, I decided rather than going up along the road to go down and along the flats. This went well until I encountered this…

Edi Cutting Creek Crossing

Edi Cutting Creek Crossing

I tried to ride through, but the rocks in the water were too big and so I got off the bike in mid stream, getting my feet all wet, and proceeded to trudge through the crossing on foot.

At Whitfield I considered stopping and waiting for Rebecca to pick me up on the way through, but when I found out she was still about an hour and a half away I decided to keep going. I passed through Cheshunt, and turned towards Cheshunt South, and by that stage was stopping every few kilometres for a rest and by the time I got to Glenmore Springs, our accommodation for the weekend, I was puffing and panting with legs that wanted to give up, struggling along on a flat road in first gear! But I made it – almost 70km with full touring kit which must be some sort of distance and endurance record for me.

Whitfield Railway Engine Shed

Old Whitfield Railway Engine Shed, I think

Whitfield Railway Engine Shed, I think

Inside the old Whitfield Railway Engine Shed, I think

Whitfield Railway Engine Shed, I think

Inside the old Whitfield Railway Engine Shed, I think

Rebecca arrived about 45 minutes after I did, which gave me a chance to have a shower and freshen up, and stock up the fire, before she arrived. A very interesting week of railways and cycling! And now the romantic 20th anniversary weekend getaway begins…

Glenmore Springs

Glenmore Springs – entrance

Glenmore Springs

Glenmore Springs – tobacco kiln converted to a two storey 1 bedroom apartment.

Inside

Inside – ‘lounge’ room

Inside

Inside – the roaring fire and the edge of the dining table.

View from the balcony

View from the balcony acessible from the bedroom on the upper floor.