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.

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The Capital in February


Recently we had the opportunity to visit Australia’s capital city – Canberra, and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The ACT was originally part of New South Wales,  and was separated to become the ACT as part of the choosing of a neutral site outside the two biggest Australian cities at the time – Melbourne and Sydney. Melbourne and Sydney have had a long history of rivalry, and it seems that this might have been part of the reason why a separate location was sought for the nation’s capital. An extensive search was conducted, and in 1908 Canberra was chosen as the location of the nation’s capital. The new Federal Capital Territory (later named Australian Capital Territory) was created on 1 January 1911 when the New South Wales government ceded 2,360 square kilometres of land including the seaport of Jervis Bay to the east to the Commonwealth Government. Before being chosen as the site for the nation’s capital, the area was a rural area. But there was some settlement and some of the original buildings still exist in the city. For example, the Anglican St Johns Church, consecrated in 1845; and the Duntroon House built by the Campbell family which today is part of a military academy. Near the commercial heart of Canberra there is a large lake called Lake Burley Griffin.

Lake Burley Griffin

Lake Burley Griffin

The construction of the lake, on the Molonglo river, commenced in the early 1960s, based largely on Walter Burley Griffin’s plans. There was a move to name it Lake Menzies after the Prime Minister at the time, Sir Robert Menzies. But this idea was vetoed by Menzies himself. At the western end of the lake is Scrivener Dam, which is what makes the lake possible. When the dam was completed in 1963 the area was in drought, so even though the valves of the dam were closed to allow the lake to fill at that time it didn’t actually fill until April 1964 when the drought broke.

Lake Burley Griffin

Lake Burley Griffin, with Fountain and the Black Mountain tower

This allowed the first event scheduled for the lake, a rowing championship, to take place. Today the lake provides a beautiful setting for various recreational activities including sailing, canoeing, cycling, and walking. Or just finding a nice shady tree to sit under and watch the world go by… And there are various places of historical and general interest next to the lake. The weather in Canberra has been described as harsh with frosty winters and hot summers. But this didn’t seem to deter settlement of the area, and I noticed that even though it was quite a hot day when we were there, the number of people running, walking or cycling along the lake was quite high. I took the opportunity to cycle around some of the parkland in Canberra including a trail along a section of the lake while my wife and kids spent the afternoon in air-conditioned comfort. This blog is the result of my ‘adventure’.

Captain Cook Monument

Captain Cook Monument

In 1970, the Captain Cook Fountain/Memorial Jet was added, as part of the celebrations held that year to mark the bi-centenarary of the discovery of Australia’s east coast by Captain Cook. It seems a little odd to me that the driest continent on earth has a large lake, with the spectacular fountain and the Captain Cook monument which all have water as a major feature. or maybe it’s not that strange. I guess it would be easy to have a bit of an obsession with water if one lives on the driest continent on earth! On a small island in the lake is the National Carillon. It is a musical instrument made up of 53 bronze bells. The musical instrument itself was a gift from the British Government on the 50th anniversary of the National Capital. The building it is housed in consists of three triangular shafts supporting three central elevated chambers, and reaches a hight of 50 metres. The Clavier Chamber, situated half way up the shafts gets it’s name from the Carillon keyboard, called a Clavier. Played by trained musicians the clavier operates the Carillon by a system of mechanical linkages to the bells themselves.

National Carillon

National Carillon

National Carillon

National Carillon

Not far from the Carillon, there is a garden area called Nerang Pool. This provides a bit of a contrast to Lake Burley Griffin – the Nerang Pool area is small, with well cultivated garden and sculptures, wuite the opposite the general surrounds of the lake which tend to be fairly broad open spaces with groves of trees. or other features.

Nerang Pool and Gardens

Nerang Pool and Gardens

Nerang Pool and Gardens

Nerang Pool and Gardens

Nerang Pool and Gardens

Nerang Pool and Gardens

As I cycled to see a lot of the features in this post I had no idea how to get to most of the places by car. Even while trying to get to the Lake cycling trail I got lost in the Australian National University campus – a sprawling collection of buildings and winding streets that seems to stretch forever. As a result of my experience getting ‘lost’ while trying to find the lake from where the rest of my family was I decided to try getting back to them via a different route. At a place called Acton Park there is a cycling / walking bridge that goes over one of Canberra’s main thoroughfares, so I decided I would go over that. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found – a well thought out thoroughfare for cyclists which followed the main streets. In no time I was in the same air-conditioned comfort as my family. For tea we all went back to Acton Park (which I happened to be able to find) and had ‘haystacks’ – corn chips topped with beans and salad. And then we drove back to Gundagai, where we were staying for the night.

A GPS map of where I rode can be found here: http://www.strava.com/activities/111883458 .

Camera club


For a number of years we have been looking for something we can do as a couple / family. Rebecca and I have our own hobbies and interests but a common hobby we both had was not so obvious. Over the last few years we discovered that both have an interest in photography – Rebecca is probably more into it than I am.

Last night we attended the local (ie, less than 25kms away) camera club for the first time. For a small town, the club was quite large (around 10-15 people). Part of the meeting involved voting for photos submitted for two categories – Flowers, and Old Machinery. And part of the meeting was practicing taking photos of objects.

One of the objects was a model car, the scale of which I couldn’t quite work out (click on an image to see a larger version of it).

 

Both the photos above were taken without a tripod (although it was helpful to rest one’s hands on the surface that the car was sitting on). For the practicing session I set my camera to manual (something I rarely do) and proceeded to take a number of photos of the various objects. The two above are by far the best ones I shot. It wasn’t until after the meeting that I ‘discovered’ that my camera was set to ISO 64 for all the photos that I took during the evening. And I also ‘discovered’ that the camera will go all the way up to ISO 6400 and that it’s aperture range is from about F3 to F18. Whether I would ever use the highest ISO setting on the camera is another matter all together, but it is nice to know it has that ability. When I use a film camera I like to use ISO 400 film as it allows higher shutter speeds and with fairly good photo quality.

Most of the time I take photos with my FujiPix S1600 I use the automatic settings mode. Maybe being more proactive in using the manual settings is a good idea, especially for close up photos.

Just as a bit of a comparision of photo and settings compared with the ones above, here are a couple of photos of different things shot over the last few years that have quite different settings to the two shown above (click them to see an enlarged version) …

 

The bridges is at Nowra, New South Wales. And the flower is at Carrington Falls near Bowral, New South Wales.