Following on from Gerrit’s new story 2 weeks ago . . .
Fran and Marg recently took a trip to Victoria primarily to ride the Amy Gillett Medio Fondo in September, but stopped twice on the way south to ride some of the rail trails in northern Victoria and enjoy the towns and countryside.
First stop was in Wodonga and our first ride was on the High Country Rail Trail from Wodonga to Tallangatta and back again, a total of 73.5kms. Although quite flat it was a tough surface -sometimes light gravel, sometimes rough gravel and then a little sand and some really rough parts. We were on our road bikes and running 28 tyres so we managed the rough conditions well. However, there was barely any free run on this ride, so lots of pedalling.
The trail runs down beside Lake Hume which was sadly very low with lots of dead trees visible above the waterline. The way is well signposted and we didn’t see many other cyclists and only a few dog walkers and joggers, who were polite and accommodating. Coffee stop in Tallangatta at Teddy’s was very good. Temperature didn’t get much better than 10 or 11 for the day, and a bit windy on the last 20kms home. Certainly gave our legs a stretch!!
After leaving Wodonga, we crossed the Murray River back into NSW and drove along the river for several kms before heading south to Rutherglen and more back roads.
Next stop was Wangaratta where we met up with Gerrit and Willemina who had generously offered to show us some of their favourite rail trails. First up was the rail trail loop to Everton and back via Milawa (yes that’s the town famous for its cheese). It was a very cold start in Wangaratta, about 2 degrees at 8am. We followed the rail trail from Wangaratta to Milawa for coffee and then on the road for a few kms to Everton where we re-joined the rail trail back to Wangaratta via Londrigan. As it was still spring there were a few magpie swoops but not as vicious as their city cousins. This ride was just shy of 70kms, again mostly flat, but a much better surface than the Tallangatta trail. The majority of the ride was on cycle paths/rail trails with a few kilometres on back country roads with little traffic.
The next day was a rest day for us, so we drove out to Eldorado, the Woolshed Valley (on a good dirt road) to the Woolshed Falls (definitely worth the time) and then back into Beechworth for a look around. Visited the Milawa Cheese shop and then had lunch with the wrens and finches at Brown Brothers. Lovely countryside.
The next day we rode from Eurobin to Bright and back, just a short 32kms. We drove to Eurobin and met up again with Gerrit and Willemina. Unfortunately Gerrit had to pass on the ride that day so it just the three girls riding, with Gerrit as the official photographer. Nice flat ride again with spectacular scenery of a snowy Mt Buffalo. Coffee in Bright.
The rail trails and the area in general are well worth the visit as the countryside is beautiful. The rail trails are well signposted and in good condition, the distances between the picturesque towns are short. Best of all the food and coffee in Wangaratta was fabulous.
Next day we drove from Wangaratta to Lorne through the Victorian countryside via Seymour/Packapunyal and Baccus Marsh on the (long) way to Geelong. Then through Winchelsea and Deans Marsh and down the hill into Lorne. Unfortunately, Gerrit and Willemina had to change their plans so could no longer join us on this leg of our cycling odyssey.
Our final ride was the 45kms Amy Gillett Medio Fondo along the ‘closed to traffic’ Great Ocean Road from Apollo Bay to Lorne. We were staying in Lorne and had the option of dropping our bikes the day before in Apollo Bay and catching the bus down to the start the next day, or riding the 45kms to the start. Fran decided to ride the extra 45kms and Marg stayed behind to pack up and check out of the accommodation so took the bus.
Fran left Lorne just after 7am and the ride down from Lorne was with some traffic as the road wasn’t closed until 9am. There were a few other cyclists doing the same thing and some just warming up for the main event, the 120kms Grand Fondo up into the Otway Ranges. It took just over two hours with plenty of stops for looking at the fantastic scenery. Weather was cool but mostly dry. Fran & Marg met for coffee and a bit of a rest in Apollo Bay until the start of the Medio Fondo at 11am.
Unfortunately, it started to rain just before 11am (and start) but it cleared up after about 30mins. We took it fairly easy as we had done the race before so had nothing to prove. Stopped a few times to take in the stunning coastal scenery. The ride is quite undulating with some longer uphills but really nice downhill rolls as well. The Great Ocean Road was in good condition and better than our previous rides in 2014, 2015 & 2016, perhaps having been resurfaced after the fires and landslides a few years.
Marg did really well, coming 3rd in her age category out of 10, Fran was 9th in her age category out of 16. We crossed the finish line together and were 169th and 170th out of 280 total riders, and 79th and 80th out of 155 female riders. We really enjoyed the day but were quite buggered by the finish. It was sad that Gerrit and Willemina couldn’t make it as it would have been great fun with the four of us together.
We did 4 rides over the 8 days and covered more than 160kms. We found the rail trails in Victoria really great as they are relatively good surfaces for road bikes (some would suit mountain bikes better) and had very friendly gradients. Fantastic countryside around Wangaratta, Wodonga, Eldorado, Beechworth, Milawa and Bright. The Amy Gillet ride is worth doing as well just for the scenery and the experience of a traffic free ride for 45kms! Plus you are supporting one of the best cycling safety organisations in Australia.
We came back home to two very disgruntled cats who had been left at one of the most expensive catteries in Sydney, but apparently that is not the same as being at home, thank you!!
Would recommend the Victorian rail trails and we will revisit in the future. Thanks for joining us Gerrit and Willemina and showing us the rail trails.
Here are some PDFs with extra information: