This adventure traveled through Wurundjeri and Gunai-Kurnai country. We acknowledge that sovereignty of these lands has never been ceded and pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging.
Chapter One – The Setup
Chapter Two – Rolling the Yarra
Chapter Three – Into the Hills
Chapter Four – The Starlings Gap Day Ride
Chapter Five – Paradigm Shift
Chapter Six – The Centre of Nowhere
Chapter Seven – Walhalla
View the Route
Chapter One – The Setup
Amy-Nicole Peters is a brilliant and inspiring person. I first heard about her and her incredible mission browsing the Bikepacking Australia Facebook group where she announced herself to the world. She was going to ride a bike unsupported from Perth to Sydney, a journey of more than 5000km to raise money and awareness about the issue of mental health. Her cycling campaign is “Pushbiking for Mental Health.” She is using her ride to start conversations about unpacking the stigma and the taboo of mental health. It affects everyone and we all need to talk about it, particularly because it’s difficult. The money she raises (at this stage more than $12,000) is going to be distributed between Beyond Blue, Lifeline, Qlife and Black Dog. Her campaign inspired and resonated with me from that first discovery because riding bikes has always helped my own mental health. I started Riding for the Great Forest at a time when I had issues of my own to resolve and my adventures in the forest are and were immensely beneficial. I had been running my own cycling campaign for more than a year at the time and had a reasonable idea of the challenges involved in running a social media cycling campaign. I reached out to her in an email and offered to help with writing and anything else she needed along the way.
We kept in touch as she started her journey and as she approached Melbourne I offered her a place to rest and recuperate. I ended up hosting Amy for a few nights and she agreed to let me show her the forests I love on her way out of Melbourne. We packed our bikes one night and left very early the next morning.
It turned out that her drive, passion and commitment was just as powerful on the bike as off it. I don’t think she got the memo about how carrying heaps of gear is supposed to slow you down. In the past I have received feedback from people that I have a tendency to ride a bit too fast, but Amy gave me polite encourage of the opposite kind that first morning.
We met up with another friend; Holden, opposite the Fairfield Park Boathouse and from there the plan was simple. I had organized a group ride for Saturday starting at Starlings Gap. I figured we could get there in one day and then enjoy a day to rest among the trees. It would be a comparatively small day for Amy but the longest ride I had approached in many months.
Chapter Two – Rolling the Yarra
The morning rolled underneath us gracefully. It was awesome to be on bikes with good people. We chatted and laughed, enjoying the scenic Yarra Trail on our way to Warandyte. We stopped in Templestowe to dip our toes in the river and eat a few muesli bars. It was a dose of positive energy for all of us, I am sure. Almost surreal really, we gelled quickly and the vibe was open and free. I used to ride up and down here a lot, it felt peculiar and somewhat nostalgic to be bikepacking on the Yarra trail, so close to the city. What a joy to roll out of home and into the world without trains or drama, I can’t speak for the others but I could taste magic in the air that morning.
We continued riding to Warandyte. We stopped and ate some terrible vegetable pies at one of the bakeries. Yeah, sorry, not sorry, they weren’t good pies. We had a laugh about it, downed some fizzy sugars and got on with the program.
Now began the worst section of the entire ride. It was frightening, tight, steep and every person within a 10k radius was driving on the same road we were trying to ride. It was not a good time to be on the road. It was, according to Amy, possibly the sketchiest bit of riding in her whole trip. Even the stoic Holden was a bit like “this is shit” – yeah, nothing to dispute there. It was a grand total of 15km to Lilydale but it took a couple of hours. The second half of it wasn’t even that bad, it was probably only the first 5km where we were riding without a shoulder up steep pitches with near constant traffic in both directions. The sun was intense but it was no place to stop. It was a bit stupid. There has to be a better way to connect Lilydale with the Yarra trail. Please send me through a ridewithGPS file of this section if you know a way to ride it that is actually safe, thank you in advance.
To make matters worse I started tanking. I had not been eating nearly enough throughout the day. It had been a few months since I had been out riding with a loaded bike, it was hot and sunny and all I wanted to do was find a shady spot to curl up and sleep. Not good form from the “Great Forest Rider” – today, I was the struggle town just leave me here and go on without me, I am not worthy rider. The reality came to a head a few ks short of Lilydale when I was basically unable to continue. Thankfully my companions were amazing, understanding and compassionate. I dropped my bike under some roadside pines and stuffed handfuls of jelly snakes into the pie hole. Holden ran across the road and acquired a large bottle of cold sugary electrolyte filled goodness. I espoused thanks and apologies and continued gulping down snakes. I knew I was not in a good place, and I was hard on myself to make sure I didn’t repeat the experience. When muscles and brains are short of the energy the require it can be very difficult to think or ride. We were a long way from Starlings Gap and I knew it.
I felt myself regaining some semblance of normality and we rolled on. I was kicking myself for bottoming out so thoroughly. I was conscious to eat at every available opportunity. I still felt weak, but we rolled into Lilydale and relief washed over me. I found myself wishing we had just caught the train out here, but I also knew in my heart that sometimes things like this happen and learning to roll with it and find the beauty in the situation is important. I was vulnerable, but I was with good people, and I was grateful.
The Warby trail is a home away from home. The roll up to Mt Evelyn was more of a grind on this day than I think it had ever been before but I felt immense relief being off the road. We took a long break at the station and ate plenty of snacks. I felt my humanity return and as we pushed on we were rewarded with a calming gentle breeze that pushed us along and cooled us down. It put the wind into my sails and as we descended I started pumping some Stepcat and doing the bike boogy. The tunes and developing chill of evening did an amazing job of lifting my spirits. Holden remarked that I had probably been hit by a small amount of heat stroke and while I struggled to reconcile the idea it became apparent he was probably on the money.
We took a break rolling and investigated our options. Starlings Gap was still a long way away and despite my own advice, I hadn’t planned an earlier campsite. I had been in touch with Iain (@veganbaker) in the morning to let him know we were rolling out via the Warby trail and it would be cool to touch base. We had been trading the odd message for a year or more as he is a passionate cyclist in the Yarra Valley who supports the Great Forest National Park proposal. He was one of my first ‘fans’ and we had been trying to cross paths. He offered us a place to sleep for the night with dinner attached. It was too good an offer to turn down.
Suffice to say he is 10x the legend I imagined in person. He showed us around his bakery, made a delicious spread of beans, kale, rice and lentils and saved us the trouble of setting up our tents. We talked cycling and those hectic multiday adventurers who knock off the Indipac and Hunt 1000. I realised firmly that I am a cyclist of leisure and though I may occasionally fantasize about riding a pointy bike exceptionally long distances at speed the reality is I would rather swing in a hammock and read a book. I am not really prepared for riding so hard I can’t walk for two weeks afterwards. Time might change my mind about that but for right now I am happy to take it easy. Though the more I think about it, the more I get inspired to test myself…
My foggy mind was still so cloudy I almost declined the offer of a shower to the dismay of my companions and hosts. After a bit of a rinse I was returning to the land of the lucid and I slept soundly.
Have I mentioned yet that The Vegan Baker is a baker of distinction? Probably the baker of the Yarra Valley. We were treated to fresh sourdough and fruit toast for breakfast. It was the first time in about a month I had actually eaten breakfast and it was great. I knew the last thing I wanted from today was a repeat of yesterday’s tanking experience and I ate a lot of delicious artisan bread. I tried to apologize for my confuzzled absent mindedness of the night before but Iain is another enlightened soul who was on the level and wouldn’t hear a bar of it. He put me at ease and kept feeding us bread until we couldn’t eat any more, then gave us more to eat later.
I offered Iain a go on the fat bike before I loaded it up again and he took me up only to find the back wheel had gone flat overnight. Was this the beginning of the end? No! It held air when reinflated and he had a gentle roll around the garden. We assembled the bikes, posed for a photo and hit the road again. Not before Holden had to show off how good he is at bikepacking by lifting his fully loaded rig above his head. If Amy was riding that light she’d have already made Sydney and if I was riding that light I probably wouldn’t have bottomed out. It was a great moment.
We hit the Warby trail in high spirits. Oh yes, make no mistake this was a beautiful morning. That rolling again feeling, full bellies, caffeine main lined, fresh legs, delicious. I chucked some tunes on the speaker and we played a little bit of gentle leapfrog up to Yarra Junction. We did a couple of laps of the skate park on our loaded bikes and picked up all the last minute supplies for our foray into the forest. We were getting along swimmingly and we fell into bike travel mode. Sure, Amy had been that way for nearly two months and Holden is probably never more than a sideways glance from jumping on his bike for the next adventure but we were synchronising. We knew we didn’t have epic ground to cover and we could chill out, so we did.
We bumped into a couple of mates; Emma and Steve, on our way out of town and it further contributed to the feeling of homeliness. Going to the forest can make me feel like I am waking up from a dream. Running into old mates in the forest or on my way there has become increasingly important for me. The locals, protectors and business owners who show their support for the forest, and to my exploration of it are true friends. Steve and Emma have done some quality long distance bike touring of their own, some of it on a tandem, but their expression when I introduced Amy; “Hi, yeah, she has cycled over 5000km to be here,” was priceless. We chatted for a while then Amy said something about how you don’t get that far by talking and we hit the road with wide grins.
Chapter Three – Into the Hills
A few kilometres later the climbing started. We chose to take Black Sands Road at the suggestion of The Vegan Baker. The pitch was very achievable but the heat was intense. I was very aware of all of the food I was carrying. On a couple of occasions we stopped to transform food from dead weight to energy. We took off superfluous clothing. We kept grinding. It took much longer to climb than I had predicted. It was therapeutic.
I remembered that I had tried to ride Black Sands more than a year ago and given up. I didn’t have a map of that part of the forest at that stage and was just following the signs to the Ada Tree. I’d already been out and riding for a few days and what turned out to be way less than halfway up the climb I packed it in. I couldn’t remember why, but with the magic of hindsight it was probably because I was riding without such an awesome crew.
Our arrival was monumental. Drop everything, we did it. Fuck yes. We cracked a couple of beers and swapped into some dry comfy clothes. WE MADE IT!!!! All of the stress was exhaled and the forest flooded into every pore. Starlings Gap is a fantastic campsite. Lying on the grass, listening to the wind through the trees, knowing we were done for the day. Pure bliss. We made a friend, and caught up with another old mate, letting it all hang out. It was a night to remember sitting around the fire without a single care in the world. We had a bit of fun with dinner too, never let a little bit of dirt get in the way of a good feast, that’s what I always say.
The next morning was a little sluggish. I felt a bit silly. In discussion the night before we worked out that the route I had planned for the day ride was untenable. One of the roads RidewithGPS and Google thought was there had in fact been decommissioned and was completely overgrown. This was a pretty big problem. I had included in the event details that we would be exploring some roads I had not ridden before, but not roads that didn’t actually exist. The GPS file I had distributed was effectively useless, and worse than that, potentially a trap if someone was going to show up late and try to find us. Having good maps and a reasonable grasp of the area I was able to improvise on the fly. I made it a point to bring the whole group of riders around a map before we departed to explain the new route and pay respect to the traditional custodians of this part of the world, the Wurundjeri.
It was a nice sunny morning and we were all excited to be going on a bike ride. My brother had come along with a friend, there were a couple of regular ‘Great Forest Riders’ and a human or two I hadn’t met before. A fine crew if ever I did meet one. Amy packed her bike to depart and was going to leave us at the furthest point of our loop. There were a lot of conversations happening between riders and I wondered how many of them had paid attention to the route explanation I gave earlier. We stopped before the ride for a group photo, taken by one of our new friends from the night before, and then we were off.
Chapter Four – The Starlings Gap Day Ride
It was warm on the bike. I could feel the sweat by the end of the first hill, and to make matters worse my back wheel was still going flat. I think I stopped within the first km to stop and pump it up. One of those things I had to do but didn’t feel particularly proud of, with a group of people standing around who I had invited to come bike riding. Not far from where we started we passed a small but recent logging coupe. I stopped the group to talk about the forest’s intrinsic connection to water. We looked at the hard, dry, almost baked soil at the base of the coupe. We discussed how the soil of the forest acts like a sponge to soak up, filter, purify and store water. I explained how most of Melbourne’s water comes from the forests of the Central Highlands and how the transpiration from the trees in the forest create and break clouds, seeding rain. We talked about how the soil is almost always damp, everywhere, under layers of canopy. We also talked about how clear fell logging interrupts and disturbs these processes, leading to erosion, water loss, and according to researchers from ANU contributed to increased fire intensity during Black Saturday.
I don’t like banging on about negativity, so we hit the road again promptly. Another few hundred metres down the trail my chain spat the dummy. My rear tyre was almost flat again and I took a few moments to pump it up again too. Most of the group sailed on and a few of us stopped to roll on together. The next intersection boasted a sign to the Ada Tree but the new route I had described earlier had us rolling there the long way, via another few kilometres of forest trails. Nobody was waiting at the intersection and the tailing group I was rolling with had a decision to make. I decided we should push on with the original plan. If by chance they had taken the shortcut we would catch up with them in less than an hour , but if they had taken the original plan I knew they were likely going to stop before they got back to the tree.
After rolling the intended route for a couple of kilometres it became clear they had taken the shortcut. I explained the fastest way back to the Ada tree to one of our fittest and fastest riders, then asked him to high tail it and explain what was happening to the rest of the group. The rest of us reached the apex of the loop and exchanged meaningful hugs with Amy before she continued her odyssey to Sydney. Watching her pump those pedals into the depths of the forest solo was difficult, part of me was pretty keen to join the escapade and ride onto Sydney myself, but it was totally out of the question so we got back to the task at hand.
The next section of the day ride was actually one of the nicest, riding a rough overgrown 4wd track up and down through thick regrowth at speed to re-join the group. My guilt was a palpable lump in my throat, with time ticking on and unaccounted for cyclists at a currently unknown location. Nonetheless the remaining riders were comfortable riding at pace, and it was a great day to be out and amongst it. I recall the joyous sounds of kookaburras enjoying the show as we raced to reunite the group.
Our arrival at the Ada tree was not quite as spectacular as I had imagined. The missing group was nowhere to be seen and the only thing we did find was the advance rider I had sent, alone with their bike. I pointed the riders down the disabled access way to one of the biggest trees in the southern hemisphere and took up the mantle of waiting. While I began imagining unfortunate and obscure circumstances, like aliens, getting lost deep in the forest or spitting the dummy and riding back to their cars, the group reappeared with muddy bikes. They had apparently tried riding the walking track to the tree, got bogged within the first 50m, left their bikes and walked. They had really enjoyed themselves and invited me to relax on the worrying about their safety. It was a nice day out in the forest, they had been enjoying it and knew it was a self-supported ride. I sighed deeply, we all laughed. We all laughed again when I tried my luck at riding through a bog hole.
With the group back together, the sun high and everyone reasonably well rested we got back to shredding. We rode past the Blue Vein coupe, a massive planning oversight on behalf of those involved (seriously, logging so close to the Ada tree?) and then went for an adventure. The Federal Short Cut track is very overgrown and entirely impassable to cars and 4wds. The ends are barely visible, but if you know what you’re looking for you can’t miss it. It was perfect for mountain bikes, dodging branches and puddles. We all had fun, I actually checked afterwards, such was my desire to ameliorate the losing half of them earlier situation. The forest must be stacked with these old tracks that could be reopened for bikes, and maybe one of these days they will be.
We rode back into Starling’s Gap to be greeted by an impressive turn out from the Campfires and Science crew. Unfortunately for them, none of my riding pals, bar Holden, had any intention of sticking around for the evening but they hadn’t seen the campsite before and many of them remarked they would like to return. It was their loss, Holden and I spent a lot of the afternoon rolled out in the sun and shade, drinking cold beer. A hard life, going for a little ride in the day time without any gear and then relaxing. I would rinse and repeat on a daily basis without any woes.
Campfires and Science are a cool bunch. University educated scientists, conservationists, cyclists and interested members of the public congregate around a campfire to share a meal, tell stories and occasionally do a bit of science. We discuss broad scientific topics around the fire, do a bit of spotlighting for native wildlife, lament moronic politicians and generally do what humans have been doing around fires for a very long time. It’s quite nice.
Chapter Five – Paradigm Shift
The next morning the scientists were off to measure and investigate some quadrants. It sounded like a blast but Holden and I had other business to attend to of the two wheeled variety. We downed a few cups of rocket fuel, packed our gear and waved goodbyes after eating a significant portion of their morning spread. One of the savvy organisers, a happy go lucky chap by the name of Jack Nunn, gifted us a few hundred grams of his homemade toffee that we began referring to as shard almost immediately because of its glassy appearance and energetic qualities. Fuelled and stocked up for days, we rode East into the unknown.
We rode the route I had originally planned for the day ride, and developed a first hand understanding of why it was untenable. One of the tracks the internet thought existed, was much like the Federal Short Cut track but even further overgrown. Thankfully we had no need to take it, and bombed down Ada River road instead. It is an extremely fast and enjoyable road. We stopped for a brief lunch on the river itself, getting our feet wet and remarking on the blessed nature of our existence. From there we rode out onto the main road to the Noojee trestle bridge. Here folks getting out of the cars couldn’t help but wonder about us and our bikes, every cycle tourist knows that incredulous look. It’s like they can’t tell if you’re homeless, stupid, insane or all three. It seems unfathomable to them that you actually enjoy what you’re doing, and given you do, it’s normal to get back to it rather than try to open their minds.
Holden and I rode across the trestle bridge and then hammered the rest of the rail trail into Noojee. We stopped at the pub for a cold one and delicious pizza overlooking the river. Good times. With a bit of a groan and a sense that we could have rolled out on the grass and napped very peacefully we pushed on. We started climbing towards Baw Baw telling tales of foreign adventures and sucking on that delicious sugary shard Jack gave us. At the Fumina junction we bombed south, insistent we weren’t going to camp at the top of Baw Baw.
The road towards Fumina South is one of the nicest roads ever. It was quiet, shady, scenic and a total joy. It had the -1% gradient you can coast on without pedalling or brakes. In the bike world, this is known as ‘the shit’ or heaven in the fading afternoon light. We were not ready to pack it in and head back to the city however, we had made our mission at the pub in Noojee. We had a destination in mind, though we weren’t going to get there this night. We took a good look at our maps and picked a road, it was also lovely. Can you tell this was a particularly wonderful day?
We rode into a fabulous unmarked campsite not far off the road and next to a glorious river. We washed off the salt, started a fire, sipped some rum and had a three course dinner. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’re probably across my staple bike diet of instant soup and cous cous. We had all the different flavours, and even used some deb for variation. We had three courses because we were hungry. I remarked on it at the time and I will do it again, one of my favourite things about bike life is when you can do that. When you have an appetite that could shut down an all you can eat buffet. It was a night of good chats and warm peaceful silence staring into the coals. We slept like kings.
Chapter Six – The Centre of Nowhere
We woke like kings, and rolled out in high spirits under a scorching sun. This was a part of the forest I had never explored before, and we drank in the scenery as we began climbing an unnamed hill. Out of nowhere a logging truck came hurtling towards us and we got off the road to let it pass. It was a jarring slap of reality, that even out here, where we had never been before, the forces of industrial extraction were hard at work. It felt a little bit like someone had opened a Starbucks halfway up Mt Everest, totally inappropriate. I had to remind myself, that’s what happens out here. Ever since the white people showed up, these forests have been ransacked for timber. It’s almost been their primary use to our culture, never mind that the forests have been standing and supported humans and a wondrous myriad of life for tens of thousands of years, the colonisers found timber and that was that. What would it take for us to realise the forests are full of medicine, food, and the longest histories of tradition? I shook it off and kept riding.
At some point we cracked out the maps and figured out where we were. It was an interesting part of the forest to be trying to traverse in an easterly direction. In the city there are roads that go in almost every conceivable direction from everywhere. In the forest, the roads were built where they could be. Big rivers, steep cliffs, pointy ridges, bogs, rocks, and all manner of natural obstacles make it impractical to build roads in straight lines and additionally make building roads an arduous process at the best of times. What I am trying to get at, is that based upon the information and maps we had, there weren’t a heap of good options for us to get where we wanted to go without potentially needing to back track a long way.
At this point we encountered a blessing disguised as a 4WD. Inside a couple of grey nomads were doing more or less the same thing as us, and had in their possession CFA maps of the area. There were more roads than we bargained for, but they warned us that some of the roads were barely roads, and others were almost entirely overgrown. We took a few pictures of the maps and pressed on, reasonably confident we could get where we were going.
Around us the forest started growing. It was the kind of place we stopped for a snack and left our bikes in the middle of the road. From memory the basic problem we had encountered with our maps was a lack of options regarding where to cross a particular river without going all the way up to the main South Face road. We found a bridge, and thought that was the end of our woes. In reality it was where things got really interesting. We took a right at the end of the bridge and a short while later found ourselves looking up one of those walls you’d need to be Brandon Semanuk to ride down. The kind of thing you’d have to be pretty silly to even attempt in a regular 4WD. It would be a waterfall in the wet, but nonetheless was the continuation of our path. We pushed. I got about 2/3 of the way in the time it took Holden to reach the top and then he came back to help push. What a gentleman, I was so thankful.
Now we had another problem. There was another fork at the top of the wall of death. We looked at our maps, and guessed wrong, riding out to a dead-end. There was a brilliant campsite out there, but it was way too early in the day for us and we were now considerably unsettled by not knowing exactly where we were. We took the other half of the fork and rode into obscurity. The forest was beautiful, but the heat was real and it was a hard slog. The tracks were sandy, overgrown and hard work. The first few intersections we came to were unmarked, and we had to play a fun game using the compass and our wits to try and determine where we were going based upon the possibility of being at different intersections. It was challenging, but we pulled it off by eventually finding a sign indicating that we were indeed where we thought we might have been. It only took a few hours of following our noses in some of the most beautiful forest I have ridden, and I’d do it again.
Eventually we rejoined a wide gravel road and realised we were back in the real world. Soon enough we were riding past big logging coupes and starting to look for ways out of this patch of forest and into the next one. We found a killer track that skirted around the top of Moondarra State Park and enjoyed some speed on the way past a couple of super cute properties on the edge of the forest. We crossed another river and then rode up past the southern section of the Erica mountain bike park onto the main road into Erica. The blacktop felt foreign and strange, cars were passing us at significant speed and when we finally hit the township we rolled into the park and sprawled onto the grass. A sign in a notice board said something about a bakery further into town, and we decided pies and sausage rolls were in order. We found the place, but they were in the process of closing for the day. I went for a big bottle of the cold sugary electrolyte stuff they market as performance enhancing and asked about pies.
“Do you have any pies?”
“Sorry, no, I’ve just thrown out what was leftover from the day.”
“…Umm… Do you think I could have a look in your bin?”
“…Uhh… Well I guess I did put them in their own bag before they went in the bin, so…”
And that’s how Holden and I ended up with a couple of pies and a few sausage rolls each for free. We greedily ate the lot, laughing about the joys of not being afraid of bins. Full to the brim after our exciting day in the forest, we decided to hit up the pub for a cold one to wash the pies down. It was there we learned we still had a little bit over an hour to get down to Walhalla for dinner and there was a rail trail that would take us half the way. Game on, and off we went.
The rail trail is a stunner, for anyone who is interested. Ferns and big shady trees everywhere, a nice gentle gradient to roll on after our long day. We were loving it, even if we were feeling a bit sluggish. It was the first time Holden started to seem a little bit edgy, and was pushing me to keep up and get with the program. It was a good ride, and the last bit into Walhalla along the main road is super scenic in the fading light. We got to the pub with 10 minutes to spare on dinner orders and while Holden was still feeling reasonably full from the baked goods I ordered the largest meal they offered. We sat down thoroughly chuffed with ourselves to enjoy another cold beer while the food was prepared and laughed about how far we had come, how we were pretty much lost at lunch time and how we managed to keep our shit together. We polished off our plates and then rode wide eyed through the rest of Walhalla up to the campground. Neither of us had visited Walhalla before, and the town was too cool to not make the plan for tomorrow of checking it out.
Chapter Seven – Walhalla
Walhalla was a gold rush town during the 19th century and prospectors flocked in for their piece of the action. There were countless claims and a few larger mining operations in it’s heyday. Some major fires, floods and the demands of war wreaked havoc on the populace. There is a great photograph in the fire house of a few gentleman leaning on a piano while the hillside burns in front of them. Until recently there wasn’t much going on there at all. It was only very recently that the place was hooked up to the electricity grid and tourists have begun visiting. Now it is a quaint little town nestled in a beautiful valley with a museum, a few little stores and a stack of bed and breakfasts. I’d recommend it to anyone seeking a weekend getaway from Melbourne. Our morning exploration included a few interesting chats with locals and yielded an exciting option for riding out of town.
Bright eyed and bushy tailed we embarked on riding the start of the Australian Alps Walking Track. It was a choice option, and totally void of other humans. We were warned of a fire somewhere, and just above the Thompson the track had been roped off. We bombed down to the main road via a rather steep 4WD track.
On the other side of the bridge we took another walking track up the Thompson that our maps told us would let us emerge near Rawson, the town built as a workers village for the Thompson Dam. After an hour or so cruising up some lovely single track we came to another bridge over the Thompson and had a view of a smoking hillside, on our side of the river. I made the cautious decision not to ride into what was almost definitely the fire we were warned about but we still took the opportunity to have a swim in the cool river before heading back to the main road.
It was a little unsatisfying to ride the same track twice, but I preferred it to the option of riding into a fire. When we got back to the main road we rode up and back along the blacktop with the rain chasing us. In such warm weather the rain was a nice temperature check, and we kept flowing back all the way into Traralgon. We caught the V/Line back into the city and then rode onto Holden’s place for a few knockoff beers. We were grinning ear to ear and delighted in rolling off all the stories of our adventure with his housemates until we crashed out hard and slept like babies, promising to do it all again soon.
Links and Further Reading
If you’re interested in supporting a good cause, Amy-Nicole’s fundraiser is still running and you can contribute here: https://chuffed.org/project/pushbikingformentalhealth
To learn more about Walhalla you should go and visit, the weekends are best if you want a feed, and there is heaps of information here: https://www.walhalla.org.au/
You can find out more about the Ada Tree on the Visit Warburton website: https://www.visitwarburton.com.au/activity/the-ada-tree-walk
If you want to read more bike adventures like this one, visit the riding for the great forest adventure archive: https://www.ridingforthegreatforest.com/stories/
This route is approximate and doesn’t include some of the side trips and the hectic section where we nearly got lost. It is just to give a general sense of where we went and should not be relied upon, if you are going out into the forest always take paper maps and let someone know where you are going.