Reflections on the Bunyip Day Ride

The Bunyip Day Ride occurred on Boonwurrung Country and we pay our respects to elders past, present and future. We acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded and the time for treaty is well overdue.

Not long after the ride was over I reached out to riders who had attended to share some of their thoughts and experiences. Here’s what I got back, additionally, all of the photos in this article were taken by other attendees. The route for this ride can be found by clicking here.

Reflection #1 – Written by Gayle McGaw

It feels like just a few short weeks ago that we embarked on a new adventure. Being road cyclists for around 8 years, my husband and I recently decided to try some mountain biking and, through friends, were invited to join a guy who was leading a ride into the proposed Great Forest National Park in a part now known as Bunyip State Park.

We swarm. Photo by John Graham

Well I was pretty nervous about the many unknowns ahead. Would my fitness be enough? Did I have the bike handling skills to negotiate the tracks? Was the leader of this ride going to be supportive of a couple 60 year olds crashing his ride?


The pre-ride briefing, photo by John Graham

Within minutes of meeting Aidan, my anxiety calmed down as he quietly assessed the group that had gathered at the Mortimer Picnic Ground; a motley bunch of mixed ages, abilities and cycling machines.  As we systematically signed on, acknowledging we were taking full responsibility for ourselves, he reminded the group of the purpose of the ride; to ‘enjoy your surroundings and ride within your ability.’

Aidan was waiting at the top of the first climb. Only when the last rider arrived, did we continue on to the next peak. An enjoyable decent through the towering ash forest followed, until we arrived at the Four Brothers granite boulders for a relaxing picnic lunch. The views over the valley to the distant hills were stunning!

Picnic Lunch. Photo by John Graham

The following descent proved to be a bit tricky for one poor member of the group. Luckily there was plenty of first aid experience on hand and an ambulance was deemed to be the best course of action. Aidan and a couple of others stayed with the patient while the rest of us continued on. Without our guide, there was a lot of stopping to check the map and discussion about the route. However we managed to navigate our way back to the picnic ground, stopping along the way for photo opportunities and even reunited with Aidan and co along the homeward trail!

I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and look forward to the next opportunity to join Aidan on his ‘Riding for the Great Forest’ adventures. Riding along leafy tracks, soaking in the fragrant aromas and unique sounds of the bush is so good for the soul. Aidan’s deep respect for these natural wonders, so close to home, is inspirational and reminds us to slow down, breathe and treasure our environment.

Gayle McGaw admiring a big tree. Photo by Leonie Williams

I am devastated to learn that much of the forest we enjoyed riding through so recently has now been impacted by wildfire and hope it recovers soon.



Reflection #2 – Cath Stephensen

I’m going to start this piece of writing with this photograph to remind me of what a stunningly beautiful day it was when I rode in Bunyip State Forest, Gembrook.

Photo by Cath Stephensen

On a personal level I was full of anticipation and nerves, having only recently recovered from having split my knee open requiring 10 stitches and I had only been back on my bike for three weeks. I knew my fitness level wasn’t brilliant and the group that I was riding with were all new faces to me. I had been corresponding with Aidan for some months after seeing some of his Riding for the Great Forest posts on Facebook, trying to find a day when I could join in with his group and ride in the great forests. That day was finally here.

On 14 October 2017, I picked Aidan up from Richmond station and we set off for Gembrook. Aidan is passionate about the forests, the ecology of the forests and of the connectedness of all life within the forests. That’s not just a ‘woofley’ hippy-treehugger, saying thing. There is a growing body of science that is able to describe & demonstrate to us the ways in which plants and soil activity interrelate and the way in which plants communicate with each other as well as with other beings in the environment. In my early career I was a horticulturalist, growing plants in commercial organisations and then teaching horticulture in the TAFE system. During those years I began to hear more and more about fungal relationships in soil with plant roots and the ways in which these microbes within the soil could affect plant health. Since those days there is more evidence that this association of fungi and roots and microbial activity is a two way process not just a one way activity. We have known for a long time that there is true symbiosis between plants and other life, however beyond that, plants also have distinct relationships with their own kind and with other plants.

Photo by Patrick Casey

As we entered the forest trail and rode under those huge tree canopies, I was thinking of all of these things, breathing in the soft forest air and feeling the softness of the soil under my bike tyres.

After some hard work (for me), climbing a gradual rise we made it to the Four Brothers picnic spot. A massive outcrop of four granite rocks with a spectacular view. Even with all the other riders there and other forest day-trippers, you could still sense the special aura of this place. Four Brothers is a place sacred to the first people and even we interlopers can sense that. Happily, we all parked our bikes and moved out of the rock outcrop, taking in the forest and the surrounding view.

The Four Brothers and assembled riders. Photo by John Graham

After lunch, we moved off and to my great joy I found we had a downhill section. Unfortunately for me this is where my story came to an abrupt end. Going a little faster than I should, when I touched the brakes to slow and avoid hitting a rock in the road, my front wheel got the shudders and I was unable to steer. I subsequently hit the rock and performed a rather spectacular crash, breaking my shoulder.

As in all things of darkness there is always light, and in this case the light is the friendships that became forged at that point in time. Not only did the whole group stop to see what could be done for me, but once it was ascertained that I did need an ambulance, and the ambulance was called, four of the riders stayed with me and supported me in the most gentle and empathic way, whilst the others completed the day trip.

Cath Stephensen

So, there I was on the floor of the forest surrounded by beautiful floral smells, soft warm air and good company. It could have been way worse. Those four also organised for my bike and my car to be taken to Dandenong hospital and came in to see that I was okay.

I’m six weeks post operation now and have a new shoulder that will set all the scanners off when I go to the airport. I also have a burning desire to get back into those forest tracks with Aidan and the crew and do it all again, although a little more cautiously.

I hope you enjoy the photos of the forest and the flowers and those wonderful boulders and I hope you feel inspired to join us on future rides to appreciate and save the Great Forest of Victoria.

Photo by John Graham