Shayne’s Thoughts

By Shayne Small

Last weekend I went on a 100km cycle to a forest being murdered.

Me and my 5 star mountain bike in Kinglake National Park

Over the weekend I cycled approximately 100k or so to promote the Great Forest National Park with my old mate Aidan. I’ve never really cycled before, besides tearing through the suburbs as a kid or taking the dog for a run along one of the river trails so it was pretty challenging. We started the ride at Hurstbridge, traveled out through St. Andrews where some pretty hip looking nannas gave us a thumbs up as we cruised past the markets then we headed into Kinglake National Park where Aidan popped a tire. We fixed it, had a cuppa soup and checked out the remains left from the fires.

Aidan pumping up a replacement tube.
We slugged it further uphill on the main road after riding the Everard Track and I found it somewhat terrifying.  I’m not used to riding on main roads and was travelling at about 1.5 km/h so cars were zooming past me. A motorcyclist stopped to see if i was ok, I said “yes, just more unfit than previously assumed” and continued going. Anyway, got to the top cracked open a bag of party mix lollies as any true athlete would to get the sugars up and then got to enjoy little bits of downhill which felt so fucking rewarding as we raced the sunset toward the forest. We hit the perimeter of Toolangi State Forest at about 6.50 pm (roughly 20 mins before sunset) after filling up our water bottles in one of the lovely little fresh water streams that run all through that area. We found a little nook just off the road pretty quick, set up camp had another cup of soup, some fruit, some nuts and i crashed within about 4 seconds of being horizontal.
Our roadside camp for the first night
THE NEXT DAY WAS AWESOME! We were next to one of stunning little streams I was talking about before, so you could hear the trickling of water amongst the sounds of the breeze swerving throughout the enormous mountain ash making them sway and dance like 3 am drunks. We had some coffee and likely another cuppa soup and I did some bad yoga otherwise known as couple-a-shapes to try and turn the volume down on the voice of my legs telling me to get fucked. Waved to some 4WDers and started heading out in search of this old explosives bunker that apparently existed?
These giant trees used to rule the land. In the language of the traditional owners, Toolangi means tall trees.
It was the first time I’d been in Toolangi in maybe 2 years so I spent a considerable amount of the day pretty dazed and amazed…amadazed?…dazamazed? I really love that place, its mountains and gullies have these hypnotic curves that make sound lose all sense and will echo and reverberate in disillusioning ways. The forest itself always feels really welcoming.
Stunning streams provide ample drinking water along any route in the forest.
We met up with another old mate Lance  and made it to the bunker where he was most interested in the “modern artifacts” of previous visitors. Blown up butane canisters VB bottles that had been shot at, a can of mortein which I think we all found to be the most peculiar partly because it wasn’t blown up and partly because who brings mortein to a forest? Maybe they were confused between aeroguard or I dunno its not important, there were hardly mosquitoes anyway but lets not delve into the assumed intelligence of people who shoot their empty VB stubbies.
Campfire jam
On our map there looked to be a river just down the hill from the bunker so we tried to find it and I guess we did, but it was one of those rivers that only appears when a decomposing log your standing on gives way and all of a sudden your shoe has been swallowed by mud and a small puddle appears. I have enjoyed streams in this forest where you can stand on an old hollow tree that has fallen along the stream and watch the water pass through it before it disappears back underground. Alas we did not fill up here but it was still exceptionally beautiful. We ended the day having a small fire and playing some music and having more cuppa soup. We did eat other foods… Sometimes…
The third and final day was interesting, from our camp in the bunker we could hear logging trucks going pretty well all night, well I heard them when I wasn’t sleeping anyway and was watching them once the sun was up. We headed downhill to see where they were filling up from and sure enough found a road with a sign reading something along the lines of “Don’t come in here we are massacring a forest” so we took note of where it was and I put my thinking cap on………….. and yeah we stuck to the road which sort of went around the coup all the while hearing the sounds of these beautiful big trees being felled and smashing against the ground which was pretty depressing but made me feel inspired to do what I can to make it stop. A short time after that there were a bunch of helicopters buzzing around overhead and I thought I heard a siren at one point which was pretty weird and once we got to the top of yet another one of the hills we climbed we were debating whether what we could see through the trees was smoke or cloud.
As stunning and complex as Toolangi is, it is being murdered. Only a tiny fraction of what they knock down becomes timber, these beautiful ecosystems are being converted into paper and woodchips at the expense of Victorian taxpayers.
For the rest of the story follow Riding For The Great Forest where you’ll find pictures and videos and a lot more information that will be continuously being added to. And please go visit these places, they are only 80km from Melbourne, YOU CAN RIDE A BIKE THERE! It is close enough to do a day trip and there are a bunch of walking tracks, some living trees you can stand inside of and see the sky and all our native flora and fauna to boot. Hopefully once you experience the forest you be inspired to get involved in the Great Forest National Park campaign.
Returning home it became apparent the rack carrying my bags was broken beyond repair, thankfully it held out until we made it back to our beds and home-cooked vegan lasagna.
– Shayne ‘Heinous’ Small
[Originally posted on the author’s facebook, edited and reproduced with permission.]