The Committee very kindly paid for me to go to the 4th Australian Cycling Conferencein Adelaide in January. The speakers were interesting and I enjoyed the company of a diverse lot of cyclists and transport planners all interested in cycling in one form or another. I will do a summary of some of the papers or you can download abstracts from the link.
LBUG paid for me to fly over but I paid for my own way back, and I decided to fit in some cycling and visit a few places I had been wanting to visit for years, like the Coorong, Mount Gambier and the Great Ocean Road.
After the conference I caught a Stateline coach (no problem putting a bike in the luggage compartment on SA Govt buses, but did have to pay $15) from Adelaide over the Mt Lofty ranges and down to the Murray and Meningie on Lake Albert near where the river flows into the sea, when it flows that is. Not much in Meningie but there was a shop and I stocked up with some food and water and left about 1pm, heading south into a fresh breeze. At least it was cool, after a few hot days in Adelaide.
The road was good, a few gentle hills, then flat as I came to the Coorong, which is a long thin lagoon behind the coastal sand dunes that run for more than 100 km south. The headwind made the riding slow but I just plugged along and enjoyed the views and the birds. Pelicans flew in to their rookeries on islands in the Coorong, and there was a side road that lead to a pelican viewing platform over the lagoon at one point.
About 50 km into the ride I was getting weary and was looking for a camp site, but nothing very promising appeared so I kept on for another 10 km to Salt Creek, a tiny settlement with a road house and a camp site out the back. It was a bit run down but the shark burger (local speciality) was tasty and the grass was soft for a good night’s sleep.Owners were friendly.
Next morning I went for a short walk on a nature trail along the creek and saw black swans and ducks and some nice views of the Coorong from a ridge.
I packed up and set off for day two, again into a head wind, but mild and sunny. Took a diversion on a dirt road through the National Park, which rejoined the main road after about 15 km. Several large white salt pans and dried up lakes were the main features. Had lunch along the way, found some shade in the thick scrub, near an interesting flat clay pan. Reached the end of the Coorong and the bush gave way to some open bare country, where the wind was relentless and made the last 20 km or so into Kingston quite hard. Met a German cyclist who had ridden all the way from Sydney along the coast. Camped in the caravan park. Dined on baked beans and tinned tuna.
Next day the wind persisted but only a short ride of about 40 km to Robe. The road wasn’t so good, with no shoulder in parts and some large vehicles. Had one or two moments along there! Scenery was good though, with vineyards and a few rolling hills. A nice downhill into the outskirts of Robe and after a bit of looking around found a motel that was cheap and friendly (The Guichen Motel). Robe was packed for the weekend and a boat show was on, so I was lucky to find this place. Spent two nights in Robe, because it was such a great place and also to recover a bit from the battle into the headwind. I wasnt in a hurry anyway. Recommend the lobster pie and a Mount Benson Riesling.
Day five saw me pedal off on a very good flat road with a nice shoulder towards Beachport, a quieter resort town on the coast, with a very long jetty out into Rivoli Bay as its main feature. The wind died at last and I sped along at over 20 for a change, so made very good time. Had a swim and lunch and a few beers in the pub. My plan was to catch a bus from here to Mount Gambier the next day but I had misread the timetable, and what I thought was a morning bus was actually an evening bus, so instead of staying in Beachport I hopped on the evening bus- saved me a night anyway. Got into Mt Gambier about 9pm, just in time to get to the YHA before closing time, although I got lost on the way.
The YHA is in the old town gaol and quite a place to stay in, with thick walls and steel doors on the rooms. Recommended. Had a look around the town the following day and stayed another night. The Blue Lake is in a volcanic crater that sits above the town. There are also caves and sink holes in the town and all around the area. Wanted to visit a sinkhole where you can snorkel along, but it was too far out of town towards the coast.
I caught an early morning bus to Warrnambool, passing through Portland and Port Fairy, which I will have to come back to another day, maybe for the annual Jazz festival.
To get to the Great Ocean Road I could have ridden on from Warrnambool to Port Campbell but the first 40 km or so are said to be rather boring and were into the wind, and I had heard of the Timboon Rail Trail, so caught the 1130 am train to Camperdown, which is the start of the rail trail route, although it is on-road until Cobden curently. No trouble with the bike, just roll it into the luggage car, Sir.
Hot when I got off the train, but there was a change coming so set off towards Cobden, following Rail Trail signs, on the C164 (Leura St). Arrived in Cobden after a bit of a climb up over the side of another old volcano, with a blue lake even bigger and more scenic than Mt Gambier’s. I missed a turn somewhere so didnt actually see the lake except from a distance, but did see it on the way back, care of the Timboon Taxi Co.
In Cobden I found the start of the Rail Trail, not without a bit of hunting around though. Signs were lacking. Set off but found the trail was very gravelly and slow going, so went back to the road. I had two choices and chose the C164 to Scotts Creek and Port Campbell. The C167 to Timboon might have been easier but by the time I had descended a long hill it was too late to turn back. Some very nice countryside and forest on the way to the small community of Scotts Creek then a little after that I was faced with another decision, turn right to Timboon, 7km, or keep going another 19km to Port Campbell. I was hoping to get there anyway so off up a steep hill, and a couple more after that, to finally get to Port Campbell. So I didnt actually get to ride the rail trail at all! (but did some on the way back to Camperdown).
Met a friendly local who said I could camp behind his small block of holiday units, and use the showers, so set up camp. Had a swim in the sheltered harbour, very cool and refreshing after a fairly long and warm day. Then a beautiful meal in the pub of fresh whiting and a few Coopers, which I definitely felt I had earned. A walk around the nearby vantage spots and back to my tent.
Up fairly early, left the tent and gear there and went for a ride south along the coast road for about 10 km into a fresh southerly to see the famous coast. Took lots of photos and walked to various viewing points of this spectacular coast. Had a nice tailwind back to Pt Campbell. Packed up and headed off with the wind towards Warrnambool, where I thought I might get the train to Geelong, my finishing point. I rode along the Ocean Road again for about 15 km, more great coastline, to near Peterborough, where I saw a road to Timboon. Decided I should at least visit the place after all the effort to see the rail trail, so headed off, thinking I would still be able to get to the train one way or another.
A local in the Pt Campbell Information Office had told me this was better than the C167 for cyclists, and so it turned out. It was pretty flat and not much traffic, just gently rising towards Timboon, then a long descent into the town. Had lunch at a place that sells cheese and beer, about 7 km before Timboon. Old house with a large garden to sit in. Huge new cheese factory behind, which apparently used to make Timboon Cheese, which I have seen in the shops, but was recently sold, so now Timboon Cheese comes from Gippsland!
Arrived in the town, which was quite bustling, with a new tourist attraction, The Distillery, near the rail trail head. No accommodation though, the hotel was full and nothing much else. No camping spots that I could see. There was a brochure from the Timboon Taxi Co in the Distillery which said they did cycling tours so I rang them, thinking they might at last know of any accommodation. I was surprised to get the response, “why don’t you come around and camp in our backyard, we will run you up to Camperdown tomorrow for the midday train”.
Not only that, they cooked me a meal, and we had a few beers. It turned out they were trying to set up a bicycle tourism business, based on the rail trail. Ride down from Camperdown and they would run you back in a large taxi van. Or hire bikes from them and do the local area, like ride down to Port Campbell. They were trying to get other businesses to support the idea, but were striking some resistance. Lack of accommodation in particular. Also, the rail trail was still rough in places, and the work was only getting done by volunteer labour.
I can’t thank Sandra and Lyndon enough for their friendly actions, so if you are in Timboon some time, look them up if you need a taxi back to the train or want to organize a ride along the Great Ocean Road!
I did ride the rail trail from Timboon about 5 km down to Curdie’s Trestle Bridge and back, through some very nice tall timber. This part was hard packed and smooth, but covered over with leaves and some large fallen branches. Obviously needs regular clearing. The timber bridge is long and high and only recently rebuilt for use by cyclists and walkers.
Next morning Sandra drove me to Camperdown, with a bit of a detour to see the volcanic lakes and where the rail trail route might eventually go on the way into Camperdown. Quite a climb up from Camperdown to the top of the volcano and the lakes.
A quick train trip to Geelong, a successful hunt for a bike box on Australia Day (got there just before the Geelong Super Bike Shop closed), a wait for the evening Jetstar flight from Avalon, and my trip was over, about 800 km, half on the bike, the rest by bus, train and Taxi.