Geoff & Wendy Hastings rode the second stage of the inaugural Strzelecki tour in Australia from Albury to Melbourne. Both have travelled extensively in Australia but Geoff still found a new ‘soul ride’ riding from Traralgon to Warburton which he chronicles below.
Australia doesn’t really do mountains the way that the other continents do them. Not in height at least, with our tallest mountain being only 2,228 metres (7,310 feet) high. But it does do long mountain ranges with the Great Dividing Range stretching down the eastern seaboard for 3,500 km (2,200 miles). The divide attracts higher rainfall than other areas of Australia and is the home of some lush forests.
The southern end of the range attracts a climate that is a combination of high rainfall, warm summers and cool winters. This means that cycling through this area can be the chance to experience a uniquely Australian environment.
The Strzelecki epic from Ride and Seek has taken advantage of this by taking a route that goes right over some of the highest points of the Great Divide ( Mt Hotham) and then into other areas where fantastic mountain roads wind through spectacular eucalypt forests.
Certainly, the day that takes the rider from the town of Traralgon to Warburton on the southern edge of these mountain forests is a day that I would classify as a “soul ride”.
The day I am concentrating on is 130 km in length with about 1800 metres of climbing and it is a day of contrasts. Starting off on Australia’s southern coastal plain the route proceeds on quiet rural back roads. The roads roll along and almost unnoticeably gain altitude until you are in the forests of the Great Divide.
This is where, in my mind, the difference between cycling and other forms of touring really kick in. You move from the farmland quite dramatically into majestic forests with the dominant canopy tree being the tallest flowering plant in the world – the Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans). You are enveloped in a world of giants that shelter the understory of lush treey ferns and other Australian natives. Even on hot, windy days it is cool and still down on the road.
There are some wonderful, winding descents with little traffic to cause concern but I would argue you are doing yourself a disservice if you concentrate on the descent and not the environment around you. Winding down through these forests, taking it all in and stopping occasionally to really appreciate the unique flora (and if you are lucky, fauna) is essential. Within the forests, there are small villages that cater brilliantly to Australia’s national addiction to good coffee. Eventually, you reach a rail-trail that takes you right into the town of Warburton under the shadow of mountains covered in temperate rain forest.
The end of the day is one for reflection and celebration in equal measure. Reflection on Australia’s unique beauty and a personal job well done. A local wine, as you are now surrounded by one of our wine-growing areas – the upper Yarra Valley, makes for a perfect way for friends to share stories of an exceptional day.