Bikepacking Fun – Part 2 of 3

In Part 1 of this thread we discussed preparation and what to pack for this bikepacking gravel ride weekend on the Great Southern Rail Trail.

The weather forecast was for a cracking day of blue skies, mid-twenties temperatures and a little cross winds late in the day. With all that in mind a little slip, slop, slap was in order, so after applying sunscreen and one last toilet visit, it was time to roll out. Sorry did you say “Which way do we go?” Hmmmmm. Its important to do your research, I guess. Perhaps we had better ask a local for directions and look like a couple of unorganised units.

We rolled across to the start of the rail trail for an easterly roll out. The surface was a little dense making rolling a little dead, but the banter was easy and distracting from the surface. Dale had mentioned briefly that two bridges hadn’t been completed but we would find a way. The ride came to an abrupt halt after 4kms. Wow that didn’t take long. The trail disappeared and was replaced by railway ballast as we approached the first of two railway bridges which had not yet been transformed for rail trail. Hmmmm, I’m afraid of heights so this is going to be interesting.

We continued to ride on the ballast until we reached sleeper No.1 of the first bridge. How bad can it be? Its only about 30 – 50m across to the safety of terra firma again. It wont take long. Then I took my first step. Oh dear. It seemed like an eternity to get to the other side. Dale stated I should just look at the sleepers.

However all I was focused on was the gaps between the sleepers, while thinking how long can I actually hold my breath!

Across bridge No.1, and onward with a little more ballast riding, a small hike-a-bike, then more of the same for bridge No.2.

Well with all that trauma out of the way, the day can only be better from here. Now did I mention we had to do a little climbing now. We are not talking massive climbs at all. We have climbed some of the biggest mountain passes on the planet, so this should be a doddle. However the surface made it drag a little longer and it made for a bit of a conversation killer. Not for long as pretty soon we were rolling into Leongatha and the first toilet stop of the day.

A quick wee stop, a bit to eat and a drink and we were heading off again. The surface changed a lot as we hit the older section of this trail. This sector was nirvana. No not the band! It was so smooth, like riding on newly paved bitumen. Completely effortless compared to the first sector from Nyora. A quick glance behind and the Pro Discovery seatpost bag was stable and more importantly I still had my trusty dinner footwear attached.

The terrain and the canopy had transformed. It moved from the rolling farmland terrain of dairy country, as the trail cut a tunnel through the forest canopy. It was now approaching lunch time as we tapped along, the towns were being ticked off. Koonwarra, Meeniyan, Stony Creek & Buffalo were behind us when we decided it was time for a lunch stop in Fish Creek.

So Fish Creek, signaled about 70km of the day done, Leaving 35km to Port Welshpool, plus a further 15km back to Toora for the night. We decided on a café called Long John Pickles. A fancy-ish menu in a less fancy place. They had a place to park the bikes, tables outside and a promise of big plates. Perfect combo. The bike and the bags had performed very well so far. As the sun had really started to bite, the calories being burned and after all it was a weekend off, I decided on a quickfire beer and a toastie for lunch. A bloody ripper of a toastie and ask me if you are after a recommendation.

A quick check of the equipment and the bags (& thongs) were still well placed. We had another 50-odd kms to knock off so time to get going. It is always hard after a bit of a break to get going again. However it shouldn’t have been this hard! Surely that beer I drained hadn’t drained me too. Luckily we were coming to some of the flatter sectors of the ride, but that meant open dairy land and the wind!

We were getting along again and ticking the kms off faster than a Nana @ Bingo. The sun was starting to cook a little too so reapplication of sunscreen (& Muc-Off chamois cream) from one of our handy bags was ideal. The wind was definitely getting up and about, however I had nothing in the bag for that issue. Feeling a little tired as we hit Toora, I could have easily turned left and called it a day. However that would leave a long day tomorrow. We were already out in it so best knock off the next 30kms.

Once you pass Toora, there are a few dairy farms you have to cross, which involves opening and closing a few gates. Our timing on the final gate was not ideal as the local farmer was herding the cows in for milking. We were obviously a bit of an odd sight for the bovines as they were quite interested in us. The ‘aroma’ was intoxicating! A few stopped long enough for us to cross and be on our way again. The cross head winds lifted again as we had the end of the trail was in sight. Thankfully when we turned it would give a bit of assistance.

Port Welshpool is a pretty quiet place. Obviously a bit of a fishing town, but not much of that going on when we arrived. In fact they must have been fishing still as it seemed deserted.  The winds were howling, so I can imagine to be a local cyclist here would be bloody tough. That or it is a breeding ground for bloody strong riders. A couple of quick photos and we turned to make our way back to Toora. While the legs were a little weary, the call of a beer was the overpowering sensation at this moment.

In no time we had arrived back in Toora and our final destination of the day. Taking a leadership position, I headed straight to the local pub and parked my bike outside the Front Bar. To be honest that beer didn’t even touch the sides in the late afternoon sun. A solid days riding. 126km of gravel, laughs and stories. Our bikes and bags did a great job.

That was a great ride and one that you should do if you get the opportunity. Looking forward to a great meal, a sleep and back it up again tomorrow.

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