We woke up with the sun rising right behind the wind-farm. So much serenity. Things were going well – we were on the home straight, the weather had been fantastic, and we hadn’t even been getting on each other’s tits. Taking quick stock of the situation, we aimed to be in Milawa in the evening. We had some glorious riding in the morning through some lush grounds, with twisting, turning, ducking and weaving roads. We decided that after slumming it for a few days, we may as well spend a bit more and enjoy this tail end of the trip even more.
We had brekky at a lovely little café just near Ballarat, then pushed on to Seymour (SEYMOUR!). We drove past Puckapunyal, which led to an inordinate amount of us singing “I was only 19”. We got into Seymour (SEYMOUR!) about lunchtime, and headed straight to the RSL club, where we spent an enjoyable half-hour enjoying pub squashes and picking dragonflies, butterflies and flies out of our helmets, clothes and boots.
We thought that the sooner we were in Milawa (“The pearl of the gourmet region!”), the better. This meant a 200 click trip up a highway, in a heat of over 40 degrees C (which is quite hot). We knuckled down, hugged tight to the bikes, and blasted it up. Around 150 ks in, I had a lucky break – a filthy cop had been operating a speed camera, but thankfully caught someone driving about half a k in front of me. It did give me a start, and riding the last 50 ks at the legal limit made it that much more unpleasant. When we finally turned off the highway, the changes started slowly. The roads went from arrow-straight to slight curves, from exposed ovens to little country boulevards, with both sides of the road housing a number of gums. We soon got into Milawa, found a lovely B&B run by a denim-hotpant wearing German man (a never-nude, perhaps?). We spent about half an hour in the pool, just sitting and enjoying our good fortune. We would’ve happily paid the night’s rent just for the pool – I think that he would have actually offered us the pool for free, as we were quite smelly by this time. After showers and quick naps, we set off on foot to the nearest winery, then to another winery, then finally to a cheese factory. We spent the arvo lazing around, talking shit and eating a very nice brie.
Right from the outset, I knew that today would be good. We decided to take a longer route (there’s a first time for everything), add an extra four hundred kilometres onto the day, all in the name of good roads. We decided to go south through the Great Alpine Road down to Omeo, then take a back-road up to the base of Kosciuszko National Park.On a hot tip-off from my mum, we took a little detour in the morning to go up Mount BUFFalo (my emphasis). In the manner of responsible, respectable and above all, reasonable young adults, Yaegs and I had a little race up to the top. The path was fantastic – lots of sharp corners, hairpins and straights. The view was jaw-dropping – often, you’d be going up a road with a sheer rockface on one side, and a thirty metre drop on the other. There was thankfully very little traffic on the roads, as we would have been forced to overtake them in an entirely irresponsible manner had they been there. The only concern was the leaf-litter left on the road as a remnant of the recent rain (how’s that for alliteration!) – I had heard that if you rode over it, you’d slide everywhere (“Like a bitch”, as it was first explained to me), and my brain thankfully immediately constructed scenarios that led to me running the back over some debris, low-siding, then flying over the edge, to be crushed rather ingloriously by my own motorbike. About two-thirds of the way up, we saw two cyclists battling against the incline, so, in the spirit of camaraderie, we slowed to their speed (essentially have to grind the back anchor and ride the clutch), lifted the visors, then gave a spirited “Allons-y!”, before taking off at high speed – that definitely ought to have lifted their spirits. Sooner than soon, we made the summit (at least the summit that can be reached by motorbike), had a lovely picnic, then were off down again. Oddly enough, going down always seems so much faster (tee-hee) than going up (not sure how I can make that last one sexual). We stopped for some strawberries and cream by the side of the road, which did make me feel pretty tough. The Great Alpine Road was simply astounding. I’d rate it above the Great Ocean Road, for a number of reasons. First, there were fewer cars about (and hence, fewer dickheads taking up the road and driving far too slowly). Second, I preferred the scenery – giant ghost-gums loomed over the road, with their twisted, gnarled branches shaking like the fingers of an old crone. Third, you had more of a sense of altitude – instead of bobbing up and down, but ultimately staying within 50 metres of the sea, here, you just climbed, climbed and climbed. For me, there was an odd sense of accomplishment to that (imagine how much more accomplished I’d feel if I had actually cycled it). Fourth, there was a lot more variation in the road and the riding that it demanded – whilst the Great Ocean Road was all about tight corners and narrow hair-pins, the Great Alpine Road mixed things up – tight corners would be followed by long straights, which would be followed by long, sweeping corners. Fifth, it was a lot longer (har har har – and yes, that is what I look for in a ride) – whilst the GOR had about 40 ks of riding, the GAR was a good hundred ks.
We got into Omeo in the mid-afternoon, which allowed us to savour that sweetest of delights, that most delectable of treats, the double-pie-AND-sausage-roll lunch. I was struggling a little with the second pie, but again, thinking of my accomplishment in ascending the GAR earlier that day, I just knuckled down. Also, I finally got around to buying some earplugs for the rest of the ride – better late than never. Someday, they’ll invent a helmet that blocks out the wind, but not the important noises (traffic, horns, cars, etc.), and that doesn’t fog up, but until that day, I’ve got my earplugs. And only forty cents! Bargain! The plan from Omeo was to ride on up to somewhere near Kosciuszko, but we were a little uncertain – the maps we had brought indicated that there were some patches of unsealed road on the road, which wouldn’t be much fun. The only alternative, however, was to ride back up the GAR, which, although fun, we had just done. As Zappa once said, “Man was born to have adventures”, so we kept on trucking up the side-road.
Sadly, the road wasn’t quite as good as we’d hoped. It got skinnier, going down to a lane and a half (from two lanes earlier), the edges started to fall away, until, shock horror (!), we hit the gravel section. We had seen some big-arse storm clouds gathering, and were about halfway through our tank of fuel, and didn’t appreciate having to slow down and ride like muppets on gravel. I’ve heard a mate who said that he took his SV1000 up to 160 on dirt running Road Pilot 2s but I was too scared (/clever?) to risk that. Yaegs’ back was playing up a bit, so he needed to take some time off to stretch it out. This meant slow, tedious riding. We had about 5ks of gravel, then back onto sweet sweet blacktop. Sadly, this only lasted about 10 ks. We had another 20 k section of gravel, which was just painful. During our last break, Yaegs and I decided to re-evaluate our plan, and to stop at the next nice place and settle down for the evening. Sadly, nothing came up to break up the gravel. It was welcome relief to get back onto a proper sealed road and get some speed up. The road started to get interesting again, with some nice sharp corners. During one, I was lined up, leaning in, when I suddenly felt this mad crazy buzzing in my left breast. I first thought that it was a heart attack, which led to me panicking (some say like a little girl), and slowing right down after the corner. The buzzing stopped, but the started up again after a second. I realised that some insect had gotten inside my jacket, so I madly started smacking my chest with my left hand, which not only stopped the buzzing, but also probably made me look quite tough to anyone who was watching. About four in the arvo, we found a fantastic camp-spot – a beautiful open glade, next to a quick running stream. Despite our showering only yesterday, we took the arvo off to frolic in the stream and relax after a rough gravel section.