Yet another fantastic weekend away on our bikes exploring Victoria’s high plains and honing our skills for the Overland trip.
If I haven’t been in the saddle for a while, I always feel a little nervous and tend to ride like a grandma. This weekend was no exception as I hadn’t ridden since the “licence weekend”. However, the warm up was on familiar roads through Neerim South to Noojee and beyond. I instantly shed the stresses of everyday life as I become focussed on just me and my bike. I am always thankful that I have been given this wonderful opportunity of discovering adventure motorbikes and all they offer.
“To infinity and beyond”, it is indeed as we are once again duped by Con’s ancient Victorian map which I am sure was printed when there was a land bridge to Tasmania!
“It will all be signposted”, he assured me. Being one who usually can’t resist buying the right map, I am uneasy with Con’s layback approach to navigation. Just to be sure I grabbed one of mine, which covered part of this area, from my large collection of maps. My large map collection is also dated, but more contemporary and localized than Con’s Vic.map which he insists on bringing on every trip!
So up the Loch Valley we travel, exploring the logging tracks just because they look like major routes. “You can’t trust them”, I keep reminding Con. “Logging tracks aren’t there one day and the next they look like highways.” But I am rendered ineffectual, left to my doubting thoughts as Con, the experienced rider, forges ahead until we reach the smoking logging coupes. “Keep going this way”, The loggers tell us, “And you will end up in Powelltown.” Oh no, memories of another circuitous route to Powelltown and back-twice! (That’s another story)
Back to the Poplars we go and then on to Tooronga Rd and The Link Road because someone said we needed to take it. Yes we did need to take it if you are going to Mt Baw Baw! Back up we go to Tooronga Rd and finally to The Triangle where on one side of the saddle are the Yarra headwaters and the other side, the Thomson Headwaters. I have recently come to the realization that I look at our landscape, and consequently at maps, as river valleys and get quite excited at gathering yet another piece of the river stories. The Triangle is also the site of the workers camp during the construction of The Thomson Dam.
Finally, on a signposted road I relax and begin to enjoy the changing vegetation as we enter the heights of the Great Dividing Range and the majestic Mountain Ash stands. This area has been heavily logged and so the road meanders through avenues of Ash all of similar size, so one feels like you are riding through a forest of a grand design, standing straight,tall and equi-height above the wattle undergrowth. We then enter the historic towns of the Gold Rush, such as Matlock and Woods Point. Woods Point is a welcome sight as we reach a town we had actually planned on reaching.
A campsite just 5 kms out of town at Scott’s Reserve proves idyllic amongst the tall tress whose limbs crash to the ground disturbing our well earned sleep. Scott’s reserve has fire pits and toilets which we discover, on the rest of this trip. are typical of the many camping sites along our route. Australia really is a land where you can still camp for free and travel cheaply.
The man of the ancient maps proves his worth by being the grand master of early morning coffee and egg jaffles!
Day 2, we have MY reliable map and signposts to assist our traverse of the high plains from Jamieson to Licola. Firstly, we travel along the Goulburn Valley which must be a fishermen’s paradise as we pass many well serviced camp sites along the way. We see more development evident as we near the town of Jamieson which is definitely more upmarket than last time I visited 15 years ago. A picnic on the banks of the Jamieson river is a good rest point before tackling the high plains route.
The Jamieson -Licola road his is one which has tantalised me in the past. It is closed in Winter and a 2WD road in dry weather only. It certainly didn’t disappoint. The cool mountain air and the rolling mists herald our arrival at altitude. There is a feeling we are on top of the world here and fires in recent years have given it an eerie feeling as we ride through charred and twisted alpine vegetation. The road labyrinths through the burnt landscape giving rise to an out of this world feeling as I learn to enjoy the rocky and gravelly route. If you enjoy the high plains feeling and don’t have a dirt bike, the legs or 4WD to access this wonderland, then this is the road for you. Mt Skene is the high pass and was the site of the Jamieson Ski Club. However, the hut was destroyed by fire so now there is just a vast snowplain as the setting for you to imagine the presence of intrepid skiiers.
For a beginner adventure bike rider, this road was fun, but challenging in sections. There are sharp rocky sections along with skitty gravelly sections. It traverses remote mountains from one valley to another providing a geography lesson on changing vegetation types. It finally gives way to a windy, sealed road descending into the Macalister Valley at Licola.
A coffee and snack at Licola were welcomed as by now my hands were very fatigued, reminding me of the need to be bike fit.