We managed to combine an opportunity to catch up with a number of intrastate and interstate family in Wantirna South, chilling for a couple of nights on a houseboat with friends on Lake Eildon, and celebrating the New Year with our regular travelling companions (Sharen & Ken) before we struck out to again catch up with family in Tawonga South and Falls Creek on our way through to Omeo. Stayed on the tarmac all the way so a good thing for the cruisers. A great trip all round. Lots of photos below.
An example of rationalisation of services in regional areas. The mail boxes on Buttercup Road between Mansfield and Merrijig – 25 in all including the one laying on the ground.
Tips to remember for the roads we covered:
We travelled over a lot of Alpine roads which for the most part had a good surface and were well signed re suggested speeds for corners and rock fall areas requiring caution. There were few advisory signs from Falls Creek on the Bogong High Plains Road to the Omeo Highway so exercise caution. Having said that it was a beautiful ride with good to reasonable camber and corners from big sweeping corners to tight steep and switchback and every possible variation in between so a great ride.
Riding the Bogong High Plains Road on the way from Falls Creek to Anglers Rest around the Basalt Hill area which gives a good example of the terrain and foliage as well as vision of the silver spars which remain post 2003 fires and the recovery - http://youtu.be/RP4O8nLzP_c
One of Norm's favourite shots of me rounding a corner on the Omeo Highway (also my new screensaver on my phone)
Services are few and far between (e.g. No fuel from Mount Beauty to Omeo) so you need to be self-sufficient and given that weather and temperatures can change rapidly in Alpine areas you need to be prepared. It goes without saying that there are little or no shoulders beyond the fog line (if there is a fog line) before precipitous drops to who knows where so ride accordingly. Also remember there are other travellers (including log trucks) on the roads so don’t expect them to be on their own side of the road and you should be right.
Bonuses of travelling through the summer in Alpine areas are that you will encounter fewer people, you can find some excellent accommodation deals and the temperature will be a lot more friendly.
On the way to Mt Buller, a small waterfall near a ‘rock fall area, and of course the inevitable motorbike http://youtu.be/7t-UCt637Xc
First leg: Traralgon straight down the highway to Wantirna South (Melbourne Suburb) and up the route known as ‘The Slide’ along the Maroondah Highway through Lilydale, Coldstream, Healesville, Narbethong, St Fillans, Buxton, Taggerty, Thornton, Eildon to Lake Eildon.
We felt good to be out on the road and breathing in our surrounds from the lush ferns and foliage of Black Spur to the vast river valleys and plains as we headed north. We had a restful couple of days with Ian (Mac) & Annie, Ian (Nico) & Margaret on a houseboat moored on the bank of Lake Eildon and in spite of pretty hot weather the breeze off the water made for a comfortable temperature. A couple of jaunts across the Lake in the run-around showed the Lake (now near enough to full) to be a staggering size with tentacles of water snaking in all directions.
The Black Spur Inn which we have travelled past in trucks for years. It has been in existence since the early 1800’s and in the late 1800’s sported a separate building on the left hand side called the Narbethong Hotel / House since women were not allowed into Public Bars. It had an adjoining door and by the 1930’s it was all one building for all patrons. Not sure if women were better behaved by then, or if the old boys club couldn’t put up with the complaints or they all just got practical.
Second leg: Lake Eildon, Eildon, Thornton, Alexandra, Koriella, Woodford, Bonnie Doon, Mansfield to Merrijig
We headed off after yet another sleep-in and then decided coffee in Eildon was in order…as you do! From here we continued to enjoy the beautiful riding through great sweeping river valleys enjoying the massive river red gums and vast paddocks climbing up into the hills and beyond. We got into Merrijig late in the afternoon and were glad to get into a cool building.
A view up the hill from our accommodation towards Mt Buller, typically lovely
We were impressed with the Mercure Pinnacle Valley Resort where we stayed in a 2 bedroom chalet which was great. We had our own space but had access to the restaurant where we had dinner on 2 nights and it was excellent. Guest facilities were extensive and lots of variety for children of all ages. We also shared the site with upwards to 60 (at least) all sized grey kangaroos once dusk settled in and the morning we departed we were actually up early enough to see the stragglers before they headed back to the cover of the bush. The third night we travelled a few hundred meters towards Mt Buller to the Mill Inn where we had a delicious dinner of their homemade pasta. Yum.
Some of the kangaroos before they retreated to the bush
Side trip: Merrijig, Sawmill Settlement, Mirrimbah, Mt Buller & return – 180kms
Mt Buller Chalet and a couple of good looking bikes.
On our 2008 High Country trip we stayed a couple of nights in the Mt Buller Chalet and decided to ride up and see what (if anything) had changed. They have a new resort centre which looked good and there were heaps of people and pushbikes about. They had a mountain bike challenge of some sort on. I felt like a wimp looking at all the huffing and puffing and being grateful for my motor!
The Resort Management Centre from the steps of the Mt Buller Chalet
Side trip: Merrijig, Howqua, Jamieson, Kevington & return – 200kms
We decided to head out to have a look at Jamieson never having been there before and had been told there was a great old Pub at Kevington so decided that would be the spot for lunch. The ride out was beautiful. We travelled along the valley and often close beside the Delatite River and the glimpses of river and rocks and lush shady patches along the way were beautiful.
The Jamieson Public Hall, a lovely old building
Jameson had been a grand town at some stage but barely surviving now with a lot of homes looking like they are holiday ones though the local café was doing a good trade with holiday makers. Between there and Kevington we were staggered by the number of camp sites (formal and not) and people and boats and people fishing and holidaying and the Kevington Pub established in the early 1800’s was not a letdown. The food was plentiful and good and the place was all kinds of quirky right on the banks of the river. Their busy season is apparently from Christmas to the June long weekend so good to see it being patronised.
The area was established by the timber trade as well as mining though most batteries were abandoned by the Second World War and apparently Sims Metals came and retrieved them to melt down and use in the manufacture of warships or so the publican told us.
The name on the roof is self-explanatory.
Third leg: Merrijig, Mansfield, Tolmie, Whitfield, King Valley, Edi, Docker, Oxley, Milawa, Markwood, Myrtleford, Eurobin, Porepunkah, Bright, Germantown, Tawonga South, Mount Beauty, Bogong, Falls Creek, Anglers Rest to Omeo.
View from the top of Tawonga Gap – a very nice ride up and down.
We enjoyed our ride through the King Valley, Milawa and Alpine Valleys wine regions with the spectacle of the contrast between yellow paddocks of dry grass beside lush grapevines as well as many tobacco drying chimneys (or whatever they're called) along the valley from a bygone era.
We stopped in Myrtleford for a coffee and picked the busiest shop available apparently so lost a lot of time there then headed for Bright and the Tawonga Gap road which is a beautiful and satisfying ride.
From there we moved on to catch up with family in Tawonga South and it was great to see them in their own space. We haven’t managed to catch up much since they moved there. We had a good chin wag and lunch then headed off for Falls Creek to catch up with the other half of the relationship which was great. I was surprised to hear that Falls Creek has the greatest skiable area of all our Alpine Resorts and was impressed with the development which has taken place since 2008.
A couple of old bikers in front of the Information Centre / Resort Management Office at Falls Creek looking out to the silver spars of trees burnt in the 2003 fires. As the sign behind says it is 31kms back to Mount Beauty and 77kms to Omeo from this point.
The afternoon was moving on and we wanted to get into Omeo before the kangaroos decided to start venturing out for their evening meal. We thankfully didn’t encounter any.
A nice cool lemon lime and bitters was in order when we got to the Blue Duck Inn at Anglers Rest.
It was good to get off the bike in Omeo where we stayed at the Colonial Motel just down the hill from the Post Office. Unfortunately it has changed hands. The previous owners ran a killer restaurant across the street which is now a café and not open for dinner. Boo hoo. So, we walked to the Golden Age Hotel for a nice meal instead.
Home leg: Omeo, Swifts Creek, The Walnuts, Doctors Flat, Ensay, Wattle Creek, Tambo Crossing, Bruthen, Sarsfield, Bairnsdale, Stratford, Maffra, Tinamba, Heyfield, Cowwarr, Toongabbie, Glengarry to Traralgon
A shot I got as we arrived in town last night down the main street of Omeo with the iconic Post Office on the left and the mountain in the distance
The morning started with breakfast at Twinkles Café and fuel for the bikes as well as some air (20lbs) in my tyre which had gotten quite flat overnight (glad I have tubeless tyres as regular tyre services / garages don’t provide service for motorcycle tyres).. After breakfast and loading our gear we pumped another 20lbs into the tyre since 20lbs leaked out in around 30 minutes and we headed for Swifts Creek (me very tentatively) and pumped another 20lbs into it there (apparently riding didn't increae the loss of air...phew). It didn't feel good to hear Bruthen was around 50 minutes away. Norm decided to ride my bike in and I rode the Rocket. Thankfully it got there and Norm added another 20lbs and we had a coffee by which time we did it again and headed for Bairnsdale 15 minutes away and to a bike shop for assistance.
A couple of tourist attractions side by side in Bairnsdale – St Mary’s Cathedral known for the striking painted ceiling and McDonalds known for their yummy coffee and easy parking. Ha ha.
It was a hot ride from Bairnsdale to Stratford with close to bumper to bumper traffic and boats and caravans and campers and no one in too much of a rush to get anywhere so we decided to stop in Stratford for a cold drink and head for home along the back road off the highway through Maffra and it was a good choice. For the rest of the trip we were able to maintain a constant speed and the temperature was cooler likely a combination of that, a smaller surface area of road tarmac to reflect the heat, fewer vehicles giving off heat, travelling a good part of the trip beside irrigation channels and paddocks which had been irrigated so probably a moister atmosphere and an occasional bit of shade from an overhanging canopy of trees.
Side trip: Bairnsdale to Paynesville & return – 40kms
A view across the inlet from Paynesville to Raymond Island with the ferry in the background and the Rocket in the foreground
Since the temperature was hot and we had at least 45 minutes to wait for the tyre to be replaced we decided to head for Paynesville on the Rocket to have lunch. Neither of us had been there for quite a few years and were a bit surprised that suburbia has crept out as far as the cemetery. In any case it was a nice ride along the river and we found a handy café (one of many now) and had a delicious lunch and watched with amusement (me) / tremendous pride (Norm) at the amount of interest the Rocket caused the passing public.
A short section of typical road and the Rocket III from Anglers Rest heading for Omeo http://youtu.be/PQlHyq8i2Ik
Fuel: Multiple choices including Premium Unleaded, most BH but also some 24hr
Accommodation: Hotel, Motel, B&B and Caravan Park and Camping options and maybe some Serviced Apartments
Food: Multiple choices from small cafes to bistro’s bars and fine restaurants
General Store / Supermarket: Multiple choices, small to large
Fuel: Limited and often BH only if any at all
Accommodation: Limited Hotel, B&B and Caravan Park and Camping options
Food and General Store / Supermarket: Limited and not necessarily open on weekends
Small isolated Localities:
Fuel: Not likely
Accommodation: If you’re lucky and have done your research
Food and General Store / Supermarket: Unlikely so bring your own