“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.” John F. Kennedy
Planning a social bike ride in the midst of winter is a risky proposition, especially when the destination is South Gippsland in Victoria, Australia. It might just be a coincidence, but almost every time I visit this region the heavens open to gift the countryside with torrential rain and gale force winds. On our drive from Melbourne to Leongatha, there was a light misty rain and fog so thick that visibility was extremely difficult on the winding hilly roads.
The Great Southern Rail Trail runs 49km from Leongatha to Foster, through rich farmlands and forests and via the appealing country towns of Koonwarra, Meeniyan and Fish Creek. You can ride the entire length in either direction, but if you start in Leongatha there is the added advantage of downhill gradients at the start and the finish of the ride.
“The village was built sheer up the face of a steep and lofty cliff. There was no road in it, there was no wheeled vehicle in it, there was not a level yard in it. From the sea-beach to the cliff-top two irregular rows of white houses, placed opposite to one another and twisting here and there, and there and here, rose, like the sides of a long succession of stages of crooked ladders.” Charles Dickens
One of the most picturesque hikes I’ve ever done was from Clovelly to Westward Ho! – a section of the UK’s South West Coast Path. At the time, I was working at a outdoor activity centre in North Devon, and a few of us decided to spend our day off work wandering along the coast. We left our car at Westward Ho!, hitch-hiked to Clovelly, and then hiked the 17.9 km (11.1 miles) back to Westward Ho!. It was an awesome day; but not without misadventure.
“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
A lot of my bike rides have been in the country, exploring the old rail trails that are scattered across Australia (mostly in Victoria). I love getting away from the city, and when I go cycling (or hiking), it always feels like I’ve been away longer than two days. I can head home and back to work feeling refreshed. Of course, there’s not always time to do that, and that’s why I feel fortunate to live in Melbourne. This city has so many great trails, and it’s wonderful to be able to go for a ride whenever I feel inclined.
Here is another article that I wrote for Bicycle Victoria Network’s Ride On magazine about Melbourne’s EastLink Trail.
“The earth laughs in flowers.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Many years ago, while I was living in Perth, a friend took me on a weekend trip to see the Western Australia wildflowers. What I remember most about that weekend was the colour – yellow and white everlasting flowers carpeting the hills and valleys; sunshine streaming through the clouds to cast soft light on the barren scrubby landscapes; sunset warming the red earth tones; sunrise giving everything a pastel glow; and a rainbow above saturated green fields. There were also splashes of brilliant colour alongside the road or dotted amongst the blanket of everlastings – wildflowers in various shades of pink, purple, blue, red, orange and yellow.
“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” Ernest Hemingway
Karen and Sue at Port Fairy
Koroit Railway Station
If you’ve read many of my blogs, you’ll know that the Great Ocean Road is a place close to my heart. So when the opportunity came for me to do a bike ride from Warrnambool to Port Fairy, I jumped at the chance. At the time, the Port Fairy to Warrnambool Rail Trail wasn’t quite complete – they still needed to build boardwalks across a significant area of swamp lands – so I took the opportunity to explore some alternative routes and side trips. Below is a version of an article I wrote for Bicycle Victoria Network’s Ride On magazine, along with many more photographs.