Winter on Wheels - Bike touring in the Waranga area
During the school holidays, some members of the Ford family did a two-week bicycle tour which incorporated travel in the Rushworth area.
The family is now looking forward to the day when there are rail trails all the way from Rushworth to Murchison, Rushworth to Stanhope-Girgarre and maybe even Rushworth to Colbo. Rail trails are a great way to bring people into small towns, where they can help to stimulate the local economy.
During their two-week tour, the family stayed mainly at free camping sites. (It would be fantastic if Rushworth had such a site - a guaranteed way to get people to stop over in this area.)
The family comprised Sam and Krista, and their two kids, Banjo (10) and Daisy (7). They are experienced bike tourists, having ridden through Chile and Argentina in 2019. On this occasion, their bikes included a tandem (Sam and Daisy) and two standard bikes (Krista and Banjo). An average day was about 40 kilometres, mainly travelling on back roads. They carried all their food, water and camping gear in panniers on their bikes. Their starting and finishing point was their home just out of Woodend.
Here is part of their blog, starting at Mia Mia and covering parts of the local Waranga area.
“The next day is full of entirely new roads. In the morning, they wind back and forth through farms around the edges of Lake Eppalock. There are delightful stretches, and an unexpected river crossing as we make our way towards Heathcote. Here we are joined by Sam’s Dad Tony, who has arrived by bus from Bendigo with his bike and a new set of panniers. Together we set off into the Heathcote–Graytown National Park. We camp at the Dargile campground, beside a fireplace and picnic table, and beneath a perfect climbing tree.
Much of Victoria’s Box- Ironbark forest has been cleared, but one of the last remaining patches lies between Heathcote and Rushworth. We set off to explore it the next day. There are countless bush tracks, including a few that are coated in sticky mud. Banjo perfects a technique to remove the mud from his wheels with a stick while riding. During a break from riding, he discovers a family of three Marbled Geckos, which seem surprised to see us.
Our longest and most challenging day of riding has a happy ending. At King Billy Retreat, we are warmly welcomed by Lou and Les, we meet the newest addition to their family, Marlowe, and big brother Ellis arrives home soon after. We set up camp in their workshop which has all the luxuries we need – a kettle, electric lights, chairs to sit on, and a roof above our heads. Tony is thrilled that for the second consecutive night, no tent is required.
We rise with the sun the following morning. King Billy is the kind of place we could happily spend many hours. The place and the people are an infinite source of inspiration and we treasure the time we spend there with the family. We share a morning cuppa and take a few photos before setting off to the sounds of another Chough chorus. Tony has an extensive knowledge of the local area and he guides us around the fringes of Rushworth and toward the formidable Mount Camel range.
After lunch, we tackle the climb through the range. On the approach, a vehicle passes before stopping in the middle of the road. A woman jumps out with her phone. She wants to show us a photo to check that she’s actually found the lookout she came to see, at nearby Chinaman’s Bend. It looks like she has, yet she seems to have been expecting something more. Krista suggests that the beauty in this particular landscape is subtle, to which the woman replies: ‘I know. I grew up in the country too’.
We continue to the lookout, which offers an impressive view of the country we have traversed over the past few days. Banjo and Daisy slide on their bums down a slippery slope of lush grass. We complete the crossing of the range and roll effortlessly down the other side to Toolleen, our home for the night. An inviting track leads us into a small patch of bush on the edge of town. There’s a picnic table and flat ground, which is more than enough to make it a suitable campsite. Sam’s Mum Robyn arrives with afternoon tea and departs later with Tony and his bike.”
The Heathcote-Graytown National Park and the Rushworth forest are wonderful places to ride a bike. It is a very special part of Victoria, with very varied flora and flora. After the good rains this year, it seems as though it will be a spectacular spring for wildflowers. The route taken out of Rushworth went to Moora, then along the Moora-Heathcote Road to the Tait-Hamilton Road, then over the range. One person had to get off his bike and walk to make it up to the Chinaman’s Bend lookout, and didn’t have quite enough energy to take a short detour to see a site of great historical significance – the Mount Pleasant footy ground. Nevertheless, bike riding was the perfect way to explore this wonderful region.