Cycling Tour in the Victoria Winter - Day 1, Geelong to Colac

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Our last cycling holiday finished on Friday 14th May; 14 days later, the state of Victoria went into its 4th lockdown since the beginning of the Covid pandemic. 
Norm and I were relieved, to say the least, that we had managed to get away and have some fun. 
We had been lucky through the whole ordeal so far. Even buying a new home with spare money, we weren’t spending on other things. 
But the uncertainty of life was taking its toll, as it was on many people, so to get away and enjoy the simple things was a small but essential luxury.

After six days of motel accommodation, I suggested it was time to plan our next trip focusing on camping. 
The only issue was by now it would be the middle of a Victorian winter, where people go skiing in the alps and rain is the cold and wet variety.

So we focused our energies on options that were in warmer climates and the potential of less rain and more sun.

Option 1 - Sydney to the Gold Coast. 
Norm had worked tirelessly on this route since January 2020. 
We had to cancel this then due to the bushfires all along the coast. 
We attempted to do this again later in the year, but you know...Covid and stuff.  
We booked tickets for this journey, but then Sydney became a red zone, so we cancelled that idea.

Option 2 - Gold Coast - Brisbane to do the Brisbane Valley Rail trail and the KKRT - Noosa and back to the Gold Coast
We love rail trails, and I had heard so much about linking these two epic trails together.
Despite the chilly mornings, we would be riding in 20 degrees+ and sunshine.  But then Gold Coast become an Orange zone, with the Brisbane region including the Sunshine Coast, becoming Red Zones. 
Our flights were booked, then cancelled.

Right then, what next?

Option 3 - Geelong to Clare, South Australia, some of the Mawson trail to Adelaide, then catch a plane home. 
Surely we could sneak our dirty Victorian toes across the border here? 
At the point of commitment, borders were open, but thank bloody goodness we didn’t go there as things quickly changed partway through our final holiday choice and SA got caught up in a crazy COVID scandal.

 

Finally, we decided to suck it up and ride in Victoria.
What’s the worst that could happen? 
We get wet and cold, ride in the mud, and life sucks for a little bit. 

 

Norm and I had both wanted to ride the Ballarat to Skipton Rail Trail and see what the Yellow Belly trail along the Goulburn river was all about, and so our holiday was born. 
The original plan was 999km over nine days.  Perhaps two motel stays, and the rest go for free or stealth camping. 

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Now we knew what our plan was; it was time to work out the logistics.
We already had a lot of the gear, but how would we carry it?
What extra equipment did we need, and how would we distribute it amongst the two of us?

Norm already had his more sturdy gravel adventure bike, with lugs and room to attach bags, racks and more. 
On the other hand, my bike was a carbon cx speed machine that translated well to road riding, not so much self-supported adventure.  

As soon as we returned home from our last holiday, I decided the first thing to do was to sell a road bike to fund a new gravel bike and finally landed the dream machine on the Tuesday before our Saturday departure.  Talk about cutting it fine.    

My adventure gravel bike was similar to Norm’s, just the model above, the Norco Search XR - S1.  Now we could work out the logistics of what to take and what style of bags. 

 

Our final decision was to run rear racks and pannier bags, use our front forks for mounting extras, use our handlebars for tent and sleeping gear, and sacrifice a bit of speed and agility for being warm with the ability to carry food supplies along the way.

Norm’s greatest fear was how would the bikes climb, would we even be able to get distances done and more! 
We crammed in many YouTube videos of those who had done it before us and realised everything and anything was possible, and let’s just go and ride, bags and all.

 

The last tweak was to change our route direction so we could see our daughter play netball and look after Finley at the same time.

 

Day 1 - Geelong to Colac, then onto Meredith Park on Lake Colac.

108km - 985mt vert - 6hr 12min ride time.

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The simple delight to just roll out of the garage door onto our adventure.  

It was my first time riding with my load, and it was fine—what a relief.
The sun was shining, blue sky everywhere and a light headwind. 
It was freezing, literally. Thankfully this was, of course, what I was expecting.

I was excited.

Today we were riding very familiar territory, so it was easy for us to compare how our bikes were handling and how we were with the added weight. 

I was impressed with how easy it was to pedal along and how quickly I succumbed to the cruise mode of cycle touring.

Uphills just took longer, downhills I rode with more caution, and in general, the average speed just dropped.

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Having fun, stopping and taking pictures, saying hello to people along the way quickly ate into our time, and we realised that to get to Colac at 1:45 pm would require some re-routing.  I suggested heading to the highway from Birregurra to knock off possibly an hour from the scenic gravel route, maybe even more.  

By now, it was very foggy and not much to see.  

As we passed through Birrie, Norm bought some potato cakes for us to eat. 

Hot deep-fried potato sustenance would get us through many more moments like this over the coming week. 

We would be at Colac in around an hour, and I was hoping we would have some sunshine to greet us.

 

An uneventful ride to Colac, a change of plans, netball and grandparent duties, and we now had to think about getting to our campsite before dark, including getting some food at the supermarket.  

I had to think about what we needed now, tomorrow and maybe some spares, but also be quick, as the light was fading and making sure we could cook it. We had only brought the Jetboil, and in hindsight, should have brought some equipment to cook with as well. 

That was stressful.  Get food, but not too much, but just enough, but stuff that we could carry between us, but not require much preparation.  It turns out I never got enough, more hindsight for next time.

 

Our plan was always to camp at Meredith Park, Ondit, on the shores of Lake Colac. 
It’s a free campground, with toilets and water and even bins. 
We had heard and read mixed reviews but figured that we might avoid people having all-night parties and noise given the time of year. 
We were open and willing to give it a go anyway.  

The ride there from Colac was only around 13 km, but it was getting cold and dark with the fog rolling in over the lake, so we pushed hard to keep warm and ride as quick as our heavy loaded bikes would allow.

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As we arrived, I was a bit stressed about getting set up quickly, I was so cold, and the fog was leaving a damp mist everywhere.  It was probably only 5:30 pm, but we needed tents up, get changed into warm, dry clothes and prepare food so we could settle down for our first night.

In the hurry of this and low light, we just chose the first place that looked quiet and out of the way with flat ground.  We realised only 20 meters away from an even better spot with a picnic table and chairs in the morning.  We promised to spend more time scoping our campsite in the future.

By 7:00 pm, we were done, ready for bed, like what else is there to do when it’s cold dark and wet?  As I hopped into my sleeping bag and liner, I did not remove my puffy beanie or gloves, and it took me a long time to warm up.  Norm and I found we dozed off nicely, and then came the night from hell.

9:00 pm the peace was broken with headlights of multiple cars scoping the place for a campsite and off all areas, they decided to come and annoy us only 10 meters away.  There are three carloads, one big six-person tent, and never-ending talking and laughter until well into the morning hours.  

 

So yes, the free campsite on a Saturday was fine, and the noisy crew weren’t nasty or abusive, just inconsiderate of others needs.  

Lucky to get a few hours sleep, I woke up the next day feeling sore and hungover, not to mention hungry, but I will get to that later.

STATS:

  • Geelong to Colac to Lake Colac: 108.7km
  • Moving time: 6:12
  • Elevation: 985 mt
  • Ave speed: 17.5 kmph
  • Temperature: 5 degrees
  • Wind: WNW
  • Sleep 2.5/10
  • Food 3.5/10
  • Song on repeat in my head - If you're happy and you know it.

Expenses:

  • $ 15 Food along the way 
  • $ 60 Supermarket shopping

Highlights:

  • Sunshine
  • Being adaptable
  • Seeing some friends along the way

Things we would change:

  • Scope campsite better
  • Buy more food
  • Carry more water

My Strava link to the ride: https://www.strava.com/activities/5603047267

Norm's YouTube video for the day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8mHdK0mh90&t=11s

Jess's YouTube video diary for the trip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxZLl6MuPoA&t=7s




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