Western Victoria – January 1987

After our successful Toowoomba to Gladstone trip I was keen to do another one but it turned out the only people who were available was David and myself. So we planned the trip – from Finley (where he lived just north of the Murray River) – around Western Victoria and then to Melbourne then straight up the centre of Victoria and back to Finley. We ended up dubbing it ‘The Pleasure and Pain Bike Tour’ after the Divinyls song that was popular at the time – it was a very enjoyable trip, but there was some very hot dry weather at times.

Approximate distance 1174 kilometres

Now memories are sketchy but I’ll do my best to fill the details in – DAK if you’re out there and can add more detail or correct any mistakes please do!

I got a train down from Brisbane – I remember booking my bike on as freight at the train station in Toowoomba and being a bit worried if it would turn up on time at the Finley train station – I was scheduled to arrive the day before it and we didn’t have much room for error. 

I arrived on New Years Eve – though I think we saw the New Year in we played it pretty low key. Much to our relief the next day my bike was waiting at the Finley train station – as planned – with just a single tag on it to give directions on where it was bound. We spent that day preparing and then got up early the next day, packed and set off.

I think our first leg was to Tocumwal, over the Murray and then onto Echuca. Camping by the Murray was very peaceful and picturesque.

I recall we were tired that night but everything was under control – we’d had enough cycling experience as well as cadets and bush walks to know what we were doing. Coming from Queensland the late sunsets took a bit of getting used to – the sun didn’t set till around 9pm. There must have been mozzies around otherwise I don’t think I would have been gnawing on my chops in the tent, or resting as David is in this photo

The sun sets across the Murray were lovely and we set our tent fairly close to the riverbank – we’d decided it was low enough – and the weather was dry enough – so there was no real danger of a flash flood

I made the mistake of going to the toilet block just before sunset and attempting to have a shave, without a mirror. The results would have made Norman Gunston proud, and I decided I won’t be shaving quite so much on this trip! Dawn the next day was even more peaceful – and although the river was clearly running a bit low and had taken quite a hit since European settlement it was still a lovely thing to be around.

From here we headed north west, roughly following the Murray, up to Swan Hill. I think we did this over two days – I can’t remember where we camped on the way, but I think these photos are from that site.

We had a pretty rip-roaring bonfire that night, and were then up bright eyed and bushy tailed the next with a lovely sunrise.

That morning’s ride was the most glorious and enjoyable I’ve ever had – then or since – the road was gently undulating, the weather was cool but sunny and the light was gently breaking through the trees as we were up early enough to enjoy the best of it.

I must have been so taken by it I didn’t stop and photograph any of it ~ which is the best way to be ~ but I’ll never forget it.

We stayed in a caravan park in Swan Hill right on the Murray and the whole area was just a little bit rowdy – John Farnham was doing a concert that night (I think on the back of his Whispering Jack album) and there were alot of people around for that

From here we headed south west and there’s only a few things I really remember about it – first of all we both broke our record for how far we’d ridden in one day – we did around 192 kms (if memory serves) – I can’t remember the reason – some of the printed maps back then weren’t entirely accurate and things didn’t really work out the way we initially planned.

We did go through a town called Donald which I soon recognised and remembered because 8 years earlier (though it seemed like a lifetime ago) I lived in Melbourne for a while and on a huge school tour around Central Australia we pulled in at Donald early on in the trip – and I shot about a third of my film rolls on the parrots in the public aivery there – and I was quite astonished to find that this was the town I was now cycling in, and the parrots and cockatoos were still there ~ I’d completely forgotten what the town was.

It was a really really hot and tiring day though – and the photo of me below on the left I think sums it up perfectly, I think I saw these air craft contrails around here too, and I found them pretty intriguing

Our plan was to cycle to the Grampians and then up and over them – but on the way we came across the town of Minyip. Now we didn’t know it at the time but Minyip was where they filmed much of The Flying Doctors – a popular Australian TV show. We pretty star struck when we discovered this – we road into the town and started seeing all these signs for Coopers Crossing everywhere and thought what??! And then when we worked it out we had to photograph everything!

We stayed at a caravan park at Horsham and I bought a copy of the screenplay of Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries at a book shop there – I didn’t read it on the trip but I was pretty interested in it, and it introduced me to whole new way of looking at cinema ~ more personal and authentic

So the next day we rode on to the Grampians National Park – surely one of our most impressive and special national parks.

From the Western to the Eastern side it’s basically a 32km ride over the Grampians – 16k’s up and 16 k’s down.

On the way up we came across the huge Mackenzie Falls – look at the steps in the lower left of the first photo to have some idea of the scale!

We stopped at various points to enjoy the view

We camped about 10 k’s up that night – we knew we’d have a bit more to do in the morning before the down hill run, but we needed the break – so selected a spot near a creek. I was quite thrilled to find we’d set our tent right next to the hanging basket nest of an Eastern Spinebill Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris – who didn’t seem at all concerned about our presence

David had some black and white film he’d been saving up so he shot most of it the next morning once we started our down hill run. The funny thing about cycling down hill is – if you have about the same up hill as down hill your overall average can be really high.

On the flat with a fully loaded bike you’ll average around 20-30 kmh – when you go uphill it can be as little as 2 kmh – but when you go down it can be up around 70 kmh (if the conditions are safe) – so your overall average across the up and down hill sections can be higher than if it were just flat, despite the slow up hill climbs

On the way down we came across this Shingleback Lizard Tiliqua rugosa which I had to catch and have a look at – I was trying to get him to open his mouth with the bit of grass, but no luck – they are actually a kind of Blue Tongue Lizard 

We cycled down into Stawell and I remember having a drink in a pub and being surrounded by all this memorabillia from the Stawell Gift. From here on our next target was Melbourne and I can’t rememeber if the next bunch of photos were from before the Grampians or just after (sorry, it has been 30 years though!!)

At any rate they pretty much sum up much of the experience – bloody hot and dry! I remember one day there being an extremely strong head wind which got us down to about 2 kmh – and we got a lift in a minibus full of disabled people who were kind enough to help us. 

That day with the wind was an exception, for most of it in Western Victoria it was just hot and dry ~ it was summer afterall

These wheat fields really caught my eye – all you could see to the horizon was just wheat and then the sky! It was a bit surreal

So on to Melbourne – David had a mate there called Brad and we stayed at Brad’s place for probably just under a week. 

The highlight of the Melbourne stay was a trip the Valhalla Cinema one Friday night to see the Blues Brothers – we arrived and there was a Dodge Bluesmobile out the front ~ it was a good sign. It was one of those legendary screenings (like Rocky Horror) where the audience participates and there was much singing and dancing and throwing of confetti etc in the crowd at various parts of the movie. I remember one part where a guy in the film goes ‘Who do you think you are – the Beatles?’  and right on cue a guy from the audience jumps in front of the screen in a Beatle suit and with a tennis racquet like a guitar and sings “Yeah yeah yeah”. It was just a great night – they’d been showing it every Friday for years – a quick internet search has revealed that this tradition has now sadly died out – but what a fun night it was!

The other funny thing that happened was Brad’s sister was a Uni student at the time and gave me quite a serve when she found out my father was a member of Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s Government – her mother was quick to chide her, but I thought it was funny and didn’t mind.  Even then the Queensland reputation was pretty wide spread I guess (ah the days of the Banana Curtain!)

And here’s a picture of Brad driving us somewhere ~ Brad we had a great time mate, thanks

So after a week or so it was time to go and we cycled pretty much straight North – I remember my knee giving me a bit of trouble and I was struggling behind David towards the end – I don’t know what it was – a tendon or ligament but it healed up alright after the trip. The day it flared up I got a lift by a man in a ute – he had a heavy accent and so I started to chat to him 

“Where are you from?”, I asked

“Poland”, he said  

“Oh how long have you been here for?”, I said

“Since the 1950’s”, he replied

“Oh”, I said, “….longer than me” – and I looked down a bit sheepishly, hoping I didn’t make him feel like an outsider because he sounded different ! He was quite a gentleman and had come out here to work on the Snowy Scheme.

It was only a couple of days ride back and we made it to Finley on another hot and slightly windy day. David and I went our seperate ways a few days later – me back up to Qld for Uni, and he to Sydney for Uni.

It was a great ride and David one day we’ll have to compare notes – I’m pretty sure the route I’ve got on google maps is accurate but I don’t remember the legs and camp sites that accurately!

Anyone interested in cycling around Victoria I’d thoroughly reccomend it. We didn’t get into Eastern Victoria this time (time was an issue) but there’s alot to see there as well.

And finally here’s the wonderful Divinyls and the song that inspired us to name the trip after it!