2009-09-06 -37 145
Just to the north of Bunyip State Park, near Powelltown, deep in forest.
Getting up from my campsite near Bunyip State Park I rode through remote bushland for most of the day, bush bashing to the very densely forested hash point, then rode home via the Warburton to Lilydale rail trail. Part IV of a four day consecutive geohash. 2009-09-03 -37 145 is the first and 2009-09-05 -37 145 is the previous one.
My alarm woke me up at six a.m. this morning where I found myself camping in the middle of the bushfire ravaged wilderness west of Neerim South. I got up, admiring the brilliant sunrise, packed up and got on bike for the rough track down to the main (yet unused) road through the state park, my hands freezing from the morning air.
After an hour or so I’d warmed up, mainly through riding solidly uphill most of the way and soon I reached a saddle point with views of the Latrobe Valley. Here I got reception for the first time since yesterday afternoon and as predicted I’d got several messages asking why I had failed to turn up to a much anticipated party last night. FOMO was rife.
I took this opportunity to check exactly where the next geohash was. I was a little confused here as I was using laminated photocopies of the VicRoads Country Directory (a cycle tourist’s best friend) which had both lat/long coordinates and UTM. For some reason I couldn’t get them to match up so I decided to call my support crew – Talex, but hastily hung up when I realised it was still only 8am. I decided to go on the UTM location and this proved a good choice.
The next couple of hours I spent surrounded by spectacular scenery – if you will indulge me:
There was a low warm north wind precipitating eventual storms, giving the atmosphere an electric feel, but the sky was clear with high clouds. I spent most of the time climbing through eerie dead and black trees with the view of the Latrobe Valley splayed out to my left and nearly a kilometre down, the hills of Bunyip State Park ahead.
The track itself looked like it had been good once, but after the fires it had been abandoned, with burnt logs and branches littering every metre – it was clear that no-one had been along it for months (a sign would later prohibit me from entering the area, but it was facing the way out). Occasionally I rode past a small waterfall above the track which was an oasis of green ferns amongst its bleak environment.
After some time, leaving the charred landscape, I was absorbed into the regrowth from a bushfire a few decades ago (most likely the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983) and the contrast was stark. The bush was dense and green with the occasional tall tree poking up and ferns overhung the track. I have to describe all of this because the spare batteries I’d brought with me were duds, so I was preserving the camera for the actual geohash (although I was getting increasingly concerned that it would be completely inaccessible).
I’d worked out a rough programme of when I should be where to not get caught too late at the hash and right on schedule I was over the ridgeline and on a branching track heading steeply downhill towards the location (here I wished I’d listened to the bike mechanic from last week telling me to replace my front brake – it had completely worn down to the metal). I spent most of the descent worrying that my pannier clips would break off.
Within a kilometre of the hash I started looking out for good places to barge into the bush, but luckily every time the GPS arrow pointed orthogonally to my trajectory the track conveniently turned towards it. Additionally, just as I was slowing down to proceed on foot, a narrow unmarked four wheel drive track appeared heading directly towards the point (this charming track is shown below in photo form).
Here I began to worry that despite being only 290m from the hashpoint, it would still be unattainable. I had given myself two hours to get there and back but the regrowth vegetation was so thick it looked like it could take more than that. Donning GoreTex overpants and jacket, secreting my camera, GPS, a compass and emergency chocolate on my person I plunged in.
For the first 50m or so the experience was draining – I’d exert myself for minutes against vines, creepers and more small trees than spaces between trees to the point of exhaustion when I’d realise I was only a few centimetres closer to the hash. Over the next 40 minutes I gradually worked my way down to a creek and up the other side, covering myself in scratches, tripping on rotting logs and stumbling along the ground. Once I was within 100m of the geohash location I knew I had to make it, whatever else happened. I was comforted at the thought that if I broke my leg and didn’t return home Talex would be able to direct the emergency services to my exact coordinates (phone reception was again back to zero below the ridgeline).
Finally, I was there. Again I had to wander back and forth trying to navigate by the lat/long coordinates alone (and getting them back to front) before locating the exact spot and taking some photos. Suddenly it was all over – all I had to focus on now was the grim task of survival and escape. Time of hash: 10:45am.
To get back to my bike I simply took a compass bearing (taken from my GPS’s bearing for my bike – a wise marker) and headed through the bush. This leg, although slightly quicker, was of a different character to the last. I was over it and just wanted to get out. While I was heading towards the hash I always had the option of giving up and turning around – on the way out there was no turning back.
Increasingly frustrated with the amount of mosquitoes, spiders, leeches and miscellaneous invertebrates attaching themselves to me I popped out onto the track with almost no warning, right at my bike. I took a couple of victory shots, jumped on my bike and headed off towards the highway (pausing only to flick off a leech which had ambushed me from my handlebars). I was on my way home.
After, passing a number of interesting examples of local fauna, including wallabies, wombats and brumbies I shot out of the wilderness and onto the highway to Yarra Junction. I then endured the long slog towards civilisation, tempered only by excellent views of the Yarra Ranges and the surrounding bushland.
Once I had reached the supermarket in Yarra Junction I made a shocking error: I purchased and consumed 2 litres of double shot iced coffee thinking it was chocolate (plus a banana – for scurvy). I was already buzzing from the endorphins and am particularly susceptible to caffeine. Thus began a manic high taking me along the Warburton to Lilydale Rail Trail, through Montrose and back into the city. I only realised my mistake when my housemate noticed the bottle just before trying to go to sleep.
On my way home I stopped by Talex’ house In Mont Albert North for some much coveted homebrew ale and a geohashing saga audience. I also made a brief stop off in Richmond to see the girl whose party I’d stood up to apologise. Apparently it was quite awesome.
I made it home just before sunset as the rain started to beat down at 6:03 – almost dead-on schedule - and resisted the urge to jump back on my bike and head to the Altona wetlands for the Melbourne West geohash.
Here's the Google Maps link to my whole route. Saturday's section is between D and F - 128 kms.
| Felix Dance earned the Bicycle geohash achievement
| Felix Dance earned the MNIMB Geohash Achievement
| Felix Dance earned the Consecutive geohash achievement