2010-07-11 -37 144
In native bushland, just off a dirt track, nearish Fryerstown, Victoria.
The main reason for my expedition was to ride the Domino Trail from Trentham to Lyonville, using the GPS trace to add it to OpenStreetMap. Since a geohash was vaaaaaguely in the area, I thought I'd have a go. Ride by bike from the Great Dividing Trail, using the patented Felix Dance method of geohashing without maps.
Up at 5:30am. Drive my girlfriend's brother to the airport at 6:30am. Slowly meander up towards Trentham. Taking my time as I needed food for the day. Shop in Woodend, then park the car at Trentham train station, check out the trains. It's pretty chilly and a bit drizzly. Decide to brave it in knicks and long sleeve jersey. Manage to stuff all my food and warm clothes into my frame bag and saddle pack.
The Domino Trail went well - it's a fun little mountain biking route. Well, it's actually a walking trail, but perfectly suitable for mountain biking. I had my first crash of the day, slipping on a wet bridge. Confusingly, the route doubles back on itself, forming an infinite loop, with no warning. Eventually I figured out what was going on and oriented myself towards Lyonville, following the abandoned train line. At one point, there's an old delapidated bridge 4-5 metres above a shallow swamp, with some gaping holes in it. And a sign "DANGER - NO ACCESS". And a fence. So of course I proceeded across it.
I picked up the bike over my shoulder and started across. Remember, no hand rails, just exposed sleeper and a bit of ballast, and a couple of holes about 75cm across. To get across the holes you need to either jump or walk on the narrow support beams. Which I did. And then I slipped. My bike went straight through the hole, I went on my arse. I grabbed frantically at the beams around me, and manage to wedge myself solidly, my bike hanging from one hand. Eep. Jesus. I eventually managed to extricate myself and the bike, saving it from a Cliff Hanger moment. (Well, it was a Cliff Hanger moment, but the one at the end of the film, not the start).
At Lyonville, the pub was open but not serving meals, so I pushed on to Daylesford. The local market was in session, and I arrived just in time to see the old tourist railway chuffing off (it's the same line as the one I was following earlier). Due to bushfires last year, it only goes 15 minutes at the moment. I had no cash on me at all, so couldn't sample the local wares, except for the "slow food" (in style and service) establishment Cliffy's, which takes credit card. Supremely unimpressed with their lamb pie. (Pretty much everything else I saw anyone get served looked fantastic. Why did the waitress recommend me the crappest item on the menu?)
 The pursuit
At this point I discovered that I had in fact brought my booties. I was grateful, as I zoomed down the big hill into Hepburn Springs. Then up the other side, to hit the Great Dividing Trail, a fantastic walking/mountain biking track I've done several times before. It goes relatively close to the geohash point, and is a hell of a lot of fun. Not only that, but it needs to be added to OpenStreetMap. It is very slow going though, with all its twists and turns. I soon had my second crash of the day, as I attempted (after deliberating for several minutes) a very steep, narrow chute down to a bridge, rather than taking the steps.
Although the going was slow, I had high hopes of that most prized commodity: a daylight geohash. I think I've only had one. After all, I'd been up since 5:30 - how could I possibly arrive after dark?
As I reached the point where I'd previously seen DSE staff burning off (the scorch marks much in evidence) it was time to head off. I'd hoped to reach Vaughan Springs, but time was wasting. I turned right onto Wewak Track and messaged talex for route suggestions. Unfortunately the reception was so bad, that it took a long time for messages to get through, meaning information was often too late to be useful. (Translation: I was too impatient to wait for a reply, and set off on the wrong path. Three times.)
I had minimal maps on my GPS, so I decided to follow the road I could see to its nearest point about 4-5 km south of the geohash. It sort of curved anticlockwise around, so it took a long time to actually get any closer. I kept an anxious eye out for roads on my left that might lead more directly there. I passed Hopkins Rd, but it was marked No Through Rd, so I dismissed it. Later, I got a message from Alex suggesting I take it. Bugger.
Soon my sealed road (Vaughan Springs Rd I believe) ran into a group of people. One enthusiastically waved me down, saying "Hi! I didn't recognise you in that lycra!" He was...confused. But he told me the next road along, Hunters Lane, should take me there. I headed off.
Hunters Lane did indeed point in exactly the right direction. It's a great site on the GPS, to see yourself heading perfectly towards the geohash. Soon I had to make a choice though, as the track veered off to the right. Stick with it? Or take the smaller dirt track left, again directly towards the point. I chose the latter.
This track was all the things I would want a mountain biking track to be early on a Saturday morning, full of spirits. Late on Sunday, with 60 km behind me and sore knees, I could have done with something easier. However, I was just over 2km from the point. It was honing in magically on the point until...it turned left. And down a huuuuuuge hill. I set off down it, when I got a scratchy call from tAlex. Fearing failing phone reception, I stopped. Then something amazing happened. Two passing trail bikes proved themselves useful. As they zoomed past, I was able to follow their noise and lights into the distance and realise that the track veered well away off to the left of where I wanted to go. Back up the hill I plodded.
With tAlex's instructions, getting to the geohash from this point was a straightforward, if still slow and painful process. Uphill, downhill, uphill, downhill, rutted gravelly dirt track, then onto a better dirt road. More undulations. I hit 100m from the point, and was about to stop when I saw another dirt track off to the left. Yes, I was able to bike within 25m of the point.
So, did I get a daylight geohash? Well, it was dusk. I had no trouble scrambling through the light undergrowth without a headtorch. But the photos are all black. I didn't bring a camera, but my GPS can take photos, which are, of course, geotagged.
So, it's 5:15 or so. I've been riding since 9:30. And according to my map and tAlex, there's no direct route back to the car. Instead, it's a series of painful zigzags, like crossing a city's grid pattern from corner to corner. It's cold. It's dark. My knees hurt. My legs ache. I'm tired. I'm sleepy. It's a long 50km or so.
The best part of the ride back was actually the most major road. Hardly any traffic, and the painted white lines meant I could turn all my lights off. With scant moonlight and overcast skies, I could just make out the white lines to navigate by. It was very peaceful and calming gliding through the darkness listening to the frogs and birds, and looking at houses.
The quiet backroads were less comfortable as I needed light to see by. Ironically the light makes you more claustrophobic, trapped in a little bubble of light beyond which you can see nothing. You're keenly aware of the asphalt in front of you, the drizzle in your face, the spray off your front wheel, but with little sense of the bush around you. The kilometres very slowly ticked by. I desperately tried to find amusement by fiddling with my GPS. Would I finish up with more than 100km? Or less? Maybe more?...How much more effort is offroad mountain biking than sealed road? 100%? 50%? So was today more like 125km of sealed? As you see, desperate.
Then the fog set in. Thick fog giving me no more than two metres visibility. Even with my headtorch, if I was in the middle of the road, I couldn't see the edges. Let alone anything in front of me. The only way to navigate was to hug one side of the road, and keep my light trained on it. I had long ago stopped worrying about hitting anything on the road. So I let myself glide at a reasonable speed through the fog, staring intently at the subtle shade of brown that represented the dirt instead of the edge of the road.
As I rode, I kept seeing possible shortcuts that weren't on my limited maps. Somehow, a deep conservatism set in, and I didn't try any of them. Looking at the map now, they all would have saved me time. A lot of time.
Eventually, I trickled into Trentham, and found my car. Exhausted, I kept it together just long enough to warm up, stick the bike in the boot, and drive what seemed like a very long way back home.
Total stats for the day: 100.5km. 11.5 hours. 14kph moving average.
Would you believe that Garmin introduced a !%!!%$#*(! bug in a recent firmware update? Would you believe that it caused the track archiving feature to no longer work? Would you believe I have no GPS trace at all except from shortly after the geohash? Sigh. The EXIF information from one of the photos (not uploaded) shows -37.177417, 144.287272 as the location.
Here's the tracklog for most of the return trip, starting from the end of the dirt road (Spence's Rd).
| Stevage earned the Bicycle geohash achievement
| Stevage earned the Land geohash achievement