We based ourselves in the Victorian high country at the suitably named Mount Beauty. Friends had kindly offered the use of their holiday home. While the bicycle Gods laid on perfect autumnal conditions for the end of daylight savings, I filled an old jam jar full of sunshine, I will keep it wrapped in a towel at the bottom of my wardrobe until the depths of winter then treat myself to a sunshiny day!
Cyclists of all types were everywhere: hardcore roadies, dirty mountain bikers, tired tourers, teenage BMX riders, along with novice families, young and old all just out having fun on their bikes.
Health is wealth; a truism often forgotten in the hurly burly of modern living. Taking the Murray (River) to the Mountains Rail Trail, we climbed steadily up through remnant bush to dry landscaped farming country past boutique wineries to the historic gold mining town and well known honey spot of Beechworth for the Easter Golden Horseshoe Festival, recalling a colonial past when gold was so plentiful, it was used by some to shoe their horses! Flaunting their success.
The friendly inmates from Beechworth prison did a roaring trade running their ‘sausage sizzle’ and plant stall aptly named ‘Prisoners on the Run’.
I said to the guy cooking the sausages “It’s just like Bunnings”
The guy selling the plants mumbled “Yeah but there’s more freedom at Bunnings.”
Accompanied by circling wedge-tailed eagles, we rolled out of town stopping by a heavily wooded small creek to watch yellow tufted honeyeaters as they darted through the understory.
Therese, a known animal whisperer, spotted a well camouflaged sleepy koala in a nearby messmate tree.
Cycling the trails from outside the town of Bright we passed through Porepunkah on the trail to Myrtleford. Later we rode through Smoko on the way to a local duck racing festival in Harrietville.
We cycled along the valleys, riding the flat country shadowed by forested mountain ranges through Tawonga Gap with Mount Hotham , Mount Buffalo and Mount Bogong ever present.
We were passed by squads of focussed roadies girding themselves up for the climb above the tree line to the clouds. Later we are passed by a keen pace line of committed Audax endurance cyclists out for a 1200k ride against the clock.
Flocks of my totem pink galahs wheeled overhead as faintly in the distance I hear the soulful call of the black cockatoo. Crimson rosellas rocketed past at eye level while in the treetops magpies and currowongs competed to serenade us cyclists.
We buy juicy fresh figs from a roadside stall, stopping just to enjoy the quiet, but are quickly roused into action by gangs of screeching white sulphur crested cockatoos. As common as they are I’m forever excited to see them.
Back in Mount Beauty we cycled the trail out by the West Kiewa River. I hear the distinctive call of fruit bats a.k.a. flying foxes: Hundreds hung upside down from trees wriggling like some strange fruit. We cycled on keeping one eye on the trail, another in the trees as I sought out the singing honeyeaters or fearless king parrots
Cycling is the gift that just keeps on giving.