The ultra bright 1000 lumen lamp attached to my Ironhorse MTB illuminated the bleak opaque darkness as I cycled off into a cold misty morning to Sunshine train station for the 6.20am scheduled Ballarat service.
Ballarat is 100 kilometres from Melbourne, with a population of roughly 100,000 people. The city, made famous by the gold rush of the 1850’s, was also the scene of the 1854 Eureka Stockade, an unsuccessful armed rebellion against our colonial overlords and their English masters.
My train journey takes just over an hour. Chugging through a rich indigo morning the gradient rises gently revealing bucolic scenes. A couple of steely faced eastern grey kangaroos watch motionless as we pass. I expect them to wave, however, they turn suddenly bounding effortlessly along the fence line!
From a chilly Ballarat station it’s a quick cycle out west of town along the Avenue of Honour, with a brief stop for breakfast at the Golden Nugget drive through bakery. Then I ride under the Arch of Victory, turning left onto the signposted compacted gravel path.
It’s rained a tidy sky full this last week so the surface is a tad soft as I ride alongside fertile farming and sheep country. Its exciting to see a wide variety of bird species; plentiful, colourful and vocal. They accompany me all day.
The trail itself is easy to navigate, but perhaps best suited to a mountain or hybrid bike. There is seating and covered shelters placed just off the trail at regular intervals. I pass alongside an old Chinese gold miner’s camp of mullock heaps, abandoned diggings, strewn with ancient rusticated mining equipment.
I roll along at a gentle pace skirting former railway sidings in Smythesdale , Scarsdale then Newton before being rewarded with a spectacular view of Nimmons Trestle Bridge, where I pick up a sparkly handful of river sand that’s studded with gold flecks, fools gold ?
The trail takes me into Linton State Park, through the Clarkesdale Bird Sanctuary where I enjoy the sight of scarlet robins, eastern and crimson rosellas, while up above the treetops I see a wedge tail eagle circling its prey.
Following the trail out past Pittong, I realise that I’m pushed for time if I want to make it back to Ballarat and my train home within daylight hours.
I turn back 10 kilometres short of Skipton retracing my tracks, stopping too often to watch black cockatoos or brown falcons.
A fantastic day spent cycling 90 of a possible 110 kilometres, out and back along a varied trail that is fun to ride in autumn, when nasty venomous black snakes are less active and vicious nesting magpies aren’t yet attacking innocent cyclists.