Western Victoria & Mallee
As I had a leave pass for the weekend that was going unused by the 4x4 because of the bushfires, I decided I was going to head off for a ride around the western side of Victoria. The general gist was to head towards Wyperfeld/Big Desert, but that was only a rough plan.
The final track was:
After saying goodbye to the Missus & Small Noisy Child at about 6pm on Thursday night, I worked on getting approx 2 hours away so I was pulling up on dusk. After some Google Mapping earlier in the week, my target was Melville Caves in the Kooyoora State Park, just out of Inglewood. I completed the transit across the city with relatively few incidents, and pulled up at the server at Calder Park, because looking at the sky, I figured I might need my wets:
After getting the wets on (which instantly turned into a steam suit as it was still ~30deg) and putting the GoPro on the side of my lid, I continued up the Calder Freeway on my way northwestish. At this point, Mother Nature decided she was going to test my wets, and started throwing heavy rain and lightning at me..
:permazot (Video to go here if I can convert it!)
I now know that my wets aren't totally waterproof, and I ended up with a wet inner elbow (?!) and wet unmentionables.. :waysad Still, by the time I got to Harcourt, it was back to being dry and warm, so I could unzip the suit and dry off.
I was watching another storm off to my left all the way between Bendigo and Inglewood, just hoping it wasn't settling in over the top of my planned campsite. :eek1 Luckily it hadn't, and I got a dry camp.
<Another video here if it converts>
Due to the delays in getting through the city, and then getting "wet-anised", I was running a bit later than I'd hoped, and found myself finding my way into Melville Caves in the dark (and as I found the next morning, I'd come in the back way :augie)
Time for a bourbon (or two) and find somewhere flat to roll out my swag, then kick back and watch the lightning! :D
Now, I'm not a morning person. I'm about as close to a being morning person as Barrack Obama is to being a Chinese princess. So, to wake up just before dawn and watch the sunrise from my swag was a very different experience for me..
I got up and made a coffee (that, I can NOT do without), and went for a wander around. There was only one other vehicle in the campground, and they were wa-ay over the other side. I staggered on up the hill to what looked to be the main attraction of the park: Rocks
..and a view across to the southwest:
Also found some of the caves that the park is known for:
As I was getting organised the night before, I found lots of little bastard bitey ants around, so rolled out my swag in a safe place:
Had a bit of a poke around Barry's Rock on my way out of the park:
While there, I saw a roo the other side of the rock. I went around to take a photo, but apparently they're faster through the scrub than I am, so you get a photo of a KLR and the scrub instead :lol3
I continued in a westerly sort of direction along the "back" highways, going through St Arnaud, and then Donald. Scooting down the main street of Donald, I copped a whiff of coffee, so did a u-turn for a decent coffee. Right temperature, right amount of froth, right amount of coffee. While enjoying the coffee, I was amazed how Donald didn't come to life until 5 to 9, then it was bedlam!
I was aiming for the town of Rainbow, so headed across towards Warracknabeal. Pulling up in Warracknabeal, I saw something I hadn't seen for the last couple of hundred km's - water on the ground!:
After chucking a couple of rocks in (what else do you do with a body of water?!), I continued on up to Rainbow. There's lots of sky, and lots of stubble out there:
I was finding that it was stinking hot when the sun was out, but while under cloud cover it was very nice - warm air temps without the cooking effect of the sunshine.
So, I pulled into Rainbow. Like most small towns, there are a lot of closed shops, but there are some new ones, and some restored ones too:
Don't let it ever be said that Rainbow is an unfriendly town. The ONLY people I saw that didn't stop/come over/wave me down for a chat were the girls behind the counter in the cafe. Everyone else wanted to talk. :huh
After being in Rainbow for near on an hour (chatting), I saddled back up and headed out towards Lake Hindmarsh.
One of my 4x4 mates asked me to stop by Outlook Ck at the north end of Lake Hindmarsh and let him know how well it was flowing. Well, with the tide (in a non tidal lake) being this far out, safe to say that Outlet Ck was dry:
There were a bunch of these out on the lake bed:
and futher out (in the mud that I couldn't get to without needed a bath afterwards) there was even more.
I'd decided last night that I was heading for Nhill today to stock up. I headed SouthWest, and made the turn onto Netting Fence Tk - my first real 'off-bitumen' on this trip.
Along here I found my GPS turned it self off. I turned it back on, and found later it had turned off again. I fought with the little shit of a device for the next couple of days until I found the solution just before I got home.. :rolleyes
I stopped at Herman's Hill, with all the best intentions of walking to the top and taking a couple of pics. Well, you can stick that idea where the sun doesn't shine. It was too hot, the sand was too soft, and there were too many little bastard flies. :pissed
There's some old houses out there:
and some big tree's amongst the fields of stubble:
So I got into Nhill. I needed more drinks, a steak for tonight, and to find a bike shop. My goggles use a "quickstrap" (stud on one side of helmet and velcro spot the other side to hold goggles on) rather than the traditional full strap. Unfortunately, between the thunderstorm last night, and the heat today, the velcro spot had let go and so my goggles kept falling off.
Would you believe that there is NOT a bike shop in Nhill? Closest is Horsham. I stopped in at the Ag shop (as they had a big Polaris sign out the front) hoping that they'd have helmets &/or Goggles they would sell along with quads, but no. Apparently they have a hard time even selling helmets, let alone goggles. Oh well, sunglasses it is then. :deal
Due to dodgy frikkin GPS (we're friends again now though), I took the wrong turn out of Nhill, and ended up heading towards Adelaide (eeek!) Improvising it back to the direction I should have been going, I came along this little gem:
Was only a couple of K's long, but was good fun! :wink:
I was starting to get sick of the long straight roads:
but there were some good views (pity my photography skills don't do them justice :cry )
I got a bit excited along the next bit because I was back on dirt, so forgot to take pictures for a while.. :deal I stopped at Broken Bucket on the Murrayville-Nhill Rd for a break:
..and then kept heading north towards Murrayville:
Again, I didn't get many pictures along here, mainly because I was getting back into reacting to sand after a long time of not riding on sand.
The Murrayville-Nhill road actually wasn't too bad - it was mostly hardpack, but with some sandy bits along the way (generally at the top of the dunes, and the bottom of the valleys).
More thunderstorms were brewing around me, and I weirdly was sorta hoping it'd rain a little bit, A) to cool things down a bit and B) wet down the sand a bit and make it easier. The more I thought about it though, I would have preferred it to be hot and dry rather than warm and wet, so started praying for it to NOT rain!
The GPS kept turning itself off along here too (:evil:), so I was never really sure how far I had come, and how far I had to go. I knew I could generally turn it back on again, but that required undoing the cradle lock, take the GPS out, taking the battery cover off, taking the battery out, then reversing the procedure. Not really what you want to be doing in the desert, in the sun. :huh
<Add panorama pic here when created>
Still heading north:
(Yes, I know the bike is facing south - I did a u-turn to go back to the top of the hill!)
I stopped in and checked out the Big Bore campsite - it looked to be really good.
Looking at the paper map (bloody GPS :fpalm: ) I saw "The Springs" and got all excited thinking it might have been like any of the Springs up the Oodnadatta Trk, and I might have been able to stop and get wet! No such luck..
Even the reeds had died due to lack of water.. :fitz
Speaking of water, I'd gone though 5.5 litres of water out of my camelbak today, and I still hadn't left the desert. I had about 500ml left in the camelbak, and a spare litre in the pannier (camp/cooking water). If I do another ride in heat like this, I'll investigate how to carry more water.
There's all sorts of random "stuff" out there.
Makes you think how hard these people were back then to walk through here walking horses to get all this stuff done. :huh Give me mud over sand any day of the week!
At this point, the camera went flat, so everything from here on is from my phone.. :baldy
I popped out into Murrayville, and pulled into the petrol station to find out what their opening hours were. They weren't open in the morning, and were only open for about 10 more minutes that (friday) afternoon. I did some quick calculations and worked out I was only about 30km's from Pinaroo, and as I was that close, it seemed to be a waste to not cross the state border, so I set off for Pinaroo and a better petrol station:
Got waved through at the quarantine station, which is always nice. Got into Pinaroo and did a lap of town (took about 35 seconds). Filled up the bike, and some chocolate into me, then headed back towards Victoria to find a campsite for the night.
Unfortunately, the thunderstorms were getting bigger and more intense with every moment. The two or three possible campsites I'd seen earlier were looking less and less inviting with the amount of H2O coming out of the sky. I got drenched while crossing the border back into Victoria. :fpalm: Still, as per yesterday, it was still warm enough that I dried off in a few km's. On a whim, I detoured down the Ngalla Sth Rd, and came across the Ngalla South Campgrounds:
It's the site of the (now-defunct) Ngallo South Tennis Club. They've left the buildings there as a campground, along with picnic tables and fire-pits (outside), and tables, chairs, crockery etc inside:
Lovely and clean and dry. I rolled out my swag inside, cooked my steak, drank a few cans of bourbon, listened to the ABC on my "wireless" :lol:, and watched the rain fall around me.. :D
Farmer Joe drove past and didn't even look in, so either they have lots or no people stay here.
Another rainbow (because I can):
Spent a lot of time trying to get a decent sunset shot with my phone, but they were all crap, so here's the best of the lot (I think):
OK, or maybe this one:
As per the previous morning, I was up before sunrise. :looney: Probably not a bad thing as I'd promised the good lady wife that I'd be home today, and I'm just about as far away as I can get and still be in the same state. :rofl
I took off down the road towards Underbool to head back into Wyperfeld. All the way along the highway, you know you're about to come into another small township when you can see one of these:
..and you can see them from 5+ km's away.
Stopped in Underbool for a coffee (by far the worst coffee of the trip :( ) and then headed south into Wyperfeld. I originally headed down Gunners Tk into Wyperfeld proper, but soon hit the sand.
I decided discretion was the better part of valour and turned around and came back out after I got the KLR bogged for the 4th time. It was too hot, I was by myself, and I only had 4 litres of water with me. Somehow I managed to mangle both upper AND lower chainguards. Had to pull them off (good thing I spent a few days sorting out the toolkit before I left!) and bungee strap them to the top bag for the rest of the trip home.
Back out to the Underbool-Patchewallock Rd, I came across this little bugger trying to commit suicide on the road in front of me:
Mind you, at least he was close to the edge of the road - the next few were in the middle of the road!:
I think they're shingleback lizards.
Along this section, I came hooking around a corner and rode directly over the middle of a long black snake who was taking up 3/4 of the width of the road. :shock: A quick glance behind me confirmed that he was pissed off (thrashing around on the road) so I kept going quickly! :rofl
After lots of high speed gravel km's, I turned right to head back into Wyperfeld where I was originally planning on coming out if the sand hadn't have been so bloody soft.
I went in and checked out Casurina Campground (which looked OK, but maybe busy in peak times). Sussed out a few of the tracks that I had looked at on the map, and decided that most of them are really 4x4 only (not just 4x4 only on the map). I took a couple of detours while tooling about. Went down Wool Tk:
and damn near got cleaned up by a couple of emus who came jumping out of the trees while I was riding past (at the horizon of the pic above). At the other end of Wool Tk I stopped at the gates to the private property and took a pic of Lake Agnes:
Figured at this point I'd REALLY better get a move on to get home, so took off towards Patchewollock. As always, had a quick look at town on the way through:
Don't think the train line has seen any traffic for a while:
I think this indicates I'm 280 miles from Melbourne:
So, I'd better get a move on.
I don't think I can go straight ahead here - I'm on a KLR! :rofl
So, I turned right and went to Hopetoun. Hopetoun was dead. Nothing open just before lunch on a Saturday. :huh Even the servo was "card only". Well, as the machine wouldn't read my card, I had to go back down to Warracknabeal for fuel (& lunch).
Coming into Warracknabeal, I had to stop at a level crossing:
..and what felt like 15 minutes later:
It wasn't that long in reality, but it was moving slow, and I was sweltering in the heat..
More sky heading south towards Stawell. I deliberately diverted around Dimboola and Horsham (the local copper and I have a 'thing' with each other) and I wasn't sure how the fires at the Grampians had been going.
Coming into Stawell, I saw a sign that I'd never seen before (and I have travelled that highway a lot of times):
Well, there ya go, ya learn something new every day!
The "Scenic lookout" sign got my attention, so I detoured up the hill to the lookout at Stawell..
Looking towards the Grampians:
Looking towards Avoca:
No more pics from this point (I was on a mission), but I went from Stawell towards Avoca, off to Lexton, down through Ballarat to Buningyong and then back onto the Western to go home.
Just on 1500km's in total, with the only carnage being chainguard and the quickstrap on the goggles.
I'll see what I can do about the GoPro footage now. :deal
Oh, and the GPS? The battery compartment cover seems to have warped a touch and is holding the GPS away from the charging contacts in the cradle. Take the battery cover off and it doesn't seem to have a problem. Think I might have to make a thinner panel. ;)
Great stuff Macca. You certainly would have sweltered over the last couple of days as it was 36 here in Hamilton and in the Mallee. Thankfully the Grampians Fires are no longer an Emergency but they are still going in places.
Hopefully the park is opened again soon in the Victoria Range and not closed for the next couple of years while DSE & Parks Vic work out whether visitors should be allowed on their property.
Enjoyed your report and pics.
Great photos and nicely written. Will you go back in the winter months for a better look at some of the tracks? More aggressive tyres run at lower pressures will be a big help. The hut you found looks great. I've done the swag on the picnic table many times. Beware the redbacks! I see a Wayward Bus tag on your swag - what area did you cover (I'm ex Adel to Alice/Darwin with HB and GG and Adel to Melb with GG)? I carry 3 x MSR 4 ltr water bladders on my adv trips. I fill them off any rainwater tank that looks usable (schools, churches and sports ovals are reliable), though I usually only carry two full (plus my camelbak) at any time. It gives a little leeway to finding your next water. And the sunset photo's were great. :clap
Definitely going back when the sand is firmer and I've got someone else there to help pick me up.. :rofl
Swag - I got it 2nd hand, and it was already tagged. It came full of red dust, so I'm assuming it came from in the middle there somewhere.
As for the water, yeah, I've been thinking about it. I'd like to work out how to hang a canvas bag of water on the KLR somewhere so it's cooled as well.
Great report and piccies, nice for this former Nhill bloke to see!
I grew up on a wheat farm there, family still there.
Your only chance of that sand firming up is when it is saturated wet - in that part of the world that means 2 or 3 days a year. Maybe. :wink:
It's great fun on biggish 4 strokers - your WR/CRF 450's and stuff. But on heavier adventure bikes with touring load forget it unless you're a super strong and super confident rider.
Really enjoyed your ride report. Lots of cool pictures of old and interesting stuff. I got a laugh from the ironic photo's "Big Desert State Forest", "The Springs", and "Welcome to South Australia".
I must have a twisted sense of humor!
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