Sunday, November 16, 2008

Harrietville - Melbourne Cup week-end Nov 2008

Ever watched a movie about a lone biker stuck up in the mountains all alone in the dark with no fags and only his imagination to play with – or experience a collision with a bird that can fly up to 322 km/hr?

Well that’s the sort of week-end we had a couple of week-ends ago when we spent the Melbourne Cup week-end in beautiful Harrietville at the foot of Mt Hotham. The lush pastures & churning rivers made it feel like we were in a different country – no shortage of water and even snow on the mountains as we rode over Hotham into Omeo.

It was an easy ride up to Yea even though we missed the Plenty Road turnoff & ended up on the Kinglake Road that the guys on the Street Triples absolutely loved – think they missed the turnoff on purpose.

Meeting up with Mal at Yea it was a cruisy ride to Mansfield keeping a careful eye out for the old bill.

Mansfield was crazy so it was a quick stop then on to the Whitfield Road and the thrill of an awesome biking road with lots of variety & plenty of twisties to test us.

An abandoned bike, smashed on one side & hanging against the rock wall reminded us of how dodgy this road can be if you take it for granted.

Now lets get back to the bird collision – a Peregrine Falcon that mistook Stephan for a small mammal or reptile – what a shock it must have had when it saw Stephan staring out through the Biggles goggles heading toward him like a missile on the Bonnie – but what a shock Stephan got when it hit him smack on the jaw nearly knocking him off the bike – his description of grabbing the bird as it clung on to his face was dramatic & he was lucky he and the falcon didn’t end up on the bitumen! I’ve read since that the Pergrine Falcon can reach speeds of up to 322 km/hr – no wonder Stephan had a swollen bruised face the next day!

It wasn’t far from Whitfield that the falcon struck – in fact I think it was somewhere near Powers Lookout. It was only when we got to the Whitfield Hotel we learned of Stefan’s near miss… being a lover of birds of prey my first question “Is the falcon ok – it’s a protected species” didn’t seem to get a response!

We were told that the guy on the abandoned bike survived but had a massive knee injury. After a very refreshing stop we headed on to Oxley and Myrtleford.

The scenery is lush with long green grass in the paddocks and rolling hills covered in pine. We eventually arrived at the Snowline in Harrietville at about 5:30 and after a quick shower we hit the bar – those jugs of Coopers Sparkling Ale went down well sitting on the veranda. Then some good old traditional British pub games – a game of darts with Malcolm taking the championship closely followed by Martin – just what we’d have expected – two ex-poms would have to be good at throwing spears!

The barmaid was educated on how to make a fuzzy bison!

It was an early morning start on Sunday, waking up to blue skies and the breakfast spot already worked out from the night before. They advertised all day breakfast & we reckoned it was because it took all day to get it!

Getting straight into the twisties we headed out of Harrietville up the mountain, over

Hotham & stopping for a coffee break at Dinner Plain.

The snow was still on the mountains – breathtaking scenery, though we couldn’t look at it too often – had to keep our eyes on the bitumen!

We quickly got to Omeo & a quick fuel stop & onwards to a little place called Anglers Rest and a pub we were told about called The Blue Duck.

It was a great road snaking through the mountains and along the river following a creek in the valley down below.

It was along this road that Stefan took off on a dirt road down to the creek – this was where he used to camp years ago. He came back with water running out of his boots – he’s cooled off wading up to his waste in the water!

On to the Blue Duck & it was absolutely perfect lying on the grass banking by the river & then getting stuck into home-made thai pumpkin soup – delicious! Look forward to going there again – maybe staying in the accommodation.

The map came out and discussions started on the best way back to Harrietville – little did we know that this discussion would end up in disaster!

There’s a road over Falls Creek into Mt Beauty – but we weren’t sure about it! Stefan assured everyone that it would be fine & Warren decided he was going that way too.

The rest of us were a bit uncertain & decided to play it safe & go the same way we came – great decision in hindsight! The deal was, the last person back bought the beers for everyone – the race was on!

We quickly lost sight of Mal & Martin & I’d assured myself I’d be buying the beers!

We pulled into the Snowline at about 4:30pm and to our surprise – no Warren & Stefan – I was more than happy but a little bit suspicious. A couple of hours later Mal, Martin & me were on the veranda with a beer listening to the band – it was pissing down and still no Stefan & Warren – we were getting worried – where were they?!

Then we heard the bonnie – it was Stefan looking like a spitfire pilot returning from a battle over the channel – he was soaked & the bike was like it had been through a paddock! Where’s Warren we asked “Didn’t make it” was the response! Where is he “Back there somewhere”! We couldn’t understand what had happened – had he come off, is he broken down?

Janey came over & asked Stefan the last words he’d said to Warren – Stefan paused & thought deeply – then, raising his arm in the air waving said “See ya” – that got us cracked up!

Turned out Warren got a puncture on a dirt road over the mountain – a road that is 40kms long & he was only quarter of the way! We needed to get him a puncture kit but it was pitch black, raining and every chance one of us could get a puncture if went in there!

Lucky Martin knew a couple of guys on dirt bikes with a bike trailer & ute. They didn’t even hesitate giving us the keys & Martin & ,me set off on a rescue mission! Two hours later we were entering the dirt road from Falls Creek – it wasn’t dirt – it was rocks! It was desolate up there, snow and freezing cold – we stopped at the police station at Falls Creek but it wasn’t manned.

We pushed on over the mountain – every thought on Warren & how he must be feeling trapped out here with a flat tyre & no help in sight. He was hoping Stefan would come back but Stefan had got lost coming back to Harrietville – he reckoned he knew he was on the wrong road when he saw the sign saying Sydney!

Eventually we saw the lights of a bike – but to our surprise it was a guy on a VFR – he lived in Mt Beauty & rode this rode regularly – he told us Warren was 500 m further. Then we saw him & I can’t put it into words how happy he looked! Turned out he had two fags left when Stefan took off – it was a survival job being out there in the middle of that mountain, freezing cold & wet. I think Warren’s gonna invest in one of those puncture kits now!

Another 2 hour drive & we got back just before the bar closed - it was a few quick ones & bags of chips for tea. Warre

n’s story was frightening & Stefan seemed to be keeping a wide berth! Three hours in the dark, rain, thunder and no fags – what a night to remember!

Question was – could we fix the tyre. Next morning we got the Streetie of the trailer and plugged the hole – a couple of gas bottles and it was looking good. Well it did the job as Warren made it all the way back to Geelong with that plug in place that day.

As Warren & Martin headed off back to Geelong, Mal, Janey & me took a burn out to Beechworth & Yackandandah – beautiful day taking in the scenery, the antique shops and a lovely lunch at the bakery.

It was a quiet night with dinner at the other Harrietville hotel where the local cricket club were having a lottery.

Next morning an early breakie in The Alpine in Bright (best place for a hearty breakfast) and then on to the journey back to Geelong.

It wasn’t a bad ride home & the road through Tooborac into Lancefield was a welcome change to the road from Broadford – definitely recommend it.

A quick stop in Gisborne and then on to Bacchus Marsh where we said farewell to Mal. It was great to get home but part of us wished we were still in the lush valleys of the mountains. Next time I think it would be better to stay in Bright – much more to do & more eating spots – and the brewery!

It was a great week-end – well for some of us anyway! Can’t wait to do it all again – especially when they seal that dirt road between the Blue Duck and Falls Creek – due 2010! We can have a re-enactment of the Warren ride of hell!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good story Dave, I think it could be worth an overnighter at the Blue Duck as you hinted. Then could come back to Bright maybe the next day. Nice crisp mountain air,awesome scenery,hmm i'm a starter. I had a great time up there. I hope there will be a few more on the next trip if their work allows. Mal.