Bonfire Station Microbrewery
Hazy IPA 6%
Rolling out of the Curve HQ at 5 o’clock on Saturday, we caught the train out to Hurstbridge to tackle the planned 255km route. Our planned journey saw us go from forest to farmland, climbing over the Great Dividing Range. The rolling hills out of Hurstbridge were warmly welcomed, however they were only the tip of the iceberg of what was to come. We rode into the night, battling rain and wind, ending up at Toolangi where we found shelter at the community centre, a gem of a spot remembered from previous trips. Our plans to continue through the night were extinguished by the prevailing weather, and Hamish’s memories of a greasy descent that was soon to come. We decided to get in our bivvies, eat our not fully re-hydrated cold bolognese prepared prior to the trip, and set the alarm early for what promised to be a big day ahead.
Waking with the birds at sunrise, we felt eager to start day two where we would tackle the bulk of the climbing. Our objective - Keppel Hut, a high country refuge just shy of the summit of Lake Mountain. Keppel Hut is a beautiful hut with four refuge beds, a fireplace, a table and a toilet making it an ideal spot for lunch or as a camp spot on a multi day trip.
The mornings riding started in rain jackets due to cold and wet conditions. Climbing up Monda road towards Mt St Leonard was sensational with the dense fog falling over the mountain ash trees. The track going up was well groomed but once we hit the high point and started descending, the surface became muddy and extremely slippery. Both of our trusty bikes stayed on two wheels at all times, but at some points those wheels weren’t spinning but sliding - alas - we got there. The following kilometres were a mixture of gravel and tarmac, borrowing heavily from the Vic Divide 550 route, meandering through the valley between Mt Strickland and Mt Gordon. Upon arrival in Marysville, a large bakery spread provided some good nourishment after our cold and crunchy dinner. It was also lovely to see a number of cyclists enjoying the Cascade Trail and even a fellow bikepacker on route to Jamieson.
Refuelled, we set our cross hairs on the up, and up, and up that is the beautiful Lady Talbot Drive. It was a spectacular climb alongside the Taggerty River with a few toppled trees on the route. The whole day of climbing and the sore legs were swiftly eclipsed by a lunch at Keppel hut (we arrived well ahead of schedule, so continued on) and the sensational descent on Mt Margaret Road - a bucket list ride. Once off the mountain, we were back climbing up and into the Cathedral Ranges, past SugarLoaf Peak pinnacle, and before we knew it we were on another picturesque descent. As we descended, we both reflected on the day we had endured, starting in the rain and mist, and now flying down dry and dusty roads with 1,200m crags behind our left shoulders. We then found ourselves passing through beautiful farmland between Taggerty and Alexandra. As we crossed the Acheron and Goulburn river, the tail wind picked up and pushed us to our overnight destination - the only pub that was open on a Sunday. We were welcomed with a cold beer and some of the tastiest Parma’s that money can buy, only to find out that for a small fee we could shower and sleep in a real bed! With over 3,000m of climbing in the legs, this was too good to resist, and the kindness of the locals was infectious.