Thanks to Cycling Geelong’s Ride Coordinator, Dave Simpson, for this report and photos.
Back at the start of March 2016 I spent four days in Victoria’s High Country, staying at Myrtleford, to ride the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail from Wangaratta to Bright.
I used one of my free Seniors Card rail travel vouchers to get the train from South Geelong to Wangaratta. This part of the journey went very well, and I arrived at Wangaratta station at 3pm. Unfortunately the weather for the week was uncharacteristically hot and I stepped into an oven like 38 deg C, with a bike ride of over 50km needed to get to my hotel in Myrtleford!
I was impressed that there was a sign pointing the way to the rail trail right outside the station and several more clear signs on the local city roads I needed to take. I quickly found my way through the local park onto the trail proper. The trail, from the outset, was in very good condition, good quality bitumen and mostly takes the exact course of the old railway line which makes the gradient very managable.
I soon made it to Bowser, the first of the historic stations sites that are dotted along the trail. I was able to fill my water bottles, as it turned out, for the last time! I then continued on in the extreme heat, trying to pedal at a steady rate and not overdo things too much. The trail continued on to Tarrawingee followed by Everton, the next stations. I must admit, the trail to Everton was a bit boring, made much worse by the lack of shade and the extreme heat, and as I was dismayed to find, no drinkable water at any of the stations after Bowser. A fairly prominent sign at each place warned that the water was ‘rainwater, drink at own risk’. I decided to be cautious and after I had emptied one of my water bottles just used the rainwater to pour over my head, legs, & feet to try to cool down !
I continued on, no decrease in the temperature, and made it down to where the trail splits, left hand path to Beechworth, right hand path to Myrtleford. The trail got a bit more interesting with some shady trees and very nice forest views. I even saw a kangaroo bounding away into the bush at one point. The trail ramped up a bit, climbing up to Taylors Gap and I was glad to get to the summit and start a fast roll down into Myrtleford. I’d arrived at my destination! I found my way along the Great Alpine Way and got to The Railway Hotel which is located in a quiet side road, near the town centre, arriving right on 7pm. I found a few people, who would turn out to be the local bar dwellers, propping up the bar. They commented that I looked overheated, they were certainly right about that! I was glad to get my key, find my room in the Motel section out the back and take a cool shower, then come back to the bar where the landlady served up a pretty decent mixed grill. I just had enough time to pop down to the local Coles to get some provisions for breakfast and then had an early night. Luckily the room had a very good aircon!
Next day I got up early, and headed off down the rail trail towards Bright, which is around 30km down the trail. The trail passes through some very nice countryside, with farmland and hops in some places. I stopped off briefly at Porepunka, beside the Ovens river and even found a short piece of singletrack, well it really is a walking track, right beside the river, including a suspension bridge. Unfortunately the Rail Trail Cafe in Porepunkah was closed, it’s only open Thurs-Sun.
I made it to Bright by mid morning, the temperature was still reasonable and I headed further along towards Wandiligong, where I had once stayed for a week on a school trip. Heading back to Bright I took a rest and called in at Cyclepath, one of the local bike shops and chatted to the guy behind the counter about the local MTB single track area, known as Mystic MTB. It turned out that I had just cycled past the entrance to this area, which is between Bright and Wandiligong. I picked up a map showing the trails so will be ready to ride them on my next trip to the area.
I had planned to visit Beechworth the next day but decided that it would be too hot so instead I did an road ride to Lake Buffalo, which was very pleasant and I called in on the way back to the local cycle trail in Myrtleford which forms a 6km or so loop along the Ovens river. I even made a stop to have a paddle in the water to cool off a bit. After a rest back at the hotel I went for a walk up to the lookout at the local Reform Hill in Myrtleford.
Next day it was time to head back to Wangaratta. I left at 08:00 and made good time, arriving back at Wangaratta at 12 noon, in time to grab a coffee at the shop over the road from the station and then get my train back to Melbourne at 13:41. Again, no problems on this journey. I put my bike in the guards van and I had a reserved seat in an uncrowded carriage. After a brief coffee stop at Southern Cross I headed back to South Geelong and a ride back home down the Bellarine Trail.
A very enjoyable trip, even with the extreme heat, and I’ll definitely be heading back to the high country in the future.
Editor’s note: This sounds like the perfect destination for a Cycling Geelong bike tour.