School holidays. And just a week. How about a cycle on the Great Ocean Road? It has been quite a wet September in Victoria. Heavy rain, flash flooding and landslides have even forced VicRoads to close the Great Ocean Road. However, it’s closed from Lorne heading west. Not east. If I pack a raincoat, perhaps it would be a nice trip to cycle from Melbourne to Lorne, via the Mornington Peninsula. While I don’t have the lightest camping gear (I’ll upgrade for next time) what I need for four nights does fit into panniers and an ockystrapped backpack. Let’s do it.
I get going at about 9am (25/9) and make my way from Thornbury in Melbourne’s north through the CBD to St Kilda and on to Beach Road, a favourite for Lycra clad riders of all ages, shapes and sizes. And being a Sunday with beautiful weather, there were plenty of them. Single riders, pairs, groups of three or four all the way up to groups of twenty or more. I was overtaken by many shiny, expensive, lightweight carbon road bikes with serious looking riders focused on the road ahead, but I wasn’t the slowest, managing to overtake a few myself calling out, “Nice day for a ride!”, as I cycled by. They thin out the further from Melbourne you get, which is a shame, because the best riding is, not surprisingly, the latter half of the day’s 98 kilometres when you can get off the Nepean Highway at Mornington.
There are numerous choices for camping along the Mornington Peninsula although few campsites are open outside the Christmas holiday period. They start from Rosebud and continue to just before Sorrento. They are operated by three companies which charge around $30 for an unpowered site. Expensive, but it’s nice to have a hot shower at the end of a day’s ride – and it’s possible to plug in a usb charger to get things back to full battery anyway. I stayed at the Stringer Foreshore Campground which was mostly empty. I didn’t book, but a ranger came to collect fees just before it got dark. I suppose it would be possible to sneak a free night but…. I’m not a ninja camper just yet. Burger and chips for dinner on the beach on a camping chair that someone had forgotten to take with them.
Climbing into my sleeping bag I’m reminded of why I like cycling holidays. I like the simplicity. My sole objectives are to get from point A to point B making sure I’m adequately fed and hydrated, find accommodation, and stretch the body that has been subjected to a degree of physical exertion throughout the day. That’s it. A bit of reading. A bit of writing. What a day.
Some overnight rain but sunny skies to start day two and a gentle ride to the Sorrento pier.
The 700 passenger, 80 vehicle capacity Searoad ferries between Sorrento and Queenscliff leave on the hour, every hour between 7am and 6pm, all year round. It’s a fair bit extra to take a car, but for one adult it’s just $22 return with a bike costing no extra. The journey takes 45 minutes. Look out for the historic Fort Nepean buildings, and the mouth of Port Philip Bay to the south, and if you squint, Melbourne city’s skyscrapers to the north. I couldn’t see them myself. Not having my seldomly used glasses to correct for a minor degree of nearsightedness didn’t help, but a fellow passenger said they were there.
The first half of the day was spent making my way to the Great Ocean Road. I planned a route that involved backstreets, coastal roads, and some time on the Surf Coast trail. The noticeboard at Point Impossible promised a mostly flat well formed path…..
…. But I couldn’t help but feeling a little misled when the nicely compressed path turned into what could only be described as a very muddy track.
Still, there were some lovely sections too.
Riding The Great Ocean Road was fantastic. Coast and cliffs on one side. Rainforest on the other. There are straight stretches, and windy ones with not too unpleasant uphills and enjoyable downhills. I stop for the obligatory photo at the arch, and in another 12 kilometres I’m in Lorne.
The Allenvale campground, in Great Otway National Park is about two and a half kilometres from the Lorne Visitors Centre. Turn right at the roundabout and follow signs for Erskine falls. Cross over Lorne Erskine Falls road and at the next roundabout head down Allenvale Road following signs for Allenvale cottages. Don’t be deceived by the distance, it was the hardest 2.5kms of the 93 kilometre day, up and down hills to reach the carpark. The campground is a further 200 metres hike (bike) taking you to a free campground by the St George River.
I arrived at about 5pm and just got my tent up before rain set in for the night. I ducked out to wheel my bike to the facilities and leaned it against the long drop toilet next the rainwater tank under the corrugated tin roof for the night. Perfect.
I stayed for two nights which gave me an opportunity to explore. After a sleep in, a mosey around town and a Thai curry for lunch I cycled to the premier attraction of Lorne, Erskine Falls. The falls are approximately 10 kilometres north of Lorne along fairly steep windy roads. I could almost pick the profile of the driver of the car overtaking me. Slowing down, a bit tentative and cautious – overseas driver in a hire car, wizzing past way too fast – young Aussie males driving their girlfriends staying away with each other for the first time.
At the top of the hill you then descend down an access road and drop 150 metres in 1.5kms. It’s so steep you can’t enjoy it, braking hard the whole way down. At times the gradient gets to minus 20 percent. Blimey, I thought to myself, this is going to be challenging coming the other way. And it was. But I made it. And the ride down to Lorne was an exhilarating reward. As was the snack on the Marc Whelan memorial bench back at the campsite, joined by a cockatoo, two crimson rosellas and three kangaroos. Magic.
The cycle back from Lorne to the ferry was pleasant. I took a photo at Barwon Heads where they filmed Sea Change. I didn’t see Diver Dan but I saw what I recall being the pub, and the bridge to the ‘mainland’. My final night was foreshore camping at Rosebud (not as nice as my first night) and it was a difficult last day battling strong headwinds getting back to Melbourne.
That was fun.