Melbourne’s Mountain Trifecta

One of the things I set about doing once I got back from my short South Australia trip, was to do some research on the bike photographers from the gifted bike calendar.  As it was, I found the names of two of the photographers that lived in Melbourne.  This is a bike-centric capital of Australia!  I didn’t think they would write back to my queries, but I out together an email explaining by story and why I was in Melbourne, expressed some admiration for their work, and that I would love to see if they would humour me in telling me where they took the photos because I wanted to ride to them.  I also asked if they didn’t mind me tagging along to one of their photo shoots if they let me.  No harm in asking right?

Well… to my surprise one of them wrote back to me within a week and wanted to find out a little more.  So we did a bit of emailing back and forth and then I got a date, location and time where to meet to do a ride into the Melbourne hinterland.  I was wrapped! I would have been happy with just them getting back to me with the location of cool places to visit; but to be able to go with them to see the places and see them at work was going to be the bomb!

It wasn’t that far off; as it happened to be that weekend.  So only a few days wait.  The night before I wasn’t able to sleep due to the excitement and remembering squeezing my eyes tightly shut praying for ‘good’ Melbourne weather.  Now having been in Melb for a few weeks, I can tell you that ‘good’ weather is a figure of speech!

I got up at 4:30am in the dark and quietly snuck out to get the Lawnmower out of the garage without waking up my hosts.  God it was cold! My breath was fogging up my helmet bad so I had to ride the initial hour in the dark, freezing my eyeballs out.  We were due to meet at 5:45am at a petrol station at Marysville, which was an hour and a half away.  Riding in the dark, skirting the hinterland, watching out for skippies in the shoddy Lawnmower’s headlight, freezing my eyeballs out wasn’t the most relaxing.  But I’m sure it was well worth it.

I was fuelling up as I saw this young guy pull up in the pump next to me and take off his helmet.  No other right-minded biker was going to be out this early or cold – so it had to be the photographer. He walked over and introduced himself.  As we filled up and he had a cuppa from the petrol station cafeteria we chatted about the day ahead, his riding style and expectations and of course swore me to secrecy of the locations we were going to go.  Well… not really the locations as they were well known but the shotting places and angles.  Cross my heart and swear to die if I tell 🙂  With that, he was happy and told him to follow him.

The idea was to do one mountain to capture the early morning soft light, and then work out to go from there.  Since it was just round the corner, we went to Lake Mountain, where I didn’t know that there was even a resort there – Lake Mountain Lake Resort! Of course during this time since there was no snow, things were erriely quiet up there.   The ride up was very crisp, with plenty of leaf litter on the ground, with wet patches in the shade of the tall trees, and plenty of wildlife crossing your path.

I’d hate to be here in full winter!

Only until we were most the way up, did I realise how high we had climbed, and the trees commenced thinning out to give some great vistas.

Soft but freezing morning light

Didn’t take too long to ride to the top, do a loop of the very empty resort’s car park and stop for a quick chat.  He wanted to stop at a couple of specific locations on the way down, and I added one to that list too.  Didn’t have too long to chat as we had to make haste to catch the correct lighting.

He really was right – I had not experienced this kind of morning hue colours… hard to explain, but it looked like there was a certain ‘thickness’ to the air with colour.  With the play of the shadows and light areas, changing the colour quite drastically as you turned your head.

The dodgy places one parks to be seen

You really had to pick your places to park the bike, as so it would be easily by any vehicle that may come.

The places we climb for a good shot!

But also the places that you had to climb to, to get that ‘perfect shot’, that’s visually appealing and in a differing angle.

After mucking about along Lake Mountain, a few resort traffic was commencing, we decided it was enough at this location and my new found friend, suggested that we go to another mountain.  This time it was Mount Donna Buang.  To me, no idea where this was or how far, and generally, I don’t care either – only thing I need to know is whether my little fuel tank will make it there and back or not.  It was going to be about an hour and a half ride, taking the back and very twisty way through Reefton.

One thing that really surprised me is how much wildlife (mainly birds) and in particular Lyrebirds there were.  I loved it in one hand as it was something that I loved seeing, but maybe not so much on a bike.

The name Lyrebird came not from the bird’s singing ability but becuase of the shape of their tail being a Lyre

My friend thought it funny at the things I would stop for to take a photo of, and I would do the same for what he chose.  It was nice to see a differing view point; literally through differing camera lens.  From what seemed to be ages riding and enjoying 45-50km/hr corners side by side, through the thick tall gum forests, we stopped at a skywindow for a drink and of course a photo.

My view point….

His view point.

This mountain was a lot bigger and seemed to be more for mountain bikers, bushwalkers and other randoms wanting mineral water!  We stopped to fill up our water bottles where we found two seniors with about 40 empty 10L drums filling up.  They were nice enough to let us fill out 1L bottles before we left them to it.

Water was fresh and refreshing from a natural spring

At the summit, to my surprise there was an awesome tower that one could climb.  Excited as a puppy I wanted to climb it to get my bearings and to see some of the mountain views; that we just don’t get back at home.

Where Mt Donna Buang Bushwalks commence

The view from the top was not disappointing at all.  And I can see why this place was quite popular for motorbike riders that were starting to fill the car park below.   While we were up the top, I had a feeling that I was being sized up by my companion, as if trying to work out whether this day should end here or whether it would be nice to suggest further riding.  Looks like I passed the test as he then suggested we tackle one more mountain… I thought he’d never ask! 😀

Top of Mt Donna Buang tower

This one would be a little further out, and we had to go through more touristy places which meant more traffic – or at least for part of it.  The next on the menu was Mt Baw Baw.  Again another one with a ski resort on it, and another that I had no clue about. Again, I didn’t care as I was having a ball! We needed to make the trifecta of mountains today 🙂

We took the back way down the mountain (away from the sun), and this is where I learnt, rather quickly, what black ice was and is.  And how traitorous it can be! I was never expecting to go skidding sideways in such a quick and violent manner without any warning.  Needless to say I felt like an epileptic spider throwing my limbs about everywhere as I did everything possible to stay on the bike.  Not to mention needing to change underwear on this corner.

Bumpucker moment learning what black ice means

I actually pulled over to get my heartrate down and while I was waiting for my friend to catch up I went to investigate the icy patch.  Looking at it on the photo later I realised how obvious it was on the road. But having come from Qld where this is almost an impossibility to ride through black ice, I was most oblivious to it.  I just assumed it was a wet puddle, where riding through the back of this mountain everything on the road looked wet.  How was I to know!?  Lesson well learnt me thinks…

After this I was more cautious while riding in wet patches, no matter how good the rubbers on the Lawnmower were.   I was just happy to follow here there and everywhere, and even through a back road with loose gravel and dirt.  This I was told was to cut out Warburton and the throngs of people.  Fine by me.

Playing in the high twisties

Eventually we started climbing, there were more and more trees throwing bark on the road and the corners tightened to about 20km/hr corners.  Gaining elevation I knew we were close.  Eventually the trees opened up to show a massive carpark to the Resort’s entrance.

Being a bit hungry, we went into the open cafeteria for a warm drink, where we took front row seats and just quietly threw our gazes over the endless mountains.  Content to see a couple of hard-core mountain bikers start their downhill run and disappear into the bushes below.

Start of the downhill mountian bike run

The glorious day passed as quick as any rider can say “a copper behind that bush!”, and it was time to say our goodbyes…  As we walked back over to the car park and corresponding metal steeds, my friend turned to me and said something that was music to my ears…. He said that if I’d like again, he’d be happy to ride with me again.

Self explanitory me thinks

Couldn’t have asked for more, however my friend now knowing of my insatiable like for BIG things, he had one more surprise for me that day.  As we were riding down the plateau, he swung around to a school in Gladysdale for me to take a photo of the BIG (little) apple.  I would have called it more like the BIG cherry however.

Two peas in a big pod

I was as happy as an oink in doo doo 🙂

Big apple…. more like the BIG cherry!

And so here it was time to say our farewells before we each went our respective ways back home.  I had at last 2.5 hours still left of riding back home, probably about 3 in traffic.   It was a good day.

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