Day One


The snorers clearly got a good night’s sleep last night. The only thing that seemed to interrupt them was Matt’s smoker’s cough. Every time he’d have a hack, the snorers would stop for a moment, as if in reverence.

The Jailhouse is exactly that: an old prison, converted to a backpackers hostel. The outer wall is mostly gone, though the original front gate is still there (you just walk around it). Inside, it has two floors, with a large open space in the centre, and a walkway around the edge to access the upper cells. Downstairs, there’s a decent kitchen and even a selection of free food, as long as you like bread, cucumber and tea.

After a cuppa, we wandered to Burger King and waited for it to open. I seem to have developed an intolerance for bad food, as their breakfast omelette was disgusting, and left me feeling I’ll.

Next we headed to City Motorcycle Hire to collect the last two bikes. Roger had an issue with his exhaust, so we waited while they sourced a gasket and made the repairs. In the meantime we did a little grocery shopping and tried to find some prepaid SIM cards so we could call loved ones, check emails etc. We didn’t have much luck with the SIM cards. We finally found out where the nearest Telecom shop was, and suddenly Roger’s bike was ready. Rather than test his patience further, we hit the road.

Hanmer Springs is a resort town with hot springs. It’s not far from the city, and is a popular weekend spot. For us, it was a place to eat lunch, fuel up, and start on the serious riding of the day.

From there we rode up Jollies Pass, the start of 120km track through mountain passes and river valleys. The views were spectacular, and the riding was intense. I was by far the slowest of the group, but I was happy at the back, as long as I was far enough back to stay out of the dust of the others. Andrew would often stop and get his camera out, and being last, I was always sure to get my photo taken as I rode past. Each time he’d come up behind me, copping my dust in his open face helmet. Each time he would pass, and return the favor. Occasionally there would be intersections and gates, and someone would always hang back to make sure the last bike, usually me, was through and headed the right way.

My only real scare came in the first 50km. I came around a downhill, left hand bend and found a 4WD coming the other way. I panicked, and the bike started to fishtail down the hill. I held tight, trying to keep the bars from swinging from side to side, and trying not to lock things up. I got it under control, and ended up coming into the next corner a little fast (which was reassuring in a strange way). I don’t think I’ve ever come out of a situation like that without coming off before. So while I was feeling a little proud of myself, I was still pretty rattled. I toolkit slow for a bit, and got my nerve back.

Our first stop was 50km in. Roger was pretty sure we were over half way to our destination (much to my relief), but the ranger soon drove past with two pieces of unwelcome information: we were well less than half way to our destination, and the speed limit on the track is 50km/h (which meant we were speeding, and hey, did you hear about the crew that came through this morning and lost a rider because they were speeding?)

Being told the speed limit (and having the ranger in front of us, enforcing it somewhat) was a bit of a relief for me. I kept to the back, and did my best to limit my anxiety by riding within my abilities.

Our next stop was at Cobb Hut, which Roger had originally thought we’d passed long before. There we lowered the tyre pressure a bit, and the combination of that, better tracks and a destination 10km closer than we expected made for an anxiety free ride for me.

Tonight were in the shearers’ quarters at Upcot Station. Our only casualty for the day has been Andrew’s phone, which drowned in a bottle of red that broke in John’s pannier. Most of us are more cut p about the lost red than the phone. We’d threatened to throw his phone in a river anyway, and I think John’s strategy was much more creative.

We’re showered and watered (or scotched, mostly), and settled in. In about half an hour we’ll be sitting down to dinner up at the house. I’ll sleep well tonight.

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