Written by Caroline
Just a note that this blog won’t be as interesting as Jacob & Lorelei’s, or as entertaining as Jesse’s or Niels’. I’m not much of a creative storyteller, but here’s an account of my Ballarat to Skipton experience nonetheless. (I’m writing on Monday 24 August and I did this trail on 14-15 February.)
In the weekend leading up to the 14-15 February, 2015, I was feeling a pretty desperate desire to get out of the city. I had nothing planned in the city and whenever I have nothing planned I always want to get away. I’d floated this with many people but no one was free, until I asked Kelly what she was doing, and if she’d be up for a rail trail. She was, and better still, we hadn’t done the Ballarat to Skipton trail yet and she built, owns and resides in a house about 100 metres from it with her friend Damien.
So on Saturday 14 February I set off alone on a train to Ballarat (or more specifically, Wendouree) with my beloved bicycle. I have cycled this trail before but was feeling a little apprehensive due to predicted extremely hot (35+ degree weather). Kelly and Damien live in Smythesdale, 20km from the beginning of the trail (which is a few km from Wendouree station). I cycled this 20 something km by myself, which I thought could be boring but turned out to be excellent. A few highlights were a small creek I stopped to explore, the Smythesdale gardens and a large waterhole. The latter two I decided I’d convince Kelly later to come back and check out.
Upon arriving at Kelly & Damien’s, I informed her I’d determined our plans for the rest of the afternoon, and she was happy to comply. After I spent a long time admiring their eco-friendly house they built themselves and garden they planted, we headed back along the trail to check out the gardens (not so great) and the waterhole. Turned out we were interrupting some locals who weren’t that keen for a chat, but we went for a swim anyway, Kelly in bathers and me in my underwear, which got subsequently ruined by ridiculously muddy water.
Back at the house, we prepared a boatload of delicious sushi, ate until we could eat no more, then made vegan cheesecake with a packet of berries – one of the brands that was later recalled due to Hep C reports (thankfully no Hep C for either of us).
We decided to set out super early the next morning, as our intention was to cycle the remainder of the trail from Smythesdale to Skipton (36km) then back again, and for me to then continue back to Wendouree station and return to Melbourne. A pretty massive undertaking given it was about 37 degrees.
The 7.30am start was an excellent idea – it was still nice and cool.
We made it to Ballarat (Kelly on a single speed, which surprisingly she didn’t have to push up any hills) by 10.30am and it was a beautiful ride. It was already boiling. We had a delicious morning tea at a cafe, closely followed with lunch by the river as we psyched ourselves up to get out of the shade and continue our ride back in the blazing sun.
Somehow we achieved this, but by the time we eventually got back to Kelly & Damien’s eco-house all we could think of was dying, and cold showers, and cold stuff. We indulged in all of those (with the exception of dying), but it took a LOT of convincing to get me back on the bike again to continue riding back to Ballarat.
It was definitely reminiscent of the time Shannon, Rick, Jon, Vanessa & I thought it was a good idea to ride 80km on a 40 degree day, which basically took the entire day and was ridiculously difficult. For a few km after I left Kelly & Damien’s I was telling myself “this isn’t too bad” but soon afterwards I was finding it unbearably hot, was riding into a headwind and for almost every moment after that I was questioning why on earth I decided to put myself through this. Each kilometre felt like it was taking an hour. I also started to worry that I wouldn’t make it back to the train on time because I was so hot and exhausted.
Happily I did JUST make it, but was pretty dismayed to find the remainder of my lunch had gone off in the heat. I exhaustedly ate dinner at Southern Cross station and was rewarded with a beautiful sunset on my way home :). I think all up I cycled about 96km on Sunday. A worthwhile trip and a highly recommended trail, just not in the middle of February!
Ballarat to Skipton Rail Trail official trail, one-way
Total Ascending: 171m
Total Descending: 348m
Total Distance: 56km