The Goldfields track is a hiking and mountain biking trail that is part of The Great Dividing Range trail. It extends 297km starting at Bacchus March and ending at Bendigo…a 2019 challenge in the making, I hear you say!
Our challenge back in September was to ride the Goldfields track from Ballarat to Bendigo (179km) over three days with a combination of touring, hybrid and mountain bikes.
The weather forecast looked grim for the first day, but would brighten up the next day. This did not deter the Adventure Gang! Here’s a recount of what I can remember:
We (Caroline, Jon and myself) set off early catching the Vline to Ballarat. Whilst on the train we noticed that there were other keen riders, who were also taking on the Goldfields track, the only difference was they all had mountain bikes. Mmmmmm, this did not worry us, as we had all agreed to give the track a go and if any section was too challenging or impossible to ride, we would either walk or go on quiet road sections and meet up with the track further along.
Arriving in Ballarat we adjusted our panniers and set off in light drizzle conditions. The first section was a pleasant and reasonably easy ride along the Yarrowee River cycle path, we meandered through feeling pleased with the trail conditions. This didn’t last too long as we were rudely interrupted by a steep rocky single track ascent through bushes. We quickly decided to skip this section and follow Maps.me on quieter roads. This was a good choice. The country roads were quiet and we were able to chat along the way.
We cycled through cool corrugated metal tunnels, stopped to let a flock of sheep cross our path and decided to take a small detour to Sailers Falls. At this point, we were feeling quiet lucky with the weather holding up.
As we mounted our trusty steeds, dark ominous clouds drew in and the inevitable happened. It rained! Let’s just make this clear, it didn’t just rain but POURED! We could barely see where we were going, luckily for us Daylesford wasn’t far, we cycled with urgency in the air and found shelter under a fruit and veg shop front. Caroline suggested cycling around the lake but Jon and I weren’t keen to do so in the rain.
We scanned the town for possible food options for dinner but found it difficult to find what we needed. (Especially as we weren’t sure what cooking facilities our accommodation had). As it was still pouring none of us were keen to continue cycling. We opted to get a hot drink and snack. We found a Chinese restaurant, ordered dumplings and toasted/dried ourselves off next to the fire. We also ordered dinner for later and took this in our containers.
The weather cleared and we continued to ride on quiet country roads, taking in the beautiful scenery. We spotted a sheltered stack of rolled hay and decided this would be an ideal lunch spot, if you ignored the dead rabbit carcass.
We decided to explore the local tourist attractions including a tower and botanical gardens, which were all on top of, what felt like, mountains.
Enroute to our accommodation for the night we passed a house with a pretty cool name:
Finally reaching our accommodation, which turned out to be an old converted school, with a refurbished shipping container onsite next to a pretty cool tree house. We were quite pleased with the facilities and our achievements for the day. We ate our food and then meandered down to the local store/restaurant (which turned out to be quite expensive) and looked around before returning home for a well deserved rest.
We all woke up feeling well rested, ate breakfast and set off for what we thought would be a shorter day but little did we know about the ‘up and down track’.
After cycling along a dirt track for only 15 minutes on fairly easy terrain and mostly downhill, Caro and Jon got excited about a potential waterfall discovery. We turned off route and descended down to a small but quaint stream near a farm. Vanessa points out the obvious ‘No signs indicating a waterfall’. This did not deter Jon and Caro, as they decided to explore further. V joined them for a mere 5 minutes of over grown bush bashing, then decided to turn back. Whilst waiting for the gruesome twosome to return. Vanessa sat admiring the view, when out of nowhere a gust of wind blow her gloves into the stream! ‘F*** , sh**!’, she clambered down along some very wobbly rocks to see if she could see her bike gloves, to her amazement, they had floated down stream and got stuck in a slimy green scum patch mid stream. Vanessa had no choice but to get wet, but was happy to have rescued her gloves. Meanwhile, Jon and Caro had returned with great news of discovering a gorgeous hidden gem of a waterfall and showed V the photos as proof. After sharing stories of glove dramas and kangaroos bounding across rivers, we were ready to head back on route.
Soon after setting off we reached a sign ‘Up and Down track’ and we all had a giggle. Little did we know what was coming up. The track literally climbed Up and Down for what felt like forever! We had no choice but to walk some sections.
We reached the Goldfield single tracks and decided to give it a go. Caroline occasionally swapped her hybrid for Jon’s mountain bike, giving her heaps of confidence on the rocky steep sections. We passed old mining ruins and flowing single tracks. We stopped at a goldfields track sign and snapped a photo.
This led us to a night’s accommodation in Castlemaine. An old hotel above an Indian restaurant (name escapes me). We unpacked, chatted to other cyclists and ate like kings and queens!
After a comfy nights sleep. We set off for another days ride. It started off on quiet roads, leading to a one in ten climb with a thrilling descent. We stopped at a Goldfields sign, and turned down a pleasant looking track. Cycling alongside the aqueduct on a gravel path which remained fairly flat with some rocky sections and mostly small climbs was a nice change. On one of the more technical descents Vanessa managed to loose control, but instead of falling, she jumped free of the bike, before the bike took her with it. Caro in particular was impressed by this manoeuvre. We stopped dismounted and climbed a small hill for panoramic views of the countryside.
We set off in search of a perfect lunch spot and soon after found a stone picnic table and bench to rest and eat.
After several hours of more of the same terrain, we arrived in Bendigo just on time for our VLine train back to Melbourne.