A walk, a cycle and a swim. And chips. And potato cakes.
We finally bought some bikes! It’s been five months since we got back to Australia, and we really meant to do it earlier. But wow, researching bikes is boring as shit, so in the end we just went for some entry-level kind of mountain bikes for noodling around on the rail trail and so on. Anyway, the bikes were in Maffra, so we decided to walk there, collect them (and helmets) and cycle home.
There’s not much to say about walking the Stratford-Maffra section of the rail trail that I haven’t already said. Once you’re on the old rail line, it’s mostly straight, it’s pretty flat, there aren’t that many standout points of interest. Unburdened by much in the way of baggage, we made good time, counting off kilometre markers in well under our standard 15 minutes. The sun was emerging and as I had foolishly forgotten to sunscreen my arms and was wearing short sleeves, I wrapped one of my new bandannas around my forearm for sun protection. It worked pretty well.
I also spent a bit of time with the bandanna in my hat for extra shade. And as we walked along we found an old hat thing that someone had lost - just a visor/brim with loose fabric, which I think people wear under helmets? Anyway, it had been there for a while by the looks of it, so I took it home and put it in the wash and I’ll give it a go.
It’s not that the walk is bad - it’s just quite samey. So it was nice to get into Maffra and walk past houses and gardens - some interesting things to see and smell! We headed straight to the bike shop and picked up the bikes and helmets. The bike shop owner (Wayne?) was quite bemused that we’d walked from Stratford. It took very little encouragement from him for us to go and grab some chips (very good) and potato cakes (good) for lunch from the take-away shop down the road. We ate them in the park-that-is-also-an-RV-park, and then wheeled our way back to the rail trail.
We saw a couple of black shouldered kites (which are actually quite small, more like a falcon - the book says it’s a hawk). One of them seemed to be quite young, though it didn’t have juvenile plumage, and seemed to be yelling for food? Also on our travels we saw shrike thrushes, magpies, straw necked and white/sacred ibis, an egret, many fairy wrens, many thornbills (I assume yellow-rumped, because we call them “yellow butt birds”) and many red browed finches (“red butt birds”). We even spotted a pelican flying over!
The cycle home was a lot quicker. Quelle surprise! It took us about 50 minutes to get back to Stratford. The trail is, as I said, “pretty flat”. But that’s walkers’ flat, rather than cyclists’ flat. Fortunately, most of the elevation involves a slight descent towards the Stratford end, so we did get to coast a little bit (from a whopping 37m above sea level to 13m above!). This section of the trail improves when cycled - the views change and evolve more noticeably, and glimpses and views of the hills are very enjoyable. Of course, I barely took any photos.
Anyway, back to the trip. I packed my swimming top, so when we got back to Stratford I changed into that, whipped off my shorts and went for a swim in my undies. And by swim I mean dip. As in, I immersed myself twice, rinsed my head and my legs of sweat and dirt, then hightailed it out of there. The Dooyeedang (Avon River) was very refreshing and not quite as cold as the Ovens! And then we cycled home. All in all, a good outing.
The walk was easy, and we covered about 11km in about 2hr 20mins - usually I’d estimate 10km in 2hr 30mins, so that’s pretty quick for us. Maybe I’ll try a speed walk along this stretch one day! I didn’t carry a pack (just the ‘new’ bum bag carried across my body), nor did I use the sticks. My body felt pretty good - I tried to change the angle of my hips a few times (e.g. tucking in my tailbone) to help ease any issues with my lower back. No blisters or other aches from the walk.
However, although I took care to keep the gears nice and easy on the cycle, my knees still felt a little creaky when we got back. I will need to be extremely careful with this if going out for longer rides - especially with Dan, as he tends to fang it and I don’t like being left behind! I really don’t want to lose all the progress I’ve made with my knees since last year. Also, next time I’ll wear my cycle shorts because the old nether regions felt bruised for days!
Apart from walking, I'm also doing a lot of logistical food planning for the Heysen Trail. This includes things like counting how many days between towns, therefore how many meals I need for each section, trying to research whether I'll be able to actually buy enough food for those sections in town or if I need to pack some extras in my drop boxes, thinking about where my drop boxes will go. I'm also experimenting with different low- or no-cook recipes (I've eaten some pretty horrible chia puddings while on this journey!), dehydrating fruits and vegetables, hummus and fruit/veg leathers, making green powder, and so on. I want to leave a lot of the dehydration of actual meals until July, as a rule of thumb is they should be eaten within 3-4 months. I'm thinking of making a pasta with tomato/nut sauce, a sweet potato/lentil dahl and some sort of chilli with beans and possibly quinoa. I'll also take noodles and some extra veg and flavourings to add to whatever I find in the little general stores - be that more noodles or pasta (yum), instant mashed potato (OK, in a pinch) or cous cous (gross). What things do you pack when walking and camping?
The Gippsland Plains Rail Trail and Dooyeedang (Avon River) are part of Brayakaulung (Gunaikurnai) Country. This always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.
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