Bronwen Whyatt beat lockdown and rode along the Great Victorian Rail Trail, tasting gourmet food and exploring accommodation options along the way. She also packed a sketchbook.

Day 1 on the Great Victorian Rail Trail: Mansfield – Bonnie Doon

When I left Mansfield on April 12th, the first snow of 2021 had lightly dusted Mount Buller. There is a reward at the end of a small climb out to The Paps. If you want to take a detour the left, you can have morning coffee at Wild Mint Acres, a relatively new nursery complete with coffee caravan.

Not long after another climb and a coast down the hill, you reach the Bonnie Doon Hotel where I can thoroughly recommend the bangers and mash. After such a short ride of 22kms, you can stay at Daisy Hill Lodge where you can talk to alpacas and kangaroos. Their boathouse is a one roomed bungalow with a wood fire, that sits on the edge of a tiny lake. Enjoy the sunset with a barbeque or climb to the top of the property where you get views of Lake Eildon. Ah the serenity! Yes, it is the same destination as in The Castle.

Day 2: Bonnie Doon – Alexandra

I rose with the mists over the boathouse lake and the embers from the wood fire in my little cabin only just dimming. Outside little wrens popped back and forth. The rail trail, all 52kms today, was windy. Sun in the moring quickly gave way to cloud cover, and I panicked it would rain. It didn’t. Woodfield, Merton where I stopped for a quick brekkie at the Service Station, then a great baked potato at the Giddy Goat in Yarck. Rolled down the hill to Cathkin, then turned left heading towards Alexandra and a long slow climb up to the Eglington cutting.

After a welcome and refreshing shower at the Corner Hotel, Alexandra, I booked in for dinner at their restaurant and the fishcakes were great.

Day 3: Alexandra – Yea

The day began with the tail end of a strong wind warning for the northeast and it was overcast as I climbed back up the sweeping bend in the rail trail with beautiful views back over Alexandra and the Cathedral Ranges. A quick coast downhill to Cathkin, cattle smells a plenty and I passed a troupe of riders on magnificent horses on the way to the Goulburn River and the tiny town of Molesworth, home of the little church building that started my quest to ride and sketch. It was having a fresh paint facelift for my arrival.

After a quick sketch, it was back into town, then the slow and long climb under blue sky up to the Cheviot Tunnel. Up until today the trail at times, felt like an extra lane to the highway, but this segment left the road and was flanked by eucalypt saplings.  Yea! After 30 kilometres through a tunnel, and more riding along banks of the Goulburn I reached the town. Delicious rice paper rolls at Mint and Jam, a stunningly fresh blueberry cheesecake at Flori e Casa and I booked into my beautiful room at the Yea Peppercorn Hotel. Many other walkers and riders were out today and there were signs out for CycleDindi on the weekend.

Day 4 Yea – Trawool on the Great Victorian Rail Trail

This was the most beautiful riding so far, following the Goulburn River and highway which was much quieter after Yea. The path undulated more, dipped under the road and joined the beautiful Goulburn River where the bird calls were exquisite. I saw beehives, massive granite boulders and billabongs. Rotary donated benches in Camino colours reminded me of French walks. For my last night’s accommodation I treated myself to luxury at the Trawool Estate. Dinner was scrumptious and the room with a bath, vital.

Day 5: Trawool – Tallarook

The final day of my Great Victorian Rail Trail ride started like a picture, continued with a cooked breakfast and ended with a quiet and short cycle along the Goulburn River, 11 odd kilometres to Tallarook. Birds were everywhere and the coffee was great at Silver Princess (now sadly closed). I caught a wonderful shuttle service back to Mansfield with Nigel from the Tallarook General Store. I was back home in Mansfield in time for lunch.

What a beautifully refreshing week spent outdoors. Great weather, lots of sketches to finish and a better understanding of my neighbourhood.

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