This ride has been on my wish list for many years, but always just a bit too far to travel to do. With appalling weather forecast for the weekend, the idea of a long ride was out of the question. Instead I pondered travelling further afield to explore and discover grand new adventures.
Tarra Bulga National Park
Tarra Bulga National Park is situated approximately 200 kilometres east of Melbourne. It is one of only four major areas of cool temperate Rainforest in the state. Hidden within the Strzelecki Ranges (named after Count Strzelecki). Tarra Bulga National Park features lush fern-filled Gullies. Giant Mountain Ash and ancient Myrtle Beech trees. With 41 species of ferns and offers many stunning nature walks, and is a haven for plants and wildlife. The park is home to Wombats, Lyrebirds, Swamp Wallabies. Greater Glider, Sugar Glider, Brush-tailed Possums & Platypus. Tarra Bulga forest is home to a variety of birds including the Pilotbird, Yellowtailed Black Cockatoo, Eastern Whipbird. Laughing Kookaburra, Crimson Rosella and Currawongs.
This ride was about discovery and fun, so I put a feeler out for anyone interested in joining me. Christian Purnomo who has joined me on quite a few of my biggest rides this year said ok. He met me at my house around 6:30am and I drove both of us up to Taralgon. The weather was looking good, and I was optimistic of having a great ride. It wasn’t a great start when I got us lost, which is uncharacteristic of me. We had to back-track, and thankfully only cost us 5k’s.
I didn’t know much about the climbs about the area, but according to Strava they were long. We were climbing to the lookout at Mount Tassie. At 750 metres above sea level, is the highest point in the Strzelecki Ranges. The climb was about 15.5km’s @ 4%, and honestly I didn’t pay it respect. I didn’t have a look at the elevation graph and took it on as I would a shallow climb. Foolishly I tried to smash it in the big dog. This was quite a steep climb with several descents along the way which heavily reduced the average gradient. After the first 4km’s I had to drop it into my small chain ring, and pace myself up this climb. I was in for a delight. The higher we got up, the more impressive the views were.
We could see as far as the horizon and I can tell you I was enjoying this climb. It was a battle of the winds, and the higher I climbed, the windier it got. The climb twisted and winded up the mountain. I fount that the winds could be pushing us up one corner. Then another corner would be trying to push us over. A few spots we were climbing right into the eye of the storm. I had to visit my happy place to get up those short sections.
I knew at the top that there was a lookout. Which on a clear day there are superb views over the Latrobe Valley. And Callignee area as well as the valleys close to Mt Tassie. When I neared the top I saw this tiny sign pointing out Mount Tassie. It kind of looked like a sign for someone’s house. I wouldn’t have headed up the road if I hadn’t known about the lookout. There were very few Strava users that had come up here, and they really miss out on the incredible views from above.
Given how hard I worked to get up to the top, I hadn’t really noticed how cold it was. It was just over 6 degrees up the top, and with icy cold 60 – 80kmph winds buffeting us. I was feeling the cold, and knew that I had under dressed.
The rain forest
Within a few k’s the terrain changed to rainforest, and it was beautiful. My teeth were chattering, but it was easy to be distracted by this amazing place. The road was covered in a tonne of debris, and we needed to take care on the descents. There was no line markings and it was quite narrow and we descended at a snails pace. We stopped at the Visitor centre. Mainly as I was hoping that they may sell souvenirs. In order for me to buy something to wear to warm me up. Alas no luck, and I just had to HTFU to get through this one.
We descended down Tarra Valley Road and stopped off at the Tara Waterfalls & Tara Valley Picnic spot.
This was simply one of the most beautiful areas that I’ve ever ridden.
I simply could not believe how I had never heard of this area being renown for its great riding, and staggered at how few Strava users have been through the Tarra Bulga National Park.
We stopped off at the Fernholme Caravan Park for morning tea. A Ham & Cheese toasted sandwhich which went down a treat in the cold weather. We had hoped to ride all the way down to Yarram. Looking at the time and knew that wasn’t happening. I didn’t bring any lights so didn’t want to risk riding in the dark. CP asked how this could have happened. We had done a bit more riding than what the Strava route suggested, and were slowed down by the roads as well. I was disappointed not to be able to go all the way through the Tarra Valley Road. We vowed to return another day.
It started to rain, and we headed a little further south and planned on riding another 10 or so k’s. Before turning around and backtracking.
Tara Valley Road followed the Tara River, and it was a beautiful sight to see if flow sometimes metres from the road.
We were also treated to the beauty that Autumn has to offer at the Tarra Bulga National Park.
There was over 12km’s to climb to get to our next destination. Balook where we planned to get some lunch. I was hoping they would sell some form of clothing as I knew as soon as we started descending I would be freezing. Unfortunately the last 40km’s of this ride was mainly downhill.
I hit this climb in the big dog the whole way. Quite a few sections peaked at 7%, but I found the climb easy to get into a rhythm, and it was just a joy to climb.
We got to the Cafe, and I was delighted to find a thin neck guard, and bought a cap. I looked like a deuschbag, but given how cold I was I didn’t care.
At 3:00pm, and we had over 70km’s of riding ahead of us before it got dark. It was about 7 degrees outside but the winds had picked up and were ferocious and had a real bite to it. We had about 4km’s of climbing up through Grand Ridge Road to help warm us up which was a blessing. There was a sign up ahead that said Gravel next 10km’s. We were about to slow down.
Grand Ridge Road
The wind was ferocious. Any exposed sections we passed we were pushed sideways by this mighty cross wind. When your dodging potholes and rocks, and riding on a muddy surface. The challenge of being pushed sideways at the same time made for some difficult riding.
We would ride through short sections of muddy road which our 23mm tyres were just not suited for. Having to ride a perfect line in order not to stack (seriously felt like riding over ice at times). Our gears and brakes got clogged with mud, and the bikes became more challenging to ride.
It was such a relief to finally finish that horrid section.
There was some amazing scenery through here, but we had lost a fair bit of time. At 3:45pm we still had close to 50km’s to ride. Racing the setting sun. We kept our cool, and soon hit the big descent of the day. There was over 15km’s of steep descents. Christian took the lead and dropped me pretty easily on the descent. We were flying through at close to 60kph for a large part of it. The k’s clicked over, and I was mindful of the last 30km’s which would be into a head wind. How much energy had I left to manage the battle against the winds? Today wasn’t a huge ride. I knew that the cold winds would have sapped a major amount of strength for me. The funny thing was, when we hit them. I took the lead and just glided through them. It was slightly downhill. The wind was pretty consistent coming at us from the West and was easy to get into a rhythm.
The Power Plant
Afar we could see the Valley Power Facility, and this gave us our marker to get back to Taralgon. As we neared we were dwarfed by this gigantean structure.
This structure was actually pretty amazing to ride through. There were a couple of short climbs through there. With a direct head wind they didn’t tickle. Plus my legs were starting to feel like lead.
We were having a blast!
It was a welcome relief to have Taralgon finally in our sights. On the way out we noticed a scenic lookout of the power plant. Even with the setting sun we had the time to stop there. Christian egged me on to go for the KOM up this climb, which was about 6.5% for 500 metres. My legs were tired. But thankfully I didn’t need to save them for anything the next day so I thought why not. The KOM was 25.5 kmph. I gave it a crack and the legs died on my 300 metres in, but I was able to keep the pedals turning long enough to average 30kmph. Alas I’m sure this will be beaten easily at some stage in the future. At least I’m giving the locals some exercise chasing a faster time.
Some rides are just iconic. Sure we copped some ferrel weather, but for a ride like this, just added to the awesomness.
We were exhausted. Our bikes were covered in mud. What more could we ask for.