Discovering Gippsland

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I have wanted to explore Gippsland more extensively for a while now. Gippsland stretches from Melbourne’s eastern outskirts all the way to the state border with New South Wales in Victoria’s far East. This area is renowned for its natural beauty.  Offering hundreds of kilometres of spectacular coastline, picturesque rivers and lakes, forests and snowfields.

I have done numerous short trips throughout the region in the past.  Determined to revisit Mount Eccles, which I had previously visited under atrocious conditions. I contacted Brad, who I met through a friend of a friend. I had ridden with Brad a couple of times before.  He had given me a guided tour of many of the hills south of Trafalgar/Yarragon. Unfortunately Brad could only ride till midday.  So in order to get the ride I had in mind I would have to set the alarm for 3:00 am.

 

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I guess I’ve done enough ridiculously early rides not to be a baby about it.

I met Brad at 5:00 am in Trafalgar, and the plan was to avoid the highway.  Taking the back roads to Warrigul.  With the hope to hit the Strzlecki Ranges as the sun was rising.  Then head up to Korumburra, then loop through Leongatha up to Mount Eccles, and then back to Trafalgar.

We headed off into the darkness, and enjoyed the peace and quiet of country roads. The weather forecast wasn’t going to work in our favour. It was forecast to get hot later in the morning.  To make matters worse we would be copping a cross/headwind for the second half of the ride.

So it was important to pace ourselves.

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It was dark when we hit the Strzlecki Ranges.  Tackling the first couple of climbs through there in the dark. The sun was going to rise while we were riding through there.  I was hoping that we could get up to the lookout at the top to see the sun rise. We had some of the most incredible luck I’ve ever had on one of my rides. We saw one of the best sunrises I’ve ever seen.  Pulling over & taking a heap of photos.

Within minutes of taking those photos, we hit some fog.  Visibility become limited for the next 25 km’s. To have that break at the right place at the right time was just an incredible piece of fortune.

This ride will be memorable just for this.

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We briefly stopped off in Korumburra, and then had a blinder riding to Leongatha.  Barely noticing as the k’s went by. The fog had lifted, but by 9:00 am it was still overcast, and cold.  I worried that we would go from one extreme to another with the weather. It was a joy to return to Wild Dog Valley.

Who wouldn’t want to ride through a place named like this? We were riding into a headwind, and common sense prevailed and we took it casually. I originally wanted to have a crack at Mount Eccles.

But common sense prevailed for once.

Near the top of the Strzlecki Ranges

As we went further into Wild Dog Valley, the scenery became more & more dramatic. Beautiful rolling hills surrounded us.  For the first time in the day the sun came out. We turned off to head up to Mount Eccles.  Straight away were pushing gradients of 13%. Last time I climbed this beast it was raining heavily, and really windy. Today the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.

Minus the headwind of course.

This climb had lots of rolling corners, and it was hard not to be distracted by the open countryside.  With numerous views of all the rolling hills. The climb is broken into two sections.  The first 1.8 km’s averages 8%, & the second half is 700 metres @ 10%. Both sections have flattened out sections.  The gradients are much harder than they suggest.

We got to the top around 10:00 am and I realised that we were going to be late. Pushing off, we enjoyed the tail wind out to the Strzlecki Highway. We turned left, and our day became more challenging. It was rapidly warming up, and we now had to fight 20-30 km cross winds that made life difficult. The trip to Mirboo North was hard, and there was close to 5 km’s of climbing beforehand that.  Brad & I both struggled. To compound my woes, I started to get stomach cramps.

Every direction you looked was amazing!

Brad at the top of Mount Eccles
Thankfully there was about 5 km’s of descending from Mirboo North.

We rode through some State Forest which was a beautiful ride.  Thankfully well shaded from both the sun & wind. We had about 24 km’s to get back, but I wasn’t feeling quite right. After leaving the forest we were riding across exposed roads.  Although it was only about 27 degrees, it was warming up.  We were worried about dehydration. Brad took me down McDonald’s Track.

And it started on a nasty pinch which averaged over 14%, which foolishly I flew up. I got up it pretty quick, but cooked myself in the process. I continued along the road, and got lost in the incredible views to either side of the road. It felt a bit like gaga land when Brad suddenly found his on button & flew past me.  Digging deep into the pain locker to push on. There were quite a few more steep climbs along the way.

I was just hanging on, trying to get up them as comfortably, and quickly as possible.

We got back to Trafalgar with 176 km’s completed and around 2,700 vertical. Brad fare welled me, and I decided to do a slow crawl up the Trafalgar-Thorpdale climb.  This is 5.2 km’s @ 5% to finish myself off on. I was wasted, and I should have just gone home.  Sometimes I just can’t help myself & 200 beckoned. The day hit 35 degrees, and I grinded my way just for a stat.

On the way home I was so tired.  I kept dozing off behind the wheel, and had to pull over at a Road house near Pakenham.

 A 20 minute power nap was needed, before I could get home.

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Brad to make the day more epic went out and rode a further 33km’s later that day, and set a record for the most kilometres that he’s ridden in a day with 210km’s.

Here is a link to my Strava Activity here:

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