I had to go out…
You know that time? When you just have to get out for a ride? Today I decided it was time, with no idea where I was going I squeezed into my leathers, stuffed a thermal top and water bottle into my bag. At the driveway, left? Sure. Make it up as you go. Freeway? Right. Options in this direction? Gippy, Lake Mountain, Licola. Mmm. I’ll decide when I get to Cardinia Road. The onslaught of inbound Easter traffic crawling along convinced me that I wanted to go somewhere deserted, or at least where there would be as little bike traffic as possible. Licola. Yeah. Drop in at Toongabbie or Heyfield, fuel up there and back and cut through some of my favorite roads and presto.
Wow. That’s the turn off to Licola. That didn’t take long. Time for a visor clean before the main event starts. At the intersection I hear a rumble and a convoy of twelve vehicles (yes, I counted them), mostly four wheel drive variants thunder past. Note to self: stay the fuck over in the left wheel track, there will be large oncoming on my side. Sure enough, a few corners later and the first of many encroachers. Argh! Right ear plug comes loose, I’ll have to stop. With my right glove off I de-lid, refit and re-lid. OK. Onwards!
Oddly I’m not feeling on my game, likely the thought of traffic on my side: 4WDs and caravans/trailers etc. On the way down I thought I’d like to stop along the way and look at the mountains for a bit. Seriously. Sometimes we forget to enjoy the journey, racing to the destination. I slow down at the place I had in mind and espy an encampment of 4WDs. No serenity here. Keep going. Hey, that’s a track off to the left of this hill top, I’ve been through here countless times and never noticed it. Let’s see where it goes. Negotiating boulders and rubble acting as a make shift road I gingerly head along the short track which opens out into a majestic viewing platform, far away in the distance I see the mountains. I’ve found my place. Below, the valley floor beckons with the Wellington River wending its way across the landscape, glittering in the hazy sun. It’s so green. The scent of air, real air. In a high place looking down on the vista, perfect. Exactly what I needed. I see a large rock formation in the shape of a seat and use this new vantage point to drink in the view, the colours, feel the wind, hear the sounds of birds echoing across the hills, the buzzing of flies (it’s not Australia without flies buzzing) and see a cricket leap. I feel life. The wind moves through the trees just in front of me dappling the ground below in shadows. I shade my eyes and look out to the tree filled mountain skyline. Perfect. So glad I stopped. Camera time.
I take a right just before the bridge and head the extra 22 kms towards the end of the sealed bitumen road. Caked 4WDs approach and recede, the lack of a centre line keeps me on my toes too, the cuttings are a strangely lucid red, speaking of those who carved this road out of the raw bushland, who journeyed here, who explored, those before me. I reach the last bridge and give a friendly wave to the oncoming 4WD giving me right of way and his accomplice follows, with their matching slogans emblazoning their windscreens they disappear into the bush. It is quiet now. I’ve decamped and espy bony remains as I walk over to the river, the sound of water moving over rocks, I feel the sound, it permeates the bush, it fills the void, no, it extends the feeling, the green stunted gums, the red earth, the hazy sky, that feeling. That feeling of being inside yet also outside time again.
I think to myself “when the shadows grow long Mr and Mrs Skippy come out to play”. I’m still wearing my tinted visor yet I can see the shadows lengthening and I am in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes the mind is a dangerous thing, thoughts interrupting the reverie. I push that thought aside yet know it to be true, time to leave.
Game on! Often with a trip like this I feel more fluid on the return leg perhaps having cased the joint it proffers a familiarity of the terrain, of obstacles, of dirt and gravel patches seen and noted, stored away, know the surface! Yes, the game is on. I flow through my favorite sections, remembering the sequences, the tightening corners the off camber parts and do not think about the drop off: you go where you look and I’m not going there (it is a very long way down in parts and there is no barrier, no superman for me!).
Eight and a quarter hours later and five hundred and something kilometers and I’m back at HQ. The final section is always hard: the slab, cages, road work zones, the dark, cooling air. The price we pay. And yes, the straight bits get you to the twisty bits. Licola, you delivered, again, thank you.