Category Archives: Uncategorized

A cyclist’s lament

I commute to work in Melbourne’s CBD almost every day. My route takes me along St Kilda Rd, where there’s a dedicated bike lane. And increasingly I’m seeing motorcyclists using this lane to get around traffic. It’s annoying me more and more. It’s illegal and dangerous.

And this week I saw the inevitable clash.

A few bike riders were stopped and shouting and a motorbike rider was getting off his bike. I didn’t stop as the lane was getting congested and whatever had happened appeared to be getting sorted out by who was already there. I didn’t see anyone on the ground so assumed whatever had happened there weren’t any serious injuries.

When I was further up the road and stopped at a red light, I asked a rider who was there what had happened.

The motorbike rider was riding in the bike lane, turned left without looking, and took out a cyclist. Awful and a depressingly familiar story – a vehicle turns left without looking and hits a bike rider. As the guy I was talking to said, just getting to work each day on a bike is becoming a matter of survival.

Which is obviously a shame. If all road users would just respect the rules and each other, it wouldn’t be this way.

Anyway, here are the rules that explicitly state that motorbikes aren’t allowed to ride in bike lanes.

https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/safety-and-road-rules/road-rules/a-to-z-of-road-rules/motorcycles

Plus, page 12 of the Victorian motorbike rider handbook.

If you want to ride in the bicycle lane – get a bike!

Pittwater time lapse

Getting a bit braver with exploring the GoPro features. This time, time lapse.

Last Christmas/New Year we were with the inlaws at their place at Pittwater, north of Sydney. I’ve done a couple of posts about Pittwater (here and here) and how special a place it is.

This time lapse is of the tide coming in and early evening. I should have let it run until dark. The boats off shore would have turned their lights on and the lights of houses across the other side of Pittwater would appear.

Anyway, something to try again the next time we’re up there.

Mt Dom Dom walk

Mt Dom Dom is really a blip of a hill in the Yarra Ranges, east of Melbourne. There’s nothing particularly spectacular about it but I’d come across a walk description of it so thought I’d give it a crack.

We started at the carpark of the Dom Dom saddle picnic area, between Healesville and Marysville, and followed some dirt logging roads east for a bit, looking for what according to the walk notes was a path to the summit on our left. We came across a vague dirt vehicle track about where we thought we should be heading up and followed it. It was slippery and steep  and when we cleared some low scrub there were nice views west over the ranges towards Healesville. The bush wasn’t that inspiring as it looked like we were walking through an old logging coupe.

The track we were following disappeared towards the top and we picked our way as far to the top as we could until the undergrowth became too thick to push through. It didn’t look like there would be much of a view from the top anyway with the dense scrub.

We made our way back down to the logging road and followed it around the base of the mountain until we reached a junction with a walking track. It was single track through native forest and a nice change from the road.  The track joined up with another logging road, which we followed back up to the picnic area.

All up it was nice to be out of the city but I wouldn’t go rushing back to do this walk. The wine tasting at some Yarra Valley cellar doors on the way home was good though – Warramunda Estate, Helen and Joey Estate and Punt Road. All very nice.

 

Paddling at Pittwater

Pittwater is the next harbour north of Sydney Harbour. I’ve written about it before. It’s where the Christmas Eve dog race between Scotland Island and Church Point is held.

It’s a wonderful part of the world. On its northern shores is Ku-Ring-Gai National Park and many small sheltered bays where boats and their owners drop anchor for weekends and holidays away.

My wife’s family have a house in one of the bays that’s only accessible by boat. It’s where we often go for holidays. And whenever we’re there, I usually spend a bit of time paddling about the bay, up its creek, and around the points, watching for wildlife like cormorants, sea eagles and cockatoos, jellyfish and stingrays.

 

 

Alpine National Park – trip report

As I mentioned in my previous post about my Alpine National Park walk, here’s a bit more of a comprehensive post about my trip.

Day 1 – Eight Mile Plain to a bush campsite along the upper part of the Howqua River. About 6 hours walking.

After a four hour drive from Melbourne, stopping at Mansfield for a very unsatisfying takeaway coffee, I set out from the Eight Mile Plain campsite in the Howqua Hills, on the upper walking track that follows the Howqua River. It’s an easy track, gently rising above the river, allowing pleasant views up and down its length.

The weather started out mild but at one point I thought I heard a plane overhead. I looked up and saw behind me some dark clouds starting to build. It wasn’t a plane I’d heard but thunder, and the rumbling was becoming more frequent. The air started to feel thicker and it was about then that I thought of my raincoat, which I’d packed deep down into my pack because I hadn’t thought I’d need it so soon into the walk. But the temperature was comfortable so I didn’t worry about getting wet. And it’s nice to walk in the rain sometimes. It was a surprise however when it started to hail.

By the time I reached Ritchies Hut the rain and hail had moved further up the valley and sunshine was popping out between the clouds. I stopped at the hut for a short rest, had lunch and then carried on up the track.

About an hour later I reached the track’s end at the 4WD dirt road which I was to spend the rest of the day following to get to the Upper Howqua campsite.

It wasn’t much fun walking along a hard dirt road and avoiding passing 4WDs, but there are no walking tracks to reach where I was heading. It’s hard on the feet but the walking was fairly quick. The scenery and bush is still nice to look at.

I passed a few camping areas where there were quite a few car campers on the way to the Upper Howqua campsite I was aiming for. I reached it in the late afternoon and was surprised to see it was chock-a-block with car and 4WD campers. A map I’d seen suggested it was closed due to flood damage. (I know, I know, if I thought it was closed, why was I aiming to camp there? Well, I figured it would have to be pretty messed up if one person in a single tent couldn’t find a small patch of ground to set up on. And how likely was that?) After wandering around looking for a place to squeeze in I started talking to a lady who said there were bush campsites further up the river, along the track I was going to follow the next day. That sounded good to me so I continued walking for about half an hour beside the river, which had become more of a stream, and found a lovely flat grassy patch that was perfect to pitch my tent for the night.

 

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Day 2 – River campsite to Vallejo Gantner Hut, via Thorn Range using Queen Spur and Stanleys Tracks. About 6.5 hours.

Woke up to grey, cloudy skies and set off up the river about 9am. My plan was to head up Howitt Spur via the Mount Howitt Feeder Track to reach the alpine area and Vallejo Gantner Hut. It was not to be but thankfully there was an alternative route.

I reached the junction of the Feeder Track and Queen Spur Road (not really a road) where there’s a big campsite and headed up the Feeder Track. The bush was dense and thick blackberry bushes closed in on the track and eventually, after clambering over a large fallen tree, it disappeared. The bush had reclaimed the track. I scouted around a bit to try and find it but to no avail. It doesn’t appear to get much use as I couldn’t see any signs of other walkers. I pulled out my GPS but saw that the batteries were low so I didn’t want to have to rely on it while bushbashing up the spur. Looking at my map I saw that the Queen Spur Road links up with Stanleys Track which then goes up to the Crosscut Saw and from there you can get to Vallejo Gantner Hut.

So I backtracked and got onto the Queen Spur Road, which felt like an old, disused road. It climbed steadily and linked up with Stanleys Track, which became a proper walking track. From there the track got steeper and I started getting good views down the valley and up to the ridge I was heading for. I also started coming across flat grassy patches of ground dotted with tiny flowers and ringed by short, tough snow gums. They make wonderful places to stop and look around and rest.

Near the top of the spur there was a bit of rocky clambering that demanded careful attention but eventually I reached the top and entered a wonderful, grassy, treeless saddle on the Crosscut Saw that gave spectacular views of the rest of the park and its valleys and ranges on the other side.

The track to the hut was rough but easy to follow. Lots of up and down. It was a relief to reach the hut and settle in. There are plenty of campsites around the hut and some brilliant ones in the trees with views over the park. Water is from a steadily flowing spring. Clean, cold and refreshing!

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Day 3 – Day walk to Mt Speculation from Vallejo Gantner Hut. About 7 hours.

This was a tough day. Warm, still and blue skies but tough walking. The track across the Crosscut Saw is rough and steep. Heading out to the mountain there are two sections where you do a lot of steep descending (into a spot called Horrible Gap appropriately enough) before climbing back up to reach the summit of Mt Speculation. And because I was doing this as a return walk, I knew that all that descending I was doing, I’d have to go back up.

But it was worth it. The 360 degree views from the summit are spectacular. Which you can see here.

By the time I headed back to the hut the day had turned very warm and I’d only brought two litres of water with me. I had to ration my drinking to ensure I had enough to get me back, which was hard. I just wanted to gulp it all down. When I got back I sat down at the spring and sculled a couple of litres to rehydrate before wandering back to my tent for the rest of the afternoon.

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Day 4 – Vallejo Gantner Hut to Bluff Hut, via Mt Howitt, Mt Magdala and Lovicks Hut. About 7.5 hours.

Another tough day of up and down walking along ridge lines but the views were all worth it.

I crossed over Mt Howitt and couldn’t see any sign of a track that I might have come up using the Howitt Feeder Track. (I did see a wild dog – so if anyone from Parks Victoria is reading, maybe there should be some traps or whatever control measures for feral animals you use in there.) Alpine flowers blanketed the grassy plains. Snow gums twisted and leaned in all directions below the snow line.

I had a mini hissy fit with all the climbing I’d been doing so didn’t bother climbing up Mt Magdala but instead took the track that crosses its face. It was a bit nerve wracking as the mountain dropped away very steeply to the right and it felt like there was nothing but air on that side. It was a long way down. My steps were very careful and deliberate on that section.

Eventually I reached the 4WD track I was heading for, which I would follow for the rest of the day to Bluff Hut, via Lovicks Hut. The track was pretty rough, even for walking, and there was more up and down to slog through.

Getting to Bluff Hut was a relief. By then my pack straps were digging into my shoulders and I was adjusting my pack every 10 minutes or so to try and make it more comfortable. Water was from a water tank beside the hut.

As an aside, while at Bluff Hut and as I was finishing my dinner around 7pm, I met a couple of uni students who were walking back to their car. They had driven up from Melbourne that morning, walked as far as they could before returning to their car, and then driving back to Melbourne. They said they just needed to get out of the city for a walk after a busy few days working at a bike shop during the post Christmas sales. They’d left Melbourne at 6am, started walking around 11am, would get back to their car around 8pm and then drive back. And one of them had to work the next day. I was in awe!

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Day 5 – Bluff Hut to Eight Mile Flat, via The Bluff, Rocky Ridge and Eight Mile Spur. About 7 hours.

Set out early, 8am, as I’d heard from a walker the previous day (not the uni students) that today was forecast to be a hot one.

I headed out on the track across The Bluff. The start of the track from the hut isn’t signed or obvious but it’s in front of the car park. Once you’re on the path it’s easy to follow.

It was steady walking along the bluff with great views across to Mt Buller and down to the Howqua River.

The track down off the Bluff is very steep. In places you’re grabbing onto trees to steady yourself going down or scrambling down rocks.

At the bottom of the Bluff track I carried on to head down Eight Mile Spur back to the car, which I’ve written about in my previous post.

All up, it was a good walk. It’s a bit of a shame to have to use 4WD tracks but there’s just no other way that I could see I could do it as a circuit. But it was all worthwhile.

 

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The Scotland Island dog race

In the spirit of Christmas I thought I’d share a unique Christmassy event I’ve had the pleasure to experience twice now: the Scotland Island Dog Race.

Every Christmas Eve in the late afternoon at Pittwater, north of Sydney, a motley collection of dogs and their owners assemble at Church Point, pay their entry fee of a tin of dog food and longneck bottle of beer, and jump onto a barge across to Scotland Island.

All sorts of breeds are represented – labradors, border collies, golden retrievers – along with a range of unidentifiable others.

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On the shore at Church Point the Pittwater community gathers to meet, catch up and share Christmas good wishes over drinks and picnics. It’s one of the best community events I’ve been a part of. There’s a sense of spontaneity about it and an atmosphere of everyone enjoying themselves.

On the water, boats line the route the dogs and their owners will swim and paddle 500m-600m to return to the finish line back at Church Point.

On shore, looking across to Scotland Island, there’s little indication of when the race has begun. But after a little time, the figures of each dog’s owner on kayaks or surfboards, encouraging their dogs along, become clearer.

It’s then the excitement begins to build, as those on shore try to work out which dog is leading.

There’s plenty at stake. Will it be a local dog that wins? And if so, from which bay? Or will it be a ring-in from outside the area?

The last time I was there, in 2012, the winner was Slick, a big dog of indeterminate breed, who belonged to the son of one of the residents of our bay. So we claimed him and the celebrations for Slick continued when we returned to the bay.

Legend has it that the race began in the 1970s when two ferry boat captains raced their dogs from Scotland Island to the mainland. It’s grown since then to become one of the highlights of the year at Pittwater.