The 2011 ride started in Swan Hill and finished in Castlemaine, however being a newbie I only signed up for the first three days: "The Mighty Murray". I thought it would be a good way to ease into an event like this, since I had no idea what to expect.
Overall I had a really great experience and I'm keen to do the full ride next (ummm this year!). The 2012 ride looks to be a fantastic route, from Lakes Entrance to Phillip Island.
After advice from Richard Tulloch's Life on the Road I decided to take my point-and-shoot camera. After using my DSLR for so long I was not anticipating any great photos but I was pleasantly surprised.
Disclaimer: the photos below have been altered in Photoshop using the Pioneer Woman's "Boost" and "Lovely and Ethereal" Actions.
Day 1: Swan Hill loop (Saturday) - 54km
We took the coach from Spencer St station departing at 5am. We arrived in Swan Hill by 9am after a breakfast stop halfway, and collected our bags from the bus. Many people had arrived the previous night and endured some pretty heavy rain during the night (23ml apparently!). Some of the school groups on the lower oval got flooded, so I'm glad we skipped that part!
We pitched our tent and then went to find our bikes. The bikes are transported in cattle trucks - going up the ramp with a bike is not exactly the easiest thing to do - I felt sorry for the poor cattle although I guess they don't have to deal with the bike (haha :P).
Tent city, Swan Hill. The calm before the storm...
By 11am we were ready to start the day's ride. It was a leisurely 54km along flat roads. We had lunch halfway - there was so much food I couldn't finish it, but I suppose they have to cater for those with bigger appetites too!
We got back to camp about 2pm I think, having spent the last 20 minutes riding in the rain. After a shower I felt reborn, and we went into town to have a look around. Luckily we managed to dodge some torrential rain by wandering around Target, stocking up on batteries and bits and pieces (including an umbrella as my rain jacket was no match for that downpour). We joined the dinner queue about 6pm and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food. There was plenty of it, and the roast beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender.
That night we watched Cars-2 and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I may have been the oldest person there (save for the parents accompanying their kids) but that's hardly important!
Joining the dinner queue
Looking forward to my dinner! I earned it :)
Dinner day 1: Roast beef, veggies, potatoes, gravy, a bread roll and chocolate mousse for dessert - yum!
An ominous looking sky during dinner
Amazing skies walking from the Murray river back towards the camp at the showgrounds
Some smart people found a dry spot for their bikes - and someone even smarter found a couple of crates to form a bridge through one of the entrances to the campground.
The Murray River with a view of the Murray River Bridge (I'm standing in Victoria, and New South Wales is just across the bridge)
I made a friend along the way
Getting close to sunset, Swan Hill
Welcome to Victoria!
Next stop: Kerang
Day 2: Swan Hill to Kerang - 82km
This is the furthest I've ever ridden in one day. Luckily the route was pretty much flat so I didn't have to climb any hills. The downside of that is you don't get to coast down the other side!
The first rest stop was approximately 20km in. It was an opportunity to use the loo (the queue was pretty long!) and to have a snack (BYO). I refilled my water bottle and went on my merry way...forgetting to reapply sunscreen.
First rest stop, day 2
Portaloos: a beautiful sight to behold!
The view along the way (the above image went through some sort of Photoshop disaster, but I thought it looked quite artistic actually, so thought I'd throw it in there - the unblemished version is below).
Lunch time: there was precious little shade to be had but some people found a bit of shelter for their bikes. At the lunch stop I did apply more sunscreen, but as I was to find out later, it was much much too late...
By Day 2 it was clear that the rainy weather was gone for good, and there was barely a cloud in the sky. I can't quite recall what the maximum temperature was but I think it was about 30 degrees. Whilst riding it wasn't too bad, as you create your own breeze, but the minute we stopped it was pretty damn hot.
About 2km before the lunch stop I heard a peculiar noise, looked down and realised my front tyre was completely flat. I pulled over and began to walk, as I could see some shade up ahead. Then I would tackle changing my tube (I know how to do it in theory, but have never done it myself). Everyone talks about the spirit of the Great Victorian Bike Ride, and it's true. The people are absolutely lovely, and before I had gone three steps two gentleman pulled over to give me a hand. We ended up patching the tube.
Upon arrival in Kerang I parked my bike and went to put up my tent. When I went to fetch my bike, lo and behold my front tyre was flat as a pancake. Luckily the lady in the neighbouring tent generously offered her husband's services as bike mechanic (he wasn't there at the time to offer his opinion on the arrangement). I thought the patch from the earlier puncture had not been stuck on properly, but it turned out to be another puncture near the first one. We checked the tyre thoroughly for the culprit but found nothing. This time we changed to a fresh tube and I crossed my fingers I wouldn't have a third puncture!
With the necessities taken care of, I headed straight for the local pool. Plenty of other people had the same idea of course - it was probably the busiest day that the Kerang public pool has had in long time! The water was deliciously cold.
My memorable story that day (besides the double puncture) was a spectacular fall from my bike. What made it most remarkable was that I was stationary with one foot on the ground at the time. I can't even imagine what it would have looked like for passers by, although none of them laughed at me, which was pretty decent of them, all things considered! I had my right foot locked on the pedal (I ride with a cage) and my left foot on the ground, and I was reaching into my back pocket. Before I knew it the front wheel had swung to the left and the bike went down, taking me with it. There wasn't anything I could do except fall over. The handlebar hit me in the bicep and I had a little graze on my knee, but those wounds were nothing compared to my self-esteem, which had been crushed to a pulp somewhere beneath my bike and I.
That night we watched Tomorrow When the War Began - I hadn't read the book but I thought the movie was really good (and quite scary actually - as in - what if that could really happen to Australia?).
Dinner was butter chicken (delicious) and sleep did not come easy. I discovered I was very sunburned (I had been wearing a sleeveless top) across my shoulders and on my upper back, and my grazed knee protested every move. I also had a tender bicep and two blisters - one on each big toe!
Day 3: Kerang to Barham - 63km
The final day! I woke up around 5:30am and got ready to go. Luckily I had brought some of those amazing blister Bandaids so my blisters gave me no more trouble. It was even hotter than the previous day (early 30s I think) but I was much more careful to apply sunscreen regularly (and I wore a top with sleeves this time).
The 63km went by quite quickly and I made it to Barham by about 1pm. The campsite was stifling, as there was hardly any shade at all. I had a shower and then retired to the Spokes Bar to sit under the shade sail and drink cider until my coach departed for Melbourne. I didn't explore the town at all, I just couldn't face the heat, so I will have to go back sometime.
I can't believe I made it this far. Secretly I was glad to be heading back to Melbourne, as I knew the next day would have been brutal. The fourth day was the longest ever leg of the Great Vic Bike Ride (101km) and the weather forecast was for temperatures over 35 degrees. I'm not sure I would have made it.
The handlebar in my bicep from my little fall the previous day was swiftly developing into a fantastic bruise. Despite appearances it wasn't too painful, but unfortunately meant I had to tell the story of how I got it over and over again. This time people laughed :)
The beginning of the bruise: 1 day after the fall
And developing an interesting mix of colours: day 2 after the fall
At its most spectacular: 4 days after the fall
I will definitely be doing the Great Vic Bike Ride again. It was a fantastic experience, incredibly well organised and generally a pleasure to participate in. I know for next time to make sure I had plenty of the blister Band-Aids, to apply sunscreen liberally and regularly, and to keep both feet on the ground whenever my bike is stationery!
Overall I was incredibly lucky with the weather, as some years participants have to contend with rain and strong winds. I didn't have a rain jacked suitable for cycling in so I was lucky not to need it, but I'll definitely put that on my list for 2012.
To cleanse your palate of my terrible bruise I'll leave you with this stunning image - I took it through the window of the coach as we made a the long trip back to Melbourne.
~ Jacqui ~