Two weeks ago (3 September 2013) I took off to Beaufort to rehearse the planned route for the Lake Goldsmith Steam Rally ride in November and to check out our accommodation at The Golden Age Hotel. Was it an old rural pub oozing charm and history or a twilight aged care facility for the demented? More of this later.

The day started out bright and sunny. I headed off from our planned meeting point under the Plane Trees at Kensington Station at 10.15am. The ride is to be an off highway route but I had started out late so to save time I thought I'd ride along Ballarat Road then chance a bit of the Western Highway as a short cut to Greigs Road. Not at all pleasant when your under-geared classic motor is screaming at full revs with annoyed drivers up your backside. Once off the freeway it was through the dry stone wall country around Exford and then up the steep climb into the Brisbane Ranges where I struck a section of dirt road along Reids Road. This was more like it, quiet rural roads with hardly any traffic. The countryside was lush and green with the sun popping in and out of a cloud dappled sky. A few winding back roads saw me join the Midland Highway at Elaine. I decided to visit the town's cemetery and the historic Narmbool homestead. Narmbool was settled in 1839. It's 2 km long driveway was planted with an avenue of trees in 1884 and leads to the bluestone farmhouse. Unfortunately it is only open by appointment.

Up a Volcano

Back to the Midland Highway past Claredon then a quick whizz up and down Mount Buninyong for some great views of the farmland below. After refuelling body and machine in Buninyong I spent about an hour exploring the town. Buninyong was the first inland town to be proclaimed in Victoria, even before gold was discovered at Ballarat. Many of it's fine old buildings in brick and stone have lasted 150 years and look as though they'll still be standing in another 200. Before hitting the road again I had the foresight to ring ahead and check on my pub room for the night at Beaufort. Someone had just checked out so I got the last room available. Glad I rang. After a few more kilometres on the Midland, it was time to turn West towards Ross Creek and Smythesdale along roads lined with wattle trees in full bloom.

The Joy of Two Wheels

What is it about riding on two wheels? When I pass a herd of cows on two wheels I am compelled to bellow out "moooo...". They respond with perplexed curiosity. And when I pass sheep I always give them my very best bleats. I don't do this in a car. You feel more connected to the universe on two wheels - the wind in your face, the rumble of the road beneath you, the glint of chrome work flickering like fire as you ride in the dappled light beneath a canopy of trees, the smell of a eucalypts forest or of new mown hay, of cow shit and dust or hot melted bitumen, the sweetness of the earth, the warmth of the sun on your face or the sting of cold rain drops in the wet, bone-chilling cold, the change in temperature and humidity as you descend into a river valley, and the wonderful dryness of the air of a hot Aussie summer, the way the unfolding landscape reveals itself to you - the mountain ahead in the distance which never seems to get any nearer, or the surprise of a dramatic change in scenery as you round a bend or crest a hill. You, your machine and the great big beautiful "it".

By the time I arrived in Smythesdale the sky had clouded over taking the sparkle off the scenery. Along the Glenelg Highway to Scarsdale with a detour to Newtown to see a fantastic wooden trestle rail bridge, Nimon's Bridge. This will be one of the many highlights of the Lake Goldsmith Steam Rally ride. And who could resist passing through a place called Pigoreet? This impulse had its reward in the marvellous Woady Yaloak River Gorge. Happily the sun broke through it's grey blanket to turn the rocky cliffs of "Devil's Kitchen" to a burnt red-orange in the late afternoon sun. I rejoined the Glenelg Highway at Linton and again posed my scooter in front some of the town's interesting buildings and churches, the sun slanting in horizontally from the West.


By the time I arrived in Skipton the warmth had drained from the day and the light was fading fast. I had dilly dallied too long. It was time to head North for the final 30km push to Beaufort. The western granite flank of Mount Emu was catching the last purple pink rays of the setting sun as I rode by. For a moment it looked like the pockmarked face of the moon rising behind a grassy hill such is the sensuality of this world. I arrived at The Golden Age Hotel at 6.30pm. Country pubs usually have some kind of charm, a grand staircase, a lounge and kitchen for residents or a second floor balcony on which to gaze out over the town. Sadly, especially for those going on the Lake Goldsmith Steam Rally ride, it was as basic as. Rooms the size of prison cells but with TV. The owner was friendly and I could park my scooter in a garage at the back of the hotel. I felt much better after a hot shower and the pub's pumpkin soup was delicious. Since I had come so far, I decided to stay a second night and spend tomorrow exploring the surrounding district of the Pyrenees shire.

Into the Pyrenees

After breakfast at a cafe across the road and a walk around Beaufort, I was away early. It was a bright sunny morning so who could resist going to a nearby town called Ragland? Was this the place where raglan sleeved T-shirts are made? Not much there so I took the dirt road to mystical Mount Cole and Mount Buangor. Climbed quite high enjoying the rough lonely narrow road and the splendid forest of white-trunked eucalypts. I sensed the view over the plains below would be magnificent but there wasn't a clearing, even at the very top under the TV antennas. Came down off the mountain on the other side into a lush green valley. The small run-down farms with paddocks full of rusting junk were made pretty by garden fruit trees in full blossom. I saw many abandoned farm houses, the remnants of somebody's broken dream and yet the flowers of a former well-kept garden had prevailed, escaping into the paddocks like clouds of golden daffodils. I figured this was hillbilly country. While taking some photos, a number of gunshots rang out across the valley. Maybe this is Lambretta country - I'd better get outta here fast. Further down the mountain side as the country opened up there was a wonderful view of craggy 922m Mount Langi Ghiran. I had always wanted to visit this State Park which is about 20kms east of Ararat, so from Warrak I headed back to the Western Highway to find the entrance to the Park. There were only walking tracks to the top of Langi Ghiran and I didn't have time to climb it so it was off to Ararat for an award winning chicken pie at the town's bakery. A lazy ride along the Pyrenees Highway through Elmhurst, Amphitheatre to Lexton where I discovered a country pub with wonderful Georgian architecture, the Pyrenees Hotel built in 1845. It was being renovated but had six rooms $45-$55 per night and no booking for the weekend of the Lake Goldsmith Steam Rally. I arrived back Beaufort late in the day and repeated the pumpkin soup experience.

More Bridges and Home

It rained overnight and the morning was dark and grey. By 8.10am I was on my way back to Melbourne. About 20kms out of Beaufort I stopped to put my waterproofs on and then the rain hit. It drizzled for most of the day which made the countryside look soft and pretty and my mid-layer top was like a cosy on a teakettle. I took back roads to the outskirts of Ballarat and similarly to Ballan via Mount Egerton stopping at Navigator to photograph a handsome bluestone railway bridge. You forget what great little towns the Western Highway now bypasses. I rode to Bacchus Marsh beside the railway line along Islington Bank as I wanted to see the spot where the road passes under a great steel girder railway bridge. I was back home at 2.15pm. I guess the drizzle put an end to my habitual photography stops and improved my point-to-point times greatly. A total of 740 kms with fuel consumption about 31kms per litre. A very enjoyable ride indeed.

Below are some photos of the trip showing the kind of scenery we'll see on the forthcoming Lake Goldsmith Steam Rally ride on November 2nd-3rd. Yes, once again my flirtatious 46 year old scooter shamelessly poses for the camera, tossing her steering head this way and that. I forgive her as she performed flawlessly. Happy trails always, David

For a photographic tableaux of the Lake Goldsmith Steam Rally Ride <click here>



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    Hope all had a look at this

    I love your description of your journey, and yes your vespa does love to pose but certainly deserves it. Your photos are terrific. I really enjoyed your journey.

    Great story and photos David.


    Always an inspiration David.

    Thanks for sharing.


    Just felt I did the ride with you, I do know parts of this area but you make it all sound like a thrilling adventure with a touch of romance...thank you and your beloved scoot..

    To do this trip on a vespa will be an exhilarating experience on all levels....could be the best ride yet...can't wait.

    Cheers Julie


    Oh David

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