Echuca to Bright

Day Five – Friday September 7 - 186 - Echuca to Wangaratta
From Echuca I travelled to Wangaratta on Day 5. This was a bitterly cold day until the late afternoon, despite bright sunshine. I frequently had my back steaming under my windproof jacket while my front side was aching cold because of the windchill.

As well as hay bale art, farmers love doing creative things with road side mail boxes, and getting beyond the cliché of herbicide cans or old gas containers.  So we had the tractor.


And the engine: this truly is a work of art.


But the next one takes the cake. Yes, that is a duct tape hinge!  The body of the mailbox is a length of high pressure irrigation pipe.


In Shepparton an old bloke came up as I was packing up food from the supermarket, and asked me how the ride was going. He said he always liked riding bikes. He rode his first race when he was 15 in 1947. I said, "This was when the memory of Hubert Opperman was still very fresh, then."

He said, "He was still racing. He was in our club. He was a real gentleman despite being so popular. He wasn't hard like Bradman."

We talked about some of the other cycling Pioneers in Australia, like Richardson, and Mackay. And he talked about how the army had used dispatch riders on push bikes instead of using horses, in the early days, because you could go further on a pushbike than a horse. I said I could understand this; I could still do 400 km today and I'm 63! It would be a good horse that could do that much.

He smiled at me and said, "I am 87 and I still do 130 km a week. I do 40 on Saturday. Then I do 50 on Sunday to make it a bit harder. And then I do the other 40 on Wednesday."

I said, "That's to remind the legs they have to work again next weekend is it?

And he smiled and said, "Yes."  He said, "I'd rather be holding the handlebars of a bike than the handlebars of a walker." He also said he was a bit slower these days: "I only average around 20. Maybe 24kph on a good day." I thought about some of my commuting speeds and decided not to comment on that!

His name is Colin, and he asked me mine. We shook hands, two men who shared something of life— some of the joy and mystery of riding,  and who had touched each other quite deeply. He must have been genuine;  after all, he was carrying two containers of coffee grounds!

Once I arrived at Benalla, I had to track the Hume Highway to Wangaratta, but stay off it. I had a route programmed into my GPS, and was guided under and over the highway on the local roads. The Hume is like Behemoth resurgent. Even close to midnight, it snakes across the countryside, roaring and always alive. Farmers who are kilometres distant can never escape its roar.  In Glenrowan, the town sits in this snarling and then suffers the trains roaring through on the other edge of the town. We become inured to the insult of the highways in our cities; out here the affront is plain and horrifying. We are destroying the world.



The large map

Day Six – Saturday September 8 - 86km - Wangratta to Bright
Today was a pleasant ride on the Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail which took me to Bright. Before leaving, I was able to purchase a new cap— lost in the dark on the outskirts of Wangaratta, and replace a bidon which had cracked open and was seeping water.

06-thingstocomeThings to come

06-beginningtocrosstheridge Beginning to cross the ridge


06-therideweHere it is!  The ride we have come for.

There were some steep grades on that old railway line. Taylor's Gap showed up as 9% slope, which is one hell of a grade for a train! They must have needed to use sand on the line a lot! The ride was good; the magpies less so. I met one who spend some time bouncing of my helmet, and had just begin to reflect that it was the most attention I've received from magpies anywhere this year, when another one belted into my left ear as hard as any magpie ever. I had barely recovered my composure when he took out the other ear, and left me bleeding. I spent fifteen or twenty minutes riding in a haze of physical shock.

For all that, it's a beautiful ride. Past Myrtleford I met three ten year old boys, full of energy and excitement as they rolled down from Bright.  What a lark for a kid— with not a car to worry about.


I came down with a miserable cold on the Saturday night in Bright; I woke up unable to swallow. It was obvious that I was not going to be able to ride up to Mt Hotham and on through to Omeo. On Sunday morning, I managed to walk all the way down the main street before I noticed I was not wearing my glasses, which is a sure sign that I wasn't functioning very well. I'd decided I would need to get the trailer freighted up to Hotham under a bus because Hotham is a monster climb, but I stood outside the bus depot unable to think straight. Even though the cold was not in my chest, it was clear that I would not have the mindset to manage the snow. So I spent most of Sunday asleep. I did go to church, sans glasses, which meant I benefited from a deep and wise sermon from Rev Lindell Gibson. From right up the back of the church, I could just make out the projected words of the hymns, and contributed with a fine viral baritone.

I slept for the rest of the morning, shopped for food, and slept until tea time, ate, and slept again. So much for Bright!


The large map

Next: Bright to Yea


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