The Heat is On – Cycling from Warragul to Lakes Entrance
With mended legs from our day off in Warragul, a tailwind and a huge shoulder on the highway, the 56km ride to Traralgon couldn’t have been more different to the one to Warragul just two days before. There were a couple of hills to get out of town but then it was flat and fast all the way. The big disappointment for us was the amount of glass on the side of the road that had been deliberately smashed there. Surely people had better things to do than create dangerous conditions for cyclists. Thankfully the Schwalbe’s held out very well.
The Traralgon Caravan Park is really quite nice with great amenities especially the kitchen and TV room. It’s only drawback is a lack of trees on many of the sites and the fact they are 5km from town, although there is a regular bus. However, the ridiculous Victorian public transport system where you must have a Myki card to board public transport applies here. There is no way you can buy a day ticket or pay a single or return fare. It’s either totally inconvenient or very expensive for passing tourists. Luckily for us the two drivers we had thought it was equally ridiculous and let us on for free.
Traralgon was pretty quiet on a Sunday so we didn’t hang around too long. The main area has all the facilities you would want and a very helpful Tourist Information office, staffed by friendly volunteers, that was open on the weekends. We got some advice on the roads ahead and the Gippsland Rail Trail. Despite the fact that the trail would keep us off the main roads, there was a heat wave coming and the potential for bushfires in the area. Slow moving bicycles and fast moving fires are not a happy mix so we decided to opt for the highway.
We’d planned it out to get as far as Stratford the next day (71km), rather than stop in Sale (52km). We would then take a rest day and try and escape the worst of the really hot weather the next day. It would also leave us with a shorter trip to Bairnsdale and a short hop to Lakes Entrance where we could wait for the cool change coming in before tackling the hills of East Gippsland.
The road to Stratford was good with an excellent shoulder most of the way. We stopped off for a coffee in Rosedale as the heat started to build. By the time we got to Stratford we were pretty parched. There’s a poll right next door to the caravan park that gives complimentary entry to visitors staying at the park. We gave it a miss as it was totally overflowing with rug rats having swimming lessons, opting for a visit to the local pub instead.
The following day the thermometer peaked out at about 42 degrees Celsius. We were very happy we’d planned ahead and stayed put. We would’ve gotten fried on the road.
We were up at first light the next morning and made it to Bairnsdale just after 10am. Despite the early arrival the temperature was already soaring. We headed straight to a local café for coke spiders and a big tub of refreshing fruit salad. The Mitchell Gardens Caravan Park also has a pool and we wasted no time in having a dip after pitching up on a really lovely shady pitch.
Unfortunately we couldn’t get such an early start the next day. A shop owner had already warned us to lock things up securely which gave us a bit of a sense of unease. When we spotted two locals giving the bikes (locked to a tree) a bit more of a once over than we were comfortable with we promptly asked to have them locked in the Park Managers shed which we couldn’t access til 8am.
Despite the late start we were in Lakes Entrance in pretty good time. We had frozen our water bottles the night before which was an awesome idea and made the ride bearable. It was only 38km but that was more than enough as the temperature soared andwe climbed the big hill before the descent to the ocean. The lady in the Golden Terrace Caravan Park was so sorry for us she gave us an old air-conditioned cabin for the price of an unshaded tent site. Bonus. We stripped off and spent a good hour just getting our core temperature down. After refreshing showers we headed into town for a cold beer. The town is extremely spread out and obviously survives on the tourist business with a bit of fishing. About 90% of the town was holiday accommodation and all of it was pretty much booked out. There’s loads of cafes, dozens of takeaways, a very nice pub and a couple of clubs to keep you fed and watered and the supermarket is well stocked for those who want to self cater.
Thankfully the cool change was expected in two days time, along with southerly winds that would help push us up the hills to Orbost.
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