Australia / New Zealand, Trip Reports » Australian Great Dividing Trail

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Hey Tigers

This was my first bikepacking trip though I have done some minimal onroad bikepacking before I even knew to call it bikepacking and never involved dirt.

So on the 28th December in the hottest part of the year me and a mate rode the Great Dividing Trail from Ballarat to Bendigo a total of 200km in 2 days staying at Mt Franklin (the location not the bottled water). The Great Dividing Trail follows the old goldfields and logging area of the 1800 and early 1900s so you see some pretty cool histoic sites along the way.

I was lucky in that my partner in crime had previous completed the Ballarat-Castlemaine section and had it tracked in his GPS. The trail is never far from civilisation with the trail evenly split up into 3 section

Bikes and gear for the epic

Ballarat-(Daylesford)-Castlemaine-Bendigo of approximatley 60-70kms each. Perfect for a first time bikepacking. The trail is very well marked though you will still need maps which can be bought for $9 each.  Most intersections are marked and there are often reminder markers between

intersections.  If you get to the next intersection and there is no marker you have probably gone the wrong way.

Bikes and gear for the epic
Personal setup

Personal setup

We left Melb on the first train to Ballarat and headed towards Daylesford which is separated into two sections split up with some aspahlt at the halfway point. The first section consists of some sections of ST near Salty Creek and St George Lake and large sections of Rough Fire Trail through Creswick State Forest. Decided to skip Cresswick which was a mistake cos I ran out of water in the Wombat State Forest.  The trail markers are a little dodgy here with one sign at the Koala park hidden by a fallen branch and after crossing Jackass Rd the trail appears to continue as single track but actually veers off here

The Wombat section was consisted of bout half-half ST (pretty rough and not well used with lots of downed logs) and FT, a bit of disused rail trail. I decided to grab some water at Sailors Spring which was dry and took my chances with some untreated stream water with some chlorine. The last section into Dylesford is heavily overgrown through a green valley so take it careful, lots of hidden booby traps

Had lunch at Daylesford Lake with a swim which was very welcome. We bought some dinner to cook at Mt Franklin (which has ‘washing water” which turned out to be rainwater {stupid!}) and a six back of cider to drink after a hard day. The problem is that MTBers are not allowed/unsuitable to use the trail between Daylesford and Hepburn Springs so some back road touring is need and where we got lost for the first time! (thanks Juddy) Be careful even with a GPS we took a wrong turn and didnt check it again till we had climbed a large hill ridden down and up one massive rollercoster type valley and found a fence line blocking our way to the highway. Not what you want with dinner, full water containers and ciders on your back, so we decided to take the safe route and head back the way we came to get the right route rather than risk it. The bypass is in Keiran Ryans “Off-Road Cycling Adventures book”

Dinner, a cider and fire what more could you want

Dinner, a cider and fire what more could you want

Bike from the access rd of Mt Franklin

Bike from the access rd of Mt Franklin

Mt Franklin was a very nice place to stay (apart from the cityslickers who need a generator, satelite dish and RV to camp. It is a old volcanic crater which a bunch of decidious trees, some toilet and wood BBQ that we scavenged wood for by pushing over a 15m tall dead gum. Had a dinner of cous cous, bean and tuna and went to bed in my 10C sleeping bag (sans tent) and froze all night. Seems that it is a little cool for me and too small. Realised that night after looking at my HRM that I burned around 7000 Cal and didn’t go near eating even half of that, so the next day made a concious effort to eat alot more! We were now more than halfway through our trip.

Slept in till 9am the next day due to the craters tall walls, tried and then couldn’t be bothered climbing to the top of Franklin then headed off. Had lunch at Vaughan Springs and had a killer awesome descent into Castlemaine following an old gold water race. Very fast and heaps of fun. Grabbed some Subway and realised we would need to push it to make the last train at Bendigo. This was when we realised that juddys tube was popping out a scratched sidewall (note take a spare tyre cos my front tyre was also grazed but not critical) so we replaced it and headed off on the hardest part of the trip in 35C weather and some killer hills. The section trhough Castlemaine Digging was a little annoying with some killer steep ascents and descents in full sun.

We had decided to avoid Mt Alexander on the advice from http://worldwiderichmond.typepad.com/wombat_forest_trails/2009/05/lenaganook-trail-western-bypass.html We decided to head to the Freeway and then to Harcourt before hooking onto the bypass as recommended except the freeway had a cyclone fence which necessiated lifting our bike up onto a retaining wall and crossing the freeway. We hooked up to the flat and well maintained Coliban Water Channel service road as we slipstreamed the rest of the way (including riding through one of the channel tunnel which is a engineering feat for back in the day though you need lights) to make the last train we cut our trip short and popped into Kangeroo Flat to get the train, a sock shower( like a sponge bath but with a sock) some KFC and then a free (no train conductor) trip back to Melb on the train.

Juddy Manboobies sweat

Juddy Manboobies sweat

Learnings

  • Have a better understanding of how much water I use and how often and when to fill up (nb this doesnt work for my camel mate Juddy)
  • Have a basic GPS onhand just in case and recheck your route 5 min down the trail just to make sure.
  • Setup the suspension based on the extra weight and a fatigued rider
  • get as much weight off my back (it was KILLING me 3 days later) will prob get a seat post rack and use a medium sized hydration backpack
  • Rehydrate even after the ride (I spuued the next day)
  • I will do a seperate review of my gear which I will upload soon
  • While the ride is doable in two days, three would make it much more fun and would mean you could hammer the hills and MTB sections a bit more rather than just slogging it
  • dont sleep in and try and avoid the heat of the day
  • take more regular eat breaks

Comments (13)

SlimJanuary 11th, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Cool trip! That’s pretty warm, is there another time of year that is cooler or does it get wet then?

thelankymanx2January 11th, 2010 at 11:15 pm

The best time is Spring cos it is still green from the winter rains, though Autumn is also good. It is a pretty dry part of the country so if it does rain it would still be rideable as it would just soak straight into the ground. Summer is bad cos of the heat, risk of bushfires and total fire bans. Winter is a little cool with frosts.

MattJanuary 16th, 2010 at 12:56 am

Cool route! Thanks for the report. You have inspired me to give it a go.

Steve BennettFebruary 1st, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Nice writeup – so cool to see bits of Victoria on this site :)

I did Ballarat-Castlemaine last year, so a couple of comments/questions:
– we got lost somewhere on firetrail maybe 20ks out of Ballarat. No problems for you? We didn’t have GPS back then…Weird thing was we asked a couple of old bushie types if they knew where the track was. Their response “we’ve lived here for 20 years, I’ve never heard of it”. Of course we found it 100m away from where they were standing.
– we did stop at Creswick, it’s well located and provisioned for lunch…
– the asphalt bit is such a bummer, doesn’t seem to have bothered you though
– at hepburn springs we misunderstood the signs and road the “forbidden” section. It’s pretty good mtb’ing (very rough, skinny, all the good stuff), pity it’s off-limits.
– even before I read your comment I was thinking 2 days is way too short for all that distance. we did 2 days just for ballarat-castlemaine! and even then the first day was pretty long.

FYI, there are also some pretty good sections from Daylesford-Bacchus Marsh (via Blackwood), and they’re in the process of adding another section, Blackwood-Macedon, which will incorporate the Wombat MTB track, and make another train access.

Oh, I’d also agree about time of year. I’ve ridden bits of Castlemaine-Daylesford 3 times, once in summer, once in winter, and once in early spring. Avoid summer at all costs, it’s just way too hot, and serious risk of bushfire (certain death). It definitely gets chilly in winter, but I find that preferable.

Also worth pointing out there are lots of nice places to stay at all the major points if you don’t feel like carrying camping gear (or in my case, if you don’t know any bikepacking people…)

jasonMarch 5th, 2010 at 6:12 am

hey great write up, have always had that gear prob aswell seat post etc… i saw these freeload racks in a mag about a month ago….and i would say it would be ideal for you, i have had mine for a couple of weeks now and has been great for carrying gear i noticed some pics from the nz kiwi brevet riders using them too in NZ…think u can only buy them online at the mo http://www.freeload.co.nz but were great to work with and couldnt do without it now….anyways just a idea, its always a tough call on gear etc…
awesome write up, i must give it a go sometime!\, im over there next summer so might look into it then!
cheers

thelankymanx2March 23rd, 2010 at 11:09 pm

I checked out the Freeload systems and it would be good though the cable routing on my bike doesnt support it. I could run full outers I guess. They have unfortunately sold out. I think next time I might do it the other way. Maybe do it on the SS too, though there are some big hills there
I am planning on hitting up the NZ brevet this year. Heard about it a little late last year.
Check out the forum, there is a Vic trails sections for like minded people

Chris OConnorMarch 30th, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Great post – looking forward to see/hear about your next BikePacking…

jasonApril 10th, 2010 at 2:08 am

sounds good … yeh i think the freeloads are selling preddy quick i emailed them a few weeks back said they were getn more stock in mid april and are in shops soon after…will be getting one for my front aswell suspension…u should defo hit the kiwi brevet…sounds like a great ride!http://kiwibrevet.blogspot.com/ bit on it here…preddy epic! …will check the forum on the vic trails, cheers!

KennyJune 12th, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Great to see another report on this track. The GDT tracks that you rode are now collectively known as The Godlfields Track and further info is available at http://www.goldfieldstrack.com.au The accessibility of the GT by train is something we are promoting so it was neat to see yet more riders making use of it.

Also, my blog you referred to re the Mt Alexander byapss is now at a different location viz. http://digbig.com/5bbbyg I’ll place a link to your report unless I hear otherwise.

thelankymanx2June 13th, 2011 at 3:43 am

It was a pretty simple process using the train though getting back at peak hour presented some awkwardness getting into commuter carriages with MTBs.

Me and the same mate redid the ride from Castlemaine to Ballarat a few months ago and was disappointed with the amount of awesome single trail that has now been banned to cyclist recently. As we basically saw no one all trip we still rode the closed trails carefully and was disappointed that the MTBers couldnt use them. I understand the difficulties with land managers etc but I am unsure if I would ride it again if I obeyed the new no MTB section rules.

I have email the ‘powers that be’ with my comments just need to get back to them again after their comments

Al

jase recruitingAugust 6th, 2012 at 10:03 pm

I’m glad I found post I’m interested with,

Caloundra Bookkeeping ServiceAugust 7th, 2012 at 12:37 am

A wife must understand husband’s vices. They must have one or two vices according to what I have read in an article. I admired the passion being showed here. A worth keeping experience.

Chris O'ConnorDecember 8th, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Looking to do a similar trail+camp in early 2014 – the Mt.Franklin camping spot looks ideal – and well placed (along the map/route)… Looking into gear/tent/etc at the moment – thanks again for the ride report !

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