OK, we have a weekend with no commitments
…so LET’S RIDE!!
This ride takes you to the western Victorian town, which is where the Kelpie breed of canine originated. It is about 475 km in length, and takes in a variety of landscapes, from grass plains to twisty mountain roads.
An online map of the route may be found at this link: https://www.myrouteapp.com/en/social/route/4494127?mode=share
STAGE 1 – DEER PARK TO BUNINYONG.
We started off at the BP Service Station located at the intersection of Westwood Drive and Ballarat Road in Deer Park, Victoria. From there, we travelled a short distance up the Western Freeway to the Hopkins Road turn off, and then turned right onto Greigs Road, which took us through Rockbank and to the south of Melton and Bacchus Marsh.
We continued along Glenmore Road, near the Bacchus Marsh Airfield. The road through here and onto the Glenmore Valley is usually lightly trafficked – and wends its way through the valley until you get to the steep, twisty and badly surfaced climb out of the valley at Yaloak Vale.
At the top of the valley, there is an area to pull over and view the scenery – as well as the attendant wind farm.
From the top of the valley, we travel towards Ballan – turning left onto Mt. Egerton Road. This road is a “pearler” – travelling through hills, farmland and sweepers until you get to the small village of Mt. Egerton – a gold mining town – and head to Buninyong, where a coffee stop is needed by now. A couple of places that provide decent food and coffee are:
From Buninyong, we head north and west, through minor roads that cut through the farmland and rolling hills towards the small village of Snake Valley. Snake Valley was allegedly named because a miner found snakes in a mine shaft that he was sinking!
The Snake Valley Hotel provides delicious meals and is a wonderful place to spend the afternoon, having a contemplative drink in their beer garden. Accommodation is also available.
But, on we go. The roads from here to our next stop at Ararat sweep through the western grass plains – affording a spacious, relaxing view. There are no towns to speak of, and usually very little traffic.
After about 100km, the regional city of Ararat hoves into view, providing refreshment for both bike and rider. There are a couple of bakeries that provide OK coffee and comestibles – and a very good cafe in Foragers Cafe.
STAGE TWO – ARARAT TO CASTERTON
The most entertaining part of the ride starts from Ararat. The brooding presence of the Grampians looms over the town – and we head directly for them, on the Ararat-Halls Gap Rd. (C222) through Moyston and into the holiday town of Halls Gap, which is at the foot of the Grampians.
Follow the C222, which is now known as the Mt. Victory Road – up and over the Grampians. An idea of what the road is like may be viewed in the video below.
It is a wonderful road – especially on weekdays, when there is hopefully less tourist traffic. The turn off to Zumsteins and Mackenzie Falls is worthwhile – amazing scenery and vistas into the far distance.
When Mt. Victory Road reaches Wartook, the road straightens out and traverses pasture and cropland. Once again, there are few towns in the area and the roads vary in quality, once you turn off onto the Brimpaen-Laharum Road. Turn right onto the Henty Highway at Brimpaen, and follow it north until you turn left onto Mockinya Road, which leads you onto the left turn onto the Natimuk-Hamilton Road at Toolondo Reservoir.
Continue south, until you reach the town of Balmoral – and turn right onto the Harrow Balmoral Road. This road twists and turns its way through forest and farmland to the small village of Harrow, which is a great place to have a restorative beverage – either at the delightful Hermitage Hotel, or the equally appealing Harrow Post Cafe.
The Cafe offers very good coffee and snacks, whilst the Hotel is worth staying at overnight and sampling their excellent menu and wine list.
From Harrow, it is only 65km or so to Casterton, joining the Casterton-Edenhope Road at Chetwynd. These roads provide an entertaining riding experience, following the hills and valleys of this region. It is a scenic part of Victoria – but do be careful about riding near dawn or dusk, as there are few kangaroos and emus that sometimes seek to end their lives in kamikaze style attacks on passing motor vehicles!
Another thing to watch out is the approach to the hamlet of Wando Vale. There is a crest just before get into town, which blocks your vision of the approaching settlement. No problem, until one fine day when a group of us were inadvertently travelling in excess off the posted speed limit. We zoomed over the crest in cavalier style, only to be greeted by the sight of a Highway Patrol car parked behind the Mechanics Institute. Needless to say, we corrected our errant progress and proceeded past the aforesaid edifice at a steady 97 km/h. I fully expected to see the blue and red flare of emergency vehicle lights in my rear view mirror – visions of fines and demerit point and general suffering and misery – but our guardian angels must be been looking after us, as we passed through without any interface with the guardian of the law.
Casterton, which is our destination, is one of my favourite country towns, Big enough to have the services that one would desire, whilst still retaining its small town style and identity. It is the birthplace of the Kelpie breed of dog, and it has the Australian Kelpie Centre, which is both informative and entertaining.
I have been travelling to and staying in Casterton for over 20 years, and throughout that time have stayed at the Albion Hotel.
This hotel is in the process of being transformed into a “destination’ hotel by its owners.
Previously, it was very much a local, country pub with great hospitality and a menu that included a $25 dinner special – roast of the day, soup and dessert. The menu has been revamped, along with a new, MichelinTriple Hatted chef, who produces Epicurean delights. I had the braised ox cheek, and it was scrumptious! The great hospitality, friendliness and service are still there, and their own gin distillery has been added as well.
This ride is just on 475 km, though a variety of landscapes. It is an easy day ride, mainly avoiding large towns, except for Ararat.