38 Degrees on the Aussie rail trail
by Bill Loch, posted 5 October 2017
Contact JRtB on twitter @justridethebike
Australia is on a lot of people’s destination wish list: so why not ride the bike when you’re there? Bill and Jennie Loch did just that on the M2M trail in Victoria.
Unless you’ve got a few years to spare you’re not going to see much of Australia by bike. But after a few days in the car touring Victoria’s high country, we were ready to feel the pedals under our feet and the wind in our hair.
Our hotel was close to Wangaratta, or Wang as it’s known locally - a pleasant and prosperous little town and twice winner of Australia’s leading rural city.
In the centre we found Rock and Road, a well-stocked and friendly bike shop with a good range of Trek and Giant hybrids for hire. We arranged to pick up a couple of them later in the week and went off to find out more about the Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail (the M2M).
The M2M is part of Australia’s growing network of rail lines converted into cycling and walking paths. It offers over 100km of paved paths with the main route running pretty much parallel to the Great Alpine Road from Wangaratta near the Murray River to Bright in the high country. Branch lines connect to other popular spots like Beechworth, of Ned Kelly fame, and Malawa, north-east Victoria’s ‘gourmet’ region, which has a fine collection of speciality food shops.
The M2M looks like it offers a few days of good riding – or maybe a weeks’ touring. We got ourselves a route map and started to look forward to the ride – that was until the weather intervened. Never in our long and varied cycling life have we had to cancel or curtail a ride because of the heat – but we have now.
It was 30 degrees when we got up, 34 when we picked up the bikes and 38 by the time we had completed the first ten miles. It was very pleasant riding, but boy was it hot. The trail winds its way through Wangaratta’s tidy suburbs and then turns south to run through open bush country towards the mountains.
And it’s well set-up with a reasonably smooth surface, clear signs and regular covered stops with water fountains, a seat and a bit of shade.
We pushed on for another couple of miles, but it was only 12.30 and the Mercury was still rising. We had planned a 30 plus mile loop via Everton and Milawa back to ‘Wang’ but that was now becoming a bit fanciful. Reluctantly, we turned round, and with the benefit of a gentle downhill gradient we were soon back in Wang enjoying several long drinks.
The next day we drove on up the Great Alpine Road to Bright and caught regular glimpses of the trail – and with temperatures back in the high twenties there were many more people out enjoying its smooth surface, gentle gradients and stunning views.
If you are heading down under and fancy a few days of relaxed pedalling, you could do a lot worse than the Murray to the Mountains.
Bill and Jennie Loch
Murray to the Mountains – part of Australia’s rail trail network – and one of the regular shelters on the trail