Gippsland was on high alert this weekend – and we’re not talking gale-force winds or the opening of Wonthaggi Plaza (which saw traffic congestion at 8am today).
No, it was the 29th RACV Great Victorian Bike Ride.
The ride is an annual event that moves around the state, with cyclists spending eight days in the saddle. The 2012 route went from Lakes Entrance in the far east to finish at Philip Island, a total of 591km. So I scrubbed up the bike and joined for the idyllic stretch from Inverloch through Cape Paterson to Dayleston.
There were roughly 4000 cyclists on the road, with 350 volunteers and 150 support staff, from medics on motorbikes to marshals on foot, bike mechanics on call and WAMRBYs (We Are Right Behind You), super-fit cyclists trouble-shooting in the pack, fixing bikes and calling the sag wagon, which relieves weary riders of their bikes, to whisk them off to camp for some R&R.
The stats men tell me there were 40 semitrailers lugging showers, loos and the 3000 tents that were put up each night (though you can opt for the motel option), not to mention the food: we’re talking 30,000 bananas, 12,500 apples, 1800 kg of rice and 40,000 bread rolls. No surprise when you saw the school groups go past. There were the nice girls of Geelong Grammar (extremely well trained and terribly obedient, to the road marshals’ delight), groups from the high schools from the cycling-mad Mornington peninsula, even a team from an inner-city Melbourne primary and a bunch of Western Desert kids from Wiltja, a part of Woodville High School in Adelaide. There were kids riding tandem behind their dads, even a few in little wagons behind their cycling parents.
That’s not to say it’s a children’s affair. There were plenty of MAMLs (Middle-Aged Men in Lycra) and I spotted a police bike squad. The speed freaks were reputed to have left shortly after dawn each day, finishing the day’s course by 11am, with plenty of time to shoot espressos and discover Gippsland’s villages, such as pretty Mirboo North and seaside San Remo. There was another gang who stopped for two pots in each pub, and stat-trackers bent on beating their personal bests. The oldest rider clocked in at 85 years, the youngest at 15 months.
The day I joined was sunny and bright, with a headwind. Naturally, it was the first wind the riders had encountered the entire journey. But no complaints; the pack had cycled on the day it hit 39 degrees in Melbourne, yet hundreds had been carted off in the sag wagon while turning blue from the cold as they crossed the Grand Ridge.
A medic told me the key is to pack for all weathers – not just shorts and light jerseys, but arm warmers, wet-weather jackets and boot socks are key essentials.
The ride has been going 29 years. Next year, the 30th ride will go the classic route, 610 km along the Great Ocean Road, through the Otways, past the Twelve Apostles, and along Lorne, Torquay and the iconic Bells Beach, starting from Mt Gambier in South Australia to finish in Geelong. They’ve capped the riders at 6000, which will sell out quickly when tickets are on sale in May 2013.
If you don’t have a week free, you can do the 3 Day RACV Great Vic Getaway from Gellibrand to Geelong or the 1 Day RACV Great Vic Community Ride from Torquay to Geelong.
The RACV Great Victorian Bike Ride 2013
Saturday 23 November – Sunday 1 December 2013
Ride Facts: · Entries open in May 2013 (limited to 5000 9 day, 800 3 day and 200 1 day tickets)
· The nine-day ride is a fully catered, tent-based holiday. There is extensive back up including luggage transport, a licensed cafe under canvas, massage, full medical team, and bicycle repair facilities.
More information: greatvic.com.au
Discover the Way of the Panda in Adelaide, go gorilla-tastic in Africa, or hitch a ride on a camel in Broome in this week’s best international and domestic travel deals.
time for Tasmania’s hills and mountains. Yes, you can camp, but it’s so much
nicer to fall into a hot tub after a day trekking the highlands. Cradle
Mountain Chateau is knocking its rates almost in half until December 20, quote
booking code ‘PT004’. Normally from $105 a person, costs from $65 a person. 1800
420 155 www.puretasmania.com.au
year-long calendar of events, with indigenous cultural explorations, art
exhibitions and sporting face-offs, canberra100.com.au. Stay at the 4½-star Pavilion on
Northbourne in a deluxe room with the
big buffet brekky, and save up to $286 a night. Valid for stays until February
2013, quote ‘Canberra Sale Special’. Costs from $140 a night. 1300 88 7979, wotif.com/hotelW6953.
in Broome? Soak up that golden WA sun on Cable Beach and save up to 30 per cent
off your room at the 4.5-star Oaks Cable Beach Sanctuary, curled around a
lagoon-style swimming pool. Book by November 30 for travel until April 30,
2013. Costs from $139 a night for two in a studio room or stay five and save 40
per cent, from $595 for five nights. 1300 888 180, zuji.com.au.
Adelaide Zoo’s two pandas are one of the city’s great drawcards for kids and
adults, set in eight hectares of botanic gardens. The zoo is a pleasant walk
(ok, five minutes in a cab) to BreakFree Adelaide, in Hindley St, which is offering
the fourth night free for families who stay three nights in a two-bed apartment
until March 27, 2013. On top of that, stay before January 18, 2013, get a
two-for-one Gray Line Barossa Valley tour. Costs from $615 for three nights. 132 007, breakfree.com.au.
slip in a sneaky getaway: take San Remo,
for example. Just over an hour south of Melbourne, the sleepy town is
the gateway for Phillip Island, and the place for fish and chips on empty,
windswept beaches, visiting tiny cellar doors and shopping the weekend produce
markets. Stay two nights, get 10 per cent off, or stay three or more and get 20
per cent off at Silverwater Resort on stays until December 20 quote code
‘Santa12’. Costs from $278 a room, for two nights. 1800 033 403,
Gangagang’s ‘Sounds of Then (This is
of course Icehouse’s ‘Great Southern Land’ – you come over all patriotic when
you’re crossing our country’s Red Centre.
Save up to $611pp on The Ghan, travelling from Adelaide
to Darwin or vice versa. Book before December 24 for travel until March 31,
2013. Was $2116, costs from $1505 a person, Gold Service, and was $3210, now
$2259 a person, Platinum Service. 13 21 47, greatsouthernrail.com.au.
|The Dipan Resort Villa & Spa, Seminyak, Bali|
Bali’s hip and beating heart, with the best boutiques, bars, spas and
restaurants on the island. Stay in The Dipan Resort Villa and Spa, a
22-suite hotel in the pinnacle of Seminyak hip, Petitenget, for half the price,
but still get breakfast, wi-fi and a welcome massage. Stay four night and get a
dinner in the resort restaurant as well. Book now for travel until July 3,
2013. Costs from $130 a night in a hotel room, or $241 a night in a one-bedroom
villa. 1300 85 95 65, cantikbalivillas.com.
|Flamingoes on Lake Nakuru, Kenya.|
when they’re with two adults on an eight-day Kenya Highlights package. Each
couple can have one child under 12, who stays in the same accommodation and the
deal includes all meals and sightseeing. Highlights include meeting the Maasai
and the masses of flamingos on Lake Nakuru. Costs from $1895 a person, twin share.
1300 195 873, benchinternational.com.au.
snow-capped volcanos before you, is there any more beautiful place in the world
than the Andes? This nine-day tour by road bike starts and ends in Santiago and
covers 2100km, travelling south into Patagonia, where you cross the Andes to
Argentina and beautiful Bariloche. Compass Expeditions is offering US$800 off
for the rider and $400 for co-riders. Tour departs 28 December, 2012. Includes
bike hire, fuel and 10 nights’ accommodation. Costs from $3490, $2190 for
pillion. 1300 887 327, compassexpeditions.com.
the continent’s most spectacular scenery, including Masai Mara, Victoria Falls
and Tanzania’s Lake Manyara and the Serengeti. There’s mountain gorilla
trekking in Rwanda, game drives, a boma dining experience beneath the
stars. Travel Associates is offering one free return economy flight with South
African Airways when two people book together. Book by December 31 for travel
on May 31, 2013, includes all internal flights and up to eight game park
drives. Costs from $16595 a person, twin share. 1800 044 066, travel-associates.com.au
kayaking, and the new West Coast Sweden: Bohuslän Archipelago journey with
Southern Sea Ventures is a girl’s or boy’s own adventure writ large. The
itinerary includes beach camping and stays in snug lodges, paddling through
thousands of granite islands while observed by seals and seagulls. You’ll be
led by Swedish seakayaker Ulrika Larsson, who started her paddling career in
the Stockholm archipelago and has paddled the Swedish coastline solo. The
10-day trip includes eight days’ kayaking, and has a moderate grading, so some
paddling experience is necessary, and it helps if you’ve seen the inside of a
tent before. Departs August 25, 2013 from Gothenburg, in southern Sweden, and
includes all kayaking equipment. Costs from $2250 a person. (02) 8901 3287, southernseaventures.com.
|Candi Kuning temple at Lake Bratan, Tabanan. Photo: Getty Images|
“It would normally take about 15 minutes to drive from Tanah Lot to the hotel, but we allow about 45 minutes,” he says, as we lurch, teeth crunching, into yet another crater.
|Fighting cocks ready for action.|
|Nata at Pura Timan Agung|