Plain Sailing

23&24/3/16. We had been warned that many campsites were likely to be full over the Easter weekend and when we tried to book a couple on the route that we had been intending to take by the coast we found this to be the case. So it was time to develop a Plan B!

By sticking closer to the highway, we found places for Thursday to Sunday nights that still took us towards Phillip Island where we hope to see the penguins which come on shore each evening. Our first target was Sale which was about 75 km away which was much further than we had been going but we were by now out of the hills and onto the Gippsland plain.

We made good time along quiet roads with the only major excitement being two trucks with wide loads coming the other way, the wide loads being buildings, or parts thereof. The second one had pulled into the side of the road so that the men could fasten the covering tarpaulin down (although it did beg the question how weatherproof was the building if a tarpaulin was needed!)

We also saw only the fifth touring cyclist since Sydney but,since he studiously avoided our gaze, we didn’t get to have a chat!

While stopped at a farmgate buying tomatoes to go with our lunch we chatted with the lady running the stall and she suggested that we head for Stratford rather than Sale and then we could pick up a rail trail to Traralgon. As we hadn’t booked anywhere to stay in Sale and Stratford had a campsite we followed the suggestion.

Arriving in Stratford we found that it is situated on the River Avon and that it has a theatre. However, we were unable to locate Anne Hathaway’s cottage! Instead we made for the campsite was in a nice situation on the river.

The next morning we joined the Gippsland Plains Rail Trail right outside the site and, after crossing the river on a bridge shared with our old friend, the Prince’s Highway, we headed off along a sound gravel surface, better than that of the previous trail we had taken a few days earlier. We were soon in Maffra, a bustling place where Stephen stopped to top up his caffeine level while Christine pressed on. Just outside the town we passed a fruit bat colony which was extremely noisy. We couldn’t work out if they are nocturnal (because there was an enormous number apparently roosting in the tree) or if they are “day animals” (as they all seemed to be awake and some were flying).

The countryside was increasingly pastoral with many herds of cows. However, there were also many flies. While we were riding they weren’t a bother but swarms of them hitched a ride on our backs and as soon as we stopped took flight and buzzed around our faces. This continued for most of the day making us reluctant to stop for lunch until at last we spied a small cafe in which we could hide while eating.

All this time we had been on the trail and the surface was good. Surprisingly we saw no other cyclists until just before the end and very few pedestrians. The one disappointment with the trail (other than the flies) was that it ended a km or so outside Traralgon and dumped us onto quite a busy road even though there was space to continue it all the way to the junction with the highway.

There was a further disappointment in store for us when we discovered that the campsite was 5 km outside town and the most direct way was along the highway which rapidly became a motorway so we had to go on a more circuitous route. Christine was not a happy bunny!

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