Visiting : Mt Skene, Lazarini Spur
Distance : ~105km ride
When : Saturday 21st February 2015, early @ Jamieson

Continuing the theme of slacker rides with seemingly more driving than riding, I decided to check out a climb that I’ve been hearing about for years now but have somehow managed to dodge despite multiple invitations to ride it – Mt Skene. It was beginning to seem like everyone had climbed this mountain except me so I put together a loop out of Jamieson that would put me near the top of the mountain, amongst the most scenic views, right around sunrise. Even a muppet with an iPhone would be hard pressed to take a bad shot up there at that time of day, surely?

A slacker ride is a “day ride” that gets me home in plenty of time for dinner. Making this ride fit those criteria necessitated an early start so I rolled out in the Camry about midnight. It was a quick and uneventful run to Jamieson – only a few roos and rabbits on the side of the road, none of them inclined to teach me about compassion on such a warm and pleasant night. A quick transition at Jamieson and I was rolling on two wheels about 2:40am. Making good time already, nice.

The first section of Jamieson-Licola Road was unreal, mostly because of the sky. It was… incredible. Such a huge black sky full of so many clear stars and a broad streak of Milky Way. I stopped and turned off my helmet light multiple times to appreciate the stellar view. I even took a bunch of photos to try to capture the awesomeness but, of course, none of them turned out. Guess you had to be there.

I’ve been following a couple of ISS astronauts on twitter recently and it was blowing my mind thinking that I was looking up towards them and they might be looking down towards me. Amazing views in both directions, to be sure. The ISS is visible to the naked eye if you know when and where to look – I really need to work a mountain-top ISS spotting into one of these rides.

Anyway, the road started going up and I got down to business. It was a warm, humid night with no wind so pretty soon I was sweating buckets. I took off my shirt and went bare-chested. I was mildly spewing that I couldn’t take off my helmet too but my only light was attached to it.

Up, up I rode, slowly grinding through the night.

There were plenty of noises from the darkness on either side of the road but the first section of the climb was dominated by silent creatures – moths and bats. So many little moths flying around, I’m surprised I didn’t inhale any. And, silently swooping around eating the moths, tiny little microbats. Again and again the little bats would buzz in and out of the cone of my helmet light, swooping close past my head. So cool. Apparently some microbats can eat three quarters of their bodyweight in insects per night.

Moths, bats, sweat and dust.

It was dark so there were no views to distract the eye away from the task at hand. Just climb and climb. Crashing noises of mammals in the bushes, the constant chirping, whistling drone of a million unseen insects, maybe the hard black silhouette of a ridge cutting across the starry sky and tires slowly crunching over gravel.

I slowed a little as the pitch of the road levelled off a bit. Hm, sounds like running water. Where’s it coming from? Oh, it’s the spring! Ha!

I knew there was a spring three quarters of the way up the mountain and I was relying on it to fill my bottles. This spring took the form of a concrete tank being filled by a noisy little trickle from a plastic pipe. In the darkness, lit from my helmet light, I found it a very Ringu springu. The inside of the tank was full of algae and wrigglers – it took a couple of goes to get a clean bottle of water from it. I took some photos, ate, put my shirt on, looked around and noticed that the darkness of the night was ever so slightly being chased away by morning.

Almost directly across from the spring was the start of Snake Edwards Divide Track. I wasn’t going down that track but it gets a mention because I love the name. Snake Edwards. Part of me really wants to know the story behind the name but another part of me doesn’t want to ruin the image I have in my head of this total (and totally imaginary) badass, alpine bushy from the 1800’s. Snake Edwards. Legend of the Upper Jamieson and Historical Mad Dog.

So, on I rode, still climbing, as the day started dawning. I was reasonably high up by now and the views that started appearing were amazing. Pinks, blues, oranges, the horizon was lighting up with colour. I began stopping regularly to take photos, most of which didn’t turn out. Every corner revealed a new view that I tried and failed to capture. The higher I went, the further I could see and the lighter the sky became. I was in a frenzy, racing up the hill to the next view, dropping my bike in the middle of the road and taking a million underexposed photos before racing further up the hill to the next view again.

At one such stop, a large owl flew down and landed on a tree branch up above me. It checked me out while I clumsily pawed at my iPhone trying to capture it on film. It was still too dark for photos like this so I just stopped and looked back at the owl as it looked down at me, occasionally bobbing its head and cocking its big shiny eyes at me. When it finally took off down the road and into the trees there was barely a whisper. Impressive for such a big bird.

Further up the hill I raced, giggling and gibbering to myself as each corner revealed new and exciting vistas.

I got plenty of shots of the mountains I recognised, especially the ones to the east and north. Mt Terrible in the middle distance and Mt Torbreck looming behind it. Scanning east and south from Mt Terrible there was the hump of Corn Hill (not the Buller one) followed shortly by Mt Matlock and Baw Baw way in the distance.

I got the iconic Mt Skene shot of the dirt road winding away into the distance – Andy’s version of that shot from years ago had me drooling and dreaming and thinking “Wow, I’d love to ride up there one day. THAT’S the fkn place to be!” I was giggling like a schoolgirl, loving that I’d finally made it up there, that place I’d seen photos of all those years ago, that I’d heard so much about from friends in recent times, that I’d dreamed of riding to for so long.

On I rode, a giggling mess, it was so beautiful. March flies swarmed whenever I stopped, but they only went for my shoes for some reason (black colour? leather?). Rolling along the flatter plains near the summit I startled a herd of grazing cows. Ha! Did not expect that.

When I reached the sign at the highest point on the road the sun was up but still very low in the sky.

The timing worked out great and I was exactly where and when I wanted to be.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Well, it was all downhill from there. But that’s not a bad thing. A couple of km down Jam-Lic Road and I reached the turnoff to Lazarini Spur Track. I was keen to see this track as I’d heard of it in various places over the years. It started off nice and rainforesty, a gentle downhill grade that reminded me of the back of Donna. Then it went steeply up for a few km. Then steeply down. Then steeply up and down in quick succession. Then it shot down like a fkn madman. Must have been 30% downhill in some parts, 4wd’d to bits, huge ruts, loose shale, stopping at every water bar to pick a line and let the brakes cool down. It was mostly rideable though – I only walked down one short section that I couldn’t see a safe line through. Good fun.

Slowly I picked my way down the spur and finally bottomed out at the first river crossing. Nice. The sun was hot by now and I did not mind at all that I had to take my shoes off and wade through the cool water.

I hung out for a bit, dangling my bare feet in the water. Could have stayed there for hours but the road beckoned. Shoes and socks back on, back on the bike, two hundred metres later, the second river crossing.

Still not complaining.

One last section of contouring around a spur and finally I reached the main road. Well, as “main” a road as Mansfield-Woods Point Road can be. It’s a dirt road but very wide and very well used, with little towns and about a million little campgrounds all along it as it follows the Goulburn River down the valley. All downhill with a very gentle grade but, for the first time since leaving Jamieson the night before, there was traffic. Fast, bogan, tourist traffic. And the road, though ridiculously wide, was corrugated to hell, so I ended up using the full width of the road sometimes just to try to escape the killer washboard that would stop you dead in two bike lengths if you hit it wrong. And the dust from the passing cars! Bejesus!

Ok, so it wasn’t that bad. I’d been spoiled on this ride and that’s for sure. Yes, this last section was dusty and hot and there were cars but I was still in a beautiful part of the world and thankful for it.

Those last miles went quickly and, soon enough, I rolled into Jamieson to complete the loop. But not before ducking down to the river to dunk my head and soak my feet a spell.

Ride done. I loaded up the Camry and hit up the Jamieson store where I bought a bunch of vittles for the drive home including the worst coffee I’ve ever tasted and one truly terrible PC. Thanks anyway, Jamieson!

And on that note, I wound down the windows, cranked up my stay-awake-for-the-drive-home mix and tore arse out of town in a cloud of dust and sweat, punishing that old Camry in the heat and screaming along to Minor Threat and thinking how fukn cool it is to go places and ride bikes.

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