Visiting : Noojee, Toorongo Falls, Toorongo Road, Newlands Road
Distance : 90km
When : Monday 11th December 2017, 7:00am @ Noojee
I’d read about Newlands Road up near Baw Baw a while ago and it sounded like a top place to visit. When I dug deeper and started reading about a possible hike/bike linkup between Newlands Road and the Australian Alps Walking Track, there was only one thing to do – get out there and see for myself.
This story starts on a different website. If you haven’t been to theultralighthiker.com go there now. Steve’s website is a treasure trove of information and has been the inspiration for more than one of my rides, this one included.
The way Steve writes about Newlands Road, I just had to go see it for myself. It’s a dead end for wheeled vehicles but he does mention the old track that connects Newlands Road up to the Australian Alps Walking Track. From there, it would be not that far (on foot, with bike on your back) down to Thomson Valley Road from which you could loop back to Noojee in any number of ways.
Time to get out there and see what it looked like on the ground.
I rolled out of Noojee nice and early and headed up Toorongo Valley on paved road. What a beautiful place. Sunny, cool, quiet, so… so, well, bucolic. I love riding up a valley and getting further and further in, upstream, it’s a journey. And something to see at the top of this one – Toorongo Falls.
When I got to the end of Toorongo Valley Road, I stashed my bike and started hiking. This was an exploration mission so I chose my singlespeed which has flat pedals – better to hike with normal shoes rather than cleats.
The short hike up to the falls was great. So lush.
Track was easy going and I even ran some of it.
I was not only keen to see the falls but I had a lot more exploring to do that day so I wanted to waste no time getting up to my destination.
Toorongo Falls did not disappoint. It’s a beautiful spot. Be a great one to take the kids to.
The quick trot back down from the falls was fun and made me think I should get back into trail running. Back on the bike and then up out of the valley in the most direct way – Fawcett Track. Meh, it was about 2km of mostly hike-a-bike around 20%-ish. I knew it was coming so it didn’t bother me too much. Views were getting good.
Looking back down.
Reached the gate at the top in good spirits.
Hike-a-bike can be a rude shock when you’re not expecting it but, if you know it’s coming, it’s just another part of the ride. Headspace is everything.
And now I’d gained Ridge Road. Not very imaginative name but the slowly improving views across to Mt Toorongo were top.
Ridge Road is a great sustained climb. A little rough in places, a little steep in places but I’ve never regretted riding it. This time I didn’t climb it all the way to the top – thought I’d check out Mundic Road for a change.
And it was well worth it. Mundic is a nice road and I was well committed to riding along it when I came across signs saying there was logging work going on ahead and the road was closed. Like, flat-out closed.
That fucks up my plan.
I dunno. I thought I was in a good headspace generally but maybe it wasn’t as solid as I thought it was. I didn’t want to turn around and backtrack all the way back to Ridge Road. Really didn’t want to do that.
So I kept going. Could hear machinery getting louder as I got closer. Suddenly came up on the logging crew working right on the side of the road, heavy machinery, lots of vehicles. Just kept on riding right past them. They saw me, kept working. Well, they would have had to stop what they were doing, climb down from their machines and get into a ute or something and chase me down, at which point I’d be on the other side of their work area anyway so…
I dunno. Not something I’d normally do. Much as I have mixed feelings about logging in places I like to ride, I usually obey the signs and stay out of their way. Just wasn’t going to happen this time though.
Toorongo Road was a gravel superhighway as usual. I stopped to check out a few little clearings and camp spots just off the road. Exploration mission.
Soon enough I was at the start of Block 10 Road.
There’s a gate at the start of Newlands Road which means no more traffic beyond this point, not that I’d really seen any up to this point anyway. Love a weekday ride – means I don’t have to share as much.
Um, one thing I couldn’t help but notice though, was the multiple pieces of dirty womens underwear and bathers hung up in trees and scattered around on the ground.
What the hell? That’s creepy.
Was it just bogan campers dumping their filthy laundry after having a drunken time in the mud? Were they drying their clothes while waiting to get picked up by their friends at the trailhead and accidentally forgot them? Did they all get the squirts from drinking untreated water and decided to abandon their shat-on undies?
Bloody hell, it was pretty poor form whatever happened. You pack it in, you pack it out – no excuses!
And despite this sign…
…there were clearly many established informal camping spots that had been used pretty regularly. Which is why they put the sign there I guess.
Well, it was hard to stay grumpy when the road looked like this :
I had a wander down some little side tracks and found some beautiful big boggy clearings. Turns out they’re the Baw Baw Montane Fens.
This is up near the source of the Thomson River. In fact, this is the Thomson River :
Hard to believe this little creek becomes Thomson Reservoir, Melbourne’s largest water catchment reservoir (by far) which provides drinking water and even hydro-electric power for Melbourne.
This water flows through Thomson Reservoir, across to Upper Yarra Reservoir and then over to Silvan Reservoir where it eventually becomes drinking water for the suburbs of Melbourne.
I rode on along brilliant green doubletrack.
Found more abandoned bathers.
More fens and little dams.
And an entrance to the underworld.
But mainly more and more gorgeous green doubletrack.
And finally, what’s this? A sign?
That’ll be “(Australian) Alps Walking Track, 3km”. The start of the track I’d read about! Nice. So let’s see how hard it would be to haul a bike up there – it’s only 3km, how much trouble could it possibly be?
“A lot”, is the answer. It would be a lot of trouble.
The track was overgrown, barely discernible (by me) and I didn’t even entertain the idea of trying to follow it. Too indistinct, too overgrown, too slow, too snakey, too everything. Not one for me to tackle by myself without gaiters and a machete.
Ok, lesson learned. The connection up to the AAWT exists for sure but it’s not a walk in the park.
(Having said that, who’s to say someone won’t come and clear it a little and attract some traffic to it? Probably worth a re-visit once in a while…)
I pushed on past the AAWT link track and arrived at Frangipani Saddle, a beautiful grassy clearing where I had a good sit down and some food and water.
How’s the serenity?
After a nice rest I had a wander on foot. There was a grassy trail on the other side of the clearing that needed investigation. Seemed to be very road-like, almost flat-graded.
At the time I thought it might be an aqueduct, maybe? Now I think it might be an old tramway, possibly? There was a lot of old school logging in here and I know there were old logging tramways in the area. I honestly don’t know what it was but the ferns down there were fair exploding out of the ground.
The whole place was over-the-top emerald green. So nice.
Unfortunately, all good reveries must come to an end. I walked back to my bike and started rolling back out the way I’d come in. It was mostly downhill so I didn’t stop for photos on the way back but I did happen to notice one thing on Newlands Road that made me hit the brakes and take a look :
Ha! So I’m not the only person to think it’s a good idea to bring a bike up here. Hm, but why did they leave a perfectly good brake pad on the ground? They would have needed that, surely?
Maybe it was left accidentally by some mad-dog bike tourers on a crazy multi-week ride through the Victorian High Country riding fully-loaded 10 speeds in Dunlop Volleys?
Or maybe it was just junk left by some dickhead campers who parked their fourby at the gate, used a shitter MTB to ferry stuff back and forward between vehicle and campsite and then shot everything up on the last day before they left – shoot the empty tinnies, shoot the empty bbq gas cans, shoot the trees, shoot the throw-away old MTB, fuck it all, spin the bags on the way out and leave a billowing cloud of dust to slowly settle down onto the grass as the bush swallows the echo of their vehicle and the sunlight dries the shit-stained bathers hanging from the trees, ants and mozzies quietly, slowly exploring the trash and screeching cockies once again the loudest thing in the bush.
I took Toorongo Road and Ridge Road on the way down.
No time for photos.
Just rolling downhill and thinking about my next ride.