Review: GABCY South East – Victoria and Luke 2

In May 2022, Victoria and Luke rode 2 loops starting from Murchison. Total distance about 15o km over 2 days. Routes were Waranga Whirl and Kirwans Rushy Whroote.

Day 1 – Waranga Whirl

We left Melbourne on the 9.16am Murchison East-bound train, keenly aware that with our arrival time of 11.40am we would need to ride harder than our usual meandering pace to make the 70-odd km loop planned before we ran out of light.

Quickly getting ourselves organised, we rolled out of Murchison – there were nice shared paths next to the main roads, so we were able to easily get to the back gravel roads without having to dodge traffic. Only a short ride in, we hit the dirt roads and the absolute quiet of farmland. It was flat as anything, and we were absolutely flying with very little effort.

The road quality was great, despite them being damp, and the small puddles were relatively easy to avoid. We shared our experience with cows and horses staring at us from paddocks, and multitudes of galahs and cockatoos screeching as they flitted from tree to tree in front of us.

Before we knew it, we hit Tatura, and hadn’t seen a single car until we were on the edge of it. It had just started to spit, and it was perfect timing for grabbing a warming cup of coffee and find somewhere dry to eat the leftover lunch we had brought with us.

Before heading out, we popped on our jackets and rain covers, and zig-zagged through the small town to see the water tower art on the main road.

After turning off the main road, we were quickly back on gravel roads and packed pink clay.

The surfaces were great, but the small hills were starting.

We raced down the downhill runups, and powered up the rises.

Our normally grippy tyres slipping in the piles of cow manure at driveway crossings.

Arriving at Waranga Shores was a good time to pause and eat the delicious chocolate chip cookie and creaming soda we picked up in Tatura while gazing out over the reservoir.

The day was getting long in the tooth, so we pushed on, knowing we were about three-quarters of the way through our day.

A few roads and channel crossings later, and we came to the unfinished Murchison-Rushworth Rail Trail. From here, there was 8km of trail back to Murchison – the only part of the planned trail that has actually been finished.

The first bit of gravel was actually deeper and harder going than any of the dirt roads we’d been on that day, but it quickly got better and we were rolling quickly toward Murchison alongside the main road, with the crossing of canals interspersed with groves of bright yellow autumn trees.

We had planned to stop at the Caledonian Hotel for an early dinner (it was about 4.30pm at this stage), but they were unfortunately shut up tight – surprising for a Saturday in a small town… So we went on to the takeaway, planning to grab a burger. Unfortunately, also, they were planning to close up at 5, and so could only offer fish and chips. Given we were starving, and there was little other option, we went for this. The fish was actually delicious and moist, the batter crisp, so we were happy with the result.

While we were eating our dinner, a message came in from our Airbnb host to say that a fire had been lit, and the unit would be warm and cosy for us when we arrived. With sunset not too far away, we took this as a signal to take a speedy 5 km run down one of the main roads leading toward Nagambie, to our host for the evening Ethereal Pastures Farmstay.

Although we didn’t get the opportunity to meet Sammy, her homebaked lemon and coconut cake and provisions for a hearty breakfast were welcomed.

A cosy night in front of the fire, with kookaburras and cockatoos the only sound around, was exactly what was needed.

Day 2 – Kirwans Rushy Whroote

We woke to the sound of birds, and made ourselves a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast, orange juice, and coffee with the provisions that Sammy had left us. There were also a multitude of different cereals, spreads, and fruit cups on offer for if we had wanted something different. The grass outside was dewy, and the air frosty, so we packed on all our layers, repacked our bikes (including more of the homebaked lemon cake), and headed out onto our Day 2 route.

The gravel started only around the corner from our accommodation, so we felt quickly on our way into the quiet country roads of the day. Not far along the first road, the ironbark trees of Rushworth State Forest began, and we saw our first kangaroo! Another turn and we were heading past a farm with HUGE emus, 2 of them racing along the paddock beside us, curious about what these strange beings on wheels were.

However, this was only a brief glimpse at the forest for now, as we turned off onto the backgrounds (and then a short time on the main road) towards Kirwans Bridge. Even the main road was relatively quiet, and the cars all gave us plenty of room.

The oldest surviving wooden trestle bridge in Victoria, Kirwans Bridge spans a beautiful stretch of water, with gorgeous views. However, be warned, the gaps between the wooden planks are wide, so you should not try to cycle it, no matter how wide your tyres are – even walking across it with your bike can be a hassle!

Although the bridge is narrow and one-way, there is a bay to allow passing traffic, so if you’re quick and choose your time right, you can pull into the bay and get some photos and soak in the view before heading on.

Photos taken, we headed back onto the road, quickly turning back onto the gravel back roads toward Rushworth State Forest. After passing more farms, and beautiful fields of yellow flowers, we turned back into the beautiful ironbark forest, with rolling hills and deep silence whenever we stopped.

We started coming across a few detectorists, clearly looking for remnants of gold and the old settlements, and the occasional camping ground with a smattering of caravans. Most of the time we had free reign of the dirt roads, but we were definitely aware of the need to keep an ear out for approaching four-wheel-drives, as they weren’t going particularly slowly through this area.

We did, however, resolve to come back this way again – there were a large number of turn-offs to smaller, rougher tracks, and plenty of camping grounds which could provide days of entertainment.

Eventually we reached the turn-off for the Whroo Cemetery, a small historic cemetery near the old goldrush towns. The history of the area is fascinating, and well worth a stop by and reading the information boards and the headstones of people who came from all over the world to seek their fortune.

After soaking in the sombre but beautiful atmosphere, we headed onto Rushworth, keen for some lunch. The roads to Rushworth were somewhat hilly, but the granny gears and some swearing under the breath took care of them!

Keep a lookout on the main road, as there are a few points of interest and information boards on the way.

Before we expected, we popped over the top of the hill and out onto the main road of Rushworth – a cute old mining town, with lots of beautiful heritage-rated buildings. I had done some reading on the buildings before our trip – one particular fact that had amused me was about the Shire Hall. It seems that on the day the founding stone was laid in 1869, some opportunistic larrikin stole the damn thing, and it has never been recovered. I can just imagine it in some local family garage, hidden in a box, hoping for it never to be found….


We cruised the main street to find a number of good-looking options for lunch. We chose Gus & Ollie’s as it had a cute courtyard at the side we could wheel the bikes into. We tucked into delicious sandwiches and coffee, and took some time to rest our legs for the second half of the day.

Heading out of Rushworth, we meandered along the piddly 2km of rail trail at that end, and then turned onto the backroads to head back into bushy farmland. This area was actually far quieter than Rushworth State Forest had been, so although it was less dense in bush, it was a nicer and more peaceful ride. This section was also much hillier, and being the end of the day, we had to take a few more breaks to recover. The downhills were heaps of fun though!

Soon enough, we popped back out onto the Murchison Rail Trail, and knew we only had 8km back to Murchison, in plenty of time before the train. We sped along the trail since we had already seen this bit the day before, and then stopped at the same takeaway to grab a cold drink and a bar of chocolate for a job well done. We reached the train station with plenty of time to spare, and had a restful journey back to Melbourne, watching the light fade away while reading and reflecting on our excellent weekend.


For more ride reports from the GABCY Network see – Ride Reports


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