Unscripted – First half Week 21 – Suggan Buggan to Orbost

11-14 March 2023

Kms: 196

Total Part 2 Kms: 2379

Total Trip Kms: 5627

11 March Suggan Buggan to Wattle Camp – Ngarigo, Bidawal and Gunaikurnai Country – 84 kms

We’re up at 5.50am and packed and riding just after first light. There is a 9 km climb, gaining about 600 metres of elevation, to the top of the Wombargo Plateau this morning. The road is only one-lane wide in some places, so I want to get going before the traffic does. 

The morning is cool again – it’s obvious that summer is slowly ceding its grip. Some years it can be hot right through March, and the temps don’t start to cool until mid-April. But it doesn’t have that feel this year – it feels like we’re already on the temperature decline.

The road immediately starts climbing away from the river, curving up the edge of the hill and rolling up past scattered farmhouses into open forest. As I climb, I really enjoy looking at all of the Snowy River Volcanics and all of the tributaries carved into those old ignimbrites. There were quite a few volcanoes in this area 350-400 mya, and we’ll ride through part of a huge collapsed caldera later on. Climbing legs: on. Geology nerd: on.

You can see the road we have come up to the left in the trees.
Those rocky cliff faces are all volcanic. We are going up and behind that one.

There’s some fog about, and hazy mist rises from the valleys. But as we get higher, we can see those gorgeous views of ridges upon ridges in the distance. We’re way out yonder out here. I count nine ridges deep at one point. 

It is good to do this climb early. The sun is all over the road, and will be until late afternoon, even in early autumn. It would be a hot climb in the late morning or afternoon summer sun. 

That’s our road up there.

I remember this road being a bit scary as a passenger in a vehicle – the road just clings to the edge of the hillside and is very narrow in the second half of the climb. It’s not scary on a bike though if you aren’t afraid of heights. The views are amazing the whole way – it really is a special road. May they never ever seal it. 

You’ve got to put the Barry Way and McKillops Bridge Road on your ride list if you truly want to say you’ve ridden Victoria. Forget the B500 – Great Alpine Road – and do this one instead. Of course, go tour that one, too, if you have time for both. Bright to Hotham or Omeo is iconic and gorgeous. I have done it. BUT, it’s got no shoulder and many cars, caravans and coaches. It is not remote at all. This stuff is so much more fun and a greater test of touring skills. 

There are a couple gaps along the climb – one down in the trees (Ballantyne) and then Hamilton Gap right at the top. But we make it to the top in really good time without seeing a single vehicle. There’s a few steep bits, but nowhere that you need to get off and push. The grade backs off at times, too, to let you get your heart rate back down.

We pass through the gap and drop down to Little River. This is the edge of the Wombargo Plateau, but it has had rivers cutting into for millions of years, so you’ve got a lot of climbing left as you climb the ridges between three more creeks. If you’ve ever ridden the Strathbogies, this will remind you a little bit of there (they both happen to be volcanic plateaus from the mid-Devonian). This plateau is just a bit higher and colder with a bit different vegetation.

Dropping down to Little River at that low point, then climbing over the ridge to the left. If you were going to Benambra, you turn right just past the low point. You can see that road sorta middle left.
Up on the plateau – about to go over that hill ahead.

Once we climb out of Wulgulmerang Creek, we climb into an old collapsed caldera. Okay, so we’re riding over all the rocks that filled the old volcano, and you’d never guess it from the surface geology (unless you were a geologist of course!). But for those in the know, it’s pretty cool riding across the plains knowing you are on top of what was once a very deep hole that sent rocks all over the landscape. The old caldera reaches from just north of Wulgulmerang Station down to about Karoonda Park. 

riding in the old caldera

We get up to the road junction where the road heads south to Buchan (okay, we’ve already been through there three times, so not again) or east toward not a whole lot.  We cross the edge of the plateau with more fantastic views and some very questionable chipseal.

Looking off the edge of the the plateau with fog still in the valleys.
We’ll end up heading a bit past Tubbut today, but at this point in the day, I don’t know where we’ll end.
It’s not entirely true. The house that used to sell fuel has a table out front with honey for sale. That will fuel a cyclist, short term anyway.

We then drop down to Little River Falls where the road goes to dirt and the river drops off the plateau. I stop to take a picture of some cascades before going up to the falls. There is a group of guys just getting out of their two 4WDs. They are camped down at McKillops Bridge but are heading to Buchan for breakfast before some more 4WD fun.

Cascades at Little River

A guy waylays me and has a zillion questions. He absolutely loves what I’m doing and wishes he could, too. He and his wife cycled all over Europe in their 20s when they worked in England for five years. On their cycle tours, they stayed in abandoned farmhouses, etc and just rode completely carefree without any plans. He is 57 now; his wife is 53. They had toured with babies (easy, apparently), but found ages 2-7 were really too hard and the kids too needy in that age range for it to be much fun. Then the kids were never really interested after that.

Now that the kids are grown – the older one is doing a carpentry apprenticeship and the younger is at uni studying business and marketing – he hoped they could go back to some carefree touring in Europe once again. But his wife now wants to stay in accommodation every night and plan out every day of the tour beforehand. So there’s no spontaneity or camping or just going with the flow. 

They just did a six-week tour last Northern Hemisphere summer in Europe (when I was in America). But he felt like it was not really a cycle tour, but a holiday where they happened to be travelling on bicycles between accommodation each day. 

So he is very jealous of me and wonders how some people are so adventurous but others lose that over time. I tell him I don’t know – but I think I’ve actually upped the level of adventure on each tour I’ve done and have got to the point now where I am perfectly comfortable just plopping the tent down by the side of the road when needed. He sighs and says, “Oh I wish I could inject my wife with whatever it is that you’ve got. I really admire what you’re doing’.  Awww, sheesh… I’m just doing what I love!

By the time I finish talking to him, I don’t feel like walking up to the falls, as I’d like to keep moving while it’s early. I have been to the Falls before and would prefer to spend my time at the Gorge overlook to further ponder the volcanic geology.  

From Little River Falls, it’s just three kays to the gorge overlook turn-off. Then it’s 400 metres of lumpy, bumpy and eroded road to the carpark and 400 metres of walking down to the overlook. 

I pull in just after a couple in their early 60s. I head down the walking track really quickly so I don’t get stuck behind them. The guy has a pretty big camera so might be down there for awhile. I end up having the viewing platform to myself. 

This is the deepest gorge in Victoria at over 500 metres deep. With much of the bottom still in shade, you can’t really see the tiny river below except in one place. You can, however, see the different layers of volcanic rocks in the gorge walls from different eruption phases. The immensity of the landscape is awe-inspiring if you do more than just gaze at the view and let your brain try to really comprehend the scale of what has occurred and when. 

Back at the carpark, the wife of the couple has turned back from the track because it got too steep and uneven and she has a dicky knee. But she starts up a conversation. They stayed at Buchan last night. They drove down to McKillops Bridge early this morning before the traffic starts up on the one-lane road. They wanted to check out where they used to camp 30 years ago, before they head back to Buchan and then on to Mallacoota. 

She asks where I’m from and how long I’ve been in Oz. I tell her I grew up in IN and went to uni in CO. She thinks Colorado is so beautiful and knows the head of UC-Boulder’s printing company. She commends me on my ‘courage, fortitude and fitness’ and warns me the road down to the river is very scary, so ‘don’t gawk at the scenery too much’. 

Awww… sheesh. I’m just doing what I love. It’s not “Animal on Parade” today but “inflate Emily’s ego” instead. 

The road stays high, weaving along some really burnt, recovering forest (this area may have burnt several times since 2003). The scent of living white cypress pine wafts through the air mixed with the smell of burnt bush.

Eventually the road drops down to a gap, where the narrow road is visible clinging to the hillside ahead. There’s no traffic coming at the moment – let’s go!

See our road heading down?
I love that the curvy road warning sign is purposely sideways.

This is just a must-do ride – so special for its jaw-dropping views, unique rain shadow ecosystems, the craggy volcanic peaks and that skimpy little road that hugs the edge of the steep slopes as it winds its way down to the Snowy River over 12 kays.

Whee! Whee! Whee! Yippee! It’s not scary on a bike, even though it’s only one-lane wide. You could easily get to the side on the pushbike, but I have no idea how you would get around another vehicle if you were in a car in many places. Someone would have to back up for a bit to one of the slightly wider bits! 

I do remember this being very narrow from when Nigel and I drove it in 2003, but I have complete trust in him as a driver with his heaps of experience, so I don’t remember it being super-scary. I do remember, though, how steep the drop-off seemed and how you had to get right out on that edge if another vehicle came the other direction. 

Down and down we go! This is so gorgeous and so fun!

There are a few kays of climbing right near the end where the river runs right up against the slope and you’ve got to go up a tributary or two. You are just a hundred metres or so above the river here. There is then a nice descent past the main campground (not too many people there surprisingly for a long weekend). 

In this last section, I meet a couple motorbikes and two utes, but this is after the super narrow bits. My early start was a good idea and well-timed to miss the many motorbikes about to head up this road. 

We cross over the massive bridge. Its size looks VERY out-of-place in that remote setting. It is the only bridge over the Snowy River between Orbost and Dalgety. Actually, this is the second bridge. The first one washed away in a flood the day before its opening ceremony. Doh!

Pic from wikipedia commons

I pass a couple more motorcyclists on the bridge, including a guy with an empty sidecar. There are a heap more motorbike guys all parked at the other end. Okay, I have GOT to know where all these guys are going.

So I stop next to a couple guys just sitting on their bikes. The one ugly guy immediately says, “Oh, I bet it’s a thirsty cyclist,” with a condescending tone. So I address the other guy, a very nice-looking guy on a very expensive bike who oozes arrogance and confidence, who knows he is hot stuff. 

I say, “Nah, I’ve got water. I’m just wondering where all of you guys are going? I’ve been seeing a heap of motorbikes the past couple days.”  

Nice-looking, arrogant guy tells me there are about 150-200 of them converging on Native Dog Flat for a rally. (Native Dog Flat is a camping area on the Black Mtn-Benambra Road – we’ve been on either side of that section of road on this trip).  Ah, so that’s where the four motorbike guys at Jacobs were going, as well as the Boomer guy that stopped to chat at Suggan Buggan. It makes sense now.

I ask what they do at such a rally.

The guy replies, “Drink alcohol. Mostly. It’s just a chance for guys with a common interest to get together.”

I reply, “Ah, I see. I thought you might go out for different rides or something. But probably not if you are drinking.”

He says, “Nah. It’s just a bunch of guys camping and drinking.”

He then says, “So what are you doing? Where have you come from?”

I tell him I’ve been out riding around in the mountains since the beginning of January, and I started at Suggan Buggan today.

He replies, “No way. So do you carry everything you need on that bike?”

I say, yes, and then tell him that the handlebar roll is my tent and then show him where I carry food, water and my sleeping bag. 

His eyebrows raise. He then says, “So you have all of your food and water? You are totally self-sufficient? When will you next get food?”

I tell him that I will need to filter some water somewhere today, but I left Jindabyne with 8 days of food and can carry up to 10 without the bike getting too heavy.

His eyes widen with his upraised eyebrows. His arrogant tone is gone. The look in his widened eyes has softened and his shoulders have relaxed. He then asks about other logistics, whether I get scared, and where I’m ending tonight.

After I describe where I’ve been this summer and that no, I don’t get scared, but I also never tell a group of men where I’m camping that night (I actually don’t know where I’ll stop tonight), the guy shakes his head. 

He then says, “Well, FUCK me. Now, THAT is some SERIOUS shit.”

Too bad that wasn’t an invitation. He is now incredibly respectful and talking to me like I’m one of them. I am now motorcycle man material – in fact, I am even better – I’m doing it solo as a chick on a pushbike and the guy is really in awe of my endeavours. 

Awww – sheesh. I’m just doing what I love. If the other two encounters this morning were ego-inflating, this is SUPER ego-inflating.

Motorcycle guy then asks, “So what’s the road like up to the Black Mountain road”?

Yeah, REALLY, REALLY inflate my ego – a hardcore motorbike guy asking ME, simple little cyclist, what the road ahead is like? The other ugly guy butts in and says, “Yeah, we’ve been riding for quite some time and the road’s been rough so far.”

I fill them in on what I know and wish them well, as I get ready to leave. Nice-looking motorbike guy does the same and says, as he shakes his head no again, “ha, you really are the shit”.

I then head over to a nearby picnic area to have lunch and wait out the parade of bikes coming through. There are some more guys over there, but I don’t stop to talk to them. They all look at me and I can tell they are really checking out the bike, but I head down the hill to some picnic tables.

The bikes come and come. After the majority of them seem to have passed, I take back off and start heading the direction they are coming. I could have camped here, but I’d like to get a bit further upstream before I filter water. It’s all going to be questionable, but the further I go, the fewer cows, etc that will have crapped in the water.

The road weaves among the hills. We are out of the national park now, but the hills are still steep and the road still runs narrow in places as it smooshes up against the cliff side. This area feels very remote. It’s also very dry down here in the rain shadow. The combination of the pine trees and exposed rock make me feel like I could be in Colorado.

Eventually, the parade of motorbike guys ceases. Nearly everyone of them has nodded, waved or otherwise acknowledged me, and I’ve done the same in return. Oh man, my timing was good today. The early start meant I didn’t meet all of those guys on the narrow bits.  I’ve been following their tracks to weave in and out of all the sand and corrugations as I’ve headed upstream along the Deddick River. The road has been pretty crap since the bridge, as advised. 

We climb high above the water, looking down through a bush reserve with regrowth trees covering the slopes down to the river. We only occasionally come across cleared land, even though this is all privately owned. I guess the slopes are just too steep in many places.

Looking back

We come up to the old Amboyne suspension bridge after a while. Its pretty warm out, and I do need to filter water at some point. I’m not excited about the options here, but I’m not sure what lies ahead and don’t want to get caught out. 

So I filter five litres and relax on a picnic table for a bit (one litre for cooking tonight, 2 litres to rehydrate and 2 litres for tomorrow). I eat some peanutbutter while I’m looking at the map. A couple come in a 4WD, look at the bridge and scope the place out. They see me, don’t say hello, and then take back off. Maybe they were hoping to camp here. They could have – I’m moving on, even though I don’t know where we’ll end up. 

For a long weekend, I can’t believe how little traffic there has been. Other than the motorbikes, I’ll only see five or six vehicles the entire day which will end up being about 10 hours on the road.

We continue our traverse up the river with steep slopes all around. Some slopes are cleared, some clad in scraggly dry forest. The road is still really corrugated and we vibrate and bump along. Eventually all that roughness starts to wear us out. I am SO glad I’m not on the touring bike over that stuff today. I see one of the informal campsites marked on my map, but it is very sunny and not attractive. So we continue on.

Rural properties use all kinds of things for mailboxes – old microwaves, chemical drums etc. But this road was full of all kinds of old fridges.

We ride through tiny little Tubbut. It’s an old school, community hall and house where you once used to be able to buy petrol. I try the payphone, but it doesn’t work. There is mobile service here, though. That little school, which now shares classes with tiny Bonang further down the road, was considered the most isolated in Victoria until it closed as a full-time school in 2010.

Community Hall.
Primary school.

There are a few more homes strung out along the road as we continue upstream. A few kays out of town we come to the Wattle Camp picnic area. It’s an open grassy area above the river with a picnic table and a fire pit. If you were very determined, you could get down to the river, too, but I’m not keen to jump down the final metre into the water and climb back out. We’ve already filtered our water, so we don’t have to do any gymnastics to source it.

Clouds build as I set out the tent to dry and claim the picnic table for cooking. It’s been a long day, but I’m feeling really proud of my ride and that a hardcore motorbike rider asked ME what the road conditions were like. 

I have good phone service here since I’m not too far from Tubbut, so I ring Nigel. He’s very happy to hear from me and what Jacobs River was like. He’s been anxious to hear about the condition of the area, like it’s one of our loved ones we haven’t seen in too long.

When I tell him about the motorbike guy today, and that I’d talked to other motorbike guys on the two days previous, Nigel laughs and says, “You do know you are going to be the talk of that rally? They’re all going to be saying, did you see that lady on the pushbike”?

Infamous. Absolutely infamous. Hahaha. I don’t want any notoriety. But in my 70s, I want to be known as ‘that old lady activist’ not afraid to put it all on the line and use her final years of life to give back to the planet.

Home for the night.

I only hear one more car go by in the late evening, and then it is gorgeously quiet as a few drops of rain fall. What an awesome day!

12 March – Wattle Camp to Goongerah – Gunaikurnai Country – 40 kms

Yep, that is one very wet tent this morning. I’m still able to do a really early start, even with that long day yesterday. Nothing feels fatigued. Rain is predicted this afternoon, with chances increasing from 11am. This means I’m in two minds about which way to go today. 

I originally thought that we could climb up the Yalmy Road and camp at a campground along that or near the river itself, if my legs would go that far. I’ve got enough food for another few days at least. But that is going to put us back up above 1100 metres. It’s only four degrees down here at the moment, so I don’t really want to go up high in cold conditions if there is rain coming. I don’t like to risk hypothermia if I can help it. AND I rode in cold rain soooooooo many days during Oct, Nov and Dec that I kinda feel like I’ve done enough of that for at least a couple years!

We don’t need to make that decision yet though. We’ve got to get to that road junction first. 

The road continues to be corrugated and scenic. We ride through a narrow and winding gorge-like valley for a little bit with attractive, forested slopes rising up from the foggy river. The road has some tight bends within those tall walls, and with the sun attempting to make it through the fog, it has a misty cathedral-like aura. 

The valley then opens up onto private land with large private pine plantations stretching away and up the steep hills to the southwest. I see a car pic to get for my dad, but there are sounds of snarling dogs coming from behind the sheds. So I don’t stop, but rather pick up the pace instead. I’ve still got dents in my leg from the 2020 dog attack, thanks.

We round a corner and climb away from the creek on some long, steep curves through cleared farmland. I could definitely live here… except in a high-risk fire year. It would be terrifying, and unfortunately frequent enough in coming years that any such thoughts will just remain a dream. 

You can see our road climbing up in that line of trees mid-photo.

It is cool and clammy. I can see my breath. I could use my gloves, but I’m too lazy to stop, rifle through the panniers, find them and put them on. 

The clouds are hanging down low with just the lowest slopes of the ridges visible. Do we really want to go up there today when there will be no views and we’ll be riding in fog?

I come around a corner on a steep uphill, and there’s a wombat in the middle of the road, lying flat and pawing into the ground. It’s still very much alive and looks up at me with quite pitiful eyes. Oh, my heart! 

There is a tiny patch of fresh-ish blood on the road that it has crawled away from and there is a bit of blood near its nostril. Shit, shit, shit. There is absolutely nothing I can do. There is no phone service and no nearby farms nor anyone that would answer their door at 6.30am anyway. 

Oh, I feel so horrible and helpless. It’s like that time the pronghorn, who was in a very bad way, lifted its head and looked at me on the road in Wyoming. I couldn’t do anything that time either, but the road had more traffic, and so many people in WY carry guns, I figured someone would humanely put it down not too much later. But this… oh, it could be hours. And wombats are Nigel and mine’s favourite Australian large marsupial. 

I continue up the road feeling awful. There is more climbing through private land on steep, undulating topography with the tall mountains covered in cloud in the distance. There is sun trying to make its way through behind me, but up ahead it’s just grey.

We eventually get a long, cool descent through grey and green state forest on a super-wide road. This spits us out at the lower end of Bonang – a tiny locality that started with mining and logging. There is a huge shed with a Coke advertisement on it and some petrol bowsers out the front. You used to be able to get fuel and basic supplies here, but it’s been closed long enough that there was a sign way back at the Buchan junction yesterday advising that there is no longer fuel here or at Tubbut. 

As I’m standing there using the phone signal, two guys in a Parks VIC ute stop. They ask if I know where I’m going. They have neither good nor bad words to say about the Yalmy Road when I tell them I’m considering it but worried about getting caught in cold rain. They suggest just camping at Goongerah, as it’s a nice spot and down in the valley. They offer me water, but I’ve got plenty. I tell them about the wombat. I feel a miniscule bit better.

Valley at Bonang

I decide to head on down to Goongerah. We can take the Yalmy Road back this way out of Orbost. It will be harder, with steeper climbs since we’ll be starting from a lower elevation, but I’m sure it’s do-able.

So we start down to Goongerah – hoping we can get the tent set up before the rain comes. I’m cold down here and don’t feel like being on an exposed ridge when the temp is below 10C is what I want to do today. 

So we leave the open valley with its fog wisps and burnt tree-topped ridges behind. We continue our climb up the river with tall tree ferns and a few tall trees to guide us up the gentle climb to the Gap.

We then get a nice, long descent on a mix of chipseal and gravel all the way to the outskirts of Goongerah. We can see all the slopes marked off with bright orange tape and some of the scraping they’ve already done to widen the road. They are in the process of sealing the final 14 kays of road.

Once past Brown Mountain, the fire has come through quite severely. It’s amazing to see just kay after kay of really burnt forest in an area that is wet sclerophyll and rainforest. It’s actually pretty devastating to see.

Goongerah is a tiny little hamlet strung out along the main road. It’s a bit of a hippy sort of place with prayer flags hanging from porches, produce and eggs for sale next to post boxes and chalk drawings on the chipseal. This little spot is also the home of one of the major greenie groups that have been protesting the logging of the rainforest since the early 1980s. Without their work, there would likely be very, very little rainforest left and not enough for the Errinundra National Park to have been established.

The campground is just after the old school, CFA shed and main cluster of homes. It is down a steep hill with a cooking shelter and toilet midway down. It would have been beautiful and shady here in the past. But the 19/20 fires have burnt the big trees and taken away most of the shade. You can see stumps where big, old trees became too hazardous to retain post-fire. 

And, as usual, I’m perplexed by the picnic and fire ring placement they’ve done when fixing up the campground. They are sorta scattered about between sites. But, in practice, no one ever shares, so whomever claims it sorta takes a site and a half. They should put ones in for each site or just some sites – that in between stuff just doesn’t work!

At one time, it would have been nice and green and shady. Not so much now.

There are some nice camping spots over the river, but the fire ring over there is huge, and I’ll be upwind on this side of the river. I’ll leave the prime spots to the people with bigger rigs.

I get everything out to dry and take the guys down to the river to float. While I’m preparing the floaties, Verne takes it upon himself to roll down the rock and into the water. He is such a cheeky turtle, and I have no idea how he rolled without his arms stopping his progress. I do manage to grab him before he floats downstream. It’s cool enough I don’t feel like getting wet in a rescue! 

After the floatie session, I set Verne out to dry while I set up the tent and cook lunch. I’m only a day away from Orbost going this way, so I’m not concerned with rations now. 

Some hippy chicks from a nearby house come to swim with their dingo-looking dog. They don’t stop to chat but do wave hello. Later, a shiny new big-arse campervan comes and… camps directly across the driveway from me. There are tons of other spots… and they had to take that one. And of course they build a smoky campfire with wet wood that they don’t use for cooking or warmth… but just because that is supposedly what you do when you go camping. They then proceed to slide doors open and closed all evening, 15 feet away from my tent. Did I ever tell you how much I hate campgrounds?

And the real kicker is that it never rains more than a few drops! It does rain and thunder a bit up in the hills, but reality definitely did not play out like the forecast.

13 March – Goongerah to Orbost – Gunaikurnai Country – 72 kms

I get a very early start. I wish I had doors I could open and slide closed a billion times. I don’t bother to keep quiet or to keep my headlamp light away from their vehicle windows, though. I really prefer sleeping on the side of the road these days to sleeping in a designated camping area. 

We ride down through more severe burn. It’s downhill to start and then we climb away from the river to Malins. It remains foggy and cloudy. A mist develops as we get past Malins. I had considered taking the Old Bonang Highway, but with the misty rain and lack of views, I don’t bother. 

We roll down through a narrow creek gorge after Malins. This looks more like what you think wet sclerophyll and rain forest would look like – it’s just scorched everywhere else. The surrounds have also been heavily logged, too, so it looks really shit for a long way. Did they salvage log the flora and fauna reserve? It is shocking how bad it looks. There should be rainforest tucked down in here and tall trees climbing the slopes. 

But it is not anything like that – it’s just scorched earth. Pretty devastating really – I don’t know how you could ride up this road and generically say, “oh it’s recovering well”.  There are bits that are recovering, but there’s also a lot that is not recovering at all. 

(I read later that 91 percent of the reserve burnt in one of the hottest, high intensity fires of the 19/20 season and they are not sure if it will recover. It was even considered a National Rainforest Site of Significance before the fires: .  This is also likely the home of the threatened Orbost Spiny Crayfish – but research is so underfunded they don’t really know if it was there beforehand and how the fires impacted it.)

It’s also kinda funny they are sealing the final 14 kays of road back up the top, but some of the road through here is extremely narrow and in terrible condition. You wouldn’t want to share this with log trucks – there’s no room to share – you’d just have to plaster yourself against a slope or hang off over the creek. Thank goodness for the logging injunction for many reasons!

More down and down through valleys and along the edge of them. There are some climbs in there, too, but there is a section less severely burnt that caresses us with greenery among the mist. The traffic is light – there’s maybe 10 cars that pass me all the way into town, and that is even on Orbost Show Day! That’s one of the biggest days on the calendar year in a small town. 

The fog tries to lift but then sweeps back in. It’s not a very nice day. We ride back into severely burnt areas in the last 5-10 kays before we pop out into cleared land on the outskirts of Orbost. There’s a large DELWP shed and a nursery and then the golf course. 

As I’m cruising gently down the slope through the open areas still high above the Snowy River floodplain, I spot a rainbow over town. It’s my Happy Birthday rainbow. The drizzle stops, too.

We ride into town through residential areas – lots of old fibro cottages built in the 1950s and 60s when the timber industry boomed. That was the period that the technology and equipment allowed them to put in roads and really go after the forest in a big way. There used to be 15 sawmills between Orbost and Lakes Entrance. Now, there are only two. 

Of course, consolidation of business always occurs, but really, they just literally cut themselves out of jobs. Based on all the places I’ve been, they’ve just butchered the forest and there are no big trees left for saw logs. That’s part of why they worked the loopholes to continue cutting old growth – there’s just nothing left but little trees for pulp. Should I be sad this industry is coming to a close and they’ve logged yourselves out of jobs? Sorry, not really. It’s been unsustainable for many, many years.

There are heaps and heaps of caravans about – people heading home from the long weekend. I go down to the park, get cleaned up, go to the store to get bananas, chips and salsa, and popcorn. A bit carb heavy, but that’s what I’m craving. I also get degreaser and clean up the bike. 

I relax in the park and call my parents. I always figure this day means a heck of a lot more to my mom than me. I don’t remember it, and I’m not big on traditions and celebrations. It’s my mom that bears the scars of carrying me an extra 5 WEEKS and going through the trauma of an emergency c-section when I went into fetal heart distress and was low on oxygen. She sucked down more oxygen than any woman ever should have to, to ensure I was getting enough. So this is really her day to celebrate that I turned out healthy and with no brain damage. 

Snowy River – not far from dumping in the ocean from here.
Toilet block just for me!

It does turn into a gorgeous day, though it is quite windy. I made a good choice to start super early. But, wow, oh wow, is that ever an autumn sun angle!

14 March – Orbost – Gunaikurnai Country

Orbost is a small town – it’s just one main street about five blocks long. The rest of town is just residential. There is a highway bypass of the town with a couple old motels and a petrol station out there. There’s an RSL Club and Hospital tucked away somewhere, too. There is one café/bakery doing a booming business – the other cafes aren’t as busy. There are two pubs – the top and bottom – on opposite ends of town. Only one is open, and it looks pretty rough. Back one street in the old butter factory is a brewpub open on weekends. There is a park and caravan park along the river. Up in town itself is a swimming pool and skate park. There are also some older council offices where I go to upload a trip update. There is a tiny IGA and a big, nice Foodworks. And that is pretty much town. 

About five blocks of this.
Old butter factory.
Really nice mural at the brewery with a bunch of junk detracting from it.
Top pub
Old service station.
Old gothic church that feels more fire and brimstone than welcoming ‘love of a god’
Snowy River floodplain outside of town. Heading into those mtns again tomorrow

There is a Thai restaurant where I hoped to have a good veggie meal, but they are closed for the long weekend! Bah humbug. The laundromat is open, though, and I head there first thing. It’s $11 to wash with one cycle of drying (20 min – I usually only need 12). That’s a fair bit of cash – I’m used to paying $8 – but I’m very happy to have clean clothes.

I chat to the lady in there doing the commercial loads – folding heaps of towels for the changeover at the nearby school camp. She said the town didn’t really want to open back up after COVID as everyone enjoyed not having to deal with tourists and city people who forgot they weren’t in the city and made unreasonable demands. 

Well, if they don’t embrace tourism, this town is done for. They are very close to the national parks along the coast and in the hinterland, but attitudes like that won’t transition you from a closing industry to something more sustainable. I would hope the forestry industry people will be redeployed to help the trees instead of cut them down, and that there would be increased roadworks, weed spraying and conservation works to ensure the rainforests are more resilient to fire going forward. For the amount of money spent subsidising all the destruction, it seems like we could do a lot of conservation with those funds. But if not, embracing the tourists is your best chance way out here in the middle of nowhere East Gippsland.

I go gather 10 days’ worth of food at the supermarket and then head down to the old motel for a night of luxury. I also want to give all my gear a good charge before the next forest section and escape from the heat – because it’s actually hot down here today!  

Luxury defined: more towels and soap than I know what to do with. For those who see faces…

4 thoughts on “Unscripted – First half Week 21 – Suggan Buggan to Orbost

    • Thanks, Tony. I’m confident in myself so don’t need any more ego! Really, I was just so, so grateful on this trip to be able to really ride again that that was all I needed to feel good about myself 😃

      • Em!

        What a great way to start my day! This looks amazing. You are amazing! You make me want to purchase airline tickets and come with you on a ‘best ‘of bike tour right now. I love your interaction with the motorcycle guy, I guarantee he was thinking of you long after that conversation. I’m so proud of you and feel bad you are back in an office after an amazing trip like this. But I know there will be more.

      • Come on down – I’m free from 30 June and plan to head back out there 🙂 Because, yeah, the office sucks of course! But at least I’m doing something where I feel like I’m helping people and it pays well.

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