From Dargo the 2016 Hunt1000 route goes up Billy Goat Bluff. There were souvineer badges in the Dargo general store with the slogan “I survived Billy Goat Bluff” and a drawing of a 4WD on a very steep track. For cyclists it is a 7km, 1,100m push up the rough rocky track. Our set up is not race light and we were happy to look at an alternative route to the south.
From our riverside camp we took a paved road for 20km then turned off on the Freestone Creek road. It was a single lane dirt road that climbed leisurely to a saddle before a stunning smooth, curvaceous downhill to the creek. We followed alongside the creek to the Blue Pool we had been told about in Dargo. For the size of the river it was an impressively large water feature and good for a swim. From there we emerged onto the farming plains and a great cafe at Briagolong. Next stop was 20km along to the Newry hotel popular with the locals for the Saturday night meal out and our last 10km took us to a beautiful camp on the shores of Lake Glenmaggie. The day had well exceeded our expectations.
The second day of the work around was up the paved road to Licola and so back on route. It was a quiet country road through some nice forest and farmland and landed us at Licola (pop. 2). It is an old forestry town and now owned by the Lions Club. There is a summer camp facility and a regular campground with small store. No pub, no mains electricity and no cell reception but situated on a beautiful river and very peaceful. We met 2 Slovenian bike packers, Suzana and Renato riding a similar route to ours and also on a relaxed schedule.
We rented a cabin for 2 nights in Licola – a short ride, bike cleaning and reading filling in the day between nicely.
Day 12 of riding started with a 1000m climb through thick mist which gave way to blue skies at 1100m, followed by scenic undulations (all 700m of them) along a ridge before a steep descent to Woods Point (pop. 28) and still no cell reception. It has a hotel and the cell tower is built but not yet functioning. Woods Point is an old gold mining town struggling to reinvent itself in the 21 Century.
We left Woods Point early for the long ride to Warburton. After an initial climb we undulated our way along a gravel forestry road with bad corrugations. It was the first section of recently logged country we had passed through in the trip. We were teased by a section of paved road but then faced 31 more km of dusty gravel and the occasional
dust generating logging trucks speeding past. The Reefton hotel was a welcome sight for a late lunch and the Warburton campground was a nice enough spot to spend the night.
Our last day on the trail (biking day 14, plus 3 rest days) followed the Warburton-Lilydale rail trail to a hearty cafe breakfast to fuel us for the climb over the Dandenong range. This was followed by a combination of trails that led us through the city. We broke out onto some city roads to finish our Hunt970 (30km short of 1000!)to a warm welcome at my sisters place in the leafy suburb of Hawthorne. Job done!