There have been difficult calls to make over the past couple of months and this was always going to be one of the harder ones. Trying to be brave I had decided not to take too much notice of the bleak forecast and announce that “we would be riding today, no matter what the conditions are”. Now, with the clock rapidly approaching 12 noon, as I looked out my office window to a leaden sky and drenching rain, I was beginning to doubt my sanity.
We had already had several apologies for this afternoon’s ride, and with the appalling conditions that we now faced, it would have been very easy (and eminently sensible) to just cancel the ride. I decided to ring Peter and see what he was thinking of doing. “I’ll ride if you’re riding”, he somewhat ambiguously replied. This put me on the spot. “Well I suppose we just go then”, I announced with rather less enthusiasm than usual.
Thirty minutes later I had loaded the bike onto the car (in drenching rain), packed the boot (in drenching rain), changed into my riding gear (in drenching rain) and was heading to Woori Yallock. At least I could see in my rear vision mirror that Peter was not far behind me.
When we arrived at Woori Yallock the weather had not improved. In fact it had grown even worse. The rain was now sleeting down and the temperature had dropped to only 8C. With Peter looking at me for guidance, I made the brave call “Let’s head off to Warburton”. At that the two of us ignored the conditions and made our way to the mountains.
In spite of the rain we surprisingly made good progress and managed to arrive at Warburton a little earlier than usual. As I was not feeling particularly competitive in the poor conditions I allowed Peter to arrive a few seconds ahead of me. Our early arrival gave us extra time to huddle together in the coffee shop and gape at the torrent flowing down the Yarra. I suspect that this is the greatest flow we have seen since we started riding this trail over two years ago. As we enjoyed our cappuccinos our eyes were drawn up to the brooding silhouette of Donna Buang.
“I bet there’s snow up there today”, I said. “Look’s cold”, Peter replied. “I wonder if we would have time to get up there this afternoon?, I pondered. “Only one way to find out”, Peter added. A few minutes later we were both back on the road again, this time heading up the (very steep) incline towards Donna Buang. Although we could have both been excused for suffering from a terminal case of insanity, we did (slowly) make our way towards the summit.
Although the temperature at Warburton had only been about 8 or 9C, it did not take long for us to realise that it was rapidly getting much colder. Fortunately for us, the intense effort of the climb was broken by the thrill of seeing, not one, but about SIX magnificent lyrebirds along the way. Unlike cyclists, I don’t think that lyrebirds are an endangered species after all.
By the time we were getting close to the top I suspect we were both getting a little delirious. At the first sign of snow we both shouted “Look at that – it’s SNOW !” And indeed it was snow – lot’s of it – piled deep beside the road, filling the gullies, making the surface slippery and full of treachery. I was reassured by the fact that Peter and I remained locked side by side all the way up the hill. Aparently his massive legs were not much of a help to him in these frosty conditions.
When we reached the final car park at the top we noticed only two cars had made it that far. We stomped around in our lycras and wet cycling shoes, feeling rather silly (and VERY cold), while we chatted to a guy sitting warmly inside his car. Although I had the faithful red rattler with me, he did not seem to believe that we actually ride our bikes up this mountain EVERY year.
With the hour rapidly advancing we immediately set off on the downward leg at a very careful rate. Every bend seemed to hold the hidden threat of a terrifying slip off the road and into the frozen void. I am not so sure that it really is any easier going downhill, but at least it does require less effort.
Finally back down the mountain at Warburton, Peter and I decided to make our own ways back to Emerald. It had been another eventful Thursday, even if we had forsaken our bikes and done the whole trip in the safety and warmth of our cars! Sometimes discretion really is the better part of valour – we didn’t even get dirty or wet.