Rail Trail Walk
By Jenny Gregory.
(See also Fortnightly News Update of 12/4/2013)
We could surely write a few more verses of Lucky Starr’s song “I’ve Been Everywhere” after our Rail Trail walks in Victoria’s lovely Kiewa Valley region in April. Tangambalanga, Kergunyah, Yackandandah, Mudgegonga – all previously unfamiliar place names which will now be part of some wonderful memories for the T’ai Chi Rail Trail walkers. I was delighted to be able to join Sue Allen, Elizabeth Halfnights and John Monk and walk nearly 100k on sections of the Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail each day of our six day stay. Well, truth to tell, Elizabeth and Sue walked each day (anything up to 18k per day!) and I surprised myself by completing more than 50k altogether– with two rest days when I meandered around Myrtleford or Yackandandah with Elizabeth’s sister Dot. On those days my walking consisted of popping in and out of shops, museums and coffee stops, and included taking in the Anzac Day Ceremony in Myrtleford, a very nicely done and truly community commemoration.
As the name suggests, the trails were previously railway lines, disused now and re-made as walking and cycling paths. You can read more about these trails at http://www.railtrails.org.au.
Rest assured, there was nothing Spartan about this excursion. We stayed in a farmstay house in the abovementioned rural village of Kergunyah, very comfortable with every needed convenience – except that there was virtually zero mobile phone or internet service, a jaw-dropping discovery for the techno-dependents among us. Each morning we were up early for a good breakfast and organising of the backpacks with drinks and snacks for the day’s walk, and while the wonderful misty sunrises were a bonus the the early hour did exacerbate my natural tendency to sulk before making up my mind on how to proceed for the day. I don’t think John was appreciating the mist, the sunrise or the Korean tyre makers on the morning he had to change a flat 50 metres from the gate of the farmhouse either!
Each day we drove through the beautiful valleys and mountains in the region to the starting point selected for the day’s walk. The roads approaching every town and village in the area are lined with exotic trees designed for a brilliant autumn showing and this year, as has been the case here in Canberra too, the autumn colours were outstanding. The cameras worked overtime, and the sunsets as we drove back home in the late afternoons were stunning as only autumn sunsets can be.
The trails variously took us through bush country and farmlands, beside creeks and into the many small towns along the way and we could not have asked for better weather. Those early morning mists cleared to mostly cool and slightly overcast mornings – perfect for walking in open country – and our leisurely afternoons were generally sunny and quite warm.
The aim was to complete the walks by early afternoon, and by that time we were well and truly ready for a restorative lunch. John, our planning and transport officer extraordinaire, ensured that we were gathered together and delivered to one of the area’s many good food options – the Milawa Cheese Factory, the Beechworth Bakery, the Alpine Gate Café in Myrtleford – where we partook of some delicious and necessary calories.
On the last day we resolutely ignored the programmed ambitious plan for walking and began the day with a relaxing second breakfast of great coffee and the most enormous slabs of raisin toast I have ever seen at a sunny little outdoor café in Porepunkah (oops, another verse for the “Everywhere” song!). We shortened the planned walk, left the rail trail proper after a few kilometres and followed the canyon walk into Bright. A lovely riverside park at the edge of town was the perfect spot to wind down with a half hour of T’ai Chi before we lined up for lunch at the Blackbird Café. The afternoon was spent wandering about the town, the rail museum, and the many little crafty touristy shops. From all this it would probably be true to say that we ended the week a little fitter but most definitely not slimmer than we started.
The memories of those very enjoyable days will stay with me for a long time – the hilarious Scrabble and Dictionary games, the views from the mountains overlooking Myrtleford and Bright, sitting in the grass at the side of the trail eating lemon and lime shortbread biscuits, the alpacas living next door, and best of all the opportunity to spend a week in the company of good friends.