This is the 3rd time we have taken people away to Gippsland for one of our Weekend Escapes…..

…and it just keeps getting better.

While this is now not a new road for me or the few people who joined us for a second year, it is still quiet, beautiful and challenging.

We only saw one other rider across the two days and very few cars. It is just a joy to ride on empty roads.

Friday kicked off with a progressive graze on the antipasti as people arrived, and before a dinner of very fine homemade spaghettini with zucchini. I had eaten this particular dish a couple of times when we were on the Amalfi coast and have been trying to perfect it for the last 18 months.

This carbo loaded dish was followed by a fresh fig tart, which was so good I could have knocked off the whole thing on my own.

With everyone now wined, dined and relaxed, it wasn’t long before everyone retired for the evening in preparation for the big day to follow.

There is something quite nice about the stillness in the country; no ambient noise from your neighbours, traffic or the tram, and then there is the darkness of the nights’ sky and the brightness of the stars, that you tend to forget about in the city.

After a calm, quiet night, we were greeted to a still morning.

It was an early start to get the coffees going and prepare breakfast for our scheduled departure at 8.

We set off and I think that nearly the biggest challenge of the weekend was the freshly graded stretch of gravel just out the front of our accommodation. The hard packed track had become 3km’s of soft sand, and the loss of traction made the going slow from the start.

Once we were back on the tarmac, we started our climbing for a few k’s before a beautiful flowing 6k descent. A sharp left and we started our progress along the tiny back roads, which kept getting smaller until we hit our next section of gravel.

This was a windy, undulating 12 kilometre section that took us through some quintessential Australian bush. It’s interesting how “quick” it can feel to travel along a road that you have ridden before, as it felt as if this stretch was over in a flash.

The last part of this gravel section was all downhill, which meant that as we turned off the dirt and got back on to the bitumen, we started the main part of our climb for the day. This went on for a while before another beautiful descent which turned into Red Hill Road and the continual climb up to Mount Tassie, and then along to Balook for a prosciutto panino for lunch. The weather in Balook can change in an instant and we needed to wrap up quickly as the weather turned and we started to feel the cold.

As we descended from Balook through the spectacular rainforest of the Tarra-Bulga National Park, we started to warm up again as we hit the valley floor and hugged the Tarra river, heading in the direction of Yarram.

The wind gods were looking out for us. As we hit the open flat lands, we had a strong breeze over our shoulder before turning into a nice cross tail wind for the trip home. Making it back to our digs after a long day in the elements, it wasn’t long before the rehydration program started on the grass, out of the wind.

We had decided that the theme for dinner was going to be Tuscan, and the heroes of the night were to be some 900gram dry aged Bistecca Fiorentina’s that were shared between two and and paired with a delicious Frescobaldi Chianti Classico.

But before this was to land on our plates, we needed to get the charcoal underway. This always turns out to be like a little bonding ceremony.  

So while we waited for the charcoal to get to the correct state, we had another sensational homemade antipasti, that included zucchini sott’ olio, some of our own home made salami, ricotta and spinach tart, olives, and tomatoes.

Once the bistecca was served, it was accompanied with a traditional Tuscan bean salad, roast potatoes with rosemary and garlic, and some sautéed rainbow chard. I am starting to salivate just thinking about how good it all was.

To conclude a great day of riding and eating, we all had a Vanilla bean Panacotta with a strawberry jus, and a glass of a chianti based digestive that we had picked up on our last trip to Italy. Thus was another perfect day.

A not so lazy Sunday….

We had an earlier start on the Sunday, and after a couple of coffees, freshly squeezed OJ and some scrambled eggs with basil and parmesan, we were all set for our 80k jaunt through the rain forest and Grand Ridge road.

We started with a beautiful morning, descending down another amazingly quite road. We turned a couple of times and it wasn’t long before the wind picked up and was driving straight into us as we headed in the direction of the rain forest and the protection of the tall trees. As I climbed out of the National Park, I stopped to take a few photos and marvel at the tranquility and beauty that we were lucky enough to ride through.

Once out of the rain forest, it started to get cold and then I would say ‘gently rain’ except for the strong winds. We were fortunate enough that they were now on the back of our shoulder and we were heading in the right direction. We were onto our 2nd last section of gravel, which was a fast section along the ridge line of Grand ridge road.

We were off the dirt and onto another back road with a flowing descent, left turn and our last climb for the weekend. With some new found enthusiasm, we all got up the hill quickly and all that remained was a fast 6k descent, and a final couple of kilometres on gravel..

I reflected as I had a hot shower to get some warmth back in my body that this has been another great ride with everything thrown in, stillness and warmth, wind and cold, open and flat land, condensed and steep forest.…..and some really good people to ride it with.

We all wandered down to the restaurant for our final Sunday Lunch, which was shared tasting plates, that included soft shell crab, homemade pates, home cured olives and other regional produce. This was capped of with a superb, duck and beetroot risotto, a Peroni red and a macchiato before goodbyes were said….and the trip back to reality began.

It’s always such a great experience to share a weekend escape with a fantastic group of people, but we say it each year, this weekend in Gippsland seems to be really special. There’s so many things that go in to making it special but there’s no doubt, the ‘away from it all’ feeling that seems to be easily achieved in that part of the world, is just what’s needed after a big start to the year.

Until next time.Rai