The Mansfield Hotel as seen from the Delatite Hotel.
Up early the next morning, we joined the masses at what must be the only coffee shop open early on sunday mornings. Mansfield is actually a thriving little community, very different to the sleepy fuel stop I remember fiffteen years ago, as we rode our motorcycles down to Phillip Island.
Suitably refuelled, we again headed for The Mountain to have a look at SoneFly. We climbed the mountain in the comfort of the car, with the sky getting ominously darker. As rain drops began to spatter the windscreen I recalled an old Australian saying that is more often applied to Melbourne, but will suffice to describe the whole state of Victoria for me. "If you don't like the weather, wait 15 minutes because it will change"! Even though the forecast was for another 38 degree C scorcher, the actual weather at the top was 14 degrees C and about 100 metres visibility. Not a huge problem in itself, but the rain was making it a little uncomfortable.
We weren't the only ones caught by surprise. Several motorcyclists were hunkered down in a coffee shop waiting for the rain to clear as they had not thought to bring wet weather gear, while revellers from last night's concert were getting about in black garbage bags-cum-rain ponchos.
After looking at the BOM radar site and seeing that the only rain in Victoria was at Mt Buller and was moving quickly through, we decided to wait an hour or so and then head out. After all, we had all day to ride. There was no rush for once.
After about two hours wait the rain had stopped but we were still shrouded in cloud. We decided to gear up and head out for a look
Gang Gangs trail was quite grippy in the wet. Loamy soil and granite rock works well when wet and the tree roots were easily avoidable, so confidence was high of a successful day in the saddle.
That was until we got onto the fire road over toward Howqua Gap. The granite roads and the rain were forming a grinding past that was "white anting" our bikes, even as we pedalled along. With the thought of having no brakes left and being quite a way from the village, we very reluctantly decided to call it on the day and head back to Melbourne and hit up some trail there.
Marcus is no stranger to having to make hard calls. He was on a Mt Everest climb last year when his team had to make a call to turn back from about 25 000ft due to an approaching storm. His group turned back, but another group in the same area decided to press on. One of their team died of exposure. A tough call with all the training and preparation that goes into a summit attempt but it just isn't worth the consequences. Not that today's call was that critical!
So, StoneFly will have to wait for another trip. As we backtracked we came across some more of world trails latest handywork as seen here. Given a few more years, I am sure that more of these link trails will be completed and the uninspiring fire roads will be removed from the mountain bike network.
The seven second sum-up? As it stands, as a cross country rider, I probably wouldn't make a trip to Mt Buller just to ride the trails unless you were planning to spend 4 or 5 days there and soak up the total experience. The location is beautiful, but there are better trails that are much easier to access in other parts of the country if you have limited time and/or budget. My opinion needs to be seen through the prism of us not actually getting to ride Stonefly. Maybe that trail would have rocked our world and changed our perspective. I came here to "bag Buller" and add it to the list of places I have ridden, but feel that I am "bagging Buller" instead......
Plan B for the rest of the day was to drive back to Melbourne and have a look at the You Yangs trails.
When we got back to Melbourne a couple of hours later the temperature was in the mid 30s celcuis and very dry. Good!
The You Yangs themselves are a small range of hills covered in stunted gums. There is no ground cover beneath the canopy which makes the area look very bleak to a Queenslander more accustomed to seeing greenery everywhere.
The trails themselves are bloody good fun though! They are extremely flowy with small technical features to launch off and pump on.
The climbs are very sneaky, as they are flowy as well. You find yourself pushing very hard on the climbs just because you feel like you should be going faster.
We hooked a couple of laps of the western trails before bad light stopped play. We were also about to get wet again with a line of thunderstorms approaching.
We retreated to Marcus's place to recover with pizza and beers and to plan our next interstate mountain biking experience. I have been told that Forrest is the Rotorua of Australia. Fingers crossed for some dry weather......