Distance 68.53km
Average speed 18.93km/hr
Riding time 3:37:14
Odometer 19884km

The weather is starting to resemble spring time, the excuses for being lazy and not going out on the bike are getting harder to come by — even with the inflammatory anti-cycling attitudes being drummed up in the media — so Jo and I took off for a ride this morning. Just the normal ride, along North road to the beach, turn left and head down to Mordialloc. One… two… three… four… five… I gave up counting, motorists on the mobile phone — but I’ve got to remember, according to the shrill voice of tabloid newspapers it’s the cyclists along here that are the menace. Once at Mordialloc we stopped for a coffee, palm trees in the sunshine, is it still Melbourne in winter time?

On south down Station street, a fascinating mix of houses, everything from tiny old weatherboard shacks to the latest stylish bay-side life-style apartments, and every vehicle type to match.

The south-westerly breeze was increasing and starting to cool us down, so it was pleasant to head inland and onto the track alongside the Patterson river. A strange site really, a waterfront development that looks like it would be more at home on the Queensland Gold Coast than here in Melbourne — I wonder what all these pristine water-ways and private boat docks will look like after a few years of neglect, silting, and cold, wet winters? For some reason whoever built the cycle-track has decided that each bridge should be under a metre wide, and with heavy metal gates at either end, so it was slow going until we got away from the development and were heading inland alongside the creek. Bird-life all around us, ducks, cormorants and a few pelicans, the snake-like neck of one bird convincing me that it was a thing called a darter — a cormorant-like bird I can’t recall having seen previously. Of course I was too busy having fun just cruising along in the sunshine to take any photos!

Under a few very low road bridges, through some sections of track in desperate need of maintenance, flood damage has half-washed away the safety railing in places, left mud and silt in others. Finally there appears above the trees in front of us a few of the larger buildings of Dandenong. I was starting to get confused, since I thought that we ought to be heading more westerly, and that we’d missed a turn somewhere, but the track just continued on with no turn offs right into the heart of Dandenong. Here we decided to leave the track and try to head back towards Oakleigh — we knew that the railway went there, we hoped that we could follow it without being forced onto major roads!

Some fascinating little shops in Dandenong, spice smells and unusual goods spilling on the footpaths, an impressive new train station — all glass and light, such a surprise compared to the other stations I’m familiar with in Melbourne, maybe Richmond will one day look like this… Amazingly, we then found ourselves on a little-trafficked side-road that paralleled the train, and were able to follow a series of similar roads all the way back home! Dandenong, Noble Park, Springvale and Clayton all thronging with life, shops and restaurants from most parts of South-East Asia. The food smells and the voices reminding me of some of the streets in Vietnam!

Amazingly, the only place where we had difficulty in staying alongside the train-line was near Westall road, heading north-west along Queens Avenue it seems to finish at a tight corner heading south, so there was a delay while we indulged in a little exploration; first on the north side of the tracks where the road also ended and a spur line blocked any progress, then back on the south side we followed a foot-track between the back of the factories and the tracks, and that track joined back onto the official bike track at Westall road.

What appeared to be a footpath onto Westall station then turned out to be a bike track on through to the next road along the line, then only a few hundred metres more and we were at the very end of Haughton road — the road that continues in a piecemeal fashion alongside the lines all the way to Oakleigh station!

It took nearly four hours all up, and only covered a touch under 70km, but it was a fascinating bit of exploration through some very different parts of Melbourne. We enjoyed the last of the afternoon sun in Oakleigh with a beer and a plate of snacks from one of the cafés in the mall — we need to go on more of these rides to places we don’t normally visit!