The New Year break found us staying at Lorne again, and me trying to get out every day to keep up with my other challenge – ride all 365 days of the year. I managed to make it to 363, two days in September were written off as I lay in bed shaking with the flu.

For the past five or ten years I’ve made a conscious effort to have some form of interesting “last ride of the year”, rather than to just realise early in the next year that something boring was the last one. This year was an exploration of a new – for me – piece of gravel track in the Otways around Lorne, Jamieson track.

Often when I’ve ridden between Lorne and Wye River I look at the roads that head inland – up and inland – and wonder what they’re like, where they’ll take me. Today was a chance to find out where Jamieson track lead.

Starting with a 10km warm-up from Lorne along the Great Ocean Road, then turn right after crossing the Jamieson river onto the gravel track, there’s a very brief flat section of road, a hairpin bend, and you immediately start heading up to climb into the coastal hills. I made it about 600m before simultanously running out of gears, breath and leg muscle and had to stop and walk the next half kilometre to where it flattened out.

I stopped for a breather and to talk to a couple who were setting up their campsite just off the track – the official campsite at the bottom of the track was full, so any number of people were illegally camping in the bush. They asked what I thought their chances were of getting away with it, I suspect that so long as they don’t make a mess nobody will know. Of course the official campsite at the bottom of the hill is a complete mess; beer cans, cardboard rubbish and toilet paper all over the place.

Keep going that way #youarehere #GOR #wearegoingawol

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Then on and up and along the ridge until I got to the junction with Curtis track – on the map the choice of continuing along Jamieson or detouring along Curtis look much the same. On the ground I discovered that Curtis track plunges down through the bush almost back to sea level, then crosses the Cumberland river before climbing all the way back up to rejoin the Jamieson track! Oh well, it certainly was a learning experience!

There was one section down towards the river that was so ridiculously steep that I just had to get off and walk the bike down. Even then I was struggling to keep my footing. I’ve no idea how 4WDs can make it up or down this track, it certainly would be exciting to watch. The river itself was crossed at a narrow ford, just deep enough to saturate my shoes and socks, despite my best attempts to stay dry. At least I stayed upright and moving, managing to get across without getting wedged in the rocky riverbed.

The climb back up from the river to the track along the ridge wasn’t anywhere near as steep, just long and drawn out – and a little hunger inducing as I hadn’t brought enough snacks with me. Finally I was back up where it rejoined the Jamieson track, then shortly after that the main Benwerrin – Mount Sabine road. Initially I’d thought I’d keep going along there to Erskine falls and back to Lorne on the tarmac, but knowing that the Falls Festival was underway with all its attendant traffic I took one last detour – down along Sharps track to head back to town past Allenvale and QDOS cafe. At least that’s a known quantity, Sharps track doesn’t have the terrible climbs or descents of Garvey track or some of the others and has become a bit of a favourite. Onwards onwards through the bush….

Along the way as well as seeing many ravens and hearing many currawongs I saw dozens of Crimson rosellas (Platycercus elegans) that took off into the forest ahead of me, a Scarlet robin (Petroica boodang) in the middle of the Mount Sabine road that flew off as I approached, a few pairs of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus funereus) creaking in the forest around me, and a brief glimpse, twice, of a Blue-winged parrot (Neophema chrysostoma) as they streak off from the ground beside the road and vanish into the forest.

I made it home almost exactly four hours after leaving, slowly grinding up the last of the hill to the house and went inside, content as always from a ride on the Otway tracks.