It was overcast but warm when a handful of riders gathered at the entrance to Southbank Motorcycles BMW on Saturday morning…….
Actually there were lots of riders there, but that was because a BMW ride was coincidently planned and meeting at the same place and time as our little Compass Expeditions Reunion ride group.
Once we had separated the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, and worked out who was heading off to Mansfield with us, we had 5 bikes and 8 people. After a grind through Melbourne’s Saturday Morning traffic we collected a couple more riders at our first coffee stop at Healesville in the beautiful Yarra Valley.
The sun was out now and the countryside slipped by quickly, lush and verdant after recent rain.
The Black Spur is always a treat when you are on a bike and traveling with a group of like-minded souls, unfortunately the weekend traffic interrupted our flow through the winding ribbon of tar shaded on both sides by moist rainforest.
Out into the open forest and farmland we cruised past Alexandra and the Cathedral Ranges to arrive in the High Country gateway of Mansfield to make our lunch appointment.
We were meeting up with around 50 other riders and pillions, all past participants of Compass Expeditions motorcycle tours. Compass run many tours each year all across the globe and each year extend an invitation to all of its past guests to join them for a reunion ride and a good old catch up.
The High Country Food Company of Mansfield had been on site early to prepare a sumptuous roast lunch for us at the Botanic Park. Greeting old friends and being introduced to new ones punctuated the munching and soon it was time to round up the faithful for an afternoon ride.
Two options where on offer, which is usually the way with these Compass get togethers.
Both groups headed out of town through Merrijig and Mirimbah with the tar junkies continuing up a sensational series of twisties to the summit of Mount Buller and through to the Alpine village for a well earned coffee.
Those of the dirt riding persuasion made a right at Mirimbah and followed the Mount Stirling Circuit Rd. This is a winding bush road that works it way around Mount Stirling hugging the mountainside. It is not generally a challenging ride as the road surface is kept in pretty good condition. Today however, due to a rainstorm the previous night, it was a bit greasy and soggy in places which made for some interesting moments on the trail. About half the way around the circuit is a turn that takes you up to Craig’s hut and then on to the summit of Mount Stirling. This little track is only around a kilometre long but it was definitely the most challenging section of the afternoon ride. Steep, rocky and rutted are the three words that come to mind when describing it, but all of the riders attacked it keenly and made Craig’s hut without incident. Kudos must go to the riders and pillions that made this section two-up. A (Mt) Stirling effort!
Craig’s hut is an authentic looking, re-built replica, of the replica High Country hut that was used in the filming of the film “The Man From Snowy River”. The original hut that featured in the film was burnt in a bushfire a number of years ago. The new old hut is so picture perfect that nobody would ever question it’s right to sit atop this perfect alpine pasture scene.
Both groups rolled back into Mansfield to meet at our accommodation for the night, the Alzburg Resort. After a clean up and a couple of pre dinner drinks around the tempting looking pool we all drifted down to the town centre for Dinner and an evenings entertainment at the welcoming Dos Taurus restaurant.
More catching up and motorcycle talk was again punctuated by a tasty dinner.
Adventurer, Author and Motorcycle Safety Advocate Heather Ellis was the guest speaker for the evening and her tales of solo travel across Africa and Central Asia on her trusty Yamaha TT600 captivated the audience.
Ubuntu: One Woman’s Motorcycle Odyssey Across Africa, is Heather’s book that tells the story of her African experiences and expresses her feeling of the essential human bond that makes Africa “One Village” and led to her trust that everything would work out, even during her most challenging trials.
After Heather’s wonderful presentation Compass Expeditions founders Mick McDonald and Jerry Cook presented a short video about their brand new Magical Mongolia tour and then it was on to the results of the annual Reunion Weekend Photo Competition.
Rocky Creek Design generously sponsored the competition so there was Gearloks and Pocket Pumps, Motopressor Jump Starters and Bikerz Chairs up for grabs as well as Beyond Siberia and Beyond Sahara DVDs as prizes.
Sunday morning started with a hearty breakfast at the Alzburg and then the group spilt again into road and off road devotees.
This morning everyone headed toward the town of Jamieson, with the road riders peeling off onto the Jamieson – Eildon Rd, which winds through the Lake Eildon National Park, around over 60km of some of the finest biking road that Victoria has to offer. There were a lot of eyes wide with concentration and wide grins inside helmets also as the group emerged from the forest into the open farmlands then on into Healesville again for lunch.
The blast down through the Black Spur was much better this time with less traffic than on Saturday. So good in fact, that one of our rides commented that this had been one of the best rides of his life!
Since most of the riders where keen to take the run from Jamieson to Eildon and get back into Melbourne at a reasonable hour the dirt riders were a small and casual group. We had coffee in Jamieson and farewelled a couple who were staying in the area for a few days and then continued towards Woods Point, first along the winding riverside tar and then when the road turned to gravel, through the hills and small villages that dot this gold rich valley.
I was so surprised at being waived down by the local constabulary for a breathalyser test in the quaint little village of Woods Point that I almost forgot to stop. A few meters on we grouped for a photo opportunity around the picturesque old service station.
More great bush roads wound up and along the valley towards Marysville to where a great piece of twisty tar would have taken us into town for lunch.
Here we were detoured in another direction due to a Targa Rally being run on that section and how could we blame them, it really is a pleasurable piece of road.
Fortunately, the road that we were sent down turned out to be the Reefton spur, heading down into Warburton. The last time I rode this section it had just been surfaced and was layered in slippy pea sized gravel and we bemoaned the loss of a great dirt road. This time however, all off the gravel was gone and a perfect grippy surface had me dialling in “Dynamic” mode on the big BMW GS water-boxer I was riding. This piece of road perfection capped off an exceptional weekend of riding and socialising.
I would like to extend a great big thank you to everyone involved, all of the riders, pillions, staff, guests and friends who joined us and made this weekend one to remember.
Let’s do it all again next year!
Click the Image Below to View the Mongolian Magic Video