What a flat, dry, treeless, hot and rocky um err.. landscape — who would want to live or ride there? That was my first impression of Central Victoria in the mid 90’s, the mission being to see where my partner grew up and meet her family. Funny really, as I now realize that any time you have that sort of reaction to a place chances are it means you’ll end up living there one day!

To be fair compared to where I was living at the time — Bogong Village, in the mountains of North East Victoria — just about anywhere in Central Victoria can look… a bit rough.

So having lived in Central Victoria for half a year what’s it like?

The terrain is rocky and harsh, that’s for sure. The miners did an impressively thorough job of washing the top soil away in their search for gold, along with digging, blasting and churning over everything left behind. Riding upsides are that the trails dry out real fast even after flooding rain, and the rough terrain adds to the challenge. It can get stinking hot in Summer, no doubt about that but early mornings on most days are still cool. Winter days are also milder compared to the highlands, making for good year round riding.

It’s not actually treeless now though it once was. The gold miners pretty much razed the landscape in the 1800’s but the bush has grown back since, and now surrounds the town. It’s not an idyllic giant trees, lush greens. babbling brook kind of bush, but it’s still plenty enough bush to disappear into on a bike, and enough to support some native wildlife. If you get out early or late you’ll usually see a few kangaroos, wallabies and sometimes echnidas. Nice.

So from a MTB perspective, not much to complain about so far when you stop and think about it.

Castlemaine and surrounds
Castlemaine and surrounds

But flat? Flat makes MTB pretty dull. I thought for years Castlemaine was FLAT, dead flat, like all the local names suggest… Wattle Flat, Moonlight Flat etc. It was only when I rode along the Great Dividing Trail from Mt Franklin to Castlemaine on my uni in October 2008, and saw the night lights of Castlemaine in the valley below that I realized wow, this place is surrounded in hills, covered in trees too. The hills might not be huge mountains but don’t worry, there’s climb until you puke steeps to be found.

I had a good laugh about my first impressions of Central Victoria today as I labored up a steep twisty rocky ridge climb in the middle of a hot, humid summer’s today.

Phew… the world isn’t flat!

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