Gippsland Plains Rail Trail – 6 to 11 November 2017
Trip Report by Jan Werder
A party of 8 (members and prospective new members) departed Cooma on 6 November for a 2-day rail trail trip from Stratford to Traralgon. First stop was Pambula Beach to meet everyone and go on a short cycle around the Panboola Wetlands where we saw many waterbirds and an absolutely huge mob of kangaroos!!
Arriving at Stratford in Victoria, we followed John on a short cycle through Apex Park, where some of the Arts Trail sculptures can be seen, and out to Knob Reserve to find a geocache (one of many – a total of 7 in all throughout the trip!).
After watching a beautiful sunset over the Avon River from our cabins/campsites while having nibbles, we repaired to the Camp Kitchen for dinner. After dinner we enjoyed a Ukulele duo performance from Kathy and Addie playing some of the numbers that the SMU3A Ukuladies performed in the recent Busking Championships in Cooma.
Next day was our first day on the rail trail, but before that, we cycled the Arts Trail in Stratford looking at the Shakespeare themed sculptures and guessing which plays they represented. We got: Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Tempest, but there were also a couple of other sculptures – a generic “fool” or “jester” and one of a giant Shakespeare’s desk with giant feather. After that, it was a car shuffle to Heyfield and then we could start the rail trail from Stratford to Heyfield (28 kms) for the night.
The weather was fine and sunny and the track good. There were views of the Great Dividing Range and some points of historical interest such as the Powerscourt Homestead and the beautifully restored Tinamba Hotel, first established in 1874. Two geocaches were found on this section (and two not found!). The track was relatively flat except coming into Heyfield where there was a long slight ascent. As we were now into the hottest part of the afternoon, we were all relieved to see the first signs of Heyfield and our accommodation for the night – the Railway Hotel (definitely a good choice!).
Day 2 saw us leaving Heyfield a little earlier as this section was 36 kms. After another car shuffle to Traralgon, we started off in fine sunny weather again, although a little cooler with more cloud cover.
We were looking forward to the long slight descent from Heyfield to Traralgon this day, however first we had to cope with an extremely steep ascent out of Heyfield!! I think most of the group decided to walk up – I certainly did!! Again the track was good but a bit more interesting with some road cycling, bridges across rivers and lowlands, and creek causeways. At Cowarr, there was an example of Art Deco architecture in the Cricket Club Hotel, established 1880, and the Cowarr Art Space – a converted Heritage Butter Factory (c1918). John, ably helped by Marj, Addie and Adrian, found 4 geocaches this day. The vehicles were parked at the Burnet Road Track Head carpark, about 4kms out of Traralgon so it was just a matter of driving into Traralgon for a celebratory drink, followed by a dinner on our last night.