Weekend at Mount Buffalo

A few weeks ago we had a beautiful sunny weekend with temperatures in the thirties on both days, and on the Friday before the weekend I spontaneously decided to go bike camping.

I looked around on the Parks Victoria website for a national park I hadn’t been before, and came across Mt Buffalo National Park. Several sites were still available at the only campground at Lake Catani, so I booked one and started loading my camping gear on the bike.

Early morning sun
Early morning sun

I left around 6.30 in the morning, and because it was going to be a hot day I left all my usual thermal bike underwear at home. The first two hours I felt really cold on the bike, but after that it quickly warmed up.

The route that I had planned was not the fastest possible one. I wanted to avoid the Hume freeway as much as possible and ride more enjoyable roads. From Geelong I went to Bacchus Marsh, and on to Broadford via Gisborne. At the Murchison Gap I stopped for a while to enjoy the views from the lookout. Initially I had missed the lookout platform and rode further up the road, before I noticed the mistake and turned around.

Murchison Gap
Murchison Gap

After a great ride I arrived in Yea where I stopped for breakfast. As always, many other bikers and groups were already there.

The best part of the ride was from Mansfield to Whitfield – what an incredible road for motorcycles! After the Bonang Highway this was probably the most enjoyable road I have ridden so far. Fast, fluid turns through the forest, no traffic and nearly perfect road surface – unlike the Bonang Highway which had a lot of pot holes and damage, plus leaves and branches.

Via Oxley and Myrtleford I arrived at the national park entrance. The road up Mt Buffalo was steep and windy, and used by plenty of bicycle and motorcycle riders. I stopped at the Chalet for a while, and checked out the various lookouts over the Gorge. Other riders started chatting to me about my Ducati, so I stuck around for some time before moving on.

Gorge lookout
Gorge lookout

I passed the campground at Lake Catani, but because it was quite late in the afternoon already, I decided to ride to the summit (“The Horn”) first and set up camp later.

The last part of the road to The Horn was unsealed, and I had a great time sliding out of corners. I would love to spend some time riding dirt bikes and get better off-road riding skills.

The Horn
The Horn

At The Horn I wanted to take the short walk to the summit lookout, but I was worried about leaving all my gear and bike clothes in the empty parking lot, since there were a lot of crows. Often in popular tourist areas they have learned to open zips and are raiding people’s luggage while unattended. I secured everything as good as possible using the strap from my disc lock, and then grabbed my camera and walked to the summit.

It was a beautiful short walk and from the summit I had an incredible view over the Victorian Alps. It was clear blue sky and a perfect day to be up there.

View from the summit
View from the summit

Later I was happy to find my luggage just as I had left it. On the ride back down to the campground I noticed large numbers of dead trees, which created an eerie landscape and I pulled over to take a closer look.

At the campground I set up my tent and then went for a walk around the area while the sun was still shining. By then it was after 7pm. The campground was absolutely beautiful, a great location right next to the lake. But despite the bush camping it had remarkably good facilities, plenty of water taps around the site, and even showers!

There were some nice purple wildflowers growing all around the lake, I thought it looked a bit like lavender, but it didn’t smell the same. I was hoping to see a wombat, and there were many traces of them. In the end all I found was Crimson Rosellas and Laughing Kookaburras. And I also saw some good sized fish leaping out of the water at some point.

Wild flowers
Wild flowers

I hung out with some travellers from England who had a campfire going near my site. They offered me boiling water for a cup of tea so we chatted for a while and sat around the fire.

Before I went to bed I decided to walk down to the lake and take photos of the night sky. It was a starlit night and thanks to the darkness inside the national park it was spectacular. I really enjoy these moments and it’s one of the reasons why I go bush camping, to see the night sky without light pollution.

Starlit night
Starlit night

The night was very quiet and there was no wind. It was so quiet that I could hear the howling of dingos several times. Before coming to Mount Buffalo I had no idea that dingos lived in the area, I had assumed they were only common further north. Once it sounded very close and they must have been within 200m of the campground.

I got up very early and by 6am I was already down at the lake taking long exposure shots while the water was beautifully calm and the reflections simply looked stunning.

Lake Catani
Lake Catani

I tried to finish breakfast by around 8am. I had to vacate my campsite by noon and was hoping to get 3-4 hours for bushwalking before I had to ride back home. There are plenty of tracks nearby and I ended up walking from the campground to the Gorge via the Underground River and caves. I read a sign that the cave system stretches for several hundred metres. I didn’t even notice the entrance when I walked past it.

At the Gorge I checked out some of the lookouts again before walking back on the Gorge - Lake Catani track. I ended up back at the lake dam and continued on the Lakeside Track which lead me all around the lake. Overall it was a nice couple of hours of easy bushwalking in the morning sun, I enjoyed it very much. Vegetation ranged from alpine moor to gum tree forest.

Gorge - Lake Catani track
Gorge - Lake Catani track

While I packed up my gear it became hotter all the time. Because it was close to noon the sun was right above me and the trees no longer provided any shade. Almost exactly at 12 noon I was ready and left the campground. On the ride down the mountain I came across many bicyclists again. I imagine riding up the mountain on a bicycle must feel like a huge accomplishment, and it reminded me of when I lived in Hobart. On weekends I sometimes rode my bike up to the top of Mt Wellington, as a workout.

In Myrtleford I stopped for petrol and also stocked up on refreshments. Given the hot weather I had to make sure I was hydrated enough. A few kilometres later I pulled over at a resting area for a break and refreshments.

I decided to ride the same way back so I would get another chance to ride the amazing road from Whitfield to Mansfield – and it did not disappoint. Before I arrived in Whitfield however, Google Maps decided to lead me off the main road down a ‘shortcut’, which turned out to be around 20km of gravel road through the forest and the middle of nowhere. I was pretty annoyed since it cost me a lot of extra time. On the other hand though, I had the chance to properly test my new Scorpion Trail II tyres and I quickly noticed how much more grip they had on gravel compared to the previous model. I was flying over that gravel road at up to 80km/h and never felt I was losing grip through corners. The old tyres didn’t have much corner grip at all.

Shortcut to Whitfield
Shortcut to Whitfield

After a long and enjoyable ride I arrived in Yea again, where I stopped for a late lunch. By the time I finished, around 4.30pm, most other motorcyclists had already left and shops started to close for the day.

It must have been around 7 or 8pm when I arrived back home. It was a fantastic trip, just short of 1,100km for the two days. The weather was perfect, some sections of the road were amazing to ride, and the campground at Mount Buffalo was a great location for a weekend overnighter.

More photos in the album Weekend at Mount Buffalo.