FRIDAY 2ND TO SUNDAY 4TH AUGUST 1996
I initially intended to bush-bash from “Sokil”, the Ukrainian Scout camp north of Aireys Inlet, to Anglesea, over two days. I have known Sokil and its surrounds all my life, and know there are no walking tracks in the region. There are several reasons why this planned hike did not proceed. In attempting to find a campsite, it was found that the 1977 government “Vicmap” (the newest available) showed roads which no longer existed, and those which did were not shown. Due to had weather, many roads were closed making inspection of the approximate campsite area impossible. I have done some bush-bashing treks in the region, and know that some areas have very dense vegetation, such as pockets of ti-trees spaced nine inches apart. Given the likelihood of trekking through dense vegetation, up and down many slopes, in had weather to an uncertain campsite, this hike seemed impractical. Wanting to make progress on my Squire training, I decided I would have to change the plan. During a crew executive meeting on July 23rd, I thought it would be good to ride bikes from my house in Geelong to Soleil, then back the following day. Given a busy programme, the best date seemed to be the first weekend of August. I had given the crew notice of my other hike, which did not proceed due to the reasons outlined above, amongst others. One month’s notice is usually required, but an executive decision overrode it in this instance.
I needed at least three people besides myself. Phil, my sponsor, had to come along. Corey was very keen to take a break from work, and Stefan, despite a cold, said he would come too. Mainly due to the short notice, no-one else was able to come. I drove over my intended course on July 28th. I needed to organise equipment for all but Corey, Panniers were borrowed from Stuart Ferres and Chris Reed and rented from Christie’s Cycles in Burwood Rd. for $15, with $50 deposit. Two tents were borrowed from the Venturers at Scotch. It initially seemed that I would not be able to borrow Chris Reed’s car-mounted bike rack, as the tow ball was rusted on to it, and it could not be undone. With the help of Al Reed and my car jack over the wrench handle, we managed to undo it, after practically moving the car sideways! The alternative would have been to pay $75 to rent one from Valencia Cycles in Glenferrie Rd. I was advised by them to put my back number plate and a light on the bike rack, to avoid being fined. I also hired a rack for Phil’s bike from Holiak Hire in Sixth Ave, Burwood for $9. Corey supplied the stove. I tried my best to prepare a menu, and the food was bought in Geelong on Friday night and Saturday morning.
COMMENCING THE HIKE.
On Friday night I collected Phil, then Corey and Stef. The three bikes were put on the rack, with cloths to prevent them being scratched. We left North Balwyn shortly after 10:00 and arrived in Geelong after 11:15pm. Corey and Stef off-loaded the bikes while Phil and I rushed to the supermarket to buy food! I hoped to leave Geelong at 10:00am. On Saturday morning I borrowed the Soleil keys from my grandmother and fought more food. Due to various minor problems, we did not set off until 11:20am. We began by making a detour to the service station to get air in our types. We then rode past the cement works, and onto the Hamilton Highway.
THE FIRST DAY’S RIDING.
We struggled to maintain 9-11 km/h on this flat stretch. There was a strong North Westerly, which was very unpleasant. We had brief relief when we turned south into Pollocksford Rd, but then encountered a seres of hills which saw me lagging hundreds of metros behind Phil and Stets Corey let me catch him as we came up the last hill. At that time, someone above thought a hailstorm accompanied by near-horizontal wind-forced rain would liven things up. Corey and I eventually spotted a line of pine trees through the gate of “Fairview” and sheltered under them. It cleaned after a few minutes, and we continued on. We shortly found Stef and Phil bone dry, beside a hedge row where they had successfully sheltered as soon as the rain began. After a brief break, we continued on. We shortly turned right into Barrabool Rd, and copped the awful head wind once again. The road eventually swung south, and we had a dream run, coast down the long, gradual hill. We crossed the Princess Highway (Colac Rd), and dog-legged into Considines Lane, which continues south. I had anticipated having lunch near what I thought was an old church. When we came to this building, dated 1877, we saw it was on a property, with a nearby farmhouse. Across the road were some pine trees, but they afforded little shelter, and it was beginning to rain again. We continued down to the end of the lane, as Cape Otway Rd was in sight. On the corner, to our right, was an old farmhouse, and on the left was a row of pine trees. We could not be certain that the farmhouse was unoccupied, despite its appearance, so we went to the pine trees. It was freezing, and it was suggested we try knocking on the farmhouse door. Stef went off, and reported it was empty, so we went over, and sat on the verandah.
It was clearly unoccupied, as the verandah roof had partly collapsed, and ivy was growing all over it, including through the porch boards. It was quite a pleasant spot. Corey and prepared lunch, which was pita bread with Kraft Cheddar, tomatoes, and lettuce. I had pre~sliced the tomatoes and prepared the lettuce, and it was kept in plastic storage containers. The pita breads were much nicer than I had expected, and we also each had an apple. After lunch we inspected the old house, which was remarkably intact. The phone still had a dial tone, but Stef was unable to call his girlfriend on it! Corey and I both took numerous pictures, some of which are included in this report.
After lunch, I started out first, riding along Cape Otway Road, which leads south west, so we were not too badly affected by the NW headwind. I maintained my lead, and enjoyed a break at the base of Wensleydale Rd, which is near Wurdiboluc Reservoir. The turn-off was once very clear, when a row of pine trees stood around the reservoir, creating a dark and haunting passage. Now it is wide open, with a clear view of the reservoir. If we had needed to stock up on water we could have gone to the reservoir. However, due to the cool weather, we were not consuming much water. Corey caught up with me, then we waited some time for the inseparable couple, who said they were about km behind Wensleydale Rd is initially a constant slope, and towards the top my legs were burning, and I had to walk the bike briefly. Once over the top, we had an enjoyable downhill stretch, then a flat, comparatively windless stretch past farms and native bush. Stef, leading at this time, was going past a farm when a dog decided he was going too slowly. Stef was compelled to accelerate very rapidly, and the dog persevered for a while, before running off into the scrub. I kept a wary eye on the region as I passed it, but fortunately neither saw nor heard the dog. On hikes the lead person has to keep an eye out for snakes. On bike hikes it must be dogs, rather than snakes. When Stef and I hit the dirt road at the start of Angahook State Forrest, the others were nowhere in sight. I initially scratched a message in the dirt, but we then decided to wait. Riding into the state forrest, we branched left at the first fork, and continued on down Breakfast Cheek Rd It was almost all a descent, which was very welcome, and our speed was a cautious mid-30’s. One can not be too careful on this road as many cars cut the blind corners, and I had to shout back a warning as a V8 Me roared around a comer. We eventually arrived at the camp gates, and took some photo’s. My odometer said we had covered 57km, and the others were similar. It was becoming dark, and was after 4:30. I felt that our priority was to gather firewood before it was too dark to see. We were lucky to find some piles of very dead dry timber, and took some down to the complex of buildings. It began to rain, so a fire in the open was made impossible, but we had to have one, as it was so cold. We were initially going to use an old wooden door, but Stet found a piece of corrugated iron about four feet long, and we laid that on the concrete floor of the big shelter
(dining hall). The fire was built on top.
Due to the rain, we had to cook inside, by the fire, on Corey’s stove. He boiled water, and we all had packet soup. I had packs of two minute noodles, which should normally be cooked in boiling water but it was decided it would be too troublesome. Instead they were put in our bowls, and boiling water was poured in on top. The result was they were not properly cooked, and tasted ordinary. Depending upon the individual, we also added ham, dry peas, and com. I also had a container of sliced raw carrots, and these were very popular. For desert I opened a tin of fruit and we had custard on it. As on any good camp, the tin opener had been forgotten, but that was the only thing we forgot. However, as any good Scout should do, I had my axe, and opened the tin with that. The moral is:”‘Don’t forget your axe”. It is a multi-purpose tool. Dinner took quite some time, and we were inclined to go to sleep after it, going to our tents at 9:30.
“Sokil” (which is Ukrainian for “falcon”) was created to serve Ukrainian Orthodox Scouts. In March 1960 my uncle took his Geelong troop to the land, to “roadtest” it. They spent the night there, and hiked around the area during the day. My uncle decided it was suitable, and it was purchased. It consists of about two hundred acres on the boundary of the Angahook State Forrest. Many of its buildings were destroyed during Ash Wednesday in 1983. I had camped there every Christmas from 1974 to 1982, as Christmas is when the year’s main camp is held, and families usually camp on the southern part of the property. I have since camped there in 1991 and 1994, and visited on other occasions. There are three toilet blocks, two new bunkhouses, a large, partly open dining hall/activities area, a chapel, and a kitchen. Power is supplied by a generator, and water is pumped from the creek which runs through the property. The creek also supplies an Olympic swimming pool. The surrounding forrest is dry and fairly uninteresting, with no major features, other than numerous peaks. Sokil was once a soldier-serttler’s property, and an old homestead stood on it until vandals burnt it down. Near Sokil is another soldier-settler’s property. The farmhouse here was destroyed in the 1983 tires, and the property is essentially abandoned although some buildings remain, along with old cars and other machinery. It is interesting to take a walk through it, but if one does not know the Millikins, permission should be asked. Also of interest in the area is an Aboriginal water hole. it is near the top of a hill, and is fed by mineral springs, The water is black, and is filled with a very rare font of reed. The Aborigines apparently used the water to cure constipation, but no-one I know has tested this claim! Ron Millikin took the scouts to see it in March 1960, and in 1991 and 1994, my father, uncle, myself and others attempted to find it, finally succeeding after much bush-bashing.
THE FINAL DAY.
During the night we experienced a major storm, with pelting rain and very strong winds, which threatened to carry the tents away, despite us being camped near the kitchen block. We got up at 8:00am, aiming to leave by 9:00am. Breakfast was simply Weetbix and UHT milk. I spent about twenty minutes attempting to lock up the women’s toilet, which we had used because I could not unlock the mens’. I had to give up, and we left at 9:40, not looking forward to the hill-climbing that initially faced us. With the exception of Corey, we walked our bikes at various stages. We had a nice panoramic view on this stretch. Stef eventually caught me, and we passed Corey, then reached the sealed road (Wensleydale). Riding together, as we passed the “dog-farm”, the dog that chased Stef reappeared to give him more exercise. As I was with him, I also had to make great haste. The moral:”Don’t ride with Stef when a mad dog is near”. We don’t know what he was doing to attract them ! We came to the top of the big hill, and I went down first, and stopped just short of Cape Otway Rd Here, I took out my camera, and as the others gradually came down the hill, I photographed them. Our progress was very good, so after a brief break we were keen to continue on, north east along Cape Otway Rd. We had covered 11 km in 45 minutes. The north easterly had fortunately continued, and was now a glorious rewind We were only slowed when on short northern stretches, but were often comfortably doing 35 km/h. We were following the main roads on this second day, and they were generally flat, with occasional small slopes. By 12:00 we were at the Moriac General Store, where we had a snack and brief break We were more than half-way, and expected to be home by 1:30pm if we maintained our current rate. We continued along Cape Otway Rd, going up one big hill shortly before turning east into the Princess Highway (Colac Rd). I had to walk up this hill, but the others just struggled on. I went ahead on the Colac Rd, and was soon coasting at 51km/h, and went no slower than 35km/h all the way to the big roundabouts short of Deakin. We remained on the Princess Highway, curving around onto the James Harrison Bridge, over the Barwon, against a bad headwind. The last major hill, Noble St., was tackled then we rested at Australia’s finest co-educational school, in Talbot St. It was about 1:00, so rather than eating lunch, we continued on to my home, arriving near 1:25pm. The total distance covered was 114.7km, so it was essentially 57km on both days. Corey told us the actual riding times, which were not hugely different, but our frequent and necessarily long breaks on the first day had made it a longer trip then. Our view of the hike would have been quite different if the second day’s conditions duplicated that of the first. Rather than eating the remaining pita breads, as was intended, we bought fish and chips and disgraced ourselves (or at least I did)!
Being on bikes, this was different to most Squire hikes. With the exception of dinner the meals were appreciated, and no-one went hungry. Anyone going on a hike should take an axe, both for the fire, and for any problem which may arise. It is wise to make a checklist which includes a tin-opener. We used a mental checklist, and were fortunate only a tin opener was forgotten. The borrowed equipment gave us no major problems, and we were able to carry all we wanted or needed. It probably helped that I knew the route, so there were no unexpected surprises. The bush-bashing hike I proposed would have been full of surprises, through encountering the unknown. One purpose of the Squire hike, however, is to display organisational capabilities in preparing a hike which anyone in the crew could complete. Everyone survived the hike in fairly good condition, so I don’t think the distances were all that excessive. The scenery was not all that inspiring, but as we came back up the dirt road we had a good panoramic view of the surrounding mountainous terrain. Considines Lane and the old farmhouse were also picturesque areas. Transporting the bikes by car rather than train was much cheaper and logistically easier than by train, as was initially intended This is, I believe, a hike which could be conducted even without a Geelong base, as it would be possible to travel to Geelong early during the first morning, although it would probably be more tiring overall. Although we had a very annoying headwind on the ‘first day, and the hailstorm and occasional shower, it was a good time of year to ride. Most of the ride is in very open areas, and one would be badly sunburst in summer, and would go through a lot of water. Any time other than summer is probably a good time to conduct this hike.