Bike fun, french style

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November 21st 2006
Published: November 21st 2006
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We made it!We made it!We made it!

At the pier after the epic train, bus, train, coach, ferry adventure to get here!
Whilst Dave was recovering from a knee operation I was off on a cycling adventure with my friends from MazzaBUG checking out the more remote and cycle friendly parts of Victoria. French island is located just 80km south of Melbourne, but in reality it’s a world away - and the locals do things a little differently down there. Without saying too much, it has to be experienced to be believed, and you’d better not be in a hurry!

A group of 10 of us boarded 10am Frankston train in was to be a stress-free and relaxing public transport trip all the way to Stony Point. Connex had other plans though - involving some track maintenance work between Caulfield and Moorabbin where a replacement bus service was in operation. So with bikes and loaded panniers we piled off the train, on to the bus, back on to the train, and then on to another bus, making it just in time for the 12pm ferry sailing. Kudos to the bus driver who speedily and expertly negotiated with the other passengers to drop us off first, and sped through the traffic in order to get us there in time! All stress was forgotten once we boarded the ferry and looked out into the blue waters of Westernport bay and cruised across the 5km stretch of water to French Island.

The island is twice the size of Phillip Island and is quiet with only 60 permanent residents. There’s no causeway linking it to the mainland and the passenger ferry is for people (and bikes) only which keeps the island isolated and pristine. The cars that do exist on the island are mostly circa 1982 and are in varying states of disrepair! Over half the island is preserved as national park and the wildlife is abundant and protected.

Hector had arranged the accommodation at the Tortoisehead Lodge located a two minute bike ride from Tankerton jetty, and Rod the manager was there to meet us upon arrival. After dumping our bags and sorting out the rather hilarious bed situation we had some lunch and then embarked on our ride out to the Chickory Kiln. The roads are gravel, and more gravel, and sometimes the vigorous combination of sand and gravel and Hector set a cracking pace!

There were plenty of opportunities to spot koalas languishing in the trees along the side of
Tortoisehead LodgeTortoisehead LodgeTortoisehead Lodge

Our rather odd accommodation
the road, Viva was keeping the official count and I believe the total for the afternoon stood at 24. It was perfect weather for cycling so we spent the afternoon riding around the island and a well earned beer was had at the General store!

We returned to the lodge to our chef-prepared three course meal. Mark the chef advised me that he had whipped up some delicious tuna patties for me and while I appreciated his gesture I needed to point out that I was a vegetarian - of the non fish eating variety! After some debate over to what constitutes a vegetarian, compromise was reached and I was the proud recipient of a delicious omelette complete with herbs and kaffir lime leaves - an interesting but totally delectable combination. We feasted on biodynamic and organic veges from the Chef’s personal garden and from the McLeod ecofarm, and the others indulged in bio-dynamic pork chops which I’m told were divine.

On Sunday after a leisurely breakfast Jimmy and I were picked up by local tour guide Lois who gave us the guided tour of the island including some more koala and echidna spotting, a glimpse at the island’s llama and alpaca population and a drive-by of Kylie Minogue’s place. We toured the old prison at Mcleod ecofarm and were introduced to their biodynamic farming practices. I would recommend a trip out to the ecofarm to anyone travelling to the island - what they’re doing out there is fascinating, entrepreneurial and totally sustainable - and I believe it’s the way of the future.

It was with some regret that we left behind the pristine and slow paced island for our return to the frenetic and congested urban metropolis.

For those of you interested in recreating the journey, check out:

Additional photos below
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Chickory KilnChickory Kiln
Chickory Kiln

Iced chickory coffees were the perfect post-ride refreshment

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