When you find a good road, ride it again. On this basis, we rode out of the Mid City Motor Inn and straight back the way we had come, coming to a stop in the car park of the Lavers Hill Store. This store is well worth a visit: the staff were pleasant and helpful, the coffee was good, and the lemon meringue was even better. Chatting with the bloke who served us, we enquired about the route back to Colac via Carlisle River.
"What sort of bikes are you on?" was his reply. I told him that we were expecting about 10km of dirt road, which sounded about right to him, so we set off north along Lavers Hill - Cobden Road.
The first corner is an absolute doozy. The road is an 80 zone and the corner itself is not signposted, so I was already well into to turn and rolling on the throttle when it dawned on me that it was a decreasing-radius 180 degree corner. Two lessons from this corner: firstly, a salient reminder to approach each corner based upon what you can see of it, not what you expect of it; and secondly, a huge thumbs up for my ninja being equipped with ABS, as I applied rear brake liberally which helped me tighten the line up admirably and keep the bike neatly on the bitumen where it should be. I simply can't recommend ABS brakes highly enough for equipping the rider to deal with the unexpected.
100 metres down the road, the tarmac gives way to gravel, and we began the most beautiful part of our ride. I wouldn't want to ride this road after rain, but in the dry conditions we experienced, the road was perfectly serviceable for our two road bikes. That said, both bikes were kitted out with RadGuard radiator grills to stop rocks being kicked up through the radiators, and I wouldn't suggest going down this road without one. I had a stone kick up into my helmet when I was rolling along with the visor up so there's no doubt that your own front wheel is just as capable of spearing a stone through your radiator as the rear wheel of the bike in front of you, so even if you're touring solo, I'd still recommend the RadGuard.
It turned out that my calculations were wrong, and it was more like 20kms of this rather than the 10 I had optimistically hoped for. We were averaging about 30km/h down here, and we couldn't really have taken it any faster due to the very short notice you get about vehicles coming the other way. We passed by a convoy of 4WDs who had been frolicking along the tracks through the forest; the road was easily wide enough for them to pass by safely, but I wouldn't like to have been going faster or using more of the road when we met them. To be fair, I'm sure a couple of road bikes was the last thing they expected to see coming towards them down this particular road! So unless you're on bikes that are more dirt road capable than ours were, I'd be allowing for a good 40 - 50 minutes to cover the dirt stretch of this route before you arrive at tarmac again.
It would have been about 4:30 when we pulled in for coffee, so I'm guessing that it was about 5pm when we started out for this stretch of the ride. Plenty of light for out cruising along the open roads of course, but as it happened it was much darker under the canopy of the trees, so I spent most of the forest ride with my visor up to improve my vision. Upon reaching the bitumen it was visor down and roll on the throttle... until the roos started coming out for their supper. If you're ever going to explore down this road, don't leave it till an hour before sundown. Most of them were startled by the noise of my ninja and darted back into the bush, but at least one was disoriented by my passing (or attracted to the roar of Ali's triple coming up behind) that he decided to hop across the road after me, presumably giving Ali countersteering practice, heart palpitations, or probably both. If it weren't for the wildlife, this would have been close to rivalling Charley's Creek Road as my favourite stretch of tarmac for the trip... long, high speed sweepers with good visibility and glorious scenery.
But knowing there were roos in abundance - we saw at least half a dozen - and being dive-bombed by a suicidal bird who thwacked me in the bicep at 100km/h, all in all the wildlife were too present a danger to really relax into the ride. Next time maybe I'll have lunch at Lavers Hill instead.
The last stretch into Colac was again predictably boring, but there is a Safeway-Caltex on the right just before you reach the main road, which is convenient for refilling the tanks and grabbing a cheap dinner from the supermarket before heading back to the rooms for a night of scotch and curry.