Story: Bronwyn Roche
Who can be bothered driving down to Phillip Island beaches at the height of the summer holidays with all that traffic?
The Central Chapter’s Long Way Round run via the Gippsland hills took us to Grantville on Westernport Bay, missing that entire beach-bound January traffic.
Quiet Grantville had it all: pleasant weather, cafés, plenty of parking, picnic tables, seagulls – everything you need for a beach-side picnic … except the water!
Low tide in Grantville exposes several hundred metres of mud flats that offered no chance of a swim, boat launch or even a walk along the water’s edge. Never mind, we’d already enjoyed a couple of hours journeying through the hills and testing out the MX-5s on their first touring run for the year.
Starting with a quick dash across the Kooweerup swamp flats, 23 MX-5s headed into the hills and didn’t leave them until they rolled down into Grantville for lunch.
The early part of the run took us on some very small winding roads that followed the contour line of the steep hills south of Drouin and Warragul. These roads were first developed to access the giant eucalypt forests for their timber, followed by the establishment of small dairy farms. And although the roads are very narrow and sometimes bumpy, they offer some spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. Bringing the cows up to the dairy from the bottom paddock to the dairy twice a day was guaranteed to keep both the farmer and his dog very fit.
Turning into the broader sweeping curves of the Warragul-Korumburra Road, the 80km/h speed limit signs were a sure indication we were on to something good. We continued to climb through the hills – this time the views were both east and west as the road followed the high ridge. Within sight of Korumburra we turned right and headed down into the town of Poowong and over to our morning tea break at Loch.
Loch is one of those very small villages reincarnated from a farming town to antique store and coffee stop destination. The break gave us all an opportunity to have a chat to the Central and Eastern Chapter members, meet new members who had joined us for the run and share the rare experience of a touring run with Robert Downes, MX-5 Motor Sport champion! Whilst Robert and his MX-5 are nearly always found out in front on the racetrack, it was great to see that every five years or so both he and the car join the touring group out in the big wide world – Grantville anyway!
Also stopped at Loch were a few motorcycle enthusiasts, including the rider of a rare early Indian motorcycle that served as a reminder of just how far modern motoring comforts have come.
Heading further south past Krowera we made a sharp left and followed the ridge road to Glen Alvie. This was another gem of an MX-5 road with broad zoomy curves that offered expansive views south to the windfarms, the islands and the sea. The predicted heavy rain didn’t eventuate and the views were exceptionally clear.
The last part of our journey saw the convoy head across the lower farmlands to again climb up into the hills on to another great road that took us north and then west down into Grantville. We passed the Indian motorcycle going in the opposite direction – proof that the west and south Gippsland hills are criss-crossed by numerous smaller roads that are a fun trip in any direction.
Thanks to our tail-end-charlie Bob de Bont, all those who corner marked when needed, and others who assisted on the run.