The Yarra Ranges Branch had kindly extended an invitation to our branch to join them for a long weekend in Griffith, so we accepted that invite – but had to drive instead owing to a yet to be fully rehabilitated knee.
There had been weeks of rain out west, but we were confident (with Tracey receiving an “all clear” report from a workmate who lived at Narrandera) that we would have no trouble with flooded roads. Still, we left plenty of time to meet the Yarra Ranges at Darlington Point for lunch leaving home at 6am.
Along the Hume Highway near the Burley Griffin Way turnoff we spotted an RTA road sign advising that the Sturt Highway was blocked. Were we going through there? Not a clue. So on we drove stopping at Jugiong for a coffee.
Further south Henry Rokx from the Ranges called to advise of a road closure, forcing us to consult Google maps yet again to find a way through to our lunch stop. At Grong Grong we turned north to meet up with the Burley Griffin Way to carry us through to Griffith, there turning south to Darlington Point. Quite a lot of road was flood damaged with deep and wide potholes everywhere, water lying up to the shoulder of many roads. We arrived at lunch after six hours on the road.
After a very quick meal we followed the Victorian riders to the Waddi service station, there to be met by staff from the Altina Wildlife Park. They took us through the flood roadblock to the park. We were unaware of this privately owned zoo, but can recommend it as a destination for any future rides to Griffith. The zoo runs two tours a day, each with guides. After looking at some smaller animals, we were divided into groups of about a dozen to sit in open carts each pulled by a Clydesdale.
This part of the tour took about two and a half hours as we got to see all the various African animals. They even have some of the white lions from Mogo Zoo. They run quite a few successful breeding programs of some endangered species. All the animals look healthy with plenty of room to roam. The staff all seem very knowledgeable and passionate about the zoo and it’s care of the animals now and into the future. I’ve decided that I want a Maned Wolf as my next pet – gorgeous creatures! At the time of our visit they had just received two Rhinoceroses whose habitat was sponsored by a local firm – so no photos please.
The park also has some tawny lions, with our guide explaining that a few years ago the local dentist had been called upon to perform some dentistry work on one of them – the local vet being overseas at the time. Someone in our cart piped up that that dentist was a Ulyssean and was to be our ride leader the next day. We all looked forward to hearing his tale.
Our ride on Sunday was led by Andrew Raadgever, an MIA Branch member and retired dentist. He took us through all the highlights of the region including the Hermits Cave and Barellan, birth place of Yvonne Goolagong. A bus load of older persons had also stopped at the Cave and took great interest in the free bike show, some even scoring a sit on a bike. Again the roads were heavily damaged by flood waters. We arrived a little early in Leeton, so Ethel, Andrew’s wife, took us on a small walking tour of the town highlighting the art deco buildings, especially the beautiful Roxy Theatre. Lunch was pre-ordered so quickly served and consumed. With the weather looking threatening, we rode/drove quickly back to Griffith via Whitton.
Back at the Acacia Motel, the branch traditionally has a takeaway meal for their last night, with the Motel owner providing some entertainment with his beautiful singing. Tables were drawn up in a semi-circle in the carpark and we ate and chatted while our host sang some selections from Roy Orbison and other popular songs from our era. Unfortunately the threatening weather became a reality with thunder and lightning forcing us all to scurry to our rooms to finish eating. After the storm we regrouped to continue talking, drinking, and catching up.
Here we finally got to hear Andrew’s story about the lion. He had been contacted by the park asking for help. His research involved a YouTube clip of another large cat undergoing dental surgery, consultation with Mogo Zoo, and deciding which of his (human) dentistry instruments could be used for a lion. I’m not sure who arranged the anaesthetic, but there was a ranger on hand with a rifle. Andrew said that he was also a shooter, and joked that he had a rifle in one hand, and his instruments in the other. After the procedure his dentistry nurse couldn’t resist the temptation to take some photos of herself with the unconscious lion.
It seemed to rain all night and I was glad (coward that I am) to have a car to travel home in. It’s bad enough when the weather closes in during a ride, but it’s certainly no fun starting your ride in the rain. It was also a little chilly and quite windy. The rain cleared a little as the riders set off, but the roads would have been sodden. We left shortly after, travelling home via Temora, taking in the Lake George lookout for the rare sight of the lake with water in it.
The weekend was a great chance to reconnect with the Yarra Ranges after our New Year’s Eve trip with them to Jindabyne a few years ago. Old friendships were re-established and the years caught up with. We can recommend a trip with the Yarra Ranges branch as their weekend rides are well organised, well patronised (about 40 attendees), and the members always welcoming to new folk.