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A Bright Flashpacking

February 20, 2022

With the booming popularity of gravel bikes, more riders are now looking to push the boundaries of where they ride and how they interact with their bikes. Versatility is a foundational trait for these bikes, while their power to rekindle the joy that riding a bike can bring is almost unparalleled.

So bitten by the adventure bug, our two voyagers, BikeExchange Sales Manager Melanie and good friend Sally, headed up to the Victorian High Country to experience the road less travelled on their very first flashpacking adventure.

Flashpacking 101


At its essence, flashpacking emphasises the ride, the sights and the surroundings rather than meticulous planning of gear, inventory and self-sufficiency. Think Air BnB’s over tents, packing light, sampling local cafe’s, eateries and produce over preparing a meal around a campfire.

True to the spirit of flashpacking, their adventure was not about epic distances or the joy of suffering; It was all about having a cracking time. So with many memories made and experience gained, we hope the memories and guide below fuel your passion for riding and encourage you to try it out and experience flashpacking for yourself.

Accessing the High Country


Positioned in northern Victoria, the Victorian High Country is easily accessible by car or train.

If you’re interstate and would prefer to fly, Tullamarine Airport is located 30 minutes outside of the Melbourne CBD, where you can catch a connecting train or hit the Hume if you’d prefer to pilot a hire car to the region.

By road, Bright is an easy three and a half hour drive from the Melbourne CBD via the Hume Highway or a little under five hours southeast of Canberra.

Wangaratta is the closest station and the gateway to the region by rail. Trains leave several times a day from Melbourne, with the journey clocking in at just under three hours. Alternatively, the Wangaratta line is also serviced by the Sydney to Melbourne train line, with the journey clocking in at eight and a half hours from the NSW capital.

Choose Your Adventure


Once you arrive in Wangaratta, accessing the alpine region is as simple as following the aptly named Murray to Mountains rail trail. The rail trail extends from 80km Wangaratta to Bright following the old Bright railway line and includes a side branch to Beechworth.

While the rail trail is the most straightforward option for riders looking to ride direct to bright, there are detour options aplenty for riders wanting to check out some of the surrounding roads and towns.

Mel and Sal opted to detour and make Bright the final destination via Milawa, Myrtleford and Mount Buffalo.

The Road Less Travelled


The first leg of their journey saw them take in the sights of the Ovens River en route to the Milawa Providore to sample the goodness on offer. This included what Sal reckons is “the best woodfired pizza” she’s ever had. The food was complemented by a host of Redbank Wines and a deliciously refreshing round of ginger beers.

After refuelling with rewarding slow-paced lunch, the route from Milawa to Myrtleford saw the team travel along Snow Road, with a couple of gravel road diversions thrown in diversify of their sun-drenched meander through the foothills of the Alpine National Park. Upon reaching their destination, the team was treated to a relaxing pub meal before bunking down for the night in a quaint cottage. While the first leg was a nice introduction to the region, the bulk of the adventure was one well-rested sleep away.


Day two saw an early start with Mel and Sal opting to circumnavigate Mount Buffalo via Lake Buffalo en route to bright. Standing at the height of 1385m at its peak, Mount Buffalo provides some of the regions most aesthetically pleasing vista’s. From the refreshing waters of the lake, 300m tall sheer granite cliffs, canyons, crevices and to the gullies and caves, the 31,000-hectare national park is worth adding to your High Country itinerary list.

So with the mountain in full view, the route loaded, the team set off on what was reportedly the most rewarding day of riding our flashpacking newbies have encountered.

With a relatively flat 10km lead-in, Buffalo river road provided an ideal warm-up for the legs before turning off on Running Creek Road to tackle the first elevation metres of the day. The manicured gravel road was a welcome addition to the morning, with the dappled sunlight lit track giving our bikepacking first-timers their first chance to snick a few lighter gears and make their way up the gradual 7.4km long 4.5% gradient climb. After returning to the false flat Buffalo River Road, it was a short 15km jaunt before a mid-morning picnic beckoned on the shores of Lake Buffalo.


With the sun sitting high in the mid-summer sky and the mercury rising, the team again sought refuge under the bespeckled shade provided by the gumtrees lining the quiet and picturesque gravel route on the menu for the day.

While the first climb of the day was a nice warm-up, the 8.4% average gradient up the backside of Mount Buffalo tested the mettle of Mel and Sal, who unashamedly admitted to hike-a-biking a few sections to give some reprieve to the ascent. However, with the 10.1km climb conquered and the “The Horn” seemingly within touching distance, it was time to descend the backside of Buffalo and what a descent it was. With hairpin turns and switchbacks flanked by granite cliff faces that wouldn’t be out of place in the French Alps, the descent section more than made up for the technical climb that preceded it. With the downhill blast funnelling the team out onto Buckland Valley road, it was a gradual descent into Porepunkah, which gave a perfect chance to spin out the legs, share a joke and drink in the views before rejoining the Murray to Mountains rail trail for an effortless roll into Bright.


Lodgings for the night were handled by Bright Velo, a hotel run by cyclists, for cyclists that serves as the perfect destination or base camp for any rider looking to experience the Victorian Alpine Region. With yet another stellar day in the books and some well-earned drinks and laughs shared on the banks of the Ovens River at the Bright Brewery, it was time to turn in for the night and rest up for the recovery roll on day three.

With the long weekend drawing to a close, after enjoying the hospitality on offer at a handful of establishments in the bustling township, day three saw Mel and Sal stick to the undulating and well-maintained rail trail for the return leg of their journey back to Wangaratta. While the legs were fatigued when the pair reached the train station, their hearts were full, and the memory banks were stocked with experiences that were ready to be recounted to anyone willing to listen.

A Lasting Impression


For a self-described “couple of mums in their mid-forties” who haven't cycled regularly for some years, the trip was a delightful surprise. It quashed any doubt the pair had about their physical readiness and delighted in the memories and experiences gained. So while the sun has set on a journey that's sure to live on in their minds for years to come, the dynamic duo is already planning their next trip to Australia’s premier cycling destination. So what’s stopping you?

Looking to take on your own Bikepacking Adventure and don’t know where to start? Check out our Beginners Guide to Bikepacking Gear!