Many years ago I used to be a tour manager. I led groups of 50 or so people around Europe. It was a great job but boy did you have to be organised. Every day involved departure times, schedules, exacting itineraries and unwavering structure. The trick was to make it look effortless but it was a lot of work and effort with almost zero downtime.
So on one occasion, during a rare break in-between tours, myself and another tour manager pal decided to go for a wistful drive into the English countryside. The plan was to have no plans! To experience the anthithesis of our everyday lives. So we hired a car and drove out of London – destination unknown. With a tank of gas, change of clothes and not much else.
Incredibly however I soon noticed that as we drove we were both repeatedly checking our wrist-watches. It begged the question – why?! We didn’t know where we were going, so how the heck could we know if we were on time? There was only one thing for it…
“Spence, give me your watch. They’re both going in the glove compartment!”
Initially it was difficult going schedule-cold-turkey but we both warmed to it. I remember clearly that at first we followed a road-sign that simply stated – ‘The North’. I loved the rather scant amount of detail. That’s what this trip was about! As we drove nonchalantly north we then happened across another sign. I delighted that it was equally as vague. This one just read – ‘The West’. Ooohhh. decisions, decisions.
Turns out we did go west. We enjoyed many fantastic off-the-cuff experiences in the bucolic countryside close to the Welsh border. However way too quickly I was back in the seat of a coach glaring intently at my watch. I made a mental note to do more of those road trips. And do you know what?
Daylesford road trip.
“See you at 3:30 in Daylesford…”
I had loads of time before my planned meeting. It was an hour and a half’s drive tops from my house. I left about midday without really working out a route but I knew had plenty of time up-my-sleeve. I wanted some time spare as my phone had died the previous evening. So I knew a text saying ‘be there in 10 mins’ wouldn’t be an option. I needed to be on-time.
Off I went.
Up the freeway, cruise-control on, past the known and already-discovered before seeing a road sign for Macedon. I’d never been there before and made a split-second decision. I thought…
Let’s go for a look!
So indicator on, a veer off the freeway and onto the quiet minor roads. First thing’s first I thought. Window down – it was a beautiful spring day and just had to be done. Time to explore. This had now become a Daylesford road trip!
I began my exploration in the tiny hamlet of Macedon. Being both a history buff and train-lover I first made tracks to the train station. Along this stretch of line between Melbourne and Bendigo many of the historic stations have been retained. Whilst automated ticketing systems have replaced ticket windows and staff the splendid old edifices still remain. Macedon station is worth a look even if you aren’t planning on catching a train.
As I made my way back to my trusty old Toyota Camry (it’s a great family car ok, don’t judge me!) I couldn’t help but notice a number of luxury cars gleeming in the station carpark. Makes sense I thought. Nice and close to Melbourne as a commute – perhaps a 50 minute train ride. Flash house – flash car – train – work – train – flash car – flash house. That works.
In fact so prevalent in number were BMW’s that I was thinking that the collective noun for a group of them might be a ‘Macedon’. It didn’t actually take long to discover from-whence they probably came. My next stop was the village of Mount Macedon – just up the road.
For a short while, when I first arrived, I thought I may have somehow been transported back in time. Back to those rolling English meadows and verdant green forests. Had I taken a left instead of a right and ended-up in Surrey? This was unlike any part of Victoria I had ever seen!
High walls encircled grandiose houses. Some so high you couldn’t even see the dwelling within but could only imagine. This was impressive. Hamptons anyone?
The road leading up to the mount itself was like something plucked from a fairy tale. Venerable trees providing speckled shading for the assortment of residents and day-trippers shuttling back and forth along this restful stretch of asphalt. Even on a Thursday I could see how popular this stretch of road was, and would be, with cyclists and motorcyclists
I also popped into the village proper for a look. A few nice spots to be fed and watered and a very laid-back community atmosphere. To quote Arnie- “I’ll be barrrk”.
I left Mount Macedon and arrived in Daylesford about 45 minutes later, just. If you may remember I had no phone and in-turn no Google Maps. I had also gone freeway off-piste and was in uncharted territory, for me at least. Turns out I did a few zigs when I should have zagged but eventually I got there.
I had been to Daylesford a couple of times before but felt I had only really scratched-the-surface. I had also been reasonably rushed on previous visits. This time I had many hours just for myself – bliss!
The ‘main drag’ of Daylesford is always abuzz. There are a multitude of boutiques, eateries and wine bars. For someone into people-watching like me it is a magic location.
Click an image to enlarge
Next stop was famed Lake Daylesford and a wander on part of the Goldfield’s Track.
As late afternoon started inevitably melding into early evening the few clouds in the sky gave up their attempts at hiding the sun. At this exact moment the breeze also dropped to a whisper. It was a serene, almost ethereal vista looking out upon the lake.
As I wandered I was passed on the trail by joggers, friends out for a walk, people walking their hounds and a group of youngsters who had braved the lake’s icy spring waters. We were all basking in the sun’s rays after a very cool spring. Life was good!
Time to go.
What a day this had been sans phone. No texts, no calls, no pressure. It was time to travel back to the ‘real-world’ but there was no rush. I wandered Vincent Street again as the sun bid farewell behind some nearby foothills. The ambience was changing as the shadows lengthened. The streets were almost empty now save for the people in the restaurants and bars. It was a Thursday evening on school-night after all.
Click to enlarge image.
As those lucky enough to live here or staying-the-night perused their dining options it was time for me to head for home.
I had been advised that hitting the road was preferable to hitting a kangaroo and not to leave my departure too late. So it was time to bid adieu.
Leave the phone at home sometime. Try it!
There truly was something magical about not being contactable – if only for a few hours. I knew I couldn’t really go too wrong with my directions either. I was driving with a general ‘gist’ of where I was. If you give it a go make sure that you don’t have to be anywhere at a specific time.
There is something wonderful about an open road. It’s cathartic. I found that having no plan was a great plan and will be doing this again. As I drove home with the golden-hour shards of sunlight piercing the forest around me I had the window down. As the wind hit my face there was something else already upon it. A contented smile.
What a day, what an experience and how easy was it! Give it a go sometime.
All photography © Saxon Templeton