Today’s adventure took us in a big off-road loop through the Talgai and Leyburn State Forests, northwest of Warwick.
We started in the small Southern Downs hamlet of Pratten.
Visitors to the local markets crowded the main street while we rolled down a short stretch of paved road towards the dirt.
After thirty seconds we were meandering down a quiet gravel lane…
…past twisted red gums….
…and odd-looking pig-shaped letter boxes.
It’s a short trip from Pratten to the Talgai State Forest.
This area was mined for gold, so the forests are full of deep mine shafts.
Bikes don’t ride well down mine shafts, so we stuck to the gravel road.
The pink trunks of spotted gums striped the landscape, like an abstract painting. Talgai forest is full of them. In fact South-East Queensland is full of these impressive trees, with their pocked salmon-colored trunks and dark flakey bark. I often see them but never tire of them.
A short distance down the road we arrived at Thanes Creek Fossicking Area. Without dangerously deep shafts, this section of the state forest has been set aside for people to fossick for gold…
Eric had a bit of a look around and found a bike.
It was strangely identical to the one he was already riding.
How surprising 🙂
From Thanes Creek we continued westwards towards Leyburn past numerous cattle properties.
The dirt road seemed to go forever under cool, cloudy skies.
For most of the way, we seemed to be either coasting downhill or pedalling effortlessly along flat terrain.
Eventually we left the gravel road to follow a track through Leyburn State Forest.
Ahead a couple of wedge-tailed eagles flapped off into the trees, startled by our approach.
In one or two places we had to crest some short steep pinches, but for most of the way the trail was fairly easy.
Red dirt, grey tree trunks, rustling leaves – we rode through yet another landscape that seemed like a painting.
Some of the Prickly Pear cactus grows large. I tried biting one of the buds. It didn’t taste at all like a pear.
Some of these cacti are several metres tall with thick trunks and sharp prickles. We were careful not to brush up against them.
Back on the forestry road, we rolled the last kilometre into Leyburn. So far this had been an easy ride.
The pub didn’t start serving lunch until midday. We still had a twenty-minute wait, so we decided to ride up to the top of a hill just outside town to get a better view.
The town lay behind us, framed by the hills of the state forest on the horizon.
Pretty purple flowers festooned the hilltop.
After our short trip up the hill, we rolled back into town for lunch and a cool drink.
The Leyburn pub was a perfect rest-stop. The food was delicious, and we appreciated the friendly service.
They even laughed at my lame jokes.
Leyburn has a fascinating history.
An airbase was located here during the Second World War. Later the airstrip was converted into a racing track which was used for the first ever Grand Prix race in Australia.
This old red phone box didn’t seem out of place.
After lunch we wandered around town for a while on the bikes, trying to shake off the sluggish relaxed feeling of a full stomach.
Eventually we made our way back to the red dirt of Leyburn State Forest for our return trip.
Eric and I had ridden here a couple of months ago. Some of the land marks seemed familiar.
Last time we had spent a lot of time grinding up hills. This time I made sure to rearrange the course so we could enjoy some nice, long, bumpy descents instead.
The trail was rough in places – but my dual-suspension soaked it up giving me a smooth ride. I muttered affectionate words of gratitude to my bike.
Eventually we encountered an interesting looking cave.
We had passed this feature last visit, but had not checked it out.
This time we stopped to have a look.
I clambered inside. It was dry, and covered with animal droppings. Obviously our small cousins had given this little rocky shelter their seal of approval.
I made sure not to sit in any of their calling cards.
Unfortunately the undergrowth was covered with sticky burrs. It took me ages to pull them away from my socks and knicks.
We left the forest and continued our eastward journey back towards Pratten.
The road was straight and flat for most of the way, and we were able to maintain a brisk pace.
Small wallabies bounced along beside us as we rolled down the road.
Eventually we re-joined Talgai State Forest near Pratten.
I had programmed my GPS with an expected average speed of about 12km/h including breaks. One of the consequences of setting an expected speed is that it displays a “training partner” and tells you whether or not you’re behind or ahead of it.
I was about a kilometre behind this fictional cyclist, with about four kilometres left to ride.
Not one to ignore a challenge, I turned up the effort a few notches and tried to catch up with my imaginary competitor.
I grinned smugly to myself as we overtook the training partner just outside of Pratten.
We rode into town on a short stretch of paved road.
Eric made a mental note about how we might avoid the tarmac on a future ride.
At our final landmark before finishing up, Eric pointed out an old miners hut.
I pondered over how a miner could sleep in such a hut – my feed would probably poke out of the door.
Life was tough in the nineteenth century.
Max elevation: 565 m
Min elevation: 418 m
Total climbing: 1177 m
Total descent: -1164 m
Average speed: 18.70 km/h
Total time: 05:18:46
We rode about 65km in just over five hours including breaks.
During that time we climbed about 850 metres in vertical ascent, and I burned about 2,500 kcal.
Due to the cool weather, cloudy skies, and relaxed pace, this was an easy ride. Either of the routes between Pratten and Leyburn would be perfect as part of a multi-day bikepacking route, although I’d recommend the southern leg for west-bound travel, and the northern leg for east-bound travel. This route is best done in a clockwise direction.
I’ll rate this ride 6.5 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.
Thanks Eric, Paul and Jason for another memorable day out on the bikes.