This large multi-day adventure took us on a rugged but picturesque loop of the South Burnett, including the foothills of the Bunya Mountains. It had everything – rail trails, old stock routes, thick forests, big climbs, long descents, and even some organic wine.
Sixteen intrepid riders turned up at Linville early on Saturday morning. We had loaded our bikes with all the gear we’d need for three days. In the final minutes before riding off, many of us made some nervous adjustments to our rigs to make sure everything was ok.
We lined up fresh and clean for our “start of the ride” photo, eager horses chomping at the bit to embark on our ride.
We set out from Linville along the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.
This former railway line slowly climbs up the Great Dividing Range for 22 kilometres. The gradient is easy because it was originally intended for trains which like lazy riders don’t handle steep slopes very well.
We took it easy on the way up, aware of the distances ahead, and happily chatted as we gained altitude.
Happy riders approached from the opposite directions. Kids on small bikes, smiling teens, mums and dads all coasted by us happily as they rolled down the hill we had been climbing.
At Benarkin, we left the rail trail and pointed our bikes along a quiet back road towards Taromeo.
Staines Road is a delightful clay road which runs between farmland and forest. It has a gentle downhill slope, so we rolled for several kilometres in the shade. This was a pleasant way to start a big ride.
Someone had imaginatively hoisted an old bike in a tree. Note to self: If you’re on the rail trail and ever need a spare part, this would be a good way to come.
After emerging from the forest we parted ways with Darb and Calum. They had joined us for the day and had to start the homeward leg of their loop while we continued.
Some of the bikes were heavily laden. They handled quiet roads, rail trails and gravel roads quite well. But some of the roads ahead were rough. How would they go?
“Old Coach Road” is part of the Bicentennial National Trail. It’s bumpy, rutted and full of history. Optimistic gold miners travelled along here in the nineteenth century in search of a fortune at the Seven Mile Diggings. Drovers took their cattle along here on the way to markets in Brisbane. Horses dragged Cobb & Co coaches full of anxious passengers up and down these treacherous hills.
We all carefully picked our lines and rode it bravely.
Jason’s bike weighed in at over 40kg. I was surprised how well he handled it.
At one or two spots we decided to walk the bikes. With less weight it would have been a blast to bounce down, but we didn’t relish the idea of crashing with all that weight.
How did coaches ever get up and down “Old Coach Road”?
At the bottom of the descent, Eric picked out a shady tree, hung his bike from it, and sat down for lunch.
We decided to join him, although nobody else was able to find such a fine bike-parking branch.
We eventually crossed Cooyar Creek, site of the Seven Mile Diggings.
Prospectors found alluvial gold in Cooyar Creek in the 1890’s. At its peak, over seven hundred miners worked its banks looking for elusive golden flecks.
As we crossed the creek, a couple of modern prospectors were still looking for gold. If they had found any, they weren’t telling anyone.
The climb out of Cooyar Creek is steep and bumpy.
Most of us pushed our bikes up the hill.
At the crest of the climb, a friendly sign reminded us our destination wasn’t too far away.
Our lodging for the night was about six kilometres outside Nanango.
Since we were passing through town I suggested we visit the local pub to pay our respects and conduct some research into the quality of ale in rural districts. It’s a challenging task, but we all agreed that someone needed to do it.
With our thirsts temporarily quenched, we worked our bikes up one or two final hills before arriving at Uncle Bob’s.
Rod and Celia Price operate this delightful B&B / vineyard and kindly offered to feed and house sixteen hungry mountain bikers. What wonderful people!
Some of us camped in their back yard. Others stayed in the cottage or the bunk house. There was room for everyone.
We sampled some of Rod and Celia’s amazing wine while they and their neighbours cooked our meal.
Some seasoned Epicureans stayed up longer than others. After a big day and such a delicious meal I started to feel drowsy after 7pm. By 7.30 I was fast asleep, dreaming about tomorrow’s adventure.
Day 1 stats:
60 kilometres in about six and a half hours including breaks. We climbed about 850m in vertical ascent, and I burned about 2,400 kcal.
7.5 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.
Go to Day 2.
Most of us woke around dawn to a chorus of birdsong.
Our hosts had cooked us breakfast by the pool.
I was mindful of the one hundred kilometres we planned to cover today and ate my fill.
Everyone seemed well rested and eager to get started.
We thanked our generous hosts and pointed our bikes to the West.
It was fascinating to see how each rider had packed for this trip.
Some took the “kitchen-sink” approach, with tents, sleeping gear and clothes loaded on the bikes, but others packed lightly.
It’s a balancing act. Too much weight makes the bike unwieldy and tiring to ride, too little and you don’t have enough to last the distance. The seasoned bike packers seem to have worked it out to perfection.
Good meals and comfortable accommodation did the trick. Yesterday’s hills seemed less steep today.
We followed some quiet gravel roads westward to our lunch stop at Kingaroy.
Eric seems to have an affinity for resting under shady trees. After an hour or so of rolling hills, he chose this one for us. The climb had been deceptive – we had ascended more than we realized and enjoyed a clear view of the horizon.
As we continued towards Kingaroy we surrendered some of our elevation, enjoying a few long descents down the red dirt roads.
This was a perfect day for riding. The low clouds threatened rain which never came, and shaded us from the sun.
Towards Coolabunia I spotted a familiar looking circular mound of dirt by the side of the road.
“Hey look! It’s a Bora Ring!” I yelled excitedly.
For millennia these ceremonial earth rings were used for cultural celebrations, dancing, singing and initiation ceremonies for the young men. This particular area is called Coolabunia or “Goola banya” in the Wakka language, meaning “koala sleeping”.
This ring probably belonged to the Bujiebara tribe, who took their name from “Buji” the carpet snake which was plentiful in the area. Neighboring tribes believed that the Bujiebara tribe had the power to control carpet snakes whch were associated with good rainfall.
This small mound of dirt by the side of the road carries a rich history.
Nearing Kingaroy we followed quiet paved roads over more rolling hills with pleasant views to the horizon.
I fell behind the other riders and wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find them in town.
I quickly found my friends at the shopping centre. We crowded into a nearby bakery, and adjacent coffee shop, all eager to fuel up, and refill our water.
On our way out of town we passed some massive trucks in what appeared to be a used car lot for mining equipment.
Somehow I don’t think it would fit in my garage.
Familiar names flashed by on friendly signs as we continued.
I love looking at the name of a town on a sign or a map and thinking “I’ve ridden there.” As we ride through more places it feels like my “home town” gets larger, comprised of more small towns, forests, and farming districts.
The houses, streets and silos of Kingaroy receded behind us as we rode south out of town along another peaceful red dirt road.
After a brisk riding pace out of Kingaroy, a few of us had a quick rest on the grass at Goodger school.
The school closed a few decades ago, but it is still lovingly maintained.
Perhaps school children once lazed in this grass after a tough day. It was an ideal place to relax.
A little further down the road we topped up with water at Goodger Railway Station. The trains have gone. The old railway line is barely visible, but the buildings are in perfect condition, awaiting a train that will never come.
We rode west from Goodger towards Archookoora state forest. The early morning cloud had evaporated, but tall trees shaded us for most of the way.
We all heaved a sigh of relief as we dropped into the coolness of the hoop pine forest.
It is planted on a steep hillside, which allowed us to coast downhill over moist clay tracks.
At this point we could have followed the paved road into Kumbia. Instead, we took “the road less travelled”.
Oaky Creek Back Road is a delightful rural track which follows a rough ridge westwards.
The Bunya Mountains loomed on the distant horizon. As we gained elevation we could see forever in every direction.
Adam’s bike weight about 35kg. He was relieved at the top of yet another climb, able to let his bike coast downhill, slowly accelerating.
As the downward slope grew steeper, his heavy bike picked up speed and his smile widened.
(Photo: Jason Grant)
After one hundred tough kilometres we pulled into the Kumbia Pub.
Although we were hungry, dusty, thirsty, with sore legs and sore backsides, we were happy to have made it.
The pub allows free camping on the back lawn. Some of us pitched tents.
Others grabbed a bunk, had a quick shower, and ordered a huge meal.
Max elevation: 642 m
Min elevation: 343 m
Total climbing: 1520 m
Total descent: -1373 m
Average speed: 19.91 km/h
Total Time: 08:13:11
Day 2 Stats:
It took us about eight hours to ride 100km. During that time we climbed about 1,300m and I burned almost 3,000 kcal.
This section rates 9 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.
On a hotter day it would be gruelling. The cloud cover made it easier for us.
Pubs are happy places to spend an evening, but they can be loud. I retired early and used ear plugs to shut out the noise.
We rose before dawn as salmon-tinged wisps of cloud greeted us in the eastern sky.
Many of us had sore legs from the previous couple of days. Today required another 100km ride, so we started gently.
The paved road devolved into yet another delightful dirt track as we made our way back to Archookoora.
We had a brief rest at the forestry station, allowing some of the more energetic locals to pass us.
Because Archookoora is at the top of a hill, we enjoyed another long descent as we rode away, coasting almost ten kilometres towards Barker Creek.
The bridge at Barker Creek is closed to traffic.
But we figured that “traffic” didn’t mean mountain bikes.
We continued east through Tarong State Forest down bumpy rutted tracks.
The terrain grew hillier, spreading us out as each rider progressed at their own pace.
I ended up being “Tail End Charlie” for a while. I was slower than the other riders and dropped behind enjoying the peaceful wide open space.
I caught up with Kaye at the Meandu Coal Mine. It provides fuel for the adjacent power station and has left dramatic scars on the landscape.
The coal mine marked the highest point of the day. With no more big climbs for the remainder of the ride we could enjoy a predominantly downhill course back to the start.
Tall pines planted 65 years ago formed a verdant cathedral. We rolled through their cool shade.
Yarraman is the terminus of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.
We had lunch here, then followed the rail trail for the final leg of our journey.
The train of bike-packers rolled through pleasant farmland…
…between stone embankments covered with ancient grass trees.
Pidna Station was merely a sign amid bushland. No buildings or evidence of any railway-related activity.
The bike-pack express didn’t stop at this station.
The rail trail passed under the highway a couple of times.
I was glad we didn’t have to share the trail with motor vehicles.
The BVRT has many gates which need to be opened in order to pass through. I was grateful when Dave, and some of the others held the gates open to let the slower riders through. It helped not having to dismount at each gate.
At Blackbutt we had one more rest.
Everyone was pleasantly tired.
All that remained was an easy 25km roll down the range to Linville. The hard work was over.
The faster riders raced ahead, eager to sample the wares of the Linville pub.
I had the trail to myself, enjoying the solitude of rolling for almost an hour down a gentle twisting railway line.
I caught up with Clayton and Kaye at one of the gates, and rode the last few kilometres with them.
We rolled triumphantly under the final bridge into Linville.
I was elated. We had done it!
This called for a celebration.
After quickly changing into more comfortable clothes, I hobbled across the road to the Linville Pub to toast our achievements with my friends.
Max elevation: 572 m
Min elevation: 138 m
Total climbing: 1103 m
Total descent: -1476 m
Average speed: 19.50 km/h
Total Time: 07:08:23
Day 3 Stats:
We rode 99 kilometres in about seven hours including breaks. We climbed about 900 metres in elevation and I burned about 2,500 kcal.
The long downhills made this section easier than I had anticipated.
I’ll rate it 8 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.
In total we rode about 260km in three days with about 22 hours total riding time including breaks.
We climbed a total of about 3,000 metres in elevation and I burned about 8,000 kcal.
I’d like to express my thanks to Eric for the work he put into organizing this ride.
Thank you to everyone who took part – you were great company and made this a memorable ride.