We spent the night in a big old house at Eurong Village. After raiding the “all you can eat” buffet at the resort the night before, we were rested, well fed, and eager to start our long southward trek down the beach.
Darb, Justin and Wayne wanted to get some photos of their “Muru” fat bikes on the beach. Apparently these titanium bikes are pretty good – and Muru owners go to great lengths to take photos of their steeds in action. I was happy to oblige. In return they didn’t run me over as they rode by.
We rode into a strong headwind, riding single-file so that the rider in front took the full force of the wind. The people behind had relief from the headwind and didn’t have to work so hard.
We shared the load – each of us taking a turn at front doing the “hard work” for the team.
For the first time I was able to fully appreciate the power of a cycling peloton.
Several years ago, riding solo down this beach into a blustering breeze, I was barely able to maintain a speed of five kilometres per hour. Today as a team in similar conditions we were averaging between twelve and fifteen kilometres per hour.
The difference was amazing.
We stopped occasionally to take more loving photos of the bikes…
…and to rest.
“Hey I know that bloke!”
Justin waved at a bus driver coming up the beach.
The two talked while everyone else had a quick rest.
This was a secluded beach.
Apart from the occasional four-wheel drive, we had it to ourselves.
A golden ribbon of sand stretched in front of us (and behind us) to the horizon, broken from time to time by freshwater creeks flowing into the sea.
The relentless wind continued.
My mental processes reduced to a series of simple thoughts:
“I like being at the back of the pack. It’s easy to ride. I’ve got ten minutes till I need to ride at the front again.”
“The beach looks nice. ”
“My bum hurts.”
“Arrggg – I’m at number two position already. Not long and I’ll be at the front again.”
“Geeze this wind is strong. How much longer do I have to ride at the front?”
“Thirty seconds to go. Perhaps I should try and ride up here a bit longer to give the other guys a break.”
These difficult conditions gave me a new appreciation for my riding buddies.
I needed them. They needed me. I didn’t want to let them down.
My painful stint pushing into the breeze at the front of the pack was my gift to them.
As we laboured down the beach, the cliffs of Rainbow Beach loomed larger – a telltale sign of our slow progress southward.
As the wind gradually moved around to our left, the tail of our peloton swung out to the right to keep out of the wind, forming an “echelon”, just like in the Tour de France. Somewhere in the back of my head the imaginary voice of Phil Liggett gave an exciting commentary of the Tour de Fraser riders battling difficult conditions.
I wonder if anyone else hears these strange voices?
And then bliss.
We rounded the southern tip of the island and started riding west towards the Barge.
The wind was at our backs!
Everyone lightened up as we coasted downwind.
I love the Manta-Ray Barge, but when I think about the experience in detail it seems odd:
You ride along a secluded beach for a few hours to a specific point, and wait there.
Then a barge pulls up onto the beach.
You clamber aboard, pay the man five dollars, and enjoy a quick trip back to the mainland.
Some of us chatted while the barge chugged across the strait.
Others just gazed out to sea.
We were so lucky to be doing this. What an amazing experience.
Minutes later, the barge pushed up onto the beach at Inskip Point.
The front gate lowered onto the sand, and we rolled off.
Cars queued on the beach in front of us, heading back to Fraser Island, including a trailer load of Fat Bikes headed for the University village at Dilli.
We sat in the shade of the trees at Inskip Point for a short break. In the summer this camp site is packed with tents, caravans and fishermen holding cans of beer.
There was plenty of space for us today.
The ochre cliffs of Rainbow Beach drew closer. On the horizon the twin peaks of Double Island Point poked above the horizon.
Our conversation turned to important things: Would we have lunch at the surf club? What should we get to eat? Should we get changed first or just go straight in?
We only traveled 52 kilometres today, but it took us almost six hours including breaks because of the strong headwind.
This section rates 8 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.
Max elevation: 17 m
Min elevation: -20 m
Total climbing: 646 m
Total descent: -631 m
Average speed: 12.86 km/h
Total time: 05:41:16
Today we faced a major challenge: to ride almost seventy kilometres to Noosa, mostly on the beach, but do it within the six-hour window allowed by the tides.
There were no bail-out points. Once we reached Teewah Beach we needed to get to the Noosa River before the tide washed back up the beach and wiped out our planned track.
To make our task easier, we took the inland track behind Rainbow Beach, rather than go around Double Island Point.
Although it required a tough climb at the start of the day, this course allowed us to ride along the top of the tall red and orange cliffs that line the beach.
The blue-green swell rolled in slowly from the east, while morning sunlight sparkled on the water.
After the cliffs, we enjoyed a twisting narrow track through dense rainforest.
Tall trees blocked the sun. Odd-sounding birds sang strange songs. A cool damp breeze rushed past our faces.
This was a lot of fun.
The track emerged at Poona Lake, a picturesque freshwater lake perched amid dunes and rainforest.
We posed for some obligatory photos…
…then had a quick morning tea. I’ve often swum in this beautiful lake, but it was too cold this morning.
After Poona Lake, we enjoyed a delightful downhill run for about five kilometres.
Trees, leaves and vines blurred either side of us as we snaked through the forest.
Our bush track ended at the “Freshwater” picnic area. Time to top up the water bottles and have another quick snack.
We had timed our ride so that we’d emerge on Teewah Beach about three hours before the bottom of the low tide.
It had taken us almost three hours to get this far, but we had only ridden eighteen kilometers.
We now had six hours to complete the final fifty kilometres down the beach into the wind.
Miles and miles of endless beautiful beaches were occasionally punctuated with small freshwater creeks.
The wind blew at us diagonally from the left, so we rode in “echelon” formation like yesterday.
At Red Canyon we parked the bikes so we could wander around and have a look.
A canyon of red rock twisted up the hill and away from the beach.
It was impressive, but the imperative of Robert Frost’s poem echoed in my head…
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,But I have promises to keep,And miles to go before I sleep,And miles to go before I sleep.
We each took our turn at the front of the pack, helping our buddies stay out of the wind.
Sometimes we noticed the impressive red dunes, the impossibly long and unspoiled beach, the vast ocean. Sometimes we just thought about aching legs and sore feet.
The miles slowly fell behind us.
Time for another break. We sat under the trees in the dunes and devoured more food.
As we progressed south, the Noosa Headland slowly rose out of the water ahead of us.
Not far to the Noosa River now.
We had beaten the tide.
Wayne had booked a boat to pick us up from the north shore of the Noosa River.
He phoned the skipper, and we waited on the river bank for our ride.
While Darb and Wayne looked south for the boat, it silently slipped up to the beach behind them, on the other side of the sand bar.
“Nobody saw you coming!”
We laughed as we rolled the bikes onto the boat…
Then relaxed as we cruised across the river to Noosa.
Civilization. After a couple of days of solitude, it was strange to be in the midst of a busy town again.
Darb left his phone unattended, so Wayne and I did the kind thing and left him a happy memory on it.
That’s what friends are for.
Max elevation: 169 m
Min elevation: -38 m
Total climbing: 1308 m
Total descent: -1326 m
Average speed: 12.24 km/h
Total time: 08:14:17
We rode 65 kilometres in just over eight hours including breaks.
I’ll rate this section 8.5 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter because of the big climb at the start of the day and the long days ride into the headwind.
Day 8 started with a marathon.
We rolled the bikes out of the motel to see hundreds of people pounding the pavement in the Noosa Marathon.
I started happily taking photos of these amazing runners, only to realize later that I had unknowingly photographed my stepson Isaac at the front of the pack. (That’s him in blue to the right in the picture above)
Great effort, Isaac 🙂
The streets were blocked off for the runners, so we rode along the footpath, dodging pedestrians and spectators along the way.
A few kilometres later we slipped down a side street to avoid the crowds, and enjoy the early morning sunrise by the river.
Just up the hill near town we found a track through the bush and followed it towards the beach.
Ah hills. They’re a fact of life for any serious cyclist.
We had to push up this one.
At Sunshine Beach we treated ourselves to a cooked breakfast.
One good thing about riding a bike compared to a motor vehicle is that the fuel tastes better 🙂
Full of fried food, we rolled down to the beach and into the blustery headwind.
It was still almost four hours before the low tide, so the waves continued to come a long way up the beach. Our tyres sunk in the soft sand. This was hard work.
Fat tyres are perfect for riding over rocky terrain.
At Coolum Beach we stopped to watch a cluster of parachutists float out of the sky.
These beaches were much busier than the ones we had grown accustomed to over the last couple of days…
…but they were picturesque, nevertheless.
A huge rocky headland blocked the beach ahead of us.
We rode up a boardwalk to the top of Point Perry and Point Arkwright.
“The ocean looks rough today!”
Back on the beach at Marcoola, the tide had receded.
The sand was firmer. Riding was easier.
Pincushion Island marked the end of the beach.
The Maroochy River met the sea here. We could go no further without the help of another boat…
So we called for one and waited by the boat ramp.
Who needs bridges when a boat magically appears every time you need one?
Ten minutes later we were in the bustling heart of Maroochydore.
The seclusion of the last few days had well and truly evaporated.
We stopped in the main street of town for lunch.
There were dozens of places from which to choose. Eeny, meeny, miny moe.
Adam left us here, to visit family.
Before he left, he pointed out something printed on the napkin that I had missed.
Wise words – thanks Adam!
For what seemed like the hundredth time, someone asked us if the bikes had motors.
Normally I just point to my chest and say “This is the only engine I need.”
Justin was a bit more imaginative and pointed at the gear cables:
“That’s the positive terminal, there’s the negative terminal, There’s a battery here, and an electric motor there…”
He kept a straight face despite making it all up.
The onlooker nodded knowingly. It all made sense now. No one in their right mind would actually pedal a bike that big and heavy, would they?
Headlands were now crowded with holiday houses instead of trees as we continued our voyage south.
Normally I would have ridden around Alexandra Headland on the footpath.
But Wayne listened to the slightly crazy voices in his head, and pushed his bike over the rocks instead.
I meekly followed.
The city of Mooloolaba sits at the mouth of the Mooloola River. Yet another river to cross…
This time we took the boring option and used a bridge 🙂
Back on the beach at Buddina, the relentless tide had started to come in. I hoped we wouldn’t run out of beach before we reached Caloundra.
At Currimundi Lake we took a short cut through the water instead of riding around it.
We all got wet feet, but didn’t mind because we didn’t have far to ride.
I sat on the beach and wrung out my socks.
But I made the mistake of sitting too close to the water. While I sat, a large wave came in, swamping me and my bike.
The air was blue with my cursing.
I ran out of swear words and started making them up.
Everyone else was laughing. So was I – in between curses.
My friend Troy calls this “Trail Tourettes”.
I scrambled a bit further up the beach to sort myself out.
We left the sand at Moffat Beach and followed the bike path around the Caloundra Headland.
Another day done and dusted, we relaxed at the local pub with our friend Clare.
Max elevation: 87 m
Min elevation: -13 m
Total climbing: 1814 m
Total descent: -1806 m
Average speed: 13.04 km/h
Total time: 08:25:31
Today we rode 75 kilometres in about eight and a half hours.
This section rates 7.5 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.
The final day of our epic adventure started at Golden Beach.
The tides were coming later each day, which gave us time to start the day like yesterday: refueling with a delicious fry-up.
A few minutes up the road we waited by the water for our final boat ride, over the passage to the northern tip of Bribie Island.
Bill’s Boat Hire supplied us with a large fishing pontoon…
…our friend Scot kindly agreed to drive the boat, drop us off at Bribie, then return the boat.
Bribie is beautiful.
At its extreme northern tip it’s so close you can still hear the busy-ness of Caloundra over the water.
But it’s remote and peaceful
We headed down the beach past the crumbling WW2 ruins of Fort Bribie.
This was the final stretch. We were on our way home!
An hour into the ride we had another rest-stop in the dunes.
We had grown used to the relentless headwind over the last four days – but it still tired us out.
A few kilometres later we met Calum and Jason.
They had ridden up the beach to meet us.
With fresh legs, they kindly rode out front in the wind, so we could slipstream behind them.
This was wonderful – we could now take it easy at the back of the peloton while someone else did the work.
What a relief!
We had been riding down the beach for about three hours when we “turned the corner” around the southern tip of the Island at Skirmish Point.
This is my favourite part of Bribie: a long, secluded stretch of sand where the paperbarks grow thickly near the water’s edge.
Over two hundred years ago, Matthew Flinders became the first European to make contact with the Joondoburrie people who owned the island. The clumsy encounter ended with Flinders firing his gun at them, which is why it’s called “Skirmish Point”.
Forty years after that, Thomas Pamphlett stood naked on this beach waving wildly at John Oxley’s ship after spending a year living with the local Aborigines as he walked and paddled here from Moreton Island.
The adventures of these men put our small “epic” into perspective.
As we turned the corner again at Buckley’s Hole, near Bongaree, the Bribie bridge came into view.
My friend Dean once said to me “Sometimes when I get to the end of a long ride, I feel sad that it’s over. I feel underdone. I just want to keep going.”
I didn’t feel like that today. My hunger for a long ride was truly satiated for now.
Our spirits lifted as we saw the bridge in the distance and rode towards it.
At our final stop, we gave our heartfelt thanks to Jason and Calum for riding with us, and easing the last few kilometres for us.
One more obligatory photo. We resisted the urge to lift our heavily laden bikes above our heads in triumph.
We followed bike paths as far as we could to Ningi, only riding on the road when there was no other alternative.
We made it! What a delight to finally see the cars at Ningi.
Max elevation: 41 m
Min elevation: -1 m
Total climbing: 817 m
Total descent: -791 m
Average speed: 14.13 km/h
Total time: 06:36:27
Today’s segment covered almost sixty kilometres in about six and a half hours.
It rates 7.5 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter
I’m glad we did this ride, and am grateful for awesome friends.
Some adventures are best done solo, but others (like this one) are best done with good friends.
Thanks, Wayne, for organizing the ride.
Thanks to Justin, Darb, Wayne, Adam, Jason G, Paul, Calum, Jason R, Kaye and Russel for an unforgettable adventure.
Thanks also to Scott for piloting our boat to Bribie.
Full Ride Map:
Here are the approximate stats:
Justin: 850km in 11 days.
Darb and Wayne: 690km in 9 days.
Adam: 650km in 8 days.
Neil: 460km in 7 days.
Jason G and Paul: 280km in 3 days.