The headwaters of the Condamine River flow through some of the most stunning country you’ll ever see.
Today’s ride took us through this dramatic gap in the Great Dividing Range from Killarney to Aratula.
This was a point-to-point ride.
We had left one vehicle in Aratula, then drove the rest of the cars to Killarney.
We’d drive back to collect them at the end of the day.
“No wonder they named this place after Irish towns,” Paul said.
The lush green grass and rolling hills must have reminded early settlers of distant gentler lands.
After a few minutes we made our first crossing of the Condamine River for the day.
We’d be crossing it more than a dozen times, through knee deep water. “Brosnan’s Bridge” would be the easiest crossing of the day.
The Condamine is one of Australia’s great rivers.
Starting on the slopes of Mount Superbus, it flows westwards, through the gorge, then through dry grassy plains, forming part of the vast Murray-Darling system which eventually flows into the Great Australian Bight on the other side of this continent several thousand kilometres away.
So if you ever spit into “The Condy” – it goes a long way!
The paved road ended as our tyres crunched on dusty gravel.
“You’re going to get wet feet,” I warned my riding buddies beforehand.
Even so, I tried to delay the inevitable, and tip-toed over rocks to the side of the crossing in a vain attempt to keep the water out of my shoes.
Justin told me that riding through the Gorge was on his “Bucket List”.
I smiled inwardly. It’s a great feeling to organize a ride then have someone tell you that you’ve helped them tick off one of the items on their Bucket List.
Good on ya, Justin.
As we rode upstream the cliffs loomed closer under a cloudy sky.
We were all grateful for the overcast weather. Long rides in mid-summer can be challenging. This coolness was most welcome.
At the next crossing, the knee-deep water came up to my wheel hubs. I decided to carry the bike rather than risk getting water in the hubs.
I bit the bullet and waded through.
With my feet now officially wet, I no longer had to worry about keeping them dry – slightly less comfortable, but much simpler.
Such strange names. Who was Billy John Dagg?
Some of the crossings were shallow enough to ride.
We bounced over large rocks, trying to look like pros while people watched on from the comfort of their 4WDs.
Cambanoora Gorge is also known as Condamine Gorge.
It’s a pretty place, full of history.
It’s also very popular.
We passed dozens of 4WD’s and the occasional horse.
I tried to ride through one crossing but didn’t quite make it.
Top effort, Paul 🙂
Not to be outdone, Adam ploughed through next, his bright green tyres parting the water.
The sign says there are forteen crossings.
It felt like a lot more.
We crossed the final ford and made our way out of the gorge.
Wilson’s Peak loomed ahead of us, its head in the clouds.
This is magical country. Like Justin, it should be on any adventurer’s bucket list.
We slowly climbed up the hill and out of the Gorge.
On our left, the Condamine River twisted around small hills.
We were close to its source.
This area is called “The Head” because it’s the “head” of the Condamine River and the easternmost point of the Murray Darling river system.
Adam’s legs were starting to feel sore.
He’d had a big day out on the moto-cross bike a few days earlier and was feeling it today.
To his credit he soldiered on.
We stopped for a quick break under a tree at the top of the hill.
While clouds of flies buzzed around our heads, Eric put on a mesh veil to keep them away.
I’ll have to get myself one of those!
We crossed the State Border at the Rabbit-Proof Fence near the top of Head Gate Road.
From here we enjoyed a fast descent over the loose gravel
I’ve ridden up this road a couple of times in the past. It’s much more enjoyable riding down it.
At the bottom, we splashed through Koreelah Creek.
The last time we came through here, the water was waist deep. At that time I worried we would be washed away. Today the water was much quieter.
We rode around the cloudy southern face of Wilson’s Peak, and up White Swamp Road.
This pretty tree-lined track starts off reasonably flat, but slowly gets steeper.
Paul and I snaked up the road, zigzagging from one side to the other in order to reduce the aparent steepness of the grade.
We all climbed at various rates, which spread us out over several kilometres.
At the top of the climb we crossed the State Border again at White Swamp Gate.
Rabbits aren’t welcome in Queensland. Thankfully we didn’t have any furry passengers with us today.
The climbing stopped.
The road started pointing downwards.
We began to coast, faster and faster. It was a relief to be no longer mashing the pedals up seemingly endless hills.
The roll down Carney’s Creek Road has spectacular views on either side.
The only problem is that it’s steep, and it’s difficult to soak up the panorama and keep control of the bike as well.
The trees thinned out, and the landscape spread out below us, a vista of rolling hills and jagged mountains in the rainy mist.
The mountain biker in me wanted to release the brakes and rush downward.
The photograhper in me wanted to take lots of photos.
I tried to do both 🙂
At the bottom of the hill we met the paved road again and rode towards the jagged peaks of Mount Moon.
The bitumen only lasted a few kilometres.
At Croftby Road we turned north, running parallel with the Great Dividing Range to our left.
Mount Greville loomed ahead. It’s not far from Aratula, so we had a reasonable idea of how much further we had to ride.
I started to tire and fell behind the other riders.
Paul kindly rode alongside me.
We had to ride along the busy Cunningham Highway for the last four kilometres.
I was grateful for the wide road-shoulder that gave us plenty of room to stay away from passing traffic.
During that time we climbed over 1,200 metres in elevation, and I burned just under 3,000 kcal.
This was a tough ride in mild conditions. It would have been much more challenging under clear skies.
It would also have been much more difficult riding the other way.
I’ll rate this one 8.5 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.
Thanks to Kaye, Darb, Eric, Adam, Simon, Justin and Paul for a great day out on the bikes in some stunning country.
I hope we can do many more rides like this.
UPDATE: 3 Feb 18. Here’s Adam’s video of the day: