Plunkett Regional Park is a magnificent nature reserve near Beenleigh, boasting rocky outcrops, caves, rare plants and animals, and kilometres of challenging trails. Aaron has spent hundreds of hours exploring the park, and kindly offered to show us around.
The forecast said today would be hot, so we parked the cars strategically close to the Albert River so we could return for a swim after our ride.
After a couple of minutes on the paved road, we rolled into the park to enjoy some easy flat trails.
“Today is going to have a lot of ups and downs,” Aaron warned us. We enjoyed the flat tracks while we could.
After splashing through a small creek we found some single-track and headed up the hill towards the first peak of the day, which Aaron poetically call “The Un-named Peak”.
Some parts were too steep to ride – although Eric and Darb did a good job of trying. The rest of us grunted and pushed the bikes up the hill.
“Is this it” I optimistically asked our guide as we stopped for a quick break.
The first three kilometres of this adventure had been hard work.
After a few more minutes we ditched the bikes and scrambled over some boulders to our first cave of the day.
If Aaron hadn’t shown us where it was, we would have ridden right past it unaware.
We don’t usually get to see caves on our rides, so I climbed in via a small hole in the roof to see what it was like.
My friends patiently indulged my childish whim.
Just round the corner from the cave we encountered vast sheets of smooth sandstone called “Slick Rock”. The surface was at all sorts of strange angles, but our tyres gripped to it faultlessly.
This allowed us to climb some steep sections more easily…
But, more importantly, it allowed us to roll down some incredibly steep parts without slipping.
This was like an adventure playground for mountain bikers.
We rolled over the sandstone at impossible angles.
From there we bounced along a rocky path through some impressive open Eucalyptus forest.
These forests contain rare and unusual plants such as the Plunkett Mallee, Swamp Tea-Tree, Swamp Orchid and Large Nectar Heath.
The traditional indigenous owners of the area are the Yugambeh (or “Yugumbir”) aboriginal people whose country stretched through the valleys of the Logan and Albert Rivers from Beenleigh to the foot of the McPherson Range.
There is an unusual ceremonial Bora ground a few kilometres south of here towards Tambourine. It’s unusual in that it had three rings (most Bora grounds only had two). Nineteenth century settlers described a great corroborree which was held there in 1872. The singing and clapping of hundreds of participants could be heard several kilometres away.
Today all we could hear was the breeze in the Eucalpyts and the crunch of our tyres on the rocks.
Next to the track, a rocky outcrop offered panoramic views of the valley.
Aaron asked us to ditch the bikes again, so we could hike to the next cave.
After a brief scramble down a rocky ledge, we followed our leader along the edge of an escarpment through a grove of grass trees.
(Photo: Tony Ryan)
We climbed up the ledge into the cool shade of this wonderful cave.
From our vantage point we looked out on a vast expanse of Eucalyptus forest.
(Photo: Tony Ryan)
Immediately below us, grass trees clung tenaciously to the slopes.
(Photo: Tony Ryan)
After scrambling back up the boulders to our bikes, we sat on the edge of the cliff and thought about how fortunate we had been to enjoy such a place.
The final high point of the day was “Wickhams Peak”.
On the hilltop we could see all the way into the city.
Below us, the new housing estates of Yarrabilba slowly encroached on the park.
Aaron had one more cave to show us.
We bounced down another rocky track.
My friends glided over it, their suspension doing all the work.
I hopped off in one or two places, not confident I could negotiate the bumps.
Aaron told us some more about the unusual plants in the area…
The Large Nectar Heath (Melichrus adpressus) is rarely spotted in this area. Aaron smiled as he explained how recent rain had helped this strange-looking shrub grow back.
Our final cave was on the edge of an escarpment, near the park boundary.
Easily accessible, it’s covered in graffiti, or as Aaron calls it “white fella art”.
The day grew hot. As we made our way back to our starting point, we often stopped in the shade at the top of a hill to cool off.
It was much easier riding down the steep hike-a-bike sections we had walked up earlier in the day.
We were hot and tired. The sparking water of the Albert River at Chardons Bridge beckoned to us.
The cool water was delicious on our skin.
Earlier in the week, Becca had asked if we could find a swimming spot after our ride.
Thanks for the suggestion, Becca!
Aaron didn’t even bother to take his shoes off.
Darb and I clicked away happily on our cameras.
Paul and Aaron just chilled in the shade.
What a perfect spot!
Here’s Darb’s video of the day.
We cleaned up after our swim and had lunch at the Beenleigh Tavern.
I was surprised: we had only ridden 17 kilometres in 4 hours including breaks.
During that time we climbed about 530 metres and I burned 1,750 kcal.
This was a short, tough and scenic ride. I’ll rate it 8 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter. The steep sections are hard to climb, and challenging to descend. Some of the tracks are rough and rocky, so you’ll need good suspension and a reasonable amount of skill and concentration.
It’s a perfect ride for a hot day – especially with the river nearby.
Thanks Aaron, Becca, Eric, Darb and Paul for another memorable day exploring on the bikes.
Max elevation: 176 m
Min elevation: 12 m
Total climbing: 728 m
Total descent: -712 m
Average speed: 11.19 km/h
Total Time: 04:07:15