Some days I just want to ride somewhere pleasant on my bike, stay there, forget about everything, then come back the next day. Today was one of those days.
Some of us turned up with heavy rigs laden with camping gear, others came just for the day with feather-light carbon-fibre bikes.
Our plan was to ride over the D’Aguilar Range from Samford, to Lake Manchester. The day-trippers would return the same day, the rest of us would camp by the river for the night, and ride back the next day.
Heavy bikes are hard to ride. Normally I would climb the Goat Track quickly, but with all the extra weight and in the high humidity I took a little longer.
I was grateful that everyone let me catch my breath before moving on.
We rode up the tarmac to D’Arcy Kelly Road then headed into the bush…
Lightline Road is a wonderful dirt track which stretches from Mount Nebo all the way down to Lake Manchester Road. Today we’d follow it to the bottom.
Russel got a flat tyre. We all stood around offering advice while he fixed it.
With the puncture fixed, we continued our downhill roll along Lightline Road, past the bush camp shelter.
On a road like this, it was tempting to assume the next half-hour would be spent blissfully freewheeling down tree-lined descents
Sadly, this was not the case…
Lightline Road goes over the top of “Boombana Knob” which means you have to go uphill before you can eventually go down.
The riders on the lighter bikes drew ahead, while the campers slowly trundled their heavy loads up the hill.
Simon had packed surprisingly lightly. A small tent on the front, a light air bed and a bit of food – impressive.
Tantalizing mountain views flashed between trees as we coasted down the final descent towards the lake.
I concentrated on the twisting rocky track ahead.
“That was a nice view… I think.”
The mechanical failure fairy visited Russel a second time.
He got a stick through his rear derailleur, which broke it and made his gears useless.
He disconnected the rear derailleur, and converted the bike into a single-speed.
Rather than complete the ride, he decided to play it safe and make his way out to the main road where family could pick him up.
Kaye, John and Russell left us at this point. We would continue to the campsite while they returned to Samford.
The tracks around Lake Manchester are hilly.
Despite carrying extra weight, Jason powered up them admirably.
We said goodbye to Russel when we reached the main road. He decided to slowly make his way to Mount Crosby where he could get a lift home.
Now there were just four of us. We bumped along a few more dusty tracks, looking forward to reaching our campsite.
Covered in hoop pines, the hills of Sapling Pocket appeared ahead of us. We’d made it.
Clear water bubbled over river rocks. It looked beautiful.
We ditched the bikes and eagerly jumped in.
What an idyllic place! Paul and Jason relaxed on the bank while Simon and I explored the far bank.
While we sat in the river, Jason and I used my Katadyn water filter to prepare some drinking water from the river.
This handy little gadget filters out impurities from river water, allowing you to pump out about a couple of litres of drinking water per minute.
We took turns pumping as we filled Jason’s large water bag.
Soaking in a cool river is the perfect way to relax after a long tough ride.
Some kayakers paddled past, completely oblivious to us.
“Say ‘Cheese'” I yelled out as I took their photo.
“Watch out for the rapids ahead!”
I had their attention now. They immediately stopped talking, looked ahead to the rocks and white water, then thanked us for the advice.
We cooled off, got into some comfortable clothes and relaxed on the grass as the sun went down.
I smiled inwardly, and thought, “we’ve come to the right place.”
Paul bought a tarp which we strung to some trees after we’d pitched the tents.
As the rain started falling lightly, we sat under the tarp and ate our dinner, thankful for Paul’s foresight.
Early next morning, while everyone else was asleep, I slid into the mirror-smooth river and let the water wake me up.
Mist clung to the hills. Birds sang their start-of-day songs. I was happy.
“Ah so that’s why Simon’s tent doesn’t take up much space,” I thought to myself as his feet twitched in the cool morning air.
Apart from my Katadyn pump / filter, the other nifty piece of camping equipment I really appreciate is my Jetboil. With its handy plunger attachment I can enjoy a fresh cup of coffee in about 30 seconds. All the comforts of home!
One by one the others woke up. That river was irresistible.
As he walked past my bike, Paul called out to me, “you’ve got a flat tyre.”
Ah bummer. I fiddled around with it for a while, put in a fresh tube, then pumped it up.
We’d had three mechanical failures so far this ride and we were only at the halfway point.
With our bikes loaded once again, we set off for home.
The return leg of our trip followed the northern shore of Lake Manchester.
It’s a pretty track with impressive views over the water towards the D’Aguilar Range.
It’s quite steep in places, so we had to push the bikes up some parts.
Another flat tyre. This time it was Jason’s turn. We didn’t complain – it gave us another opportunity to rest.
While Jason and Paul fixed the puncture, Simon and I rode ahead.
The hills eventually flattened out and we followed what was left of the shoreline track past an old log hut towards Branch Creek Road.
Branch Creek Road is pleasant. It’s flat and follows the creek along a valley.
But as with many places in D’Aguilar National Park, if you go long enough in one direction you’ll eventually meet a nasty hill.
We eventually came to a cross-roads.
To our left was Cabbage Tree Road – a 7 kilometre climb which was mostly rideable with one or two steep bits that would be challenging on a heavy bike.
Ahead of us lay Taylors Break with some stupidly steep climbs that were dangerous to ride down. Dragging heavy bikes up there would be foolish.
To our right was Job 6 Road – a 1.8 kilometre climb which was too steep to ride.
In the end we decided on Job 6. It was steep, but it would only take us 20 minutes to push our bikes to the top.
“If it’s going to be painful, why not get all the pain over in one go?”
It seemed the logical choice.
It might have been logical. But it was difficult.
“Job 6” is a strange name for a road.
My friend, Dean, suggested it could have been named after the book of Job in the bible which talks about a man who suffered a lot. One verse in chapter 6 of that book says “If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales!” (Uplifting stuff, isn’t it?)
But I think the story behind the name is a lot less religious – perhaps it was built as a service road as part of the construction of Lake Manchester. Perhaps this road was the sixth item on the job sheet.
I scoffed at a trail marker half-way up the hill.
“Easy?” I thought to myself.
Paul suggested we needed to sit down with the person who did the trail signs and give him a good talking to.
Eventually we reached the bush camp shelter on Lightline Road. Some of us were running low on water, so I got out my filter pump and drew some water from the rain tank.
Jason shared some left-over cordial with us.
The sweet drink lifted our spirits.
There wasn’t far to go now.
Eventually we emerged on Forestry Road.
It was all downhill from here.
We let the brakes go and coasted down the tarmac towards the Goat Track.
Cool air blew through my damp jersey.
“It’s a long way down” I thought to myself as we rolled down the Goat Track towards Samford.
Back on the tarmac, I tucked in behind Paul and slipstreamed him for the last few kilometres.
We rode about 75km for the weekend in about 10 hours including breaks. That might seem slow, but we took our time, and had to deal with a few mechanical problems.
During that time we climbed about 1,900 metres in vertical ascent, and I burned about 5,000 kcal.
This was a tough ride, especially on a humid day with a heay bike.
I’ll rate it 9 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.
On a cooler day, with a lighter bike it would be much easier – but then, the swim wouldn’t be as much fun!
Thanks Paul, Jason and Simon for a fun campout.
And thanks Russel, Becca, John, Kaye and Russell for sharing the first day with us.