Tannymorel is a delightful little village with a perfect location for adventure on the edge of rugged mountains and vast plains. By camping there overnight we were able to have the best of both worlds.
On Friday afternoon Eric and I left work early, packed the bikes in the 4WD and headed for Gambubal State Forest atop the high plateau near Killarney on the Southern Downs.
This afternoon’s ride would be short – I wanted to check some trails for next week’s Social Ride to the Steamers. We parked the car, set up the bikes, and headed off through some rough forestry trails towards Bald Mountain.
Bald Mountain offers one of the best and easiest views of The Steamers. We were stunned. From a large open treeless pasture almost 1,200 metres above sea we looked out over the Emu Creek Valley and could see dozens of Iconic peaks. Below us lay The “Prow”, “Funnel”, “Mast” and “Stern” of the Steamer formation. In the distance stood Spicers Peak where we had visited last week. Behind that, Mount Greville and Mount Edwards near Aratula.
All these places were like familiar friends. Our tyre tracks in the dirt and mud of the surrounding valleys were a reminder that we had recently paid them all a visit.
After rolling back down from the summit, we took a short detour to the top of Hoffman Falls. It took some false starts down a few wrong tracks before we found the creek. A couple of hundred metres downstream from these cascades the falls plummet a hundred metres. We decided to avoid the cliffs on this trip.
As we drove back down the mountain, the lowering sun cast long shadows on the cliffs of Condamine Gorge to our left.
Ahead, wide flat plains of the Darling Downs stretched endlessly towards the western horizon.
I was impressed – there aren’t many places like this where you can see so much in such a short time.
Back in Tannymorel we set up our tents in a local park and walked across to the Bowls club for dinner. By some stroke of good luck, Eric won a meat-tray raffle, which he exchanged for a “Breakfast Pack” of bacon, eggs and mushrooms. The next morning we had a huge fried breakfast before our ride.
Most Saturday mornings I rise at 5am so we can drive off at 6.30am to our destination. Today we were already at our destination, so I had the unusual luxury relaxing while we waited for everyone else to arrive.
Four of us planned to ride a large loop along some gravel roads and dirt tracks through the surrounding farmland.
Peter joined us for part of the journey. He was riding to Tenterfield on his Cyclocross Bike and would accompany us until we reached Barlows Gate on the state border.
We slowly climbed up O’Maras Road towards Killarney…
As we gained height, the surrounding plains unfolded below us.
I can understand why early Irish settlers called this place “Killarney”. The emerald colored fields probably reminded them of softer pastures on the other side of the world.
After we crested the top of O’Maras Road we bounced down the other side. The track was furrowed with deep treacherous ruts. Paul’s tyres slipped out from under him and he fell, doing some nasty damage to the skin on his legs. After a brief rest he bravely jumped back on the bike and continued the ride.
Killarney was quiet this morning. We rolled through in a few minutes.
As we rode south out of town, we zig-zagged past green fields and full dams. Recent rain has been kind to the local farmers.
This road also forms part of the Bicentennial National Trail (BNT) a trans-continental trail which stretches 5,600km from Cooktown in the north to Healesville in the South. Today we’d be following the BNT for a few kilometres.
One of the disadvantages of riding in this part of the country is the flies. They’re overwhelming. Eric had the foresight to bring a fly-net. I plastered “Bushmans” repellant all over myself, and thought by the smell that it would probably repel most things, including humans.
We followed the BNT south towards the state border.
The rabbit-proof fence marks the border between Queensland and NSW. We’ve followed it through a number of amazing places. It does a good job controlling the spread of rabbits and wild dogs and stretches for several hundred kilometres.
“Barlows Gate” really is a gate. If you’re crossing the border you need to unlatch it to get through.
Here we parted company with Peter and continued westward. Later we learned that he got a stick through his spokes, broke his derailleur and a couple of spokes, and had to get a lift back to his car from a friendly passing motorcyclist.
Barlows Gate Road is long, flat and rough – perfect for mountain bikers who want to spend all day riding in the bush. We followed this dirt track west towards Warwick.
There are dirt tracks all over the place around here – you could ride for days.
At Elbow Valley the trees disappeared, and we were once more in the midst of vast plains stretching to the horizon.
The sun felt hot, but with no breeze and no hills it was easy to keep up a good pace.
We eventually got respite from the sun by following a shady trail through bushland beside a mine site.
This was fun.
We had been riding for almost four hours and (apart from Killarney) had hardly touched a paved road all day.
The tracks were rutted and muddy in places, but we were having a great time.
We had originally planned to ride into Warwick for lunch. On the outskirts of town we changed our mind and decided instead to start our return leg back towards Tannymorel.
Eric had ridden here a couple of weeks earlier, working out the ideal route back: flat, straight, quiet and scenic.
Darb couldn’t resist posing by a street sign that shared his surname. Perhaps some long-lost relatives lived down there?
At Junabee, a solitary hall stood starkly in the middle of vast farmland. It seemed odd at first, then I realized it was a memorial hall – built after the Second World War. Many farms around here had probably sent their young men off to battle, never to return. A large friendly hall was one way to honor their memory.
With tiring legs we continued eastward along arrow-straight roads back towards the mountains.
Eventually the paved road gave way to gravel…
…and then to dirt tracks.
We splashed through Pettigrews Crossing, thankful there hadn’t been heavy rain recently to swell the creek.
One final farm track led us to the top of a hill above Tannymorel.
I was tired, and glad we’d shortened our course by not riding into Warwick.
We rolled down the last hill into town…
… past another wistful memorial to young men who left their families and small towns far too soon.
We rode a total of about 85km in about 6 hours including breaks.
During that time we climbed about 1,000 metres in elevation and I burned about 2,800 kcal.
There are a lot of open spaces between Killarney and Warwick, but not many opportunities to top-up with food or water. Eric says the hall at Junabee has water, but we think it’s safer to bring all the water you need on a ride of this distance.
I’ll rate this ride 8 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter. It would be tougher in mid summer (9/10), and much easier in winter (7/10).
Make sure you bring something to keep the flies away.
Thanks Eric, Darb, Paul and Peter for another fun day on the bikes! Another wonderful experience – we’re truly fortunate.