Sometimes I feel the urge to get on my bike and ride off into the sunset for a few days. Today was one of those days.
The aim was to keep this trip simple. Rather than having to carry loads of camping gear, I planned to stay in pubs and motels.
The only gear I’d have to pack would be a change of clothes and a few toiletries, which only half filled my bar-roll bag.
Mountain bikes are much more fun to ride when they’re not too heavily loaded!
On my first day I wanted to get to Aratula, at the foot of the Great Dividing Range, following as many dirt roads as possible.
To save time riding through the city, I caught the train to Walloon, west of Ipswich, and started my ride from there.
We have started and ended many fun rides at Walloon: it’s near many interesting trails and quiet roads.
I rolled off the railway station platform and pointed the bike to the south-west.
I followed quiet paved roads through Thagoona and Rosewood, and after about twenty kilometres arrived at the small farming district of Lower Mount Walker.
The paved road ended here. My tyres crunched on the gravel. I was happy.
Rolling fields of pasture stretched in every direction: the open spaces a fresh relief to this dweller from the suburbs.
A bright yellow triangle flashed at me from a fence post in the grass.
I was now on the Bicentennial National Trail – an epic route covering over five thousand kilometres along Australia’s east coast from Healseville in the south to Cooktown in the north.
After riding for a couple of hours I arrived at Rosevale, another small town with huge views of the Great Dividing Range.
I admired the impressive jagged wall of mountains to the west.
I looked forward to taking a break at the Rosevale Pub. My mouth watered at the thought of a cold ale and counter lunch.
Alas, it was not to be.
The owners of the pub have closed it indefinitely while they renovate it.
I felt disappointed at what could have been as I munched on my meagre snack bar and sipped on some water.
“Bummer about the pub,” I said to a couple of locals sitting in the shade by the road.
They looked curiously at my bike.
“Where have you come from today?” they asked.
I told them about my trip so far, and where I was headed. They looked at me as though I was slightly insane.
We exchanged pleasantries for a few more minutes and I continued down the road.
The road ran beside the Bremer River for a while. I decided this would be a good place to stop for a few minutes and rest my legs.
It’s more of a creek here, than a river.
As fresh water bubbled over rocks beneath my feet, I thought about Alan Cunningham who had come this way in the 1820’s, following the Bremer upstream as far as he could. I imagined what the landscape might have been like in those days.
Cunningham had certainly picked a pleasant place to go for a long walk.
A survey marker on an old tree pointed the way as I followed the old road south.
The terrain changed quickly – busy farms, thick bushland, rolling plains…
While I progressed further south, the Great Dividing Range loomed larger to my right. I kept gazing at it as I pedaled, and smiled.
As with most rides, I was glad to be here. I had come to the right place.
It’s easy to lose yourself in the views.
I reached Aratula mid afternoon, and checked into a room at the local pub. It was easier than pitching a tent 🙂
Max elevation: 223 m
Min elevation: 37 m
Total climbing: 1048 m
Total descent: -944 m
Average speed: 20.09 km/h
Total Time: 04:54:28
Total distance for day 1: 71km in about five hours including breaks. During that time I climbed about 650 metres in elevation and burned about 2,100 kcal.
This was an easy ride. I cruised most of the day and didn’t have to work too hard.
I’d rate it 4.5 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.
My plan for Day 2 was to ride east from Aratula to Beaudesert via the shoreline trails at Mount Joyce and Wyaralong Dam.
I left Aratula early, after a quick breakfast at the local petrol station.
Rather than ride along the busy Cunningham Highway, I followed quiet roads through the farms of Frazerview.
It took me about half an hour to reach Kalbar – a pretty, peaceful town in the Fassifern valley.
The town was slowly waking up on the first day of the working week after the Easter long weekend.
I coasted behind a tractor down the hill as we left town.
“Ah you people have funny names” I thought as I crested the hill at Obum Obum.
“Obum Obum” is a Yugarapul word meaning “hard rock”.
One hundred and fifty years ago this land was covered in a vast impenetrable scrub covering thousands of hectares. The government decided to open it up, and offered the land to unsuspecting German immigrants, believing they’d be the only ones foolhardy enough to try clearing it and then farm it.
To their credit, they were. And they did.
Little remains of this scrub except for small endangered remnants. The rest has been converted into farmland.
A few minutes later I happily left the bitumen and coasted onto a gravel road.
When I planned this ride a few weeks earlier, I spent ages scrutinizing maps, trying to work out which roads were unpaved, so I could ride them instead of the black-top.
My scrutiny seemed to be paying off.
I followed Old Beaudesert Road towards the trails near Wyaralong Dam and Mount Joyce.
It was hilly, but I had the place to myself.
After a few ups and downs, I reached the western trailhead.
Water in the dam was at a high level after recent rain, almost (but not quite) enough to flood the tracks. I felt lucky.
Friendly trail markers pointed out the way. The red number on each post gave me a helpful idea of how far I had to go till the other side.
It was hard work.
I had ridden these trails a long time ago, at night, with my son. We were lost at the time.
As I re-traced my tracks I marvelled at our effort. This was much more challenging than I remember.
When I reached the homestead at Mount Joyce Base Camp I relaxed for an early lunch.
That was hard work! I felt physically tired, and cooled off in the shade.
The homestead is beautiful. Perhaps we should come back here some time and camp?
I continued along the well-marked trails.
A few single-tracks branched off at different places. I was tempted to leave my course and follow them, but remembered getting lost here last time.
“Probably best to stick to the plan, Neil.”
Early in the afternoon, I reached the dam on the eastern side of the lake.
It’s a pretty spot – I’d like to return.
Eventually I had to tough it out on the main road for a few kilometres.
Most of the traffic was patient with me and gave me wide berth as I pedaled the final few kilometres into Beaudesert.
Max elevation: 190 m
Min elevation: 50 m
Total climbing: 1817 m
Total descent: -1865 m
Average speed: 15.62 km/h
Total Time: 08:32:48
I rode about 80km in just over eight and a half hours. During that time I climbed about 1,200 metres in elevation, and burned about 3,500 kcal.
This section was hard work – especially the rough, steep lakeside trails at Mount Joyce.
I’ll rate it 8.5 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.
On the final day of my adventure, I planned to ride from Beaudesert to Beenleigh, then catch the train home.
Hot air balloons floated slowly overhead as I left the hotel and pointed my front wheel eastwards, and left town.
After a few hundred metres, I left the main road and followed Birnam Range Road up the hill.
It was a bit of a detour, and involved more climbing than if I had followed the most direct route, but it was quiet. And I wasn’t in any rush.
Storm clouds billowed on the eastern horizon, a cool fresh breeze blew. What a beautiful place! A week ago I didn’t even realize it existed.
At the top, the road forked. If I turned left I’d roll back down to Gleneagle, north of Beaudesert. Instead, I turned right and followed Flagstone Creek Road east.
It was an effortless descent for a few kilometres…
… until I rejoined the highway.
It was very busy.
I crossed the Albert River and remembered how quiet it seemed further upstream a couple of weeks ago.
A light drizzle started to fall as I passed through Tamborine Village at the foot of the mountain.
It took about half an hour to get from there to Plunkett Regional Park.
My friend Aaron had shown us around here a few years ago. At the time I thought it was a long way from any of the other places we normally ride. But now I had connected it up to the rest of my ride network.
Somewhere in the back of my head, the OCD map monkeys were happy. I had closed one more gap in the map.
The rain made the tracks muddy.
I donned my rain jacket and pedaled gingerly through the soft dirt.
The rain was beautiful.
It freshened everything up, and kept the temperature down.
A little closer to Beenleigh, I detoured through some bike paths in Mount Warren Park to avoid the traffic.
It added ten minutes to the journey, but it allowed me to relax.
“Gee that was quick!”
It was still only mid morning. I arrived at Beenleigh railway station sooner than I had expected.
Perhaps I should have taken more detours? 🙂
Max elevation: 187 m
Min elevation: 6 m
Total climbing: 750 m
Total descent: -795 m
Average speed: 19.80 km/h
Total Time: 03:35:33
I rode about fifty kilometres in about three and a half hours.
During that time I burned about 2,000 kcal and climbed about 600 metres in elevation.
This was a reasonably easy ride – just a bit intense on some of the busier roads.
I’ll rate it 6 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.
All up I rode about two hundred kilometres over three days. It felt easy. I wasn’t tired afterwards – just relaxed 🙂
I’m really grateful to my wife, Liz, who was supportive of my whimsical desire to disappear for a few days.
Long rides are good for the soul!