Brown Lake

North Stradbroke Island is a stunning sand island which frames the eastern border of Moreton Bay, near Brisbane. It’s the second largest sand island in the world, after Fraser Island – a couple of hundred kilometres further north.

I spent a day roaming over this special place with my son, Jonathan.

Until about a century ago, it was one island. During a fierce storm, a ship laden explosives was wrecked on the Jumpinpin Bar. Local authorities detonated the explosives rather than risk a catastrophe while trying to retrieve the cargo. This weakened the sand bar, which allowed rough seas from the storm to break through, cleaving the island in two, forming a new passage between North and South Stradbroke Islands.

“Minjerribah” is the aboriginal name for Stradbroke Island. “Moorgumpin” is their name for Moreton Island. These islands, together with all of Moreton Bay are known as “Quandamooka” country. The Quandamooka Aboriginal people comprise three groups: The Goenpul and Noonukul from Minjerribah, and the Ngugi from Moorgumpin.
Moreton Bay Sunrise
The only way to get to “Straddie” is by boat. Our ferry left Cleveland at 5:15am, so I had to get up at 3am in order to pick up Jonathan and get to the ferry on time.

Moreton Bay Sunrise

Bleary eyed, and dosed up to the eyeballs with strong coffee, we stood out on the deck of the ferry, “Big Red Cat”, and marvelled at the amazing dawn.

Brown Lake

As we drove off the ferry, our first destination was Brown Lake – an elevated fresh water lake in the middle of the island.

Brown LakeBrown Lake

The sun was just rising over the hills as we arrived, so in true tourist fashion we gaped at the beauty while clicking off dozens of photos. It’s not every day you get to see a sunrise over a pristine freshwater lake.

Eighteen Mile Swamp

A little further towards the east we arrived at the “Eighteen Mile Swamp” a coastal freshwater swamp stretching for almost 30 kilometres behind the coastal dunes. This amazing lake is the largest of its kind in the world and is home to a large number of rare and endangered species.

Naree Budjong Dara

The swamp, surrounding forests, and dunes form part of the Naree Budjong Dara National Park. “Naree Budjong Dara” means “My Mother Earth” in the language of the Quandamooka people.

Main Beach - North Stradbroke Island
Main Beach - North Stradbroke Island

The beach here stretches as far as the eye can see in either direction. It was a wonderful feeling to be one of only a handful of people on the entire beach. Lots of space is good for the soul.

Sand Bog

It’s important to remember that the beach is an official road, and that vehicles could pass by at any time. These drivers were bogged in sand and were desperately trying to free their car by scooping sand out from under the tyres.

Tortoise Lagoon

As we made our way back from the beach, we stopped for a short walk around Toroise Lagoon – another fresh water lake that forms part of the “Blue Lake” system.

Blue Lake Walk

Because of my knee, I didn’t feel able to complete the full 6km walk around Blue Lake, but I felt pretty good about doing the shorter 3.5km loop around Tortoise Lagoon instead.

Shell Midden
Shell Midden

Back on the bay-side of the island near Dunwich, we checked out one of the few remaining Shell Middens on the island. Over centuries, Aborigines would sit around here, enjoying shellfish, oysters, crabs, etc. The left-over shells were discarded in a large pile. Over time this heap grew to several metres in width and a couple of metres high. I explained it to Jonathan as the remnants of a two-thousand year long indigenous seafood party.

Dunwich Shoreline

“Imagine being able to go out on the rocks and pick up a handful of Sydney Rock Oysters, or Moreton Bay Bugs whenever you wanted”, I said to Jonathan.

Before European colonisation, this place was paradise. Life here must have been full of contentment.

Amity Point
Amity Point

We then made our way northwards towards Amity Point, at the north-western tip of the island.

This is a fascinating point for a number of reasons:

It’s not far from here across the treacherous South Passage to Moreton Island. This is a dangerous passage because of shifting sand bars, strong currents, and unpredictable conditions.

At this point in 1823, the local Aboriginal people had their first face to face contact with Europeans. Last week I wrote about three shipwrecked ticket of leave convicts who were rescued by John Oxley on Bribie Island. Finnegan, Parsons and Pamphlett were washed ashore on Moreton Island. The Ngugi people on Moreton kindly fed these poor begraggled strangers for two weeks, and then rowed them across the South Passage to Amity Point. The Noonukul cared for them for another five weeks before eventually sending them on their way across the bay to the mainland via Peel Island, coming ashore near Ormiston.

Sovreign Memorial, AmitySovreign Memorial, Amity

A couple of decades later, Europeans were colonising Moreton Bay, including the Island. Amity Point was chosen as a Pilot station because of its proximity to the South Passage. The Cargo Ship, Sovreign, was moored off Amity for over a week in heavy weather. She attempted to clear South Passage, but was wrecked in the process, going down about two kilometres off shore.

A group of Aboriginal men, some from Minjerribah, some from Moorgumpin swam to the wreck, at great risk to their own lives. They were able to save the lives of ten passengers. Unfortunately, 44 people drowned.

It was a tragedy, but the aboriginal men were heroes, and were honored by the NSW government for their bravery.

Today, two of these brave men, Toompany and Nuggin, have streets in Amity named after them.

Hope Memorial, Point LookoutCylinder Beach

As we drove along the northern tip of the island, towards Point Lookout, Jonathan and I discovered more historical gems at Cylinder Beach.

In 1803, the colonial ships, “Cato” and “Porpoise”, were wrecked on reefs east of Gladstone. Matthew Flinders took the ship’s cutter, and decided to sail the small open boat back to Sydney with thirteen other men. After sailing 600 km south, they were running dangerously low on water, and anchored off Cyclinder Beach to find water. Some aborigines on the cliffs saw them, and signalled to them where they could find fresh water from a small creek nearby. After refilling their casks, the crew were able to complete the perilous 1,000 km voyage to Sydney.

Cylinder Beach
When we looked along Cylinder Beach today, speckled with holiday makers, it seemed a long way from the remote water stop for thirsty sailors over two centuries ago.

Cylinder Beach
Cylinder Beach

The warm turquiose ocean is stunning to look at here. As I soaked in the beauty it occurred to me that the original inhabitants of this place were fortunate to live happy, healthy lives in one of the most bountiful places on the planet. They enjoyed a standard of living higher than most of the Europeans who were trying to colonize them. In most early contacts, they responded with kind-hearted generosity.

Thomas Pamphlett came from the north of England during the industrial revolution. It would have been cold, dirty and crowded. His poverty would have made it difficult to find food to eat each day. I wonder how he would have remembered his seven weeks in the sun with the Quandamooka people?

North Gorge - Point Lookout

At Point Lookout, on the north-eastern tip of the island, we walked around North Gorge. This is a spectacular inlet where the waves rush up the narrowing gorge.

North Gorge - Point Lookout

It’s also a great spot to gaze out at the Pacific Ocean and watch for migrating Humpback whales.

Surfers at Main Beach - North Stradbroke Island

You wouldn’t believe it was the last day of “winter” – the warm water was full of surfers.

Main Beach - North Stradbroke Island

From the headland we were able to look southwards down Main Beach as far as our eyes could see.

What an amazing place. I’m definitely coming back here on a bike when I am able πŸ™‚

All up we travelled about 220km. It was 55km each way to the ferry at Cleveland, 10km each way across the bay and back on the ferry, and about 100km of driving on the island. To take a car on the ferry costs about $140, although during the winter months if you catch the early ferry it only costs $80. For a car with 4 or 5 passengers all contributing to the fare, it works out pretty cheaply.

We spent 9 hours on the island and didn’t feel rushed looking at all the things we wanted to see.

Total distance: 129.46 km
Max elevation: 140 m
Min elevation: -47 m
Total climbing: 3260 m
Total descent: -3254 m
Average speed: 37.88 km/h
Total time: 10:53:50
More data
Total distance: 3.91 km
Max elevation: 27 m
Min elevation: -3 m
Total climbing: 320 m
Total descent: -323 m
Average speed: 4.16 km/h
Total time: 01:08:33
More data
More data



Bribie Passage, Bongaree
Bribie Island is a sea-side paradise, less than an hours drive from the northern Suburbs of Brisbane.

The aboriginal name for the island is “Yarun”, meaning “Crab”. According to traditional legends, Yarun (or Yirrin) was a greedy man who ate too much honey. The bees smelled the honey, and covered him with wax. He ran out into the water, but the tides and the bees weighed him down. He got stuck in the mud, the wax hardened and before long he had turned into a crab. He and his people have been crabs ever since.

The name “Bribie” comes from the Aboriginal word “Boorabee” which means “Koala”. In the early days of the Moreton Bay convict settlement, several convicts escaped and made their way to Bribie Island. Eventually, the word “Bribie” became synonymous with disappearing from every day life: when a man from Brisbane had left town without leaving an address, people would say he had “Gone to Bribie”.

Harrison and I spent a lazy day exploring the history of this wonderful place. Perhaps we should have let people know we’d “Gone to Bribie” πŸ™‚

Kal-Ma-Kuta Memorial
One of the stories of Bribie Island that has intrigued me for ages is the story of Kal-Ma-Kuta, a Joondaburri aboriginal woman. I’ve often driven past an unusual memorial about her, built in the middle of the busy four-lane road as you approach the Bribie bridge on the road from Caboolture, near Turners Camp Road.

The memorial, erected in 1962, said that Kal-Ma-Kuta was the “Last of the Joondaburri Tribe”.

Turners Camp
Today we decided to stop and have a look, and try to answer a few questions about her.

We parked the car near the beach on Turners Camp Road, planning to walk back to the memorial and check it out, but discovered a newer memorial near the water…

Kal-Ma-Kuta Memorial
According to the plaque, this place was where Kal-Ma-Kuta (who was also known by the anglicized name “Alma”) and her husband, Fred Turner, built a house shortly after they married in 1872. They had eight children together, and lived together at this spot until Kal-Ma-Kuta’s death in 1897. The place became known as “Turners Camp” because of them.

This raised another question for me: If Kal-Ma-Kuta had eight children, why did the memorial say she was the last woman of her tribe?

I eventually found an old (2004) copy of Indigenous journal, “The Koori Mail”, which recounted a story that in the 1870’s oyster fisherman, Fred Turner, had a boating accident. He was rescued by a young aboriginal woman and eventually married her. Fred and Kal-Ma-Kuta had an oyster lease, and also were responsible for lighting the beacons on Toorbul Point (known today as Sandstone Point). The article also said that the Turner’s great grand-daughter, Daphne Kalmakuta Dux, had successfully lobbied local politicians to erect the newer memorial by the water.

Now 85 years old, Aunty Daphne, is an artist who paints stunning works depicting her aboriginal heritage.

Here’s a short video of her, filmed by students at Lismore TAFE in 2009…

I was able to speak with Aunty Daphne on the phone. I asked her about the “Last of her tribe” comment on the 1962 memorial. She told me, “I’m one one of Kal-Ma-Kuta’s descendants. I’m Joondaburri. So we can’t all have disappeared!” I’m glad she sorted that out.

You can see some of her amazing work at Serpentine Arts.

Fish Trap, Sandstone Point
The “Koori Mail” article said the Turners had a contract to maintain navigation beacons in the Pumicestone Passage at Toorbul Point. My friend Jason had told me the day before that if we had a look around Toorbul Point we might find the remains of an old Aboriginal fish trap. So Harrison and I decided to pop down the road and have a look around…

Fish Trap, Sandstone PointFish Trap, Sandstone Point

I asked a fisherman at the point if he knew about the Aboriginal fish trap, and he pointed to a spot a few metres away and said “Yes. It’s right there. But you won’t see much at the moment because it’s high tide”.

The whole idea with fish traps was to build a wall of rocks that would be submerged by the rising tide. Fish would swim into the enclosure, and be trapped as the tide fell. The successful fishermen would then help themselves to fresh seafood.

Before Eurpoean settlement, this place was a seafood lovers delight. What we know today as expensive Sydney Rock Oysters could be picked fresh from the rocks. Crabs, fish, dugong, turtles…. there was an abundance of good food for the local inhabitants.

Memorial, Sandstone Point
Memorial, Sandstone PointMemorial, Sandstone PointMemorial, Sandstone PointMemorial, Sandstone Point

This quartet of simple markers tells the story of three english ticket-of-leave convicts who, in 1823, were shipwrecked on nearby Moreton Island. Suffering a fierce storm off the coast of Newcastle, south of Sydney, they had drifted for several weeks before being washed ashore almost 1,000 km to the north. After being cared for by the Aboriginies on Moreton and Stradbroke Islands, they made a canoe, crossed Moreton Bay and came ashore at near present day Cleveland, south of Brisbane.

Finnegan, Parsons and Pamphlett thought they had been washed ashore south of Sydney, so started walking northwards in the hope of going home. But instead they crossed several rivers and eventually ended up living with the Joondaburri on Bribie Island.

The diet these three ex-convicts enjoyed on the islands of Moreton Bay was probably the most healthy and sumptious they had ever experienced in their short, unfortunate lives.

Toorbul Point Fish Trap
Harrison and I visited the Museum on Bribie Island, and found this photo, by Jon Rhodes, of the same Toorbul Point Fish Trap that we had been looking for earlier in the day. It might be an idea to go back to this point at low tide and see if the fish trap is easier to see.

Bribie Passage, Bongaree
Taking a break from history, we grabbed some morning tea and sat by the water to enjoy the views of the mountains in the distance.

Buckleys Hole
Bird HideBirdlife, Buckelsy Hole

We planned to head to the southern tip of the island to check out a bit more local history. But before doing that, we wanted to have a look at “Buckley’s Hole”. This is an artificial lagoon which was created in the 1980’s when the council built a sand wall across the mouth of a slow-running creek to deter mosquitoes from breeding. The lagoon is an important habitat for a large number of different bird species. To allow visitors to observe the birds, there’s a small “hide” overlooking the lagoon.

Swallow Nest
We spent a while quietly watching the wildlife from the hide. A few swallows kept flying in and out of the windows. Keen-eyed Harrison realized there were several nests inside the hide on the wall immediately behind us. We were delighted to find some beautiful speckled eggs inside.

Buckley’s Hole is also important culturally. There are a couple of shell middens nearby, formed over centuries as Aborigines gathered to enjoy shell-fish and then discard the shells.

Norfolk in the Pumicestone River 1799
It’s also close to the first documented encounter between Europeans and Aborigines at “Skirmish Point” – as depicted in this painting by Don Brabden that we saw in the Bribie Museum. It shows Matthew Flinders rowing ashore from his sloop, The Norfolk.

Funnily enough, this is also the same point where our three ship wrecked ex-convicts: Finnegan, Parsons and Pamphlet, were found almost 24 years later by an astonished John Oxley in 1823.

Looking at Moreton Island
Harrison and I made our way down to Skirmish Point. There were no old wooden sloops there today – just a flotilla of modern pleasure craft, and a small cruise ship in the distance.

Red Beach
What a beautiful part of the world!

WW2 Bunker, Bribie Island

Eventually we made our way across to the eastern side of the island, or “surf side” as the locals call it.

It didn’t take us long to find our final historical landmark – the old World War II bunkers in the sand dunes behind the beach. These bunkers had a couple of 155mm guns mounted on them and were capable of hitting a target 30km away. The shipping channel at this point comes in closely to the coastline, so it was an ideal point for the fortifications. The bunkers were also used to monitor the channel for submarines, and were capable of detonating submerged mines if intruders were detected.

From this spot on Bribie, Moreton Island looks quite close.

Seaside Drink
History lesson over, we decided to stop at a cafe in Woorim for a late lunch before heading home.

Today’s trip was only 116km in the car, with about 3 hours exploring on foot, and 2.5 hours driving.

Thanks Harrison for a fun day of exploration!

Historical notes:
1. People more qualified than I suggest that the Joondaburri tribe are part of the Gubbi Gubbi (or Kabi) Aboriginal people.
2. In referring to Kal-Ma-Kuta as the “Last of the Joondaburri Tribe”, the authors of the 1962 monument were probably alluding to the sad fact that most of the tribe had desserted Bribie Island by about 1880. Habitat destruction by European settlers had rendered the island unable to provide enough food for the indigenous population.
3. Aboriginal freedom fighter, Dundalli, was adopted by the Joondaburri tribe, and was involved in some gruesome conflicts with European settlers which eventually resulted in his execution in 1852.

Old Mills

Old Mills

Brondons Mill, Bellthorpe Forest
Today’s adventure had a couple of objectives. I wanted to close a gap in my map in Bellthorpe Forest. It was only about 2km in length, so I thought it would be achievable on foot, which would suit my current situation of not being able to ride a bike.

The other objective was to spend some time at Mount Mee an enjoy some of the amazing views.


I started the day at the Stoney Creek day-use area at the bottom of the range in Bellthorpe National Park. Stoney Creek runs down the southern slopes of the Conondale Range before eventually flowing into the Stanley River.


I thought this might be a great spot to re-visit in the heat of summer. The water in the rock pool here is bright blue. It looks like it would be a delicious place to cool off in the warmer months.


From Stoney Creek I slowly made my way up the mountain to Bellthorpe. The road is steep and twisty, so I took my time, enjoying the view.


Brandons Road, Bellthorpe Forest
At this point I parked the car, and set off on my short hobble/hike to the sawmill.


Logging StumpLogging Stump
There’s plenty of evidence of logging from bygone days in this forest – you just need to know where to look. When trees were cut by hand, loggers would cut a square recess in a tree’s trunk which would then hold a wooden plank. They’d stand on the plank and either chop the tree, or cut another recess for yet another plank. You can still see the square holes in old tree stumps where the recess was cut by the logger.


Brondons Mill, Bellthorpe Forest
Brondons Mill, Bellthorpe Forest
The ruins of the sawmill show evidence of an old Gantry, crane, band saw and building foundations. They’re slowly being reclaimed by nature in its slow-motion revenge over the rusting machinery. The mill is a reminder that, like many other national parks and state forests, this place was once heavily logged.


Butcher Bird
Butcher Bird
As I sat on an old log, munching on my chocolate bar, a butcher bird found me, and sat down next to me – less than half a metre from me. I could have reached out and touched him if I wanted. He just looked at me as I ate, and made a pathetic chicken-like sound that was unmistakable. He wanted what I had…


Butcher Bird
…so I obliged. He was very grateful as his mate looked on enviously from a safe distance on an adjacent log. I didn’t know butcher birds like chocolate. I think perhaps they like whatever it is anyone else is eating – regardless of what they’re eating.


Mossy Fence
Mossy Fence
Nature seems to be taking over other things too. The lichen is growing very happily on the palings of this this cattle yard fence.


Livingstone Hill
Livingstone Hill
After I arrived back at the car, I slowly drove eastwards along the top of the range, over “Livingstone Hill” and through the small community of Bellthorpe. In the city below, the temperatures were quite balmy. But up here in the mountains, the breeze still had a pleasant chill to it. I parked a the car by the road and grabbed a few wild lemons growing by the side of the road. I’m not totally convinced Liz likes me bringing this sort of thing home as a “gift”, but it does my ego good to think that in some way I’m still playing the role of a primitive hunter gatherer.


Glasshouse Mountains
Bellthorpe Range Road offers some amazing views of the Glasshouse Mountains as it slowly winds back down the mountain.


Delaneys Creek
After a quick lunch in Woodford I made my way up to Mount Mee via Delaney’s Creek. On the way up, I stopped and had a bit of a look towards the north, and could make out the Conondale Range in the distance. It’s always fun to look back and get an idea of where you’ve been.


Mt Mee Lookout
Mt Mee Lookout
I made a quick stop at the Mount Mee lookout to soak in the views. Lots of other people had the same idea. What a glorious day – the views went on forever.


Somerset Lookout
Eventually I made my way to Somerset Lookout near the Gantry at Mount Mee. Like Bellthorpe, Mount Mee also has a history of logging, as is evidenced by the huge gantry at the day use area. As I enjoyed the vista before me, I thought the last thing you’d want to do is log it.


Hash House Harriers
I was fortunate to meet up with some happy hikers from the Hash House Harriers – a social group of runners. They describe themselves as drinkers with a running problem. I was delighted to meet up with such a cheerful group of people. Most people you meet in the bush are happy. I’m not sure if this means the bush makes you happy, or that it’s only happy people who decide they’d like to go hiking in the bush.


One of the hikers, “Beach Ball” (Harriers call each other by nick names rather than given names), decided he’d rather hitch a lift with me back to the gantry, instead of walking back. I was grateful for the company. He was grateful for the lift and gave me a beer when we got back. Cheers, Beach Ball!


Total distance: 4.16 km
Max elevation: 578 m
Min elevation: 488 m
Total climbing: 431 m
Total descent: -446 m
Average speed: 4.77 km/h
Total time: 01:17:37
More data

The walk to Brandon’s mill was only 2.3km but it took me 1 hour 18 minutes including stops for photos. If you were doing this ride on a mountain bike, I’d suggest starting at either Woodford, or the Stoney Creek Day use area. You might get an idea for a route from this ride I did a couple of years back – but be prepared for a long climb up Stoney Creek Road. If you do this ride, I suggest you take the short detour to Brandon’s mill before going down Bellthorpe West Road. It would only add 10 or 15 minutes to your ride, but it’s a fascinating place.

The drive was just over 200km with some great lookouts. If you were lookiing for some places to take the family for a Sunday drive, some of these spots would be ideal.

The Border Ranges

The Border Ranges

"The Pinnacle" Lookout, Border Ranges NP
I’ve cycled through the Border Ranges a couple of times with friends. Both times it was raining, so we didn’t really get to see it at its best. So today I thought I’d take advantage of the recent run of specatcularly clear days and drove there for the day with my son, Jonathan.

While not being able to ride a bike for a few months has its disadvantages, there was one advantage – we had a lot more time during the day to stop and enjoy the views.

Running Creek
Running Creek

“The further south you go, the better it gets”, I said to Jonno as we drove south from Beaudesert. Just near of the border, along the Lions Road, we arrived at Running Creek. The road here crosses this pretty creek several times. It’s difficult to enjoy the view while driving, so we decided to get out and have a quick look around.

Border Loop Lookout

The interstate railway line crosses the range here via an unusual arrangement of loops and tunnels that were constructed about a century ago. We were able to look down on the system from the “Border Loop” Lookout.

Railway BridgeSimes Road
(Pictures – Jonathan Ennis)

Our route meandered over more creeks and under several railway bridges until we eventually turned off onto the Gravel at Simes Road.

Forest Drive, Gradys Creek
One of the joys of revisiting a special place is bringing someone who’s never been there before. Jonathan was stunned by the beauty and kept wanting to stop and take pics. I was happy to oblige.

"The Pinnacle" Lookout, Border Ranges NP

We eventually arrived at “The Pinnacle” lookout after a long slow drive up the mountain. The last time I was here it was so cloudy and wet you could see nothing.

Today the beauty was overwhelming.

The Pinnacle Lookout
(Photo – Jonathan Ennis)

(Photo – Jonathan Ennis)

"The Pinnacle" Lookout, Border Ranges NP

To quote John Williamson…. “You know, some people never see such things…” (The Cootamundra Wattle)

Tweed River, Mt Burrell

After carefully making our way down the other side of the range, we slowly made our way into Mount Burrell, in the upper reaches Tweed Valley. Believe it or not, this little stream is the Tweed River.

"This girl I met" - Mt Burrell
(Photo – Jonathan Ennis)

We found thls lady by the side of the road. She kindly posed for a photo with me but didn’t say much.

If you want to see some of the best scenery in South-East Queensland and Northern NSW in one day, I’d thoroughly recommend this drive. We drove a total of about 420km in just over 7 hours. I used most of a full tank of fuel.

Thanks Jonathan, for sharing it with me.

Oh – and thanks to my neighbor, Mike, who let me take his Holden Ute so far from home!



Yabba Creek
Nestled in the eastern foothills of the Conondale Range, Borumba Dam is an artificial lake which was formed when Yabba Creek was dammed in 1964.

The traditional owners of the area are the Kabi / Gubbi Gubbi aboriginal people. In their language, “Borumba” means “Place of minnows”.

In 1910, John Matthew wrote a book entitled “Two Representative Tribes of Queensland” in which he studied the ways of the Kabi / Gubbi Gubbi people. He spent six years living with and learning from these amazing people.

He told of an ancient song which the Kabi women would sing while boys went through the initiation ceremony which transformed them into men. The song mentioned the minnow (Galaxias) – a fish with a gleaming mouth:

Kung bondyin’-diman
Ngan’-daigaru’ dom’-an doman’ buthan’
Bur’-un burun‘, tang’-gara kak’-kalim’,
Windan’ windan’ buthan’,
Tang’-gara kak’-kalim’.
Water shake
The mullet-with little little close to.
A fish, a fish, the mouth gleaming,
The bank, the bank close to,
The mouth gleaming.

Unloading the Bikes
Today’s ride started at Jimna, high in the Conondale Range. The aim was to ride down the range to Borumba Dam, then ride back up a different way, making a big loop finishing back at Jimna.

No riding for Neil

I met Becca, Eric, Paul and Jason there, but today was a new experience for me: While I had planned the route for the ride, I would be driving and they would be cycling. Some of the tracks they’d be riding were far too rough for a car, so I had to drive around the long way, meeting them at various points along the way. I was keen to make sure the route I’d sent them on was good! Eric and Jason agreed to take pictures as I wouldbn’t be there to photograph most of the ride.

Borgan Road
Borgan Road

My riding buddies left on their journey to Borumba Dam, I followed for a short way in the car, but eventually I had to let them go, while I made my way back to Jimna to have a look around the visitors centre.

Aboriginal Stone AxeAboriginal Stone Axe
The Conondale Range around Jimna has a rich aboriginal heritage, and I was lucky enough to actually handle an ancient stone axe – sides worn smooth with use. As I touched it I tried to imagine what life would have been like here, ages ago.

Wrong Way
Meanwhile, our riders were having an interesting time. Instead of following the planned route, they accidentally took a righthand turn down a steep hill. Sadly it ended in a locked gate with a “No Tresspassing” sign, so they had to turn around and grind back up the hill.

Horse on Borgan Road
Once back up the hill, the route followed a ridge northwards through beautiful open Eucalyptus Forests. The endless days of sunny weather are finally here. With the cloudless sky a stunning blue above, it was perfect weather for exploring the bush – even the wild horses thought so!

Enjoying the View
From this point the track started to descend sharply, with great views of the Yabba Creek Valley to the north-west. This is spectacular country.

"Kingham Station"Wrattens National Park
In the car, I was taking my time, slowly driving from Jimna to Borumba via Kingham Homestead and Wrattens National Park. Bordering the national park, Kingham has a deer farm. If you ever drive through here, take it easy as there are large deer running around all over the place. I’m sure it would be easy to collide with one of them if you were driving too quickly.

I took my time. I didn’t want any unpleasant surprises this far from home.

Yabba Creek
At the bottom of the steep descent, the mountain bikers crossed Yabba Creek. It’s in water like this that you can find “Burun” – the Minnow or Eel Gudgeon. The water is cool and crystal clear, but this crossing was a bit too deep to ride through.

Bunyas at Yabba Creek
Bunyas at Yabba Creek
The ride along Yabba Creek has a few clues about what this land would have been like before European Settlement. While much of the forest was cleared in the 19th century for pasture, this stand of Bunya Pines gives hints about of the sort of vegetation that would have been common in the Yabba Creek valley before then.

Borgan Road
Rendezvous - Borgan Road
As I slowly made my way down the mountain, I saw a red flash out of the corner of my eye. It was Paul on his bike.

I was amazed. I had a quick cup of tea in Jimna, driven slowly through the forest, and these guys had beaten me to the meeting point on their bikes – even after taking a wrong turn. In hindsight I’m glad they made that wrong turn – otherwise I would have missed them.

Admittedly, I had to travel 35km, and they only had to travel 20km, but it still shows that a mountain bike is a pretty efficient way to get through rough country.

Everyone had wide grins on their faces.

“That was the most amazing descent I’ve ridden”, Paul said.

Jason described it as “The hell crazy descent with it’s drop-off to the left”. Like all true photographers who ride mountain bikes, Jason was torn between enjoying the long rocky descent, and looking for the next place to get a good photo.

"Kilcoy via Mount Buggery"
I couldn’t resist taking this photo at our meeting point. The sign painted on the rock says “Kilcoy via Mt Buggery”. Aparently I had driven down “Mount Buggery”, which is a “shortcut” to Kilcoy if you’re driving from Imbil. The mind boggles at how they come up with these names.

Bella Creek Road
From here it was about 15km along a gravel road to the dam. I passed the riders on the road a couple of times, and had to ford a few ankle-deep creek crossings as our route wound eastward through open hilly farmland.

Borumba DamBorumba Dam

We eventually met up at a shelter overlooking the lake for lunch. I brought some spare water for everyone to fill up with. On an 80km ride it’s important to top up with extra water, as a standard 3 litre camelbak won’t last the entire day.

Yabba Creek
From this point, the riders were on their own. I didn’t think it was sensible for me to try and drive back up the hill to Jimna. We said our goodbyes and they rode back to the foot of the range 15km to the west.

Tough Climb
One saying we’ve all become familiar with is that you always have to repay your debt to the Gravity Gods. This was particularly true today. Earlier in the day, the riders had descended about 500 metres as they dropped off the edge of the range. Now they had to grind back up – this time it was a different hill, but it was just as steep, and involved one or two kilometres of walking up very steep hills.

Enjoying the View
Borumba Dam
As always – the views on the way back up were just as good as the views on the way down. One of the (few) advantages on the way up is that you have more time to enjoy those views. The panorama of the dam below was spectacular.

Ants Nest
Unfortunately, this was where part of the route I had planned had a few flaws. I had plotted the route using the aerial photos in Google Earth. There were no tracks on the map, so I had to find some way to get through some rough eucalyptus forest for about a kilometre. My track led off into some undergrowth and was impossible to follow, so everyone decided to follow a fenceline eastwards instead. This worked out perfectly and after a short struggle they were soon back on track on Yeilo Road.

Eric the Hobbit
Jason was lucky enough to spot the rare Dousi Hobbit nestled in an old dead tree trunk. It’s unusual to find one of these timid animals in the day time.

Yeilo Road
The sun was starting to get low in the sky. It was late in the day, around 5pm, before they eventually re-entered the Jimna Forest for the final leg of the trip. A couple of riders were getting low on water, and starting to feel really low on energy.

Just after 5.30pm, they rolled back into Jimna after riding a total 85km in about 8 and a half hours. During that time they climbed a total of 2,100 metres.

Sorry for the joke, but this is the toughest ride I’ve never done πŸ™‚

After talking with Becca, Eric, Paul and Jason afterwards I think it rates at least 10 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter. They don’t get much tougher than this. Becca says that I broke the metre with this route. Eric called it a “tough mother of a ride”, which (coming from him) means it was quite difficult.

One easier option for this ride is one-way frm Jimna to Borumba Dam or Imbil which would take you 3 to 4 hours and would be mostly downhill.

Don’t attempt the full loop unless you’re very fit, are in a group of very fit riders, and have plenty of food and water. It’ll take you all day.

Thanks Becca, Eric, Paul and Jason for allowing me to plot the course for you, and for letting me tag along.

Thanks Eric and Jason for the great photos!

Total distance: 84.54 km
Max elevation: 613 m
Min elevation: 94 m
Total climbing: 1879 m
Total descent: -1817 m
Average speed: 15.26 km/h
Total time: 08:35:46
More data

The Road to Recovery

The Road to Recovery

Hobbling by the Lake
It’s going to take a while for my knee to heal. I don’t intend to be inactive while that happens.

I promise not to bore you in future with post after post about how difficult recovery is. I just thought it would be good to record my experience of this injury now while the memory is fresh.

Next article is about an adventure involving Mountain Bikes in the Connondale Range – just not with me on the bike πŸ™‚

Day 1.

The emeergency department sent me home with pair of crutches, a compression bandage and some powerful pain killers. They told me to take it easy until they find out exactly what’s damaged in my knee from the MRI that I’m due to have in a couple of days.

I tried taking one pain killer before bed. It worked really well, knocked me out, but I woke up as soon as it wore off after six hours. I decided since they’re addictive I wouldn’t take more than one per day. I sill managed to get back to sleep, but I have to sleep on my back. It’s impossible to lay on my side because of the pain. Any sideways pressure on my knee is excruciating. I get around on two crutches holding my bad leg off the ground, which is really clumsy – especially on stairs, and especially going down.

Getting around with two crutches is frustrating because I can’t carry anything. When I prepared my breakfast, I couldn’t get it to the table, so I grabbed a chair, put my bowl, cup, glass and coffee on the chair, and dragged it the table. It worked well – nice to know my brain still works πŸ™‚

Selfie in the Grass
BugLilly and Jade
I was determined not to feel sorry for myself, and arranged with Lilly to go on a short photography expedition in our garden. We both had a great time! It’s great experience the fact that it doesn’t matter where we are, we can still discover fascinating things. It’s all how we look at the world.

Day 2.

Long Road to Recovery

I took one more pain killer before bed as directed. The same thing happened as the night before. Blissful sleep for 5 or 6 hours and then wide awake. I’ve decided I’ll give the pain killers a miss. I think I can sleep without them, and I’d rather not get hooked on them.

I didn’t want to sit around all day so I decided to go for a hobble round the block on the crutches. Lilly decided to come with me. This was much harder than it seems. Using crutches requires a whole lot of different muscles which I don’t have. Lilly took it really slowly with me, and I managed to do 1.5km but it took me mover an hour. I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got back home. At one stage, Lilly stood by the side of the road and clapped as I went by. She made me feel like a giant.

Day 3.
Knee MRI
My first night without pain killers went really well. I actually slept better. I found that I didn’t dream while I was on the drugs. When I stopped taking the pain killers, the vivid dreams came flooding back – like there was a deficit of dreams that needed to be made up.

Liz drove me in to get my MRI today, and the diagnosis is pretty bad. I’ve torn all the ligaments in my knee. The ones on either side (which should heal in a month or two) and my Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) which holds my knee together. That won’t repair. I’ll need reconstructive surgery to fix it. The doctor arranged for me to see an orthopedic surgeon the same day. Liz kindly drove me into the city in rush-hour to see him. She’s amazing. I have no idea how I could organize all this without her help.

The orthopedic surgeon told me that I’ll need to wait a month or two to let the lateral ligaments (the ones on the side of my knee) to heal. After that they’ll do surgery to reconstuct my knee. It’s a really clever operation where they harvest part of my hamstring, thread it through artificially drilled holes in my thigh and shin, then screw the new artificial ligament to my bones. If all goes well it should be stronger than before, but will take at least 6 months to heal after the operation.

The specialist arranged for me to get a knee brace. It prevents my knee from flexing or extending too far, and (importantly) protects my knee from sideways pressure.

He also arranged for me to see a physio. I was really keen to find out what physical activities I could do while injured, and the physio is supposed to be the person who can advise on that sort of thing.

Day 4.
Long Road to Recovery

The knee brace is amazing. It actually allowed me to put my bad leg on the ground and let it take some pressure without any pain.

I tried going for another stroll around the block, and what took me over an hour last time took me less than 45 minutes today.

I still managed to keep a positive outlook on everything, and even spoke with a friend who’s into Kayaking about the possibility of going for a paddle on the river with him at some stage.

Day 5.

Liz drove me down to see the physio today. He gave me some exercises to increase the range of motion in my knee. I spoke to him about the whole recovery process.

I enthusiastically asked him “What can I do to maintain the muscle tone in my injured leg?”

That’s when it hit me:

“You can’t” he said. “You’re going to go backwards before you can start going forwards. You’ll lose most of the muscle mass in your leg. AFter the operation you can slowly work on rebuilding it, but it will take a long time.”

This was really bad news.

One of the great joys in my life has been improving the strength in my legs, and to use that strength to take me to wonderful places on my bike – up hills, on day-long adventures to far away spots. It was really difficult to think that I’d lose that.

That night I my optimistic veneer started to crumble. I was a difficult person to be around at home. And for the first time since I can remember I cried like a baby when I went to bed.

Day 6.
The Road to Recovery The Road to Recovery

A few years ago, one of my kids gave me Paul de Gelder’s book “No Time for Fear” as a Christmas present. He lost his leg and hand in a shark attack. I decided that perhaps now was a good time to start reading the book, and thought to myself – if he recovered from losing a leg and hand, who am I to complain about a temporary setback?

It helps to get things in perspective πŸ™‚

Day 7.
New wheels

Liz and I drive manual transmission cars. I can’t operate a clutch while my knee is in this condition, so my neighbor, Mike, kindly agreed to swap cars with me. I’ve got his automatic Holden Ute for a couple of weeks while he drives my manual Toyota Hiace Van. I’m mobile again πŸ™‚

Neil by the Lake
I decided to go for a walk along one of the tracks I’d normally ride my bike along, and today I chose to walk by the shoreline of the dam.

It was slow going – this was the first time I’d tried walking on an uneven rocky surface. But I managed it fine, and was able to take a few photos as well.

The world is still beautiful – I’m just learning to see that beauty in new ways πŸ™‚

All up, I walked 4km this week about 3 hours. That must be a world record in slowness!

No tough-o-meter for this weeks activities!

I’ll have a real mountain-biking story for you in the next day or so.