Touring - le tour de queensland
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12-01-01, 02:45 PM
Greetings all. Following is a report from my recent tour in South Queensland. If nothing else, it will be a cheap way to boost my post count :p
Day 1: Ho hum
In hindsight, this was probably the least exciting day of the entire tour. Not unpleasant as such, just not particularly interesting. It started with a train ride to Ipswich that got delayed for an hour, so I didn't get to ride until just after 9am :( . After this it was a cruisy ride through rolling country passing through the towns of Granchester, Laidley and Gatton (where I stopped for lunch). Basically, it was all about finding backroads to avoid the Warrego Highway.
I found a pleasant campground by a creek at Helidon (don't ask me to describe where that is), where there were a couple of others who apparently hate each other's guts (I didn't ask why). Both of them wanted to talk about my ride (albeit separately) and give local advice. I don't know what it is about cycle touring, but for some reason, the sight of a bike seems to make people want to talk.
Actually, their advice was useful, because I found a good way to climb the range the next day.
12-01-01, 02:55 PM
Day 2: Hey rain!
I awoke that morning to find my tent and my bike sitting on an island surrounded by flood waters! Apparently it had decided to rain during the night and it didn't muck around. I guess I pitched my tent in the right spot.
I headed south-west that morning along a road that used to be known as the "Clifton Highway" but was now apparently confined to minor road status. Whatever it was called, it turned into an extremely pleasant ride.
The rain totally failed to abate, but that actually made the ride better in my opinion. This was actually a climb of the Great Dividing Range, but the climb was so gradual I hardly even noticed I was climbing. I was more distracted by the scenery of mist covered mountains dotted with granite outcrops on the foothills.
Eventually I got to the top, at which point I turned north for Toowoomba. It was mainly flat country across the top of the plateau, with one hell of a headwind as it turned out (all of the land up there was cleared of trees for farming).
Toowoomba itself is a highly scenic town of 90,000 with tree-lined streets, gardens and mountain views on the eastern fringes. I had a big feed of pasta in town, and went looking for the botanical gardens. For once my natual sense of direction failed me and I got lost :eek: .
Back at the campground, someone thought I was English :confused:
12-01-01, 03:06 PM
Day 3: the GREAT dividing range
This was the best ride I'd had in a long time. Try to imagine scenery with rolling hills occasionally giving way to mountain views (on both sides of the road), a very pleasant temperature and considerate (compared to what I'm used to) drivers. I might have asked for a bigger shoulder on the road, but certainly not at the expense of the daisies that lined the edge of the road for the entire day.
I ended up doing 138km or so that day after taking a detour to visit Crows Nest National Park en route to Yarraman. The park is mainly known for the Crows Nest Falls, however I thought Koonin (the Valley of Diamonds) was more impressive.
I ended up camping just outside Yarraman and got out my little radio to listen to the coverage of Australia's World Cup qualifier (soccer) against Uruguay. We managed to win the first leg in Melbourne 1-0 (but unfortunately we got flogged in Montevideo 3-0 a few days later to be eliminated once again :cry: ).
12-01-01, 03:16 PM
Day 4: More of the same please!
Well, I certainly got that. It was actually a similar ride to the previous day, but unbeknownst to me, I had actually been descending for two days. Along the way, the most impressive feature of the day was Lake Barambah, before finding a place to camp just outside the town of Murgon.
There's been a bit of talk about bad business practices on this forum recently and in Murgon I saw another example. The guy at the local Chinese restaurant made the mistake of offering an "all you can eat lunchtime special". This is not a smart move when there is a touring cyclist in the area, and especially not if the touring cyclist is me! After refilling my plate about 4 or 5 times, I decided to have mercy and let him be, but I'm not sure he'll be doing that again.
Back at the campground, apart from fielding the usual questions about where I was going, and continuing to assure people that "yes, it is possible to ride all that way on a bike" I also realised how good my timing had been. Schoolies' week is always the best time of year not to be on the Gold Coast, and I heard from someone that there had been a gang bashing of some kind here the previous night. That isn't the sort of thing that normally goes on around here.
12-01-01, 03:24 PM
Day 5: Magpies and no signs
In short, Gympie is not for the weak. On this day, I headed east from the campground through the town of Goomeri (which has an Anzac day commemerative clock. Instead of numbers, it has letters that spell the words "Lest we forget"), and eventually into the town of Gympie.
The place does have one thing going for it, it is all hills. However, the local council clearly doesn't expect any tourists because information signs are just about impossible to find. It took me a good 1/2 hour just to find an information sign in the place, and while I stood reading it, a local magpie made it clear what he thought of tourists in a way that only magpies can.
One of the locals I spoke to at Gympie Caravan Park (when I eventually found it) wanted to quit his job picking cucumbers and go and work in the abattoirs at Murgon. Is that really a better job?
12-01-01, 03:34 PM
Day 6: almost a calamity!
There is a road east of Gympie that I had been planning to ride for a long time (one that crosses a couple of ranges, but nobody else knows about it). Along the way, I took a detour after once again being unable to resist a sign that said "scenic lookout". It went along a rough dirt road and apparently I hadn't secured my luggage straps as well as I should have because one of them came off and got totally tangled up in my rear cassette.
It took me about 1.5 hours to untangle the mess. At one point I thought about getting out my knife and trying to cut the strap, but I somehow resisted that temptation and was back on the road again.
The fact was that I had to be back on the Gold Coast the next morning to go to work in order to fund the rest of this expedition (whoever heard of working on one's holidays :cry: ), so I had to find a railway station. That I did at Cooroy.
On the trainride back, I met up with two other touring cyclists (one was Dutch, the other was American) who had been heading north from Sydney. They had decided it was too hot this far north, so they were planning to catch a train back to Sydney and go south where it was likely to be cooler.
They weren't overly impressed when I told them that Australian states have different gauge railways. I didn't realise I was living in a "third world country" :eek: .
12-01-01, 03:36 PM
Day 7: Rest day
I had to go to work on that day, which was boring so I won't talk about it. The 12km round trip to work and back is hardly worth anything either, so that won't get much of a mention.
12-01-01, 03:44 PM
Day 8: Unflattering names
Now, I realise that Beaudesert is hardly the most inspiring place in the world (that's why I passed through it without giving it a second thought), but whoever named some of the things around here must have been pretty p!ssed off at the time. "Ugly Gully", "Bambling Road", "Wonglepong", "Mt Misery"? Maybe I shouldn't ask.
The ride to Beaudesert is pretty familiar to me now, although the first 40km or so to Canungra is pleasant (and has a 14% hill to contemplate). After Beaudesert I headed south through Rathdowney to Mt Barney National Park, which for once was almost totally devoid of tourists.
After arriving I took a brief ride through the foothills to visit the Lower Portals (which were slightly disappointing) and retired to the campground. The only other people there had brought a guitar and spent most of the night playing tunes ranging from Metallica to Jewel. They seemed to have a good range, but didn't play any Jets! :mad:
12-01-01, 03:54 PM
Day 9: More rain
The plan today hadn't been to do any riding. Instead I was intending to climb Mt Barney. However, the rain well and truly put paid to that! Rain might be ideal for cycling, but it's definitely not ideal for mountain climbing on foot, particularly when the summit is cloaked in mist.
I ditched that idea and decided to futher explore the surrounding foothills. This led to a 14km walk and one of my now customary battles with leeches. Life just wouldn't be the same without those little buggers.
When I got back to the campground, it was totally devoid of anyone else, and that's the way it stayed all night. The solitude was great, but I was really itching to get back on the bike again the next day.
12-01-01, 04:07 PM
Day 10: The king
Put simply, I have never enjoyed a ride so much as this one. It invovled another climb of the previously mentioned range, this time further south and heading for Queen Mary Falls. The first 60km or so of the ride was pretty flat actually, and I nearly had a major crash at a place where Teviot Brook, enriched by the recent rain, had flooded the road. Maybe I should have walked across that bit :o .
So the climb through Main Range National Park started. This was just plain hard yakka for about 6km or so (often happens when there is a sign warning of a "very steep gradient") to Teviot Falls. This is actually quite a refreshing place to stop and suck in a few deep breaths as the view of the falls is quite pleasant.
Shortly after this, a sign claimed "gravel road". I've since come to realise that in these parts, this means "dirt road with a heap of rocks sticking up". This had to be negotiated before the climb resumed (a gentler gradient this time) ultimately reaching a summit known as "The Head". After which it was a cruisy section to a campground opposite the falls.
There was a resident kangaroo at the campground who seemed to have all the usual questions about the tour as well. I don't speak kangaroo very well, but he followed me around anyway.
Later that day I also visited the unflatteringly named "Daggs falls", which were also quite impressive after the recent rain.
12-01-01, 04:16 PM
Day 11: Fed up with cattle grids
I'll never quite get used to New South Wales and Queensland being on different timezones for around half of the year. This actually involved heading south east through rolling country around the range, crossing into NSW after about 10km, crossing yet another of those annoying cattle grids. A plague on 'em all I say!
At the village of Legume I got onto what was once known as the Mt Lindesay Highway for a scenic ride across the top of the range. Everyone else concerned has pretty much given up on this road, but apparently the Tenterfield shire Council has different ideas. There were about 10 planned diversions of the road to make it more user friendly. I was wondering why they were bothering.
I was also surprised to discover that the town of Woodenbong did not have a massive hippie population. Honestly, with a name like "Wooden-bong"?
After this there was a turn to the south, a descent, before finally a big headwind on the way to Kyogle. This place calls itself the "Gateway to the rainforests". I was planning to test that claim the next day. I was also intending to stock up on Tropical-strength Aerogard for the anticipated leech attack that goes with such a claim. :eek:
12-01-01, 04:29 PM
Day 12: Awesome!
I woke up with a mild case of the 'flu that morning. However, the fact was that I'd waited three years for this day, so that had no chance of stopping me. This was the day I'd finally get to do the Border Ranges ride. A climb of 1,100 metres (3,650ft) entirely on dirt roads through the rainforest.
It didn't take long for the climb to be forgotten in the midst of some amazing scenery. If any of you are touring the east coast of Australia in future, this ride is a must. I left my stuff in Kyogle and travelled light up the mountain, and this is the best way to do it. Of course, the recent rain had made parts of the road difficult to negotiate.
At the top, I went for a walk through the rainforest along Brindle Creek just to give my legs something different to do. Selva falls were quite impressive, as was (I thought) my method of torturing a leech. This one found it's way into my shoe, but I found it before it could chew through my sock. Instead of trying to shake it out, I just sprayed the shoe full of Aerogard. Leeches are no match for that stuff! :D
On the descent I took things slowly. Maybe I'm a wuss, but a spill here could be serious, with plenty of time on the way down to realise that. For some reason, nobody in Kyogle quite wanted to believe that I had done that ride on a bike.
On a walk around the campground that night, it dawned on me that this adventure was drawing to a close, much too soon for my liking.
12-01-01, 04:40 PM
Day 13: The new BikeForums!
I had actually done this ride before in the closing stages of my last tour. However, the road had changed since then in one important aspect, it was actually sealed! I set off from Kyogle and immediately started a fairly easy (and certainly broken) climb of the Nightcap Range. Overall it's a scenic and comfortable ride all the way back to the Gold Coast (around 130km).
Just south of Uki I passed the intersection with Tyalgum road, which represented the start of familiar territory. After this, it was the town of Murwillumbah which has a bakery for one to replenish the carbs, and, as I discovered, a Sikh temple! Why exactly they'd build one there I don't quite know.
After disposing of the hill at Terranora, I started getting reminders of home. OK, the sea breeze was good, but the horny drivers and the humidity were things I could live without.
So what did I do when I got home? Had a refreshing cold shower of course (this is Queensland in summer and hit the new BikeForums! After that, I went out to a spanky restaurant to have dinner with a few friends to belatedly celebrate the fact that we'd all survived university.
Overall I had an awesome trip. It mightn't have been Tasmania (where I'd originally intended to go), but it was certainly worth doing. I may yet one day go back and do some of those rides again.
ChrisL; Thanks for day-by-day. It brought back some memories of my own tours. Not in Australia, but here in the States and Canada. Haven't been out on the roads for a couple years now, but you've helped to relite the spirit of adventure.
Winter's upon us so it may not happen until next Spring, which is my favorite time for touring.
Awesome account of the trip.
I would give my eye teeth to take a tour like that.
what was the set up for the bike and what did you carry?
Cheers on the ride and on finishing school.
12-02-01, 01:25 AM
Originally posted by Greg
what was the set up for the bike and what did you carry?
I just jumped on the same MTB that I've been using for commuting and day rides over the last three years. I carried two rear panniers, a tent and a sleeping bag (I like to travel light). I was able to buy food and stuff in most of the towns I visited, and stored some salad and fruit in a small cooler bag inside one of my panniers.
One thing I will do differently is carry a ground sheet to put under my sleeping bag at night. The ground was a bit hard in some places :eek:
12-02-01, 10:10 AM
Sounds like a great trip, Chris!
Do you have to back to school to take lessons in Kangaroo?:D
Thanks for the interesting descriptions.
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