Saturday, September 7, 2013

Have bike, will explore.

For a while now I have been toying around with the idea of doing some touring or bike packing style adventures. I guess it was a grasp at getting some passion for riding my bike back and a chance to combine riding my bike with camping, two of my greatest pleasures. A couple of things happened to align that meant I was able to both get my bike ready for such shenanigans and kit myself up with a few necessities like some bags and a bit of kit. In later posts I will go into more depth with the set up and what has and hasn't worked but for now the sheer joy of the weekend is what I want to write about.  In the most part I want to let the pictures do the talking. Maybe just a few words here and there to express the thoughts and feelings captured in the moment will be enough to get my message across.
My first (and at this stage only) trip was a ride from Esk in the Brisbane Valley to Blackbutt at the foot of the Bunya Mountains. Over the two days there was about 160 kilometres of riding on old rail lines and back via farm roads and part of the Bicentennial National Trail. The route formed a loop with the first day being the easier, gently climbing path along the  Brisbane valley Rail Trail. It's scenic, it's peaceful, it's relaxing.
The former station at Toogoolawah.
The riding is easy with a gradient of only 2-4 percent. It does go on for a long way though.

The easy riding made for a lot of chatting and planning of rides in the future. I can see how this kind of riding gets addictive. 
A snack on the rail trail.

Just below Linville on the Brisbane River. 

The totally relaxed pace of the first day and the increasingly fantastic scenery quickly made the woes of the world disappear.The salve for the soul that is cycling is only heightened by connecting with a journey rather than a destination. We had let the pace slip a bit and the goal of reaching Yarraman really looked like a trudge. It didn't matter. We had shelter, we had food, we had water. As it turns out we also had a pub with cold beers when we reached Blackbutt. Day complete.
Blackbutt Showgrounds. Not exactly roughing it but a great place to stop.

Some shelter for the bikes and us. There's even a bar!

Camp gourmand. 

The morning was foggy and cold. My sleep had been a little sketchy as I left my sleeping mat behind to save space. Lesson learnt. I still felt great though as the reflections on the day before left a warm glow and the thought of my home made porridge with cinnamon and a hot coffee really stoked the fires for another day. The simple pleasures of some tasty nourishing food and that black gold that is coffee were all I needed.

 By the time we had struck camp the fog had burned mostly burned away. It would make a comeback as we entered the valleys on our trek back towards Esk but the sunrise over the camp was still pretty awesome.

Packed and ready to roll.

The highlight of the trip was yet to come. The ride through the Emu Creek gorge was stunning. The pictures will tell the story much better than my words.
Heading out of Blackbutt. The fog returned

Rolling farm roads and great views.
Heading down into the gorge at Emu Creek.
A last photo before the drop proper. 

Emu Creek Gorge. The view was truly beautiful as was the creek itself. This area took a beating in the floods of a few years ago.

We started the climb out. We climbed a lot. The views on each side made it easier but it was still hard work. Massive granite rocks stuck out at us and the hillsides were covered in Grasstrees.

A rest about half way up
More stunning scenery.

Still climbing though....
...and still climbing....

...but still smiling!!

....until finally we got to the top and were greeted by this.

 When I reach the top of a truly challenging climb and can see the road stretching out in front of you with no cars, no houses and no people it just stirs the adventurers soul in me. Rients and I just took a few minutes to take in the view and the reflect on the ride so far. I was genuinely sad to leave the gorge but the possibilities ahead beckoned.

Farm roads and gates. Leave 'em as you find 'em.

Lunch was at the community hall in Anduranbah. The last of the dehydrated food was consumed with great gusto. My bolognese was just the ticket for a hungry rider. We ate and drank to fill the holes and just chilled in the quiet sunshine. This was much to the amusement of some passing locals who looked at two cyclists in the back of nowhere with no small amount of scepticism. You could see the "Crazy bastsards!" written all over the faces.


We came across a bearded dragon in the middle of the road. This little guy was not moving for two crazy guys on bikes. I waited for him to scurry off as I approached but in the end he won the stand off and I went around. 

We just rode then. The roads were quiet and the two of us just pushed along at our own pace. We would regather at the intersections or tops of hills Sometimes we rode together and talked of future trips, we talked about gear and we talked about what we were about to complete. We also talked about the meat pie and chocolate milk we were both about to devour when we got back to Esk! The rail trail into Esk was a fittingly relaxed way to end the ride. The 3% gradient climb on the way to Blackbutt turned into the slight roll home towards Esk. Even the magpies who had been so ferocious on the way out took pity on us. After the food and drink was consumed at the bakery and we had a rough wash down it was time to drive back to Brisbane. The chatter all the way home was of the places we passed and how we could explore them. Every little dirt road was a possibility. Endless possibilities.

Mission accomplished.

I have to add a very special thanks to Rients. Not only did he plant this little seed of bike packing in my pea like brain nearly two years ago but he also helped endlessly with gear selection and bike set up. It is such a boon to have a person who has used the gear, made the mistakes and learnt the lessons and is willing to pass on the knowledge. My bike and gear were nearly perfect on the trip and I owe that in no small part to his help. Rients also set up the route and and provided the means to get to Esk for the start. And lets not forget the burgers at his house to finish!! Cheers mate.


  1. Nice one Graham. Good to see you out there.
    Sleeping well is important. It has taken me a while to get my sleep setup honed, but I think it is sorted now.
    What brand of gear did you buy? Do you have a gps trace that you might like to share on the Emu Ck gorge section?

  2. Hey Dave! I have been really lucky with the gear thing. I had a tent that I picked up some years ago for the princely sum of $19. Yep, $19. It is actually very good and was part of a rental company fleet and never used. Money is always tight so my set up is a bit povo in some areas and I spent the cash on things I really needed to work every time but at the expense of weight and size. I have a Roman sleeping bag that is rated for +5 degrees and recently bought a new mat from Mountain Designs as insulation from the ground. I also carry an inflatable cushion as it helps with neck pain I suffer with. I have a Jetboil stove and love it, I got a mixture of Revelate and Cleaveland Mountaineering bags as well as a home made bar roll harness and dry bag. Other than that it is just my clothing and bike. Simple, relatively inexpensive and functional.
    The GPS trace, well you'll just have to come out and do it with me... :)

  3. Povo is the way to go. I like the hobo-on-a-bike look that is bikepacking. It disguises the fun from the general public.
    Righto. It'd be good to catch up for a spin. You name the time...oh...and place. :)

  4. Hey Graham, great to see you back on the bike you big beardo you.
    Missed the updates on the your blog, and so many others sadly.

    Might have to get out for one of these my self soon. Sounds like a good way to reset a few switches that haven been tripped for a while.

    Cheers, Brad (Ballast)