Well, that was interesting. A much needed weekend away even if I say so myself. Here's how it all unfolded:
Friday was a public holiday on the Gold Coast -- for show day. Now I'm not all that interested in watching rednecks do redneck things (especially when I see it everyday on my commute anyway), so I headed out for a bit of a bike tour. I started off heading west toward Canungra, initially riding at 26-27km/h. Of course, that was foolhardy on a fully-loaded bike and I soon brought that to a stop -- even if it took *gasp* a flat tyre 20km in to bring me to my senses. I fixed that and continued on through the Gorge country in the Coomera valley. This is actually one of the more spectacular and most under-ridden rides in the entire country in my view.
West of Canungra the scenery declines somewhat, as we're out of the coastal ranges. I pressed on through Beaudesert, and on to Rathdowney (four magpie attacks in a 31km stretch, I think they're making up for lost time). After leaving Rathdowney I headed out on the Lions Tourist road toward the Border Ranges.
This road was originally constructed by the Lions club of Kyogle, and they know a thing or two about advertising. There are all sorts of warning signs about steep gradients and sharp/blind corners, before another sign proclaiming a donation box on the border for "road improvements".
Here the road twists and turns, climbs and descents through rolling hills which gradually get more and more rugged. I called it a day after 121.6km (and 1,045 metres of climbing) at a campground about 14km north of the NSW border. I was offered a free feed by some other campers who "would have heaps left over at the end". I'm not one to reject a free feed, so I tucked in.
The second morning I woke up in a mist-shrouded valley, with a temperature of 5 degrees C (it would later hit 28 degrees C). I set off heading south on a steeply undulating road, before a final short sharp rise to the border (it was 12% average for the last kilometre). It was here that I was able to observe two completely different environments. On the Queensland side, the landscape was stark and yellow, while on the NSW side, the rainforest was in full glory. "Cut all the f***in' trees down in Queensland" was the checkpoint attendant's brief explanation.
On my arrival at the checkpoint I'd been greeted by a couple of German Shepherd dogs, who were apparently on duty. I leaned my bike against the fence and took a short walk to take a photo, while they assumed the guarding position in front of my bike. I guess this was one place I didn't need to worry about bike theft. This was followed by ups and downs through the forest, with a short stop at the Border Loop lookout. This is a stretch of railway on the main Sydney-Brisbane line where they actually built a loop to give the trains a saner gradient with which to climb the range.
From here it was pretty much all downhill into the valley through Gradys Creek, and toward Kyogle. Before arriving there, however, I had other business to attend to, in the shape of the Tooloom forest road. This is a rough, rocky dirt road that eventually climbs to 830 metres above sea-level through varying types of forest. The views from the plateau are awesome in places, but I have to admit to feeling "saved" on the sight of a water tank at the top.
The descent was basically as rough as guts, and I was forced to press the "spare' luggage straps into service for "keeping the load" together purposes. I basically descended at the same speed I had climbed, but this stretch of rainforest was beautiful. At the bottom I decided to make for Kyogle, not in my plans, but I was hoping for a feed of pasta. The last 20km or so into Kyogle were accompanied by some very promising black clouds, a gutsy headwind, and even a bit of lightning (which, sadly, fizzled into nothing, but did scare off a magpie who wanted to have a crack).
I reached the town, pitched my tent in the caravan park, then headed to the main street to grab a feed -- not the best pasta I've ever had, but it would do. Back at the campground I met a couple of German cycle-tourists, who had come from Nimbin, but cut the day short due to the heat (in "winter" no less!). They were heading for Gradys creek. I also got another free feed from one of the residents (I didn't even ask for it, but hey, it's impolite to refuse, right?). After 102km and 2,111 metres of climbing (including about 1,300 on dirt roads), I wasn't going to refuse anything.
Woke up in Kyogle on a surprisingly chilly morning (4 degrees C), but looking forward to the trip back to the coast. I was still paying for yesterday in a big way. The first action after leaving Kyogle is the climb of the MacKellar Range -- it's actually done in two stretches, with a decent descent in the middle. More winding roads through beautiful countryside, does it get any better than this?Unfortunately, it was warming up a little quicker than I would have liked, 16 degrees C at the top of the range, before the screaming descent into Cawongla, and another climb out, this time the Nightcap Range.
This one is broken with a heap of ups and downs, but the countryside was still beautiful. Sadly, I was forced into using a film camera for this trip, so there weren't as many photos as I would have liked. At the top of the range I passed the Nimbin turnoff and joined the Repentance ride from just over a month ago -- again entranced by the sight of the Sphinx watching over Mt Burrell.
Signs along the road proclaim the Sphinx Rock Cafe, but it's not due to open until September 14, and that's assuming they can find the staff for it. The long gradual descent took me into the rainforest, and toward Uki (a charming village surrouned by rainforests with a good vibe), with a magpie landing on my shoulder for "comfort" along the way. Waterbottles have more than one purpose.
I committed a sin in Uki, passing by the best cafe in the world because it was a little early for lunch. By the time I reached Murwillumbah the temperature had risen to 31 degrees C, and there was nothing open in the town, should have stopped in Uki after all. I did manage to find a bakery open, then set off home on the more familiar roads now. Of course, there was only one way I was coming back -- the rainforests of Urliup providing some welcome relief from the baking canefields. I slowed a little to savour the last rainforest of the weekend, before returning to Bilambil, and suburbia.
The ocean at Kirra very nearly tempted me, it was just that enticing shade of blue that it sometimes gets down there. Probably should have dived in on reflection. Just how does salt water effect lycra?
So what reflections do I have? Well, a three day tour, with day three along a route that's been ridden before doesn't always bring a lot. I'm glad my tent performed well in the light rain on Friday night, but I really should learn to better remember the names of people I meet. Most of all I'm glad I listed to my grandmother and kept the film camera. At least now I'll have something by which to remember the last three days -- even if I still have one pic to use up before I get this film sorted.