Last weekend's tour was probably the last one I'll get this year. As expected I headed west through Canungra and Beaudesert, managing to avoid a pall of smoke from someone burning off somewhere around Wonglepong by taking a recently-discovered dirt road. About the most exciting part of this early stretch was passing by the wildflowers in bloom at this time of year.
The stretch between Beaudesert and Rathdowney offers little in the way of stunning scenery, but it's prime magpie territory. One in particular flew high into the air in an arc-like movement, before swooping dramatically, then having to change direction to avoid a jet of water from my bottle. After a surprisingly filling lunch from Rathdowney pub, the ride starts to get interesting on the approach to the Border Ranges, with a beautiful climb through the mountains up to the Plateau near Mt Lindesay, now passing through beautiful rainforest.
I pondered free-camping here, but decided I wanted to head further South, so I crossed the border into NSW, through the village of Woodenbong, offering sweeping views of the incoming rain, then rode to Urbenville, 12km to the South, through a beautiful shower. I set up camp here, in the local park, after deciding that 146km was quite enough for one day.
A point to ponder about some of these towns. Urbenville has banned the consumption of alcohol in the main street of the town, which really just means the local drunks just move into the parks to get drunk -- seems like a pointless exercise. In Kyogle that law is flouted blatantly, while I don't think Murwillumbah bothers anymore. In one sense it's sad that residents of some country towns have been reduced to this, largely through boredom one suspects. On the other hand, it is really any different from people in major cities going to clubs and getting drunk? Perhaps there's a message to ponder about life generally, and how the pointlessness of so much of it reduces people to this.
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The second day saw me leave Urbenville at around 7.30am after packing up (something I take way too long to do), and just enjoying being in this area. It's not far from here that I cut my cycle touring teeth 5-6 years ago, but this area is really special, with mountains shaped by volcanic activity popping up everywhere.
A short climb brings me back into the rainforest, before a long gradual descent takes me into the village of Bonalbo. Now this is where day 2 starts to get interesting. I ponder the best way to get across to Kyogle. Peacock Creek Road piques my interest, passing through Richmond Range National Park as it does. I'm told by the guy at the Bonalbo Newsagent/Service Station/whatever other role it fulfils in that place that would probably be an impossible task."It's a really rough road, even for a four-wheel drive. You might be alright on a mountain bike, but even then you'll probably have to get off and push most of the way."
As it happens, I manage to pedal every scrap of the way on my hybrid, and pull a full touring load as well! The farmland at the start is inspiringly isolated and lonely.
The forest once I enter the National Park is beautiful, and although I don't get the mountain views that I would like, the bellbirds keep me company with their tranquil song.
I also detour to Toonumbar Dam after standing under the shade of a tree and pondering possible alternative lines on a map to follow. There are very definite "no camping" signs here, but there were plenty of other opportunities for potential stealth camping today.
The only real difficulty is the "road improvements" from the Kyogle Council toward the end -- oh yeah, and I have another argument with the heat, but that always happens. In one sense, I'm dissapointed to reach Kyogle, not because of anything to do with the town itself (although I could list a few things), but because I simply don't want the day to end. Incidentally, next time I'll press on and free-camp in the bush somewhere. The local lads can make quite a noise on a Saturday night.
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Another surprisingly warm night, the temperature doesn't drop below 15 degrees C. This time last year it fell to 4 degrees C. I leave Kyogle and pedal straight into a big headwind from the North-East. 120km back to the Gold Coast could be a long way into this wind. There is some relief, however, in the form of some early climbs -- namely the Mackellar and Nightcap Ranges. I could just about do the stretch between Kyogle and Murwillubah every week and never get bored with it.
These trees are blooming everywhere, and on the Nightcap Range, I find a plantation of them.
The two ranges are climbed surprisingly quickly, and I'm back on familiar roads, although there are great views of Mt Warning in the vicinity of Uki -- incidentally (for those who didn't know), Mt Warning is the first part of mainland Australia to see the sun each day.
After this, it's through the rainforest of Urliup toward the final leg. Urliup is a wonderful thing --this ride would have "effectively" ended at Murwillumbah as the scenery across the plains to Tweed Heads/Terranora is less than inspiring, as is the suburbia that follows. However, Urliup offers something different -- the sounds and smells of the rainforest, complemented by the sounds of tyres on dirt. It's always one final encore on most of my southern rides.
Beyond that, the only thing that remained was pushing through the headwind on the flat coastal section. The wind really blew hard here, but by this stage there wasn't far to go, so all I had to do was select a low gear and spin it into submission. This actually turned out to be surprisingly easy, if not all that interesting -- and I was left to take a first shower for three days.
As to final impressions, well, three-day tours are not life-changing experiences. However, this tour offered me the chance to escape suburbia for a while, which was just what I needed. It's also left me with some other places to explore at some point in the future. Old Tweed Road on the Nightcap Range is begging to be ridden some day soon, as is Cambrige Plateau Forest road on the Richmond Range. Then, of course, there is another road heading North from Woodenbong, which provides an alternative route to Boonah between some of the highest peaks in the Border Ranges. With those maps I picked up in Bonalbo, I suspect I'm going to spend more time exploring this area in the not-to-distant future.