Friday, October 18, 2013

Border Ranges Bikepacking Day 2

Well, my planned early start didn't happen.

I finally rolled out of bed at about 7:30 which is quite a sleep in for me. May have been something to do with the 152km the previous day? Anyway, I munched a couple of museli bars as I packed my kit up and pedalled off around 8:30am.

Darlington Park seemed like a very pleasant spot to stay...another time. I was heading south into the "Lost World" and was looking forward to seeing new country. Although it can't be too lost any has electricity!

My legs were a bit stiff this morning but nothing worse than expected. I soon came to the Darlington Connection road which shot straight up the hillside to the west and disappeared at it's crest. The sun burnt itself into my back as I inched up the climb, dripping sweat as I crawled along. The first climb of the day is ALWAYS tough. After you get the hurt thermostat set for the day everything else seems matter if it is waaay worse. Anyway, the brake searing descent that followed soon cooled me off and it was back to motoring along valley floor again.

I passed through a small village, Hillview, that would have been a bustling place 50 years ago. Now while there are still quite a few residents, the abandoned houses tell a story of what once was. At least the community hall is in good order.

Pedalling down Christmas Creek road the undulations serve up both pleasure and pain for my tired legs. It is pretty country so the time passes quickly and before I know it I am at Stinson Park. This area is where Bernard O'Reilly made his way off the mountain looking for help for the survivors of the 1937 Stinson airliner crash. This was massive news in Australia at the time as the aviation era was still in it's infancy and Kingsford Smith, Hinkler and even that Lindberg bloke were household names. To think that a local farmer had the gut instinct and the bushcraft to just walk out into the rainforest and to actually find the three engined plane is incredible reading.

Anyway, I had read Bernard's book years ago and have always wanted to climb to the crash site to have a look for myself. It wasn't going to happen this trip, but I was going to climb up the "Stretcher" track. This is the path they brought the survivors down via. I knew it was going to be steep but wanted to make an on the spot decision once I was looking at the mountain side. The entrance to Gap Creek rd didn't look too intimidating...

But the hills surrounding me indicated something else. Very soon I was in granny gear, grinding slowly past various farm houses on what felt more like someone's driveway than a road. There were kangaroos lounging in the shade everywhere. Obviously, this was good country.

I was soon reduced to pushing my bike before I came to a gate adorned with signs.

Duly warned, I pushed onward, past some grazing cattle and then came to some old sheds and an outhouse.

Turning around, the view was fantastic!

Back to the task at hand, I tried to apply the common sense test to what I was proposing here. Initially I thought "no way can I get my bike up there".

I was at the right arrow. Check those contours!

Then I thought, "what if I just mosey up the Stretcher track to see what it looks like"?. Sure, why not? The worst that can happen is that I turn around because it is too steep.

As I started up the hill I looked back toward the sheds. The view was just getting better and better!

Arriving at the bottom of the stretcher track, it appeared to be a defined track along a small spine that ran down from the ridge line. Yeah, I could do this. So I did.

I started pushing with occasional stops to take in the view, water and some roasted almonds. The challenge of it was actually fun.

Of course, I was on snake watch big time. I soon spotted evidence of Joe Blakes but hoped that because the skin was in a small tree it would be a friendly snake. Although, we all know there is only one kind of good snake.....

Looking up the range to where I needed to be kept my enthusiasm somewhat in check.

Of course the final 20m or so of vertical were just that. VERTICAL! I had to skirt across the hillside, through the grass, to ease the difficulty but it did make it bloody hard to keep an eye out for snakes. I didn't hear any rustling which was reassuring but maybe they just weren't moving....?!?

Eventually I crested the ridge line!! It was about 10m across at the top and had a nice little line of single track running along it. Not from the cattle, but the Geocachers that frequent the hill. And the views? Fark yeah!!!

Even if I made it no further it was worth the effort so far for the view alone.The cool breeze that blew in from the east was icing on the cake. After soaking in the view I began to trace the ridge line north, toward the valley I needed to drop down into. I had tracked about 200m(yards) to the south by following the Stretcher track up but there was no option. It simply was not possible to follow my GPS line up the hill side.

I soon came to a rock outcrop that had vertical drop offs down the mountain side. The only way to climb it was by skirting around the left side, then using both hands....which made carrying a 20kg(44lb) bike pretty tricky.

I decided to leave the bike, hike over the top of the hill and walk to the spot where I needed to drop into the next valley. This would save me from pulling my gear off my bike and transporting it bit by bit possibly to find that it was in vain.

Once past the rocks it proved to be a very pleasant stroll. The ridge line flattened out into a plateau and there was a distinct track along it going right where I needed to go.

But right where I needed to go was a massively steep slope. It might take me all afternoon to find a way down, then I would have to find my way onto Jackson's Rd and across to my next hike-a-bike section along the "gazetted" Lancaster Rd. I had been applying the "is this sane" test to the whole climb so far but when I applied it here I was coming back with the answer of "probably not totally insane, but close enough that a bystander couldn't tell the difference" . Plus, the climb over the rock outcrop was stupid to attempt on my own. If there were two of us we could manhandle one bike at a time, but it just wasn't possible solo.

So, back it was to be! Not surprisingly, it was pretty easy to get down the hill. I even rode the lower section of the Stretcher track and my brakes lived to tell the tale!

Coming up with a plan for the rest of the ride I decided that my original Plan B reroute would likely be just too much extra to make my scheduled train in Casino tomorrow afternoon. I needed a Plan C.

What to do? What to do? As I filled up with water from the tank at Stinson Park I decided to back track the way I had come and ride up Duck Creek rd (not having done enough climbing today....) to O'Reilly's Guesthouse where I could camp the night then ride via Canungra, Mt Tambourine and the V1 bikeway to home. That way I could self rescue and probably would not run out of time. I did need to be home for work on Saturday morning.

I was feeling a bit flat riding back to Darlington Park. Maybe it was the fact that I had dragged my bike up a 230m(755ft) hill side after riding 35km(22mi) but I think it was probably more the disappointment at not being able to follow the plan. Perhaps the 770m(2525ft) climb that was looming had something to do with it!

I picked up some water and an ice cool icecream at Darlington Park and pressed on. I was soon heading along Duck Creek rd and at the pearly er steel gate.

It was getting late in the afternoon, I had a big climb ahead of me and I was not exactly swimming in water. I needed to keep the pace up- but not too much otherwise my thirst would suck my Camelbak dry. A delicate balancing act. So, I walked quite a few sections that I would normally ride. "Just to keep the heart rate down" I told myself.

I managed to get to the main lookout at just the right time. I caught the sun setting over Mt Barney and Mt Lindesey.

This lack of light as well as the lessening grade spurred me on. Past Luke O'Reilly's farm.

The setting sun was sending shafts of light through gaps in the rainforest canopy along here and small patches of forest floor were glowing like they were on fire. It was the most amazing thing I have seen but alas, I could not do it justice with the camera.

Once again, my tail light was pressed into service as I grovelled up the last few climbs to O'Reillys. Cresting the last climb, I jumped on the bike and began to pedal. Instead of smooth forward progress I had a bump-bump sensation. WTF?! Jumping off I soon saw the problem.

My non tubeless tyre had delaminated and the bumps would not clear the rear of the bottom bracket. I deflated the tyre some and pushed the last 1.5km into O'Reillys.

I located some much needed water, then was pleased to see that I had some service on my mobile(cell) phone and made that call to home. The drive up to O'Reillys is VERY twisty and I didn't want my lovely, by now slighly overtaxed, wife driving it in the dark so I opted to camp and she very kindly(again) agreed to drive up and pick me up first thing in the morning.

I had a great nights sleep and was up early in anticipation of my rescue truck.

When the cavalry arrived she was in great spirits and seemed to be enjoying herself very much. I mean, how could you not with a beautiful mountain road to drive, kangaroos lounging along the roadside, view that went on forever and me to pick up?!! We had a delicious breakfast at Canungra in the cafe' frequented by motorcyclists whose name escapes me before driving back to Brisbane.

Ride stats for day 2 are below.

Both days total 222km(140mi) and  4210m(13800ft) of climbing.

So, another bikepacking trip was done and dusted. Like the last, it had not gone to plan but again I was okay with that fact. The navigation this time had been spot on. That was an issue last time, so nav problem solved.

This time my issue was an ambitious route plan. I sort of knew that I would struggle with the hike-a-bike bits as I was time limited to 3 days. With another day up my sleeve I am sure it would not have been a problem so I can wear that, although the rock outcrop was a deal breaker while solo. Some scouting rides might iron out this crinkle in my plan, but then again, they need time to undertake. 

The tyre problem was completely out of left field, though I have had it happen before, there is no way to predict when it might occur and I'm not going to put new tyres on the bike for each ride. Maybe if I was going to cross the Simpson Desert I would put new boots on. If I had pressed on westward my wife would have had an even longer drive to retrieve me. I also would have struggled to make contact as phone reception is very sketchy where I would have been that night and I really don't want to press the level 2 rescue button on the Spot.

All up I am pretty happy with how it panned out. I have learn a bunch more about bikepacking and about my own personal capabilities and that is what it is about. Getting out there into the bush, out of my comfort zone and testing one's ability to adapt and cope.

Cheers and thanks for reading.


  1. Great read, excellent write-up Dave. I noticed on Spot - the difficulties you were having. Nonetheless, a 'real' adventure!

  2. Top stuff.....thanks for the ride reports I enjoyed them muchly especially with the photo's ...

  3. Well done, Dave - and great writeup. Looking forward to reading about the next adventure!

    1. Where to next? Maybe a re-run with the Border Ranges section completed?

  4. Great job Dave. Bummer about the tire.

    I had to chuckle at the video when you had 'not crazy' on there. I was waiting for the "still not crazy' towards the end.

    As always, thanks for sharing your pics and stories.

  5. Not sure if "still" is the correct descriptor Brandy. I will have to finish the job one of these days.

  6. Awesome photos Dave - the sunset over Mt Barney is breathtaking. Great to be alive when you can see such sights.

    BTW, my old boss just won the 60+ plus division at the world 24 MTB endurance champs at Canberra. A terrific result made even more remarkable that 5 years ago, he weighed close to 120kg!!

    1. Thanks Geoff.
      Great job by your old boss. You are never too old for this MTBing caper......
      On another note, good on you for leaving your blog up. Some handy info in there and you never know when you will get the itch to "vent" and need a forum to do it in. (unless you are doing it via FaceBrag) Cheers.

  7. Great read and top effort , thanks for sharing . Can i ask what brand / model saddle your using ? i know ts personal preference but still trying to find one i could put up with for that amount of km's ... cheers .

  8. Hi Anon. Thanks and glad you liked it.
    The saddle is just a Bontrager cheapie that came on my Trek Fuel EX9 a few years back. I can't find any model number or name on it anywhere which is going to make it hard to replace when it does wear out.

  9. Really interesting reading. That scenery is breathtakingly beautiful - everything that I love about the Aussie bush.

    Have you ever visited the memorial for the Southern Cloud, on the Tooma Road near Tumbarumba in Snowys? That's another really interesting aviation disaster story. I find it incredible that they routinely flew a passenger service from Sydney to Melbourne in 1931.
    Cheers Jules.

    1. Hi Jules. At least you are getting on a treadly a bit. Anything with two wheels is a hell of a lot of fun I say.
      Yes, I rode/walked in to the Southern Cloud crash site a few years ago(pre blog). There isn't very much of the aircraft left now. As I stood there I saw one of our jets going overhead at high altitude. The crash site is under the current Sydney to Melbourne air route. I will be revisiting the site with my kids this coming January(2014) and will put a blog post up about it when I do.

  10. Having walked up Neglected Mtn on Anzac Weekend(looking for those geocaches) I'm impressed with your effort. Since that time looking at old maps did you consider turning left at the top of the ridgeline as there is a surveyed road showing on the maps going down into the next valley from the Stretcher Track itself. (Russel)

    1. Yes I did, but many a surveyed road is simply that and quite impassable on the ground. That road leads down to another (Running Ck Rd) that a friend recently tried and he ended up just following the creek line alongside as the road was impassable.

  11. Great post - enjoyed reading of your travels! I have ridden down Duck Creek Road but never up. Glad you enjoyed Grandad's book and the story of the Stinson, what an amazing man he was. Kylie (Grandaughter of Bernard O'Reilly)

    1. Hi Kylie. Glad you enjoyed the read. That part of the world is very special and being into aviation since I was a boy, the Stinson story is one I have read up on many times. Also, being from country NSW originally, I found the rest of his book quite enlightening and close to home.


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