Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mountain Biking - North Queensland Style Part II

This post is taking forever to put together as there seems to be too many other things competing for my time these days, but here goes......

Today, I had even more time than yesterday for riding, so I didn't bust my hump getting out of bed too early to go riding. A spot of breakfast and I was on the road just before 8am.

It was another perfect, sunny day in the tropics and I enjoyed the 10km pedal out to the trails with Magnetic Island standing out of a stunningly blue millpond ocean.

Before long I was nearing the trail head and encountered all manner of signage. We like our signs here in Australia. Nothing quite like telling everyone what to do all the time.....

Climbing the Shelly Cove trail toward the "bunkers" it was nice to be off the beaten track, onto the overgrown trail. Townsville and Castle Hill were ever present in the distance though.

I was soon at the first bunker. These were new-to-me, but obviously were a WWII feature, built when we were rightly trembling in our boots that the mighty Imperial Japanese Army would be coming to teach us some lessons in personal discipline. Scary times.

They were built along a shallow ridge line so that they had a view out to Magnetic Island that took in the whole of Halifax Bay. At least one observation post and several gun positions. 

The guns were long gone, but the concrete will be here for a long time.

I can just imagine how unbearable these would have been to sit in during the hot, wet tropical summer.

Looking for enemy shipping that never came (thank God).

Notice how the bunkers are almost in a perfect line? I would have though staggering them a little might make them harder to hit?

Pedalling further around the headland another bunker was tucked into the hillside by the entrance to "the" trail.

Turning into the "Under The Radar" trail I was soon enveloped by the stunted trees that covered the hillside. The trail was understandably rocky but quite a lot of fun as it switch backed quickly up the hillside.

A rare opening gave way to a magnificent view (no, not the back of my noggin) but Magnetic Island. Like I said, it was a magic morning!

I soon got into a state of "Flow" and forgot all about taking photos. I was in the moment and noticing nothing...and everything.

Eventually I began to notice things again. Like this conglomerate rock formation.

And a right purty section of trail.

I was back down to sea level again and as this IS croc country I made sure that I zipped across this low bridge quickly, stopped and shot the photo pronto then powered off, hopefully before any prehistoric reptile could even think of latching onto me. I didn't see any crocs, but that doesn't mean that they didn't see me....!

From this point the trail disappeared under long grass. Well, the trail was clear but the grass along either side was about 4ft high and effectively closed over at shoulder height, making the trail tread invisible. i just steered at the thin line ahead and hoped that there weren't snakes resting on the trail. Did I mention this is snake country too. Big, venomous, deadly buggers they are up here. Great....power on! Suffice to say there are no photos of this section....

I finally broke out of the long grass onto some salt flats ( booo...damn, croc country...) and continued to power along until I got to a bit of a rise and started to climb away from the water. The view again was magic. Not tropical ocean magic, but endless wetland magic just like what you would expect in the Top End, in say, Kakadu.

Here, I rejoined the Freshwater Trail that would take me back to the main road and the world.

A very rare but pleasant sign.

This was a pleasant, fast roll alongside the grasslands with just one section that was too close to a salty estuary for my liking.

Riding back along the main road to town I was soon looking back at Cape Pallarenda, across Rowes Bay, on this still glorious morning. You can just see the golf-ball-like radar on the right hand end of the range.Yep, the trail went right around that range. 

I discovered a new boardwalk along some cliffs at the northern end of "The Strand". It was an impressive construction that would have cost a bomb! The timber was very solid and very expensive looking and it went for 300-400m(yards) with artwork dotted along it. This photo is from about half way along the boardwalk.

I soon came to Kissing Point Fort. I had never been this far north along The Strand and had often wondered what was on that hill top during my climbs of Castle Hill. 

After almost 12 years of visiting Townsville, today was the right day to visit Kissing Point. Clearly there had been much new work done to make it more people friendly, but also to remind people of what went on in this part of the world during WWII. North Queensland was on the front line in the Pacific war. There was a massive US presence here and the Battle of The Coral Sea was fought and won just to the north-east of Queensland.

A really well thought out and executed mural covered the footpath on the seaward side of the fort. I tried my best to get a photo of the scale of the thing but it was difficult.

A large map of the Coral Sea with major actions inlaid in glass showed how the battles played out.

And it wasn't all good news for the Allies.

There was also a good memorial to the US servicemen who fought and died in this corner of the war.

There are quotes from Chester Wilmot, a noted Australian war correspondent, as he observed our fighters chasing Japanese aircraft over Townsville.

Cycling back along The Strand made me consider how lucky my generation has been not to have been embroiled in "total war" as my parents and grandparents generation had been. It seems almost cliche'd these days to revere their sacrifices but the simple truth is without them, who knows what the world would look like now.

Contemplation must make you hungry as I was now ravenous and pulled into a small cafe' for second breakfast. My mountain biking tour of Townsville was drawing to a close. I was extremely glad that I had made the effort to take my bike along as it opened up so much more of a city that I thought I knew. It was also a great test for my new Aerus bike bag which protected my bike better than I ever thought possible. I can see that it will be a much loved AND used accessory.

Thanks for checking in and I will try to get back to a more normal posting frequency. Its not like there hasn't been plenty going on around here.......


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Mountain Biking - North Queensland Style

Townsville, in sunny North Queensland needs no introduction here on my blog. I overnight there regularly with work and have blogged about it before.

This trip was to be a bit different though, with me having enough time on my layover to make it worthwhile taking one of my bikes and hitting up some of the mountain bike trails that criss-cross the hillsides.

Arriving late at night I quickly pulled lots of bicycle shaped bits out of my new Aerus bike bag.

This bag is a real winner. While it is a soft case, it comes with soo much padding that there was never a worry about my bike being damaged. Also, it doesn't look like a bike bag so there is a chance to dodge airline excess fees, particularly when travelling in the US.

I was up early the next morning to maximise my time before work and to beat the heat as it is still warm in the tropics at this time of year.

I was going to ride out to Douglas MTB Park today. I have looked at the trails winding across the hillsides for a few years now as we fly past and thought they looked pretty interesting. Douglas is spread across the three peaks at the right hand end of the closer range in the photo below.

 My starting point was outside the North Queensland Cowboys NRL club. I was surprised at how many cyclists were zipping by as I warmed up the GPS.

I spied a few roadies ahead as I passed under this giant fig and decided to try to catch them. A great way to "warm up"?

I rolled past the turn in to the pits for the Townsville 400 V8 Supercar race. Like Adelaide, they have a permanent section of track that takes the cars past the pit area then back out onto the city streets.

A few short kilometres (metric miles) later (14km to be exact) I was standing at the entrance to Douglas MTB Park.

I was soon climbing up and over the first hill. It was still quite humid and I was drenched but having fun.

It was obvious how much effort had gone into building these trails. After the experience of the last few years building trails with LCTA at home, you realise these things don't just build themselves. Here, the Rockwheelers MTB Club have had some help in the form of sponsorship from the excellent New Zealand MTB apparel company, Ground Effect.

The trails were quite rocky, which was to be expected given that Castle Hill is basically a granite boulder, Mt Stuart was always likely to be the same(note, I have no geological knowledge). I dropped a few psi from my front tyre to stop the "skatiness" then pressed on.

I was winding my way up to a high point so that I could get my bearings. I must say, the trail signage was pretty good and I did have a fair idea of where I was.

Arriving at the Top Summit I stopped for a bite to eat and a selfie to send to some mates who were at work back home.

Yep, it sux to be me...!

While standing around taking in the view a local rode up and we got chatting. I was trying to figure out if I was at the top of the climb or if the next hill across was the top. After looking at my map he said "we are here", which was waay back down the hill and an intersection that I knew I had ridden through. I decided to stick to my own navigation skills as they had got me this far through without incident.

Pointing the bike downhill I took in some fun trails. There was a split point where the trail took 3 different lines so I decided to ride one, then climb the hill again to ride the next. I had some interesting moments here as the trails were black diamond. I went to roll what looked like a rollover on Rock and Roll trail, only to see that it was a jump at the last second and just managed to land it, but it wasn't pretty! There was an awesome rock garden that went steeply downhill and around a bend. Now technically, I was on work time, so I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and took the B line. Photos never show the steepness of a hill.

After having my fill of single track it was time to roll back to the hotel. I took a different route home this time and enjoyed a very pleasant ride along the Ross river. This was looking back to Mt Stuart with Douglas MTB Park located on the right hand end..

There are some nice old North Queenslander style houses along the river.

I wound my way back along bike path and was soon wolfing down breakfast at a little cafe' just outside my hotel. I still had a healthy 4 hours before I needed to be at work so with no pressure to be ready in a hurry I chilled and took in the scenery.

I rode 46km(29mi) and had a great time. While I normally run up and over Castle Hill, having my bike allowed me to see more of Townsville than I had in the previous 12 years!

I would be back again tonight with an even later start to work tomorrow. This meant more time for exploration and a trail with the name "Under The Radar" in a military town needs some exploration. Right?

Cheers. And......

Stay tuned for part II.