After a slightly restless night's sleep where I found myself too hot(!), despite the clear skies during the night, I was up early making some oats for breakfast and packing my gear back onto the bike. While in no great rush, I was trying to come up with a more efficient packing style than last time out. Right Andrew?
I was soon ready to roll.
I was pleased to find last night that in addition to my 600ml(20 oz) of water that I quarantined for cooking, I still had about 1 litre in my Camelbak bladder. This didn't leave me too dry overnight, but I would need to find water relatively soon this morning.
Relatively soon came along, relatively soon when I rode up to the Moss's Well sign.
I grabbed my bottle and filter then set off along the trail to the well. In my excitement to fill my bottle I sort of forgot to get a shot of the well itself. Forget idyllic mountain spring. It was more a slighlty opaque puddle of stagnant water with little water spiders racing across it's surface. But being a begger, I couldn't be choosy so popped an Aquatab into the bottle and left it in the bottle cage on the bike as "back up" water. I hoped not to really need it.
I was a bit surprised when soon after I suddenly crested the Gap! I must have ridden much more of it last night than I realised.
That bit of road behind the gate is the original highway across the Main Range. One can only imagine the hard yakka it would have been to drive ox carts up and down this mountain. The early pioneers were tough....because they had to be. I shuffled slightly uncomfortably in my tough-guy lycra.....
Neil had advised me not to miss the view from the Governor's Chair lookout. I was keen to press on and make miles but decided to have a quick look at the view. I was bloody glad I did! South East Queensland was laid out in front of me like a map.
Ok, enough playing tourist. I was soon enjoying the cool, quiet roll along the moss and leaf covered road.
There were some upity bits that were quite rocky but for the most part this road was a pleasure to ride. Then I felt it. The resistance in the pedals reduced and my speed shot up. I had crested the clinb and was heading down the western side of the mountain. Woo Hoo!
The woo hoo quickly turned to grumbling as these next 45 minutes was spent negotiating steep, rolling hills.
Creek crossings in the gullys, deep wheel ruts along the trail from the previous wet weather and sharp climbs sapped my motivation along here. Not knowing how long it was until I dropped out onto the highway and my resupply point at the Tregony truck stop didn't help.
However, I soon left Spicer's Gap trail in my dust and rolled out onto the highway-again.
Just 1.2km(less than a mile) in the wrong direction, was my morning tea stop.
The Tregony truckstop would have all manner of food to stuff down my cakehole and I would be able to refill my depleted water supply. A bacon and egg roll, coffee and O.J. were quickly despatched. I also bought a chocolate bar, bag of mixed lollies and a chicken sandwich for later. A bird in the hand and all that...
I now had to roll 2.5km west along the highway to get to South Branch rd. This section of the ride consisted of excellent, open gravel roads which served as a way to get me to Goomburra National Park while keeping me off the treacherous Cunningham Highway.
This road was also the entrance to Spicer's Peak Lodge. Rooms go here for about $1400 a night, making my humble tent look quite affordable.
I made great time along here, thanks to the excellent surface of the dirt roads and maybe a hint of tailwind. I soon blasted through Maryvale, crossed the Cunningham Highway again and headed for Goomburra along quiet, sealed back roads.
This is very rich farming country around here. The deep colour of the volcanic soils seems to just beg to be cropped (yeah, country boy put your hand up!)
More fast road miles rolled past as I made my way along an ever narrowing valley, toward Goomburra.
There were now lots of camping and 4 wheel driving parks along either side of the road. There was some interesting art works as well.
I stopped into the little cafe' that was attached to one of these parks for some food and drink. I wanted to top off my water but the rather unfriendly(initially) lady thought I might be a health inspector and declined to assist with filling my water bottle for me.
I gently pointed out that I would be the world's most dedicated health inspector as I had pedalled all the way out here on a bicycle!
She seemed to think about it for a minute and visibly warmed a little. Too late though, I just bought the water, cold drink and ice cream that I already had in my hand but didn't buy any of the food that I was planning on buying from her shop. I decided I would rather make do.
Pedalling off to inspect other restaurants.........er, to continue with the route, I rolled through beautiful countryside on silky smooth dirt roads. There were campgrounds all along here and being a Friday, there were plenty of people setting up tents or already camped. I must come back here to check it out in more detail.
Entering the national park I took a left and started the climb to the edge of the Range.
It went up. And up. 400m in 3.3km(1310ft in 2mi).
I had plenty of time to inspect the scenery and wildlife.
I needed to make some time up so I rode straight past the first lookout, Sylvester's Lookout. The second lookout, Mt Castle, was in a sort of dead-end setting so I thought I had better take the 450m walk to the lookout. It said "no bikes" but there was no way I was leaving my bike here so I pushed and carried it along the less-than-bike-friendly trail.
It was pretty rainforest though with trees typical of the area.
I eventually made it to the lookout and was greeted with a spectacular view across to Mt Castle.
I loitered here for a while, taking in the view, munching some almonds and mucking around with my camera. Enough stalling, time to get moving again.
As I said above, this road was a bit of a dead end. The only way to go on was over a locked gate, into the National park along the Winder Track. Of course, that gate was chest high and my bike weighed about 20kg(44lb). Luckily I have been doing some strength work as part of my training as there would be at least 10 head-high lifts of my bike required along here.
Looking ahead, I could see that there was long grass in my future, so I decided to put my gaiters on again. Only, I couldn't find one of them. Bloody Bugger! It must have fallen off the bike somewhere this morning. With the long grass and weeds to come along here, I would rue that loss!
The Winder Track started out a Alice in Wonderland-like experience.
It soon turned to snot. Snot that stuck to me like I was some sort of mobile pin cushion. And yes, another of the high gates!
After what seemd too long, it opened out onto a ridge line where the grass was much more manageable and I was able to catch glimpses of the view to the north east.
The elevation here was about 3500ft(1070m) which is pretty high for Australia. The cooler, milder climate at this elevation allows for some unusual growth that you just don't see at lower levels. There were mushies all around here.
Luckily, I didn't have to take this track down but it did signal that I had finally left the Goomburra National Park and was crossing some of the 4wd tracks from the camp grounds far below in the valley that I had ridden into Goomburra on. The roads now were wheel rutted, rough 4wd trails which while not as pleasant, were easier to make good time on.
I was still heading west but I would soon be turning north on my route. I felt I was making progress again.
This gate signalled the start of the descent off of the mountain. Yes, I would be making progress now!
This was the start of Black Duck Creek Road. Well, once I found it, it was.
Now, the trouble with this road was that it was steep, rocky in places and rutted with a bazillion hoof prints of the cattle that inhabited these hills. On a heavy, fully rigid bike this took a hard toll on my back, arms and neck. I was soon very sick of the jarring ride.
Add to this mix cattle. Not just any cattle but very stupid cattle. As you can see from the photos, the hillside is quite steep either side of the "road". Now, despite many side trails made by the cattle, I had now come upon a small herd that decided to trot along the trail a few hundred metres in front of me. While they trotted, they pooped. So now I was dodging ruts, rocks, logs and cow dung. Fresh, smelly, sticky cow dung. It quickly became the "must avoid" trail obstacle, with rocks and logs coming in a distant second and third!
I am a country kid and while no cow expert, I couldn't see how to hunt them off the side of the trail without getting alongside them. That just wasn't going to happen on this narrow trail.
As I rode along I heard a thumping sound. I checked my bike while negotiating cow-mines. Nothing. I looked over my shoulder to see a rather large young bull trotting along about 30m behind me!
We eyed each other. I shouted "garn!". He didn't flinch. Shit!
I should mention here that for a while, I had felt like I was in the absolute middle of nowhere and had been dreading a mechanical as I was a looong way from any help. I remember that song "Cows With Guns". Maybe he was the great cow Guru?
I rolled on down the hill and he followed me. I thought he probably just wanted to catch the herd of maybe 15 cattle that were fleeing down the hill but how do I let him past?
There was a big drop off to the right and a high embankment to the left. Against my better judgement, I eased over to the left and slowed. I did feel quite trapped by the embankment with nowhere to go. The bull increased his speed and passed by me on the outside of the track. Great!
He turned around and I was thinking "I am going over that edge any second now"! This went on for about 30 seconds, then he turned and ran up a cow track, straight up the embankment. PHEW!
Rolling on I came to the herd, all pressed up against the gate. I went to the lower side of the trail and tried to gently herd them up the hill and out of my way. This went a bit pear shaped with a few trying to run through the fence, some going up the hill and a few going down the hill. At least the gate was clear and I was out of this accursed cow paddock!
Some more steep, rocky trail awaited me then all of a sudden I was on grassy, flat ground crossing and re-crossing Black Duck creek. I made good time but was starting to worry about water again. I hadn't topped up since my "health inspector" incident hours before and it was getting dark now. I didn't want to filter any creek water, what with all the cow effluent around. Nothing for it but to just ride.
I passed a cool looking old slab hut but only stopped to snap a photo. There was no time to inspect it.
Another kilometre or so down the road and I was onto a nice smooth gravel road. It went gently downhill and I smashed it along here doing at least 30km/h in the evening light. My K Lite dynamo light was pumping out the lumens and I didn't even bother with my helmet mounted Ay-Up.
I pressed on into the night for an hour or so, hoping to come across a decent camping spot or water source. This is incredibly hard to do in the dark, in country that you don't know, so I ended up riding all the way to Mt Sylvia.
Mt Sylvia was the point where my northerly trajectory turned east and consisted of 2 houses and a school on an intersection of 2 roads.
I managed to find a tap with drinking water at the school. I drank about 2 litres before I even set my tent up. The grass on their verge looked just too inviting for me to pedal any further tonight. So I set up camp, against the fence, by the side of the road and sort of hoped that some pished idiot wouldn't run me over while I slept.
I had to chuckle as I ate my dinner, it had the same colour and consistency of the cow splats that I had dodged this afternoon! Yum.
It had been another good day in the saddle.
With 129km(81mi) and 2000m(6500ft) of climbing in 9 hours, I hadn't ridden massive kilometres. However, I was feeling good, my new Ground Effect Exocet knicks were living up to their reputation for extreme comfort and my bike was working flawlessly.
Tomorrow would be the last day on this little training jaunt. I had a mate riding out from Aratula to meet me then ride back together. I had no idea when he was starting out, so hence, no idea where our paths would intersect. And why was the name Mt Sylvia vaguely familiar? These thoughts certainly added another element of interest to tomorrow's ride I pondered as sleep overtook me yet again.....