There's no daylight saving in Queensland, so by 4:20am it was well and truly light enough to break camp and get moving. The forecast called for another scorcher of a day, so I hopped out of bed and set about packing up my gear. By 4:40am I was all packed up, dressed, fed, and ready to go. Rudi, however, was still fast asleep in his tent - not even all the noise I was making and the numerous wallabies crashing through the campsite was enough to stir him from his beauty sleep. I decided to use the time wisely, to explore the camp in the already warm and humid pre-dawn air.
Macnamara's Camp at about 4:30am. That white shiny thing behind the clouds is the full moon.
Camping right on the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.
My summer sleeping setup is a Hennessy Hammock. It really can't be beaten for comfort, coolness and fast setup and takedown.
Dawn clouds on the rail trail
Finally, the sleeping beauty awakes! The sun was well and truly up by this point, about 1.5hrs after I was ready to depart.
Uphill we go
By the time Rudi got out of bed and got himself together, the horse had well and truly floated out the window of opportunity for us to beat the heat on the morning climb through to Blackbutt. By the time we set off on the trail again, the temperature was sweltering, and I was already sweating before even turning a pedal.
The best part of me being ready to go so early was I got to enjoy watching Rudi attempt to pack down his tent, all the while offering unhelpful advice and commenting on how difficult it all looked.
Away we go again, climbing uphill through Benarkin State Forest. The trail continues steadily uphill from here, all the way to the township of Benarkin.
The trail surface in the forest section is smooth and fast.
We crossed under the main highway, where we could see a lot of cars were stopped for some roadworks on the range. We were definitely having a much more enjoyable trip than all those motorists!
Our progress up the hill wasn't fast, mainly as we were both stopping a lot to get a lot of photographs on the way - one of our main purposes for the ride was for a magazine photo shoot. Here's Rudi blending seamlessly into his surroundings.
The trail emerges from the forest into a grassy clearing near the commercial pine plantations of Benarkin State Forest.
As we neared Benarkin, we left the thick scrub and rode into more over bushland. By now it was getting very hot, and I was looking forward to a cold drink in the town somewhere up ahead.
A meeting on the trail
As we pedalled closer to Benarkin, I was sure I could hear the sound of a vehicle on the trail. It was a very odd moment as the trail is closed to vehicular traffic, and for an instant I was a pretty disappointed that my impression of the place as a peaceful car-free paradise could be shattered. Approaching a creek crossing near the top of the range, we spotted a white ute down on one of the concrete culverts, carefully rolling back and forth across freshly laid gravel covering the steep approaches to the gully. I stopped on the side of the trail, and, strangely for me, the driver of the vehicle already knew who I was! His name was Geoff, a rail trail ambassador, who had been chatting with the other rail trail ambassadors we'd met on the previous day. As per the day before, I was just blown away by the dedication and effort these guys put in to running the trail. Geoff was out here rolling out some gravel he'd put over a creek crossing a few days earlier. He was concerned that the trail was getting too rutted in the approach to the creek crossing, so he'd decided to do something about it, first doing some earthworks in his loader, then coming up this morning to roll it all out. I kind of had trouble getting my head around just how the ambassadors worked - basically if something needed doing, they just sorted it out and did it. A very different approach to the "can't someone else do it" mentality that seems to prevail in nearby Brisbane.
Geoff very kindly spent a lot of time with us, pointing out where to find interesting sights along the trail. He also recommended to head to the Blackbutt bakery for our morning coffee - a very sensible idea.
Rudi approaches the town of Benarkin. You can almost see the heat in this photo - it was well over 35 by this time of day.
Between the towns of Benarkin and Blackbutt, the trail levels out as it makes its way across the plateau.
The legendary Blackbutt Bakery. Here we met up with Geoff and his family again, and had a fantastic time chatting to the local people and learning a lot mre about the area. If you're ever at the bakery, I recommend getting a smokey-dog!
Surely the most photographed sign in Blackbutt.
I hadn't expected to see a rusted old tractor that someone had converted into a giant musical instrument, but here there it was! The "fins" on the "cylinders" were actually tuned to different notes, and the pedals of the tractor operated the cymbals hidden within the body. Very cool.
In our classic style we ended up spending much longer than expected chatting to the locals and seeing the sights, and it was well and truly after lunchtime as we started pedalling back down the hill towards Linville. It was hot, crazy hot - a look at the weather observations later in the day revealed the temperature in the area was a bit over 41 celcius. Fortunately, the gradual descent meant we could easily maintain a decent speed to keep some breeze blowing in our faces.
No shelter from the midday sun, even in the forested section of the trail.
This historic railway culvert provided us with some much needed shelter from the midday sun.
Another of the art installations along the trail, made from the parts of old railway carriages. I quite liked "the zombies", as the locals referred to them.
Pushing my bike up the steep creek crossing on the trail. It was tough work on such a hot day, although I could have had a shot at riding it like Jer once did...
I was pleased that it wasn't just me who opted to push out of the creek crossing.
Today the ganger's shed took on a whole different feeling from when we had ridden past at sunset. It was hot, glarey and dry.
Behind the ganger's shed are the ruins of the old magazine, where the trail builders used to store the dynamite used to blast cuttings through the spurs of the valley.
The fires were still burning near Linville, filling the valley with smoke and haze.
A patchwork of different colours across the landscape as a result of the recent fires.
Back at Linville Station. As I rode out of the station grounds one of the locals at the pub called out "you're nuts in this heat!" She was of course correct, it was scorching out there.
Linville store knows how to get the cyclists in!
I sat on the steps out the front of the shop drinking a fizzy drink. In the heat and quiet of the little country town, it was all reminding me very much of when I worked in the outback of remote north Queensland.
Linville - the true outback country town experience, less than two hours drive from Brisbane.
A quick blast back along the bitumen back to Moore.
It ends as it begins, chilling it up in the tearooms at Moore memorial hall.
After unwinding with a cold drink, it was time to load up the car, crank the air conditioning up to a billion, and head back home to Brisbane. I thought I knew the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail reasonably well, but this weekend had dished up a whole bunch of new surprises. By adding in an overnight stay along the way, my favourite day ride had now been transformed into my favourite weekend getaway destination. The only logical step for me now is to ride the whole 300+ kilometres of the trail all the way from Ipswich to Yarraman and back again - now there's a new adventure that has to be had!