Friday, December 21, 2012

Same but different: Day 1

I have ridden the northernmost section of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail a lot.  I've written about it on this blog, in magazines, and told anyone who will listen that it is easily my favourite ride in Queensland.  However for whatever reason I'd only ever attempted it as a day ride.  A few weeks ago that all changed when Rudi and I jumped in the car early on Saturday afternoon and hit the road to spend a night camped out on the rail trail...

As seems to be my way lately, I'd selected the the hottest day in ages to go out riding.  When we arrived at the town of Moore mid-afternoon to start our ride, it was still well over 35 degrees and baking in low humidity.  We sought refuge in the Moore Hall - despite having cycled past it many times, I'd never actually stuck my head inside to take a look.

Kicking it off at the Moore Soldiers Memorial Hall

The inside of the hall is impressive and well worth a look.  It even used to be a movie theatre back in the day apparently.

A heroes farewell
Given that the weather was atomically hot, we ended up spending a fair bit of time sitting in the little tearoom attached to the hall, drinking coffee and chatting with some of the Rail Trail Ambassadors.  I was previously unaware of the existence of this group, but as it turns out it were were sitting with the very people who are instrumental in keeping the whole thing going.  As we sat there chatting I couldn't help but be in awe of the amount of effort they put into the trail, and the genuine excitement and pride they have for the trail and their local area.  Rudi and I ended up hanging around for 2hrs or so, just chatting and listening to stories of the trail and the area.  For anyone attempting the trail, the Memorial Hall at Moore gets my 100% full recommendation for a place to stop and get in the zone for the ride.  Something about talking to local people, being surrounded by local art and sampling a truly epic Devonshire tea acclimatised us to the vibe of the landscape.  By about 4:30pm we decided to get moving, out into the baking afternoon heat.  Instead of the usual low key start to a ride, on this occasion we were farewelled by the Rail Trail Ambassadors themselves, waving and wishing us well as we pedalled off towards the trail head.  I felt like some kind of windswept and interesting explorer hero of old times.  It was time to get this little adventure underway.

How much crap can you fit in a 1992 Toyota Corolla?  Two touring bikes, 4 panniers, a tent, 2 handlebar bags and 2 fellows would seem to be the answer.

Rudi rides off into the afternoon towards Linville, the next stop along the rail trail.

The good folk at Fujifilm Australia kindly provided me with a Finepix XP150 to capture my future adventures on, we gave it good shakedown on this trip.  Here's Rudi having a play around with it - it was the first time we'd used a drop proof, everything proof camera out on a cycle trip.

The empty, hot road to Linville.  My body and mind were freaking out a bit starting a ride so close to the end of the day - I'm much more used to getting up at dawn and doing the whole training ride scene.  Certainly the novelty of riding into the sunset put me in holiday mode straight away.

There I go.  And yes ladies, that is 100% genuine chest hair.

Pedalling up to the old carriages at Linville Station.  A fire had been through here recently, which added some unusual colours to the landscape.

Cycling past the old carriages at the station.

One day I will stay overnight at the Linville Hotel.  It looks awesome.

The things (dogs?) that hold railway carriages together in their natural habitat.  We'd be seeing a fair bit more of these throughout the weekend.

Up the hill and far away
Passing by the long abandoned railway carriages still sitting at the old Linville station, the trail turned the corner westwards, as we rode into another world. We began the gentle ascent in silence. There was not a breath of wind, and across the valley we could clearly see and hear a large grassfire slowly smouldering away. The sun was already low over the ranges to the west, cutting through the smoke to bathe the entire valley in a calming orange glow.  Despite having been here many, many times before, I suddenly had no feeling of where I actually was - the combination of smoke and sunset completely confused and excited me.

Rudi rides into the sunset.

This was the first time I'd ridden a laden touring bike in the dirt since my hand surgery.  It was all going well, in fact I was riding more easily than I had over the past 2 years.

Ascending in the afternoon light.

The view from the back of my bike.

Rudi rides past one of the many grass trees dotted along this part of the trail.

Despite the sun dipping below the Blackbutt Range, it was still warm and we were going through a fair bit of water.
By the time we neared the old ganger's shed on this hill, the sun was hitting only the tops of the cuttings, leaving the trail in shade.  It was like riding in another world.

We arrived at the ganger's shed right on dusk, and spent a while quietly exploring and taking photographs.  It turns out that this shed is apparently an original from the days of the railway - I personally find it remarkable that a little tin structure that old is still standing, free from vandalism and destruction.

Some of the railway dogs are used along the rail trail in various art installations.  Apparently they're a bit controversial with some of the locals, but I'll go on the record as saying I like them and I think they add nicely to the whole rusted iron aesthetic the trail has going on.

Speaking of rusted iron aesthetic, it would be remiss of me not to include a shot of my trusty Redline Conquest Classic.  I've added gel pads under my bar tape recently, making a huge difference to off road comfort.

I couldn't help myself, had to take some arty photos.

...another attempt at arty photography.

Rudi takes a photo of me taking a photo - pretty sure that sort of thing is what collapses the space-time continuum.

Rudi wasn't immune to arty photo taking either.  The benches along the way are engraved with the distances to the next town.  Although it was only 16.7km to Blackbutt, we had no plans on making it that far tonight.

We mucked round at the ganger's shed maybe a little too long, and had to make haste as dark quickly closed in.

Camp luxury
We cycled into Macnamara's Camp right as the last of the light was draining from the sky.  As expected, we were the only people there, and indeed apparently very few people camp here.  I don't really understand why that is, as it is a truly premium location - right next to a bubbling creek, with toilet, tables, water and a flat area for pitching tents.  We didn't even have time to sit down and relax when we arrived, and quickly set up our tents and hammocks.  With our camp established, we prepared and consumed dinner - which is to say we drank warm fizzy drink and ate the cheese and bacon rolls I'd bought at the supermarket on the drive from Brisbane.  A truly majestic camp feast.

Macnamara's Camp on the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.  A superb spot to stop for a night.

Rudi tucks into the dinner of champions.

An evening visitor who seemed very interested in my bicycle.

By camping standards it was a pretty late night.  I didn't check the time but I think I didn't go to bed until about 8pm - a very late night for me out in the bush.  I lay in my hammock wanting to stare up at the stars for a while, but I just couldn't keep my eyes open.  Even though I'd only been on the trail for a couple of hours, I felt like I'd escaped into another world.  I'd done this trail so many times as a day ride, yet this overnight adventure was an experience that was totally different, and I had a whole day of it ahead of me again tomorrow.  I chalked the day up as a win as I drifted off into a comfortable sleep.

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