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Sunday, April 27, 2014


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Cooyar Swing Bridge

A couple of weeks ago, Eric and a few other friends rode 350km over four days from the Bunya Mountains in Queensland’s South Burnett region to Brisbane.

After looking at the route that he took, I mentioned that I thought he could shorten it and complete the journey in two days.

Part of the purpose of today’s ride was to look at possible ways to shorten that journey, and also to explore the old stock routes of the nineteenth and early twentieth centures.

RustingStock Routes Small

The small town of Cooyar, halfway between Kingaroy and Crows Nest, has a fascinating history. It’s the traditional country of the Wakka Wakka and Jarowair Aboriginal people. For thousands of years, indigenous people from many different groups passed through here on journies which started hundreds of kilometres away, as they travelled to the nearby Bunya Mountains for important gatgherings.

In 1845, the Archer Brothers established huge sheep stations on Cooyar Creek and Emu Creek, further south.

Several decades later, cattle drovers regularly travelled along stock routes through Cooyar, bringing cattle from Nanango to sale yards in Toowoomba and Brisbane.

Old Cooyar Yarraman Road

We started our adventure by following one of these old stock routes along “Old Cooyar Yarraman Road”.

Old Cooyar Yarraman Road

It’s a rough track barely visible through the long grass. But it is used for moving stock, even today. Hoof marks made deep indentations in mud, which had since hardened making the surface rough to ride on.

Old Cooyar Yarraman Road

The track continually climbed as we headed west towards the Bunya Mountains.

Off the Beaten Track

I had plotted the course on the GPS several days earlier, to ensure we kept to road reserves, and to avoid crossing private property. Unfortunately, by looking at a map it’s simetimes not possible to tell whether a “road reserve” on the map is actually a rideable track. When we reached the top of Rocky Glen Road, we saw our intended route going down a rough hill, with no marked trail. So we did whan any adventurous mountain biker would do: we followed it anyway :)

Creek Crossing

Creek Crossing

We were definitely walking in the footsteps of the old drovers. With emphasis on the word “walking”. Our route was unrideable in many places, espcecially across the beautiful, but rugged creek crossings.

Paddock Bashing

How did they get cattle through here?

Road Reserve

In the absence of any marked track we followed our GPS westwards along the road reserve we had seen on the map, sticking to fence line…

Electric Fence

Avoiding electric fences where possible.

Survey Blaze

Old Causeway

Although it was difficult to see we were on a stock route, we were re-assured when we found this survey marker blazed into the trunk of a wizened old Iron Bark. The rock causeway had been built a long time ago to make it easier for travellers to pass over the boggy ground.

Bovine Single Track

Eventually we encountered cattle tracks. Eric often praises the clever instincts of cattle. As they continually walk the easiest route through rough terrain they wear out a smooth twisting track which is perfect for riding a mountain bike along.

Riding through the paddock

I had built in a “bail-out” option into our route in case it took longer than we anticipated. After walking through numerous rough paddocks, we were behind schedule, and decided to take the bail-out route to shorten our ride to Maidenwell.

Unfortunately, although we didn’t realize it at the time, we actually missed the “bail-out” route.

Paddock Bashing

This meant another hour of “paddock bashing” as we hiked our bikes up steep hills several hundred metres east of where we were supposed to be.

Note to self: If you’re going to build a “bail-out” option into a route, make sure you clearly mark it.

Cause Rd

We eventually emerged, begraggled and relieved onto Cause Road – west of Maidenwell, and made our way into town for lunch.

Pig on a Spit

The Maidenwell Pub is delightful.

A whole pig was roasting over a spit outside as Country and Western music blared from a portable CD player.


We enjoyed the sounds, sights, smells and taste of rural Queensland while devouring our lunch.

The locals were friendly and curious about what we were up to. It’s a bit difficult to explain it all in sixty seconds, but I think we conveyed the main point which was that we were exploring this amazing place on our bikes, and we were loving it.

Things might not have gone exactly as we had planned, but we were delighted to be here.


Coomba Waterhole Road

With full bellies, and feeling slightly sleepy, we set off for the second stock-route of the day along Tanduringie Creek near Coomba Waterhole.

Tanduringie Creek

And at yet another rugged creek crossing I asked myself again, “How did they get cattle through here?”


The land around Maidenwell is strewn with huge boulders. We passed gingerly under one that was perched precariously on a hillside.

Copper Creek Road

The stock route led us south along Copper Creek Road…


… which was undergoing a makeover by the local council.

Battling Lantana

Rather than follow our planned course up into the pine plantation, we decided to take a risk and continue following the remnants of Copper Creek Road.

You think we would have learned our lesson of going “off course” from our experiences earlier in the day.

Battling Lantana

The cursed lantana grew thicker, poking and scratching us as we tried to pedal around it.

Battling Lantana

At a washed out creek crossing, we decided to bail out again. The lantana was too thick – even to hike through. The day was growing late. It was time to cut the journey short and head home.

Copper Creek Road

We sheepishly retraced our tracks and followed the nice smooth gravel road that the council workers had been preparing…

Kingaroy Cooyar Road

… back to the paved road.

New England Highway

The final stretch into Cooyar was on a steep bitumen descent down the New England Highway. It wasn’t dirt, but it was fun to release the brakes, and listen to the howl of the tyres and the roar of the wind as we sped back into town.

The Palms National Park

Although we didn’t quite make it to “The Palms” National Park on this ride, I was grateful for the chance to enjoy a quick stop there on the way home. We’ll be back again soon – I feel like we have unfinished business here.

All up we rode about 53km in six and a half hours including breaks. We climbed 1,100m in vertical ascent.

If you’re thinking of retracing our steps, please don’t follow the western part of our course – it was rough and unrideable.

I’ll rate this ride 9 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter because of the rough paddock bashing.

Let’s see if we can find a way to avoid those rough bits!

Thanks Becca, Eric, and Paul for your company today.

We got lost, things didn’t go as planned, but we had fun, and it definitely wasn’t boring :)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Day 2 – Maleny to Kenilworth and Back

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Darb Steep Descent

Yesterday I rode from home up the range to Maleny.

The aim of today’s adventure was to meet up with Darb, ride through Maleny National Park down to Kenilworth, then ride back up the range to Maleny. It sounded so simple :)

Maleny LodgeMaleny

I spent a luxurious night at local hotel, Maleny Lodge, and had a huge cooked breakfast which I couldn’t completely finish.

Technically speaking, this isn’t really “bike packing” – I didn’t carry any camping gear on the bike and I slept in five-star accommodation. But it did give me the big adventage of being able to travel lightly. I think this is the best way to travel.

Megan, the hotel manager, even washed and dried my cycling clothes, carefully folding them and laying them out for me in the morning.

I think I could get used to this level of comfort!

Darb found me, and we pedalled out of town past the numerous delightul cafes and boutiques of Maleny.

Mary Valley

Blackall Bunyas

We followed the paved road out of town, stopping to enjoy the views of the fog in the Mary Valley below us.

Rachel and Ben

After a short detour to Obi Lookout we met Rachel and Ben who were just as impressed with the view as we were.

Blackall Bunyas

Blackall Bunyas

As we climbed slowly towards the forest at Curramore, the views grew more stunning. Bunya trees reached majestically out of the hillsides towards the heavens.

Maleny National ParkMaleny National Park

Maleny National Park

Eventually we reached the end of the bitumen, glad to hear the friendly crunch of tyres on gravel.

Maleny National Park

The trail undulated through the rainforest and over creek beds, then slowly started to climb again.

Maleny National Park

We crossed numerous puddles, and as often happens, I slipped and fell in one. It was a whole-hearted splash. I ended up on my back in the muddy water, almost completely covered. So we had to stop for a while to let me clean up a bit, and to allow Darb to capture the moment for posterity. I’m surprised how well my clothes shed the water and mud afterwards. Within half an hour I was quite dry – just a little bit dirtier than usual.

Maleny National Park

We enjoed the westward views down to the Mary River below us.

“What does the profile look like?” Darb asked, “Is the track going to start descending now?”

I looked at my GPS and broke the bad news:

“Nope – we have a nasty climb ahead of us”

Maleny National Park

Ah “Hike-a-bike”. No ride would be complete without one unrideable section to push the bike up.

Steep Descent

Steep Descent

Eventually the gradient did drop – like a stone.

We skidded down the impossibly steep descent, stopping several times to open gates on the way down.

Mary River

Mary River

And so we reached the Mary River. What had been a twinkling slither of blue in a distant valley was now flowing right under our feet.

We’d reached half-way and felt like having something to eat in nearby Kenilworth.


Unbeknownst to us, Kenilworth was very busy. They had a local food festival, and the town was crowded with holiday makers. It was going to take ages to wait for any food orders, so we just ordered the simplest thing we could find, and grabbed a vacant patch of grass to eat and rest.

Kidaman Creek Forest

Kidaman Creek Forest

As with any ride that starts and finishes on top of a mountain, we had a long climb back up to the top.

Kidaman Creek Road rose sharply as we made our way back up to Curramore, climbing almost 500m in about 10km. Darb led for most of the way, and graciously waited for me at various points to allow me to catch up.

Kidaman Creek Forest

We were both relieved to reach the top. That was one hell of a climb. By comparison my sojourn up McCarthys Shute the day before seemed much easier.

Mary Valley

The midday sun had burned away the fog from the valley below as we retraced our steps back to Maleny.

Maleny Lookout

We arrived earlier than I had expected, so I refused Darb’s generous offer to drive me to the railway station at Landsborough, and decided to ride down the hill on the main road instead.

What an intense experience! The road to Maleny is busy, and has descending gradients in excess of 12%. I pointed the bike down the hill, let go of the brakes, tucked in, and held on for dear life. My tyres howled loudly as I kept up the same speed as the rest of the downhill traffic – about 75 km/h for about 5km. I’ve ridden faster, but never for such an extended period of time.

After almost 88km and over 7 hours of riding (including stops), I finally rolled into Landsborough with lots of spare time to catch the train.

I had burned about 3,000 kcal and climbed just under 2,000m in vertical ascent.

I’d rate this ride 9 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.

Thanks Darb for a great day.

Here’s my map and stats for the two days:

View Larger Map

Total distance



14h 6min

Elevation gain


Elevation loss


Energy Burned