Please note: you can find a more up to date version of this blog at

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Read More

Jason and Paul at Brown Lake

Ever since my first visit to beautiful North Stradbroke Island last year with Jonathan, I’ve wanted to return and explore it on the bike.

When Jason suggested we catch the ferry across this weekend, I jumped at the opportunity.

Moreton Bay from Cleveland

Moreton Bay from Cleveland

Any trip to “Straddie” involves crossing Moreton Bay, which meant we had to get to the Cleveland Water Taxi terminal before sunrise. I’m not too good at early starts, but the it was worth the extra effort to watch the first rays of sunlight peak up from behind Minjerribah as we waited for the ferry.

Dunwch Harbour

“As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

- The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

As we arrived on the island at “One-Mile” jetty, just north of Dunwich, the mirror-smooth water reminded me of Coleridge’s poem.

Dunwich Cemetery

Jason arrived the night before, and met us as we disembarked. He took us on a quick short-cut through the Dunwich Cemetery to a local bakery so we could grab a few snacks before riding off.

Trails Near Dunwich

Paul was eager to see how his new fat bike would handle all the sand trails on the island. Jason and I optimistically hoped our normal 2.1″ tyres would handle the soft terrain.

The Rainbow Kid

As we slowly climbed the steep hills behind Dunwich towards Rainbow Cresent, a rainbow peaked out through the clouds. There was no easing into this ride – it was hard work from the start.

Heartbreak Hill

When planning our course, I wanted to avoid paved roads. On the map, the trail between Rainbow and Illawong Crescents seemed the ideal choice. In reality that was not the case:

“Gee I’m glad we don’t have to ride up THAT”, Paul said.

“Well…. actually we do”, I sheepishly replied.

Photos never do justice to steep hills. This sand monster had gradients of around 30% and consisted of soft sand. It was hard work just walking up it. This is probably one track worth avoiding in future!

Brown Lake

After battling a few more sandy trails, we arrived at Brown Lake (or “Bummel” in the Quandamooka language) and enjoyed a short break.

There was barely a ripple on the lake surface.

Brown Lake Track

We followed the trails around the back of the lake before coming face to face with a couple of large Kangaroos. Both of them were taller than I was. They stood staring at us for what seemed like ages, but bounded off as soon as I reached for my camera.

Brown Lake Track

After leaving the lake we intended to ride north towards Amity, following some more trails I had identified from aerial photos. They were soft and steep, but we were optimistic the surface would eventually harden up…


At the top, the trails were still quite soft, but eventually became firmer as we rode along. I let some air out of my tyres, dropping the pressure to about 20psi. I discovered if I kept my weight back and maintained a reasonable speed I was able to ride on top of the sand most of the time rather than sinking into it. But at other times, even the fat tyres on Paul’s bike weren’t enough, and we all had to push.

Myora Springs

Myora Springs

On the other side of the hill we stopped at Myora Springs. This freshwater spring bubbles out of the sand providing some of the clearest water I’ve seen.

Chiggill Track

Chiggill TrackChiggill Track

After following the paved road for a couple of kilometres, our course eventually went off-road again as we followed a fire trail along Chiggill Chiggill swamp. With the lagoon on our left, and steep hills on our right we followed the trail around the back of Welsby Lagoon towards Amity.



Amity is a delightfully peaceful spot on the north-western tip of the island.

We met Nigel, an old-timer who has lived at Straddie for over fifty years. Pushing an old bike he found at the local rubbish dump, Nigel told us a bit about his life on the Island.

“I came here when I was seven years old, and have been here ever since”, he said.

“Back in those days there were no paved roads and no electricity.”

“It was peaceful. People just left you alone.”

He seemed really contented.

Good on ya, Nigel :)

Flinders Beach

Leaving Amity, we decided to try riding along Flinders Beach. The tide had dropped sufficiently, and we were able to ride on a wide path of firm sand.

I was surprised how easy it was – even with my narrower tyres.

Flinders Beach

Flinders Beach

Flinders Beach

Everyone smiled. With gentle surf on one side, unspoilt bushland on the other, and a wide open beach in front of us, we relaxed and enjoyed the wonderful experience.

Sea Eagle

Sea Eagle

A sea eagle perched on driftwood before leaping into the air in search of fish.

Point Lookout

We met up with Craig at Point Lookout. He had been running a stall at some local markets, and showed us where we could get lunch.

The views from the headland at Point Lookout are always worth checking out.

Main Beach

Main Beach

The tide was getting lower, so as we headed south, we re-joined the beach for an effortless 10 kilometre roll with the wind at our backs. It was like rolling downhill for 45 minutes.

Main Beach

Main Beach

We had the wide beach to ourselves. We were able to relax and soak up the views around us.

As I looked out to sea, I saw a huge Humpback Whale launch out of the water and crash back down with an almighty splash. This happened a few times. I yelled out uncontrollably each time:


“Did you see that!”.

Everyone did.

There were several migrating whales a few hundred metres offshore. Ever couple of minutes, they’d “breach”.

No – although I tried, I didn’t get any photos. But the whales will be back in September if you’d like to see them. Just sit on the eastern beach at Straddie for half an hour and watch the sea.


A little further down the beach, Craig yelled out to me “How would you like something to eat?”

He pointed out dozens of little mounds in the sand.

Scooping out one of them he triumphantly pulled out a “Pipi”, a bi-valve shellfish that was an everyday part of the traditional diet of the Quandamooka people. All over the island you can find large shell-heaps or “middens” where they’d leave the shells after a feast.

“Can you eat them raw?” I asked.

“They were usually cooked,” Craig explained, “but if you were desperate I suppose you could eat them raw”.

I took a playful bite at the shell, but decided it would be better to let this little creature live, so we threw him back into the sea.

Main Beach

Eighteen Mile Swamp

Eventually we left the beach and rode south along Eighteen Mile Swamp. This freshwater swamp is the largest of its kind in the world, stretching behind the dunes for about 30 kilometres.

Eighteen Mile Swamp

We crossed yet another spring, with crystal clear water gushing out. The water tasted clean and fresh, so I topped up my drink bottle. It’s a rare experience to be able to find such clean drinkable water on a ride.

Paul Crosses the Creek

We arrived at Blue Lake and had to cross another freshwater creek.

As we waded through, we could see small fish swimming around in the water.

Blue Lake

Blue Lake

The Quandamooka name for Blue Lake is “Kaboora”, meaning “Silent Pool”.

It’s a very tranquil place.

Blue Lake

This whole area was damaged by fires six months ago. It’s good to see the vegetation springing back to life so exuberantly.

Blue Lake

On the way out, we followed some pleasant single-track towards the carpark. The narrower track seemed firmer than the fire trail, and much easier to ride.

The Road Back


From there we followed the trans-island road back to Dunwich, taking in the great views of the harbour from the top of the hill.

We rode a total of 66km in about 8 hours including breaks, climbing about 830 metres in vertical ascent.

I burned about 3,500 kcal.

Because of the large sandy climbs, I’ll rate this one 8 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.

If you kept to the coastal tracks and beaches, this would be an easy enjoyable ride – probably 6 out of 10 in difficulty, provided you chose a time when the tide was low.

And if you’re lucky enough to have a fat bike, it would be even easier.

Thanks Jason, Paul and Craig for another great adventure!

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Read More

Tony on Paradise Rd

My friends and I spend a lot of time looking at maps. When we saw a remote place up in the hills behind Mt Sylvia called “Pardise” our curiosity got the better of us – we felt compelled to visit.

This was a challenging adventure to plan because some of our intended route crossed several private properties. It took a while to make contact with the land owners and arrange permission for us to pass through. After they all kindly said “yes” we were eager to proceed.

Mount Sylvia

Paradise Road

We’ve had many fun adventures which have either started or ended at Mount Sylvia.

On this mild winter’s morning we rolled out of town and slowly made our way up Paradise Road.

Paradise Road

As we worked our way up the steep climb, the lower Tenthill Valley stretched out behind us – a patchwork of fertile farms, trees and hills with puffs of fog still clinging tenaciously to some of the hollows.

Paradise Road

Paradise Road

We eventually reached the locked gate, grateful for generous permission we had received from the local land owners. On our rides, every farmer we’ve met loves their land. They’re proud of it and take seriously their responsibility to care for it.

Whenever we’ve asked if it’s ok to pass through on our bikes, they almost always say “yes” when they realize we’re here because we appreciate the land too.

Paradise Road

Past the gate, the road continued to climb as the valley dropped away below us.

Paradise Creek

After a quick descent, we crossed Paradise Creek. Eric couldn’t resist perching atop a nearby rock.

Paradise Road

Paradise Road

As we climbed out of the creek and up onto the Plateu, our path faded into a pair of faint tyre tracks in the grass. Althought it was difficult to see where we were supposed to go, our GPS kept us pointed in the right direction.

Paradise Road

We followed the fence north along a rocky ridge – slopes dropping off left and right.

Paradise Road

Paradise Road

A clear path had been worn by cattle, but it was rocky and difficult to ride in places.

“This is mountain biking”, Eric declared.

“This isn’t boring”, I thought happily to myself.

Paradise Road

We took a quick break to admire the beautiful views through the trees and get ready for the tricky descent.

Paradise Road

The track was overgrown with logs and rocks hidden in the thick grass. We took it slowly, and were relieved when everyone got down in one piece with no mishaps.

Merv and Neil

Merv was waiting for us at the bottom of the hill. The track passed right by his back door. I was grateful for the precise advice he had given me over the phone, which ensured we made it safely down the hill.

Dry Gully Road

Dry Gully Road

After the rough terrain we enjoyed the relaxing pace of the smooth, quiet road as we rolled out of Mount Whitestone.

Picking Tomatoes

A field of tomatoes caught Paul and Tony’s attention.

Road Cut-away

Resting at Ma Ma CreekResting at Ma Ma Creek

We were able to increase our pace as we rode south along the tarmac on Gatton-Clifton Road towards our lunch stop at Ma Ma Creek. With its water tank and shady trees, this strange-looking galvanized iron community hall was a perfect place to stop.

Razorback Rd


Eventually we reached the turn-off to Razorback Road. This 5km climb will be familiar to anyone who rode the original “Epic” mountain bike race from Preston Peak to Grandchester. It’s also part of the famous Bicentennial National Trail.

The track winds up the hill through Razorback Station, owned by the Jackson family.

Paul and Becca

Irrigation Dam

Although it’s a challenging climb, the surrounding property is very pretty.

Hilltop Rest

Darb on Razorback

Slowly we pushed up the hill, stopping regularly to keep everyone together.

Paul on Razordback

The views got better as we climbed higher.


Rock Formation, Lagoon Creek

Eventually we reached the top, and enjoyed a fast downhill run, jumping waterbars, dodging rocks, and skiddig around bends as we rolled down to the cliffs at Lagoon Creek.

West Haldon Rd

West Haldon Rd

At the top of West Haldon Road we stopped for one final break to enjoy the view. The next 6 kilometres would be a scorching descent down to the Tenthill Valley dropping almost 500 metres.

West Haldon Rd

I stood by the side of the road watching my friends race down from my left, while a car drove up the hill to my right. Neither of them could see each other. I waved franticly to both, and they safely passed each other. Although I think the car driver was a bit annoyed to be waved down by a crazy looking cyclist by the side of the road.


On the final stretch, I tucked in behind Eric and Darb as we effortlessly enjoyed the final 8km gentle descent into Mount Sylvia.

The Vision Splendid

We rode a total of almost 50km, with about 1,200m of climbing. I burned about 2,500 kcal.

With two big climbs and some rough, remote terrain, this ride rates 8 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.

As portions of this route pass through private property, it must not be attempted without first obtaining permission of the relevant property owners.

Thanks Eric, Darb, Becca, Paul and Tony for another memorable ride.

Thanks to John R, Peter H, and Merv S for generously letting us ride though your beautiful properties.