The first stage of my travels was a wonderful success and confirmed for me that I definitely on the right path. The week-long motorbike trip to Central Queensland had everything I am looking for in my new nomadic lifestyle:
I travelled through rural areas where I could buy delicious fresh produce direct from the producer.
I spent time out in my packraft exploring some magical waterways.
I enjoyed the simple pleasures of seeing a butterfly sitting on the water and kites hunting for prey.
And the bliss of being welcomed into my friends’ homes.
The sun is shining, the air is cool and there’s a gentle sea breeze. It’s an absolutely perfect day for a long run/walk. I ride my motorbike 20km along fun dirt roads to Wreck Rock. I’ve never been there before so it seems like a good place to start today’s adventure. The beach is gorgeous with clear water and small waves rolling in crisply around the rocks. I run down the beach towards Wreck Rock itself, which I climb up to look up the beach towards Agnes Waters. Little do I know just now that my run/walk will take me all the way up there.
The beach sand is soft and more gravelly than I am used to around Brisbane. It’s almost as though there are more rocks here in the sea and not enough time or force to allow the water to break them down. I realise quite quickly that I’m going to have a serious workout today; something for which I will probably be grateful during the Surf Coast Century trail run in September. But while the beach is tough on my legs, it is food for my soul. To my right the clear water stretches far out to the horizon while orange coloured sand dunes roll down towards me from my left.
After I leave Wreck Rock, I have much of the beach to myself. It gives me the space I crave to be alone with my thoughts. A space that allows me to observe the simple beauty that Mother Nature provides.
I’m running on joy as I make my way up the beach. I have no destination in mind, other than to continue for about two hours before turning around. In the past I would have been anxious to ensure my training was exactly that: training. But today, as I prepare to tackle my first real 100km ultra in September, I am simply focused on the experience. I walk and run as my body allows, and take the time to walk up the dunes to find pretty places from which to view the beach.
Before long I reach a large rocky headland. Looking back I can see I’ve travelled a long way and that Wreck Rock is but a mere speck on the horizon. I don’t know how far I’ve travelled but I still feel fresh after almost two hours on the move so I decide not to turn around just yet. Instead I scramble up the rocks to the grassy slope where I can see some flattened grass. As the grasses around the headland don’t look like kangaroo fodder, I guess that the grass has been flattened by people, which means there will be a path or roadway higher up. I scramble up in bare feet (my feet are too sandy to put my shoes on). The grass is dry and the ground underneath is rocky but it feels so good to stand on bare earth. I come to the road at the top of the headland and follow it into Agnes Water. From here I run down the main road and back onto the sandy Deepwater National Park road.
The Deepwater road makes for challenging but beautiful travel. The sand is deep enough in places that I sink until my entire foot is covered. Yet, in others, it is totally runnable. Visually, I am surrounded by masses of contrast: deep glossy green and spikey palm groves nestle between tall smooth grey gums that tower so high I need to crane my neck to see their leaves and yellow-flowering wattles whose messy branches contrast their beautiful sweet scent.
It takes me four hours to complete my circuit. I estimate that I’ve travelled somewhere between 25-30km (15-18 miles). I’ve enjoyed the experience and didn’t really hit the wall until about 3:45 into my adventure, which bodes well for the Surf Coast Century. On my return to Wreck Rock beach, I sit down in the cold sea water to cool my now aching legs in the hope of a speedy recovery.
The waters are an eerie tannin-stained black. I’ve left K and G to enjoy a quiet morning at their home while I head out in my packraft to explore their local waterways. The raft is inflated in no time and I’m ready to go.
I launch my raft and head upstream. The waters are tidal but with all the bends in the creek the tide has almost no pull. I paddle and drift my way gently, taking in the reflections. I am mesmerised by their beauty and feel no sense of urgency. I drift and paddle watching beautiful white kites with powerful brown wings waiting patiently in for fish and prey to appear. A small hawk flies overhead carrying a small rodent.
Scruffy paperbarks line the banks above the small weir I portaged around. The older ones are almost rambunctious is their messiness and disorder. Their papery bark peels off around knots and stray branches. Some lean over like crippled old people in need of walking canes while others look almost playful.
On the other side of the river, younger paperbarks stand tall and straight like soldiers. The front row nearest the creek were burned in a bushfire and are now charred a deep black. Over time they will grow thicker and the bark will peel, leaving the trees unscarred but it will take a long time. For now though, the burned rows of trees are just beautiful to see: proof that sometimes life’s scars can leave beauty behind.
The creek is different from the water. Mangrove trees are three-dimensional and their aeration tubes make dramatic waterside textures and shapes. Smooth grey-barked gums tower above me like giants, their peppermint green leaves contrasting dramatically against the bright blue sky. Butterflies flit around along the water’s surface. And occasionally a fish splashes.
It’s blowing a gale when we arrive at Flat Rock boat ramp for the Baffle Creek Boat Club day out. It’s cold and the creek is choppy. The forecast 10 knot winds must be blowing gently somewhere else because it’s got to be closer to 20 knots here, which is too strong for us to take the sailing boats out. I follow my friends K, G and M into the boat club shed where there’s coffee, tea and a range of homemade goodies. I meet their neighbours (a relative term here where properties are scattered far and wide) and admire the old Sabots piled up in the back of the shed.
We pack some kayaks on a ute and head down to nearby Rules Beach, which is protected from the wind. A tarp is erected across some driftwood trees to provide shade and we settle in for a day of fun, sun and sand.
I’ve brought my packraft up to Baffle with me and take the opportunity to get it out on the water. I’ve got inflating it sorted and it takes less than 5 minutes of relaxed work. I am sure I could get it up in less than 3 minutes if I put some effort in but life’s not about the rush anymore.
While the waves look small from the beach, they tower over me in my raft and my first few attempts at launching the boat end in the boat being swamped and me swimming. The trick is to have patience and wait for a break in the waves so that I can get my skirt done up. M comes out to help. I do up my skirt on the beach and he pushes me out until I am floating. The boat now floats up over the breaking waves quite well and I find myself paddling and drifting happily out to sea.
I drift and enjoy the diamonds dazzling off the water. It’s almost impossible to believe that this is the middle of winter. It’s just glorious. I catch a few waves in the packraft. It floats nicely on top of the water. I can see why these boats are good for whitewater. As the waves subside with the changing tide I come into the beach to chill out on the sand. One of the young boys decides to cover my back with sand and then buries my legs. I listen to the locals’ conversations and soak up the sunshine.
After an hour or two the tide has changed enough for some more little waves to build. Sure, they are only about a foot tall but it’s enough to have fun without feeling threatened when I inevitably get dumped. I take out one of the boat club’s kayaks and catch lots of waves with a couple of the other guys. There’s plenty of laughter as we succeed or fail in our wave riding efforts. It feels great to be lifted by the waves then surge forward as they break. By the time we return home (I must mention that I call anyplace I lay my head home) we’re all pleasantly relaxed and ready for a yarn around the campfire.
Note on images: Most of my photos are on my camera and I forgot to bring the cable that connects it to my laptop. This post will be updated at a later date once I get that sorted.
Magpies warble and kookooburras laugh as I open my eyes. I snuggle up in my sleeping bag enjoying the luxury of Mother Nature’s alarm clock. The sun will rise in fifteen minutes so there’s no rush to get out of bed. I slept well and the Maidenwell traveller’s rest area was quiet all night.
It doesn’t take me long to pack. I don’t have to rush; I just potter away methodically fitting all my gear onto the bike. The air is cool but not cold; thanks to the blanket of grey clouds hanging low over the land. I consider leaving my wet weather gear in an easily accessible place but decide against it. It’s a decision I will come to regret later in the day but not one that I will dwell on. As the sun shines it’s orange light across the eastern sky, I ride off down the highway enjoying the muted colours of gum trees and grasslands in the overcast morning light.
I blast through Nanango and ride on to Goomeri where I stop for breakfast. I boil the billy for hot chocolate and munch on raisin bread as I watch the goings on in town. Grey nomads tow oversized caravans (rigs) with huge four wheel drive cars. This is the daily ritual for them: leave early to get the best spot at the next campsite (often just a roadside rest area). A few families turn up and stop to let their children use the bathrooms or stretch their legs. I guess they are off someplace for the school holidays, which started today. A family with a horse float stops across the road. At first I only see the appropriately horsily dressed parents but soon one child after another piles out of the truck and starts running across the grass as if to stretch their legs and rejoice in the freedom of getting out of their car.
The grey clouds come lower as I ride on to Ban Ban Springs. I can’t help but think if Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as I smell the various scents that fill the country air. There’s sweet wattle flowers and lucern hay. There’s stinky dairy cattle and road kill. There’s the occasional waft of eucalyptus. And then, as I turn east from Ban Ban Springs towards Gin Gin the heavens open and I get to experience that other side of motorcycle touring: getting wet. That decision I made this morning to put my wet weather gear away comes back to bite me. I could stop to dig it out or complain but instead I just settle in and enjoy the freedom of life on the road.
It’s almost 4pm by the time I reach my destination. I haven’t been to Baffle Creek in just over two years. But still I recognise the familiar road in with it’s sections of paperbark swamp. I feel happy and excited to be here visiting my friends K and G. They are just lovely people and we have always shared many laughs.
K is someone with whom I can talk about anything without censorship and right now I have a lot to talk about. I know K also shares a lot with me so I look forward to hearing her stories. We settle in straight away with a cup of tea and a campfire to start our catch up. For the first time I don’t have to rush off after just one or two nights so I’ll stay a few days before I move on.