Double Island hike day 2: Freshwater to Rainbow Beach via Double Island Point (Queensland, Australia)

 photo 20170317_062638_zpsfzt3b1nh.jpg

I wake up early in the toilet block ready to explore some more of this beautiful part of the world. The rain has stopped and the sky has turned blue. I give myself the luxury of a shower and set off down to Teewah Beach. The morning sun and blue sky is such a contrast to last night’s storm.

 photo 20170317_063306_zpszpygiy9m.jpg

 photo 20170317_065351_zps1kdgfgvd.jpg

I turn northwards and start walking. I’ll have breakfast at Double Island Point, some 10km up the beach from here. A few 4WDs pass me but the incoming tide and it being a weekday seems to have limited the vehicles to a trickle. Most have surf boards so much be heading up to ride the waves for a day. I stop to admire the sea slugs, shells and jelly fish. The incoming waves make patterns in the sand. The sound of the waves is the musical score to my hike.

 photo 20170317_081545_zpst7z1vrra.jpg

 photo 20170317_083502_zpsxjmnl7mg.jpg

The tide has almost blocked car access to the southern beach of Double Island Point. Experienced surfers tackle the big rough waves that crash over the rocky point. I take off my shoes and sit in the crystal clear water for a short while.

 photo 20170317_085635_zpsy4orl8tn.jpg

 photo 20170317_090041_zpsojnfbxvh.jpg

I leave my shoes off and climb the track up to Double Island Point lighthouse. I was here a couple of years ago when I ran a 45km trail run along the same trails. But now I am enjoying the trail with a tent and plenty of food instead. It’s exactly what I want to be doing.

 photo 20170317_094718_zpsybfqhzcq.jpg

 photo 20170317_095014_zpsvkzn2uqp.jpg

 photo 20170317_095038_zpsboqmmery.jpg

The northern side of Double Island Point is a stark contrast to the southern side. It’s almost always protected from the prevailing south easterly winds. The water is so clear I cannot resist a swim. Less experienced surfers ride easy long waves over a sandy bottom. I swim a while then eat breakfast (well, at 10am I guess it’s more like brunch) in the shade. A Canadian backpacker who I spoke with last night at camp happens to be there too so we have a yarn. Before I know it, midday has come and gone and I still have 15km to hike on an increasingly hot day.

 photo 20170317_120219_zpsg4yewmh3.jpg

The walk along Double Island Point is hot but gorgeous. Tidal lagoons with glassy surfaces stretch in a long chain. Small fish swim in the shallows as wading birds time their attack for optimum success. The sun is beating down but the scenery is perfect. I can see the Carlo Sandblow and Rainbow Beach in the distance. It doesn’t look so far away but looks can be deceiving.

 photo 20170317_124229_zpsfpvajk4p.jpg

I reach the decision point: to walk in the sun along the flat beach or turn inland to walk the undulating trail under the trees in the humidity. The trail seems more sensible given the speed with which the sun is drying me out. I’ll never know which option was better. I do know now that the trail was hot, sweaty and challenging.

 photo 20170317_132017_zps2emu0v7r.jpg

 photo 20170317_143941_zpshvgwzxc8.jpg

Despite the trail being pretty I struggle in the heat. My pace slows to about 3kph, which is incredibly slow. My pack is not even that heavy. It’s just the humidity and the cumulative effects of my walking challenge. It’s now day 17 and I have walked at least 12km every day, with today being a 25km epic. I am so grateful to reach the sign that shows I only have to walk 3.6km to Carlo Sandblow because that puts me within 5km of the finish line.
 photo 20170317_153945_zpsi7ws5guz.jpg
Carlo Sandblow is a sight for sore eyes. I know I can make it back to the car from here. It’s now late in the afternoon and the sun has started to lose it’s edge. It’s started to drizzle and I can hear thunder in the distance. Looking to the south east I can see Double Island Point stretching into the sea (photo above). I can’t believe I walked from there plus that distance again from camp.

Would I do this hike again? Absolutely! But probably not in March, which is our hottest and wettest month of the year.

Distance: 25km
Cumulative distance for my challenge to walk 12km a day for 31 days: 237.9km.
To support me in my challenge to raise money for the Australian Red Cross, please donate at:  http://challenge.redcross.org.au/andrewgills 

Double Island hike day 1: Rainbow Beach to Freshwater via Poona Lake (Queensland, Australia)

So here I am, sleeping on a bench in a bathroom grateful for the one pair of undies that stayed dry tonight. I wonder what the other blokes in camp will think when they find me here tomorrow morning. Two bad choices led me here: taking a bivy instead of a tent during the wet season and trying to be a hero when the storm came over. But I am not down on myself.  I know from experience that I always remember the nights I’ve slept in toilet blocks clearly for many years. 

But I should really start this story from the beginning.  For it’s not a sad tale at all. 

For days 16 and 17 if my challenge to walk 12km each day during March to raise money for the Australian Red Cross, I decided to go on an overnight hike. With the Cooloola Great Walk closed between Freshwater Lake and Harry’s Hut, and a nomadic friend being in Gympie I decided to walk the Double Island Point loop from Rainbow Beach. By camping at Freshwater Lake the distances would be a challenging 18km and 24km. Freshwater camp has drinking water so that made it a logical camp.  

After a 2.5 hour drive I park midway between the Rainbow Beach surf club and Carlo Sandblow. This allows me to get the steep urban walk out if the way today. Something I’ll surely be grateful for tomorrow.  
 photo 20170316_092808_zpsxmu2lv8e.jpg
Carlo Sandblow is an iconic Rainbow Beach destination in its own right.  I remember playing here on family holidays during my childhood. Back then it was still possible to climb down the cliff face to the beach. But it was always scary and dangerous. Today it is forbidden and with good reason because the cliff has changed and we probably caused some terrible erosion back then.
 photo IMG_20170316_152737_425_zpsjmhbafwr.jpg

 photo IMG_20170316_152354_928_zpsklemkma4.jpg

 photo IMG_20170316_152047_911_zpsscd9ftv7.jpg
Crossing Carlo takes me into a fairly lush rainforest for such a sandy place. I will spend my day meandering past brightly coloured mushrooms and twisted vines. The buttress rooted trees and strangler figs so familiar from my years of bushwalking in South East Queensland are plentiful here too.  
 photo 20170316_115241_zps0gc9tevt.jpg

 photo IMG_20170316_152150_137_zpspo5xawxf.jpg
8km after entering the bush I come to Poona Lake. I was here last year when I ran a trail half marathon but this time I can stop to enjoy white sands of the ti tree stained water. The sand granules are sticky and cling to my sweaty body and clothes. I sit a while in the water. It’s refreshing on this disgustingly hot and humid day. 
 photo 20170316_121028_zpso6g7lubo.jpg
I hear the three young backpackers for twenty minutes before they arrive. Carrying only swimmers and towels they’re on a different mission to me so I leave them to their fun and continue my walk.
 photo 20170316_132717_zps7ayebumx.jpg

 photo 20170316_132317_zpsjhu4qobd.jpg
I am hot and bothered by the time Freshwater Lake comes into view. The humidity is stifling and reminds me why I hate March – that sneaky hot rainy month right when you think the long hot summer might be over. The lake is pretty but I don’t stay long. I want to go to camp and have also forgotten to pack bug spray to protect me from the mozzies. 

Freshwater camp is quiet and pretty.  There are only two other tents here.  Both have 4WDs parked out the front so I must be the only walker.  We used to come here by 4WD when I was young too.  Cooloola is amazing and one of the best and most accessible 4WD areas around. 
 photo 20170316_154635_zps9j28hulg.jpg
I lay on my bivy bag  squashing horse flies. A butcher bird flies over to catch and eat the flies that I throw away.  It also spies a native cockroach and makes short work of that. I eat my own dinner and drink strong sweet tea Javanese style with lots of condensed milk. And that’s where the sensible part of my day ends.
 photo 20170316_170757_zpsrijopyhj.jpg
For some reason I get it in my head to walk to the beach. I discover that it’s much cooler there due to a breeze. I also spot a storm coming quickly north. What I do next is so dumb. I am surprised at myself. Instead of hanging at camp amd waiting for the storm to pass, I decide to shift to the beach because it’s cooler and I might not sweat as much in my bivy. The real mistake was relying on a bivy during the storm season and not carrying a tent.  That aside, I should not have moved camp because the beach is the worst place to be in a storm.  There’s limited protection from lightning and the rain has nothing to temper its ferocity.  
 photo 20170316_185906_zps0eejzux4.jpg
Half an hour later everything is wet and I’m running back to camp in my now saturated sleeping clothes. And that’s how this episode of “Andrew sleeps in a toilet block” comes about. 

Lessons learned: pack mozzie spray, bivy bags are a three season shelter so use a tent in summer and stay in camp when it storms. 

Distance: 18.3km plus 3km to and from beach a couple of times

Cumulative distance for challenge:216.9km

If you would like to support me in my challenge to walk 12km each day during March to raise awareness for people walking to flee war and to raise miney for the Australian Red Cross, please donate through my profile on the Red Cross challenge page: http://challenge.redcross.org.au/andrewgills 

Kilcoy and Yarraman (South Burnett, Queensland)

I love that Paul loves exploring new places as much as I do. And that he’s willing to compromise by sleeping in a tent sometimes because he knows I love it. We have a small window of opportunity from 9am Wednesday until 3pm Thursday so we pack the car and hit the road. Our destination is the Bunya Mountains, about three hours drive from our house.
 photo 20170308_124329_zps5oaqha3v.jpg
Our first stop is Kilcoy. We visit Kilcoy Quality Meats, which is an amazing butcher shop where steaks are cut fresh instead of precut and stored. The bacon is thick and water-free so it actually browns when we fry it for breakfast. And the sausages are made of meat not filler. We end up stopping in again on our way home to pick up a bit more meat.
 photo 20170308_131040_zpsvopht5vi.jpg
We eat a picnic lunch in yowie park. Ducks waddle around on the grass and swim on the pond. We have ham, salad and cheese in the esky so make sandwiches. In the words of a character from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, “food always tastes better in the outdoors”. There’s nothing quite like a picnic lunch. I rate it far higher than just about any other meal.
 photo 20170308_135105_zpsre5l2t14.jpg
Next door there’s a craft shop. Paul and I have developed a bit of a thing for craft shops with their quirky local works of art. This shop is quirky and cute. We buy a cute little yowie doll. A yowie is a mythical creature that lives in the Australian bush. The doll is cute and will make a nice addition to our collection of crafts.
 photo 20170309_082651_zpswqlivi1h.jpg
We spend the night at Dandabah campground at the Bunya Mountains. We arrive after dark because of our hike on the western trails. Fortunately our tent is easy to pitch and it’s not long before we are eating our barbecue dinner while watching wallabies and other night marsupials doing their thing.

In the morning I walk the eastern tracks before returning to camp for breakfast. We break camp thinking we have hours before we need to be home. This will change with a phone call in which Paul is called in for a 3pm start. But for now we are blissfully unaware so take our time.
 photo 20170309_124457_zpsn4qmrdxn.jpg
We almost drive through Yarraman without a second thought. But a sign points to a museum. And we do love a country museum. “We’ll just stop in for 15 minutes”. Two hours later and we are finally getting back on the road having learned about the district’s history from a well versed guide.
 photo 20170309_115351_zpshul1pffx.jpg

 photo 20170309_123219_zps2niqav86.jpg

 photo 20170309_121846_zpsjmmvjqyf.jpg

 photo 20170309_121535_zpsh94wxziu.jpg

Our walk through the European history of Yarraman includes stories of the boys’ school intended to ensure young men would be educated, not just farm hands for their fathers.  Nuns lived here too – first in a convent and later on retreats.  Timber cutting was a catlyst for development and the now defunct railway line was a lifeline to the outside world. There’s even an old sewing machine that might have been the first portable electric sewing machine in Australia.
 photo 20170309_121559_zpscvz21y7j.jpg
There’s an old ambulance display, a range of buildings and, naturally, the military exhibit. I know it sounds terribly unpatriotic but I often find military displays distasteful because they appear to glorify war and call modern day men and women to arms at a time when the world needs peace. A war memorial  should not show soldiers smiling.  It should show the dead bodies of the innocent who are caught in the cross fire of those shooting the guns. That said, the flight uniform of the Roullettes aerobatics pilot is awesome.

The call to return home comes while we’re at the museum so we race off down the highway.  But we’ll be back because we want to see the stone huts at Moore, the new museum at Blackbutt and eat a meal at Linville’s pub. Stay tuned for our next adventure in the region.

Walking for Refugees Day 9 – Bunya Mountains east walk (Queensland, Australia)

 photo 20170309_055659_zpsvaarcspu.jpg
Wallabies hop outside our tent. It makes it easy to get up for my walk. I feel so blessed to be waking up like this. It makes it easy to put on my shoes, grab my hiking poles and set off into the bush. It’s about 200m to the start of the Eastern Tracks where I will walk today.
 photo 20170309_061745_zpsqvbrkqy2.jpg
Setting off into the rainforest I am struck by the number of bunya nut seeds that litter the trail. Bunya nuts are massive seeds that fall from the bunya trees. The nuts can be up to 10kg in weight – large enough to cause some serious damage if a person is hit by them. The bunya trees produce nuts every year but every three years there’s a bumper crop. For thousands of years before European colonisation, the Traditional Owners would come to the Bunya Mountains every three years to celebrate this bumper crop. Aboriginal men and women from all over northern New South Wales and South East Queensland would walk to the mountains for the festival. It often involved months of community activities. Unfortunately, the last of these gatherings was held in about 1880 after which time the European invaders started to force Aboriginal people to live on missions.
 photo 20170309_073633_zpscbhrd9gk.jpg

 photo 20170309_070152_zpscixkt92a.jpg
I spend my morning walking through nature. There’s mushrooms, butterflies, scrub turkeys and bower birds. It’s glorious.
 photo IMG_20170309_084252_356_zpshgearpmi.jpg

 photo 20170309_074829_zpsmml7uvmk.jpg
There’s tall old trees with buttressed roots and gnarled strangler fig vines. It feels wonderful to be out here.
 photo IMG_20170309_084555_882_zps6s4ohipq.jpg
While the western trails have expansive views over the flat farming lands to the west, the eastern trails have a few lookouts. The views are of the less steep eastern sides of the Bunya Mountains, the rolling hills to the east and the Tarong power station’s towers. Today wispy clouds roll up the hills as I stand taking in one of the view points.
 photo IMG_20170309_084438_071_zpsuzhkvfyi.jpg

 photo IMG_20170308_211318_120_zpsft9d6okf.jpg
The other contrast between the western and eastern sides of the Bunya Mountains is that yesterday’s walk was through largely dry country while today’s walk includes some lovely cool creeks and waterfalls. Even on a dry day like today, there is water in the little falls and in other small falls I pass. Sure, it’s not a roaring thunder like it could be after heavy rains. But it’s still quite a contrast from the western side of the mountains.

Twelve kilometres later I am back at camp. Paul gets up and we cook a BBQ breakfast of bacon and egg sandwiches on the camp BBQs. Unlike most public BBQs in Australia, these cost 20c each and are unclean. It’s my only criticism of the Bunya Mountains. While local councils all over Australia are providing free clean electric BBQs, the state government has failed to do it here. Breakfast is still tasty and we try to leave the BBQ in a better state than we found it.

Distance: 12.2km
Cumulative distance: 122.6km

If you would like to support me in this challenge, please donate to the Australian Red Cross through this link: https://challenge.redcross.org.au/andrewgills

Scenic Rim weekend day 2: Boonah

We made a tactical error last night and didn’t bring enough blankets. While I was warm enough with a jumper and sheet, poor Paul froze because he forgot to bring a jumper. We even put the picnic blanket from the entrance door over him but it didn’t help. So while Paul slept in after the sun warmed the morning, I went out for a walk.
 photo 14502986_10154453987071181_6140332139942693167_n_zpsgoqnjynj.jpg
Mt Maroon looks out over Flanagan’s Reserve camp ground like a guard. The twin peaks can look majestical or sinister, depending on the weather. Today rain clouds hung around the twin summit but parted just long enough for this photo.
 photo 14517572_10154454086006181_8203340297445392566_n_zps9h9thdcp.jpg
After a walk along the road I went down to the Logan River, which runs past the camp. I have lost some of my zen since working full-time and I found it difficult to just immerse myself into the moment. I can’t explain the difference I feel from when I was living the gypsy life. But I also know it will come back.
 photo 14595559_10154454085851181_284926792582433149_n_zpsu4rvfuet.jpg
I had moments of my former self, such as when I noticed this small red flower a log by the river.
 photo 14632955_10154454086001181_4485397408964275963_n_zps6khfyhni.jpg
And when I saw this path and couldn’t help but ponder what it would be like to just follow a random path along a river. My mind started to ponder bigger picture things … like longer term travel and adventure. The path and river called me.
 photo 14642000_10154454496086181_1245998765601993224_n_zpsyctqleyr.jpg
By the time I returned to camp Paul was awake. The wind was swirling through camp so we packed without eating and drove a little way down the road to Maroon Dam. The dam is on the opposite side of Mt Maroon as the camp. Here we cooked up an omelette on the free electric barbecue and talked about our idea of buying a campervan and hitting the road for a year or two to explore this vast continent. We have a few things we need to do to make it a reality (like buy a campervan and save some money). But we both now work in disability support and hope to both be studying to be primary school teachers (me majoring in health & physical education and Paul majoring in special education) so there is scope for us to work anywhere in future.
 photo 14650097_10154454496141181_5682635331210734612_n_zpsva9zriuh.jpg
It must be the fresh air and natural surroundings that create possibilities in my mind.
 photo 14656415_10154454496151181_434928460227595228_n_zpso8ebhq5k.jpg
Our next stop was Boonah. I’ve driven past signs to the town many times but never had cause to stop there. But Paul is with me and together we often stop in tiny towns and find something of interest. Boonah was no exception with it’s lovely art gallery. Janine Gibson, an artist who works with tea bags, recycled fabrics, doilies and tea staining, was hosting an exhibition. She was actually on site because an art tour group was visiting. I liked her work, which is slightly abstract, and we actually bought a piece. Unfortunately, it is part of the exhibition so we will have to wait until we return from Cambodia in late November to pick it up. Not that this is a hardship because it’s a good excuse to head back out. We took a photo of the artist with the piece too 🙂
 photo 14657489_10154454736386181_4077152817598508027_n_zpssmv4xdpp.jpg
After a naughty sweet treat at the Sugarloaf Baking Co bakery we started the drive home only to get side tracked by a sign pointing to a motorcycle museum. As a keen rider myself, I had to check it out. The Panorama Motorcycles and Memorabilia Museum is a great little find. There are lots of cool old bikes, a couple of classic cars and some other items on display. It’s the bikes that really captured my attention though. Apparently most are rideable too, having been lovingly restored.
 photo 14522795_10154454736411181_8586427918218683085_n_zpsv3x6mahs.jpg
For example, there are apparently only ten of these bikes in the world and this one actually runs.
 photo 14572820_10154454736471181_7908438778418537283_n_zpsclmxflfs.jpg
And this was one of the first Harley Davidsons that wasn’t painted olive green (which was apparently the only colour they originally came in).
 photo 14650303_10154454736491181_2968524237046754486_n_zpsv6nwwwou.jpg
This Wippet Truck was used by the butcher to deliver meat almost 90 years ago in 1927.
 photo 14519899_10154454736541181_7612603721715677627_n_zpszutkkslk.jpg
And these pianola rolls hark back to an era before racial equality and discrimination were part of the common tongue. I doubt the person who boxed them up even considered the historic message of the black face images.
 photo 14522800_10154454736431181_221455664539592175_n_zpsn3omscu1.jpg
But let’s get back to the main event: the motorbikes. This one is by far my favourite. As a child I watched a movie that I think was called Scrambler or Scramble back in the 1980s or 1990s about a group of kids who rode dirt bikes. All I wanted was a scrambler bike. I did buy a Honda XR250 road-trail bike when I was 18 years old, followed by a Kawasaki KLR250 road-trail bike a few years later but I never quite managed to find a cool old scrambler like this one that was at the museum (I now ride a Suzuki GS500 road bike). So this is my favourite bike in the whole museum.

I loved being away for the weekend with Paul. It was like being where I am meant to be – out exploring the world slowly. I can’t wait to explore more. Watch this space …

Scenic Rim weekend day 1: Rathdowney

It’s been months since Paul and I went camping. Oh how I have missed the freedom of packing the car and hitting the road. With only one week left in my job as a lawyer, I am finally starting to feel like myself again so when I saw that the Rathdowney Rodeo was on this weekend I suggested we head down.

 photo 14606430_10154452110601181_9148892391302700785_n_zpsisodu1ck.jpg

We set off fairly late in the day because I had to do some work. So we arrived at camp at Flanagan’s Reserve just south of Rathdowney around 3pm. It was fairly good timing though because it meant we were able to enjoy the cool air conditioning during the heat of the day (the temperature was about 33’C – summer is going to be long and hot).
 photo 14492492_10154452187641181_2798348098896385706_n_zpsplthlnwo.jpg
I love Flanagan’s Reserve. It’s one of my favourite camping grounds because it’s so relaxed. It’s a bush camping reserve with toilets and showers. The cost is $10/adult/night. It’s rarely crowded and you can select your own spot under the gum trees to call home for your stay. We set up camp then laid out a picnic blanket that we lay on for a few hours enjoying the serenity.
 photo 14572243_10154452334811181_1522078488623292051_n_zpsyciogbyn.jpg
We drove down the road to the Rathy Rodeo around 5:30pm. Fortunately, we had left the camping chairs in the car because the small renta-grandstand seating was full. The best seats in the house on the good side of the ring were taken but there was still space on the pen side of the ring. So we settled in. What we didn’t realise was that it would get very cold later in the night.
 photo 14560229_1759513500967520_602229048031644104_o_zpscrsk9lwr.jpg
So cold that I ended up wearing the bag from the chair as a hat. I didn’t just wear it for the photo. I wore it all night. Haha.
 photo 14522708_10154452334891181_2223308504046187749_n_zps9hzgsy87.jpg
The rodeo was a good show. It had all the usual events: saddle bronc, bareback bronc, barrel racing, roping, team roping, steer wrestling and bull riding.
 photo 14570464_10154452334881181_4540176471986641916_n_zpsnvbxbbil.jpg
The cowboys and cowgirls battled it out valiantly. At the end of the night, though, the livestock definitely had more wins on the board than the competitors. And the star of the show was definitely the comedy rodeo clown who had us laughing more and more as the night went on. I haven’t been to a rodeo in about five years. We used to go regularly as children so it was a nice walk down memory lane.

NSW Loop day 9: Mudgee to Cassilis (NSW, Australia)

I start this post by acknowledging the Wiradjuri People as the Traditional Owners of the lands through which I’ve been cycling the past few days. And I recognise their sovereignty over their lands. I pay my respects to the Wiradjuri elders past, present and future, and thank them for allowing us newcomers to this land to visit and travel through sacred places.

I leave Mudgee heading back north. I feel good about my decision to turn around instead of flogging myself. There’s so much country to be seen and it’s nice not to have to rush so that I can actually see it while I’m down here.
 photo 13138776_1715016195377172_6813057437164280324_n_zpscfxup6j7.jpg

I leave town heading north-east on the Ulan- Cassilis road. It’s early and the vineyards look pretty in the morning light. Vineyards always do and I’m yet to get a really good photo of any. I don’t drink wine (except when I was cycling in Hungary) but I always love cycling through wine areas. Perhaps it’s that they are often in rolling country or it’s the idea of the gourmet food that often comes with the fruit of the grapes. It’s just a shame I didn’t have more time because the vineyards are behind me too soon.
 photo 13178527_1715016208710504_4345294270549112882_n_zps9ew9jnbt.jpg

I spend an hour or so climbing slowly. What I don’t realise is that I’m on the Great Dividing Range. I learn this fact when I come across a sign marking the high point of the range in this area. It’s quite low isn’t it. Naturally, this is cause for a photo because the Great Dividing Range is kind of a big deal in Australia’s geography. While I live to the east of the range, I prefer to travel to its west. That’s where I’m most at homme moving through the landscap. And that’s where my ride home will keep me. East of the range is rainforest, coastline and the convenience of cities. To the west is a relatively flatter more arid agricultural landscape that is wide, open and offers almost unlimited opportunity for exploration. You’ll be seeing quite a bit of what’s west of the divide on my blog this year because I’ll be spending quite a bit of time traveling the Australian bush by car and pushbike.
 photo 13133283_1715016222043836_4647043447743227393_n_zpsdugtnzjt.jpg

I’d been told there was a coal mine out here on the Ulan-Cassilis road. I just didn’t expect it to be so big. The good thing is that the coal must be loaded onto trains because I saw very few trucks on the road. The lady at the visitor centre in Mudgee told me that the local Aboriginal Peoples are upset with the “white folk”. When I see the coal mine I can see why. This is a stunning part of the landscape and is probably sacred due to the way the mountains and rocks are so distinctly formed. And then there’s a dirty big coal mine churning through that land creating destruction in its path. Mind you, I’m not going to get on my high horse and say I’m against mining. I recognise that I use electricity and all the other things that coal creates. I also recognise that Australia is not only built “off the sheep’s back” but also that our modern economic stability is largely in thanks to the influence of mining throughout our history since invasion. So it’s a difficult topic with no easy answers. I guess the lesson is that there are multiple sides to every issue and it’s only when we open our eyes to this fact that we can work together to try to find a solution (mind you, the Australian government’s commitment to coal over cleaner energies isn’t helping anyone).
 photo 13151807_1715016235377168_3117145406350620663_n_zps7fwdqa6p.jpg

But you don’t want to hear about my politics. Besides, it’s incredibly rude for an Australian to discuss such matters in public. So let me change the topic by sharing this photo of two emus. I love emus the same way that I love giraffes (only my favourite animal in the world). They are at once graceful and ungainly. And emus can run … fast!
 photo 13102770_1715016242043834_540858770867547968_n_zpslpg7cc96.jpg

Just 10km after Ulan I come to The Drip. This is an incredible place. It’s a spiritual place for the Traditional Owners and I sense it as I walk here. I pay my respects to the Old People as I’ve been taught to do and assure them that I am only walking along the path to The Drip and back. Geographically, The Drip marks the lowest point on the Great Dividing Range. Geologically, it marks the western edge of the Sydney Sandstone Basin. And visually it is stunning. It must be delightful in summer to come here to swim. I’m as wet as a swimmer because it’s been bucketing down with rain since for hours now. There’s no way to describe this place where sandstone cliffs tower above the river, which is currently running quietly like a wide creek. It’s lush and green and alive with energy. If it were not raining I would have stayed for a few hours to soak up the atmosphere but I need to keep moving to get warm.
 photo 13177316_1715016275377164_686501181010570831_n_zpsigrxlh3f.jpg

So move I do. I pedal northward into the wind and rain. Turril is marked on the map but turns out to be nothing more than a General Store that looks like it hasn’t seen business in a decade. But there is a cute outdoor dunny in a paddock that I have to share. It’s so Australian and I’m glad I’m just young enough to have missed this part of Aussie life. People about a decade older than me tell stories of spiders and snakes living in their outdoor dunnies, and of late night walks through gardens and paddocks just to relieve themselves. That’s one part of the good old days that I don’t think would have been so good at all. Haha.
 photo 13174065_1715016268710498_5988010770909383474_n_zpsh7cllauc.jpg

It’s only 1:30pm when I arrive at my destination: Cassilis Park Rest Area. It’s a small roadside rest area on the Golden Highway about 8km south west of Cassilis township. The sky is still crying so I pull up under a picnic shelter and make myself at home. After getting dry I consider doing some work or blogging. But decide that for one afternoon I am going to do absolutely nothing. I upload some photos to Facebook then crawl into my sleeping bag for a snooze. For the rest of the night the only things I do are phone home and eat dinner. It’s absolutely glorious to turn my brain off and just relax. I think this might be the first time on this trip that I’ve taken time out to do just that. I lay there in my sleeping bag under the picnic shelter knowing that this is living.