Three volcanic plugs and a whole lot of forest (Glasshouse Mountains, Qld, Australia)

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One of the many benefits of being home again is that I can join TriAdventure on one their regular bushland epics. Today the Aunties (as our coaches are often referred to) have invited us all to join them out on an exploration of the Glasshouse Mountains. The Glasshouse Mountains are a series of volcanic peaks just north of Brisbane. They are so named by because Captain Cook thought they looked like glasshouses when he was sailing past the coast over two centuries ago. But long before that, this was a place the Aboriginal people knew by traditional names.

We start our adventure in the tiny Glasshouse Mountains village. Mountain bike carrying cars arrive one by one and exclamations of “hello how have you been” are shared amongst the family of adventure racers who come together to train with the Aunties. Before long we are receiving our briefing and ready to set off. Today we will ride some trails and climb three volcanic plugs: Tibberoowucum, the eastern twin of Tunbubudla and Ngungun.

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It’s fantastic to be back out on the trails on my fat bike (photo credit to Jan from TriAdventure). I’ve lost quite a bit of weight this past month (8kg / 17.6lbs) so am feeling much lighter on the bike. There’s less of me to carry around and I notice it up the gentle climbs that we roll over.

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The path up Tibberoowucum starts behind the mountain. It’s quite well defined but not signed. We stash our bikes in the forest out of sight of passers by and set off on foot to find our first stunning view of the day. Upwards we hike to the first summit of the mountain. The views are lovely but the best is yet to come. The Aunties have been here before and point is onwards to a rocky outcrop ahead. This requires some rock scrambling up a steep section that is probably not good for people with vertigo. But at the top there are 360′ views of the Glasshouse Mountains all the way to the sea.

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See those two peaks. That’s our next target: Tunbubudla. We’re going to climb the east (larger more rounded) peak.

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We ride a mix of clay and sand trails on our way to Tunbubudla (photo credit to Kim from TriAdventure). The fat bike handles it quite well and I manage to keep up with the group for the first time since joining TriAdventure last year. We take a long route around the mountains rather than the direct route along the power lines. It gives us a chance to explore some more of the landscape out here and take in the quiet of the pine forests.

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We approach the east peak of Tunbubudla from a spur running down it’s northern side. After stashing our bikes it’s a long steep off-track hike up to the top of the mountain. Navigation is fairly easy: just keep going up on the spur.

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The best views are from a rock slab about half-way up the mountain. We can see Tibberoowucum (where we came from ) and Ngungun (where we are going to) as well as other mountains in the Glasshouse family. But we’re not at the top yet so keep on hiking.

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The top of the peak is shrouded in trees so there’s not much of a view. But it’s still a fantastic place to visit with it’s peaceful calm atmosphere. Someone has put up orange tape down the western slope of the mountain leading down to the saddle. It is inevitable that this is the next leg of our exploration of the park. The descent to the saddle is crazy steep and it’s a good thing we have the tape to follow because it helps us avoid a cliff that drops away below us. Once in the saddle, though, there is a clear path down off the mountain and back to the bike.

It’s not that simple though because now it is bucketing down raining. We saw the rain approaching during the descent and now it is here. The clay trails turn to a quagmire and, before long first our running shoes and then our bike tyres are coated in a thick red lining that makes movement slippery at best.

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It doesn’t stop us though because we still have one mountain to climb: Ngungun. So we ride through the rain and out the other side back into sunshine to bag our final peak. I’m very familiar with Ngungun, having been there often with the outdoor recreation course I was doing (the less said about that particular course the better). We stash the bikes agai and begin our ascent, some 5 or 6 hours after starting this adventure. The views from the summit are as glorious as ever and we take some time to enjoy them before running down the mountain (no we did not run up it).

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All that’s left to do is make the quick 10 minute cycle back to Glasshouse Mountains village where we all change into clean dry clothes and hit the local cafe for some lunch. It was a fantastic day and I discovered some new places in my own backyard that I would otherwise not have known to go and explore.

Navigation training with TriAdventure (Sunshine Coast, Australia)

I joined the Tri Adventure group before I went to Indonesia. The club is an adventure racing and multisport training group organised and coordinated by two experienced and friendly adventure racers and multisport athletes. I joined because I need to get fit again and also because I have friends in the group who always look to be enjoying the training sessions and atmosphere of the club. Today the planets aligned and I was able to attend my first training session with the club.
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It’s a 120km (80 miles) drive to Noosa where the training session was being held. A 1.5 hour drive is a long way to go for training but it was so worth it. We met at the marina where the view across a short jetty over the water was a beautiful calm sight. I felt excited just being in this location.
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There were about ten of us out training today. We set off on an almost two hour bike ride along roads, fire trails and single track to the start of the navigation section of the session. I had no idea what to expect: struggling up the long 3km road climb but loving the long muddy sections of fire trail we followed. It starts to rain but at least it’s not cold today. Spring is definitely in the air and the annoyance of wet weather is tempered by the way the water darkens the tree trunks, accentuates the patterns on the scribbly gums and brightens the greens.

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At the transition from bike to navigation we receive our rogaining maps. There are two disciplines we need to complete: bike and trek. It’s up to use to decide which route we want to take and which checkpoints we want to collect. I am paired up with PE who is an experienced adventure racer and navigator. He encourages me to navigate and pushes me a little to help me learn how to speed up on the course. This isn’t an aggressive push but a calm and gentle encouragement not to stop too long to discuss navigation decisions and to run the trek leg. He shared lots of small tips to help me navigate more accurately and to save time in a race situation. I appreciated this because it was like having a private two hour lesson with someone experienced who is way more advanced than me.

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We bashed and crashed our way along the overgrown trails. There’s lantana to push through, resulting in scratched legs that are the mark of a Queensland-based rogainer or adventure racer. We got caught in the inevitable wait-a-while, which grabbed at our packs, shirts and skin to hold us in place. It’s a reality up here around South East Queensland and all you can do is try not to get frustrated or stand still while your team mate detaches the hooked plant fronds to free you.

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The challenging flora is the price we pay for playing in this fantastic landscape and climate. There’s moss-covered fallen trees with iridescent soft green coverings. Swampy creeks cut through the dense bush. The checkpoints are hidden in interesting spots like creek junctions and just off the track between the various timbers: tall old and thick, and thin and tight.

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It’s wonderful fun to be out exploring and improving my outdoor skills with this group. The Aunties (as the coaches are affectionately called) are welcoming, patient and I never feel like my current lack of fitness is a problem. On the long ride home I bonk and struggle a lot. I fall behind the group and have to walk up some relatively easy hills (I must bring better food with me next time to refuel). But always one of the Aunties waits with me and encourages me. I feel a huge sense of achievement when we return to the car park after about 6.5 hours out on the course.

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My bike and I are covered in mud – something that is always a sign of fun times that have passed. I can’t wait for the next opportunity to join the guys from Tri Adventure for another session. It was fun and even in this one session I learned ways to improve my skills.

Reflections on my trip home (Brisbane, Australia)

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I am delighted to say that this trip home was blissful. It started with my traditional visit to my sister’s house to hang out and then wake early the next morning to make her children’s breakfasts and school lunches. This has become something of a tradition since my first trip home in September last year. My youngest nephew likes to write the date of my return on their family wall calendar and I look forward to the chaos of children in the morning.

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The first thing I did after the breakfast date was to pick up my fat bike. This new set of wheels has coloured my visit home and changed the way I have been living. There’s something magnificent about crossing the road and hitting the beach on two wheels. It’s a quiet and peaceful place to ride compared with the shared pedestrian and cycle pathway along the waterfront. I feel like I’m having an adventure every time I set off and I’ve had quite a few adventures this fortnight.

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But it’s not all been family and bikes. Paul and I have shared some really lovely times together this fortnight, making up for our month apart. We’ve been out to visit friends, eaten out and been to the movies. We’ve lazed on the couch, walked along the waterfront and worked out in the gym. It’s not easy on either of us my travels but we both know I have to follow this Looking for 42 adventure through to its natural conclusion (whatever that might be). But at the same time the periods apart are probably good to help us get to know each other. It allows us to appreciate each other when we are together and to think outside the box for ways we want to live together. And I learned on my last visit home that I am not ready to settle down just yet.

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Next year I won’t have as much freedom to travel for a month at a time due to university commitments. But this trip home has taught me that there will be many other shorter adventures waiting for me close to home (both in Australia and in countries close to home). And then, when I am free again, more overseas adventures might await.

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But for now, as I write this, I am flying from Dubai to Budapest looking out the window at snow clad peaks that rise above deep dry valleys. We just flew over two massive blue lakes and past two volcanic peaks that looked like Mt Fuji and a tiny version of Mt Fuji. I can’t read the Arabic script on the flight path monitor so don’t know which country we are over but my limited knowledge of this area says it is probably Iran. The landscape looks amazing down there. And I find myself wondering what Hungary and Slovakia will bring.

Bike packing kit

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I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed any products or businesses on this blog. But today I am making an exception.  I bought my first Bike Bag Dude bikepacking kit in late 2013 before I started touring. I got a half frame bag, bar roll, seat post bag and chaff bags. I used the kit for Audax cycling, a bike packing trip and my current cycle touring.

When I bought the fat bike I decided to set it up for bikepacking so that I have no excuses not to take it on adventures. And given the robust and stylish quality of my existing Bike Bag Dude kit, deciding on a supplier was a no brainer. Also, I recently met the Dude and his wife in Newcastle and I really like their style, attitude and customer service. They do a lot for the bike packing and fat biking community here in Australia that goes far above and beyond their business as manufacturers and suppliers of kit.

My kit arrived in the mail today and now I can’t wait to take the fat bike for a proper overnight or multiday ride. Of course I can’t just yet because I leave for Hungary on Saturday week and have commitments before I leave. But I am going to strap some of the kit to my tourer while I am in Hungary because I just cannot leave it at home untested.

If you are looking for bikepacking kit or for some handy contraptions for carrying items while cycling (whatever your discipline), check out the Bike Bag Dude website. You are sure to find something there. (My recommendation is that every cyclist needs at least one chaff bag; everyone I’ve shown mine to has bought one and loved it.)

The new fat bike

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You might remember my excitement before I went to Japan after I bought a fat bike. Well, I picked it up last Thursday when I got home and haven’t looked back.

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I have been hitting the local beaches almost every day to spin along feeling the 4.6″ tyres floating over the soft sand. Sometimes I ride when the tide is in, getting a serious workout. Other times the tide is out and the sand is not so difficult to cross (though our beach is relatively soft even at low tide).

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Every ride feels like a holiday and the possibilities of where I can go feel endless. I haven’t even put my touring bike back together after unpacking it from the cardboard box. The fat bike is just so much fun to ride. And when the riding is fun I notice different things like the beach art some locals made and the view through a rock wall that I often pass.

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I rode out on a sand bar that I have wanted to explore since moving in here. Fishermen use it all the time, staying out until the tide covers their knees and thighs. I can see why because it’s peaceful and quiet out here.

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The fat bike opens up a whole new world of cycling. A world that is fun and relaxing. I am sure that it will also be challenging once I set off on some longer adventures on the new bike. I have a few modifications to make so that the bike is tour ready. But for now, it’s a play toy for riding at home and staying a little bike fit for my next tour.

I bought a fat bike

Image from Specialized.com

After riding the fat bike at Newcastle last week I decided I needed a fat bike to complete my cycle touring options. So I went to some bike shops, test rode a few bikes and fell head over heels in love with the 2015 Specialized Fatboy. I won’t actually have the money to buy the bike until I get back from Japan in May but there were only two in my size left in Australia with no new bikes likely until the 2016 model is released. So I talked with the guys at Epic Cycles where I bought my Vivente World Randonneur touring bike last year and they agreed that I could pay a deposit now and pick the bike up in May when I pay the balance. So stay tuned for some fat bike adventures in the second half of 2015. I can’t wait to head over to Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island), Moorgumpin (Moreton Island), Bribie Island and up to the Cooloola Coast.

Buying the bike has got me excited about cycle touring again after a long break. I was going to go hiking tomorrow but think I will now go for a cycle tour instead. I miss being out on two wheels cruising along checking out the scenery.