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.

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.

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.

My first fat bike ride (Newcastle, NSW)

While I was in Sydney, Kath and Kedan of the Bike Bag Dude invited me to travel up to Newcastle to visit them. I’ve been corresponding with Kath and Kedan for over a year since I bought my bikepacking kit off them. I can’t live without my Bike Bag Dude bar roll bag and chaff bag. When cycle touring I carry my tent and jacket in the bar roll while I carry snacks and camera in my chaff bag for easy access. Anyway, I had to work Wednesday so I did some work in the morning before catching an afternoon train from Sydney to Newcastle. The 2.5 hour train ride was lovely but I didn’t really pay attention because I was knocking over some work. I spent the night being introduced to sashimi at a local sushi shop in Newcastle and talking the night away.
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On Thursday morning, Kedan loaded their fat bikes onto the back of the car and took me out on my first fat bike ride.
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Well, all I can say is that riding a fat bike gave me the same instant joy as I got when I first got on board my Vivente World Randonneur touring bike twelve months ago. It was hot so we just had a short ride out along a break wall. I could never ride this on a regular mountain bike because the shale rocks were so loose. But the fat bike just rolled over them. We hung out watching the waves roll into the Macquarie Lakes and beach where a guy was paddling a surf ski and a group of people were learning to surf.
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And then came the real treat: cycling on the beach. I followed Kath and Kedan out onto the sand. At first I had a huge automatic urge to put my foot down to stop myself sliding out in the soft sand. But it wasn’t necessary: the bike just floated across.
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If cycling is about the way it makes you feel then fat bike riding is brilliant.
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As we rode back to the car we checked out a short trail through some mangroves near a tidal pond. As I stood there looking out over the water I decided that I need a fat bike to complete my touring options. I live near some of the biggest and most accessible sand islands in the world, fantastic sand beaches and I really want to give snow cycling a go both in Australia and overseas so it makes sense. I was toying with the idea of buying a standard MTB but I’m not really a technical rider. But between the fat bike and my tourer I will be able to ride everywhere. So watch this space for more fat bike adventures after I get back from Japan in mid-May.

On another note: if you are interested in bikepacking, I highly recommend the Bike Bag Dude’s gear. It’s top quality, hand made by the Dude himself, you can get custom colours to match your bike, the zips are waterproof and he treats his customers like friends, which means he doesn’t compromise on quality. If you are in Brisbane and want to have a look at some kit, I can show you mine. No one has enticed or encouraged me to write this recommendation – it comes from my personal experience as a BBD client.