Noosa River day 3: Camp 3 back to Elanda Point (Queensland, Australia)

There’s always a small sense of sadness when I wake on the final morning of an adventure. I often feel torn between my desire to return home and my contentment at being outdoors. And so it is this morning as I wake and listen to the birds outside my tent.

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It rained overnight and is overcast this morning so the world is a different colour to the same place yesterday. The reflections are slightly subdued but the rain has washed the dusty sand off the plants to leave them looking sparkly and clean. Mushrooms that were grey yesterday are pink today.

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We eat breakfast and pack our gear. Lake Cootharaba is known for afternoon swell and with the wind picking up we don’t want to be caught out. Besides, mornings are a great time to paddle. The boats are lighter this morning compared with our trip out. We’ve eaten most of the food and drank most of the water. This is one of the good things about a human-powered trip home.

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We are in high spirits as we paddle back downstream. The water is particularly glassy because it has not yet been disturbed for the day. We glide like ice skaters moving across black coloured ice. We have about 17km (11 miles) to paddle back to Elanda Point. The wind and tide will be against us the entire journey. But that’s not a problem because we have plenty of time.

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Besides we have no other place to be other than the river. We take plenty of rest stops along the way. First is Harry’s Hut where we stretch our legs and on the jetty. Then the Kinaba Visitor Centre where a motorboat stops alongside us; the driver saying ‘hello’ while his passengers stretch their legs.

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The river ends at Kinaba. From here we begin the crossing of Lake Cootharaba. It’s almost midday and the winds have picked up. It’s blowing about 20 knots and the shallow waters have turned into a sea of swell. With grey skies above us we do what has to be done: set off across the lake. We know our boats can handle the conditions and are here for an adventure after-all.

To be honest, I love the sensation of paddling through waves. It feels powerful and kayaks look amazing in this type of water. Mum powers away li a pro. You’d think she paddles regularly.

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An hour later we are pulling into Elanda Point. Our adventure is complete. All that’s left to do is unpack the boats, load them onto the car and drive home.

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But not without a selfie to mark the occasion. I’m so lucky to have a mum who enjoys the outdoors as much as I do. We had a great time together on the river. I can’t wait for our next adventure.

Noosa River day 2: Camp 3 to Cooloola Sand Patch return (Queensland, Australia)

I always sleep well in my tent. There’s something about the fresh air and sounds of nature that does it for me. When I wake I am refreshed and ready to explore. I lower my kayak into the river at 6am. It’s so still that every blade of grass along the banks is reflecting clearly on the water. I feel like the only person on the river and see no one as I drift and paddle upstream. Campsites 4 and 5 are deserted and tranquil. The only sound is the gentle lap of water from the small ripples my kayak creates.

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For an hour I drift and paddle a gentle path across the onyx black water. The sun comes up . First it reflects orange light sharply on the water before quickly rising to reveal a blue sky.

I return to camp an hour later and find Mum is awake. I cook a breakfast of semolina pudding (semolina, powdered milk, sultanas, water and honey). It is infinitely more tasty than porridge and just as easy to pack.

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You can walk to the Cooloola Sand Patch from camp 3 so I suggest this instead of paddling further upstream for the day. Mum readily agrees. It’s a 12km (8 miles) return hike along a section of the Cooloola Great Walk.

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Despite the heat it’s a pretty walk. Mushrooms / toadstools force their way through the sand to stand camouflaged along the track.

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Other fungi grow more brightly on the trees.

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A goanna crosses our path. These modern day dinosaurs at large and move loudly when they move. They must have few predators. This one is only small.

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The banksia are in flower. They must have a long season for many spent flowers adorn the trees beside their bright yellow siblings. At night the fruit bats will again flap their wings loudly as they move from one of these nectar filled treasures to the next. At times we glimpse the sand patch in the distance. It extends to the north and south of us as we make our way along the final ridge top approach. We also see the ocean off in the distance but will not reach it today.

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The sand patch is immense. Signs warn walkers not to meander here too much due to the heat and potential to damage the delicate ecosystem. It’d also be fairly easy to become disoriented here with the world of yellow and blue around you.

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We cross the sand patch to the lookout recommended for day walkers. From here we can see south to Elanda Point where we started our adventure yesterday. There’s a lot of flat lands down there below the edge of the patch. Wallaby tracks cross our path, as do the markings of insects and reptiles. It looks like a lizard had climbed directly up one of the steep slopes. It’s quite interesting to think about this place as a home to life.

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We eat a snack at the lookout and rest a bit in the shade taking in the views. Then it’s time to walk back the way we came all the way back to camp, some 6km (4 miles) away.

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It’s a stinking hot day so we spend some time sitting on the jetty dangling our legs in the river. Mum jumps in for a swim but I’m happy to just chill on the jetty.

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An afternoon nap in the shade at camp follows before we return to the jetty to watch day turn to night. Dinner and an early night round out what has been a fabulous day.

Noosa River day 1: Elanda Point to Camp 3 (Queensland, Australia)

Mum and I have a plan: to load up the kayaks and paddle the Noosa River. We did this a few years ago with rented canoes and Mum mentioned then that she’d love to have been up here for three days instead of two. So that’s what we’re doing.

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The drive up to Elanda Point is uneventful but for the fact that we left late. It’s already 1pm when we finally drift out into Lake Cootharaba. Camp 3 is about four hours away so we will have just enough time to make it before dark.

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Lake Cootharaba always feels so vast and exposed. There’s not much to protect the lake’s shallow waters from the winds, no matter the direction. And it can get quite choppy here.

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Fortunately, it is relatively calm today. My boat cuts through the small waves with ease. Mum’s boat sits lower so she has two small waves wet her but otherwise it handles well too. Slowly we make our way across the lake. There’s two people in a canoe pottering away to our left and two people in a rented three person kayak come towards us from the river. But mostly we are alone on the vast expanse of gently chopping water.

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Us and the commerants.

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We enter the Noosa River. Instantly the world is calmer. There’s no choppy water to contend with now; just smooth black water along which we glide. It’s like sliding on the smoothest black stone you can imagine.

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We paddle through a field of water lilies. Their purple flowers turn their faces to the sun. Some reflect prettily on the mirror-like surface of the water.

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We stop briefly at Fig Tree Point. There’s a camp site and jetty here. It’s still accessible by 4WD but still feels peaceful and wild.

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Back on the river we continue our paddle. The waterways are well signed and there’s no risk of us getting lost in the channels that meander between the islands and lakes leading to our destination. We stop briefly at Harry’s Hut to fill up the drink bottles we’ve emptied. The water is untreated so we’ll use it at camp tonight. We have plenty of water but I always like to top up when I have the chance.

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For the next hour or so we drift and paddle ever upstream. The water is so still and the reflections magical. We finally pull into the little jetty at campsite 3 just as the clock ticks over 5:30pm. We unload, share a peanut butter sandwich (mum was tired because she bonked from lack of calories not for want of fitness) and set up camp. It’s so good to be out camping again for the first time in months; I have missed this simple pleasure.

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Soon we are watching the sun setting over the river, cooking up a feed and relaxing while the nocturnal animals scurry around the bush around us.

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.

Redcliffe to Redlands Walk – Jim Soorley Bikeway (Queensland, Australia)

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Paul drops me off at Nudgee Road where I left off my walk two days ago. I had logistic issues yesterday so couldn’t continue my hike but today the rain has eased off so it will be a nicer day for walking anyway. The dark water of Kedron Brook creates reflections of the boats moored here at its mouth. It’s quiet and peaceful on the muddy banks despite being so close to the highway. I can see why the boaties might choose to stay here.

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The first section of the Jim Soorley Bikeway takes me across the swamp on a boardwalk. It’s muddy down there and I’m glad not to have to walk through it. It’s pretty and the muddy grass seems to absorb surrounding sound.

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Once off the boardwalk the path is bitumen all the way to Toombul. It’s a relatively springy surface compared with the concrete paths I have been walking on since setting off a week ago. For most of my walk Kedron Brook will be on my left and the grasslands on my right. In the distance, cars and trucks rumble down the Gateway Motorway but the surrounding nature and distance muffles it enough to leave me feeling relaxed in nature.

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It’s lovely walking with clouds reflecting on Kedron Brook.

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And air roots dropping out of Moreton Bay fig trees seeking the earth.

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I didn’t expect to enjoy this leg of the walk because on a bicycle it’s a bit dull. But walking is slower so I see and experience more than when rolling through at 20kph. The 9.5km walk is a wonderful way to start the day. I have now walked 45km towards my goal and 69.5km in total including return legs.

Redcliffe to Redlands Walk – Boondall Wetlands

The car park at Boondall North Station is packed with commuter’s cars. I remember a time when my days were dictated not by my will but by the train schedule and office hours. I know that in a few hours time tired eyes will stare blankly at iPhones, laptops, book pages or out the train window willing the day to be over. Bodies will emerge from the steel sliding doors and tired feet will carry the weary workers home. It’s a life that seems so foreign to me now but a reality that was mine until just a year ago. I park down a side road and use the railway station overpass to cross the tracks onto the Moreton Bay Cycleway. The first few kilometres of today’s hike are not so interesting. I follow the path between the railway line and Entertainment Centre, walk along a busy road and cross under the even busier highway.
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But then I am here: Boondall Wetlands.
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A sign tells me that it is 4km from here to Nudgee Road. That seems like a good target. And so I walk, taking in the fresh air, swampy surrounds and bird song. Progress is steady. I am in no rush but do have to be back on time to do the grocery shopping before picking Paul up from work. It sure beats the old commute.
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The Boondall Wetlands are everything that is good about nature in Brisbane. Mangroves stand in black water swamps. Their glossy leaves often floating on the water and their gnarled shapes reflecting like an ancient architecture.
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Paperbark trees shed their skins and show off the last of their autumnal blooms. Their bark provides shelter for insects and lizards while their blooms are nectar for the birds and bees.
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She-oaks whisper in the wind telling stories to all who will listen. And grass seed heads blow around like fans.
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I can imagine the way the Traditional Owners lived here. There would have been fish to catch and wallabies to hunt. Berries must have grown and they probably knew how to prepare the plant life that makes up bush tucker. Interpretive signs attempt to show glimpses of their lives. And Aboriginal art adorns the tops of poles along the path. I’m glad to have found a space where Aboriginal Peoples are not ignored and their stories told, rather than tacked on as an after thought to post-1788 history.
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My walk takes me 7.5km closer to my goal. And adds 15km to my total distance. I have now walked 35.5km of my goal and 60km including return legs.

Redcliffe to Redlands walk – The Sandgate foreshore (Queensland, Australia)

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The morning sun rises over the Brighton Beach mudflats. They stretch out into Moreton Bay towards the Peninsula from where I have walked. The wind has died down and the cold snap passed. All that’s left is perfect walking weather. Paul drops me off on his way to an appointment so I don’t have to worry about a return leg.
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I set off down the white sandy beach. It’s interesting that this little corner has perfect white sand. It must be where the water from the gap between Minjerribah and Moreton Islands flows, pushing white sand from the surf side of the islands into the bay. See, the sand on Redcliffe’s beaches is tinged with red and orange from the rock shelves that sit off the Peninsula’s coast while further south along the Sandgate foreshore the sand is darkened with black pigments making it dark and muddy in appearance.
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At the entrance to Bramble Bay I look back at where I have walked the past three days. I can see the arc from Woody Point to here. It’s magnificent.
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The Sandgate Foreshore extends into the distance from here. It’s a lovely place to walk with a long shallow sandy/muddy bank extending out to sea and a cute chapel marking the end of the beach.
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A few kilometres farther and I am at the headland that marks the end of Sandgate’s foreshore. From here I can look south to the airport and Port of Brisbane. I will pass these later I my walk.

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I turn westward along Cabbage Tree Creek. The Boondall Wetlands are just there on the other side but I will have to walk back to the main road to cross a series of bridges around the creek and swamp. This creek is home to the Queensland Cruising Yacht Club. And then, in stark contrast, fishing boats occupy the banks further upstream.
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The last few kilometres of today’s walk take me into the suburbs. Here traditional old bayside homes rub shoulders with modern brick ones. Gardens burst with colour as winter flowers bloom. It could be easy to dismiss the urban sections of this walk and try to skip them. But I’m sure there’s things to see and experience here too. So I continue.

I end today’s walk at North Boondall. Paul has finished his appointment and comes to pick me up. I’ve walked 11.5km, taking me to the 28km mark and a cumulative total of 44.5km including the return legs.