Hi. I’m Jen. I’m an everyday person who loves adventure. Check out how you can become adventurous too. It’s not as hard as you think!

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Adventure can be anything you like. It doesn’t have to be a massive feat of physical strength and death defying endurance where you freeze your butt off on mountainsides or get chased down by a gang of rabid koalas looking to make even all the wrongs of their past. I mean, if that’s what floats your boat then by all means go for it, but I’m guessing that for most people (me included) the koalas are out and so is the mountain…for the time being that is. Once I build my skills and my self belief and maybe even my own crew I’ll be able to get Zen with that mountain and perhaps convince the koalas that revenge isn’t the best tactic for a peaceful revolution nor for their image. I used to think they were so damn cute before I wrote this. Now I’m not so sure.

Adventure is for all of us. It’s inclusive and is something you can pursue in your everyday life. All it takes is the first tiny step outside of your comfort zone.

Step onto the path and courage will find you.

 

 

How a hike turned into a concert, turned into a bike ride, turned into a clay lease, turned into hot chips..

I rode a long way, but it wasn’t meant to be like that and I blame The Hu.

I got some time off work to hike the northern section of the Fraser Island Great Walk. I’ve done the entire southern section once and various parts of it a few times over the years, but could never make the timing work for the northern section, not to mention the added cost of chartering a light plane to get off the island.

Basically, organising it just seemed waaay too much effort and I could never be bothered to apply myself to working out how to get to the ferry landing, booking the ferry, working out distances, booking campsites, booking the plane and generally overcoming my ever-increasing malaise when it came to even thinking about it. These kinds of reasons are the same ones that make me never want to do the Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk: it’s too fucking annoying to organise! BUT, I still wanted to do it, so I made the commitment that I would. Then there was The Hu.

The Hu were playing at Eatons Hill Hotel (approx 450km from where I live) the night before I was meant to leave on the hike. What a shame, I thought. I won’t be able to go on the hike. Ohhhh. So sad. It seemed much more important to see an amazing international band with the Cool Guy I’m married to than to go on a hike that will still be there for at least another year, well, until climate change takes us all down anyway. And by that time, well, I don’t imagine I’ll have too much time for hiking, what, with fending off the climate-induced zombies and what-not.

The Cool Guy dropped me and my bike on Rainbows Road in Childers on the 7th of August. I was pretty excited because it was the first chance I’d had to use the bikepacking equipment I’d bought ages ago… Ok, I know for some die-hard bikepackers that panniers are NOT allowed for bikepacking, but you know what, I don’t actually care what anyone else thinks because it’s my life and I get to make my own rules, so panniers are bikepacking gear. Good, we’ve established that.

Me on Rainbows Road with my Fatty

I was a bit worried about going the wrong way through to Wongi from Rainbows Road, but I’d driven the route twice before and when I saw the super-rough causeway I knew I was on the track, Some of the hills were pretty steep and I was able to pick up really good speed on the downsides. I got up to 31km/hr at one point. That was very cool.

I heard a sound that was like running water, so I stopped the bike to listen properly. It was a bird, but I couldn’t see what kind. I’m guessing some kind of flycatcher. It would have been good to see it because I can’t ever remember hearing a birdcall like that before. In that same spot I spotted heaps of Hardenbergia violacea, which I was pretty excited about because I want to grow some from seed, but I couldn’t find any pods, just flowers. I did pick up a pretty cool rock though. Ooooh, exciting. I don’t normally collect rocks and shells because I think it’s stupid, but this one was really weird looking, and of course that appealed to me, so I got it, but I really should have just left it where it was.

There were lots of wooden bridges and I took photos of the bike at a couple. If I’m honest, I felt like I was pretty fucking cool.

Bike on a Rainbows Road bridge

At Duckinwilla I called in to see some people (E & M) I knew through a family I was once really close to (this family turned their backs on me when I was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2005) It was really hard not to let the conversation degenerate into a hate-spewing platform, but kept a pretty good lid on it. I did manage to get it across how I couldn’t understand how these old friends of my mine can possibly live with themselves after what they did, and how confusing it was that their eldest child (my old best friend) is now working as psychologist. “How can someone so thoughtless and selfish choose to work in a profession that is based on caring, helping and being compassionate? I just don’t understand that at all, ” I said. E didn’t have any answers, but I wasn’t really looking for that anyway, because I don’t think there are any answers to that question and there is no way to understand any of it. I wrote a story about it: here.

After E & M’s place I rode and rode and kept riding. It got dark, but I just kept going because I thought that I had to get there eventually. I could hear the highway very faintly off in the distance, which made me think I’d gone the wrong way, but I wasn’t too concerned because I though that I could just camp in the bush near the highway and get my bearings in the morning.

I rode up and down hills, over causeways, through muddly holes, past swamps and at one point I saw a torch beam in the trees. I yelled out HELLO, but no one yelled back, so I kept riding. And riding. And riding. Flying down hills, over boulders, rutts and on into the blackness, I screamed, “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?” I thought that doing what I was doing was a pretty good way to live a proper life; one that you wouldn’t regret; one that you could be proud of. And am I proud of my amazing life.

At around 9pm I reached a highway, but I could tell it wasn’t the highway I thought it was going to be (The Bruce Highway). It was way to narrow for that. I thought it might be the Maryborough-Biggenden Road, and when I heard a train sound its horn, I said to myself I bet I’m in Woocoo. I carried on for a while, swearing and shouting out loud about being so far from where I was meant to be and how there was nowhere to camp and blah, blah blah. By this stage I was cold, hungry, tired and thirsty. Plus, my legs and back were killing me. In fact, it was hard to move. I was in a bit of a “mood”

I had to park the bike and go scrabbling around in the dark to find somewhere to camp. Finally I found a decent spot at the top of big cliff that I had to climb up. Thank god for my Nike turf boots.”How am I meant to get the bike up there, you fuckhead?” I yelled at the night. It wasn’t really a problem, I just rode right to the spot on a dirt track that ran along the top of the cliff. Problem solved.

I was camped in the middle of a clay lease, which is why there were giant holes and cliffs everywhere, but I thought that there must be houses nearby because I could hear dogs barking and faint voices every now and then. At least I was happy with the spot. It was out of view from all traffic. That’s something that is really important – I can’t camp anywhere on my own that people would notice me. It just makes a lot of sense to stay hidden.

Oops, my bad

It was pretty hard to let go of being regimented regarding how things were “meant” to be. In my journal I wrote: This is the first unplanned trip I’ve ever done. I’m glad I don’t have rules about making it here of there specifically because I think that would have been pretty hard to cope with. So I didn’t make it to Wongi. Big deal.

I tried to sleep, but the bush was so noisy. At one point it was so cacophonous that I just assumed it must be dawn, but when I looked at my watch, it was only 11pm. There was a barking owl, which I actually mistook for a dog to start with, nightjars, a horse galloping and a push bike ride past on the track behind me. I told myself that it wouldn’t be a bike because that was at about 2am, but in the morning there were gravel bike tracks there.

At one point a car pulled in off the highway. The engine stopped and two people got out. I got a teeny bit worried because I wasn’t too excited about them turning the car off. Usually you only turn the car off if you’re going to hang around for a while. Anyway, they started giggling and after about 20 seconds, got back in the car and drove off. I think they dumped a child’s carseat in the bush near the clay lease sign. I saw it there the next day.

I got really cold during the night, which is totally stupid. Why didn’t I bring the good -5 Mont sleeping bag instead of the cheap-ass +10 Denali bag? What a dickhead. You’d think I would’ve learnt from the experience of being completley frozen when I hiked the Cooloola Wilderness Trail a few weeks back. I was even stupider then because I didn’t take a sleeping bag at all, just a useless “thermal” sleep sheet. Just quietly, I don’t think anything you buy in Australia that is called “thermal” is really thermal at all. I had all my clothes on: socks, shiny leggings under thermal leggins, crop top, t-shirt, thermal jumper, windproof jacket, bandana and a beanie and I was still freezing.

I reckon I have a condition called PTCD, which stands for post traumatic cold disorder. Its a real thing:

It took me a while to get going in the morning because my back was killing me. Luckily I only had to ride on the highway for about 100m because I found a track that ran between the road and properties. I saw a dude in his front yard, so I called out to him and said, “where am I?” He answered that I was in Woocoo. I knew it, I thought, so I continued on into Maryborough, where I thought I would decide where to ride to next. I started to think that I would head out to Tin Can Bay, but when I saw it 73km away, I decided against it.

Fatty at the Maryborough Town Hall

In town I got a coffee and started thinking about going to a favourite childhood fish and chip shop on Creek Road, but by the time I got there, I’d decided that I’d wait and get the chips at Maddigans in Hervey Bay because it seemed perfectly reasonable to me at that point that I could just ride into Hervey Bay, lob up to a motel and get a room for the night. I started fantasising about what it would be like to have a hot shower and lay down in a comfy bed without horses galloping around in the distance.

The road into Hervey Bay wasn’t that fun because it was busy as cats burying shit in concrete, but for some of it I was able to ride on a track I found that ran parallel to the road. When that ran out at the Susan River bridge I had to get back out with the traffic. At least I made it into Hervey Bay before it got dark. Not long after congratulating myself about my ultimate greatness, I discovered there were no vacancies in any of the caravan parks or motels anywhere in the whole entire town. If there is a word that is the opposite of YAY, then that’s the word…Oh yeah, there is a word: FUCK!!!!

So, I got the chips at Maddigans and had to call the Cool Guy to pick me up a day early. If I had’ve camped at the Susan River Homestead, instead of being so stubborn, I could have had an extra day of riding. It just seemed impossible to let go of the idea of getting into Hervey Bay once it took hold. No, I can make it! my mind said.

I don’t even know how far the whole thing was. My fit watch reckons it was 122km, but online maps reckon it was 180km. It seems more than 122, but I don’t think it was as much as 180. Still, I feel really glad I did it. Not a bad effort for my first solo bikepacking adventure.

The thing I love most about adventuring is discovering how to deal with novel situations. Skills in this domain are emergent and you never know what you’re made of until you have to get through something new and challenging. For example, how to deal with WordPress just deleting 3/4 of the original version of this post that took me almost 8 hours to craft and refine. Don’t believe a website that tells you it’s auto saving; it never is.

Not having an itinerary is totally liberating because this is where next-level adventure happens. Imagine if we all approached our lives this way.

The 14 8000s START

I’ve been working fulltime since May 2021 and I’ve found it difficult to keep up with my fitness training. I decided I needed a goal and came up with climbing the fourteen highest peaks on earth via my HIIT machine, which I bought a few months ago. It took a bit of planning, but if I start on the 14th of March, I am scheduled to finish by the 20th of June.                           

The whole thing is 115 993 vertical metres and will take 77 hours and 16 minutes to complete. It takes around 40 minutes to do 1000 vertical metres, so I based all my measurements on that. I still have other fitness goals, like building muscles, so I will tackle some of the peaks while carrying a pack and/or strap-on weights. Another fitness goal is to attain an extreme fitness level, so I will measure my 5km running time and associated max and avg heart rates as indicators. I chose the 5km run because I have good historical data for that as I’ve been doing it regularly for 6 years now.

I’ll start with peak number 14 on this list:

  1. Everest 8848m
  2. K2 8611m
  3. Kanchenjunga 8586m
  4. Lhotse 8616m
  5. Makalu 8463m
  6. Cho Oyu 8201m
  7. Duaulariri 8167m
  8. Manaslu 8163m
  9. Nanga Parbat 8125m
  10. Annapurna I 8091m
  11. Gasherbrum I 8068m
  12. Broad Peak 8047m
  13. Gasherbrum II 8035m
  14. Shishapangma 8012m

My Starting stats are:

Weight: 69.3kg

Waist: 85cm

Hips: 94cm

Biceps: 28.5cm

Forearms: 25cm

Upper legs: 58cm

Quad: 52cm

Calf: 38cm

I’ll update this once a month.

The Riders

It’s really awesome meeting other adventurous souls, so I thought I’d write a post about a few people I’ve come across lately and also not so lately. All these people seek adventure on a narrow saddle atop two wheels, one of them using a bike to transport her family to and from town.

I met “B” a while ago…maybe six years. He rode past my house one morning and the cool guy I’m married to said, “look, there’s a bike dude with packs and stuff.”. I jumped up and ran over to B, who was now standing in his bike frame checking out the river. “Hi!” I exclaimed. “Come to my house for breakfast. I live just there. I’d love to hear about what you’re doing and where you’re going.” I could tell I’d kind of freaked him out. “it’s ok,” I added, “my husband is at home too and I just made a loaf of bread,” I said, hoping I hadn’t scared him into pedalling off as fast as he could, while also making a physical effort to stop myself from jumping up and down on the spot.

Since then, B and I have stayed in touch and we catch up whenever he’s in the area on a bike tour. He never stops having adventures by way of his bike. He’s a private and very quiet guy and I feel privileged that he let his guard down long enough to allow an over-the-top extrovert into his life. I think the fresh bread won him over.

This is B”s touring bike the last time we met up for coffee in Woodgate in 2021:

When I saw this cool mum, I just had to take a photo of her and she agreed to let me post it to my website. She had her entire gaggle of kids with her and used her bike to transport everyone from place to place. She said she had the bike custom made in Europe. It was quite expensive, but much cheaper than a car and the kids really loved it. Imagine the cool stories the kids will have to tell in the futre about how they got around when they were growing up.

This is in the Bundaberg CBD:

I don’t have a photo of “K”, so I’ll leave it up to your imagination. I met him a few weeks back in Coles in Bundaberg. I noticed him because there was no way not to: he had his touring bike inside the supermarket, using it as a trolley for his groceries as though it was what the rest of us should be doing. Of course I had to ask him what he was up to.

While the rest of the shoppers gave us an extra wide berth, I asked him all about his trip and where he was headed. He gave me a few details and we swapped phone numbers to stay in touch. He’s been texting me with updates and has made his way to Agnes Water, which is where I had planned to ride in February this year, but didn’t get my bikepacking system sorted out in time. “I’ll send you some photos of my spear fishing adventures while I’m in Agnes,” he said in his last text. I wonder if he’s still using his bike as a shopping trolley?

I came across Geoff and Gerard on their touring bikes not too far from my house. I snapped a heap of photos of them on my phone, which has since died and I lost everything stored on it. Luckily we swapped contact details and Geoff has emailed me a few times with updates and photos of he and Gerard doing awesome stuff all over the place.This is a photo they took in a place called Hampden Smelter. Geoff said it looked like Mordor. They were on a trip in the Mt Isa area and flew with their bikes to get to their starting point, which I thought was pretty cool:

Then of course, there’s me and Fatty. I love riding through the sand. It’s hard, but not quite so bad after it’s been raining. I got a new job a while back, so I haven’t had much time for doing too many outdoor adventures, I’ve had to pack my usual 200km (on bike and foot) per week into my one or two days off, which is why I picked the soft sand ride when I could’ve just gone on a more compacted and formed track. Hopefully next weekend I can take off on a longer adventure. This is Fatty on the sand track. This track is around 4.5km long and here Fattyis about a third of the way along. I love the looks I get from people in 4WDs along this track! They look at me like they can’t believe I’m riding where they are struggling to drive:

This is also a great place to ride, which is part of the loop I do when I tackle the soft sand track. This is the cool guy I’m married o on his fat bike, which is nowhere near as awesome as my Fatty:

If you are in Woodgate and want to try riding a fat bike, let me know and I can hook you up.

On my fat bike I am unstoppablE

(Image attribution unavailable, but sourced from Pinterest)

Looking for Old

I love finding old stuff in the bush. I found this old bridge a few weeks ago after talking to a mate about putting our kayaks in above the weir on the Gregory River. He’d told me about a property that had access to the river, but I couldn’t get to it, so I thought I’d just keep driving and heading towards where I thought the river might be. I was so damn excited when I found this at the end of a road near Redridge:

It’s the original traffic bridge across the Gregory River. It’s over 100 years old. The year of construction (1920) is stamped on one of the walls:

So, I contacted the Childers Historical Society to see if someone can help me complete a submission to the State Heritage Register. The bridge is still intact, even though the timber has decayed. It’s an awesome example of bridge construction from that era. There wouldn’t be too many of these still around.

I also found this cool old bridge in Farnesfield:

I went to check out the other side of the road (this creek runs under the road) and found this:

I looked for the swagman, but he and his ghost were not about. There was also no jumbuck. Still, it was pretty cool.

A while ago someone parked a small cart in the bush on the Melaleuca Track. They’d tried to pull it by hand to the campsite (6km), but piked out after about 2.5km. It was only that I was looking at the cart that I noticed this, which is a really old surveyors mark. You can’t see it in the photo, but there is a large metal screw in the bottom of the scar:

Then, about 3 weeks ago, I saw this, which I was really happy about. I’ve been walking past this for years, but it was only after QPWS moved a few fallen trees off the track that it became visible. I was pretty sure it was an Ingidenous scar tree, so I sent this picture to an Indigenous mate and he reckons it is a scar tree, so hopefully I can contact the local Traditional Owners to let them know they’ve got this tree in the area.

I called the tree Yggdrasil, which I learnt about from reading a book called Overstory, and pat its side whenever I go past now:

I was riding my fat bike a while ago and found this awesome specimen in the bush near Redridge. It’s an old bakery van from the days when people used to have their hot bread home delivered. Some of the sign writing is still visible on the side. It says Kellys Hot Bread:

I get to find a lot more stuff than most people do because I go to places that other people don’t. Plus, looking for old stuff gives me a rush, which probably isn’t what gives other people a rush at all! It’s an amazing feeling to round a bend in an old track that widens up to reveal a dilapidated old shack full of aging and broken furniture; the owner long since dead and gone. My heart picks up speed at the first suggestion of the glint of sun off broken glass until the butterflies arrive in my stomach and the words how cool is this, how cool is this are tumbling repeatedly from my mouth. Standing inside the old I can’t decide where to look first and I wonder about who the people were, how they came to be here and why they left and no one ever came back. Momentarily I am sad for the vacuum their departure has left, but then am once again commanded by my unwavering curiosity towards all the things I can never know.

Come Hiking: $27

5 days

4 nights

Approx 100km

Cooloola Great Walk

Image: Cooloola Great Walk (from Queensland.com website)

Leaving from Rainbow Beach end

Date TBA, but from 12th April onwards

Cost is $6.75/night/person ($27 on QPWS booking site), plus any associated transfer costs

You won’t need a lot of experience, but you will definitely need to be fit and committed to completing the entire 100km. I’m not carrying anyone out!

Image: I’m not doing this! (Credit for image: click here)

This is a remote hike that requires self sufficiency and you will need to carry all of your own gear in a pack on your back. This will weigh somehwere in the vicinity of 10 – 20kg. You will be responsible for your own water, your own food and its preparation.

I am more than willing to help anyone who needs a hand with stuff, including advice and any recommendations, I just wanted to make it clear than while I am an experienced hiker with eco tourism qualifications, this is NOT a glamping experience and you will be responsible for your own health, safety and any other requirements.

There are a few companies that charge people for this hike. This company lists it as $1095 per person and all you get is your food and the camping permits. That means that the experience and the food is worth a whopping $1068!! Gees, the food would want to be bloody top shelf for that price. Not sure my indian sachets would cut it:

Image: I love these things! They are so freakin’ yummy. You can get them from supermarkets, but the best ones come from Indian shops (Gits Ready Meals). They are all around $2.50 – $4.00 each.

I have a few hiking items I can lend people, but this is a list of basic requirements:

  • Hiking pack (this needs to have some kind of frame. If you can bend your pack , it has no frame and isn’t any good for hiking long distances).
  • Tent
  • Sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag
  • Mess kit (you know, stuff you use to eat. Include a stove here if you want to take one)
  • Snake bite kit (At least one good compression bandage)
  • Personal light
  • Toiletries
  • Water and water bottles (inlcude water filtration if you want to filter water. I don’t normally bother if it’s tank water)
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Good shoes/boots

Image: Hiking gear. Trangia stove in foreground. Helinox chair and poles, Wilderness Equipment tent.You don’t need expensive gear like this. I only have it because sponsors gave it to me.

A cheap dome tent (not a pop-up one though) from KMart will work fine, or if you want a cheap entry-level hiking tent, check out Snowys. Wild Earth is another awesome outdoor store in Qld. There’s also heaps of good second hand stuff for sale on Gumtree and ebay.

Some stuff you can share, like water filtration, stoves and tents, so not every person needs their own personal item if you are willing to share these things. Sharing stuff also means you can carry half each to reduce each person’s load.

This kind of thing takes a fair bit of dicking around to organise logistically because you have to work out where to leave your car, how to get to the trailhead from where you did leave it, and then at the end, ummm, how do I get home?? So, what I’m saying here is that if you are interested in coming along, we’d have to sort these details out. I can fit (read: squash) 4 other people in my car.

Image: This is a tidied up version of what dicking around looks like. Of course, this doesn’t capture the ten hours I’ve invested in the whole thing or phone calls and emails I’ve made and sent to ask questions about car storage, transportation, etc, etc. It’s easy to see why a lot of people just pay the thousand bucks for a tour company to do this for them. It would save a lot of hair-pulling.

Contact me on this website or send me and email to let me know if you’re interested:

talulasweetie@gmail.com

Image: Me on the last long distance hike I did (450km).