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.
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.
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.
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.
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.