Cooloola Great Walk… well, kind of…

I swear, the Cooloola region is out to get me! The last time I planned an adventure here, The relentless wind blew me sideways on a bike trip on Teewah beach, which caused me to push my bike for 33km before jagging a lift to Tewantin with some beautiful people. Before that, I’d booked the Great Walk twice before only to have it cancelled by QPWS due to fires in the area. The Cooloola Wilderness Trail got me a couple of years back when I almost froze solid on the banks of the Noosa river. When I first got my fat bike, I drove all the way to Rainbow to ride for a day in the forestry, only to have the seat break in the first five minutes. Oh yes, and of course there was the bed incident at Teewah village in 2007, which is a long story without a happy ending in which I got to see someone I’d always loved for who they truly were: a horrible, horrible arsehole.

It’s not all bad though. I did find a $50 note on the side of Rainbow Beach Road in 2019 on my way there on a charity hike for brain injury. Plus, the community at Rainbow is really cool. Rainbow Beach is where my dad taught me how to swim safely in the surf when I was a little kid. I also had my first go at catching sandworms with Dad on the surf beach. I have always loved seeing the brumbies roaming wild in the pine forests on the way into Rainbow. It’s a really nice place and when I was a kid I used to say that when I grew up I would either live at Rainbow or on Fraser Island.

The hike started out fine:

At the trailhead: Cooloola Great walk

The first day from Carlo sandblow to Kauri campsite wasn’t too bad because it was only 15.2km. The worst part was getting up onto the trail from the sandblow. I was mindful of my hiking boots because the right one has a massive hole in it, which I’d only noticed the day before. I didn’t want my boot to fill up with sand, but after a while I decided to just forget about it because worrying about it wasn’t going to reduce the sand intrusion. In the end, it didn’t matter because no extra sand made its way into my right boot anyway.

I was hopeful I’d see some lightning sand (fulgurite), but I was too intent on getting across the sandblow to have a proper look. This desire to do everything at speed would become a problem as time wore on.

On the sandblow looking out towards Double Island Point
On the trail side of the sandblow looking towards the Great Sandy Straights
Trail marker at the start of the trail

I got to Kauri much quicker than I expected. There was a lot of “track clag”, by which I mean big tree falls blocking the trail. Some of the trees were massive and I wondered if they were infected with cinnamon fungus.I could tell that one of the big trees had fallen in the last 24 hours because I could still smell the chlorophyll. At this point I started to pay more attention to the extremely windy conditions. Would a tree fall on me? As the the day wore on, branches crashed through the canopy and onto the trail in front of me and behind me, but somehow I didn’t get taken out.

There were a lot of cool fig trees..

Fig tree: it looks like an alien has splattered itself onto the host tree

I’m not sure what species of fig these are, but they have massive fruit:

Huge fig. According to Gardening Australia, all native figs are edible. These smelled pretty good.

At the campsite there were two other solo hikers already set up. I was not expecting this and I wasn’t particularly excited about it, but nature doesn’t belong to me, so I have to stop thinking that I’m the only person who likes doing stuff outdoors. It was really windy setting up the tent and it had been raining on and off all day, which was really annoying for setting the tent up, but I managed to get it done before there was a major downpour. Argh! It pissed down rain all night long and I was less than impressed when water started dripping on my head. I have a $750 Wilderness Equipment tent: Water is not meant to drip on my head!

I was also a little bit worried about the wind. I kept thinking about all the fallen trees I’d seen on the trail that day. In the end I had to say to myself, I doesn’t matter if a tree falls on you because you’ll be dead, so you won’t know anything about it. All night I swear I could hear music. It sounded like a distant concert.

Campsite at Kauri. I was grateful for the lockbox. It meant I didn’t have to put all my crap in the tent.

The next day was a 20.5km walk to Littoria campsite. This was really hard because I walked too fast and as a result got royally fucked up by my need for speed. I also got bitten by a spider or a little snake somewhere along the trail, which didn’t help. About half way I started to think that I wanted to go home.

By the time I got to the campsite I could hardly move because my hip flexors were killing me. After I set the tent up and had stopped moving I realised I was in a bit of trouble because I felt like absolute shit (maybe from a combination of the snake/spider bite and the reality that I’m not invincible?). At this point I decided that it would be pretty stupid to keep going because if I did get sick combined with the obvious reality that my hip flexors would only get worse as the kilometres wore on, I would be in a bit of trouble. Someone was coming to pick me up at the end of the hike, so it was no big deal to get them to come and pick me up the next day instead.

Littoria is pretty much right on Kings Bore Road, which I knew was a way out to Cooloola Way, although I wasn’t sure if it was open to vehicles. There was phone service here, so I phoned the Qld government to find out if the road was open to vehicles. What a complete waste of time that was. They had no idea what I was even asking and would not forward my call to QPWS so I could get some local information. In the end I just winged it and it ended up being ok.

I walked about 10km out along Kings Bore Road to the intersection with Cooloola Way. It was a really nice walk and even though everything was killing me, and I had a massive headache, it didn’t get to me too much. I got to see this awesome creek, which I would not have even known existed had I not left the hike…

Teewah Creek. This is a really nice spot. Luckily it wasn’t too deep. It would’ve been good for swim.

The entire great walk is around 100km. I ended up doing about 50km. I can always come back to where I got picked up to do the remainder of the hike even though a ranger I saw didn’t seem too impressed that I’d been walking on Kings Bore Road. “I’m pretty sure I’m not a vehicle,” I said to him because there were signs that vehicles weren’t allowed, but none to say that pedestrians couldn’t use the road. It’s a real shame that these old road aren’t accessible by cyclists (bikes are considered vehicles by QPWS in some locations) because they’d be great for bikepacking. It’s a low impact activity, so who knows why you can’t take bikes on roads. A utopia of rules.

A valuable thing I learnt via this experience is that I need to treat hiking as recreation and not as a race because it’s not a race: I have to slow the fuck down. Also, just because you’re extremely fit from training on a bike and on a HIIT machine, it doesn’t mean you can just head off on a 100km hike if you don’t even go on short walks. Durr! I also learnt that it’s ok to call it quits, that it’s smart to call it quits, that it’s not weak to call it quits, that it’s the responsible thing to call it quits, that calling it quits in a situation like this means you are not a danger to yourself or to others, which demonstrates good decision-making. Being a good decision-maker is an essential quality for living an adventurous life, in fact, for living any kind of meaningful life.

…of all strategies, knowing when to quit may be the best…