Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Moreton Island fatbike trip - Day 3

'I guess it doesn't seem so far' wifey replied.

'Yep, the lighthouse is about the same as a ride into town, and the ride across Middle Rd is like from home to the pool'. I added.

I knew I wasn't telling the whole truth, but if they knew the full details of the days trip, they may not have come along to share the adventure. I had to keep the carrot in front. I knew they could do it, and it would raise their personal benchmarks. Wifey has come along on many adventures, usually suffering at the back - but like a hobbit she digs deep and keeps on trucking. The pet monkey is indifferent and knows nothing else - adventures with daddy are just that - adventures.

Plan was to travel north along the western beach, east along the track that crosses the island (Middle Rd), then north up to Cape Moreton and the lighthouse and return the same route. Without the benefit of reconnaisance, I researched what I could, packed what I knew we'd need and provisioned for a big day. Tides were favourable, winds SS/W 15kn, with a bit of chop on the western side. Depart resort 0830.

All smiles.

As we rounded the point where the wrecks are, we waved to the family in the Pajero we first spoke to on the Micat. Obviously off for an adventure too.

On the previous afternoon we did a short reconnaisance ride along Middle Rd to check for track conditions. The wheel ruts were firm, had good traction and left us confident for todays ride. However, the grader had been through first thing this morning and knocked the top off the centre ridge, placing soft, aerated sand in the wheelruts. As we were the first ones through after the grader, this made it a bit hard going  on the uphills. I actually found it easier to ride on the centre ridge, but the tagalong made it quite hard to maintain a line, so usually ended up dropping back into the rut. No biggie, just walk.

A great thing about travelling by bike is the speed at which you see the world - you can appreciate your surroundings and take notice of the little things. Take this little guy for example - the pet monkey plucked him from the wheel rut and placed him on a nearby fern.

I experimented with tyre pressure on this sand - I was running 10psi and was awesome, but dropped it to 4psi for Middle Rd, for what seemed no real benefit. Bike became sluggish and required more effort to cover ground. Soon we crested the high point (confirmed with topo and altimeter) and descended through the cuttings to the beach and smoko. Wifey fell a few times, mainly due to getting caught in the ruts and flopping over hubbard style. Just like buttered toast, always drivetrain side down...

Time for a bit of smoko and bush tucker, pet monkey tried some of the pigface with mixed reviews - salty face!

Wind was still around 15kn, S on ocean side, so we had a nice tailwind up to the lighthouse. The walking on Middle Rd took a bit more time than planned and reduced my contingency time, but we were still within my tide window. A good recharge for wifey, to smell the fresh sea air - mum always reckons it gives you a good appetite.

We made great time with the tailwind. Pet monkey took a break from the hard work of pedalling to tweet and update her fb status, pinterest her pics and geocache the best shells she found. I can't recall if I was asking her if this was a Strava segment, or to pass me a jelly snake...

We sang songs. We stopped for shells. We stopped for cuttlefish. We stopped for seasponges. In short, we just rode like 7 year olds again, enjoying the warm sunshine and the wind at our backs. We've done a lot of 4wd driving over the years, but always felt a bit closed in, encased in our metal machine, isolated from the elements a bit too much and rushing along the beach, unable to absorb the experience and slow down metaphorically from an artificially quickened life. Geez, that was deep. Here's another photo that may explain:

Obscured by sea spray, was the Cape Moreton lighthouse. We stopped a few times for lagoon crossings and lolly snakes, tide was rising and the plan was to be lunching at the lighthouse during the peak. Pet monkey was in top spirits, she has grown up adventuring with us and her energy levels are amazing. Wifey was starting to fatigue, an energy gel and some motivation was in order. I sang Eye of the Tiger for her, several times, she said she felt really strong and I owed her a foot rub. I think she just wanted me to stop singing...

...then she saw the 20% track up to the lighhouse and beyond, but it wasn't enough to crack her. We saw the family in the Pajero again at the lighthouse carpark - I could see they were just about to ask the obvious question ('did you guys ride here')

Time for a celebration coke, a sandwich and a few jelly snakes, we savoured the views and discussed our return options. With my contingency time lost, plan b was to venture down to Champagne pools and Honeymoon bay, but fearful the inland tracks would be more of the same Middle Rd conditions, we opted to return the same way - that meant facing that headwind, which had whipped up closer to 25kn SE. Now was the time to start thinking aerodynamic thoughts...what would Gerard do?

You can see the rope and ghetto ski handle on the rackbag - I was going to tow wifey back along ocean beach. The strategy was for wifey to only give 50% effort on the way back to Middle Rd, she could grip the rope handle with 2 fingers each side and just let go as needed. Which was a pretty sweet deal for her really, she ONLY had to give 50%. I'm not complaining, mind. I barely noticed her directly. The fact that she was attached to the halfbike, I only felt like I was towing a half buried tractor tyre. With a football team sitting on it. Each player holding a carton of beer. Hurling obscenities.

The wind was really up now, at least 30kn, when we stopped it would blow you off balance. Needless to say, the fender I had on the tagalong was like a sail, it caught so much air and didn't do us any favours.  On this day, Demis Roussos had it all wrong - the wind was not our friend...

The wind did ease a bit right on sundown, but that was ironically timed with rain coming in to saturate us. Best speed we could maintain was 5km/hr in the peak of the wind, as it died down during the rain we smashed it at 8km/hr. At one break I checked on the monkey, she was shivering and wet, we layered her up and I loaded her up with some secret chocolates I had stashed. Her eyes lit up just seeing the wrappers. The eyes have it...

To keep the monkey warm and focused, we got off and ran up the dunes to check each yellow distance marker, while wifey held the bikes and battled some fatigue. When I was almost out of earshot, I thought I heard 'never.....expletive......along.....expletive......adventure.....' it might have been the wind, or maybe she had early onset voluntary tourettes...

We got to Middle Rd and paused for smoko - a coke, some more jelly snakes, a muesli bar or two. The sun had set, leaving us with a very dark beach and a gazillion stars. We spent some time counting satellites, wifey pointed out constellations to the monkey while I checked the gear, reset altimeter and setup the lights. Altimeter? Yup, I needed accurate data to reference the topo map, to relay to my team how far we had to go to the summit. Wilson, my aging Garmin 305, wasn't very good at tracking distance at walking speeds, so couldn't be relied upon for distance.

We could only ride about 500m west along Middle Rd until the incline got us both. We were walking for a few minutes, then saw some headlights behind us - it was a tradies ute we'd seen a few times today. He stopped, asked if we were okay - 'we're all good, thanks' was my reply. One of the disheartening things for my team was that his taillights were visible for about the next 4 minutes - and they just kept going up and up...

We summitted in good time, the monkey alternated walking with wifey and sitting on the tagalong - they both dug deep and even laughed at some of my dad jokes. The descent was amazing - in many ways as the next paragraph explains...

 At one point on the more level section of the descent, I heard something in the bush to my left. It was making constant movement sound, not a rythmic sound like a wallaby (of which there are none on the island) - you could have even thought this animal was tracking us. It matched our speed for about 15 seconds, then was silent. I didn't turn to look - the trail ahead required my full attention. The monkey heard it too, but her headtorch was only strong enough to illuminate things in front of her. We've taught her to not be afraid of noises in the night, but to be curious, cautious and find out the logical source of the noise, instead of letting imagination run wild. About 2 seconds after the rustling in the bushes stopped, we rode up to a large curlew in the centre of the road, he stayed put until we were about 3m from him, then he took flight, only to land about 20m further on. He waited until we again were about 3m from him, then he flew off again. This happened 6 or 7 times, the last time he just flew off into the forest, with no reappearance. It was a special experience.

The curlews on Moreton Island have special meaning to the traditional owners and play a big part in the islands culture, heritage and stories. Story goes they keep away bad spirits. Later in the week, we attended one of the bush tucker presentations, Trevor Hassard (the resort manager) told us a few stories about the curlews and the magical presence they have on the island.

We got back to basecamp at around 9pm. We debriefed, talked about the adventure, I gave everyone leg massages and we had a good feed. I was so proud of my girls, I fell asleep to the gentle sound of wind through the palm trees, and the reassuring nightcall of the curlew.

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