Thursday, 28 November 2013

Moreton Island fatbiking and fatpack - day 2

The morning appeared fresh, with just a light breeze, temps mild. Last night the storms provided a pretty good light show to the south of us, and now the clouds lingered over the mainland, with deep booming thunderstorms passing over the southern tip of the island.

Campsite at the end of the rainbow... again for the gear junkies: the tent is a Tarptent Contrail - closest thing to a tarp and a bugnet - fast and uncomplicated to pitch; Exped Synmat UL7 insulated, inflatable sleeping pad (I used this in Alaska along with a Z-Lite for luxurious sleep on the snow); Coocoon silk bag liner - I place the synmat inside the silk liner so it's more like a sleep system; Mont Bell spiral down hugger minimalist bag - no hood, great as a bag booster (I used this in Alaska as a bag liner/booster for my Mont Helium to get the temp rating I wanted) packs down well and opens up to a quilt - I didn't need it. I also pack arm and leg warmers as part of my sleep system layers, to keep the sweat/sunscreen/dirt from soiling the bag or pad. The less cleanup work I make for myself the better = more hammock time when I get home...

Our thoughts moved to brekky. Wayne was doing pretty well with noodles on his solid fuel stove.

For me, luxury again. In the cup is a delicious chai latte out of a sachet, with honey to sweeten and add a few extra calories. Haribo gold bears (the pet monkey packed these for me). I pre-pack a cereal in a heavy duty ziplock - this one is an old grated cheese bag - which is a weet-bix, half cup of fruit muesli, milo bits (the pet monkey reckons these are the best) a bit of psyllium husk, a few spoons of sugar and full cream milk powder. I add a bit of warm water, close the bag and massage through to mix thoroughly. The psyllium husk adds a bit of bulk, but the side effect is it gels up the mixture, giving it a porridge-like consistency so it doesn't spill/slop around. Why is this important? Well, on a multi-day ultra ride you need to save time where you can, so you shove the ziplock in your barbag and eat on the bike. Then you brush your teeth...on the bike. There you go - food tips from a bicycle mechanic...

 We broke camp and tailored our setup for inland tracks - gaiters on and layered to lose some heat as there was a decent portage section up to the Desert.

Here I'm wearing just a pair of sock gaiters by Moxie gear, for bushwacking I put on a knee high gaiter.

 The Desert is a large inland sand blow, the scale of the photo doesn't do it justice.

 ...but this might. Wayne is the little dot next to the arrow, the ridgeline dune to the right is popular for sand tobogganing, approx. 60 degree face. hehe, natures quarter pipe!

I chose a route around the edge of the treeline where many visitors never venture. This area is very dynamic and constantly changing due to wind conditions. I'm a firm believer in tread lightly, I know these tracks will disappear in a very short while, but it didn't relieve that mild guilty feeling of leaving a mark in the area where I've travelled.

Deciphering animal tracks is another great pastime - looking at the direction, print shape and depth, the gait, other markings to indicate tail usage etc is fascinating to me. Just another animal going about its daily business. It pacified my guilt somewhat, as I pictured myself as just another animal out here doing my thing, and reinforces that when out in ANY area - sensitive or not - as responsible users we must maintain a light 'footprint'.

There is an area in the Desert loosely called 'Lightning Ridge', got its name from the lightning strikes in the area. The sand is fused into these glass-like clusters, that clink like fine porcelain when tapped. It'd be interesting to see what the material looks like when cut and polishing on a lap wheel.

Partners in crime. To add ambience, the thunder was booming all around us, with menacing rain clouds sitting low, dark and heavy off the east beach. Nature has a great way of neutralising human feelings of superiority; I find it such a great feeling to be out in any weather event, experiencing the double edged sword of beauty and potential ferocity, revelling in the insignificance of oneself. Crikey, fatbikes really bring out the love, ey?

The main vehicle track from the desert was soft and partially unrideable, but it's only a short walk to the start of Rous Battery track. This track runs SSE along a gentle descent, through wooded eucalypt forest, with a dense cover of low ferns. Fire ran through here about 14 months ago, the trail was graded for fire break, but it is great to see the ferns and ground cover returning - from your Blechnaceae to your Schizaeaceae, (yes I know I should include the Thelypteridaceae, however these were further off the trail in perched water areas). Wow, culinary artistry, bike tech and shiz about ferns all in the same article :)

I think I just crop dusted Wayne.

Occasionally we'd come across these specimens - the Golden Orb spider. She weaves a golden web of super strong, Kevlar-like silk across the trail, when you ride into the web the spider generally comes along with you. The bite is venomous and painful, but not lethal - although allergic reactions may cause respiratory issues. Often they fall off without you realising, you're more at risk of injuring yourself as you twist, writhe and dance like Peter Garrett to try and shake the spider off...

The trail winds and wends its way south, the first indication you're getting close to the end is the sound of the surf. There were many pretty sections like this, a downside was the presence of feral pigs. We disturbed a family of about 6, they scattered before I could mobilise the camera.

 Rous battery viewing post, from this vantage point defence personnel could spot enemy assets. Moreton and Bribie were key defence points for Brisbane.

The view south from the post. The elevated position gives a significant advantage to spotters, increasing the distance that is visible out to sea.

There were more subterranean buildings to explore - an accom block, what looked like a mess hall, as well as the artillery battery and gun emplacement.

The gatekeepers for the battery have long departed...

The bikes stood guard while we explored.

The current inhabitants keep a close eye on each other.

We left the spiders and moths to their lives, we were at the eastern beach and was time for morning smoko. This is one of the many elevated campsites, with good shade and plenty of sturdy trees for a hammock or three.

The last of the daily rations - a chicken noodle soup, fruit cake, ziplocked trailmix portion, choc chip Clif bar.

We came across two NPWS rangers and stopped for a chat, they remembered me from a while back and was good to touch base and share the island love. I'm confident they respect our mode of transport and the minimal resources required for us to traverse.

We rode another 4-5km south along the beach, until we found the entry to Little Sandhills, which was our 'Lawrence of Arabia' moment, and being the place we would cross the island to the west coast.

Big and Little sandhills are large sandblows, constantly shifting due to wind action. Trees get engulfed, trees are revealed, perched lakes form, the cycle starts again.

The scale of the area is surprising. Wayne is there on top of the dune, just right of centre. The sandhills were like a skatepark, pump track and rollercoaster - all in one gritty package. For quite some time we carved our way on descents and followed imaginary topo lines to climb along on a gentle gradient, freeing our minds from the constraints of following a track. A thousand different ways to get to the west coast - and with the shifting sands - there'll be a thousand different ways next time.

End point for our sandhills trek - the west coast.

At low tide there was plenty of beach to ride, even when close to the shoulder of the tide there is still enough beach for a fatbike. Abundant bush campsites and small pull-ins to pass the time during the day or high tides.

All over the sandy tidal flats were blue soldier crabs, with wading birds searching for a meal around the waterline.

Regular readers of this blog may notice the Moonlander is back on derailleur gears... temporarily. It is part of my job to try new or crossover products, the NuVinci hub is being replaced with a new drive system that I've wanted to try on the Moonlander - this bike is primarily my sand expedition bike, so the build reflects this. Keep following this blog for the updated build.

For those keen to learn more about setting up your fat for beach expeditions, I've got a few videos here and here. I'll go through a brief a explanation of the setup below for this trip: Revelate 'Viscacha' seatbag contains first aid kit, siltarp, food bag, ti pot and stove; Revelate 'custom' framebag - bottom pocket is the garage, with tools, spares, binoculars etc; the top large pocket is 4L MSR dromedary water bladder; top side pocket is for maps; Revelate 'Jerrycan'  (attached to seatpost/top tube) that has my lights, cam batteries and SD cards, lollies; Revelate 'Gastank' on toptube, for camera, gels, lollies, foodbars, sunscreen; Revelate 'Harness' on the bars, holds a drybag with bedding, clothes, exped synmat; Revelate 'Pocket' in front of harness - basically a glove box - holds junk, rolled up pizza; Salsa anything cages on each fork blade - Contrail on one leg, insulated nalgene bottle holder on the other. This whole system is modular, as you may have read on my Witjira build for Alaska, and is flexible for many different trips and bikes. Oh yeah, the hat - I'm always getting asked about the hats (okay, no, not really) it's a Frillneck hat and I reckon the best I've found. Versatile, a variety of bright or drab colours.

The outlook is magnificent, truly a tropical paradise with forest down to the water.

We ventured across a few bays and rounded a few points, to arrive back at Tangalooma Resort right on time for a decent lunch - no need to explain! After a feed we headed back up to the wrecks to meet the Micat.

I hope you enjoyed the report and managed to find the one or two useless bits of mis-information I put in to confuse you. Moreton Island really is the fatbiking jewel of the bay. The locals are friendly, the logistics pretty easy and affordable, food and accom are second to none. You don't have to camp - hook up some accom at Tangalooma and make a weekend of it - the missus and kids will be occupied while you burn some calories on the sand. You have to experience it for yourself!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Moreton Island fatbiking and fatpack - day 1

A mate (Wayne) and I planned a fatbiking trip to Moreton Island over Friday and Saturday, bikepack for the night...somewhere. Wayne had just picked up his new Moonlander and was keen for a trip, it was a fat virgin bikepacking trip for him.

Regular readers of this blog will recall the weeklong trip here, as well as day trips here with video.

We caught the Micat over, no issue fitting us on the barge, even with it at capacity with vehicles.

Was a bluebird day, the bay was a millpond.

It was officially 'Steve Irwin Day', I don't know if Wayne knew this, but he dressed the part. :)

Along the way north I paused a few times to check out the official campsites, with million dollar views west over the bay. I could never grow tired of that sparkling, emerald green ocean.

Apart from the odd vehicle, we had the beach to ourselves.

Heading north we kept passing a group of people we spoke to on the ferry. Wayne noted in their vehicle there were 5 blokes, a few cartons, but only 1 fishing rod. They had air conditioning, but I reckon we had the best view.

Our loose plan for today was to head north, then east, south, west, south again, and lastly east for about 10 metres. The only two reference points that mattered today were tide and sunset; as we meandered along the deserted west beach we both felt it - that melting away of everyday stresses - replaced by a relaxed and uncluttered state of mind. 

We stopped at Bulwer for a quick supply stop. Salt and vinegar chips for the sunset swim and entrĂ©e. The store is pretty well stocked and provides hot and cold meals - I've had the big brekky on previous trips and can vouch for the satiety afterwards.

We found a short segment of singletrack back to the beach, I spotted 2 Bush Stone Curlews parked up for the day, with one on the ground just out of frame. Traditional stories of the Curlew tell of them keeping bad spirits away, and bringing good luck and health.

 From here we rounded Comboyuro point and over Heath Island - which is an ever changing series of dunes and tidal/fresh water runoff lagoons, and past the towering Yellow Patch. I spotted many pairs of pied oyster catchers, sea eagles, terns and heard the trill call of whistling kites.

We made our way to North point, overlooking Honeymoon Bay. Time for a bit of smoko.

On bikepacking trips, food is fuel...but food for the mind, the body, or both? This was a laid back trip, so my food profile reflected this with time allocated to prepare, cook and enjoy... pfft yeah right. I'm a real Gordon Ramsay. So, I present couscous with noodle sachet and a piece of fruit cake. For the gear junkies - I'm using a Kovea Titanium stove and a 600mL Gram Counter ti pot set that allows the larger 230g gas canister, stove, cup and condiments baggy to nest neatly.

We watched the storms brewing over the mainland for a while - the cumulo-nimbus rising into giant anvils in the sky - we then headed along an inland track to the lighthouse. These tracks are a real mixture of textures - sometimes bottomless hot sand, sometimes bound together with woodchip, or firm due to sandstone base.

We headed up to the lighthouse, I portaged the bike up the stairs for this shot. I hope you appreciate it. A loaded Moonlander is not light...

 With the wind at our backs, it was a cruisy trip south to our next destination - Blue Lagoon.

A great location to refill the water bottles, a quick wash and just soak up the atmosphere. Blue Lagoon is a freshwater window lake - meaning the water table is exposed at land surface.The birdlife here is something to appreciate - with an abundance of fresh water, the plants are varied, providing for a broad ecosystem to flourish.

Middle Rd was our next obstacle - this road crosses the island in an east/west direction. Normally this is unrideable on the ascent, but the combination of recent rains and firm packed sand (the rangers regularly grade the trail to keep it trafficable for vehicles - this also aerates the sand, dries it out and removes organic matter that helps bind it together - and makes it a lot harder to ride on) made it fully rideable - first time ever for me as I've always had to walk the ascent.

The fast descent winds through cuttings of coloured sands and thickets of scented eucalypt - your senses are assaulted from many angles.

Back on the west coast, the extent of the storms on the mainland were revealed. We would be in for a good light show tonight.

We bivvied a few km south of Tangalooma at one of the bush camps. A quick rinse off in the water at sunset was a great time to reflect on the days' journey, and talk bloke stuff.

In the words of Bill Merchant 'never go to bed depleted'. Today wasn't a big day on the bike, but it was nice to have the time to create a wide range of food to enjoy - which you ordinarily don't have time for on ultra-rides. Dinner: bacon carbonara macaroni with lemongrass tuna; chicken noodle soup with with pre-made vegemite sandwich; salt and vinegar chips; muesli bar and fruitcake slab; and the pet monkey slipped in a Bounty bar for dessert - she says they're her favourite!

I had a bandicoot visit during dinner, and this big guy watched over my bike and gear as I slept.