A loose itinerary, sketchy details, a map that closely resembled a pirate map of hidden treasure and a couple of blokes escaping something - responsibilities, society and good hygiene.
Yep, that about sums up a fatbike 'packing trip to the islands. A buddy and I planned out a weekend ride to Stradbroke Island - another island jewel in Moreton Bay, off the coast of Brisbane. Straddie is a bit different to Moreton Island, in that it has pristine beach oceanside, with mangrove on the bayside and countless inland tracks - including a bit of secret singletrack. Change of gameplan for route choices and no shortage of million dollar camp sites - read on to experience the awesomeness of a Straddie adventure...
...but it's gotta start somewhere. Ride from work to train station; train to Cleveland.
Water taxi Cleveland to Dunwich on bayside of island. Piece of cake - people bring on all sorts of stuff - surfboards, eskies, wheelbarrows, building materials etc
Peel Island and Horseshoe bay, a great kayak spot, with a bit of snorkelling on a reef on the south eastern end.
Arrived Dunwich, then it's approx 13km overland to the beach via the East Coast/Mining/Tazi Rd, good bitumen road with a few hills. A few showers had rolled through and plenty of puddles about. The tide was still going out, plenty of firm packed beach so road pressure and fast pace... but I always allow time to compose a pic when conditions are favourable.
Wayne was already at a random south camp location and we'd discussed a few scenarios to find each other:
- Lat and Long co-ordinates
- Marco - Polo
- cryptic SMS
Skip the next three pics if you're not interested in food pics and bivvy setup - 'coz that is overshared on social media - 'here is a pic of the wonderful meal I had at blahblah restaurant...'
So, still with me - good. Dinner was basically whatever I scraped out of the camp larder - I had some cup noodles left over from NZ, cheese wedges with vegemite on multigrain muffins, cup-o-soup and bacon cheesy mac and tin tuna. Muffins are an awesome staple, they squash down into any carry spot. I made up a 'fourth pocket' for the Kiwi brevet to carry overflow food and junk.
Onto bivvy setup - simple hammock, siltarp, bug net and hoodless down bag. I use the bag over the hammock to maintain insulation loft. The bugnet clips to a loop on the bottom of the siltarp. A siltarp is so versatile for simple or complex setups, here it's angled for any rain runoff and prevailing winds.
I reckon the mozzies were sent by the Red Cross, because they sure did extract a lot of blood. You'd climb into the bivvy, clear out of any bugs that followed you in, then settle in. 5 mins later you'd be getting hits, headtorch revealed the bugnet full of mozzies - they were getting in via the smallish gap between hammock and bugnet. I normally just drape the bugnet, weight it with pegs. The biters were voracious - this time I pegged the sides of the bugnet together underneath the bag like a chrysalis.
Up before dawn to take in the majestic first light, to beachcomb and to explore.
Two dunes back, we had an offshore breeze fan away the biters during brekky.
The neighbours were pretty cool about our presence.
Speaking of brekky...in wifeys' shopping travels she found these miniature tubs of Nutella - love this stuff! Muesli, muffin, hot chocolate - the usual.
As is the case with S24O and other non-fast-and-light trips, you get to test gear and new processes. I've done pancakes before with stainless steel frypans, but wanted to trial it with my ti pan. Titanium cookware may be very light and tough, but it has poor heat management. I made up a heat diffuser out of some 2mm aluminium treadplate, with slots cut for the legs on the Kovea stove. The pan is an Evernew non-stick pan. Verdict: don't bother with pancakes.
Broke camp and we had about 10km of this doubletrack through the she-oaks.
Along the way I found a wild white passionfruit vine high in the tree, the ground was littered with fruit. I grabbed 4 and shoved them in the 4th pocket for later. Bush tucker for dessert tonight...
The views would poke through occasionally, the offshore breeze glazed the ocean into a turquoise pool.
We meandered along some sidetracks, until the trail led us back to the beach. We passed many fishos with stunned faces, as usual they thought we were motorbikes. Also met a lady from Pt Lookout, she was a wealth of information on the future of a trail network on the island, after the sand mining is done.
Here is a poor quality clip of some of the areas, I've trimmed short a clip of a 3 minute descent on some sweet secret singletrack.
We were heading back inland - Wayne had to catch the ferry back, smoko was planned for Blue Lake. This is a window lake - a depression in the topography reveals the water table in that area - and the water was pure and clear with excellent visibility to the white sandy bottom.
Wayne *eventually* dragged himself away for the ride back to the ferry, I was more focused on making an arse groove in the hammock for the arvo. Blue lake drains off into Eighteen Mile swamp. The water here is quite pure and provides a significant amount of fresh drinking water to the Redlands shire on the mainland. Non-toxic traceable dyes have been added at several locations, even several hundred kilometres away in Toowoomba, to trace the source. The thought of a swim was tempting, but I had so many synthetic chemicals on me (sunscreen, DEET in the Bushmans etc) I was in no mood to destroy what I came to enjoy. The frogs thanked me with their song :)
The passionfruit taste as good as they look. The mosquitos here were pretty hungry too, dinner and washup was done before sundown, I was in bed by 6pm.
To better seal the bugnet, I slept with the sleeping bag inside the hammock. I knew this was a bad move insulation wise (you lose loft and insulation power when you compress the air space around the fibres/down filling of your bag) and woke up shivering a few times. Your body is an amazing heat machine though - a few ab crunches and muscle flex-and-holds (just like you do in the mirror at home, right?) of the larger muscle groups creates a lot of warmth. The topography added to the cold too, cool moist air pools in the valley.
...but so worth it when you can enjoy the sunrise like this during brekky and pack down.
Recent fires raged through this part of the island, but it's great to see so much fresh growth. Some forests need fire for seed germination and nutrient cycling, but no forest needs a fire that's been caused by an untended campfire - which was how this fire started.
Straddie differs to Moreton (check out my other adventures on Moreton) so much - but one thing is a constant, there are plenty of places to get some solitude.
I explored a few 4wd tracks, this place is called Keyholes, a series of clear freshwater lagoons at the northern tip of Eighteen Mile swamp.
Blue Flax Lily - more bush tucker - edible berries, I grabbed a handful to nibble on as I rode.
My tyres are bigger than yours buddy. When I get old, cranky and unable to turn a pedal, a BMW GSr1200 will be on the shopping list, as well as that Unimog expedition truck...
...but till then, there's still millions of km to explore by bicycle.
Here you can see the 4th pocket bag mentioned previously. I often ride in a long sleeve shirt with no pockets on the back, yet still need to carry overflow food and other junk. I made it from an old single knee warmer and the straps and clips from an old helmet - total recycling - with a short strip of Velcro sewn into the top as a closure . Single strap over the shoulder with a stabiliser around the left hip, just like any messenger style bag. It works very well, the fabric stretches well to suit the load and still enables your back to vent heat and sweat. Why is this important? On ultra multidayers, you want to minimise the sweat in your clothing layers (including chamois) so the better vented your body is, the drier you'll be at the end of the day, your body will be more efficient at cooling (you MAY consume less water, lose less electrolytes and stink less when you rock up to the pub for a counter meal) and you can minimise chamois/skin related issues. Good for the gooch!
I rode as much beach as possible from Pt Lookout, I planned to ride to Amity but only got as far as Flinders beach, due to tide and lots of tree debris at high tide mark.
Summing up, Straddie is a great fatbike destination, with enough asphalt infrastructure to traverse some sections quickly, but enough solitude to pack into a week. Once the sand mining operations wind up, this should open up more areas to recreation, however there are plenty of established fire and maintenance tracks to keep the explorers happy. We'll be back.