You have to 'extend to experience'. It's what I reinforce to my girls - to see that sunrise, to climb that peak, to achieve that goal - you need to extend your boundaries and push yourself to experience some of the incredible things that nature and life has to offer. Rewards don't come to you unless you've earned them.
I felt like a dawn patrol ride up to Cape Moreton lighthouse and back before breakfast, I'm not one for sleeping in. Starting out in complete darkness, it's a delight to watch the dawn unfold and the sky warm to the sun's touch.
I shared the early rays with a pair of pied oyster catchers.
The solace of a sunrise; a bike and a beach with no imprint of mans hand (or foot, or tyre, but c'mon the hand is a metaphor)
On the way back, I passed a campsite, with a guy meditating on the frontal dune. He didn't respond to my wave, can only think he was wishing he had a fatbike.
Always comes back to food, as wifey often says. The pet monkey reckons it always comes back to poo, but she's 9 - kids seem fascinated with body functions.
Okay brekky is a simple affair - 2 packets of instant porridge (just add boiling water and stir) but I also like a bit of a granular/fruity feel to brekky, so in goes a fruity muesli/granola bar for texture and extra sugar, topped with a honey shot just to tip over the calorie scale. This is another simple, cheap and easily packed/stored staple meal. Summertime trips I'll pack rolled oat cereal, mixed in with full fat milk powder and sugar in a ziplock - again just add water and eat straight from the ziplock.
I don't drink coffee at all, but I can't deny the effect of a caffeine hit in the morning - best way for me is via an Espresso Chip Bonk Breaker bar - made with real espresso beans.
With gear packed and stowed, we rolled out to the beach to an instant spectacle of humpback whales directly offshore, just beyond the breakers.
The inland tracks were firm with high moisture content, the next stop being the rewarding walk to the summit of Mt Tempest - at 285m it is regarded as the highest coastal sand dune in the world.
360 degree panoramas, views extending as far as Cunninghams Gap, Mt Warning, Glasshouse Mtns and Mt Coolum.
Middle Rd - often a churned up pushfest - was totally rideable and the descents put a grin on everyones' faces.
Back onto the west coast for a short cruise south to Tangalooma for a quick smoko.
Tangalooma Resort now have fatbikes for hire too. I'm not sure how far you could take them or the scope of rental, but still great to see. We topped off water bags and bottles, off to the next destination and one that was quite testing to get too. Of course there is an easier way, but 'easy' does not equal my 'type 2 fun'.
Stairs. I can't read minds, but my basic intuition was telling me that I was the only one that enjoyed this segment. 'The reward is worth it you guys' and 'it makes for a better loop with no doubling back' or 'this way is the easier of the two options' was only having a marginal affect - I don't think they were buying it. I was having fun :) This is just a part of bikepacking, that nobody is shielded from.
'C'mon you guys, push! This reminds me of Iditarod!'
The familiar view of The Desert. Families were out sand toboganning and enjoying the great weather.
The loose plan was to take the left side and just ride the contours down to an area called Lightning Ridge. It's the site of many lightning strikes in the sand and has fused into glasslike clusters. Approaching The Desert from the western edge, allowed us to traverse to the 4wd track and to the Rous Battery trailhead with no doubling back.
Our target for the night was Rous Battery, an old military site with various intriguing buildings, many subterranean and some underground as well (couldn't resist the Coight gag) but first we traverse the Rous Battery track south east. This is a very pleasant track, gentle downhill grade with a surface of firm sand and leaf litter.
No, we didn't eat the mushrooms, but the speed of some of the descents made camera-ing a bit harder than normal. We wandered around the battery - some of the buildings were quite obvious - quarters, lookout post, gun emplacement and armoury.
Rous Battery campsite is a pearler - a few dunes back and enough elevation to feel like a master of the universe. Simple camping again for me, no rain but I could tell early on that the night would be buggy.
A little bit of tech on layering: my day clothes form part of the sleep system, and careful selection and refinement over the years allow me to stay fairly clean, with very minimal use of chemicals (sunscreen and bug repellent). Y'all gotta tolerate gettin' a bit icky too - all part of it.
From the top: I wore a Frillneck hat with full neck and side coverage, over this I wear a Sea-to-Summit micro bugnet as needed; a winter and a summer Buff for versatility; torso baselayer is a sleeveless open 5mm weave mesh (yeah, the kind you'd wear to a Euro rave); a long sleeve synthetic wicking shirt; a synthetic wicking short sleeve tee over the top of that (The North Face Vapourwick is a fantastic technical, multiweave fabric that outperforms many other synthetic and organic options, in my experience); Sugoi bibshorts (the shop kit) with fleece lined cycling leg warmers (I sleep in my day layers - here's a tip: I pull the bibshorts down a bit to allow air circulation around the nether regions - after hygiene routine - and roll down the silicone grippers on the leg warmers, onto themselves OFF the skin, to prevent skin irritation); polycotton socks; Lake MX100 boot with Moxie Gear ankle gaiters (these really keep a lot of sand out of the boots). My final top layers (the only extra layers I packed) were a pair of long pants - Macpac Crossterrain with long ankle zippers (for easy on/off with boots on) and ultra packable TNF Primaloft technical smock with 1/4 zip. It's a fave of mine, it has no hand pockets (extra unnecessary material and zips) and breathable panels in key perspiration zones. Good design and quality materials are the keys to functional layers.
Some of the above may sound disgusting, but it can be impractical to carry a gear change for nights and a time vampire during multi-week races if you're doing multiple changes each day. I follow a hygiene routine with baby wipes followed with talc on the nether regions. YMMV in these instances, but you've gotta practice it to find what works and you have to train your body and mind to adapt to suit. You can travel lighter, faster and enjoy more of the trip without being tied down to a more civilised regimen.
Ultimately, each of us have to devise our own systems that work for us. The only way to do that is to get out there and gain that experience in a variety of conditions - 'indoor' product testing will only prep you so far...
When I need to interact with non-bikepacking civilians, I splash on a bit of product so I don't offend. Ride Mechanic and I worked on a 'scent project' for Iditarod - and came up with a multi-function fluid that has many, many uses - I had several criteria I wanted it to cover:
- Smell nice (without masking your pheromones to the chicks)
- Antibacterial properties (wound treatment OWWWWEEE)
- Degrease a dirty chain (this is so fun to do in the field)
- Burns in a fuel stove (pop can stove lightness)
- De-waters skin without stripping fatty oils (drying out wet skin)
- Firestarter (when all your kindling is a touch wet)
On that note, let's talk food :) Dinner was the same as last night. Meh, food is fuel - it doesn't need to be gourmet, just has to satisfy clean burning calorie needs with moderate nutrition (can always add a multivitamin supplement - your healthy food pyramid will be waiting for you when you get home) We had a decent campfire that night too, but an early one for me! That night I watched the half moon rise from my bed, along with the lightning show in cumulonimbus clouds far out to sea.
This is the thing I fully enjoy the most about open sky camping - the stars, the night silhouettes, the elemental exposure. Don't get me wrong, I have plenty of tent options and use them as required, but when it's stable weather out, I like to indulge in simple setups. Quicker, lighter and less stuff to fuss over - a nice escape from modern life and I feel you absorb the overall experience deeper too.