Hot, humid & hilly
“In the first week of January, the new year gave to me,
Three goannas running,
Two brown cuckoos feeding
And a brown snake near a gum tree.”🎶🎶
The Billinudgel Nature Reserve* is an untamed patch of undulating bushland between the Pacific Highway and the coastline of Northern New South Wales on Australia’s east coast. It is 850kms north of Sydney and 160kms south of Brisbane. When I was planning our ride from Currumbin to Brunswick Heads, I used Google Maps. It estimated the journey would be about 60kms each way and 3hours 20mins pedal time.
For the section between Wooyung and Brunswick Heads, I’d expected to travel via the old Pacific Highway, a dual carriageway bitumen road that sometimes mirrors, sometimes criss-crosses the more recently built Pacific Motorway (M1), running from Ballina to Brisbane. Google Maps, however, had other plans for our first overnight bicycle tour. It was taking us through the Billinudgel Nature Reserve.
We were to turn right at Jones Road after Wooyung and follow the road until we met the Nature Reserve. I really didn’t know what to expect. There was nothing on the internet about the Billinudgel Nature Reserve except a two line description on the NSW Government website, a management plan for the Reserve from November 2000, and an entry on meet-up.com for a mid-week walking group from 2013.
Although Google Maps showed a series of trails through the Reserve, I had no idea of their condition or whether they were suitable for mountain bikes only. We were at the beginning of either an enjoyable shortcut clear of busy roads or a very long diversion that would see us having to turnaround and take to the traffic.
But… the spirits of good fortune were shining and our touring bikes traversed the unsealed trails, in all their variety.
There were gravel tracks, sandy tracks, muddy bogs, and long grass that made me talk excessively and loudly to announce our imminent arrival to any snakes lingering in the grass. We rode through dry sclerophyll forests with eucalypts and banksias. We pedalled amongst coastal wetlands with melaleuca swamps, tree ferns, water lilies and bracken water stained by tea tree tannin. And yes, there were three goannas running, two brown cuckoo doves feeding and a brown snake sunning near a gum tree. We heard black cockatoos flying overhead with their eery call and pale faced rosellas scooping a flighty path through the eucalypts.
The Billinudgel Nature Reserve may have been hot and humid and hilly, but it was teeming with life. And I think my life was made richer from riding through Billinudgel’s bushy belly.
*”Nature reserves are considered to be valuable refuge areas where natural processes, phenomena and wildlife are protected and can be studied. Nature reserves differ from national parks as they do not include provision of recreation opportunities as a major objective of their management.” Billinudgel Nature Reserve Management Plan.
Scroll over or tap each photo below to read its caption….