Wollumbin Circuit – Part 1
Wollumbin’s been around a long time.
Over 23 million years ago, a shield volcano filled the landscape near where I live. Its diameter was over 100 kilometres (62mi) and its height 1156 metres (3,793ft). This large round shape and low profile resembled a warrior’s shield, hence its geological name.
All that remains now is the eroded caldera around a volcanic plug. Yet what remains is significant. A caldera is the large cauldron-like crater that remains after a major eruption collapses the volcano. This volcano left the largest erosion caldera in the Southern Hemisphere. The rim of this magnificent caldera brings dramatic escarpments to the landscape and its valley carries water and soil rich with nutrients.
And as for the volcanic plug, well it’s the first place on the Australian continent to receive the morning sun. English explorer James Cook named it Mt. Warning in 1770 as a reference point for sailors. Yet long before this, Indigenous custodians knew it as Wollumbin. And it was more than a navigational reference point. For tens of thousands of years, Wollumbin has been of spiritual and cultural significance to the Bundjalung people.
UNESCO declared this area Heritage Listed as part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia for its “Outstanding Universal Value”.
I’ve driven, hiked and camped in this wonderful caldera but never had I biked it. So with Easter approaching and a Tweed Visitor Guide in our hands, we decided to cycle one of the themed driving trails named: Wollumbin Circuit.
Early Good Friday we drove to the regional town of Murwillumbah, about 40kms south of Currumbin. In the centre of town, Knox Park, was a good location to park the car for the day. After unloading the bikes, stocking them with our picnic food, and eating some breakfast, we pedalled out of town. Right from the beginning, the magnificent Wollumbin was in sight and that’s where it stayed for most of our ride.
At the beginning of the ride, we were able to stay off the road by using the bike paths connecting Murwillumbah High School with the outer suburb of Bray Park. Beyond that, it was all road riding, and with very narrow or non-existent shoulders. At first, I found this a bit daunting and breathed an extra breath after each car passed. Then I settled in and enjoyed the views; and even took some photos while rolling.
Leaving Murwillumbah, our Wollumbin Circuit took us via Eungella to the vibrant village of Tyalgum, then up and down some long rolling hills to Chillingham, along narrow winding roads to Crystal Creek and then returning to Murwillumbah via the whispering sugar cane fields.
Our Wollumbin Circuit saw us ride 52.6kms (33mi) and gain 706 metres (2,316ft) in elevation. Our actual riding time was 3 hours 44 minutes but with views to linger over, wild fruit to pick, and locals to yarn with, it was seven hours before we finished our ride in Murwillumbah.
It was a Good Good Friday. I felt relaxed, invigorated and in awe of this beautiful caldera and its sacred heart, Wollumbin.
To be continued…
Scroll over or tap each photo below to read its caption or enlarge….