I hadn’t planned to ride in the Bunya Mountains. An invitation arrived to share a cabin there over the long weekend with friends. It’d been the late 90s since I’d visited the Bunyas so I was looking forward to going there again. Bicycle riding, though, was unlikely to be in the equation.
The Bunya Mountains sit like an elevated island of rainforest habitat surrounded by dry flat plains that stretch to the horizon. Sitting at about 1000 metres above sea level, this cluster of peaks has a distinctive climate that draws sea and city dwellers to its cooler temperatures. You’d think that attraction would be to get some relief from the sub-tropical heat. But in fact winter is the most popular season. The elevated climes of the Bunya Mountains means that coats bought for travelling to Europe can be pulled out of wardrobes, fireplaces can be lit, red wine sipped and the heat of summer forgotten.
This hasn’t always been the norm. Prior to European settlement, the Bunya Mountains was a gathering place for the First Australians during summer. Every few years during the summer months, the Bunya Pines produce cones containing edible seeds known as the Bunya Nut. So every few years, a gathering took place with people travelling hundreds of kilometres to meet “for ceremonies, law-making and resolving disputes, renewing friendships, passing on lore, sharing ideas and revitalising spirituality” (1).
Our weekend at the Bunyas was going to be about nourishing friendships and revitalising the spirit among some beautiful hiking trails. But, knowing that the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail begins on the nearby plains, we decided to pack the bikes onto the car with an idea to cycle a small section of the rail trail on Sunday.
Not so. Once we arrived at our cabin, heard the blissful quiet, soaked in the sunshine and drew in crisp clean air, any plans to leave the mountain for a day trip to the plains, was thrown out the window and flew away on the wings of a crimson rosella.
Come Sunday though, my cycling legs became a little curious. We hatched a plan to ride out to where one of the hiking trails begins. It would be about 6kms riding, an 8km hike and then a 6km ride back to the cabin. All very reasonable. In theory.
Setting off enthusiastically, with the thrill of a downhill run, the hills hit soon after. You see we’d arrived on the Bunyas at night time and had no idea what the terrain was like.
We didn’t make it to our destination. Only halfway. We didn’t do the hike we’d planned. A different trail saw our boots that day. Do I feel disappointed? Not at all. After meeting those challenging hill climbs and feeling the exhilarating descents, I was riding high.