Esk to Toogoolawah BVRT

This is the second in a series of stories from my recent road trip in South East Queensland. With campervan packed and bikes loaded on the back, we went travelling old roads with new eyes.

After riding the Esk to Fernvale section of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT) on Sunday, we were keen to explore more. This time though, we’d be on our own. And we were. Well… sort of.

Monday brought milder temperatures along with weary bodies and a plan to ride the rail trail from Esk to Toogoolawah, enjoy a pub lunch and ride back again. The return journey would be about 42kms (26mi).

Within a few kilometres of leaving Esk, we were peeling off gloves, jackets and leg warmers. The land was parched. Brown grasses stretched to the horizon. My body loosened up to the jiggle of the rail trail.

By eight kilometres, I’d frozen. But it wasn’t from the cold.

We were happily riding, pausing to take photos, drink water or cross a creek. Then ahead, spread across the trail and over its edges, we saw cattle. Their rich caramel colour striking against the land’s beige grass. As we rolled closer, the herd rearranged itself. I wouldn’t have minded if they were all cows but there were a couple of bulls amongst them. And one bull had rearranged itself sideways across the trail.

At this point I don’t remember breathing. But I do remember stopping. And I do remember saying to Jane, who was encouraging me to keep rolling forward: “I think we have to turn around”. And at some level I was remembering something else.

When I was twelve, I was one of ten country schoolchildren selected to attend the Royal Queensland Show in Brisbane.  Once known as the Brisbane Exhibition, but now affectionately called ‘The Ekka’, this show is an agricultural exhibition held for ten days every August. I travelled by train from Bundaberg to Brisbane, chaperoned by a local schoolteacher, and during that visit to the Ekka, I made a discovery.

I discovered that although I like farm animals, I prefer them if there’s a fence between us.

The other nine kids seemed far more familiar with farm animals than me. We were all children of farmers but I’d lived on a sugar cane farm where our farm animals consisted of a dozen chooks, two ever-breeding cats and a face licking labrador. The closest I’d come to a cow was going with Mum to pick up milk from the neighbour’s dairy. I’d only seen bulls behind fences from afar. And as for horses, there really was only that one night on the Shetland Pony at Bundaberg’s Skyway Drive-In Theatre when I was about four.

When it came to the Grand Parade at the close of the Ekka and the other kids were hoping to hold the lead of some large beast and walk it around the main arena, I was making myself as small as possible. I think someone noticed. They gave me the job of holding a placard bearing the name of the Grand Champion Hereford Bull, while walking in front of this large lumbering blue-ribbon-wearing animal for the entire parade. I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

So back on the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, I’m frozen with the fear of a farm girl sissy.

It’s not like I ever had a bad experience with cattle. I just don’t have enough experience with them. Do I ring my bell? Do I talk to them? And they’re so BIG. Do I ride fast? Or slow? What do I do if they start running towards me? So I stood astride my bike on the trail like a donkey refusing to budge while Jane coaxed both me and the cattle to move on.

And we did – me and the cattle – move around and forward and past each other.

But of course, that was no cause for me to feel much relief because I knew we had to come back the same way in the afternoon. “Do you think they’ll still be there when we come back again?”

No, they’ll be gone by then, came the nonchalant reply.

But of course they were there. And I knew they would be. But I decided I was going to face this fear. Actually I had no choice but it was still good to feel as if I was in charge of something.

So with firm voices laced with kindness, we called out to the cattle, waved our arms and encouraged them to move. All the while we kept pedalling through and past the herd. I remember breathing this time.

As for the rest of my Esk to Toogoolawah rail trail ride, it was enjoyable. I’ll let the photos and their captions tell you why… (for obvious reasons, there are no photos of cattle 🙂 ).

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Rest stop near Coal Creek

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Riding across a livestock grid.

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BVRT is well signposted.

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We saw three kangaroos grazing here – a large male and two smaller females. The females squeezed under the barbed wire fence and the male waited, watched us, and then in one bound from a standing start, jumped the fence.

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Arriving in Toogoolawah via the Bubble Bridge, designed to celebrate the condensed milk factory that once operated in the town. Now the old factory is the Somerset Regional Art Gallery, named ‘The Condensery’.

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Pub lunch at Toogoolawah – Rail Trailers Welcome.

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Unsuccessfully photographing local llamas.

18 Comments on “Esk to Toogoolawah BVRT

    • The bubble bridge is a lovely addition to the trail. The other story behind the bridge Brenda is that the previous bridge was washed away in the severe floods in this area in 2013. So it’s good to see the destruction left in the wake of the floods replaced by something so attractive for the community. And for rail trailers.


  1. Always best to be cautious than blazé around animals, especially large ones! I, too, love your pic of the bubble bridge! What a great link to local industry. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    • Too true Dayna – and cattle are quite large when up close!
      Glad you enjoyed the bubble bridge. I just wrote in a comment above to Brenda about the bridge resulting from the 2013 floods. It’s such an attractive piece of architecture for the community to enjoy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Gail

    “As we rolled closer, the herd rearranged itself.” Says it all, I can hear the music of danger in the background. I agree, I’m very alert (sometimes not far from alarmed) when walking in the vicinity of cattle. Jane would have had much more to content with if I’d been there as well – two of us turning around – wooooooo! Well done for overcoming your fears – twice.

    And thank you for your commentary – the BVRT is moving up on my list of next adventures!


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jen, well I’m relieved to know I’m not alone. But thank goodness you weren’t there because I think Jane had enough on her hands managing me and the cattle 🙂
      When you and Noel start planning your BVRT, let me know. If you’d like some company, it could be quite pleasant to ride it together.


  3. Your story make me giggle but at the same time, it is always wise to respect the power of beasts that are larger than us. Good for you for facing your fear head on! Personally it is dogs nipping at my heels that make me nervous. I have had two incidents now…once it was my leg and the other time it was my panniers that got bit. I love dogs, but when I am on my bike hearing them bark puts me on edge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was hoping this post would raise a smile. Sometimes the things that scare us are quite funny when looked at from a distance.

      As for being chased by dogs while riding a bike… I agree, it’s just not much fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for subscribing to my blog, Gail! By me you’ll find more than 5 500 ‘full screen’ pictures from Norway! New pictures will be posted on a regular scale. Please enjoy!


    • My pleasure. I’ve visited your beautiful country several times and hope to again. My blog even has some bicycle stories from my travels to Oslo. Perhaps you will enjoy them. Thanks for visiting.


  5. Gail, Although this part of your trek was very interesting, my attention immediately became riveted on the story of your journey to the Royal Queensland show and the resultant angst in regard to cattle. But I’ll bet you were the best placard holder ever, although I wouldn’t have wanted any task that placed me in front of a cow or bull! So, I did love this second part of your trip, but getting to know a little about your childhood was very nice, too. I didn’t realize your were a farm girl. ZuZu is very happy about that, as she was born in a barn in the Berkshire Hills. Now, I’m off to part 3!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s lovely to know Clare. It was only after the experience that I reflected on why I froze facing the cattle and the memory from the Ekka helped me make sense of it… and have a laugh too 😀 I also enjoy reading stories woven with links to past experiences. It knits together a richer picture. Thanks for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: BVRT: Esk to Linville | a bike for all seasons

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