– Wiradjiru Country –
We were lucky really. In the weeks before, roads were cut or damaged, and towns were flooding or recovering. The wet season had stretched deep into March. Autumn hadn’t been all sunshine and soft temperatures. More like damp, grey and foreboding of change. On the night before our ride, the rain hammered the tin roof of our Mudgee motel. Thoughts of raincoats, mud and soggy shoes ran amok. Come morning, we open the curtains to a red-sky sunrise. It’s going to be a fine day.
Our ride on the Central West Cycle Trail (CWCT) arrived after five months of planning. We were five riders travelling from three regions in Queensland – Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Bundaberg – with one goal: Enjoy seven days of cycling together on the CWCT. Ours was a through-ride without any support vehicle. This meant carrying everything that we needed (or thought we might need) for the seven days.
Our week on the Central West Cycle Trail brought us fine days every day. And not only because of the sunshine. The trail saw me get close to country that I’d never ridden before. Inland and west of the Great Dividing range. Different terrain. And different every day. The expansiveness. The space.
Gum tree sentinels watching us ride; Quartz crystal roadside, Granite boulders standing strong; Cockatoos, magpies, rosellas, in full song, Wind-swept clouds, endless sky; Red soil, brown soil, native grasses high, Pastures waving, cattle grazing, Creeks flowing, rainbows dancing, Old growth, new growth. Windmills turning. Our wheels rolling.
And, there are the small towns settling into the idea of people arriving by bicycle. People tired but invigorated by the day’s riding, with appetites to eat, drink, yarn, sleep and do it again the next day. Old towns creating new stories and finding new life.
What bikes did we ride?
We had a range of bikes in our group of five. The surfaces were mixed: some asphalt, some gravel, some sand, some mud. Each bike style handled the terrain well. There were two Vivente touring bikes each with two rear panniers. Two hardtail MTBs with small carry bags attached to handlebars and seat posts, with the riders wearing backpacks. And a Specialized gravel bike with the in-frame, seat post and handlebar luggage bags.
Our itinerary saw us riding anti-clockwise around the CWCT. Starting in Mudgee, riding to Gulgong, Dunedoo, Mendooran, Ballimore, Wellington, Goolma, and back to Gulgong to finish in Mudgee. The complete CWCT includes Dubbo, however, work commitments didn’t allow time to extend our ride any further. Here’s how we rolled across our 412 kilometre circuit:
- Day 1 – Mudgee to Gulgong – 32kms
- Day 2 – Gulgong to Dunedoo – 59kms
- Day 3 – Dunedoo to Mendooran – 71kms
- Day 4 – Mendooran to Ballimore – 63kms
- Day 5 – Ballimore to Wellington – 73kms
- Day 6 – Wellington to Goolma – 49kms
- Day 7 – Goolma to Mudgee – 65kms
The slideshow below presents a photo with Strava stats for each of the seven days. Notice the changing landscape. (Swipe the image to move to the next)
We chose an anti-clockwise direction so that we could navigate using the RideWithGPS maps available on the CWCT website. Each day the interactive maps were excellent for our pre-ride planning giving elevation and distances, and also for guiding and reassuring us along the way. To use the maps without relying on mobile reception, I paid for a one-year subscription to RideWithGPS. This allowed me to download the maps from RideWithGPS onto my mobile phone and see the directions onscreen and hear them from the voice navigator. We also had a paper copy of the turn-by-turn instructions (available on the CWCT website) just in case our tech failed us :-).
The CWCT is signposted with neat, visible yellow markers that signal changes of direction or continuation. These were also helpful guides and a credit to the CWCT volunteers.
Tips and ideas
There are plenty of tips and ideas available. The CWCT website has lots of current details about what’s on offer. Here are a handful of things that we enjoyed on our ride during autumn 2022:
- When riding between Gulgong and Dunedoo, enjoy morning or afternoon tea at Mayfield Homestead (must be booked in advance) and a perfect halfway stop.
- We experienced wonderful hospitality at Anna’s Mendooran Bed and Breakfast. The verandah is a great place to gather after you’ve enjoyed your post-ride shower. We were able to store our bikes overnight in a secure lock-up.
- French Press Cafe at Geurie is worth riding really fast for. The food and coffee were fabulous.
- The CWCT Facebook page is an excellent source of up-to-date information and advice on the trail conditions; and we referred to it daily.
- Mudgee was a wonderful location for us to start and finish. We enjoyed the Mudgee Brewery for before and after celebrations, plus some vineyard visits in the days afterwards.
If you’d like to have a go at riding the CWCT but you’re not sure if carrying your luggage is right for you or how to organise the trip or perhaps you want an experience of cycle touring in a supportive environment, then check out the Australian Cycle Tours website for options. They have two women’s cycling trips scheduled for 2023. In May, a CWCT tour will be escorted by Linda Cash (A Girl and Her e-Bike) and in September, I’m escorting a tour on the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.
Bicycle Queensland have published another article that I recently wrote for their Bike Life Blog.
This article is about wellness and although I’ve written on this topic before, I’ve given it some new insight.
To read the article, click on the image below or click this link: https://bq.org.au/bike-life-blog/riding-to-wellness/
This is the second story about my 2-day ride along the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT) from Wulkuraka to Linville. In this post, we ride 56 kilometres from Esk to Linville.
The town of Toogoolawah and a century-old tunnel wait for us on the trail between Esk and Linville. This segment of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT) is 56 kilometres in length and winds steadily north-west, mirroring the Brisbane Valley Highway. As a motorist on that highway, you will occasionally see bike riders in the distance pedalling along the BVRT, seemingly in a world of their own. As a bicycle rider on the trail, I can tell them I certainly am. The sounds of the wind rushing past fills my ears. The terrain of the trail focuses my eyes. The scent of eucalypts and earth warmed by the sun, lands me in the country.
An enjoyable downward run into Toogoolawah
Leaving Esk the trail rises a little in elevation (50 metres) which can make the ride feel a little difficult first thing. But that doesn’t last for long and after ten kilometres there’s an enjoyable downward run into Toogoolawah. I’ve ridden the Esk-Toogoolawah section numerous times and this time was the absolute best experience. Why? The trail used to be extremely bumpy and corrugated. It was the type of riding that I didn’t look forward to. Everything jiggled and I was always glad when that section was over. But now, thanks to the significant trail works being done, the Esk to Toogoolawah track is much improved and will get a whole lot better. (At the time of writing, the track works are still underway at the Esk end with graders and trucks working weekdays).
Entry into Toogoolawah is via the Bubble Bridge which was designed to celebrate the condensed milk factory that once operated in the the town. Now, the old factory is home for the Somerset Regional Art Gallery, named “The Condensery’ and worth a look. You can see the statue of Norman the Red Deer and learn about the interesting connection between this region and the royal gift of red deer from Queen Victoria. Having started our ride mid-morning, Toogoolawah was our lunch stop. The Exchange Hotel serves a good counter lunch and very, very cold beer.
A century-old tunnel waits ahead
About ten kilometres on from Toogoolawah, the Yimbun Tunnel quietly sits. Over one hundred years old and one hundred metres long, this historic tunnel is fascinating. Completed in 1910, the tunnel took over a year to build and has an appealing egg-shape design. The tunnel’s dimensions are semi-elliptical, meaning they are based on an elongated circle halved at its axis. Its egg-shape is visually pleasing on approach and also while riding through the tunnel. And as for riding the length of the tunnel… that is a lot of fun!
The small settlement of Harlin is next and this is one of two places where you’ll need to cross the highway to continue onto Moore and Linville. You might also find yourself meeting a few cattle between Esk and Linville. So ride with care and don’t be freaked out like I was on my first ride back in 2016.
Where the bloody hell is Linville?
For our 2-day ride, Linville was our destination. It was also our gathering point where we left our cars and boarded the Out There Cycling shuttle to Wulkuraka to start our ride. So as the Linville Hotel signature t-shirt aptly asks: “where the bloody hell is Linville?”.
Linville sits at the base of the Blackbutt Range, about a two-hour drive from Brisbane and about 120 kilometres along the BVRT from Wulkuraka. A small community with a general store, a war memorial and the historic Linville Hotel, this township marks the beginning of the BVRT’s big elevation. From Linville the BVRT climbs some 300 metres up the Blackbutt Range.
I am attracted to the enjoyment of riding free of cars, through beautiful landscapes and experiencing small vibrant village-type communities.
For us though, arriving at Linville was the end of our 2-day ride. Spending a couple of days pedalling along the BVRT was both relaxing and invigorating. There is the enjoyment of riding free of cars, through beautiful landscapes and experiencing small vibrant village-type communities. And for me, being able to ride the rail trail with two of my brothers made the time especially enjoyable.
Our itinerary for 2-day/ 3-night BVRT ride: Wulkuraka to Linville….
- Day 1 Meet late afternoon at Linville Hotel for overnight accomodation
- Day 2
- Catch Out There Cycling shuttle from Linville(7:30am) to Wulkuraka (9.15am)
- Ride Wulkuraka to Esk – 67kms
- Stay overnight at Esk Caravan Park & Motel
- Day 3
- Ride Esk to Linville – 56kms
- Stay overnight at Linville Hotel
- Day 4 Drive home.