Like most things, the absence of something makes its presence more apparent. Before the pandemic brought us border closures and travel permits, I travelled over the Queensland border into NSW often. Mostly by bicycle, and most weeks. The Tweed River with its flood plains and coastal creeks and green hills are part of my extended neighbourhood. They take me to quieter places and dilute the residual busyness of life on the Gold Coast. When the border closure happened on March 26th and the weeks and months passed by, I realised how much I missed my green caldera.
Crossing the border was permitted for essential activities such as work trips, medical appointments, or family responsibilities. None of my usual excursions over the border could be considered ‘essential’. They were all simply for enjoyment. So north of the border I stayed.
But then the border bubble began. From 1am on August 8th, the Queensland/NSW border opened to residents of a strict list of postcodes – from Beenleigh in the north to Ocean Shores in NSW – for travel within that border zone. The proviso is that we apply for a permit as border bubble residents. And that’s been easy enough to do. The permit only lasts a week but the application processes in minutes.
With this change, those of us living in this bubble can cross the border for any reason. Simply for enjoyment is reason enough.
I haven’t ventured far though. Not like I normally would. No trips yet to Kingscliff or Tumbulgum or Pottsville. I think I’ve been waiting to feel comfortable that things are settling. And perhaps they are now.
Next week from 1am on October 1st, the border bubble will burst. What will remain is a border zone in NSW that extends further south to Byron Bay. This change means any Queensland resident can travel over the border into the NSW border zone for any reason. And residents in the NSW border zone can travel anywhere in Queensland for any purpose.
Simply for enjoyment is reason enough. So that means I’ll be on my bike. Somewhere in my green caldera.
Yarraman to Moore is, to date, my favourite section of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail. Forests and freewheeling. Birdsong and bakeries. This 49 kilometre trail makes a good day out and is one worth sharing with others.
On the last weekend of winter, we gathered at Moore. Some of us from Bargara in the North. Some from Brisbane. Some from the Gold Coast. All family. But not all bicycle riders. What to do out there if you’re not riding the trail? Think wineries with a splash of fresh air and a sprinkling of art galleries.
Moore is a small town straddling the D’Aguilar Highway, a rural road linking Caboolture in the east and Kingaroy in the west. Blink, and you’ll miss Moore. Stop, and you’ll find welcoming cafes, a 20-hour free camp and the Old Church Gallery. This was my second time riding Yarraman to Moore and both times the Old Church Galley delivered a nourishing end-of-ride meal and wonderful hospitality, all served at a long table on a verandah lined with timber louvres. A place perfect for sharing stories and celebrating the day.
Getting to Yarraman for the start of our ride was made easy by the shuttle bus service run by Out There Cycling. They drove us and our bikes from Moore to Yarraman which takes about 30 minutes. They also provided a suitable hire bike for one our our riders. Mountain bikes or hybrid bikes are best for riding the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BRVT). The trail surface is quite rough in places and needs a sturdy bike for comfort, endurance and safety.
At Yarraman, we had a coffee at the Farmhouse Coffee Lounge and then rode along Browne Street to the old railhead where the BVRT begins. We started riding at 9.40am, a timing that works well in winter. The early morning chill had passed, which meant we didn’t have to carry as many layers of clothing for the day. Most of my excursions on the BVRT have been during June, July and August. During these winter months, Queensland days are wide open for being outdoors without concern for heat and hydration.
So what was the ride like?
Each section of the BVRT has its own highlights. Along the Yarraman to Moore trail, the tall grass trees are a spectacle worth stopping for. Known as Xanthorrhoea Glauca, this variety grows only one to two centimetres each year. We estimated some were close to 3.8 metres high, meaning their age could be somewhere between 190 and 380 years old! Even if conditions saw them growing faster than average, they are still remarkably old native trees. And stunning to view with their blackened trunks and blue-grey spiky foliage.
Twenty kilometres into the ride, we arrived at Blackbutt and here you must stop and feast on goodies from the Blackbutt Bakery. The park nearby was scattered with bicycles and riders doing just that. We had no hesitation in joining in!
Next we rode through the Benarkin State Forest where another slice of nature stopped us in our tracks. The Bellbirds. Their high-pitch chimes rang delicately through the forest, filling the air. Sounds can get lost with the rush of wind past your ears as you ride. I like taking time to pause during my BVRT rides and listen – to the birdsong, to the absence of cars and to the grasses. Acres of grass – brown, yellow, beige – stretch along the trail and across the valley and open paddocks. And as they move, they rustle. A whisper from the land.
Rail trails are mostly flat with only gentle undulations. However, where there were once bridges, there are often now gullies. On this stretch of the BVRT, the gullies are a prominent feature and we had a lot of fun with them. This is made possible by most of them having a concrete path that gives a stable surface for riding. Also, there is excellent signage at the approach of each gully, grading them as easy, moderate or advanced. I took the descents cautiously and relied on my many gears and pedal power to spin my way up the other side. My nephew though, with the verve that 28-year-olds know, rode some gullies three times – just for fun!
If you’re still not sure about riding this section of the BVRT, then maybe this will help. Most of the ride is downhill! There is an uphill section for about eight kilometres on the way to Blackbutt. But after that, the trail’s elevation descends 320 metres. From that point, we were freewheeling down the Blackbutt Range and loving it.
Now for some photos and a short video too with some action on the gully crossings (sound ON for commentary and bellbirds 🙂 )
(For more information about this and other sections of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail click here.)
I was quietly sitting at my desk when the call went out. “Cooee” said Bicycle Queensland, “we’re looking for ambassadors”. So I put some words together, added my social media links and submitted my application. I wasn’t alone. These roles have broad appeal.
A few weeks later, I receive an email. Good news. I’ve been chosen to be a Bicycle Queensland Ambassador!
So what does it mean to be a BQ Ambassador? For me? Firstly a flurry of excitement. Secondly, recognition of my online advocacy of bicycle riding as a source of positive change for our world. And thirdly, continuing with that advocacy, only with a closer alignment to Bicycle Queensland’s initiatives and strategies. Oh yes, there’s also a new cycling jersey on the way (which I’ll show you when it arrives).
I’m one of five cyclists joining the BQ team as ambassadors. We live in different parts of Queensland and pursue our passion for bicycle riding in different ways. Each of us have a unique perspective which will inspire and encourage bicycle riding in Queensland.
Thanks for reading and Happy riding!