Category Archives: Merida TFS100

Noosa Trail Network – Day 2

Sunrise from Tablelands Lookout

Sunrise from Tablelands Lookout

The moon was so bright overnight that it was like someone had forgotten to turn the lights off. I woke a couple of times during the night wondering whether it was already daytime. But it wasn’t and I went back to sleep. Ironically, by the time I was ready to get up, the moon had dropped low enough in the western sky to make it darker than in the middle of the night. It felt special to be out under the moon instead of locked away in a house.

Shortly after I woke, the sun rose to the east. For a short period, both sun and moon were equidistant from their respective horizons.

Setting off down trail #3 from Tablelands Lookout

Setting off down trail #3 from Tablelands Lookout

I set off at 6:15am, following trail #3 heading towards Kin Kin. I warmed up by following a gravel road through pretty farmlands before turning off to follow a rugged and rutted fire trail into the rain forest. I lacked the skills to ride the whole trail; so deep were the washouts. But I enjoyed the serenity of a morning in the bush.

Gorgeous gums

Gorgeous gums

While I spent most of my first day on the trail getting used to being out on the trails, on day 2 I was able to enjoy the total experience of being immersed in the wilderness. It’s almost as though waking up in a tent puts me in a different state of mind: a relaxed and adventurous one in harmony with nature.

Into the rainforest

Into the rainforest

Trail #3 is as beautiful and diverse as it is challenging. Fortunately, the ride from Tablelands Lookout to Kin Kin is almost all downhill. The rainforest included some rock gardens and tree roots, as well as mostly following single trail.

Views from Johnston's Lookout

Views from Johnston’s Lookout

That's the trail running along the ridge

That’s the trail running along the ridge

And then I popped out at Johnston’s Lookout. One minute I was riding in rainforest, and the next I was blessed with this fabulous view out over the range. Don’t let the green scenery trick you, it was pretty hot and dry. The trail from Johnston’s winds down a steep descent before reaching a gate and then dropping sharply downhill and along a ridge. I felt like I was cycling in the UK; or at least what I imagine cycling in the UK would be like.

There’s a trail marker missing after you exit the farm from Johnston’s Lookout. Turn left at the road and follow it for a few kilometres until you reach a sharp bend to the left as you head uphill. On the right you’ll see a locked farm gate and a trail network pedestrian gate. The trail network gate is locked shut because the fence posts have separated over time. I had to throw my bike over the farm gate and slide under the barbed wire.

This is NOT the trail

This is NOT the trail

I walked up and rode down that; it was NOT the track

I walked up and rode down that; it was NOT the track

Once I reached the main road, I turned right into Kin Kin instead of following the 5km loop into town. I was hot and needed some electrolytes. I forgot to pack them in my gear; a mistake I won’t make again. The shop in Kin Kin has been done up since last time I was there. Eight years ago it was still just a country store with a fuel bowser out the front. Now it’s a lovely cafe with massive outdoor seating area. I can highly recommend the thick shakes.

I stopped at the camp ground in Kin Kin to collect water. While there, I had a yarn with a group of horse trail riders who were on holidays from Beaudesert, south of where I live. They often ride in my local area so I told them about the Bayview trails because you can ride horses there too. I also told them about the broken gate because they were hoping to go up towards Johnston’s Lookout from Kin Kin, and you can’t just throw a horse over a fence like you can a bike.

From Kin Kin I tried to follow the signs along trail #4. I lost it almost immediately on my way to the road because I started following farm pads. I ended up climbing up the back of a steep grassy knoll only to have to ride down the front of it and joint the road. From here, I again couldn’t find any signs to the trail so followed the Gympie-Kin Kin Road for a couple of kilometres until I got lucky by stumbling across the track. The only map I had was an enlarged version of the trail network brochure and it contained insufficient detail to navigate off accurately.

Massive goanna

Massive goanna

Views from Cootharaba Views Lookout

Views from Cootharaba Views Lookout

Views from Cootharaba Lookout (in the other direction)

Views from Cootharaba Lookout (in the other direction)

The trail started to climb uphill towards Cootharaba Views Lookout. On my way up, I managed to capture a photo of a massive goanna scrambling up a tree to get away from me. It was just one of the many goannas I saw over the weekend but was probably the largest. It hissed menacingly at me from it’s perch metres above me.

The views from the lookout were as amazing as the other views but this lookout is on a ridge so it has 360′ views. To the north and east east are Lake Cootharaba and the Cooloola Sandpatch. To the south and west west are the mountains. You can camp up here; it’s an official campsite with water but no sanitation.

Dropping down the ridge

Dropping down the ridge

Perfect rural roads

Perfect rural roads

Heading to Twin Hills Lookout

Heading to Twin Hills Lookout

From Cootharaba Views Lookout, the trail flows down along the ridgeline until it pops out on a perfect country road that winds it’s way over the hill tops until it reaches a dairy farm. From here the trail is unformed but follows the farm’s fenceline until it reaches Two Hills Lookout. It’s a challenging uphill climb across the farmland because the cows use this as their pathway to be milked. But again, it’s novel and fun to ride across a field of grass.

Such diversity of trail

Such diversity of trail

I rode this section twice

I rode this section twice

After Twin Hills Lookout trail #4 splits from trail #2. I followed trail #4 steadily downhill towards Lake McDonald. This section of trail is abysmally marked, with missing signs at critical track junctions. When I finally did find a sign, it was the ‘Alt #4’ sign indicating the alternate dry weather route. I followed it only to discover that I traveled back on myself. Fortunately, after riding about a kilometre in the wrong direction I recognised an intersection so I took out my¬† mobile phone and used my new favourite app (View Ranger) to work out exactly where I was and how to get to Lake McDonald. Fortunately, the track was beautiful.

Resting at Lake McDonald

Resting at Lake McDonald

I reached Lake McDonald in the mid afternoon. I’ve been here before during both the 2012 and 2013 Adventure Race Australia. I ate lunch, enjoyed the view and relaxed for a few minutes.

Trail #7 heading back to Pomona

Trail #7 heading back to Pomona

Ancient tree

Ancient tree

Then I hit trail #7; my final trail for the day and one I’ve ridden and run as part of Adventure Race Australia 2012 and 2013 (I certainly hope we don’t take it again in 2014 because, no matter how beautiful the track, that would be boring for adventure racing).

Cruising back to Pomona

Cruising back to Pomona

I made the most of that final 15km stretch back to Pomona. I felt strong and confident on my bike and actually got up some speed on the downhills. I also worked out my packing issues. Both my handlebar and seat post bags were rubbing against the wheels when I rode over jumps or through bomb holes. But after I removed my clothes from the handlbar bag and the waterproof from my seat post bag the rubbing stopped. I now now that I have to carry my clothes in my backpack.

One last look at the trail

One last look at the trail

One last section of trail to enjoy and drool over.

It's all over but the 4hr train ride home

It’s all over but the 4hr train ride home

And then it was done. I got back to Pomona, bought some food and cold drink to enjoy under the shade of the same tree in the same park as I snoozed in yesterday. Then I cleaned and lubed my bike chain before my 4 hour train ride home.

As challenging as it was, it was a brilliant weekend and I’ll be back to ride the Noosa Trail Network again in November.

Total: 60km MTB

PS: Sorry for being so pick heavy but I wanted to share a good selection of images to showcase the trail network. My internet searches only revealed a relatively small number of images that made the trail network seem like they were just fire trail and gravel roads, not the diverse and beautiful experience they really are.

Adventure Race Australia, Qld 2013

Bike drop

Bike drop

After camping out at the Pomona Showgrounds, we woke early to clear starry skies. Sure, it might have been cold, but that was good news because it meant the day would be perfect for adventure racing.

It was still dark when we left camp to drop our bikes near Lake McDonald, just a quarter hour drive away. By the time we got there, the kookaburras had finished their dawn song and the sun was shining; it was still cold though. We found a spot near the edge of the park to make it easy for us to find our metal horses and drove back to race HQ to collect our maps.

Using my shoelace as a map measurer

Using my shoelace as a map measurer

The maps seemed a little strange at first review. There just didn’t seem to be 6-7 hours of racing there. And some of the transition areas were too close together with no checkpoints in between. We and the teams around us were asking each other whether anyone had extra maps. But it was all a ploy: the In2Adventure course setters were up to tricks that would test teams’ navigation skills later in the day.

We had bought a map measurer just before the Rogue 24 Hr Adventuregaine in April but after the race I threw it in the wash with my dirty clothes. So I was left measuring out distances on the map with my shoelace for ARA (my shoelace was the only string I could find). We found it worked quite well: our navigation was almost all spot on during the race. Though I will be buying us a new map measurer before next season.

Ready to race

Ready to race

We packed our gear, attended race briefing and then boarded the bus to race start. As we boarded the bus, a marshal handed us an extra map containing a surprise foot rogaine leg. We still didn’t know where we were going to start the race and the map was only a small extract of the larger map we’d been given earlier. But we quickly identified where it fit into the large map and developed a plan of attack.

We pushed ourselves right from the start by running more than we walked in the trek legs. Our navigation was spot on in the first foot rogaine and we hit all the checkpoints fairly easily. Instead of following the crowd, we stuck to the game plan we had devised on the bus and it worked for us. The other teams’ plans seemed to work for them too but for us the important thing we have been working on is sticking to our own game plan.

We love to kayak

We love to kayak

The foot rogaine took us to Lake McDonald where we could see iAdventure’s kayak trailer waiting for us. We quickly carried the heavy and awkward Voyagers out of the steep trailer down to the water to collect the checkpoints around the lake’s edge. We worked hard to overtake other teams in our strongest leg while still enjoying the scenery. We’re quite fortunate that I’m a little bloke because many teams with bigger men in them (especially the all-male teams) really struggle with these Voyagers the cockpits are quite small and they tend to take on water quite easily. Being small means we can get a rhythm and paddle properly.

The water was cold so I was glad my sister is our paddle ferret. She did an awesome job jumping into waist deep water and fighting her way through water plants to attack the checkpoints instead of making us wait until other teams had moved their kayaks out of the way. This way we could stay out of the melee and I could turn the boat while my sister grabbed the CP. She is great at getting back in the boat in waist (and sometimes chest) deep water.

It was muddy

It was muddy

After a short run to the bike TA we hit the trails. It was a mud-lover’s dream out on the course. While my sister just barged her way through all the mud and water, I have to admit to riding like a nanna (actually, I ride slippery tracks so poorly that it’s an insult to nannas to say that ūüôā ). During the race I decided to take the clipless pedals off my bike and to ride with flats for a while to build confidence and skills. I still had a ball though.

Mountain biking

Mountain biking

When we first checked the map at HQ we thought we’d be in trouble today with so much of the course being on the bike. But as we made our way around, we realised that it was definitely a navigator’s course. Through some good tactical decisions and strong navigation we were able to keep up with teams who would usually be far ahead of us in the course (i.e. teams who ride like pros and who don’t have to wait for my nanna-like riding).

Urgh! Not the powerlines again

Urgh! Not the powerlines again

Much of the course traveled through trails and bushland that we traversed in last year’s Adventure Race Australia. Unfortunately for our legs, we had a repeat of the hills along the power line. But at least it made the navigation here easy because we knew exactly where to turn off (after pushing the bikes up of the nasty hills).

Loving life on the course

Loving life on the course

Despite (or perhaps because of) the prospect of the powerline hills, my sister and I were having a brilliant time out on the course.

Marking up the map for the surprise bike rogaine

Marking up the map for the surprise bike rogaine

The race had plenty of surprises for us, including five surprise rogaines (three on foot, the kayak leg and one on the MTBs). My sister did a fantastic job marking up the maps for us. This has been a big development for us – being able to share the navigation. In our first few races, I was in charge of the maps but over time my sister’s confidence has increased and now she navigates us on the bikes and kayak while I navigate on foot. We split it based on our strengths. I am our rear seat paddler on the water and she has better eyes than me on the bikes (I wear reading glasses), while I love navigating and find my eyes manage ok on foot.

A beautiful day for trekking

A beautiful day for trekking

Just as we thought we were nearing the finish of the race, the In2Adventure folks threw a really nasty surprise our way.

Climbing Mt Cooroora

Climbing Mt Cooroora

We had to climb Mt Cooroora of Pomona King of the Mountain fame. To make things more interesting, they placed a checkpoint half-way up the mountain on the main hiking track. Unfortunately, we were one of many teams who took a steep shortcut up the mountain only to realise we had to run about 700m back down to get the CP on the main hiking track and then trek all the way back up. It was a piece of course setting brilliance.

Mt Cooroora from Race HQ

Mt Cooroora from Race HQ

Once we were almost near the top of Mt Cooroora, we got to stop to take on the best adventure leg of the race: a happy snap by a professional photographer. We played silly buggers for ours so I look forward to seeing how it turned out. The views from the top were fantastic (as you might imagine from the photo of the mountain above).

From Mt Cooroora we ran back to our bikes, rode to Race HQ. The final surprise foot rogaine was a short sharp effort, culminating in my turn to swim when I ended up waist deep in water to collect a checkpoint in the middle of a creek. That was heaps of fun and had me laughing.

Wet and muddy shoes are a sign of a good day out

Wet and muddy shoes are a sign of a good day out

We finished strong and had a great day out on the course. We have no idea how we went results-wise but it doesn’t matter. We know we raced hard and had loads of fun. We stuck to our game plan and did our own navigation, rather than following the crowds.¬†This is our last adventure race before November. There are only three or four more races in South-East Queensland in the coming months but we have commitments for each. So now we have a few months to hone our navigation and mountain biking, and improve our fitness.

Total: 6 hours of adventure racing made up of 29.1km MTB, about 12km trail running and 4km paddling.

Rogue 24hr Adventuregaine

Suwati carrying kayak out of creek after Stage 1 (Photo courtesy of Rogue Adventure)

Suwati carrying kayak out of creek after Stage 1 (Photo courtesy of Rogue Adventure)

As I sit here on Monday morning, it’s difficult to know how to start writing about the fantastic weekend my team mate and I had at the Rogue 24hr Adventuregaine. If all anyone looked at was the points on the scoreboard, they might think that Whoops Witch Way had a shocking race, scoring just 1670 out of a possible 3370 points, making us 34th of 45 teams or 14th out of 17 mixed teams. But scoreboards sometimes do lie. Both members of Whoops Witch Way agree that the Rogue 24hr Adventuregaine was one of the most fantastic weekends either of us have ever had.

At midday Saturday, we set off on the first of four stages: a 20km kayak down Yabba Creek. As with all rogaining events, all checkpoints are optional and teams may complete them in any order within a given stage. We had established a game plan intended to ensure we had an enjoyable and physically challenging weekend while also building our confidence for future rogaining events (this was only our second rogaine). So, instead of running off to CP1 with the other teams, we walked down to the kayak transition and set off on the water.

Yabbe Creek contained just enough water for us to paddle. The lowest recommended depth for paddling the creek is when 6cm water flows over the dam wall; we had 7cm. This meant we had a few little portages and sections where we had to get out so that the kayak could float over shallow sections of the creek. Though the lack of water also meant we could limbo our way under some of the bridges and fallen trees that crossed over the creek. There were even some small shallow and simple rapids for us to negotiate on our way downstream to add a bit of spice to the day.

Our tactic to skip the first checkpoint meant that we had the creek to ourselves for most of the stage. We saw the lead teams twice as they passed us in the first half of the stage and then again after they stopped to do the optional foot rogaine mid-stage. Both teams were friendly and didn’t complain when they got stuck behind us in narrow sections of the creek. Team Spin City Cycles even gave us a few tips to help us improve our paddling efficiency as they raced past us.

The view from CP19 (Stage 2 MTB)

The view from CP19 (Stage 2 MTB)

Our transition between stages 1 and 2 was slow and deliberate. We dried off with a towel, changed into dry clothing, laid out a picnic blanket and made chicken wraps, which we sat down to eat. All around us, teams were moving quickly to cram food into their systems and refill their hydro packs. It was amazing to be sitting there amidst some of adventure racing and rogaining’s elite teams to see how different their approach is to our’s. One by one, each of the teams disappeared into the distance, taking the northern route option out into the forest. About half an hour after we arrived, we too were ready to set off in the opposite direction.

Selfie at CP19 (Stage 2 MTB)

Selfie at CP19 (Stage 2 MTB)

We decided to focus our mountain bike leg on accuracy, rather than distance. We selected a 40km route that took us through some of the less hilly terrain. This was all part of our game plan to select a route suitable to our abilities that would allow us to really enjoy the weekend. We started the ride in daylight, enjoying some quiet forestry roads that ran along a bubbling creek. As the sun started to set, we came upon CP19, one of the most stunning points on the course. There was no way I was letting the moment pass without stopping to take some photos of the view and an obligatory selfie of our smiling faces.

As day turned to night, we cruised around the course collecting all the checkpoints we had marked up on the map. We only saw a handful of other teams as they either rode towards us or were stopped filling bottles at the water station. We even took time to stop and attach multicoloured glow sticks to ourselves and our bikes; such were our spirits.

We were the first team to arrive at Race HQ after stage 2, not because we were fastest but probably because we rode the shortest distance. The lovely Gary and Kim (from Team Mountain Designs who won the 8-hour race), and their friends came over to HQ to share a laugh with us. It sounded like they’d had a magnificent day on the 8-hour course and an enjoyable evening around the campfire. Their tips and encouragement were greatly appreciated as we prepared to head off onto Stage 3, a night navigation trek course that would prove to be a challenge.

Stage 3 was not our most productive in terms of¬† points. We spent three hours trekking and only found two of the four checkpoints we attempted. However, with a near-full moon, cloudless skies and only the two lead teams out on the course with us, the late night trek was stunning. After wasting an hour desperately trying to find CP34, only to learn later that we had walked straight past it, we turned off our headlamps and trotted off down the gravel road. As we ran/walked our way along the road, we watched the lead teams’ head torches climb up and back down a mountain to CP33. It made us glad we hadn’t decided to head out for it because they had to go a long way uphill. We found the easy win at CP28 and then another easy find at CP32 along a fenceline before spending about an hour trudging around looking for the 100 pointer at CP31. We have learned that we were again mere metres from our goal. Had we stuck to our game plan we might just have found it but we made the tactical error of believing we were in the wrong place because one of the top two teams (who cleared the course) were somewhere different to us.

While we didn’t score many points in Stage 3, it did serve as a reminder for us to race our own race and ignore everyone else on the course, no matter how good they are.

We returned to Race HQ around 1am and decided to punch in, ending all thoughts we might have of returning to the stage 3 trek leg. With kayaks for the final stage being unavailable until 5am, we decided to hit the hay. My team mate did a fantastic job setting up camp so that we could both crash out for a solid three hour slumber.

Morning mist on Booroomba Dam (Stage 4)

Morning mist on Booroomba Dam (Stage 4)

At 4am we woke and prepared ourselves for the final stage: a kayak with optional trek legs around Booroomba Dam. The sleep was just what we needed to refresh our bodies and spirits, ready for a long paddle in perfect conditions.

Paddling out of the mist from CP45 (Stage 4)

Paddling out of the mist from CP45 (Stage 4)

We were one of four teams to launch their boats at 5:30am. With the lead teams taking off in opposite directions around the course, we were soon paddling alone enjoying the misty pre-dawn light. Visibility was limited as the mist hung thick in the air. For most of the first hour, the only colour in our world was the bright red boat, yellow PFDs, and orange and white checkpoint markers.

At CP49 (Stage 4) (Photo courtesy of Rogue Adventure)

At CP49 (Stage 4) (Photo courtesy of Rogue Adventure)

The dam was populated by armies of dead trees, standing eerily in the water watching silently. It wasn’t until we saw them that we realised why CP49 was a 100-pointer. The clue ‘on dead tree’ but the CP was hidden amongst hundreds such trees standing in a large clump. As we came out of the inlet from CP45, we could just make out the shape of a team paddling amongst the dead trees some distance away. We couldn’t tell whether or not they had found the CP, but we decided to head in that general direction to check things out. The other team left the area quickly without us being able to tell where they’d stopped. But between our angle or approach and the first rays of sunlight, we were lucky enough to spot the bright orange marker in the distance and made a beeline for it. A random kayaker we saw paddling around turned out to be one of the race directors who snapped a photo of us celebrating our successful find.

Paddling to CP50 (Stage 4)

Paddling to CP50 (Stage 4)

As the sun rose, the day just got even more beautiful. The black water reflected the shoreline and sky, as bright blue kingfishers flitted around looking for breakfast.

Paddling to CP50 (Stage 4)

Paddling to CP50 (Stage 4)

We found all the kayak checkpoints in stage 4 but opted not to attempt the trekking CPs because we wanted to remember the race for the successes and joys, rather than risking frustration.

We had such a fun time on the race

We had such a fun time on the race

There will be other races in which Whoops Witch Way race for the purpose of finishing as high on the scoreboard as we possibly can. But sometimes, you just have to go out to have fun. The Rogue 24hr Adventuregaine tested our physical endurance and was a huge confidence-builder in our first full season together as a team. We’ve never attempted such a long event and discovered that, with a few hours sleep, we can keep it together and keep our heads. All going well, you’ll see team Whoops Witch Way at the start line for the 2014 Rogue 24hour Adventuregaine. And, who knows, we might just have a little more experience, confidence and skills by then so that we can race a little further while still just having fun.

Total:

  • 34th / 45 teams total
  • 14th / 17 mixed teams
  • About: 35km paddle, 40km MTB, 15km trek