Under A Microscope

Small world planet

To me, there are a million reasons to keep riding bicycles and I plan to do so until my body is no longer able. Riding bicycles is irreverent (though it really shouldn’t be) and it is, in many ways, an expression of creativity. It’s a way of largely decoupling oneself from the iron grip that modern consumerism and corporations have on all of us. It is transport. It is freedom. It is fitness of the mind and body. It is the gateway to humans treating the environment more justly and creating more livable cities. It is a massive middle finger to all the shit, greed and lies which are currently dragging the world down.

But of all those things, there’s one which particularly fascinates me. It’s the way that bicycles shrink the world and put it under a microscope revealing incredible details otherwise hidden by the speed and size of everyday modern life. They zoom your experience from galaxy level to planet level and shine a spotlight on the mechanics of life – stuff you would never notice from a speeding car or plane. Riding bikes reawakens your connections to your environment and the people around you.

Having said that, much of my younger life was spent in a speeding car glossing over the treasures held in the hinterland and coast of my local area – Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast. I now spend my spare time discovering and indulging in this neglected facet of my area and I uncovered yet another piece of it a few days ago on a bimodal bike-plus-train journey from Brisbane to the seaside town of Marcoola on the Sunshine Coast where I would rendezvous with the rest of my cohort for a multi-day stay.

The bike leg of the journey was not too long (fifty kilometres or so) but it was a great immersion into the surroundings of the area and proved once again that you don’t necessarily need a car to visit the Sunshine Coast. Plus I got to uphold my promise that my next trip through the Dularcha National Park would be done without involving a car.

Bicycle on a train to Landsborough

My day started before dawn. I awoke to breakfast and a fully packed Trek Crossrip both of which I had prepared the day before so after my various morning rituals, I headed to my local train station and arrived with about two minutes to spare before my northbound train arrived to scoop me off the platform and get me under way. As per my last such journey, I had the carriage pretty well to myself with just a few people on their way to work and one fast asleep also on the way to the coast.

After a quick change of trains at Petrie, I knew I was well on my way as the suburban landscape quickly changed to a more bucolic one with forests and towns slipping past like a full length adventure documentary. There was also the customary five to ten minute stops as we waited to share the single train track with other trains traveling in the opposite direction.

They say that sometimes it’s good to have a long way to go – that the journey is more important than the destination – and it is but today time slipped by quickly and, before I knew it, I arrived at Landsborough where the train leg of my journey would end and the bike leg would begin. I exited the station and found myself amongst old Queenslander style shop facades on the ute-lined main street of Landsborough. People wearing thongs and big hats nonchalantly crossed the street and everyone seemed to know one another. Time was running at a different pace here. I breathed out and felt the corners of my mouth move up.

Landsborough Queensland main street
Landsborough main street near the train station

I thought about stopping for food but decided that it was too early and that I hadn’t really made enough headway for a break yet so I moved through town, past the school and to the entrance of the Dularcha National Park. The day still had a slight hint of morning crispness about it but it was obvious that it would get quite hot quite soon. Luckily Dularcha’s large, shady trees provided protection as I moved along the (relatively short) fire trail to the old railway tunnel. The tunnel seems long and intimidating on approach but you soon realise how short it actually is when you enter and see the light shining from the other end from around the slight bend in the middle. On the northern end, the ground is sandy with lumps of sandstone scattered in places and large palms and ferns growing off the side of the trail. Very tropical.

Dularcha National Park entrance
Entrance to Dularcha National Park on the Landsborough side

Cycling through Dularcha National Park

I continued on to the end of the tunnel track where it emptied out into the town of Mooloolah Valley. The town looks and feels a little like Landsborough’s sister town with the same architecture and same laid back vibe. A couple of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos waddled around somebody’s front lawn as I headed for the centre of town. I passed through the Mooloolah Valley township without stopping and headed out on the east bound Connection Rd which has a very nice shared path running along side of it almost all the way to Steve Irwin Way. But before going that far, I peeled off and headed up Stevens Rd and onto Glenview Rd which featured more shared pathways away from the road and before I knew it, I was at the Bruce Hwy near the Ettamogah Pub. A short trip down the service road running next to the highway led me to an underpass where I made my way up Pignata Rd to the Sunshine Coast Strawberry Fields where I stopped for a few photos and a quick snack.

Dularcha railway tunnel

Sulphur Crested Cockatoos Australia

Mooloolah Valley bike path

Onward past the strawberry fields, I continued up Laxton Rd past small farms and rural properties until the paved road eventually ended giving way to gravel. Paddocks of cows and other animals really made the scene look and feel a long way from suburban city life as the animals gazed seemingly bewildered at my laden bicycle rolling past their homes.

Sunshine Coast strawberry fields
Sunshine Coast strawberry fields

Staring cow

A few more kilometres of dirt road and a great little tree lined creek crossing landed me near the back of the Sunshine Coast University and at the border of the Mooloolah River National Park. There was just enough time for a quick look around before heading out along Claymore Rd where I would start heading towards the coast at Alexandra Headland.

Laxton Rd Palmwoods hut in horse paddock

Near Mooloolah River National Park

Mooloolah River National Park entrance

The day was really starting to heat up as I rolled down the hill to the headland but my DaBrim helmet brim (which I have reviewed recently) kept it tolerable and, given that it’s SPF50+ rated, hopefully saved my skin a little too. There were some great little sets of waves rolling into the beach at Alexandra Headland and the line up was quite crowded as surfers made the best of the conditions. I stopped for a while and drank up the scene before me.

Alexandra Headland Queensland
Alexandra Headland looking south west

From Alexandra Headland, I followed the coastline all the way around to the Sunshine Motorway bridge that crosses the Maroochy River where I was met with a fantastic separated bikeway that took me over the river and then swung right past Twin Waters and on to Mudjimba. The section between Twin Waters and Mudjimba was particularly pleasant with it’s thickly forested surrounds and the sound of the ocean just behind the trees. My destination was close now.

Flowers in a field

Maybe because I have strong links and memories of this stretch of coast from when I was younger or maybe it’s something inherent to the place itself but either way, there’s such a strong vibe of Mother Nature’s presence here from the Paperbark forests to the power of the ocean and the long, white beaches lined with Pandanus trees that disappear into the salt spray. The place is almost in another dimension or frequency – an oasis of how life ought to be. A sample of where priorities ought to lie. Life is vivid here – every sound, every sight feels ripe.

In my youth, we would search the beaches here early in the morning for the best break and surf until we couldn’t paddle anymore then eat at one one of the small local cafes or bakeries, sleep off the early start and do it again later in the day finally heading back to Brisbane in the late afternoon or evening full of salt, sand and sunburn. The dream, of course, was to move up here and surf until the end of time before “real” life grabbed you and put it’s collar and lead on you. Very few of us actually got away.

A short time later I arrived at Marcoola and checked into the digs where I would spend the next few days. Once showered and fed at one of the very fine local establishments, I sat back and felt everything change down a couple of gears. This would be a good few days.

Marcoola Beach Queensland
Marcoola Beach with Old Woman Island in the distance

Plenty of good things featured in my stay. I climbed Mt Coolum, explored the local area on my bike (there’s some great backroads and bikeways here) and surfed the local break which I had mostly to myself despite the peak holiday season that was in progress.

Marcoola coastal pathway
The coastal pathway at Marcoola
Yaroomba Beach Queensland
Yaroomba Beach
Top of Mt Coolum looking south
From the top of Mt Coolum looking south
Top of Mt Coolum looking south west
From the top of Mt Coolum looking north west

My Trek Crossrip was an excellent choice for the trip. Fitted with my 38mm Schwalbe knobbies, the bike provided a good balance of offroad handling on the firetrails and dirt roads while keeping the onroad efficiency high. I stored my gear in an oversized saddle bag and handlebar bag so I didn’t need to wear a backpack. I carried a set of clothes, tools, some food and other bits and pieces which was admittedly more than I needed for the day especially given that someone was carting the rest of my stuff to Marcoola for me but this was also an exercise in seeing how I might pack the bike for a longer trip. And there are definitely ways to store even more gear on the bike without any problems so I wouldn’t hesitate to take it on a longer, fully self sufficient journey.

The other thing that featured gear-wise on this trip is the use of a GPS which I acquired a little while ago. Whilst I’ve never really been that keen on using such devices, I found it to be very good and will definitely be using it more often. I got the Garmin Edge 520 which was the simplest one I could find that did what I wanted it to do but which I’m told is no longer available. I’m sure, however, it has a successor with a slightly different name so if you’re looking for something similar, I can say that Garmin is so far so good. The 520 has turn by turn navigation, allows you to plug into a computer and copy/paste route files (gpx, tcx, etc) directly onto the device and has a fifteen hour battery life which was pretty much all the features I wanted. It also allows you to do other stuff like upload your routes to a popular workout statistics service but I won’t be using that any time soon as you might have guessed.

So, to wrap up, if you’re tired of your regular biking haunts and looking for a little adventure, check out what’s around your area within a train-plus-bike distance before you go spending up big and looking to the other side of the planet. Sometimes it’s just a matter of slowing down and seeing the details in what is usually a blur at speed.

Happy riding and see you out there sometime.

One thought on “Under A Microscope”

  1. Reading your post brought so many memories; when I was a kid I used to ride my bike very often, discovering different parts of the area where we lived. Of course in Europe you could do it in summer only.
    You are right,the world around you feels different when you stop speeding and look around.You recognise different trees, little creatures stop and look at you and you can touch and feel what’s around you.
    That’s why I love trekking and camping so much!
    Too scared to ride my bike on the public roads but use most of the bikeways we have around here.
    Waiting for temp to drop a bit so I can start riding again.

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