In early October, the Antarctica-bound humpback whale migration is moving along the south Queensland coast. Their numbers continue to rise and by some estimates they are now reaching pre-whaling population levels. And while the whale-watching boat cruises do a brisk trade at this time of year, there are plenty of locations on the coast where you can get a great view of the whales from the shore. One of our favourites is Noosa National Park.
We hiked around the coastal perimeter of the park from the Sunshine Beach end, making our way to the cliffs at Hell’s Gates, the north-eastern point of the park, to see if we could spot some whales. To our great delight, we saw many whales passing by, and the view from the cliffs was clear and uninterrupted. One whale in particular was breaching close to the cliff just as we arrived. But unfortunately I didn’t have my camera at the ready, so I learned a valuable lesson for wildlife photography – be prepared.
The whale photos shown here are somewhat grainy, as I had to enlarge them quite a bit to get the whale tails into view. I use a moderately powerful zoom lens, but I have yet to master the use of a DSLR. It’s a more complex beastie than I imagined it would be. However that took nothing away from the joy of watching these magnificent animals swimming by, in such a spectacular setting on a clear spring day.
As well as the whales, there are lots of sights to see around this coastline, and my inner bird-nerd enjoyed spotting what I later identified as an Australasian Figbird. At least I’m pretty sure that’s what it was – any corrections gratefully accepted. One more to mark as “seen” in my Slater’s Guide.
The Glasshouse Mountains region is a superb area for hiking, cycling and climbing. So with a clear, crisp mid-winter day to spend, we took our bikes on the train to Beerburrum to enjoy a ride through the forest and to see if we could make it to the top of Mt Tunbubudla. Tunbubudla West to be precise. One of a pair also known as ‘The Twins’. They are part of the 11 hills of the Glasshouse Mountains and lie to the west of Beerburrum.
On the way to Beerburrum I realised that having a fancy schmancy DSLR camera is of little use when you leave it behind on the kitchen table! So the photos you see were taken with my phone camera. Not as effective but on the bright side it was one less item to lug up the mountain.
As soon as we left the train we could smell the clean and invigorating country air. It’s a great pleasure to leave the city sometimes and enjoy some open spaces. The road heading west through the forest was a little boggy in parts. But KJ was on the new fat bike and was almost unstoppable, no matter how gooey the trail became. I did my best to keep up on my hybrid bike.
After a short ride through the pine plantation, we came to the national park area surrounding the Tunbubudlas. The trail here is not a forestry road, but merely a track which is very eroded in places. Not at all suitable for 4WDs but a plain old bicycle can go just about anywhere. If you’re prepared to get off and push it every now and again. But as we got closer to the base of T-West, we decide to leave the bikes and continue on foot.
The west twin is 293m high and the east is 312m. There may be a track heading up the east mountain but we didn’t see one. The climb is moderate at first, leading up to an area between the two peaks called ‘The Saddle’. From there the climb becomes very steep, and there is a lot of loose rock underfoot.
As we approached the top, we came across an almost vertical rock face that might be 20 metres high to the summit. It may be higher – I’m not so great at estimating distances, especially when craning my neck upwards. To scale this last section would require actual rock climbing expertise and equipment. Neither of which we possess. So after unsuccessfully searching left and right for a track that went around this cliff, we were satisfied that this was as high as we could go.
There are excellent views from this not-quite-the-top vantage point, although there are lots of trees to peer through. It’s not like a lookout with 360 degree views. But we could see right across to Pumicestone Passage, and had good views of Mount Coonowrin (Crookneck) and the western side of Tibrogargan.
We cautiously made our way back down to the Saddle, enjoyed our packed lunch and regretted not bringing a thermos of tea. Back to the bikes, back through the forestry to Beerburrum and back home on the train. In the words of Wallace and Gromit, a grand day out.
postscript – when checking some facts and figures on the Glasshouse Mountains, I stumbled across an extraordinary story from 1912, about three intrepid sisters who cycled from Brisbane to Mount Coonowrin (Crookneck), climbed the mountain in their ‘voluminous gym clothes’ and then cycled all the way back to Brisbane. The story and some photos can be seen here. Definitely worth a look.
I did it. I bought my self a fatbike. An Avanti Tracker to be precise. And it’s hard to describe without hyperbole, just how amazing it is to ride. These photos were taken in the Beerburrum state forest, where I recently put the bike through its paces. The bike’s traction, stability and go-anywhereness (not a word but it should be) are incredible. Whether the trail was sandy, muddy or covered with loose gravel, the bike just kept happily rolling along. I could ride along tracks where, on my hybrid bike, I would bog down and have to walk it. This was just a short ride to see what the bike was capable of. But watch this space – there’ll be many fatbiking trips ahead, for sure.
It has been an unseasonably warm start to March, so KJ and I took advantage of the perfect weather to have a cycling trip to Mudjimba Beach.
Taking the train to Beerwah Station, we set out along the forestry trails, aiming to reach Caloundra by midday. We did so – more or less. A couple of shortcuts, suggested by me, turned out to be not so short after all.
What began as a promising shady alternative route, ended up being blocked by some minor flooding on the trail, which was probably caused by the recent impact of Cyclone Marcia. I thought that by unloading the panniers I would be able to carry the bikes around the water, but it wasn’t meant to be. We returned to the sunny, but dry track and continued to Caloundra.
Back on the trail, we continued with the beautiful Glasshouse Mountains visible in the distance.
After a few hours of occasionally challenging riding – the cyclone had caused a lot of damage to some sections of the trail – we reached the seaside just north of Caloundra, near Currimumdi. A short rest, a bite to eat, and then onto lovely Mudjimba.
Having rested after a long day’s ride, we spent the following two days exploring the area by bike. It’s a liberating experience, leaving the car behind and travelling under one’s own ‘steam’. We weren’t limited in any way, and we even brought fishing rods with us on our bikes. As it happened, the fish weren’t biting this week, although it may have had something to do with the skills of the fisher-persons! Just a bit. KJ did hook a garfish at one point but it skipped off the line at the last minute.
We took a trip to nearby Peregian Beach, passing through a lovely area called Yaroomba. There is a strong protest movement underway there at the moment, hoping to reject the council’s intention to alter the local town plan and permit high rise development. It would be heartbreaking to see the character of this relaxed and peaceful region undone by the construction of high rise resort buildings. Hundreds of home that we rode past had signs out rejecting the high rise plan. We thought this one with the sea turtle was particularly arty and original.
Continuing on to Peregian Beach, we found a cafe for the dedicated cyclist where, if you wanted a coffee but didn’t want to stop pedaling, you could pedal along while getting your dose of caffeine, and not spill a drop.
Walking along the sand near Peregian, we noticed hundreds, possibly thousands, of jellyfish that had been washed ashore. The local newspapers reported that a bloom of Catostylus mosaicus jellyfish, aka ‘blue blubbers’ or, as we affectionately called them as kids, ‘snotties’, had been caused by the warm weather. They do have a mild sting but are not regarded as particularly harmful to humans.
And then there are the lorikeets. As noisy as they are colourful. These attractive birds are common all over the coast, and are especially vocal in the early morning (no sleeping in for us) and late afternoon.
We adored Mudjimba. It’s peaceful, picturesque and has great cycling all around. The Mooloolaba Triathlon was about to start and many of the locals asked us if that’s what we were there for. It was flattering, but we didn’t much resemble the speedy lycra-clad athletes zooming around the area on their bikes, in preparation for the big day. We were perfectly happy to just roll along at our relaxed pace and take in the glorious sights and sounds of the coast. This is a definite do-again trip.
Hi everyone. This Thursday evening, 20 November, we – that is, Renoir’s Cat – will be back at the QUT Theatre playing some great jazz for their Season 2014 Launch Party. This is always a great gig, in a wonderful location overlooking the gardens. Take a look here for the booking details. It’s the theatre’s 10th birthday so it should be a fun night. Hope to see you there.