Category Archives: Australia

A wet climb up Mt Bartle Frere 1622m

Yes, it’s been over a year since I last posted anything! But this latest adventure up Queensland’s tallest peak was worthy of a post.

The short story is we made the summit, but there were certainly unexpected difficulties along the way – the worst was the blood sucking leeches and a wet, slippery trail that went on and on through dense tropical rainforest.

The trail meandered through wet rainforest mostly
The trail mostly meandered through wet, tropical rainforest

We started from the Josephine Falls trailhead (an hour’s drive south of Cairns) and finished at the Gourka Rd trailhead near the Atherton Tablelands – a distance of 15 hard km and some 1500m elevation gain and loss.

Even though it was supposedly the “dry” season, we were soaked in sweat only 10 minutes down the trail. The humidity was intense! The gradient started off pretty flat until we reached this incredibly picturesque creek crossing.


But as is usually the case, with good comes bad, and our bad came in the form of one small, black, wriggly creature – our first leech encounter…

I was slightly disgusted and definitely grateful that I’d packed the salt. Thankfully we found that the higher up we climbed, the less of an issue the leeches became.

The trail really steepened up between the 3 and 5km mark (note that the trail is marked in 1 km intervals, and regularly with orange arrows or tape), and left us gasping for air. Especially since we were lugging up 15kg packs. The kilometres seemed to go by at a snails pace.

Towards the upper slopes we entered into the clouds which was cool at first – turned out they never left us though and we didn’t get a view for the entire trip! Unfortunately this is apparently quite normal.

With several more stops we reached eastern summit camp (7km) after 6 hours, which we thought was pretty good…until we met another couple of guys who did it in half that time! And they made the summit and back down in the day.

Rain looked ominous, so we quickly set up the new tent and bundled into it for the night.

New tent - One Planet Goondie 2 - worked well
New tent – One Planet Goondie 2 – worked well

Unfortunately the weather deteriorated overnight and we woke to rain lashing sideways at the tent. The decision was made to stay put for the day in the emergency shelter, and we boiled the water that ran out of the shelter’s drain pipe for drinking.

Also worth mentioning is my phone got reception at eastern summit camp so I could advise of our change of plans.

The final day on 15 July was a solid one. Light rain lingered around all day and made the rocky section between eastern summit camp and the real summit painfully slow! Every step had to be taken with such care so not to slip. The rocks were large in this section and scrambling skills were definitely necessary.

Matt scrambles ever upwards

The summit was made 1.5 hours up the trail and then it was all downhill. The trail was less obvious on this side of the mountain, but we never made a wrong turn. And we didn’t make many stops cause we didn’t want to become leech lunch! Still, we both became lunch at some point…they got everywhere!

All in all, it was a successful trip full of new climbing conditions.

Funny thing was Matt found two leeches on his dirty clothes a full two days after the climb, 150km away from the mountain, after having gone through a washing machine…and still alive!

A leech ready to grip onto anything that runs into it
A leech ready to grip onto anything that runs into it
At the top!
At the top!

Brisbane Valley Rail Trail cycle tour

The big tester ride for New Zealand is done and dusted. The Brisbane Valley Rail Trail proved a great ride and a success.

In preparation for our cycle tour of New Zealand’s south island at the end of the year, Matt and I were after a ride that would test out all of our gear and setup completely. So the BVRT it was. Plus, we needed to ride to find out if we even enjoyed cycle touring, given we’d never done it before!

Here’s the map I took along for the ride…the blue lines mark the open rail trail sections and the dotted lines mark the closed section of the trail, we had to ride on the highway along this section. We started down at Fernvale and made our way up to Blackbutt and back to Fernvale over 4 days and 250km.

Brisbane Valley Rail Trail map

We set off on Day 1 from Fernvale and rode the smoothest, easiest section of the whole trail to Lowood. It was quite unbelievable how easily the km’s ticked over. At Lowood Matt had his first and only fall trying to ride his loaded up touring bike around the local skate park…luckily only his pride was dented.

We pushed on from Lowood and found the largest old railway bridge out of all the ones we encountered. This one was over Lockyer Creek. It was interesting seeing all the old bridges and thinking how much harder the builders had it a hundred years ago. Quite impressive work, and to think it’s all just slowly rotting away now.

Old railway bridge over Lockyer Creek
Old railway bridge over Lockyer Creek

As we quickly learned there were two constants on the trail – closed railway bridges, which meant descending into the gully and slowly pushing our bikes up the other side, and the other constant was opening and closing countless cattle gates.

Matt pushing his bike across the Lockyer Creek gully
Matt pushing his bike across the Lockyer Creek gully
One of many gates.
One of many gates…

On the second day the funniest moment of the whole 4 days took place – well for me at least. We were riding along in the morning coolness about 10km north of Esk, Matt about 30 m ahead of me, when we saw a road overpass ahead. There were a couple of Council workers shovelling excess gravel off the overpass. So there goes Matt, “scrape”, “smack”. Yep they shovelled gravel off the roadway all over Matt, a good gravel shower to wake him up. How’s that for being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

By the end of the second day we made it to Linville where we stumbled upon a brilliant free camping/caravan overnight area. Peter and Diane, a kind retired couple caravanning around Australia invited us over to their fire where they gifted us with hot tea, and we shared stories. Thankyou Peter and Diane for your hospitality! We were also gifted with a brilliant dark sky and the milky way stretched right across the sky. I love it.

July 2014 - Admiring the Milky Way from the dark skies of Linville, QLD Australia.
Admiring the Milky Way from the dark skies of Linville. A couple of old rail carriages are here too.

By this stage, the end of day 2, I had planned to already be at the end of the trail in Yarraman but our progress was only 50km/day instead of 80km/day. We decided to make a big push for Yarraman on day 3 with our new technique…

One thing was clear, Matt was way more bike fit than me, so we decided that he should ride ahead of me and open every single gate, then I’d ride straight through, he’d close it, and pass me again. This technique helped us get up the range from Linville to Blackbutt in great time but it left me dead! I smashed a meat pie and coke and felt so much better!

We headed on towards Yarraman until a couple of kilometres down the trail we found it blocked off. It looked like it was temporarily shut until they got a chance to mow it, but there was no signpost explaining what was happening. After we had spent time trying to find a way around the fence, we realised the day was ticking away from us, and we both agreed to head back to the awesome Linville camping spot.

The point where we turned back. That arrow only lead to another barbed wire fence!
The most picturesque part of the trail on the climb from Linville to Benarkin
One of the most picturesque parts of the trail on the descent from Benarkin to Linville
Setting up our tent in Linville.
Setting up our tent in Linville

When we began riding from Linville on day 4 we planned to camp again that night, but as the day progressed we realised we were flying through the km’s. Somehow I managed to find my legs and we powered through to Esk by 1pm. It was quite weird actually, I think my body just got used to riding everyday and made overnight adjustments to cope. I loved it! So after a big day in the saddle, 8:30 to 5pm, we finished off the 100 odd km back to the car at Fernvale.

What got us there? Definitely the thought of a hot shower and pizza! Wow, I downed that  deep pan pizza in 10 min flat!

So the big question is what do we take away from this ride?

  • Highway riding with little road shoulder is best avoided. Especially when big trucks are rumbling passed. The highway section was the least enjoyable, so we’ll aim to ride as much off road trails as possible in New Zealand.
  • Bikes performed superbly. My pannier rack fell off once because I forgot to tighten the bolts and Matt had one flat tyre. That’s it.
  • I need to do some training!
  • Matt needs some more spare clothes!
A great ride.

Bay to Bay yacht race

If there’s been one constant in my life over the last 8 years it’s been the annual Bay to Bay trailerable yacht race. The 2 day, 87km race through the picturesque sandy straits off Fraser Island in Queensland has been a great weekend getaway with Dad.

Back in 2007 we started off in our 18 ft Compass Careel and had mixed results. By mixed results I mean some years we finished and some years we didn’t. When the wind don’t blow the boat don’t flow and we don’t make the time cut off.

We’ve definitely started a trend though. When we began we were the one and only Careel but these days there’s consistently 5 or more. Dad’s sailing mates have realised this is actually doable in a little Careel and it’s become quite the race for Careel supremacy.

Nowadays we’re in a bigger, but still not much faster Sonata 7 (23 ft). Let me tell you it’s so much more livable! A great overnight boat.

Course Map
Through the Great Sandy Straits beside Fraser.
Dad and the Careel boys
Dad and some of the Careel boys at Garrys.

Getting on to this year…2014 brought along the 34th annual Bay to Bay and it delivered spectacularly! Brilliant 5-20 knot winds from go to woah kept the pace high, so high in fact that Mad Max broke the course record! 87km in just 3 hours 41 min! We got home in 10 hours 40 min. Given that neither Matt nor I had sailed in over a year we did well.

Memorable moments of this year’s race was the drenching rain when we were rigging up on Friday night, the hairy moment when we almost tipped over on Sunday, the race to make the start line on Sunday morning after we slept in, and of course launching the boat at 4am Saturday morning at Tin Can – trying to navigate through the darkness to where we wanted to anchor proved a challenge.

It went a little something like this, “Alright, you’ll have to get out and push us off this sandbar” Dad said to a wide eyed Matt. When Matt couldn’t push us off, all three of us had to get out and push. Not the kind of thing you dream of, pushing a boat barefoot through pitch black water at 4:30am. Thankfully it was only knee deep.

“Keep splashing your feet around” was Dad’s uncomforting but welcome advice. Got to let those stingrays know your coming. Splashing was not a problem when Dad started power walking it out, pulling us in tow. He was running tight on time to drive up to Hervey Bay with the trailer and make the return bus. Good to know he made it by 15 min.

It was another great weekend away at the Bay to Bay.

Dave’s Careel weighted at the front for minimum drag, maximum speed.
Splendid spinnaker run
Looking aft at the splendid spinnaker run past Turkey Island, always a highlight.

Climbing Mt Ngungun, Glass House Mountains

If you’re up at the sunshine coast in Queensland and are a bit awestruck by the Glass House Mountains, then make your way to the summit of Mt Ngungun (pronounced “gun gun”). It’s not hard or long. Two hours return is very achievable for most, and the views from the top make it one of the most rewarding hikes for the minimal effort required.

The 2.8km return hiking trail begins from a well marked carpark along Fullertons Rd, a few short kilometres from the Glass House Mountains township. The grade is a steady incline suitable for the whole family, although upon arriving at the 253m summit there is a dramatic cliff you’d need to keep kids away from.

If you find this trail a bit tame then head down the road to Mt Tibrogargan. It provides a testing scramble up to it’s 364m summit. To read about that climb click here.

The summit with Mt Coonowrin (377) and Mt Beerwah (556) behind
My brother and I on the Ngungun summit (253m) with Mt Coonowrin (377m) and Mt Beerwah (556m) behind
On the trail up you get a nice view of Mt Tibrogargan
On the trail up you get a nice view of Mt Tibrogargan
The final summit ridge is easily negotiated
The final summit ridge is easily negotiated
More views from the top

First time surfing…help

03/11/2012 – Matt catching a wave at The Spit, Goldcoast QLD

You know how you catch glimpses of pro surfers on the news, “that looks easy enough” you think – or at least I did. Well wasn’t I in for a bit of a shock.

No it’s not “easy enough”. What was I thinking? It’s not even “easy enough” to stay on your board while laying down paddling, let alone sitting up waiting for “the one”.

And standing up? Well forget it. It ain’t happening. Not for me and not now!

Do I sound frustrated? Not at one with those annoying things called “waves”? Well you’d be right.

But I’ll be back, don’t worry about that “wave”. I will stand on top of you and look down on you some day so be ready!

I guess surfing is like learning to do anything for the first time though. Like riding a bike, or skiing, or driving. It’s hard at first but in time it all becomes second nature and you think it’s “easy enough”.

I used to skateboard and picked up snowboarding pretty quick so I thought I might catch on in an hour…give me a longboard and I’ll be set. (Oh yeah I was set – fast forward to my first surf in Canada here)

Thanks for the day out Matt, next time we’ll get me going.

How to: Getting you to the slopes

So you’re an 18 to 30 year old Aussie and think a Canadian working holiday has your name written all over it? Yep I can see why…

Maybe it’s the postcard perfect surrounds? The friend who says it was the “best thing they have ever done”? The freedom to explore a new country and meet like-minded travellers? Or maybe it’s that white, fluffy stuff so foreign to us Aussies. Those are my reasons. What are yours?

Canada at sunrise. Credit to Damien Sundgren 2012.
Canada’s northern lights. Credit to Damien Sundgren 2012.
Banff, Canada after recent snowfall. Credit to Damien Sundgren 2012.

Over the past few months I’ve learnt a bit and I’d like to share it. A “How to guide” to Canada if you will. Here’s the process I’ve been through over the past four months.

1.   Canadian Working Holiday Visa ($150)

  •      Australian Federal Police (AFP) name check ($40)
  •      Queensland Department of Transport traffic history report ($20)
  •      Passport
  •      Passport photos ($10)

This was the most time consuming task. Do it first! The AFP name check, traffic history report, passport and passport photos need to be sorted first so they can be included in the application. Luckily I already had my passport which saved me time; however the AFP name check took a month to go through the system. After submitting the Visa application it took another two months for the Visa to be approved. It can be up to three months so get in early.

The other option available is to pay a company $800 and they’ll do the application for you and set you up with a job and accommodation before you leave. Up to you but I’m happy to sort that out myself – all part of the travelling experience in my opinion.

I went through the International Experience Canada (IEC) program on a Working Holiday permit.

2.   Flights/Tours

When you’ve got your Visa confirmation letter you’re finally free to book flights. I booked a one way flight to Vancouver through the very helpful team at Student Flights for $1200 (good value – flight was only a month away too).

At this stage I also locked in what is going to be a breathtakingly beautiful trekking tour in Iceland. Google “midnight sun Iceland”. Wow!

3.   Travel Insurance

Can definitely be exxy so price around, make sure snow cover is included if you’re skiing. I saved $800 through Student Flights after they price beat an online quote for me.

4.   International Drivers Permit

This entitles you to drive overseas as long as you have a valid Open drivers licence in Australia. Quick and easy $40 visit to RACQ.

5.   Visa Waiver Program (for travel to America)

Feel like you might take a quick sticky beak into the USA? Road trip down the California coast? 10 minutes online and $14 later you will be free to travel (not work) in the USA for a three month period.

6.   Lights, Camera, Action

12 days to go! Wow it’s really creeping up!

7.   To Do in Canada

Social Insurance Number (SIN) – the Canadian version of our Tax File Number (TFN)

Phone (cheap brick = bulletproof)

Accommodation (bit of a biggie)

Job (I’ve heard there’s plenty)

Ski gear and pass (top priority)

Flights home (remind me in 6 months)

“Keel Train”ing and Mt Tibrogargan

Sliding, surfing, slipping,

Twisting, turning, tipping,

Diving, dodging, ducking,

Mixing, marching, mucking,

Lunging, laughing, learning

Bending, bobbing, burning.

Woah! Try getting that one out in one go! What an action packed couple of days! Had a blast sailing on “Keel Train” in the Saint Helena Cup on Saturday and on Sunday climbing up a picturesque Mount Tibrogargan in the Glass House Mountains.

Scottie hooked me up with a ride on “Keel Train”, a fast Farr 40 racing yacht for the annual St Helena Cup in Moreton Bay.

20/10/12 – Keel Train

After finding the boat through the maze that is Manly marina Liz my cousin randomly turned up for a sail. Small world sometimes.

With all ten on board we quickly donned our “XL” crew shirts and headed out to face the fresh 20 knot northerly.

The start of a sailing race is chaos. Full stop. There are boats coming at you left, right and centre so it was a good thing our knowledgeable (me not included) and youthful crew was on their ‘A’ game… or so it seemed…

Unfortunately we were a bit too eager to tear the race apart and ended up over the line at the gun, but with a quick spin around Torpy had us back with the leaders in next to no time… ‘A’ game recovered.

We absolutely hooted along with the kite up and finished the day in fourth I believe. A solid effort!

20/10/12 – On board action (Credit to Ryan’s GoPro footage)

Sunday was rock climbing day up Mt Tibrogargan – Wooo! And there were ten of us brave enough to take on the challenge – regardless of death stories or the 25 helicopter rescues a year Mum warned us about.

21/10/12 – Mt Tibrogargan from the highway. We climbed up the other side (Nice photo Avin)

The trail started off as a gentle uphill stroll but in the blink of an eye we were scaling up a near vertical rock chute!

Funnily enough it was at this moment that we heard a rescue helicopter hovering above like a bee in search of nectar. It sensed Kelly was on the mountain…

From there the grade eased up a fraction but only once we got to the top could we truly take a breather and soak up the stunning landscape now 364m below.

Short, sharp, steep – and stunning – is an apt description.

Standing on the edge of a sheer cliff top, Cherry pulled some daredevil poses for the camera, assuring all of us she was “both mentally and physically stable”. Whatever you say Cherry… whatever you say.

Anyway thankfully we all made it down intact – albeit minus the hole Kelly tore in her pants. Sorry had to be said.

21/10/12 – The top of Tibro! From left: Peter, Avin, Mike, Cherry, Kelly, Matt, me and Ash
21/10/12 – A seat with a view
21/10/12 – It’s certainly no bushwalk
21/10/12 – Ash, Kate, Zoe and me halfway up
21/10/12 – “The Conquerors” Kelly, Ash and Cherry with Mt Beerwah and Mt Coonowrin in the distance

Mount Mee – arrr the country air

I love getting out of the hustle and bustle of city life, especially on my bike. There’s something about the wind in your face, the endless rolling hills, distant blue mountains, and ummm the ever increasing aching in your legs. So invigorating!

I rode (cycled) from Samford through Dayboro and up to the small township of Mount Mee today. 96km return with a solid 7km climb at 5%. I know, a car would have made that climb a whole lot easier but I love the challenge of getting to the top and pushing my body!

I must admit I was a bit intimidated by the length of the climb but it turned out to be easier than expected – 5% was flat enough to settle into a good rythym.

All in all it was a good adventurous day! Even got caught in a storm for the last 10km and managed to puncture only 5km from my car.

If you haven’t been to Mt Mee I would definitely recommend it as a great day trip. Pack a picnic lunch and make friends with the cows – or if you’re slightly mad like me try riding up it.

To see my absolute two favourite pics of the day click here – Only the best photos.

Sailing on a CAT

What a way to spend an afternoon on yet another glorious day! The feeling of the cool stiff breeze on your face, the deep greeny blue water spraying you head to toe when you least expect it, and catching just the right amount of the sun’s rays – no wonder Scottie says it’s THE best hangover cure.

Scottie, yeah yeah the sick one from the Mt Barney trip (you know the one) is actually an avid sailor. So when the opportunity arose to go sailing on his wildly fast Hobie 16 I jumped at the chance.

Rigging up a boat that only weighs 100 something kilos was a new experience for me. No need for a car, you just push it around like a ragdoll.

With so much gear to put on, it felt as if I was ready to catch a pass in a gridiron match – sunshirt, one oversized jumbo lifejacket, another long sleeved sunshirt and harness… a harness to go sailing – now that’s my cup of tea!

With the wind out on the water blowing a perfect 15-20 knots and both of us 100% sober I might add, Scott pointed out a tally of 14 marks on my harness – the number of times the wearer has been pitchpoled.

Think of pitchpoling this way, you’re busy adjusting oodles of ropes when oops, the bow digs into a wave, and the boat cartwheels over sending you sailing through the air into the drink. Quite spectacular from an outsiders perspective I’d imagine.

Out of the harbour in record time things got interesting quickly. Just as I came to terms with leaning over the water in my harness we strike a sandbar. Now not to blame anyone but who was on the tiller again Scottie?

Back up and running after our little mishap I was shocked how fast we cut through the water, like a hot knife through butter. We maxed out at 17.7 knots (32km/h) before Scott said “let’s see if we can pitchpole it”. Sounds crazy right but somewhere deep down I thought it would be a pretty awesome experience, but it wasn’t to be.

I thought I was ready to take the reigns and Scott did too so he gave me a go in the hot seat – total control of the boat. We were scooting along having a whale of a time and about two minutes later we were being thrown seaward, this time completely unplanned. Whoops my bad.

At least Scott had his priorities right as we were both falling from a good two metres up, “Don’t put a hole in the sail” he yelled.

Our first attempt at swinging the boat back up proved a disaster. We (okay maybe it was more my fault) re-capsized it onto the other hull AND dug the mast into mud. Not a bad effort if I can say so myself.

Eventually we got back up and this time headed for the warmth of shore. Surprising how cold it gets after an unplanned swim combined with chilling winds. While I’m shaking like a leaf Scottie says how he’s “toastie” in his wetsuit. Cheers for that mate.

Back on shore and reheated we enjoyed soaking up the last of the suns rays while sipping on a nice cool bevvy. Such a sweet day.

Mount Barney Climbing Expedition

Have you ever heard of Mount Barney?

For most of us I think that’s a clear “No”. I know for me it was up until a few months ago, and I decided I have got to climb this big arse mountain. Standing at 1354 metres above sea level (5th highest in QLD) it’s not exactly your typical school camp hike – far from it in fact as I was about to find out.Image

So Saturday 8th September came round and I had four mates coming on the expedition. But how’s this for luck – four out of four either are sick or were sick within the past 24 hours. Not the ideal way to kick off a weekend requiring physical stamina.

But pushing on, Josh and I arrived at camp in awe of the sheer size of the mountain looming over the campsite. After finding a stackload of firewood, Josh lighting it flamethrower style, and jumping into a freezing cold waterhole that was “tinglingly refreshing” we met Paul – the climber (and 39 year old astrophysicist). We quickly discovered that if you want to know anything about climbing up big scary mountains ask Paul. He plans his holiday destinations around what big peaks are in the vicinity, and ascends them both with and without ropes…..yes roped climbs = scary stuff.


Saturday night my other two “sick” mates Rory and Scottie arrived (Jay, the most experienced mountaineer of us all unfortunately couldn’t make it, classified as Too Sick To Climb – TSTC). So with the wind blowing an absolute gale and howling like a pack of wolves we all proceeded to have a dreadful night’s sleep.

At long last Sunday morning arrived and at 4:30am we were up and well…..ummm not quite raring to go for our 10 hour hike. Following more sausages it became apparent that we had lost two more adventurers to the dreaded TSTC disease.

And then there were two. Not to be disheartened Josh and I marched off spritely at 6am sharp pondering over whether we would be the two highest people in Queensland when we made the summit? An hour later we were off the beaten track and going very steeply skywards. As we were to find out the steepness did not relent and no matter how high we got Mt Barney’s peak always appeared soooo far away. The views began getting more and more spectacular and the phrase “Let’s have a breather” more and more common.



At 9am we could just about see that the peak was within reach, but yet again Mt Barney attempted to throw us back to where we came from. With spikey shrubs, massive slabs of steep igneous rock, spine tingling drops and “What If?” moments the trail was all but gone and it was literally a matter of bush bashing and rock scrambling your way to the top.

The summit appeared before us unexpectedly and well what can I say? The views from East Peak were “mind bozzling” as Jay had rightly predicted. 360 degrees, 1100 metres up on a perfect cloudless Spring day. After spotting a deep blue dam and haze way out in the distance we snapped a few precarious photos on rocks near the edge and headed for home.


The way back was faster but required more concentration, as Josh found out dodging snakes and goannas and I found out falling headfirst down a rock face (the bush was hiding the rock ok).

After eight and a half hours on the mountain we made it back, tired but content and conjuring up ideas for the next adventure.