The Queensland Rollercoaster: Oceania Odyssey Week 20



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The Queensland Rollercoaster: Oceania Odyssey Week 20
Grady’s Creek to Tewantin, 358km (total cycled to date: 5,402 km)

Any excuse will suffice for Ed to bolster his sons’ repertoire of 1990s rock music – and so it has been for the last five months that any semi-steep downhill we encounter on our bikes with an immediate uphill afterward, that our whole family belts out, “Rollercoaster! Of looove! Rollercoaster! A-oo-oo-oo!”

After this week, we don’t want to hear anything by Red Hot Chilli Peppers for a long time.

imageFrom the first kilometre after we crossed into the northeastern Australian state of Queensland (after a long morning climbing 500 metres up onto the Border Ranges National Park), we were on a different planet of road surveying. The initial 19% descent (“screaming” was the adjective used on our slightly masochistic guidebook – Ed was going 51kmh despite having both his drum brakes and hand brakes fully clenched) led to an immediate 18% ascent that forced us to reinstall our eyeballs into their sockets. We likely would have had to push our tandems uphill anyway because of the steep grade, but we never had the chance to give it a go since our gears ground to a fingernails-on-chalkboard halt as we vainly tried to downshift.

image“That was the most insane hill I’ve ever ridden in my life,” said Joce, veteran of some 25,000 km of cycle touring.

That was before she saw the rest of them – after an hour we’d lost track of how many heart-stopping, quadricep-gnarling rollercoasters we’d conquered. For a few marvellous ones, we had that exhilarating cyclist’s dream of riding right back up to the next crest without pedalling, while on others we almost rolled backwards before we could hop off to push.

imageimageAll week, we couldn’t decide whether Queensland’s hinterland was the coolest or crappiest place to bike on Earth. There were more yellow caution signs with two-digit percentages and little cars on top of isosceles triangles (woah! a post-high-school application of geometry!) than we’d seen in a decade of cycle touring. Both the ups and the downs were harrowing adventures, though thankfully neither our brakes nor our knees actually caught fire. We had to stop many times to let the rims of our wheels cool off as the smell of burning brake-pads filled the air, but have otherwise escaped these crazy hills unscathed.

imageWe have considered (daily) whether to abandon this route recommended by Lonely Planet’s Cycling Australia book, and make a bee-line away from the daily mountain summits and head to the coast instead. But then we find a gorgeous café, or a breathtaking vista of the Glasshouse Mountains and we get sucked back in all over again.

The views from atop Tamborine Mountain and Blackall Range really have been stupendous – overlooking endless miles of farmland dotted with dozens of hundreds-metre-tall basalt volcano remnants resembling a giant’s mangled jaw. We could see all of Brisbane and coastline for scores of miles in either direction. After two months gliding along Australia’s beach-lined east coast, it was certainly our toughest ride here. But it was also the most rewarding.


imageHeron and Sitka continue to be the motors on the back of the bike. Heron is our consistent rider, pacing himself for a solid, full day effort. Sitka, who tends to get preoccupied with singing, dancing and making shadow puppets on Mommy’s back, is more of an energy burst rider – he has made up a range of speeds for himself that he likes to be called out when an extra burst is needed – starting with “Powerade,” then “SuperAid,” and a whole new level this week “Mountain Blast!” – which basically involves Sitka standing up pedalling and hoofing it with all he’s got until we’re at the top of the hill. “I love my legs! They are so powerful” he reported to mommy after some excruciating climbs – we could all take some lessons in body gratitude from that little guy.

imageAfter one such rollercoaster day we landed in Beaudesert, where we took ourselves up on our offer to eat restaurant food for dinner. “Why have we never thought to ask them to deliver… to our campground?” asked Joce as we dined on exquisite Indian curries in the caravan park kitchen. The next night, we had a campfire under the clear (and frigid – it’s now technically winter in the Southern Hemisphere) night sky, singing songs Ed remembered from his Wolf Cub days. And then, after a very long day cycling, and a two-hour commuter train ride to skip through Brisbane, we splurged on a cabin in Caboolture to avoid pitching tent in pitch blackness.

The ups and downs of Queensland haven’t been all hill-related. We were psyched to pass by the infamous Australia Zoo, founded by Crocodile Hunter and local demigod Steve Irwin but more importantly home to one of the boys’ heroes, 17 year-old Bindi Irwin. The boys stumbled upon her books years ago in the New West library and have read the series several times over, always wondering if the Australia Zoo really existed and if her stories were true. When they saw her on a poster, they were over the moon. However, we called ahead and learned that Bindi wasn’t in town this week, and so the $172 price tag didn’t seem worth it when we had already seen all the Aussie animals they advertised in their natural habitat (except, thank goodness, the crocs).

imageOne morning, Ed had his chest puffed out with pride after doing a full bike tune-up before breakfast – until a few hundred metres down the road when his gears went haywire and his chest deflated in a flurry of muttered curses. Later that day, we were trying to beat the setting sun (can’t wait to return to a hemisphere where it’s light after 5:00) when we opted to squeeze in one last waterfall side trip for Joce – until we had biked way downhill to a car park and hiked another kilometre to the sign saying the falls were a further two-hour trek away. So we turned around and slogged back up the hill, never seeing the waterfall, but renaming it “disaster detour” forevermore.

imageNow we’ve just about reached our final Australian destination after two months and 2,000 km of phenomenal family adventure in Australia. The boys will proudly tell you that combined with our NZ Kms, the 5400km we have now cycled is the equivalent of cycling from Vancouver to New Brunswick, or from Vancouver to Mexico… and back!

But our celebratory mood is tempered already with a twinge of nostalgia at reaching the end of this leg in our odyssey. Tonight is our last night in our tent, which we fittingly put up in a new family record of 7 minutes and 3 seconds. You would think that after all the months camping we would be jumping at the chance to switch to hotels and vacation rentals, but the boys especially are sad to end the “endless sleepover.” Heron even claims he is going to sleep in his sleeping bag for the remainder of our journey, “even if linens are provided.”

imageSo as we switch gears to finish up Australia and make the trip to French Polynesia, we’re soaking it all in while fitting in as many games of frisbee, delayed departures for playing on ziplines, and café rest stops as we can.

And hoping, for the sake of our needing a break from 90s rock references, that we don’t cycle under any bridges or smell any teen spirit, at least until our plane touches down in Tahiti next week.


imageHeron’s Week 20 summary: This week had so many awesome yummy cafes. Part 2 of our Odyssey is almost complete – three weeks in Tahiti/Moorea is going to be awesome! But it is too bad that we have to leave Australia – I have loved the views on the bike rides this week and I love using my new Aussie accent! And seeing pineapples growing on the side of the road was awesome.


imageSitka’s Week 20 summary: Café de Fudge was my favourite cafe of the whole trip! I was sad to miss Bindi, but it was so exciting to cross over the Queensland border. It is VERY hilly here! The Glasshouse Mountains are beautiful! Getting a free delivery of Indian food to our campground was so cool! I have been babysitting Mystery Finn [the koala] until we can give her to my new cousin – I love her so much I might have to adopt her though.



  1. Lucy Klein Horsman says:

    Awesome hills and more exquisite views! That’s ashame you didn’t see Bindi Irwin. Apparently, she is really cool and I thought her Dad was awesome (maybe a little crazy!)with all the crocodiles and snakes he handled. There is always next time!

    Are you visiting anywhere else after French Polynesia or are you coming home? Safe travels for the rest of your journey!⛺

  2. Sara Viale says:

    Oh I too am sad your adventures are coming to an end.What shall I read?? Thought of you as I cycled home from work late this afternoon, setting sun on the Camden Haven River, a couple of dolphins swimming past the boat shed and a pelican sitting on a post in the water preening himself just about where you took a photo when you were here!I agree with sleeping in the bag to prolong the pleasure of your fantastic trip, just dont have bonfires in the house when you do get home! Much love Sara, Greg, Alexander( in NZ for band) and Milo sitting on my shoulder as Iwrite! XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

  3. Saralyn Hodgkin says:

    Scott and I lying in bed on Canada Day reading this post – and Scott almost crying he’s laughing pretty hard. Love you all and thinking of you lots.

  4. Eric Karjaluoto says:

    It’s been a treat to follow your adventures, even if only in text from.

    Congratulations on the successful journey—and all the new memories!

  5. Colleen Baird says:

    I think this is my favourite post so far! I’m in awe of you guys and you steep-grade skills. I hope that French Polynesia brings some more wonderful adventures!

  6. Mark Thomson says:

    So awesome guys… steep incline… use low gear… obviously not for bikes… 🙂 51 km/h isn’t fast unless your loaded on a small wheel tandem… epic!!

  7. Jacky & Stephen Fletcher says:

    Well done though some stunning country. I have yet to attempt those inclines by bike but would love the downhills. Even our old van had a hard time doing those mountains! So glad we got the chance to meet you all.. imspirational. May catch up again when we travel next in your hemisphere. Cheers and love to Heron & Sitka xxxxx

  8. Robin says:

    Love reading your posts every week, the summer sun is warm here and we can’t wait to see you guys. Love to all

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8 Proven Shortcuts To A Healthy Pregnancy

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