Saturday, 1 August 2015

Holiday Time - Cairns to Karumba - Part two

Day Four - Mount Surprise to Georgetown - 94 km

The days ride ride was a warm day starting with some rollers heading towards the Newcastle range, this would be the only significant climb on the route after we left the Tablelands. this was a short punchy climb of a couple kilometres long with a great view back to the Undara Volcanic National Park

Of course our superb support crew had everything set up for us once we got to the top, where we stopped for lunch.

After lunch it was downhill all the way to Georgetown, this was to be a fast descent, but as luck would have it, I missed out, the spokes in my front wheel had loosen and when I got to 56 km/h the bike would wobble. So nursing it down to camp, I dropped it off to the boys at Pump and Pedal, who were the tours support mechanics for a bit of tender care.

Fran, our Support Crew Boss was released from her duties, jumped on her trusty stead and rode into Georgetown, cunningly Fran picked the longest downhill section for her first ride!

Fran and John in Pack Three

Once again we had the joys of camping in the local rodeo ground, this allowed us to spread out, clean and service our bikes, enjoy hot showers and re-hydrate!

Bikes cleaned and serviced ready for the next day

The long shadows as the evening draws closer

Day four - 92.6 kilometres - 616 metres of climbing - 2 hours 56 minutes ride time

Day Five Georgetown to Croydon 146 km

Waiting for our Pack to depart

The first of the two big days, with lunch at the halfway mark we rolled on out Pack Two was absolutely smashing it great rotating meant it was a reasonably easy ride, lunch was once again provided by the locals at Gilbert river. It was soon to heat up in the afternoon getting to mid 30's and for this kiwi boy coming out of winter, it was on the hot side!

Team One Good Leg!

Today was noticibly flatter  which was going to set the tone for the rest of the event, we had 504 metres of climbing but we had descended 679 metres, so were now only 117 metres above sea level with some 228 kilometres to ride!
Deb and Cli on the front

We pulled into town, stopping at the local waterhole for a cold XXXX and to ice my knee. It had finally blown up in the last 20 kms ... well that wasn't to bad an effort after 569 kms!

Day Five totals - 148.5 kilometres - 504 metres of climbing - 4 hours 27  minutes ride time

Day Six - Croydon to Normanton - 151 km

RACE DAY!!! Today Packs one and two were going to race the tourist train, The Gulflander, from Croydon to Normanton 151 kms. The organisers had co-ordinated this with Queensland Rail, the train averages about 35 km/h, so for Pack Two it was going to be a bit tight ... we just didn't know how tight!

Packs One and Two with the Train and its Driver at the start
Of course being cyclists, the rule book was consulted ... it gave us a start line ... a finish line ... a route ... and that was it ... plenty of room for interpertation!

Now the railway pretty much followed the road crossing it in several places, so we were able to follow each others progress. Of course the train had to stop at stations, we had to stop for food and water, the 1951 train had 102 horspower we just had two legs! But we had a few tricks up our sleeve ... the first was we had a lead vehicle to draft off, we were able to sit on 38 kms an hour, but our trump card was Waughie our friendly Police Officer who was spending his weeks holiday escorting us from Cairns to Karumba, Pulls up at one of the train stations, goes on board, breath tests the driver and then checks the ID of every passenger! A nice wee delaying tactic.

We hit the first water stop at 50 kilometres, but my knee had blown again, with the intensity of the pace we were riding at and the weeks mileage adding up, I was not a happy camper! So while the team was refilling their water bottles I threw my bike on the lead vehicle and jumped in ... it was going to be no good pushing through the pain and causing longer term issues.

Meanwhile the train driver had his own ideas, he was able to skip a couple of stops and make up a bit of time!

Of course, the team was feeling pretty confident, so confident that they stopped for a photo opportunity!

With about a kilometre to go and 20 minutes before the train was due in (1.30 pm by its schedule), heading into Normanton, we hear the train blowing its whistle, there was a sudden realisation by the riders they actually needed to sprint, cross the train tracks, take a sharp left hand corner to get to the train station before the train. 

From the car you could see the riders looking at the train then looking at the rail crossing then back to the train trying to judge whether they would make it or not!

Pack One was already in some ten minutes earlier, Pack two were out of their saddles sprinting the train was having to slow to stop at the station ...
Pack Two had made it with only seconds to spare!!!!

The Gulflander was twenty minutes ahead of schedule! Possibly a first for Queensland Rail.

Day 6 Totals - 50.3 kilometres - 32 metres of climbing - 1 hour 18 minutes riding time.

Day Seven - Normanton to Karumba - the last day!

It was a day just to enjoy each others company, a few bevies along the way, today Pack Two cruised plenty of chatting until we rolled into the outskirts of Karumba.

For the last two days we had been travelling through the Savannah lands this is flood plain country plenty of streams and marker posts showing the depths. The terrain, flora and fauna had changed every day, for me who had not been here previously I absolutely enjoyed this aspect of the tour.

Eventually all the Packs rolled in, the Dirty Boys arrived, together the 200 riders rolled into Karumba together. 
My Aussie family - What a team!

Mission accomplished!

Karumba Gulf of Carpenteria Sunset

Celebrations started!

Pack Two

Day 7 - 76.6 kilometres - 89 metres of climbing - 2 hours 27 minutes riding time.

The Aftermath 

More than a few beers and whiskies were drunk in celebration, during the evening it hit me just how far I had come in the last 12 months ... it overwhelmed me ... one year ago lying on the forest floor with a fractured femur ... I had managed to ride 680 of the 780 kilometres in seven days ... I was pretty much back, a lot of mental hurdles had been conquered this week.

To Paul and Sam, the biggest thanks for inviting me to share this experience with your families, for the support over the last year, you are both special people!

We spent the next day and half driving back to Cairns, spending the night at Innot Hot Springs, before heading to Daryl's place in Palm Cove to unload pack up and go our ways.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Holiday time ... Cairns to Karumba Charity Ride ... Part One

Twelve months on from breaking my femur, which has totally absorbed my time rehabilitating it. It was time to take a holiday, so when starting in my new role at Interex Projects, I negotiated  some leave.

Back in November, good friends Paul and Sam, while on the Southern Alps Tour mentioned that they were going to ride Cairns to Karumba, the seed had been planted, the problem was in November I was only riding 20 -30 km at a time. C2K was 780 kilometres over 7 days! Fortunately I still had seven months to continue to build some strength and endurance.

Cairns to Karumba is a charity ride which has raised over the last 18 years $1,000,000 + for distance education.

Time soon rolled around, I was visiting the Orthopaedic Consultant for a twelve month check up the week before I left for Australia, I have been getting a niggle where the distal locating screws are a bit long and the muscle rubs over them. Simple fix! The answer is to remove them!

So with that being planned it was time to pack up the bike and bag, finish of those last minute instructions for work and catch that big silver budgie over the ditch to Brisbane, hang around in the airport for a few hours and head on upto Cairns.

Although I had spent time in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast, I had not been to Far North Queensland, although from my time working in Papua New Guinea I had passed through the airport to change flights but never got any further. But it was those flights which had peaked my interest to visit especially having seen the Great Barrier Reef from the air.

Arriving late Thursday and picked up by Paul and his lovely wife Fran, it was back to the motor camp to meet the rest of the crew, assemble my bike and have a cold beer or two, just to set the tone of the next week to come!

Pre race team dinner

Friday was a quick ride (30 km) to check the bikes out, find a coffee, register and be briefed. Our support crew Fran, Darryl (Paul's good mate) and Pete (Sams uncle) got the Camper Vans, food water and beers organised. Sam's husband Jason and two kids Zac and Lilly also joined us, Jason would be riding the mountain bike stages, while Zac would join him for some of the time. Lilly would hang with the support crew and later on become the Jenga champion!

Lilly and Daryl battling it out for the Championship title

Now the night before it started to dawn on me that this shit was about to get real! In the last 10 months since I was allowed to get on the bike (for 3 minutes at a time) to now I had only acculliminated 2700 kms of riding, the longest one being 100 km. This was not a lot!!!

Questions kept popping into my head ... How far will I make before I have to pull out? Will my leg hold up? Will my niggle around the screws play up? While trying to keep rational and sensible about it ... Its ok you can jump in the support vehicle anytime ... to the irrationale ... what the feek are you doing! It's 780 km, thats like a third of what you have ridden in the last 12 months! You won't make it up the first hill out of Cairns!

But if you don't try you will not find out!

Saturday - Day One Cairns to Atherton 96 km
We rode in from the campground to the start on the Esplanade in Cairns to depart with a full Police escort to the base of the Karunda Range, there we were split into two groups to be guided up the hill. This being the main road onto the Tablelands combined with the first weekend of the school holidays, it was fairly busy, but the local police did a fantastic job at looking after us and managing the flow of traffic!

We had chosen Pack 3 to ride in, as they said it would have an average speed of 25-28 kmh, so were in the front half heading up the hill. I was riding pretty conservatively, when I notice this portly old bugger riding with sandals on! You can guess what the conversation was in my head! Over the next week I got to know Don who turns out to be lovable old Irishman with a ditty for every occasion! Being a local Don knew the roads and conditions, later in the week he was telling us that this ride was a warm up for a trip in August which was to include Spain, France and Italy! Oh, the joys of being retired!

With many stops we travelled through some absolutely beautiful rolling countryside, it made for some great riding. Eventually we rolled in through the town of Atherton to the Woodlands motorcamp.

Day one complete 103.8 km 1583 metres of climbing 4hrs 42 min riding time.

Sunday - Day Two Atherton to Mount Garnet 103 km
Today dawned overcast which later turned to drizzle, but the gorgeous rolling riding continued today, we were still not really riding in our packs but there were still many stops ... every 20 kms these were starting to get on my wick, I am carrying two water bottles so can ride for two hours no need to stop every 45 minutes!

Paul, Sam and I rode together enjoying the climbs and descents, cresting Queenslands highest sealed road (1043m) we descended into Ravenshoe. Here we were treated to a fantastic lunch provided by the locals and also to pay our respects to the town. Which had had an unfortunate tragedy, where a driver of a vehicle had a medical incident, crashing into some gas bottles outside a cafe which exploded killing two and injuring 22. The ride organisation presented a cheque to the townspeople to help with the recovery.

After lunch we headed out in Pack 3, this was a little frustrating as we were not allowed to rotate and we had to stop every 20 kms, It was not long after leaving Ravenshoe the rain stopped but we hit about 3 kms of road works and we all turned red with wet dirt!

the road works
We eventually rolled into Mount Garnet staying in the rodeo grounds. We washed the bikes down while enjoying a cold beer or two, it was easy to settled down into this daily routine!

Day two completed 106.1 km 1273 metres of climbing 4 hours 29 minutes riding time.

Day Three Mount Garnet to Mount Surprise 113 km

Day three was a day we would have a change in attitude. But first we left for 40 Mile Scrub with pack three, to be treated to lunch by the locals, now there is no towns between Mount Garnet and Mount Surprise but there is a parking area which has a shade shelter and a toilet. This is where the locals meet us.

Outside this rest area was a compulsory stop sign, with 4 police cars sitting there, this made a good point for the event organiser's to encourage those who stop to donate! Unfortunately a road train rolled through without stopping which meant the boys in blue stopped him down the road - cost au $340 !!!

When it was time to move on, we decided to move ourselves up to Pack 2, within a few kilometres Paul, Sam and I had agreed that this was a good move. This is where we would stay for the rest of the week, the pack leader Tony was an expat kiwi, and kept the pack rolling at a reasonable pace without stopping at every drink station available, it was of a reasonable size, about 16 riders all of who were capable at taking a turn on the front, the bonus was they were a pretty friendly bunch too!

We were meet a couple of kilometres out of Mount Surprise we were meet by some local kids who rode in with us ... pretty cool!

Cli with a young local who escorted us into town!

Day three completed 117.9 km 569 metres of climbing 4 hours 11 minutes ride time.

We assumed our usual position at the end of the day!
Part two coming up soon

Saturday, 2 May 2015

10 months gone ... 10 months to go!

It has been 10 months since I busted my femur and I am starting to feel like life is getting back to normal!

The last month has been a good example of that, with a visit to sunny Marlborough to complete the Forrest Graperide, a 100 km circuit taking in Blenhiem, Picton Queen Charlotte, Havelock and back to Renwick.
Rolling up to the start I was pretty nervous starting with hundreds of other riders, but it was fine being able to stay with the group on the flats but fading on the hills ... pretty much expected ... what was surprising was my endurance which lasted pretty well, finishing stronger than expected.

Returning home I finished my job at Fletcher EQR after 4 and 1/4 years, it was a fantastic experience, very satisfying and a great learning experience ... but it was time to move on! I have landed a great job as a Project Manager with a small but growing firm.

I had a week off between jobs so took advantage of some late summer sunshine and headed over to Banks Pennisula for an overnight trip. The Pennisula being a couple of old volcano cones, doesn't have any flat land so you are either going up hill or going down, until you get onto the plains again.

The trip was 80 km each day, from home through to Lyttelton catch the ferry across to Diamond Harbour pop up over Purau saddle to Port Levy then up and over Pigeon Bay up and along the Summit Road before descending down into Okains Bay for the night. About 2400 metres of climbing.

The trip home I had planned an easier day with just the climb out of Okains Bay to the Summit Road and along to Hill Top and a quick descent down for my morning coffee at Little River, from here I jumped on the Little River Rail Trail for a flat ride home.

A pleasant couple of days right from my front door!

Now if that wasn't enough, @velolassie and I took advantage of another long weekend and headed across to the West Coast to ride the Wilderness Trail which takes a route from Greymouth to Hokitika via historic towns of Kumara and Milltown, approximately 100 kms long 85 kms of it on trail, the balance on sealed road. It is not technical and saw plenty of riders of all ages enjoying the trip. Most complete over three days, we rode for about 7 hours stopping for two of those, one hour to enjoy a farmers breakfast at the Empire Hotel in Kumara, about half an hour at Cowboy Paradise for a cuppa ... the rest were photo stops.

Our plan was to ride there in one day stay the night in a B&B and return the next day by the trail to pick up the car. Soon after arriving in Hokitika it started to rain and rain it did as only it can on the West Coast.

We reassessed our plans quite quickly and blugded a lift of a friend back to Greymouth to pick up the car ... soft! Yes we are, no denying that.

It did rain that Sunday Hokitika got 90 mm in that 24 hour period, while Hokitika Gorge (only 27 km away) got 290 mm!

We spent the day drinking coffee and exploring some of the back roads behind Hokitika.

So ten months have past since breaking my femur and it is ten months to go until the Tour of Aotearoa!