It’s 9:30am on Sunday morning. I have to be at the Daisy Hill Forest mountain bike trails by 1pm to meet Simon for a ride. My bike is at my sister’s house and I don’t have a car. It sounds like a perfect excuse for a big day out exploring the world.
It’s 7.5km to my sister’s house along the bush trails. But, after the success of my cross-country walk the other evening, I decide to take a short-cut. While the short-cut is 2.5km shorter than walking the trails, it doesn’t save much time because the bush is thick and wild. Once the rains start in January, much of the short-cut will be wet and passable only if you are willing to wade knee-deep through muddy water and swampy grasses. But for now, the heat here is still dry and there are pockets of bush where the hot air is trapped; walking through them is like entering an invisible oven.
I come through a section of bush I’ve not seen before. It’s a small clearing with luscious long soft grasses. I wonder whether faeries come here to play at night; their pink, purple, blue and yellow bodies flitting through the fronds of grass (for to say these grasses have blades would conjur the wrong image). Perhaps they hold meetings on the old tree stumps and logs that dot the partial clearing. It’s easy to see why bushfolk all over the world tell stories of mystical creatures like faeries.
Leaving the place where the faeries come to dance, I enter a section of scary forest. This is the type of place that the Grimm brothers were inspired by when they wrote Hansel and Gretel. I grab my video camera to take some footage to share; for it is only by being immersed in the she-oak forest that you get a true impression of why I call this dense matted mass of trees the scary forest.
The last 1.6km of my walk takes me to my sister’s house where I collect my mountain bike and hit the road. It’s about 25km from here to where I’ll be meeting Simon. It’s 11am and the mercury will top 30’C (86’F) while I am out on the road. I settle in and enjoy the ride. I’ve not ridden this road on a mountain bike before. It’s slower than the roadie but that allows me to see this familiar road with fresh eyes. I stop for fruit and sports drinks at the shops before climbing the long steep hill to Daisy Hill Forest Park.
It’s 2.5km down the trails to where I am meeting Simon. It feels good to have gravel beneath my tyres and I zip down the trail, knowing full well that I’ll have to climb it later.
Simon is organising a 35km Audax Dirt Brevet early in 2014 and he wants to map a route here in Daisy Hill, so I let him lead the way. Together we ride up and down the hilly trails: both firetrail and single track. I enjoy Snake trail but struggle down Nirvana and decide I need to remove the clipless pedals from my bike to give me more confidence. My struggle shouldn’t be misinterpreted though: I still enjoyed the track. We do a long circuitous route around the park, taking in Wiry Panic, Koala, Tunnel of Love and Possum Box. As I fatigue my technique goes out the window but I manage some good form on the less technical sections. The heat keeps many riders away, which is always a bonus here in this popular park.
After dropping Simon back at his car I set off on the 20km ride home. I bonk in Loganholme just outside my favourite Indian curry house: Tabla. It seems a bit extreme to buy a whole meal but I buy two meat samosas and enjoy them while sitting on a bench in the shade next to the busy intersection watching the cars drive past.
By the time I get home I’ve been out for 9 hours. I’m sunburned and tired but feeling content. It feels like I did something with my weekend.
Total: 5km walk + 68.1km bike