Discovering Queensland's new Hidden Peaks Trail
Stepping off the plane at Brisbane airport, the afternoon breeze is pleasantly warm; a welcome escape from the snow-chilled air I've become accustomed to. In desperate need of a break, a release, and some sun, the invitation to ride the new Spicers Hidden Peaks Trail in Queensland's Scenic Rim – one of my favourite regions of Australia – was too big a temptation to let pass. The plan was for four days of riding on 110km of mountain bike trail with no need to plan, to prepare, to box my bike, or my tent; everything would be taken care of down to the luxury glamping accommodation and champagne at the end of each day's ride. In my current time-poor state, I decided I could very well do with a bit of the Spicers special treatment. So here I am in Brisbane.
The bike trip proper starts in the morning, so this evening I'm staying at Spicers Balfour in New Farm. Hidden in a suburban street just off the main strip, it's a small boutique hotel with home-style comforts like help-yourself shelves of books and DVDs in the hallway, and a great restaurant.
As evening falls, I stroll down to the Brisbane River Walk, which zigzags out over the river from New Farm into the city. This marvellously wide path is buzzing with after-work activity, commuting cyclists, evening joggers, and just lazy strollers like myself. It's a wonderful way to watch night fall and the cantilevers of the Story Bridge light up.
A transfer to the start of the Hidden Peaks Trail arrives in the morning and on board I meet my fellow riders – there'll be a cosy group of five of us.
Sam, our driver, will also be our support and attendant throughout the rest of our stay. We settle in for the two-hour drive to Spicers Peak Lodge, “The highest non-alpine lodge in Australia,” according to the sign at the turn-off from the highway. The van winds up a dirt road, higher and higher until we reach the a clearing at over 1100m altitude, where the lodge sits taking in panoramic views of the Main Range National Park and its volcanic Scenic Rim.
The sun is hiding behind a cloud and, at this altitude, without its warmth it's goosbumps chilly; although this won't be an issue for long because as soon as we're done with coffee, we're going to gear up and drop off the mountain.
Five blue dual-suspension Merida mountain bikes line the fence – trusty little bikes with Shimano Deore group sets. They're not performance rides, but they'll handle the terrain just fine. I swap out my pedals to my SPDs and head across the paddock to have a play in a custom-built mountain bike skills park. It's a good way to get a feel for our bikes, warm up the legs after sitting in the van, and also for our guide Karmen to check out our abilities. A few laps and then it's time for the real deal.
The drop off
Closing the farm gate behind us, we begin to drop quickly down a steep and rocky dirt road that soon leads to a single track. We descend to a hidden gorge, so hidden that the land owners only recently discovered it when a stockman almost fell down it trying to find a cow. And sure enough, it's not until we're standing at its rim that the gorge reveals itself, rocky boulders cascading down to a shady pool of water. We linger for a while, looking to catch a glimpse of the endangered brush-trailed rock wallabies that live there, then roll on.
The air is now noticeably warmer as we drop in altitude. We're now on a brand new trail designed by respected designers World Trail. This section is becoming increasingly fun and technical.
We drop off the mountain on switchbacks, curved berms at each end, winding our way down to a rainforest and some creek crossings. It's a great trail that will become better with time. We are some of the first to ride it, meaning the soft soil hasn't had time to pack down.
A section of trail has also been churned up by cattle that walked along it following a bout of rain. The cattle-issue should also disappear in time as the land transitions from a working cattle station to an eco reserve. Even so, these minor teething issues are just adding to the sense of adventure. So far it's stunning, it's fun, and it's time for lunch.
Sam is waiting for us by an old dilapidated hut. He has set up some chairs and a table with wraps, drinks, fruit and chocolate brownies, and we waste no time embracing it.
The final leg for the day isn't long and the trail becomes less technical. We end through a wide paddock with grand views, leading us up to Spicers Canopy Eco-Lodge. All up we've done about 18km, all on dirt and mostly single track, and now it's time I experience glamping (ie. 'glamour camping') for the first time ever, and I'm ready to be spoiled.
Instead of traipsing through the bushes looking for a suitable place to pitch a tent, I'm welcomed with champagne and scones with jam and cream. My fellow travellers and I lounge around enjoying the refreshments before we head off for some down-time. It's wonderfully peaceful and we have the whole place to ourselves.
My luggage is already waiting for me in my furnished tent. Flopping onto my king-sized bed, I look out to my own private view of Mount Mitchell. The outdoor hot tub is looking inviting, but I opt for a hot shower and a drink by the fireplace.
There is more wine at dinner, where we are served lamb shanks with meat that melts off the bone. I could get used to this.
I'm experiencing the simple elation of finding an unexpected hot water bottle in my bed on a cool night. How those clever staff knew which side I would choose to sleep was also immensely impressive. So with a smile on my face, tucked up and warm, I listen as a storm rolls in. The wind and rain lash the tent throughout the night and into the morning as we sit inside the lodge eating a cooked breakfast. The storm isn't good news. Continue reading...
Page 1 | 2