Who said hills weren’t fun ???? On Sunday 21 August, 10 diehard FNQ Audax riders proved that you can ride a Metric Ton, with lots of hills, and a screaming headwind, and have a ball. And we even learned that a Metric Ton is actually 161km, not 160km. So we rode the extra kilometre and snared those bragging rights too.
Our group of 10 gathered just before dawn on a chilly Atherton morning in surprisingly high spirits. After a very brief ride briefing, we headed off towards Herberton, enjoying a little chat along the back roads of Atherton. As soon as we hit the main road, Grahame and Chris scampered off in front at their normal blistering pace. The rest of the group stuck together until the Herberton Range, where Mary Ann, Nola and Mark resumed their normal role of “waiting for Gayle”, while Roy, Ian, Sean and Nick continued on to Herberton and beyond.
The first leg of the ride tackled Longlands Gap and Kennedy Highway, before turning back across Belson Road. Just another little “up” bit to add to our growing tally of metres climbed. Then it was a quick run down into Malanda where we rolled into our first Control just as Roy, Ian, Nick and Sean were leaving. Kim and Mundi were waiting at a newly discovered coffee shop, with Kim already revelling in the delights of a real “pane au chocolat”. Sixty kilometres done and nearly 900 metres of climbing. We settled into our usual ride rhythm of thoroughly enjoying the delights of every stop, and ordered coffee and yummies, chatted to the locals and admired the newly installed bike rack. Apparently Grahame is already inspired to dust off his inherited penny-farthing and head to Tassie for the national titles.
The next stretch of our ride took in the back roads of Malanda and Butcher’s Creek, and around the tea farms with its resident tree kangaroo population. We stopped beside a group of tourists, who were probably paying mega-bucks for a guide to point out a tree kangaroo for them through a gap in the trees. Mark muscled his way to the head of the queue of waiting tourists to get a glimpse of this elusive kangaroo, openly expressing his excitement to the others who were politely waiting in line. He retreated on his bike, with only a moderate level of embarrassment.
It was then onto the first of three “out and backs”, each equipped with its own “down and up” while promising three different views of Queensland’s highest mountain, Mt Bartle Frere. We got the “down and up” bits, but the clouds only co-operated enough for views of Broken Nose. The amazing big vistas all around more than made up for this.
But we did get a “secret control” from Kim at the “tree ways” (A Sean-ism for the point at which three roads meet. Apparently it also includes green leafy things).
The wind continued roaring, this time helpfully in the right direction towards Lake Eacham. There was another hilly and beautiful bit around the back of the lake, before we found our way down into Yungaburra to our second Control. We temporarily lost Mary Ann somewhere in the rainforest. She was sailing on ahead and didn’t quite get the latest “wait for Gayle” memo. To her credit, she did put in an extra few kilometres looking for her mates, before rolling into the Yungaburra Control where we were already tucking into more goodies. Another 70km done and another 1000 or more metres of climbing conquered. Just a short 30km roll through Wongabel and then to our long-awaited brewery finish.
There were a few more ups and downs in the final kilometres, including bits of creaking bodies and fuzzy brains. We rolled into Our New Local (aka Billycart Brewing Co.) to a round of applause from the six other Tea Party Ton riders and our volunteers (Kim, Mundi and Lianne). We were nearly three hours slower than the first riders (Grahame and Chris), and had given the rest of the crew (Ian, Sean, Nico and Roy) plenty of time to grab a few rounds. But we received a hero’s welcome regardless. No wonder we love riding with (or somewhere nearby) these guys !!
We exchanged notes over a few beers, mostly about wind, hills, beautiful scenery and a great day on the bike. Sean declared it to be his “most favourite ride ever” (again) – and we had to agree. It was a big, excellent day out.
(30 August 2022)