Fat Bike Odyssey: Day 3

16 02 2012

While there had been a strong wind blowing as we went to bed, it died overnight making for a sticky nights sleep on a plastic boat. Shortly before dawn however, the wind started howling, lightning and thunder sounded across the lake and rain started to fall. While normally this wouldn’t be the ideal situation on a bikepacking ride, all we could think about was how hard the sand was going to be and how much cooler the day would be if it remained overcast.

The first segment for the morning was another sandy firetrail which was just the perfect fat bike trails. A standard bike would have been completely useless in the soft sand but the fat bikes just rolled over it like it was a cycle way.

We re-joined the beach a little after Norah Head. It would have been lovely to get up close and personal with the old time light house but it wasn’t to be this time around.

Pedalling along the next beach, we knew we needed to get onto the access roads for Frazer park but weren’t really sure what lay at the end of the beach. There was clearly a very steep headland but from our viewing distance, there was no discernible trail and the beach was insanely soft so we chose to pick up the central coast highway instead and ride a couple of kilometers to the main entrance gate to Frazer Park.

While the roads in Frazer were still sealed, it was much like riding along a deserted country road and combined with the gorgeous scenery, this section of road was bliss compared to riding a highway. While stopped at the top of a particularly steep climb, we got to chatting with a ranger who was particularly excited to see cyclists off on a crazy trip. We chatted for several minutes as the hill had removed all sense of urgency from us as the fat tyres had done for him.

Looking north across the headlands through the sea haze


We had studdied the map board on the way in and knew we were heading towards snapper point so we followed the signs and spent quite a bit of time climbing in the exposed sun. Since we had a planned camp site which was now only a couple of kilometers down the coast, we knew we could soak in the views so we stopped to view the surfers at Frazer beach and the ocean cave big enough to sail a pirate ship into at snapper point. To think I live so close to these gorgeous places and hadn’t been there was a bit of revelation to me. It’s amazing how sheltered a life I lead sometimes.

I took quite a few photos and video and then we started to climb back up the headland so we could pick up a sneaky bit of single track that headed into a valley towards flat island. You could see a wide fireroad climbing out the far side so we were pretty certain we could make it all link when we got there as our next beach destination was only a couple of hundred meters on the other side. The single track descent was a mix of white knuckled riding and hike a bike as some ridiculously large ruts swallowed the moonlander whole on more than one occasion.

There is something about trying to walk and coax the moonlander down a steep slope that is utterly infuriating when it is loaded. It develops this bizzare harmonic bounce in the rear end that then encourages the rear wheel to try and overtake the person pushing on the opposite side of their body to where the front wheel is. It ultimately leads to a solid wack in the back of the leg with a crank, pedal or tyre, several swear words and a snide comment about the morals of the BFL’s mother. The BFL is a funny tyre, it seems utterly devoid of side knobs and steadfastly refuses to grip to anything unless you really don’t want it to when it will immediately grab on and not let go.

Eventually we reached a horrendously overgrown section of trail that was clearly Chad’s fault. I reached for my video camera only to find empty space. Immediately I recalled sitting it ontop of a fence post overlooking the pirate cave while I played with SLR lenses. All I could do was swear, throw the moonlander into the bushes and run back up the ugly hill we had just come down in the midday sun. I reached the top and started jogging back down the hill and just as the road changed from dirt to sealed, my backpack which 20/20 hindsight tells me i should have left at the bottom of the hill unzipped and spilt my SLR onto the road which fell with a gut wrenching clatter and started rolling down the hill. More swearing ensued.

When i picked it up, it turned on and it let me review images so I let out a sigh of relief, re packed my bag and continued running to save the point and shoot. I arrived at the bottom wearing a helmet, cycling shoes and out of breathe causing several of the people viewing the cave to stare at the lunatic approaching. Unbelieveably, the camera was right where I left it so I retrieved it and started my way back up the hill. All ideas of running were now long abandoned.

I stumbled my way back down to the valley where I had left the bike to encounter Brad looking forlorn. The fire trail we had seen from the top of the hill was in fact a rock formation and it terminated in the deepest darkest most impenetrable scrub one could conceive of. Brad had already wandered around the rock platform at the bottom of the cliff and got within 20 meters of the beach but then faced a huge drop into the water which made getting bikes around impossible. I was now fairly frustrated so beat a path to the top of the hill sacraficing significant amounts of skin and after 15 minutes of being scratched to pieces, had to concede there was no way in the world we were going to get bikes through there. We were defeated, our only choice was to sit and have some lunch, then lug the bikes all the way back to the top. Damn it.

The hike back up was horrible. I lost count of the number of times my footing slid out from under me sending me flailing onto my knees. The bike got stuck on all manner of objects and the sun beat down on us. At one point, we were stuck in a rut with the bikes on the verge of toppling ontop of us as we pushed them along above our heads on the edge of the rut while we walked in it.

Thankfully, when we got back to the top and took the fire road descent rather than the sneaky single track, it actually linked up and turned out to be an exceptionally fun loaded bike downhill run. It deposited us at the North side of Flat Island but with such a whimsical looking landmark, its draw was too strong and we decided we had to pedal out to its tip. There was some quirky grassy single track across the top of the island and soon we were lying in the sun on Flat Island, or as we took to calling it…. Fat Island.

When we finally summoned the energy to start pedalling again, we road along the beach, up over the headland and straight to Catherine Hill Bay pub. We were flogged. The day was really, really hot and all we could do was stare at our beers and be thankful we had at last found some shade. Again the bikes caused quite a stir as you could hear locals discussing them around every corner of the pub.

Two or three hours went by before we decided to make a move. Brad’s knee was giving him trouble and the soft sand on the earlier beaches had made the situation worse. The longer we sat around, the lower the tide got and the easier it would get on his knee.

The approaching afternoon storm gave us hope that it would cool down soon enough so we headed along Catho beach and made for the flat and surreal rock shelf at the far end. We rode most of the way around the headland only to encounter a cleft in the rock that was almost narrow enough to throw your bike over but impossible to cross never the less. Our only option was to ride up over the headland and be the tallest, most electrically conductive object at the top of the hill, not to mention we had to go up another bloody hill.

You could 'almost' bunny hop it!

At the top, the storm seemed to magically part around us while we watched on. We traversed some of the fire trails along the ridgeline before encountering the puddle from hell. Brad called for me to ride on the right hand side which I duly did right up until the moment I hit a submerged rock that shot me off to the left hand side of the puddle where the water was over my hubs and doing its best to infiltrate my frame bags. It had no difficulty infiltrating my shoes however – the soggy sock tour continued.

Not long after, Brad’s front tyre went down. We threw a spare tube in it and promised ourselves we would patch the tube when we made camp that night.

We were now within site of our camp site and connected an unknown beach to the coastal walking trail before setting up camp in an old quarry beneath a cliff and overlooking spoon rocks. It was still early in the day, with a several hours of useable light left however we elected not to keep pedalling purely because of the amazing place we had to camp in. Since we weren’t meant to acutatlly camp there, we waited until dusk to put up my orange beacon of a tent and passed the time cleaning our drive trains and making dinner.

My inconspicuous tent

For a light weight solution to a chain cleaner, I found removing the chain via the power link and putting it in a zip lock bag with some metho from my trangia to do a remarkable job. The drive line was positively pristine by the time I was finished with my sawn off toothbrush and alcohol rinse.

The mosquito’s were few and far between at this camp site and despite the exposed camp area, the wind was delightfully calm as well. It was one of the best places I have ever camped and when you leave no trace you have ever been there and depart shortly after dawn, no-one gets upset either.

Looking North towards Newcastle

Looking South




2 responses

16 02 2012

love the trip reports… keep them coming.
the ocean cave is incredible…

16 02 2012

Thanks Mike, One unintended consequence of finishing early was that it left me with lots of time to write about the trip. You should see the video I am working on, it’s tops!

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