Bikepacking Moreton Island – Winter Solstice

Winter solstice is an astronomical phenomenon marking the shortest day and the longest night of the year. When ‘Swift Industries’ put the idea out globally to campers on bikes to skip town for a solstice bike overnight, we Aussies had to participate! Besides any excuse is good enough!

Our good friend Wayne organised the night out at Moreton Island and seven of us jumped at the chance. Wayne, Justin and myself meet up with Chris at his house where he kindly allowed us to park our cars on his secure property. We then set off at about 6:45am to catch the barge and meet the rest of the gang before heading over. It was about a 20 kilometre cruisy roll on bike paths and past the Wynnum Manly foreshore.

Chris, Justin and Wayne riding towards the sunrise at Manly foreshore
Manly Harbour

Although the mercury had dropped, the wind had died down overnight leaving us with an absolute perfect day. There was not a cloud in the sky!

At the barge we meet up with Troy, Neil, and Tony. There was smiles all round, we were all excited and uplifted by the better than expected weather change.

We boarded the barge and carefully stowed our bikes into little pockets of space around the four-wheel drives. Upstairs we all ordered a coffee and sat around a table with stools. Within a few minutes Ben turned up, he was running late but thankfully made it.

On the other side, the famous Tangalooma Wrecks came into view with the resort perched in the sand hills above overlooking the bay. In 1963 boat owners lobbyed the government for a safe anchorage. The wrecks consists of a line of old Harbours and Marine Department steam driven dredges and barges.

Tangalooma Wrecks

We all let some pressure out of our tyres. Just like four-wheel drives, the fat bikes work great on soft sand with very low pressures.

Just off the barge
Heading South past Tangalooma Resort

We past two Robinson R44 helicoptors. This one was built in the USA in 2007.

Robinson R44 II

After just a few kilometres we reached the start of the ‘Rous Battery’ walking track which takes you via the ‘desert’ sand dunes. The start of this track heads straight up the steep hills just offshore. We had to push our fully laden fat bikes up for the first couple of hundred meters.

Start of the ‘Rous Battery’ walking track

At the top we were treated with a fantastic view of Moreton Bay. Perfect place for a group photo.

From Left to Right – Wayne, Troy, Chris, Neil, Justin, Ben(green) and Tony.

The ‘Desert’ is very close to the start of the track so within a few minutes we could see it through the trees.

The Desert

The desert is basically a massive playground for fat bikes. It is so big here, there is actually a bus in this photo below, can you see it!?? (I’m not sure buses are allowed in the desert, but our bikes are).

Looking out across ‘The Desert’

We all had an absolute ball playing in the desert. Everyone was doing their own thing and there was bikes all over the place heading in different directions. We were like kids playing in the local streets on our bikes.

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We re-grouped on a high point when I noticed Troy what initially looked like he was praying. Now I knew Troy felt blessed to be on Moreton Island today but I didn’t know he was this religious! He was actually taking a photo of a piece of fulgurite. The term comes from the Latin word fulgur, which means “lightning”.

Troy taking a macro shot of fulgurite

Fulgurite is the name given to sand particles that melt or fuse together when a powerful lightning strike hits it. Sand melts at about 1800 degrees but the temperature in a lightning bolt can reach 30,000 degrees, or more than five times the temperature on the surface of the sun! If you want to know more, have a read of Neil Ennis’s blog on the same ride, he goes into the aboriginal history of these fulgurites.

Close up of fulgurite

We had a short rest and then continued on towards Fort Rous. Fort Rous is a coastal artillary battery from world war 2. The remains from some of the fortifications are still there for visitors to explore. Here is an interesting PDF if you would like to read more.

The track was pretty flat and the fat bikes loved it.

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After an hour or so we arrived at the first world war 2 fortification. It is a water tank the soldiers used in 1943.

WW2 Water tank from 1943

Then just metres from the water tank we checked out the Command Bunker post. This is where the soldiers could survey the eastern coast for any incoming enemy.

Outside the Command Bunker

We climbed onto it’s roof as the view from up there was pretty awesome!

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We then checked out the Artillery Store. Neil and I discussed what it might of been like for the soldiers some 70 odd years ago. We felt truly blessed that we are free and here on a holiday. We owe our lives to these courageous men.

Top of the Artillery Store

We also checked out the Battery Plotting Room, here is a short video.

Everyone was getting hungry now, lunch time was approaching. We planned on camping at Fort Rous so we proceeded to our camp site, setup our tents and some of us cooked lunch.

While we were eating lunch, Chris has walked into the scrub to relieve himself and then next minute we hear in an excited voice, “have a look at this fellas!”, Chris found a big bundle of firewood wrapped in a hession bag! There was loud cheers and laughter all round. We couldn’t believe our luck!!!

(Photo taken by Troy Szczurkowski)

It was now only midday so we set off to play on our now lighter fat bikes. Someone only had to mention the word “pub” and we had a good destination!

Short trip down the beach and we turned off onto a nice inland track that was nice to pedal on, there was smiles all round.

Heading to the Karingal pub
Neil enjoying the track

This track lead us to the ‘little sandhills’. They were not little at all!

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Here is a 12 second video, filmed by Chris of me shooting down a dune.

We then dropped down onto the Western beach. The tide was pretty low, just as well as you cannot get South from here on a high tide.

As we got closer to the pub, we could almost smell the beer! The anticipation was extreme! What a beautiful pub. You just walk (or ride in our case!) off the sand into the pub. It was empty on a Saturday afternoon so we had a pick of all the tables.

Karingal pub neil.jpg
(Photo by Neil Ennis)

Chris kindly shouted us all a drink! What a bloke! Wayne stayed back at camp to have a peaceful relaxing afternoon. I knew he would want a beer and I had my half frozen dinner  with a frozen ice coffee ice break stashed on my bike. I knew if I put a cold can of beer in my bag with the frozen stuff, it would be icey cold for Wayne when we got back. Wayne was very happy to say the least.

The day was getting on and the temperature started to drop rapidly so we headed back to camp via the Southern end of the Island going past Mirapool lagoon. Within minutes after leaving the pub, Justin snapped his chain.

Justin’s chain break

Tony (Darb) had a spare chain link and kindly gave it to Justin. A few of us mumbled “I better buy one and put it in my kit”. Broken chains are common when mountain biking, it’s a good idea to pack a spare link just in case.

We cruised back to the ocean.

Ben and Chris

Mirapool Lagoon is a sanctuary for fish and birdlife. The lagoon is cut off from the ocean by a large sand bank. We rolled around the outside to get back to the beach. We took it easy and soaked up the beautiful terrain that surrounded us.

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The sun was falling fast now along with the temperatures. My long sleeve merino wool under layer was doing a perfect job of keeping me warm.

Soon we were back on the beach and with the sun starting to set, the colours on the horizon were sensational! I have recently been learning about photography and read about the ‘golden hour’. The golden hour is that perfect time of the day to shoot good shots because the light intensity is just right. I had trouble leaving my camera alone!


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Back at camp the sunset looked good too.

View from our campsite

As the last light faded, Wayne got the fire going and we all started to prepare our dinners while soaking up the lovely radiating warmth.

Chris preparing his dinner

Ben parked his feet next to the fire and this become a talking (joking) point at various times.

Ben’s feet LOL

It was an awesome night shared with awesome people. For hours we told adventure tails, joked, laughed, shared whiskey, wine and passed chocolate treats around the camp fire.

Chris and myself went for a short stroll down to the beach before calling it a night. Down on the beach I felt the chill get me. It was far colder than sitting around the camp fire. I think this made me sick as I felt a headache came on with a mild fever. When I woke in the morning I felt pretty ordinary. I ate 3/4 of my breakfast only to then feel worse and pass it all up for the animals later on.  I then felt better but dehydrated.

When I climbed out of my tent I saw Tony soaking up the sunrise. I was too sick to worry about my camera however Tony got a great shot anyway.

Darb moreton sunrise
Photo by Tony Ryan

We all had breakfast and got packing, bikepacking that is! It was time to embark on our return leg. When we were all nearly ready to leave, a monkey appeared.

Troy having a morning stretch

To add to my woes, my tyre went down slowly overnight. Ben kindly pumped it up for me before I could even get my pump out. It held up iniatially but must of been losing air slowly as once we got down to the beach my rear tyre was flat again. Everyone in a position to help, did so. Master mechanic Troy removed the tyre (without any tyre levers!) and fully inspected the rim etc for any hidden baddies. There was so many individuals helping at once, I lost track of who was doing what. Gee I have amazing friends!

Within minutes we got going again. It was another beautiful morning!

Day 2 Heading home

After a pleasant beach cruise we crossed ‘The Big sandhill’ to get back onto the Western side of the island. The big sandhills were tough for me as I had no food or water in me. I was able to keep moving though. My friends kept an eye on me and asked me at times if I was ok. When we got to the other side, I had a 5 minute rest which made the world of difference and my body started to recover from being sick as quickly as it fell sick. My smile and bad jokes came back.

We cruised along the Western beach heading North towards our barge. We took it easy and stopped to check out the wreaks strewn along the beach, I think we were trying to stall the inevitable, we were all enjoying our time on the island immensely and didn’t want to leave.

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We then moved on and rode past this old house boat that got caught in a storm or something? Apparently the boat’s name is ‘The unsinkable II’. We all had a giggle about it.

The unsinkable II

I love these star fish, beautiful part of nature.

Star Fish

Everyone was getting hungry now and started discussing what they felt like eating at the resort. The resort came into view and we pedalled slowly towards it.

Once in the grounds, these birds were running around the Tangalooma resort.

Birdlife at Tangalooma resort

I stopped and read the plaque on this old whale harpoon relic.

“The shaft of the harpoon was often bent over from the impact of the strike & the struggle from the wounded animal”.

I felt so sorry for these innocent beautiful creatures. I am so glad this practise of murdering whales has ceased here.

Harpoon used to catch whales

Troy setup his tripod and took this amazing shot of us all outside the Tangalooma resort. Well done Troy!

All of us (Photo taken by Troy Szczurkowski)

We went inside the cafe with thirst and hunger. It was a wondeful time to relax, eat, drink and reflect on the awesome weekend we all had. While we ate and chatted, the Tangalooma resort guests walked past stopping to gawk at our bikes.

Our bikes parked at Tangalooma resort

After our stomachs were content, we reluctantly jumped on our bikes and boarded the barge.

Its time to go home 😦

Troy boarding. He couldn’t wipe the smile off his face!

Troy boarding the barge

On the mainland, we said our goodbyes to the riders who parked at the barge and Chris guided myself, Wayne and Justin back to his house.

Chris guiding us home

I personally had the best weekend in many years.

Here is a link to Tony Ryan’s awesome 7 minute video which really captures the fat bike experience, riding in the dunes and the beauty of the island. Well done Tony and thanks!

Huge thanks to Neil, Darb, Troy, Chris, Wayne, Justin and Ben for the awesome company and making it such a splendid weekend! I can’t wait for next years winter solstice ride!


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