At first it seemed like a daunting prospect to ride our mountain bikes such a long distance over 8 riding days. However, we were determined to do something that might generate some funds and awareness for the children in the orphanage that the local government had threatened to close unless their facilities were upgraded. We are not regular cyclists, in fact we could be classified as novices in the 70yrs young age bracket dealing with a few health issues. With our doctor’s approval we decided to embark on the challenge!
OUR PREPARATION BEGINS:
We had 8 weeks to prepare ourselves for the event so we persisted with our training on the local hills around the back of Caboolture and also at Blackbutt to get us fit and develop our stamina. We didn’t count on the time of the year when the magpie population were actively protecting their territory from cycling invaders nor being chased by all types of dogs from fox terriers to rottweilers!
Not being used to travelling along the side of major roads balanced on only two wheels, we found the passing traffic a scary experience. An excursion to Bribie Island from Bellmere, a return trip of 67km, exposed us to the perils of survival from attack by trucks and speeding vehicles.
As all the participants in the event had the advantage of having their tents and personal luggage transported each day from site to site we decided to buy ourselves a lightweight 2 person tent. Each rider was restricted to having only 22kg of luggage and anything over this amount incurred a heavy financial penalty.
Our back yard was an ideal location to give our new tent and self-inflatable mattresses and pillows a trial run to see how we would handle the experience. Fortunately for us this opportunity allowed us to realise the error of trying to fit two people and four bags into a 2 person tent, particularly, when one of us, during the quietness of the night, got a severe leg cramp while cosily and neatly zipped up in a sleeping bag! The next day we accepted we had made a mistake and converted our sleeping accommodation to a 4 person variety which allowed us to stand up as well as provide storage for our possessions. The downside of course, was that our new purchase added considerably to our luggage weight which restricted us to seriously reviewing and repacking the contents of our carry bags.
OUR ADVENTURE BEGINS:
The Cycle Qld ride commenced in Gayndah (the citrus part) and we were fortunate enough to have our good friend, Tony Long, drive us to this starting location. Here we were exposed for the first time to the amazing organising ability of Cycle Qld. and its helpful and dedicated volunteers.
It might be hard to envisage what it would look like at the starting location when around 1,000 cyclists gather on a road ready to ride off together. We were amazed by the sea of excited cyclists all wearing coloured Lycra (looking rather professional with their flash bikes). There were many smiling faces and lots of local supporters lining the road to wish everyone well. Nevertheless, we felt rather anxious, proudly wearing our riding shirts displaying our HPI badge and our sponsors, Ocean View Estate Winery and the Love Oil Co. logos. The local newspaper decided to publish a photograph of the start of the ride and as it turned out we just happened to be recognisable in the foreground.
IN THE SADDLE:
Day 1 was a loop ride around the scenic Gayndah district which exposed us to some of the steepest hills we had ever encountered. It was a baptism that gave us an insight into what lay ahead over the rest of the journey. We completed the day (sometimes using different muscles) and wondered whether we had bitten off more than we could chew. We had people who had sponsored us and we reminded ourselves of the reason we had undertaken this event. Even at this early stage, the orphan kids were in the forefront of our mind and we were determined to finish what we had started.
Each day was a challenge. We rose at 5.00am each morning, rolled up our pillows, mattresses, sleeping bags, got ourselves dressed and headed to the main eating tent for a hearty breakfast. Packing our bags and our wet tent and getting them to the truck was our next move and then it was out on the road by around 7.30am.
The routes took us cruising along some peaceful back roads, through tiny hamlets, across rivers and highways, through busy city traffic, along coastal roads…..not to mention up and up some very challenging hills and then down some great downhills!!!!
During our ride we both felt we had to overcome a physical as well as a mental challenge to complete our mission. We struggled with aches and pains in places we hadn’t experienced before, anxiety, weariness and doubt. The children at the orphanage were always on our mind but it was the constant support and encouragement from our family, friends and fellow cyclists that kept our spirits high and this enabled us to accomplish our goal.
The Cycle Qld logistical organisation was extremely impressive. It was hard for us to imagine how every small detail had been covered. Morning and afternoon tea stops had all been planned well and lunch stops gave us the opportunity for a rest – sometimes even time for a little nap under a tree!
When we eventually arrived at the end of our daily journey, usually one of the latter cyclists, (but never the last), yesterday’s camp had been miraculously transposed into each new location. Weary as we were, our first priority was to find our luggage and a camp site and set up tent…..then rest our weary bodies and tired legs.
Food to maintain our energy levels was always in plentiful supply and of high quality, all dispensed by a catering team of smiling happy people. Large tents were set up with seats and tables for us to eat our meals and it was here that we met so many wonderful and interesting people. It was, in reality, like a large family gathering. People from all walks of life and from all Australian States and even overseas were united as one because of their enjoyment of the cycling way of life. It was a happy, friendly environment which we thoroughly enjoyed.
At 6.30 each evening we were given a summary of the day and details of the social activities planned for the evening which always included a band. Unfortunately, we never stayed long after dinner as we were keen to ‘hit the sack’ after our ‘exhilarating’ day on the road. This meant we were usually in bed by around 8.30pm. The younger ones, and some not so younger, seemed to be more energised after their days ride and enjoyed the evening entertainment.
The rest day at Hervey Bay was most enjoyable and gave us a chance to recharge our personal batteries. At this halfway point we felt we definitely needed a break (and a massage). Fortunately, the weather on our ride was almost perfect. We were lucky not to have to experience difficult conditions which had been the subject of some horror stories we heard from those cyclists who had been on some of the previous annual Cycle Qld rides.
THE FINISHING LINE:
So on day 9, our last day, it was with great joy we crossed the finish line together at Noosa (the sea part) to be cheered and welcomed by other HPI members who had arranged a surprise ‘welcome back’ (or ‘you actually made it’) BBQ in the park.
In summary, it has to be said we enjoyed our experience and adventure and will have great long-lasting memories of our nine days in the saddle. We are glad we accepted the challenge that each day offered our aging bodies. By completing the event it has given us a wonderful feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment in that we have, in a small way, been able to support the children at the Sheppard’s Arms Orphanage in the Philippines.
Lastly, we would like to sincerely thank all those who generously donated towards the orphanage. We need around $40,000 to complete the repairs and maintenance necessary and although we only collected around $1,500 for our ride, we have been able to promote Humanitarian Projects International to many people who otherwise would not have heard about our activities.
Ursula & Peter Mack