Even AMR looked somewhat perplexed when I told him what I wanted for my birthday. Other people want big parties, expensive jewellery, perfumes, or a big bouquet of flowers. My biggest wish was to ride up O’Reilly’s.
Despite being right at Brisbane’s backyard, the Gold Coast hinterland, I still hadn’t managed to do this famous ride. A lot of Brisbane cyclists actually make it a big day out and ride all the way down to Canungra, climb the 25 km up into the Lamington National Park and turn around at the dead end car park of O’Reilly’s Mountain Retreat to ride home, making it a 200km plus day in the saddle.
This is probably the main reason why I hadn’t done O’Reilly’s. I never felt up for the long distance. And a 200km ride wasn’t my intention on my birthday either. What I had in mind was a nice cabin in the forest, a sumptuous dinner that I didn’t need to cook, maybe a spa or pool near by… and a little ride.
And guess what? It was exactly what AMR surprised me with: A weekend at O’Reilly’s Mountain Retreat including a 70km bike ride down and up O’Reilly’s. The perfect birthday present!
The climb is beautiful. That’s what I expected. What I didn’t know and only learnt at the resort was that there was also an enchanting story hidden up there in he Green Mountains. The story of Bernard O’Reilly, the Stinson airplane crash story of 1937, the story of two survivors and the story of the O’Reilly family that started the creation of a national park. It’s a piece of Australian history, and I was amazed by it.
Even so the ride was the whole reason we spent the weekend down there, it was hard to get on the bike on Sunday morning after all the relaxing, reading, eating, and drinking. We didn’t overdo it with the bushwalking and I could have sworn I had gained five kilos over night with all the delicious dinner the night before and the huge breakfast buffet. The 35 kilometres downhill to Canungra allowed at least for some time to digest.
From Canungra the road climbs gently into the valley, with gradients between four and six percent all the way to the Alpaca Farm. There are several cattle grids that are best ridden over at some speed. Only the last nine kilometres after the farm get a bit hairy at times. The landscape changes from wide open valley views and gumtree forest with some light scrubby undergrowth to dense rainforest that doesn’t allow for any views pass the green wall of plants.
But that’s ok because from that point on I had to concentrate on the road anyway. The narrow one lane way got pushed up by powerful rainforest tree roots over the years and rain and weather created craters and gravelly patches. And if that wasn’t challenging enough, they also put some 13-15% steep sections at the end of the climb. I was perfect finishing up right there at the resort at the top. I couldn’t quite imagine doing this climb in the middle of a 200km ride.
After a quick dip into the pool we packed the bikes in the car and drove home. Now I just hope it won’t take another year and another birthday wish to zoom down the road and explore more of this beautiful part of Queensland. Beechmont, Springbrook, Mt Tamborine… there a lot more climbs to explore.