Each year, the beauty of CQ is that riders are introduced to small towns and communities that we would otherwise drive through and not pay a second glance to in a car.
Yelarbon is one of those such places. A petrol station/shop, post office, arts and craft and a cafe, along with the all important pub is pretty much all there is along the Main Street, along with some empty stores that were once home to and Australian-Italian takeaway restaurant and other such little gems. There's a school built in the traditional weatherboard and a number of streets Lind with houses. It's quite an unassuming town but it really does have some hidden gems.
But I digress - first the journey to get here. As usual, the zipper parade (the sounds of hundreds of sleeping bags, bags and tents opening begins at about 5.30am. It was a little warmer overnight and by the time my bladder would no longer listen to my Brain say "ten minutes more" it was well after six and time to start the inevitable pack up ready to roll out after seven.
This year I am determined not to take any food that I don't intend to eat so after breakfast of a ham and cheese croissant (with a banana tucked away for morning tea), I finished stuffing my bags and headed to the start area ready for the 57km ride from Goondiwindi to Yelarbon.
Another flat day today and with legs fatigued from the day before with no training to back them up, it was a day for a nice, easy pace, constantly reminding myself it was not a race. Thankfully I rode about 20k with a lovely NZ lady who kept me entertained with stories of her rides and travels which got me almost to the rest stop. I did have to drop off as the head winds were just starting to mess with my head and I needed to just ease back and continue at a pace I knew I could maintain.
Rolling into the rest stop I was fortunate to be introduced to Joanna (thank you Jenny Moore) who was wearing a Camino de Santiago bike jersey. She had done the same walk ride option that my friend and I are planning with the same tour company. It was great to hear how gorgeous the hotels will be, how amazing the food and how nice the weather is at almost the same time of year we are planning to go. Hoping to catch up with her again on the ride to hear more about this next big adventure we are taking on.
The second part of the ride was relatively uneventful, apart from a couple of close passes by motorists who refused to drop a tyre off the side of the road to pass safely on a narrow road. More head winds to play with the brain, but the finish point was worth the struggle as we rode to the Yelarbon waterhole which was abundant with ducks, black swans and water fowl. It was a calming and restful way to finish the day on the banks of the waterhole, and a lovely introduction to one of the desert jewels.
I explored the second after a quick tent set up and a cold, refreshing shower. I think tomorrow I will have to write about the conversations we have in the showers each day as they really are a highlight!
Until then let me tell you about my walk. The desert jewel biodiversity walk is a 500m circuit track that demonstrates the diverse Eco-systems in this region. Yelarbon is the eastern-most spinifex desert and it is a real wonder to see the wetlands and the desert meet and the diverse wildlife and flora of the area.
These are two things I would never have seen from the car as we were driving through. While they are signposted I am more likely to make a mental note that they were there but probably wouldn't bother to stop to see them.
That is the jewel in the CQ crown. It's exploring small towns, supporting communities (500 thirsty tourists can float a pub's profits quite nicely even for just an overnight stay), helping to put money in the coffers of small community groups (today's rest stop was run by the local girl guides) and getting the cycling message out there. So many people associate cycling with charity rides and fundraisers, while this ride shows it can be an active holiday that the whole family can be involved in.
Add in the comraderie and friendship of 500 like-minded strangers - both riders and volunteers alike and you've got CQ in a nutshell. And there my friends is my mojo.
I may be slower this year, I may not be as prepared as I could be, and I may be in a world of hurt by the end. Hell, I may not even get through it, but this is why I ride. And suddenly I'm glad I came because sickness or not, these people and this event is family.