Sometimes you’ve just gotta shake things up. Not your beers silly, your adventures! Chucking a few random rules in can turn a normal afternoon into a challenge worth celebrating, but first you’ve gotta put in the work.
The We Are Explorers crew had been eyeing off Crams Farm Reserve for a while. Accessible by road, trail, and river, it seemed like the perfect finish line to test out another idea that’d been bubbling away:
A race to sunset beers via three modes of transport: bike, canoe and the ever trusty trail running shoes.
The rules? Honestly we were too keen to get out there to nerd out on the specifics. We did some back-of-the-coaster maths to ‘work out’ the handicap, drew our transport out of a hat, and divided up the BBQ goods.
Henry took the spatula, Bee grabbed the buns, and Jono the shipping unit loaded up the canoe with a BBQ and an esky brimming with sausos, onions, and brews.
Not just any brews too, the legends at Stone & Wood hit us up with some Cloud Catcher Pale Ales for the finish line. Prep sorted!
Want to win a year’s supply of Cloud Catcher Pale Ale? Enter now!
Swoopy Bois & Crumbling Cookies
I charge out of Clarrie Hall Dam to begin my 18km ride south to Crams Farm Reserve. Starting out, I’m slightly rattled by the heat, summer has arrived early in the Northern Rivers, bringing with it warm northerly gusts.
I take a left onto Kyogle Rd, the road I’ll be on for a good part of the ride. Relaxing, my breathing expands, it’s like my whole body is sighing, grateful to be amongst the fresh air, gums, and rolling green landscape.
Then there’s a clicking sound at my left ear and the air shifts above my head. I take a quick glance to see a Class-A Swoopy Boi banking before its next dive. Heart pounding, I pedal like it’s going to save my life, letting out loud whoops and screams, doing anything to avoid the persistent dives. Finally (after a good 100m), the magpie retreats to a higher gum, and I double-take to make sure no one’s witnessed the swooping scene.
At McDonalds Rd, I embark on a dirt-road-detour, observing the moments of remnant Big Scrub that still exist amidst surrounding farmland. Small gullies of Xanthorrhoeas and Sheoak trees are stunning reminders of the region’s bio-diverse heritage. I decide it’s too beautiful to pass up and settle down for a little snack. I scoff down one of Elwood’s fresh-baked cookies (nom, nom, nom) before jumping back on the bike and zooming downhill towards Doon Doon Rd.
Doon Doon Rd is quieter and farmland gives way to stunning views. My bike and I are swallowed up by the infinite blue sky above, the stretching greenery dotted with grazing cows, and absorbed by the area’s magical volcanic landmarks. Endorphins firing, I slip into a meditative appreciation of just how good riding a bike in the outdoors is.
I round a corner after crossing Doon Doon Creek and I’m met with one heck of a hill – 176m straight up. My little leggies cry out and I swear I can hear the cows in the neighbouring paddock laughing at my vertical attempt. Grinding to a halt (one that my Strava fans won’t be proud of) I jump off to push the bike the rest of the way. Sometimes life’s mountains are best climbed one step at a time.
Checking the time, I’m grateful for a final downhill roll that takes me all the way to Crams Farm Reserve. The sun drops closer to the landscape, painting the waterways and grounds of the reserve a divine gold.
I wonder how the others are going?
Thought Monkeys & Short Straws
As soon as I begin my legs slow to a shuffle, already the gradient has become absurd. Sweaty sunscreen dribbles into my eyes and through manic blinking I can see the glorious sparkle of the dam down below. I’m convinced I can hear Jono’s blissful laughter coming from the canoe.
Three thought monkeys soon bounce around my mind – annoyance, self-pity, and confusion.
The first thought is ‘I have 100% pulled the short straw here’ (cue annoyance). Then self pity kicks in as I remember that I was pretty keen to do the run, then confusion is confirmed as I look down to see a spatula in my hand.
I’d looked at the route the night before and knew full well that with 400m of climbing in the first 3km, I was in for a punchy one. But reality is always tougher than expectations.
The fire trail continues to deteriorate as I get higher and I feel loose rock give way beneath my feet. Now I’m traversing the trail left and right to get up to the top, using my spatula as a rock-pick to stop me from sliding out.
The thought monkeys ditch the mind zoo as the trail peters out, replaced by fluffier brain bunnies who carry rosier messages, like ‘how bloody beautiful is this place!’
The Northern Rivers never ceases to amaze me and the sheer volume of grass trees is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I stand amongst them totally in awe, listening to the laser-spray of whip birds while I breathe deeply.
I eat some dried mango and spy on my friends using our Google Tracking map. I’m not really into adventure races but this is a damn fun take on it. I remind myself to definitely do it again. But I’m way behind the others, time to get a wriggle on!
I canter down the hills, swinging my arms aggressively for extra velocity, and it’s at this moment that I notice my hands are sans-spatula. Shizer! I’ve left Jono’s favourite kitchen utensil at the top of the mountain, I’ll have to get it another day. I set to work finding a replacement tool (a fallen branch), and continue on my merry way.
Wollumbin pops into view, the late afternoon sun casting a soulful glow to feed my flow, and I bound through the gates.
That’s A Paddlin’
I load the lion’s share of the essentials for a flawless sunset hang into the Canadian canoe, wade knee-deep into the water and am suddenly struck by how clear it is. Nestled just underneath the surface is an intricate maze of vegetation that’s so dense you can barely see through it. I hop into my vessel and away I go…
Using nothing but a paddling guidebook for directions, I begin heading in the direction of Crams Farm. Ten minutes in and it’s time for the first check-in with the map. I quickly realise that although I’d thought it’d take me the longest time to get to our sunset spot, the long sleek lines of the canoe are gliding through the water more efficiently than I’d anticipated. I’m motoring along.
As I make each twist and turn down the creek, I link up pieces of a puzzle in my mind, comparing my expectations to beautiful reality. I pass beds of lily pads hugging the banks, sections protected from the northerly winds create a glassy texture on the surface, and I see the stunning variety of wildlife that call this place home.
I reach the halfway point and hear the call of an Eastern whipbird. My tummy rumbles. Parking up behind Snake Island I’m protected from the wind and the sambo I’ve packed doesn’t last long.
I check my watch, I’m making good time so I decide to chuck the line in and see if I get any nibbles. Bass season has just begun! I cast and reel in the fishing line, each time more hopeful than the last, but no dice. I decide it’s time to switch the spot up, so I paddle around to Peaceful Bay where I’m humbled by the Fish Gods once again. Ah well, that’s why I’m carrying those tasty snags.
The glow of the sun begins to warm as I make the final push to Crams Farm. I make one more quick pit stop to spy on a squadron of pelicans, but I can see the finish line.
There’s Henry and Bee, we’ve done it! After a quick round of high fives, we set up shop for our BBQ and collectively drool at the thought of the first sip of those frosty Cloud Catchers. Tropical pale ale vibes are just what the doctor ordered.
We share sips and stories as the sun dips below the horizon.
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