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Outdoor events – cancelled, interstate & international travel – banned, even leaving your home wasn’t allowed for a while there! With all these restrictions in place to keep this pandemic contained, mentalities shifted & we saw a rise in local adventures (once we were allowed out of the house that is!). People were given the perfect excuse to explore their backyards!
Here on the Gold Coast, 6 adventurous Dads decided now was the perfect time to tackle an adventure that some of them had been exploring the possibilities of for over 3 years; to pioneer a new hinterland trail that has never been done before. Starting from the beautiful lush rainforests of O’Reillys in the iconic Lamington National Park, these 6 backyard explorers planned to navigate (by running) dense bushland & insane elevation along the QLD/NSW border all the way down to Elephant Rock in Currumbin! With only 3 weeks of planning & a vague idea of the route, this motley crew unlocked a path connecting the hinterland with the ocean, linking 77km worth of “trails” that include a heart pounding 2500m of elevation!
After a quick pitstop at Wild Earth for a last-minute gear grab on Tuesday 16th June, the team, consisting of Anderson Moquiuti, Sam Weir, Brad Wilkie, Ben Southall, Scott Page & Keirun Douglass made their way up to O’Reillys, the starting point for their pending 18+ hour adventure. The O’Reilly family had generously offered rooms & dinner for the night so after meeting up with the support crew; which consisted of Wild Earth General Manager Chris Sommerville & Adventure Videographer/Photographer Nathan McNeil, the team found their rooms & settled in for a couple of beers by the fire. A midnight departure was agreed upon, with an ultimate goal of arriving at Elephant Rock in Currumbin by sunset the next day. If you do the maths, that means the boys had estimated the journey would take them around 17hrs. With most of the team having completed numerous ultra-marathons throughout their respective trail running careers, they were more than equipped to take on the challenge, & in good pace, but their biggest hurdle would be navigation as no one has ever linked up these sections of trail before. Getting lost was not just possible, it was more than likely!
The 11:45pm alarm echoes from room-to-room as the boys emerge with nervous anticipation. Some managed 4-5hrs sleep while others didn’t sleep at all. Kitted up with everything they need for the first leg of the journey, the boys gathered at entrance to Lamington National Park, the starting gates for this, & many other, epic new adventure. At 12:25am (25mins late due to some unfortunately timed bowel movements), the 6 fresh legged friends took off into the dark, guided by their head torches & knowledge of this first section of trail. The ever-popular border track comprised the first half of this leg before taking the path less travelled & winding down into the Bushrangers Caves & on to Check Point 1 in Numinbah Valley.
The journey was broken up in 5 stages, giving the adventurous Dads 4 points in which they could rendezvous with their support crew who would carry additional water, food & any other gear they might need to change out during the day, just like checkpoints in an ultra-marathon. Having just completed their first leg of 23kms from O’Reillys, they were now faced with an 8km section of steep, unstable, prehistoric bushland up to the Best of All Lookout in Springbrook National Park. With plenty of steep gulley scrambles, waterfall climbs & sketchy traverses, the boys were forced to slow right down while they carefully picked their way through the entanglement of some of the Gold Coast’s most prehistoric landscapes.
The third leg was set to be the quickest as the boys descend the Cream Track for 12kms into the back of Tallebudgera Valley & into the breathtaking Gorge Falls. Beating the support crew to Gorge Falls, the team had no way to stock up on food and water. Instead they relied on drinking water from the creeks & accepting food from strangers in order to have enough sustenance to tackle the next section which rose steeply up & out of the valley to the top of Mt. Cougal West, before following the border track for another 20kms to Ben’s house on Tomewin Mountain for the final checkpoint. The boys had some additional motivation that came to meet them at Ben’s house in the form of caffeine & a couple of old friends. Leigh Murillo & Jade Donaldson surprised everyone & decided to join the team for the final 20km push to Elephant Rock as a bit of motivational support. From Tomewin Mountain it’s a straight shot downhill along the border fence into Currumbin Valley, & with the elevation behind them, the now 8 runners (plus Pagey’s dog Blondie) cruised their way along the quiet streets of Currumbin in the early evening before reaching the finish line at Elephant Rock, once again guided by their head torches!
Starting at 12:25am at O’Reillys, & with the last runner arriving at Elephant Rock at 7:10pm, these 6 local Dads completed a backyard adventure in 18hrs & 45mins, successfully pioneering a new trail that connects some of the most iconic scenery on the Gold Coast, proving that you don’t have to travel far to find adventure!