Trail Of The Unexpected: Off-road in Queensland

Bike down a mountainside or explore the shore: there's plenty of nature in Noosa.

"Get a bicycle," Mark Twain advised readers of his Taming the Bicycle essay, penned after he took tuition on how to ride the relatively new invention. "You will not regret it. If you live." Twain would have approved of being pushed off the top of an Australian mountain on a contraption little steadier than a penny-farthing.

And so I hung precariously from the back of a rented mountain bike, my posterior grazing the spinning rear wheel as the device hurtled dementedly downwards through Queensland rainforest. I'm afraid that I let out a low, wobbling wail. The pleasant beaches of Noosa seemed a long way below.

We had driven to the 265-metre summit of Mount Tinbeerwah, a 26-million-year-old volcanic plug, in a rickety 4x4 out of keeping with the well-to-do tourist town. A lofty breeze lifted the late morning heat. Climbers clung to the rock beneath us, and beyond them there spread a glorious vista of lakes and rainforest; a green thatch of eucalypts, bloodwood and wallum banksia, broken by vivid blue patches of water that stretched out to the South Pacific Ocean.

Helmet and gloves buckled, I selected the wrong gear and followed my guide Greg down the precipitous rock. Biker and shrubbery were to become intimately acquainted.

Our bone-juddering descent propelled us through creeks and vine forest. Kookaburras hooted with joy as we flew past; bush turkeys and large goannas scuttled for cover. Iridescent golden orb spiders looked on from their 10-foot sticky spirals, a bush baby snoozed high on a branch, and I managed not to squash a carpet python bunched by the path. (Twain would have had no such luck; he was renowned for running over dogs.)

Office life doesn't prepare you for this. It was like asking a battery hen to fly loop-the-loops. The first surprise was that you're not supposed to actually sit on the bike seat. (Doing so when going downhill at a 45-degree angle shifts your centre of gravity so that you inevitably go "end over", as the locals put it.) Bodily contact with the bike must be limited to feet on the pedals, hands locked loosely around the brakes, and only using the seat to press your sternum against, for balance. Quite unnatural. Miss a gear-change and you lose momentum, shuddering to a pathetic halt halfway up a climb.

That other 19th-century cycling enthusiast, HG Wells, mapped out mankind's destruction by aliens when he was idling around the Surrey countryside on two wheels. Goodness knows what unspeakable vision of the Martian apocalypse he'd have contrived had he been subjected to this.

And yet, after two hours' pedalling, the misery of being unfit, steaming hot and in mortal fear of impalement gave way to a strange joy – of weaving down steep crags, picking one's path over rocks and roots; and beginning at last to master one's steel charge.

Grazed, and plastered forehead-to-boots in mud, I decided that the other 130km of Noosa's bike tracks could wait. I hitched a lift back to town, and headed for the beach. At least with surfing, the water's cooler and it hurts less when you fall off.

The nutrients once blasted out by volcanic fire have left this low-rise town – 90 minutes up the Bruce Highway from Brisbane – a rich natural heritage: hundreds of acres of pristine parkland jutting into the ocean. Fraser Island, the largest sandbar on earth and a Unesco world heritage site, is visible across the water.

Canoe the dark tannin waters of the Noosa Everglades, into the Queensland rainforest interior to camp, and you can imagine the explorations of the first non-Aboriginal settlers. Insects drone madly around you, bull sharks cruise somewhere below (they can switch their kidney function to move from salt to fresh water), and the cypress pines and scribbly gums veer claustrophobically over the river. Raptors, especially brahminy kite, float on thermals above.

Then, of course, there's the other "wildlife". Setting out early on foot one morning to navigate Noosa's headland and sand dunes, I reached Alexandria Bay.

"A-Bay" is notable for two things: the vicious beach dump for surfers, just after the frothing rocks of Hell's Gates; and the gaggle of unclothed sun worshippers, affectionately known to locals as "white pointers" and "bronze whalers". We exchanged cheery pleasantries, passing one another shin-deep in the surf. That definitely wasn't marked on the coastal nature walk.

For those just passing through, Noosa might leave you with the impression that it is a sophisticated, moneyed sort of place, one which – aside from a few of the loopier surfers – has the heartbeat of a middle-aged, deckchair-bound relative. Here you can wake up and walk to the beach, visit boutiques or a gallery on Hastings Street, hit a bistro for lunch, and go back to the sand.

Travel essentials: Noosa

Getting there

* Bridge & Wickers (020 7483 6555; bridgeandwickers.co.uk ) offers one-week packages to Noosa from £1,699 (until 31 March), including Etihad flights via Abu Dhabi, accommodation at the Sheraton Noosa and car hire. You can fly to Brisbane on Qantas (08457 747767; qantas.co.uk ), Emirates (0844 800 2777; emirates.com), Etihad (0870 241 7121; etihadairways.com ) and other airlines.

Staying there

* Noosa Blue (00 61 7 5447 5699; noosablue.com.au ). Doubles from A$268 (£150).

Sheraton Noosa (00 61 7 5449 4888; sheraton.com/noosa ). Doubles from A$252 (£141), room only.

Visiting there

* Mountain biking tours down Mount Tinbeerwah start at A$69 (£39) with Bug Sports (00 61 7 5474 3322; bug.com.au ). *Go Ride A Wave (00 61 1300 132 441; gorideawave.com.au ) offers two-hour surfing lessons from A$55 (£31).

* Kayaking trips are organised by Palm Tree Tours ( noosa@palmtreetours.com.au; palmtreetours.com.au ).

More information

* EU passport holders can obtain a free electronic eVisitor visa ( bit.ly/ozvisa ).

experiencequeensland.com

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform