Walking the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail

Having just hiked the trail (aka bvrt), passing numerous cyclists and a few people on horseback, other walkers were sparse. In fact I could count them on the fingers of one hand. So I thought I’d write this post in the hope of inspiring more walkers, especially given as to the ease of this trail (as in flatness, organisation, accommodation etc for walkers, but I’ll come to that).

Why?
Apart from the delicious notion of pilgrimage – long distance walking across country, town to town, has so many gifts that can’t be gathered by crossing country at speed (even that of a bicycle). Moving across the land slowly enables a deeper connection to country. It is harder to miss the gradual changes that occur, to take in the nuances that are felt as you touch the land with your feet, your nose, your heart, your hands. And with each connected step we make with the land, something shifts not only within us, but within the land itself.

It takes time for the land to open up to us. Any nature connection beyond the superficial requires a slowing down and a dropping in. There’s an art to this while walking. To stay in constant wide angle awareness of our surroundings while at the same time dropping inwards is a practice. In my experience, it doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes it takes weeks of walking first. Sometimes we need to walk off our overlays before we can perceive the land at a deeper level. And sometimes, country has been so harshly treated, that it takes time for it to begin to trust you and open up it’s treasures more.

I’ve walked my share of long distance hiking trails, and have written about one of these 1000km adventures in my book Wild Flower Nature: A Pilgrimage to Nature on the Bibbulmun Track. For anyone considering through-hiking, the Brisbane Valley Rail trail would be an awesome training ground.

  • It’s relatively short – 161km. Around 8 days (though you could easily extend it to 10 and have a couple of short days).
  • It’s relatively flat. Being a rail trail, the guage is very gradual the whole way. In fact, I found myself craving some uphill to activate different leg muscles, and came to love the missing rail bridges which required short steep descents and ascents in order to cross waters or causeways.
  • The daily distances average about 20km. While I find a little shorter is more enjoyable, this is still very doable for a walker.
  • There are many free camps if you’re willing to carry your gear. Or there is accommodation – bed and hot shower bliss each night if you can save a little bit extra for the trip. This is what we chose – I figured I’d pay from my hip pocket rather than with my body this time round!! If you can travel with a companion, it averaged out at around $60-70pp/pn.
  • You don’t need a map! The trail is marked very clearly the whole way. It could do with a few more km markers that give distances in both directions (the most regular ones are all oriented to people travelling south to north, though you’re better off walking north to south unless you want to walk into the sun. The gradient is also slightly more downhill if you start in the north). In the last few days however, I came across a bvrt booklet with a map that had all the shelters and water crossings marked on it, so that is available somewhere if you’re someone that needs that needs to know what’s coming each day.

I’ll include a little practical info below, as well as the day to day moments. But first I wanted to share a little deeper reflection…

The magic of intention.
I love to make room for the sacred by setting an intention and this walk was no different. Whether you remember the intention or not, somehow the world conspires to unfold what you’ve set in motion with your intent. My intention with this walk was to experience even more consciously the way the energy of land affects me, how we are interconnected. And in many ways, I was more aware of the energy dips and highs and the country during the walk. Yet even more has clarified and deepened on later reflection. It’s this aspect I’m feeling to share here, rather than many of the other layers of experience that the journey encompassed.

From the very first day’s walk, I experienced limitiation. My boot separated from its sole just 5km in, and I had pain in one heel – at the time I thought it was the way my boots were tied, however, no amount of changing that seemed to make much difference. So being an everlasting student of the body and wholistic, natural healing methods, I see pain as something out of alignment and hence an indicator and teacher or guide. The second day of walking had me intensely focused on ‘how to walk in alignment’ hence without pain. This required very small soft gentle steps with my left foot, and large strides with my right. And I became acutely aware of these two different natures, the feminine and the masculine sides of myself. If the left/feminine tried to ‘keep up’ by striding like the masculine, I experienced pain. If the right side/masculine tried not to ‘stride’ in its own way but rather wait for the feminine and be more like her, likewise there was pain and a sense of frustration and impatience. However when I allowed each foot to do it’s thing (which I have to admit felt very odd and imbalanced), a new harmonious way of walking began to emerge, the two sides slowly found a new way of relating. This became a walking chant ‘listen to the land/body’ with the left foot, and ‘act’ (the push and stride forth action) with the right foot. When they work together – superpower!!

How does this relate to the energy of the land?
I’d set an intention and having worked fairly extensively in nature connection, coupled with my experiences on previous long distance hikes, the reflection didn’t take long to clarify. This wasn’t just ‘my stuff’ (though it was definitely that too), it was embedded into the rail trail itself – we get attracted to where we need to go after all!

The rail trail itself is awesome! However, it has the superficial imprinted energy of trains chugging along it, and I guess more recently bikes – the energy of go! go! go! Both very strong overlays on the land that carry and reinforce this white speedy overlay (my right foot that needed to stride forth or it would hurt, the desire for new). The historic energy expresses it, and it can also be seen in the informational bvrt trail signs along the way, (which make awesome excuses to pause)! Mostly these signs describe the people who created the railway or historic places and events along it. But they are virtually all white colonial. Along the whole 161km trail, there were only two informational signs relating to the indigenous history of the land. One about a nearby bora ring, and the other about stone tools (written very obviously by white people without any indigenous consultation, which had me cringing). Yet underneath, there are thousands of years of indigenous history – of slow travel on foot in connection and harmony with the land, the plants and the animals. (My left foot – listen to the land, tread gently, slow hiking only thanks!).

The white civilised overlays on the other hand have exploded channels and moved earth in order to create the railway line.

It’s this energy I was experiencing in my body so clearly and attempting to harmonise. I could also deeply relate to it within my two lineages. With all that, the first couple of days felt like intensely slow hiking. However after that, a shift occurred. Harmony began to unfold, the land opened up a deeper layer and we began to sing. I felt like I’d been tested and come through. Gaia and her ancestral spirits witnessed my sincere effort to listen rather than override and opened up to receive us more. But it will take a lot more slow intentional hikers to shift this energy along the trail.


Below, is a little practical information on where to stay if you want to walk rather than cycle the trail, interspersed with our day to day experiences and photos. And at the bottom a few frequently asked questions!

You can also find great information on these two pages:
www.brisbanevalleyrailtrail.com.au
https://www.tmr.qld.gov.au/bvrt

Practical information
Preparationgetting there
We started in Yarraman and walked from North to South. Having the sun at your back rather than in your face is much more pleasant. It’s also slightly more downhill than uphill in this direction.

We left our car down south and got a ride with a friend to Yarraman. There’s also a shuttle service for bvrt people, though you need to book ahead. There are places to leave your car at both Borallon and Fernvale visitors centre, though we ended up booking our final night via airbnb and they allowed us to leave our car there for the whole week. This turned out to be an awesome gift as we didn’t have the hassle of trying to juggle the final leg of the walk. The night before we began we stayed at Yarraman Caravan park in a little cabin. What we didn’t realise is that it was a kilometre of two from there to the trailhead. Factor that in!

Hint: click on the little arrow on the right of the photo to see more photos of the day and a map of the trail.


Day 1 Yarraman to Blackbutt 19km
Though there is little about it in any of the rail trail documentation, the majority of the trail is on indigenous Wakka Wakka country. The final sections in the south are on Yagera country. Deep respect to the original people of these lands who maintained its balance long before the railway was built.

A beautiful section of the trail winding through mostly quite open bushland and some rocky country.

Accommodation: There are a few options in Blackbutt. We ended up in Edelweiss B & B. It was a whole little house, very sweet and quiet with a full kitchen to cook up a feast. If you tell them you’re walkers, they’ll come and pick you up from Blackbutt when you arrive, as it’s 4km off track. There’s a 3km short cut back to the trail that reaches Benarkin (so you cut off 2km of the trail staying here.)


Day 2 Blackbutt to Benarkin 5km; Benarkin to Linville 17km. Total 23km
A beautiful days walk through Benarkin state forest.

Accommodation: Linville Hotel a big old friendly Queenslander opposite the station. They serve pub dinners – 1 vegetarian option!


Day 3 Linvale to Harlin 20km

Accommodation: Harlin Hotel. The rooms are very basic, but the people friendly and they had the best vegetarian meals along the whole bvrt. (Elsewhere: ‘plant based burger’ means ‘frozen potato pattie with a pea or carrot or two’ i.e. no protein whatsoever)


Day 4 Harlin to Toogoolawah 14km
Lots of open country and the Yimbun tunnel.

Accommodation: Exchange Hotel, Toogoolawah. When booking, on a whim I’d agreed to a private bathroom – extra $10, but it as a tub! It was worth it!!


Day 5 Toogoolawah to Esk 19km
A few water crossings. Mostly open country and pastureland.

Accommodation: Grand Hotel Esk. Tip: if you ask for a kettle, they’ll bring you one. Rooms have a sink, fridge and bed. Shared bathroom with tubs!


Day 6 Esk to Coominya 24km
Beautiful walk although a bit long for the unfit at 24km.

Accommodation: There’s not much at Coominya. The Bellevue Homestead needs booking in advance, but was very beautiful. She lit the fire for us in the bedroom, there’s a tub in the bathroom and breakfast is available for an extra fee.


Day 7 Coominya to Fernvale 20km.
Part 1: Coominya to Lowood 12km
The track is parallel to a lot of road and through mainly pastures and grazed land. Lowood has a lovely cafe for a rest stop if you catch it open.

Part 2 Lowood to Fernvale 8km

Accommodation: Fernvale Hotel Motel.

Day 8 Fernvale to Wulkuraka 23km
Not a lot of accommodation options around here. Airbnb had a couple. So we ended up staying in Brassal


Day 9 to Wulkuraka station. 1.7km
Robbed of the final trailhead (they’re upgrading it) to celebrate our 161km adventure, but there was a little message on the pathway to mark the occasion!

On our way home we stopped by a quirky little cafe in Ipswich for morning tea – delicious blueberry scones, and this saying on the wall captured the dominant feeling of the week; 😂


Do you need to be fit?
Personally, I can never get inspired to train for hikes. I figure I’ll get fit on the way and why go through the pain of carrying a pack twice. But if you want to enjoy the experience from the beginning, it’s worth being fit, having shoes that are comfortable with good ankle support, carrying as little as possible and possibly training with a pack. (If you’re interested in learning what to pack, comment below and I’ll do a separate post if there’s enough interest.)
This walk, having done no training felt something like this:
Day 1: intense, steep fitness regime. Stiff and aching by final kilometres (thank the stars for homeopathics!)
Day 2: detoxing
Day 3: body adapting and integrating
Day 4: maintenance and motion upkeep. Body limbering up and less stiff on motion.
Day 5: no longer noticing weight of pack.

What did I learn?
– walking barefeet for years changes your feet. Despite having previously worn-in comfortable boots, my feet took a few days to get used to being so enclosed again. Hadn’t considered that! Feet may need retraining!
– test your equipment! hahaha. Despite using my water bladder fairly frequently and even quite recently, it spurted a leak on the first day and was continuously spurting water at me. And the boots, well, I had checked them beforehand and even glued one up, but long distance walking is another matter!

Laughter is the best medicine!
Listen to the land and act!
and Enjoy yourself!

Leave a Reply