The Great Green Way

The Great Green Way

Location: Bowen – Gordonvale, Queensland, Australia
Distance: 832km

The ride north out of Bowen was hot in the afternoon sun but more flat countryside meant I made good time and I was 80km up the road at Guthalungra – nothing more than a service station and rest area – as the sun set. It was more of the same the following day through Gumlu, Inkerman and into Home Hill where I had heard there was an excellent rest area. Big covered area, toilets, hot showers (which I made use of) and BBQs. Great if you have a caravan but unfortunately nowhere to camp. Tourist Information people turned out to be hopeless as per usual.

While I was having lunch I realised I had a puctured rear tyre – punishment for my rough Bowen camp site – and spent an hour or so fixing that and digging all the spines out of my tyres. Crossed the 1km long,  shoulderless Burdekin River Bridge  to Ayr for a quick look around – couldn’t find the giant model snake – and so continued on to a little rest area at Sandy Creek. Fell asleep to the low hum of the sugar refinery in the distance.

Detoured to Giru the next morning where I happened to find a power point on the outside of a hall, in the shade. Time for some housekeeping. Moved some funds around, ordered some new shirts, some spares and an EPIRB in preparation for the run west along the Savannah Way. Spotted a little freshwater crocodile in the Haughton River, took a refreshing dip in a creek and startled a dingo in the afternoon before happening across a big truck stop with a camping area at Alligator Creek. A watchful eye was needed to dodge the heavy traffic into Townsville the following morning, but once into the central area it seemed deserted during what should have been peak hour. My Magnetic Island contact never replied so my stay was brief but did include an Irish Grill fry up and a pint of Guinness for lunch.

North of Townsville I found myself with a whole beachside camp area to myself at Balgal Beach and decided to stay after having ridden only 30km. Silently apart from the odd passing quad bike. The road had continued to be good to excellent and very light on trucks due to the majority of freight being moved by trains. A good thing. While enjoying a mango smoothie at lunch I spotted what I think was my first other cycle tourist pedaling past. I packed my stuff and set off hoping to catch up but never saw him/her again. Sick of the highway noise I retired for the night behind some out of action cane carriages to sound of a million frogs, crickets and various other creatures of the night. Then it started to rain. All night, all morning and most of the afternoon. I sat in Ingham most of the morning wondering if it was worth the time and effort to ride 50km out to Wallaman Falls (268m, the highest in Australia) eventually deciding it was and rolled into camp at 600m just before 7pm. The rain amazingly held off for the majority of the climb and rest of the evening which I shared with the only other couple there over a few beers.

Couldn’t have timed my arrival better. The sun came out in the morning and the falls was roaring with the runoff from the previous day’s rains. It had all changed the next morning though. Not a thing to be seen but they could still be heard. A pity for the two German couples which had arrived the evening after me. It poured the whole way back to Ingham making the downhill run tediously slow but the gore tex fared very well. I was still dry on the inside.

It was while I was on the jetty in Cardwell I spotted a vaguely familiar face – Reuben, who’s journal I’d been reading for some time on Crazy Guy On A Bike. Neither of us could be bothered to press of so we booked in at a cheap campsite and made for the pub for some good conversation about the roads we’d travelled, gear we used and where we were headed while the storm built up and rolled in from the ocean. A lazy morning followed due to more rain but after a coffee or two we headed our separate ways.

The wet weather continued in Tully, hardly surprising while I was standing in front of the Golden Gumboot in Australia’s wettest town. Another detour off the highway took me to Mission Beach past a frightened cassowary then north to Bingil Bay, a beautiful, twisting ride along the coast before turning inland though rainforest and rolling green countryside. I spent an on edge night in a tiny rest area beside a rising creek, checking it every hour or so. It stopped rising around 2am.

While dripping dry in Innisfail I decided it was time to find a laundromat given the pungent odor coming from some of my clothing was starting to get a real bight. It amazing what a bit of sweat can turn into in a plastic bags over a few days. Due to a rather devastating cyclone in 1918 Innisfail has quite a collection of art deco inspored buildings, quite a change from most architecture in north Queensland towns. Enjoyed a rather heated domestic between a couple of Aboroginal families over lunch until the police appeared and settled things down before riding on through Babinda – Australia’s second wettest town – to the Boulders, a large rock pool which I had to myself for the evening.

Despite all the warning signs its not until you look a cassowary in the face at an arm’s length that you feel they might just be able to tear you apart with their over sized toes. An exciting way to start the day. Enjoyed another swim for breakfast but not so quiet this time with the bus load of backpackers around before riding north to Gordonvale where I had, at the last moment managed to arrange a roof to sleep under for the night (cheers Matt -> Jade -> Dan). Passed a couple more cyclists on the way but neither seemed interested in stopping. Oh well.

Posted by admin in Australia, Cycling, Travel, 0 comments
Sunrises, sunsets and sandy beaches.

Sunrises, sunsets and sandy beaches.

Location: Bangalee – Bowen, Queensland, Australia
Distance: 643km
The road out from Yeppoon was same as on the way in. Hot and with too much traffic but I was able to turn north soon enough onto quieter roads and the noise was soon behind me. I hadn’t actually left Yeppoon until nearly 4pm, avoiding the worst heat of the day by the beach. I figured better there with a cool breeze than somewhere inland with it. My destination was Yaamba and by the time I arrived it was near dark but I was greeted by Joe and Paul – a couple of removalists on their way to Port Douglas – and a dinner of pasta, kransky (not chorizo as they apparently had wanted) and a pile of veges. Set up in the dark on the flattest bit of ground but probably should have thought about it some more because a couple of hours later I found my tent floor feeling like a water bed. The rain that had been predicted all day had finally arrived. Donned the gore tex and found somewhere a few meters away, hardly flat, but out of the pooling water. Amazingly everything in the tent stayed dry.
Spent the morning drying out before pedaling off for a rather sparsely populated stretch of road. 80km north I camped at a truck stop at Marlborough. It rained again but managed not to drown the tent this time. Another 80km of empty road before I found St. Lawrence which had a great big rest area with showers, BBQs and nice soft grass to set up on; all to myself. Only downside were the wetlands starting just meters away which bought an army of mosquitoes like I’ve never seen or heard. Was eager to get going in the morning. The highway headed back to the coast and there a few tiny towns marked on the map. I rode through the wetland for a little while firstly though and found a few baby turtles to say hi too. Not long up the road. I pulled into Clairview and sat and watched the coconut palms and water behind them for a while. Scored an icy cold bottle of water and then a cuppa and a sandwich from a nice lady. Turned east of the highway and back into cane fields and a headwind to get down the beach to camp. Early night as I had my biggest day yet to come.
After an early night I was up before dawn and caught a nice sunrise reflecting off the wet mudflats. Put in 30km before breakfast at Ilbilbie (where there was a fatal truck crash a couple days later) and pressed on to Sarina for lunchtime. Stinking hot but with 50km I had to head on for what would be the worst stretch of road so far. The traffic seemed to double in numbers north or Sarina. If there a shoulder to ride on it was rough as guts and covered in debris and otherwise it was roadworks with a nice half meter drop to the edge of the bitumen. The bridge across breakfast nearly threw me off my bike is was so rough. Strangely just a few minutes on the road became a cycling haven. Super smooth, wide shoulders, even bike lanes. Wound my way through Mackay and some more cane fields out to Blacks Beach to a warm welcome from Cath and Jen. Showered and refueled on a good feed of noodles and a few Bundys. Had a mini reunion with my London flat mates Chris and Clair via Skype.
While I had only planned on staying a couple of nights that stretched to 5 while I waited for a waylaid parcel. Spent my time doing very little to nothing. Enjoyed a good seafood lunch at the Eimeo pub looking out to the Whitsundays, finally found a tripod stool (best $10 spent so far) and gave the bike a good check-up and clean.
Took off finally after a breakfast of bacon and egg rolls, heading west, then north past more sugar cane along quiet dirt road to Seaforth when I thought I might camp but nowhere suitable appeared so I headed back to the highway and found a tiny park in Calen to camp in. The traffic seemed to have thinned a little, certainly less trucks which was welcome. Sugar cane continued to dominate the flat country with hardly a break to Proserpine where I found lovely spot on the river behind a coffee plantation and more cane the following day to Bowen. The temperature climbed to its highest I have seen, 42C as the highway veered slightly inland but dropped back by the water. Scouted out a place to camp, cooked up a feed watching an amazing sunset over Grays Bay. Unfortunately I probably should have done some more scouting as my camp site turned out to be full of thorns but if was too late to find somewhere else. I slept as still as possible hoping my mattress wouldn’t be punctured.

Broke camp at first light, itching to get out of my spiny camp and settled down at Horseshoe Bay just around the corner for a lazy day of swimming, eating and people watching. Could have done with goggles to have a look at the reef in the bay but I’m sure I’ll more opportunity for that further north. Finally uprooted myself mid afternoon to find a quick look at some of the other beach and to find lunch but was surprised to find Bowen completely shut except for McDonald’s which I resorted too with no other options. At least it was air conditioned.

Posted by admin in Australia, Cycling, Travel, 3 comments
Citrus, Ceratodus, Cania, Coast.

Citrus, Ceratodus, Cania, Coast.

Location: Ban Ban Springs – Bangalee, Queensland, Australia
Distance: 561

Despite the lack of water at Ban Ban Springs – I had to ask for some from a couple stopped in a caravan – it was actually a nice stop. Very few mosquitos, nice soft grass and it didn’t rain which made an early start easy and the 30km ride into Gayndah – apparently Queensland’s oldest town – for a breakfast stop quite pleasant. It was good to see the Burnett River flowing strongly but the countryside was noticeably dryer, the rains having fallen elsewhere. This was confirmed by the old timer at the information centre who talked of the stark comparison with last year having been stuck at home for 10 days due to flood waters.

Crossed the river in town on a very high bridge, stopping to take a photo and quietly thought to myself it was a long way down. Moments later I managed to knock the lens cap off my camera and watch it tumble on the breeze all the way down. Bummer. The rain started again and I decided to wait it out by having a hamburger fir second breakfast/early lunch and started reading my 80c copy of The Bourne Identity. Off again and not to far down the road I was greeted by a nice 5km of climbing and a lumpy downhill run into Mundubbera. I was getting low on cash and found but found a Suncorp branch – closed of course on a Sunday – but no ATM. I’d come back in the morning. Sussed out the two caravan parks in town, settling on the 2nd place for $15 (still a ripoff but better than $25) for the night which I talked away with Nick, a photographer wondering Queensland looking for a new place to settle down.

A late start, tired legs and a reasonably up and down ride to Eidsvold put my intended destination, Wuruma Dam, out of reach. I avoided more rain in the park in Eidsvold and scored myself a hot shower at the local pool before settling down at Ceratodus rest stop a half hours up the road. The clouds looked pretty ominous so I set up under the BBQ area. Unfortunately the rain never arrived and the lights were fun to ignore all night. I did make it to Wuruma Dam the following morning – getting off the highway taking the most direct route along a dirt road or varying quality – and on arrival was met with a rather sad sight. There was plenty of shade though and a nice breeze so I killed time and avoided the heat for a while. I had no particular finish for the day in mind but after some nice rolling hills, cattle country and open forests I made it to Mulgildie when I discovered you could camp for free behind the mural covered pub. A Bundy or two and big, tasty plate of chicken kiev made for a good end to the day.

It was just a quick spin up the highway to Monto where I grabbed a few supplies before riding out to Cania Gorge National Park. At a guess I’d have to say it was 12 years since I last visited but I do remember waking to find frosts on the car windscreen, tent and pretty much every surface, a problem I shouldn’t have to deal with this time. Unfortunately there’s no camping in the national park so I decided on the first caravan park – avoiding the extra 18km return ride to the alternative – and right at the start point for most of the walks. Took off to the fern tree pool and Giant’s Chair lookout in the afternoon, thongs proving much more comfortable than the cycle sandals. Back at camp I quickly made friends with some caravaners, picking up plenty of tips on good spots to camp all over Queensland and a free BBQ dinner while watching Australia beat India again, this time in a Twenty20 match. While I had originally planned to stay a couple of nights I decided to have an early start to get a bit more walking in and I’d see how far I’d make it in the afternoon.

I met a couple of goannas and a brush tailed wallaby on the way to The Overhang. A very peaceful place which I had to myself for a 1/2 hour. Had a couple of fresh, free range eggs for breakfast – something I’ve been missing since setting off from home – before loading up and backtracking to the highway to continue on. Another one of those unknown ranges appeared out of nowhere. Not too steep but it did seem to drag on forever. I did console myself with the the knowledge that – in theory at least – it was all downhill to Rockhampton. After a rest at the top , there was a nice long downhill run and the traffic seemed to dry up. Retired for the day behind Lawgi Hall. Not sure where the town of Lawgi was but it was nowhere in sight.

Powered into Thangool than Biolea in the morning, stocked up at Woolies before gorging myself over lunch. Two ham and salad rolls, 1L of coffee milk, an apple, a couple muesli bars, some peanuts and chocolate. Didn’t move for a while after that but I think I needed it. Spent an hour in the library in the air conditioning sort some photos before continuing north through dead flat countryside and 10km of very rough, unfinished highway upgrades. After some searching settled in a rather rocky paddock near Jambin and watched my first sunset in a week or more. After sleeping well I woke early but was greeted by my first puncture while packing up, almost certainly a result of the paddock I camped in. Just after crossing into Banana Shire the “Rough Surface” signs actually indicated pristine, smooth road. A pleasant change. At Dululu I had a choice of roads, hills and flat – I chose the hills – and filled up with certainly the worst water I’ve had so far. Thankfully there was a cafe open in Mount Morgan last on a Sunday afternoon where I bought the best vanilla milkshake I can remember having. Plenty of vanilla, a decent helping of ice cream and icy cold milk. Mmm! Considering retiring for the day but decided it would be best to get the climbing out of the way and have an easier day tomorrow. Finished the day with a quick blast, down through plenty of switchbacks, camped in the park across the road from the Bouldercombe pub. Enjoyed some good stories, a few beers and a hot shower.

The run into Rockhampton was nice and flat and free of traffic. Had to dodge a sun baking snake and finally saw a train line in use. A never ending coal train lumbering by, probably to a port. Managed to take a ungainly tumble on possibly the worst designed kerb I’ve come across while pulling in to stop at Woolies, dumping the contents of my handlebar on the pavement. Licked my wounds for a while before finding a nice shady table to relax at by the river, whiling away a few hours eating and reading before setting off to Bangalee where my second Warm Showers host awaited. The road out to Yeppoon was less than pleasant. By far the busiest yet. Minimal to no shoulder at times and a good headwind for a near 20km. I arrived eventually, covered in sweat but was welcomed by Rhodes and his family. Enjoying home made pizzas in the backyard pizza oven and plenty of cycling talk. It was good to have a day off, my first in 10 days. Spent the morning under a pandanus tree on the beach and pretty much had it to myself. Stupidly got my back nice and burnt. Won’t be doing that again any time soon.

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Climbing in the rain, peanuts and more rain.

Climbing in the rain, peanuts and more rain.

Location: Atkinson Dam to Ban Ban Springs, Queensland, Australia
Distance: 353km

The waterskiers woke me early far too early again and I did my best to ignore them for a while but was up and packing soon enough and on the road by 9. Made my way to the back roads heading in a somewhat northerly direction towards Esk. Found a nice smooth gravel to follow for a while before taking a break in the shade after the road a few too many short up and downs. Rolling in to Esk I passed my first cyclists, albeit of the road racing, lycra variety but still got a few waves.

It had been 7 or 8 years since I last passed through Esk but was mostly as I remembered it. A typical little town with the usual runs of shops, pub and bored teenagers milling around with nothing better to do a Saturday. Given it was just before midday I’d being hanging around for a while too. Enforcing my own “not riding in the worst heat of the day” rule. Continued reading Game Of Thrones, bought some fresh rolls and delicious smoked ham for lunch and enjoyed doing nothing. Eventually found the motivation get moving late afternoon but only made it 10km or so down the road before deciding the uphill run to Crow’s Nest could wait for tomorrow. Made camp on the least rough area of grass I found in a paddock screened from the road somewhere Redbank Creek. Flashes of lightning in th west had me concerned for a while but no rain eventuated.

Woke with the birds and slowly packed. Managed to get some confused looks from a couple walking along the road as I appeared out of the bush pushing my bike back to the road. I had time my stop well the night before as it was less than 1km until the road kicked up. Not too steep but it would continue for the next 15km or so, luckily with the company of a rather nice forest of trees providing some very welcome shade. Not too far into far into the climb a car passed me pulled over not far up the road and the driver hopped out and started taking pics of me riding up the road. He was called himself Mushgang, someone in Esk had told him about me and hoped I might be riding the National Trail which he had been following on horseback for 5 years. We chatted for a bit before he handed over a couple of nectarines and I continued on. Stopped for some late breakky/early lunch at a rest area near the top looking back down the valley I had climbed out of and found my Leatherman sitting on top of one of my panniers. A gentle reminded to double check everything before I set off. Took a slightly less direct route to get to Crow’s Nest hoping for some more interesting scenery past a couple of dams. Not really worth the effort and extra climbing but I did stop to take off the Kool Stop brake pads – I’d had enough of the squealing. Arrived in Crow’s Nest pretty knackered and in need of a shower. I reluctantly opted for the overpriced caravan park. Found fish n chips in town for dinner and road back to camp in the night rain.

Before leaving Crow’s Nest I stocked up on food as I was pretty sure there was little available over the next few days – later proven correct – and spoke to and old guy from NZ who used to cycle in his younger days. He gave me some directions which handily cut 20km from my journey. The flies found me not too far out of town and accompanied me for most of the day, only disappearing when I kept above 23km/h. Difficult to impossible uphill. The road was quiet, but nice and smooth as it wound its way through rolling cattle country, a car every 15 minutes if I was lucky.Crossed a bridge washed out by last year’s floods and rolled into the deadly quiet town of Quinalow. There was however a library which I cooled down in air conditioned comfort for a while before setting up camp in the far end of a a park, ignoring the “No camping” signs.

North from Quinalow, more cattle, a short stretch of crappy dirt road and not too hilly but I knew that would change later in the day. I stopped to refuel for starting the climb up the Bunyas which kicked off with a bang. I managed to ride maybe 50m at a time before having to stop but kept at it taking breaks as needed and found myself halfway up just as the clouds engulfed the view and let the rain fall. Out came the Gore Tex and pedaled onwards and upwards. Finally made it to the camp ground mid afternoon half wet, the rain subsided and I set up while I had the chance. Very green, wet and quite cool, I could actually wear a jumper. The rain came and went so I whiled away the afternoon, eating, reading and resting tired legs.

Had a lazy morning but I did want to do some walking here, it would have been a waste not too, but I couldn’t have timed my departure any worse. 5 minutes in the clouds unleashed. At least it made the creeks runs swiftly and the waterfalls roar. Decided by the end bike shoes are the devil for walking it – blisters on each big and little toe – and that I return to the a few spots when the rain abated long enough for some photos.

The next morning – Australia Day, a fact I didn’t realise until much later – the Sun made and appearance and I gingerly (need more band aids) retraced some of the Scenic Walk route for a few photos. Spent the afternoon reading until I finished Game Of Thrones (they could have easily made 2 seasons of TV from the one book) and had an early night hoping to be up with the birds.

The rain started sometime in the wee hours and came down hard, sounding like a barrage of small explosions under the fly. Packed up everything inside the tent but waited out chatting to a Czech (good to see some other people in actual tents, not caravans, camper trailers, motor homes) couple over breakfast, hoping the sun would come out or the rain would at least cease momentarily so I could attempt to shake it dry before packing up. It never happened, but I did pack up and set off by 11. Rode west through the rest of the Bunya Mountains National Park, check out the other campsites deciding I’d made the right decision to stay at Dandabah, it had hot showers before the big decent began. Took a break in Kumbia and had a free cuppa with some friendly caravaners before pushing on to Kingaroy in more rain. Found an Aldi and restocked. Realised I’d passed 3 rest areas and endless fields of peanuts coming into Kingaroy but there none (rest areas) marked on my map for another 70km to the north. Local knowledge prevailed and a quick blast up the wet road in fading light to Wooroolin I set up in a Lions Club rest stop.

Spent the morning trying to dry the tent in a War Memorial pavilion and eventually succeeded as the rain eased and the wind picked up. Didn’t really have a destination in mind for the day so I cruised along pretty casually to Wondai where I had a quick look around the information centre museum on the logging history of the Burnett region and picked up a couple books – The Bourne Identity and a John Grisham double The Partner and The Runaway Jury – on the cheap at Lifeline. Had some average fish n chips in Murgon where I was surprised by the number of aboriginals around town until I remembered Cherbourg a town founded under segregation policy of the Queensland government in 1900 was only just down the road. The legs were still feeling fresh so from Murgon I headed for Ban Ban Springs, about 70km north, passing more cattle country, some tiny country schools and a reindeer farm while the rain couldn’t make up its mind. Finally arrived, not long before dark having cracked my first 100km day. The rain ceased and I slept well.

Posted by admin in Australia, Travel, 3 comments