Australia

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
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
A Stuttering Start

A Stuttering Start

Location: Atkinson Dam, Queensland, Australia
Distance: 220km

Being about as prepared as I was going to get, I took my last chance – for a little while at least – for swim at the beach just before sunset before tidying up a few last minutes things before leaving. Unfortunately those few things dragged on for a tad longer than planned. I did eventually get everything sorted but it was 2am before finally crashed, hardly the best preparation. Note to self: Don’t leave promised jobs to last night before trying cycling around the world :). Not surprisingly I didn’t exactly make an early start and woke feeling like shit. After much procrastination decided to at least ride to my grandparents’ house, a lazy (no, actually it was a sweltering) 5km away to show them my bike and say goodbye. After that meagre it took me an hour to feel like walking again but promised myself and early night and a better start tomorrow.

There was barely a cloud in the sky the sun was getting well overhead before I made off somewhere around 9am. With the mercury already nearing 30°C, I was in no rush and cruised along the esplanade through Mermaid, Broadbeach, Surfers Paradise and Main Beach. A few stops here and there for some photos and watching the school holiday tourists roast on the beach. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take me too long to fall off my bike. I had been making a conscious effort to remember to unclip at least one foot before stopping but while pulling up to chill down by the Broadwater somehow lost all co-ordination and managed fall into the sand. No harm done but I did take a moment to do my first bit of maintenance, my seat having come loose. As the heat of the day kicked in I headed inland and away form the beach for the last time in a while and I soon found another spot to relax by the Coomera River watching the wake boarders. I had set myself the somewhat ambitious target of about 110km for this first day including climbing over Mt Tamborine (about 600m of climbing) mainly as to find somewhere suitable for camping. However, by the time I got going again I knew I wasn’t going to reach this goal but decided to push on the start of the main climb.

I did do some research on the climb but somehow it didn’t quite prepare me for actually riding up it. 12-14% slopes, 38°C heat, a general lack of fitness and still feeling decidedly average at the start of the day all combined to me feeling somewhat light headed when I finally stopped just short of 60km. There was a distinct lack of flat ground to be found and neither the few locals I asked nor the pub were willing to let me camp so I made do with the best I could find in some bush not far from the road. I sweated it out until at least 10pm before finally sleeping. After a brief war with some mosquitoes in the morning – my tent has blood stains to prove it – I was off again by 8am but I had probably ridden no more than 1.5km before I gave up and tried not to die in the shade by the side of the road. I called for help and got a ride home, thanks Mum!

I spent the next 2 days on the couch drifting between sleep and TV but 4 days later, having rested well, eaten lots and done a few shorts rides I was feeling much more human and ready to take on the world again. Unfortunately the weather had other plans. It was 10-15°C cooler but raining sideways and pretty relentlessly. So I held off another day seeing no reason to subject myself to that kind of weather yet.

Finally, finally, got to get on the road today. Had another custard tart before setting off from the top of Mount Tamborine and was quickly down the other side. All downhill for 8km and some undulating roads to Jimboomba for a rest. Decided not to take to back roads I had planned on buta more direct route to Jim and Marilyn’s,  my hosts for the night. Got a bit lost in Springfield Lakes (that place is depressing) before arriving at Redbank Plains and a steak sandwitch later I was off again. Managed to time my arrival into Ipswitch right on peak hour (fun) but was through that and a few last little hills before arriving with my legs screaming at me. Jim cooked up a lovely curry and we talked about our various travels on and off bikes before I crashed.

The next moring I could barely eat but ate what I could before attending to some gearing issues. Thanks ti Jim’s well stock workshop I was fixed and off again quickly enough. Had a 10km stint on the Warrego Highway (not as bad as I expected, decent shoulder to ride on) before turning north to Fairvale to chill in the park during the heat of the day. The ride west to Lowood was enjoyable, being on a horse tral, no traffic to worry about was a welcome change. Arrived at Atkinson’s Dam while it was still light and sent up camp right by the water. I’ll have a day off here relaxing. Reading, watching water skiers and anything else involving little moving before heading north to Esk and Crow’s Nest.

Posted by admin in Australia, Travel, 1 comment