Tag Archives: Motorbike

Julia Creek Trip Day 13: Home

Today’s 485km ride home can best be summed up in just a few phrases:

  • 6.5 long and often scary hours
  • potholes so large they could swallow a small truck
  • puddles so deep I needed scuba diving gear to ride through them
  • visibility so low I often couldn’t see the cars in front of me or the lines on the road
  • rain so heavy it managed to penetrate my raincoat, winter jacket, fleece vest and t-shirt.

Yes, some will say I should have stopped but that’s not my style. The downpour continued through last night and sometimes here in  Queensland downpours like that continue for days. I’ve learned to ride through heavy rain and to manage my risks so that’s what I did. And besides, a bit of fear is good sometimes.

I made it home safely and am ready to get back into training.

Julia Creek Trip Day 12: Capricorn Caves to Deepwater

 

It’s our final day on the road as a trio. Tonight I will be staying with a friend in Deepwater, and my mum and grandmother will be staying with their friends at Hervey Bay. We’ll all be home by tomorrow night. It now feels like we’re homeward bound after a fabulous trip.

There’s not much to tell about today’s travel. We drove through Rockhampton to Gladstone where we stopped for morning tea on the harbour. The road into Gladstone is lined with heavy industry. There’s a huge new development being built to house the workers who will live here to keep the coal, electricity and aluminium industries growing. It feels oppressive driving through this type of landscape. Intellectually I know that we need it because our society (including me) has high electricity demands and uses a lot of aluminium products. But emotionally it feels horrible to know this type of industry is destroying our planet; especially after spending time in wilder areas.

From Gladstone we follow the increasingly busy Bruce Hwy south to Miriam Vale. There’s a lot of road work taking place as this section of the highway is upgraded. The road works make travel painfully slow as we have to stop frequently for the stop-slow controllers. Fortunately we can turn off the road in Miriam Vale to turn off the highway to take the back roads south rather than continue to battle the road works. I needed to turn off there anyway to get to Deepwater but Mum would ordinarily have taken the highway all the way south to the Hervey Bay exit, south of Childers.

We stop at the Lowmead Road exit where Mum has to turn left and I need to continue onwards. We stop here on the side of the road for lunch. It’s quiet here and there’s nowhere else to stop so we just set up our chairs right beside the road. Here we eat left over dinner for lunch before Mum and my grandmother leave me to continue our own separate ways. Our last meal together was lovely and as I rode off I reflected on the wonderful trip we had together.

Julia Creek Trip Day 11: Airlie Beach to Capricorn Caves

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We’re on our way home now, starting with today’s long drive down the notoriously long and boring stretch of Bruce Hwy from Mackay to Rockhampton.

We start out early and make our way through the cane fields to Proserpine and then Mackay, where we have breakfast in a pretty park dedicated to the South Sea Islanders who helped develop the sugar industry in the Mackay district.

From Mackay we drive about 100km to Flaggy Rock. It’s a tiny town and from the highway all we see is the ice cream shop. You have to stop here if you are in the area because the home made ice cream is delicious! I had two scoops: lychee and ginger, and banana and cinnamon. Yummo.

After Flaggy Rock we drive  120km to Marlborough. Despite the large road signs indicating the town’s existence, Marlborough is also tiny. We stop at the Lions Park for lunch and a short sleep. It is clean and relatively quiet. I really needed the sleep.

On the road between Flaggy Rock and Marlborough there were a series of official road signs with trivia questions on them. It’s one of the fatigue management techniques being used to reduce the road toll on the road. Most people drive the 311km from Mackay to Rocky in one hit so it’s a dangerous road. The lack of variety in the scenery makes it boring, increasing fatigue. I wish I had been able to safely stop to take photos of the signs. The current question is ‘What is the tallest mountain in Queensland?’ The answer is Mt Bartle Frere.

We had planned to drive to Yeppoon, 35km east of Rockhampton but see camping signs just 25km before Rocky at the Capricorn Caves.

The campground at Capricorn Caves is wonderful. It is a bush camp with powered sites and amenities. We spend our last night as a trio playing cards ( I won my first game this trip) and sitting around a campfire. Mum also makes my favourite dish for tea: a Dutch dish called ‘cold dish’. It was super lovely of her.

Julia Creek Trip Day 9: Alva Beach to Airlie Beach

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After our late night playing cards we slept in and left camp late this morning. We didn’t hit the highway until well after 10am.

Our first stop was a scenic lookout high up on a hill. We could see all the way to the coast to the east, mountains to the southwest and sugar cane fields to the north.

An hour later found us sitting in a backside park in Bowen eating morning tea and enjoying the view over clear blue waters. I also stopped to take a photo of the giant Bowen mango. That’s what Bowen is famous for: delicious sweet Bowen mangos. This is one of the favourite eating varieties in Queensland.

While we were in Bowen we decided to change our plans. We had been aiming to drive to Eungella National Park but, given the late start, we decided instead to stop at Airlie Beach just 100km away.

When I ride down to the water in Airlie Beach I am glad Mum suggested this stop. The water sparkles and shimmers to a backdrop of coastal heads and the Whitsunday Islands. We pitch our tents at the backpacker hostel and camp ground in the town centre and head into town to book a snorkeling tour for tomorrow.

Airlie Beach seems to be a real backpacker town. Everything is geared to their money. Tours depart to the Whitsundays everyday. You don’t have to pre-book; just turn up and book something for the next day. Young tourists abound and most of the shops seem to be staffed with foreign-accented 20-somethings.

After dinner we walk along the lovely man-made lagoon, feeling the fresh ocean air cool the hot humidity slightly. Our stomachs full from eating dinner at a local restaurant we all head to our sleeping bags early; ready for tomorrow’s sailing and snorkeling adventure.

Julia Creek Trip Day 8: Torrens Creek to Alva Beach

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Today we left the Outback behind. After a week of riding under 180° skies and along roads that stretched to the horizon it seemed strange to see mountains rising in the distance.

The first of these were the White Mountains, which formed the western edge of the Great Dividing Range. At 440m high the mountains weren’t impressive but their white rocks made interesting scenery.

The grasslands gave way to trees as we drove further east. Just after Charters Towers we crossed the Burdekin River. It was flowing well but looked empty against the potential size of the river durst flood. It was difficult to imagine that the water rises metres above the road bridge during floods.

One of the highlights of the day was seeing Andrew from Ozonfoot.com. He is walking around Australia to raise money for cancer research. He started in Sydney over 470 days ago. We gave him donations and a cold can of soft drink. I urge you to read his website and blog. I am grateful to people like him who made it possible for researchers and doctors to develop the tests and surgery that saved my partner’s life last year when she had cancer.

We turned off t

he

Flinders Hwy onto the Giru road, which took us through cane fields to the sugar cane milling town of Giru. Here we stopped for lunch beside a creek. It was hot and there was no shade but it was pretty. The crocodile warning signs caught my attention.

From Giru we cruised down the Bruce Hwy to Ayr. We didn’t stop in Ayr but turned east to Alva Beach. This is a beautiful beach side hideaway with blue water and coconut palms. Here we enjoyed the excellent Alva Beach Caravan Park and played cards well into the n

ight.

Julia Creek Trip Day 7: Julia Creek to Torrens Creek

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Both Mum and I are unwell this morning. Mum has an ear and throat infection that she picked up swimming in the pool. I have still got the diarrhea that came on last night as a side effect of racing in the extreme heat. But we pack up camp and hit the road back east.

Our first stop is a rest area midway between Julia Creek and Richmond. It’s the only place to take shelter from the heat in the 145km between the towns. We’re still in the 180° sky country we’ve been in since Winton and, despite my body’s protests I’m loving the ride.

In Richmond we stop at the dinosaur cafe and shops. They are doing a roaring Sunday morning trade with travelers and locals alike. I’m grateful to be in the airconditioning with my jacket off. But I still find the energy to climb into the dinosaur’s mouth for a photo. The dinosaurs are significant here because their fossils have been found in this area.

From Richmond we continue the 105km to Hughendon. As we approach the township hills start to appear in the distance. It’s the first sign that the scenery is going to change soon.

Mum and I both need a long break in Hughendon. Our bodies are struggling to keep up with the effort of driving  (for Mum) and riding (for me) so we find shade near the tourist information centre and lay down to sleep for an hour or so. After our sleep we eat a tasty lunch at the FJ Holden Cafe. The lemon-orange drink is particularly refreshing. It is fresh lemon and orange juice mixed with crushed ice; just what I need.

Shortly after leaving Hughendon we climb a jump-up and the land changes significantly. Trees grow along the roadside and the soil is red. The air feels cooler, making a welcome change to the stifling heat of the past two days.

By the time we reach Torrens Creek, just 90km east of Hughendon, both Mum and I are feeling chirpier. The pub here has a campsite out the back with shady trees in it. It looks pleasant enough for the night so we pay the barman and set up camp under a huge shady tree. We’ve only driven 350km but are glad to enjoy the afternoon snoozing, reading and playing cards. I even squeeze in a geocache hunt, which is successful and takes me through the tiny town.

It’s quiet here in Torrens Creek. The few houses are eerily silent though I saw people or cars at then today. It’s so quiet it feels like we are camped out in the wilderness, not next to the highway in a town. There are millions of stars above us in the sky and the only sounds are our voices and the insects chirping in through night air.

It’s been a good day and I feel recovered from my exertion at the triathlon and from the culture shock of being at such a big and noisy festival. It’s a little ironic that I’m a city bloke but felt suffocated by the crowds at a festival in one of the most far-flung Outback towns in Queensland. I had a fantastic time but am happy to geocache back on the road traveling.

Julia Creek Trip Day 5: Kyuna to Julia Creek

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Dawn over the Outback plains was stunning this morning. I set up a table and chair to act as a desk before the sun rose and worked ny headtorch light until the sky changed colours. It was the best office location I’ve had to date (and I’ve set up office in some fabulous locations).

We took it easy this morning because we only had 120km to Julia Creek. It was a nice change from our usual morning rush.

The Kyuna-Julia Creek road was long, straight and flat. It was narrower than the highways we’ve been following here. It ran straight north, following the bright hot sun’s path towards the centre of the sky. Fields of grass stretched to the horizon, cut only by the long straight ribbon of road.

There were two short unsealed sections of road. It was on one of these that the first of three road trains came hurtling towards us. We pulled over as the triple trailer and it’s cloud of dust approached. The cloud engulfed us as the truck thundered by, shaking my bike as it did. I had to wait about 2 minutes for the cloud to blow off the road, leaving me cake in red dust.

We saw lots of birds again today. While yesterday we saw emus, today we saw brolgas at a water hole. We also saw more hawks and falcons hunting mice and other small animals. It is magnificent to see them glide, swoop and dive through the air.

Once in Julia Creek we set about setting up camp. We’re here for the Dirt n Dust Triathlon, which I am racing tomorrow. It’s the excuse behind our 4,000km return road trip.

The atmosphere here is AMAZING! Today I volunteered as a technical official for the kids’ race. It was fantastic to see so many country kids giving the sport a go. They really got into it, and both their parents and the town got behind them.

Tonight we went to the free music concert. They had some good country musicians playing. Being a country music fan I enjoyed it a lot.

Tomorrow’s race doesn’t start until 9:30am so it’s going to be seriously tough because it gets HOT here during the day. A cattle truck will take our bikes to T1 at 8:30am then we will be taken there in buses. The 800m swim will take place in a muddy creek after which we will cycle the 25km back to Julia Creek along the hot exposed Outback Highway. The race will finish with a 3-lap, 5km run through the centre of town. The atmosphere on the run should be great.

I am looking forward to the event. I expect the field will be small and social. Yes there will be serious competitors but there will also probably be many more who, like me, are here for the experience more than the racing.

Julia Creek Trip Day 4: Alpha to Kyuna

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The caravan park at Alpha turned out to be delightful. It was quiet, relaxed and had clean facilities with excellent water pressure in the showers. I was refreshed when I woke up; ready for another day on the road.

From Alpha we climbed the last vestiges of the Great Dividing Range; all 440m in altitude that it was. As soon as we crossed it everything became drier. Where to the east the rivers and creeks still held water, here they didn’t.

We stopped in Barcaldine to look at the Tree of Knowledge. When I was a child it was still an actual tree but it has since died and has been replaced with an artist’s interpretation, which is pretty cool. As we stood there I noticed that the only buildings along the highway were five pubs and a petrol station. That’s so Outback.
After Barcaldine the country opened up even more. There was now nothing but wide open plains on all sides. The road seemed to go on endlessly in front of us.

After another 100km we reached Longreach; the birthplace of QANTAS airlines. We stopped for morning tea and a rest from the heat.

I also had a chance to take a photo of one of the road trains that have been thundering down the road towards us. These trucks generally have three trailers and can be up to 53m long. For me the worst are those that carry liquids or cattle because they displace a lot of air so coming across then at 110kph is like hitting a solid wall of wind.

From Longreach it was a long hot 180km to Winton, famous for Banjo Patterson’s Waltzing Matilda. It was 180km of almost dead straight highway under woolly skies. Not that there’s any chance of rain out here. The clouds that form from moisture taken from these soils will drop their bounty further east after they hit or cross the Great Dividing Range.

We decided to make for Kyuna; a tiny town at the intersection between the highway and a secondary road to Julia Creek. The road was again long and straight. As had been the case since Barcaldine there was little else around us but open cattle fields. The floods a few months ago have left everything green, making it beautiful riding despite the increasing heat.

I was glad to see a rest area 100km after Winton because I needed a break from having the sun burn what little skin was exposed to it. My nose and cheeks are quite sun and wind burned. These rest stops are relatively new and a welcome addition to the highways.

66km further down the highway we entered tiny Kyuna. According to the sign at the entry to town the population has decreased from 25 a decade-and-half ago to 12 a decade ago. It has a ? mark for the 2014 population. The town has a gorgeous pub, The Blue Heeler Hotel behind which we have set up camp. It looks inviting so we are going there for tea tonight. There’s a petrol station and another caravan park up the road but I have to say the proprietor didn’t seem too welcoming when I stopped for fuel so it was an easy choice about where to stay. And that’s all there is here.

I’ve had a fantastic day. We’re finally out west object the never-ending plains where towns are tiny and far-flung. It’s where I most love to travel and must make time to come more often.

Now I need a shower so we can go get a steak!

Julia Creek Trip Day 3

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The road is steep and the bulldust on the road’s surface is as slippery as ice. It doesn’t take long before the inevitable happens and I’m lying on the ground covered in a fine dusting of the offending yellow road surface. I was traveling slowly when the bike slid out of control into a wheel rut and the weight of my gear helped it fall over.

I was unhurt and my pride is still in tact. Mum helped me lift the bike and remove my gear to reduce the weight. Then I was back on the road, thankful that I have the experience to handle those situations and the correct safety gear to protect myself.

We stopped at a lookout to enjoy the view of the range. It was pretty amazing to see the cliffs rise out of the surrounding plains.

From here we continued ever westward on the Capricorn Hwy. We’re really in the Outback now, where townships can be upwards of 100km apart, with some being little more than a single shop.

The grasses are yellow out here, not green like along the coast. They’ve sprung up after the recent floods that filled the rivers and dams. It’s impressive to see the grasses because this country is often too dry to be more than a dust bowl.

Blackwater and Emerald have their mining prowess on display today. Loaded coal trains about a kilometre long glide by, their two pairs of locomotives placed at both the front and middle of the load. All are loaded with high mounds of black gold. Dongas prevail as the accommodation of choice in both towns.

Just after Emerald we drive to Fairburn Dam for lunch. It’s massive due to the recent wall of water that has so affected the country here. The brown water stretches as far as my eyes can see.

We continue our journey west, passing cattle grazing in the golden fields. Eventually we climb up the Drummond Range. It seems out of place here so far from the coast. At the top is a lookout where we rest from the road.

We’ve driven on to Alpha; a tiny town with a petrol station, shop, post office and caravan park. We decided to camp here because it is pretty. There’s grass and trees. It’s quiet and feels like a chilled bush camp.

I am loving the ride. My heart is still singing. Good thing because we still have 11 days to go.

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Julia Creek Trip Day 2

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My day starts early when I wake at 4am to do a get in a few hours work before we hit the road. It’s one of the bonuses of my job that I can work from anywhere in the world. After I get my work done we breakfast on sandwiches, pack and hit the road.

For the first few hours we travel through grass covered hills. Pink seed heads stand atop the metre high blades. A windmill stands in a paddock. It’s as quintisentially Australian as the gum trees that provide shade for the Brahmin cattle being fattened for market.

At Bjeke-Peterson Dam the dead trees tens of metres from the shore  are a testament to Mother Nature’s power. They grew there against the odds during times of drought only to die when the dam refilled during flooding rains.

We stop briefly in Murgon to take a photo of the Anzac memorial statue. The town’s dark and miserable past still haunts it. The drunken ladies in the park cat call to us. We ignore them and drive on through.

In Gayndah we stop to buy mandarines. They are dirt cheap at $4 a bag (about 5kg) or $6 a box. We eat some for morning tea and are treated to the delicious taste of Autumn.

We make slow progress for the next 150km. It’s not until we stop in Cania Gorge for lunch that I realise we’ve only been traveling at 80-90kph when I thought we were doing 100kph. It seems my speedometre is out by 10% so I let Mum drive up front so that we pick up the pace. I use her as a guide for my speed.

We continue to travel north. It’s after 3pm when we cross a mountain range into Biloela (Billo to Queenslanders). The landscape changes and we find ourselves in The Outback. The grass is shorter and more yellow here. The creeks are dry and the rivers mere creeks. As we turn onto the Capricorn Hwy we see our first road train of the trip. I ride a motorbike so I also smell it. All three trailers of the truck are filled with cattle so the smell is strong.

That’s one of the things I love about motorcycle touring; you not only see everything but you also smell and feel it. Your eyes see something, your nose smells it and, sometimes, your skin feels it. Changes in landscape are often combined with changes in climate (it’s hotter since we passed Billo), which you can’t hide from using climate control (or windscreen wipes in the rain).

We follow the road west as the sun sets. The Forest Gump Suite plays on my ipod as the golden ball sinks into a red sky. Clouds are painted a mixture of blue, white and orange in a display that many would think fake if they saw it in a painting. My heart sings! I love this Outback scenery.

It’s almost dark as we turn off to the Blackdown Tableland National Park. It’s cliffs rise sharply to a tree covered plateau as we approach through fields of yellow-brown grass along a road bordered by bright red dirt. I sing triumphantly to my ipod.

We drive the last 15km in darkness; the second half of which is a rough gravel track. I lead and Mum helps out by shining her head lights brightly so I can see. It’s a nerve racking ride up the steep twisting road to the campsite. I slide down a wet clay hill, my road tyres losing traction. My back end serves out of control as I head out of the clay up the hill because the narrow tread is filled with muddy clay. It takes a long kilometre for me to regain grip with the road. But it’s an exhilarating end to the day.

We set camp in darkness under a bright blanket of stars. I can’t wait to see what this place looks like when the sun rises tomorrow. We’re a long way from civilisation here at bush camp and it feels so good.

(Posted after writing because there’s no internet or phone reception up here on the plateau. Written my phone so limited editing and layout capability.)

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