July 24 – Byfield to Sarina via 1956
We packed up before the Byfield General Store opened. I had a chat to some contractors who were clearing bush regrowth around the power lines, and who had left a couple of their trucks parked at the store overnight.
I'd been using their vehicles as a drying rack for my dew sodden tent, which gave me an opening for starting a conversation.
Not that it's been difficult to strike up a conversation with total strangers. The bikes are always a point of interest, and when people find out what we are doing, they are full of stories, advice, route suggestions and well wishes. We've even had one couple from South Australia invite us to stay with them on our way through the south!
The local school was directly opposite the store, and as soon as the store opened, there was a steady stream of locals stopping by after dropping off their kids. The store is clearly a community meeting place and well patronised.
We decided to skip the hot breakfast and instead – having thanked our hosts for their hospitality- we once again hit the road.
The plan for today was to head towards Mackay, and avoid as much of the main road by taking a section of the old Bruce Highway that loops inland from Marlborough to Sarina (just south of Mackay).
This proved to be a smart move. The road was great. No caravans, no cops, no trucks, no road works and we only saw about another dozen vehicles on the whole stretch. This section of the old Bruce Highway, crosses back over the coastal range with a short sharp twisty section to some interesting country, where the road runs south to north with great open views out to the west. At the northern section the road once again crosses the coastal range to meet the current Bruce Highway at Sarina. Again some great riding through very pretty countryside. As an added bonus, when we pulled over for lunch, we discovered that the roadside rest spot we had selected was the “Croydon Commemorative Park for the 1956 Olympic Torch Relay.” In the middle of nowhere we stumble on this bizarre artifact from the past. Obviously looked after, but judging by the lack of traffic, seldom visited. With the new highway kilometers away to the east, it had been bypassed by history.
The plan had been to find somewhere we could have a hot shower and do some laundry. However, we arrive at the Sarina Tourist Information Centre to discover that there is a huge mining industry expo happening up the road in Mackay, and that accommodation was going to be hard to find locally.
Fortunately Rita and Heather – the two obliging old ladies manning (personing? womening?) the Tourist Bureau - sprang into action, and after a couple of phone calls they'd found us the last remaining campsite in a caravan park just round the corner.
Hot shower, a quick laundry run, then off to the local pub for grub and beer.