Saturday, August 19, 2017

Home. Nyngan to Canberra. Aug 18th

Last breakfast - Nyngan
531km, 5 hours 56 ride time. 8:30am depart Nyngan - 4:15pm arrive home. A long day made longer by the weather. Fresh to strong gusty cold winds from the south and west were a continual struggle, particularly on exposed sections of the route. Low scudding cloud with occasional showers. I was grateful for my heated grips and the multiple layers of clothing.

Narromine for coffee and second breakfast, then the back road to Tomingley on the Newell Highway. Parkes for coffee and sandwich and to don wet weather gear in anticipation of the predicted showers ahead. The back road to Cowra via Eugowra and Gooloogong through the Lachlan River Valley. With the intermittent cloud cover, bright westering afternoon sun and scattered showers creating rainbows and a quiet road this section was a highlight of the ride. Cowra for fuel and afternoon coffee enjoyed as a squall line and showers passed thru. On to Boorowa and another magic part of the ride as through the higher sections of the road the cloud became pockets of mist and rainbows followed me on my left.

The final stretch through Murrumbateman was the toughest. A large squall line with strong winds combined with the Friday afternoon traffic exodus from Canberra and my increasing weariness made the last 30km feel interminable. Still I made it safely home, tired but satisfied after an epic and memorable ride.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Cunnamulla to Nyngan. Aug 17th

464 km today.
Away by 8:30 on the road to Bourke. This stretch of road should be called Emu Alley. The roadkill continued with plenty of fresh victims from the night before. A good road and again surprisingly little traffic. Solid concentration was required with constant scanning ahead left and right looking for the tell-tale "sign" that warns you "Emu Ahead!" After a while you get to recognise the shape/colour and have time to ease off the throttle and avoid any incidents. Still there are times when one or more will appear out of nowhere. A shadow cast by a tree, a drain gully next to the road.....
At first I would toot my horn to try warn them off. This was effective with the carrion birds on the roadkill,  causing them to take flight well ahead of you. I soon discovered that tooting your horn at emus only caused them to panic and scatter in all directions. Better to just ease off the throttle and take them unawares so that by the time you're among them it's to late for them to scatter. The worst scenario is when you have a flock with some on one side of the road and some on the other. They invariable decide - when they see you coming - to cross the road to join the others. The result is that they all meet in the middle of the road - just as you arrive. Hilarious.
Highpoint of the stretch to Bourke was coming across a coffee van parked outside the police station at Enngonia. Really excellent coffee with bonus home made orange fairy cupcake! A sign of the times when you can get a good coffee from a van at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

The Bourke Nyngan stretch is one of the longest straight stretches of road I've encountered - even on the Nullabor. So flat and straight you get the illusion that you are going uphill. Until you look back and it looks uphill as well!

There was a historical marker just outside Bourke commemorating the laying of a survey base line out to Bourke using lengths of tape, mostly at night so that the tape length was not affected by the heat!

Approaching Nyngan the country starts to look a lot greener, and the temperature is a lot cooler. Forecast for tonight is 7 degrees. I've already zipped my padded liners into my riding gear in anticipation of tomorrow. It's looking decidedly cooler as I get closer to home.... Maybe tomorrow?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Blackall to Cunnamulla. Wed Aug 16th

Longest day so far on this trip. 500km. On our 2012 ride around OZ, from memory my longest day was about the same.

Hot nor'westerly was blowing all day. Blustery side winds always make riding a challenge, particularly when passed by an oncoming road train. Brought back memories of our second day crossing the Nullabor back in 2012. On top of this there were lots of kangaroos and emus about and the amount of roadkill was extraordinary. There was literally no point on todays ride where I could not see or smell a carcass. Interestingly, as the day progressed and I  moved ever southwards, the ratio of kites to crows feasting on the roadkill changed completely. Up north its the kites that festoon the carcasses, with the occasional crow. Now its the complete reverse.

I had 2 close shaves that left my system soaked in adrenaline, one with a big red roo that appeared out of nowhere from my right, bounding across the road. Drastic swerve and braking were required to avoid collision. Later I had a run in with an emu. I spotted it in time to roll off the throttle and start covering the brake. It started to leave the road and looked like it was heading into the bush. At the last minute it changed its mind and darted across the road immediately in my path.

After that I started to see emus and roos lurking everywhere.....

Stopped at Wyandra for a cold drink - amazing shop in the middle of nowhere about 100km north of Cunnamulla.

Decided to spoil myself tonight with a soft bed in a motel. 1st time this trip. About to head down to the pub for a cold beer and an early dinner. Should sleep well tonight!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Winton to Blackall. Aug 15th. - A parting of the ways

So after almost 6 weeks and over 6500km on the road together - today the parting of the ways. Marco and Ursala are heading back up to Mount Isa via the Boulia Road before continuing to central Australia, possibly after a detour north to Katherine.... they are in no hurry. Tempting as it was to join them for a visit to Alice and Uluru Kata Tjutu that will have to wait for another occasion. We had a great time, rode some great roads and visited (& revisited) wonderful places.

I'm taking the direct inland route back to Canberra. Today clocked up 400km through Longreach and Barcaldine ending up at Blackall. Wide open roads through wide open countryside. Heaps of roadkill to assail to nose. Also a couple of parties of emus playing chicken with me. I was surprised at how quiet the roads were - not much traffic heading south - mostly north. Plenty of people/travellers in Longreach where I stopped for coffee

and Barcaldine where I had lunch. The caravan park here in Blackall is also packed, however I got here early enough to get a shady/grassy spot to camp.

More expensive than Winton, but free wifi and an excellent camp kitchen with a fridge. Showers are good with an endless supply of hot water from the artesian bores and (a nice touch) a supply of fresh bathmats!

Tomorrow on south towards Charleville. Weather is still hot in this part of the world and is expected to be hot again tomorrow. After that it should get cooler as I get closer to home. 

Rest day in Winton and a visit to the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument. Aug 14

So we were picked up at 7:30 am by Michael driving the small 4×4 tour vehicle from Vision Splendid Tours. Only 7 guests including the 3 of us. A young english couple who were working at the hotel and another older couple. Apparently 2 no shows.

Tour is basically from Winton to the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument via a diversion to 3 viewing points from the rim of the jump-up country. Morning tea was provided.

On to the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument.

I love these 1 off  purpose built architectural indulgences.
The actual rock strata containing the tracks are astonishing and the odds of such an event being preserved for us to gawk over must be truly astronomical.

My pics cannot do justice to them. So here is a link to their website.
Better still - go have a look yourself!
Lunch was provided by the tour operators. Beef stew and rice with fresh damper. Salad for those so inclined. The damper was very good and there were Anzac biscuits for dessert!

Back to Winton to sit out the remaining afternoon heat in the pub. Time for a shower then back to the pub for dinner.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Cloncurry to Kynuna - Kynuna to Winton. Aug 12/13tg

Another "double" entry. 185km to Kynuna. Half way to Winton and in the middle of nowhere. 2 possible camping sites, so we pick the one with most shade and hunker down to wait for the afternoon to pass. No mobile coverage - hence the double blog entry. Again easy riding on good roads with little traffic, most heading in the opposite direction. Tree/scrub cover soon disappears after Cloncurry giving way to plains of mitchell grass with the occasional lone tree.

Kynuna comprises a Roadhouse/Fuel stop with attached small caravan park (where we camped), a police station, the CWA hall, and the Blue Heeler Pub (also with attached - but shadeless - caravan park).

We've discovered that on the whole, remote rural Queensland caravan parks are not set up for tent camping. They are geared to caravans and RV's with hard compacted drive thru parking areas. Very little in the way of shady/grass covered level areas suitable for folks like us. Still we always seem to find somewhere to pitch a tent. Having a stretcher makes it easier.

So we wait out the heat of the afternoon, amusing ourselves watching the antics of the local Apostlebird clan. Clearly their success depends on conning the tourists into feeding them.

As the sun starts to loose its intensity we move to the Blue Heeler Pub for drinks and dinner and idle conversation with fellow travellers, including a couple of farmers from Shepparton in Victoria.
Some things all drinkers in all pubs can agree on - the world is going to hell in a basket and all politicians are dogs.

Beer battered barramundi has become our standard option when eating out. Fortunately not too often. Still the beer is cold and the sunset glorious and the night promises to be much cooler.

Kynuna to Winton. A mere 156km thru continuing endless plains of mitchell grass. As we near Winton we start to see signs of the "jump up" country that lies ahead. Having agreed beforehand we would spend a day in the Winton area doing one of the dinosaur tours we headed straight for the tourist information centre. Easy choice assisted by very helpfull staff and we have booked the day tour to see the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument. Morning tea and lunch included. Next item on the agenda - which of the 3 possible caravan parks has the best shady camping area? The information centre lady is amused at our need for shade.... but in any case suggests the Matilda Tourist Park and even rings ahead to make sure they can accomodate us. Even tho its Monday, it was cup final weekend and judging by the crowd of inebriated young men at the pub, some team won.... So town is busy. No problem we are informed.
So I pull into the entrance of The Matilda Tourist Park leaving the others in the street waiting in the shade, parking my bike behind a caravan that has just pulled in - well to the left to avoid any passing caravan rigs, but also to take advantage of some shade. Someone from the office is talking to the caravan owners in front of me, so I enter the office and immediately some tosser challenges me with the words "Move that fucking motorcycle - you're stopping the caravans from getting in!" As I'm still in the process of removing my earplugs I think I must have misheard. "Pardon?" I respond. He repeats the insult. "Move that fucking motorcycle, you're blocking the driveway!"

Ice fills my veins and with the utmost restraint I reply "I am not blocking the driveway, and in any case I'm next in line so it's obvious you don't want our business." and walked out, telling the others via our intercom that "we won't be staying here!" As I was getting my gear back on, a woman from the next caravan in line in the driveway asked why I was leaving. When I told her she responded by saying they had been warned back in Longreach about the "rude" people at this caravan park. News gets around. Unfortunately  there are so many travellers and so few good places to stop over that even aresholes stay in business.

Back to the otherside of town and the "Pelican Caravan Park" where we find one of the few remaining campsites "no shade I'm afraid." says the polite and helpful receptionist. No problem, we'll make our own.
I return to the tourist information centre to let them know about the arsehole at the Matilda Tourist Park and that our tour guide should now pick us up at the Pelican instead. She was sympathetic and asked if I wanted to lodge an official complaint. No need I said, social media and Google Maps review will have more impact.

Lunch at the local pub. A stroll around town. A drink at the famous North Gregory Hotel and back to our campsite.

Tomorrow a day in a (hopefully) air conditioned bus while we play tourists.......

Friday, August 11, 2017

Normanton to Burke & Wills Roadhouse Then to Cloncurry. 10/11 Aug.

2 short days.
Normanton to Burke and Wills Roadhouse - 192km.

Lots of single lane bitumen across wide open countryside. Traffic light and fortunately no oncoming road trains.  Easy riding with time to appreciate the subtly of the slowly changing landscape. Bourke and Wills Roadhouse by lunch time, which appears to coincide with peak activity. Seek out shade to park bikes, but hold off erecting tents until later. Very dry and dusty campground. No grass here!

Apostlebirds seem to have adapted well to life in caravan parks / campgrounds. We have encountered large clans around all the places we've camped in FNQ. Burke and Wills had its own "gang" that took every opportunity to snatch anything edible left unattended.

As per usual in these remote roadhouses, Bourke and Wills is staffed by young travelers from all over the world. Friendly and curious about "old" people traveling around on motorcycles.

We sit out the afternoon heat, have a couple of beers and "treat" ourselves to dinner at the roadhouse. Not exactly gourmet, but adequate for our purposes. On sunset we finally pick out where we are going to sleep, Marco and Ursala set up their tent sans flysheet, while I abandon my tent altogether and set up my stretcher just on a groundsheet under the stars. Warm still night and the campground has filled up with the usual caravaners and camper trailers. A couple of road trains pull up for the night as well, in a cloud of dust and with much noise emitted by the air brakes. By 10 all has fallen silent and I doze off only to be roused at midnight by the sound of a lone cow passing thru the campsite. A surreal sight in the light of the still fullish moon. The temperature has also dropped to the point where I can break out my sleeping bag to use as a quilt.

Dawn chorus at Bourke and Wills is the sound of large diesel engines being started and warmed up. Early start for the short - 185km run to Cloncurry. Again easy riding. No single lane sections on this stretch. Slow climb as the savanna gives way to the more rugged terrain around Cloncurry/Mt Isa.
A brief stop at the Terry Hills Lookout rest area - about 80km short of Cloncurry - for coffee. We'd camped here back in 2012.
A gaggle of Zebra finches were taking advantage of a leaking water pipe for a drink.

Set up camp in Wal's Campground on the back streets of Cloncurry. Basic but tidy and cheap. Laundry day.

Meet up with Nick and Evette? a Sydney couple on 2 Ducati Multistrada staying here. Doing a lap of oz so naturally we tell them about all the "must see" places. To town for supplies. 
Tomorrow towards Winton.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Croydon to Normanton with lunch in Karumba Point. Wed Aug 9th

300km riden today. Possibly our longest day so far? Only just over 150km from Croydon to Normanton - on the flatest straightest least interesting stretch of road to date. Easy riding,  as the road is in good condition, little traffic with the only distractions being flocks of kites congregating over fresh road kill. They like to leave it till the last minute before taking evasive action. Unlike the occasional wedge tail, they make it look effortless as they transition from ground to air.

Cattle are also everywhere along the roadside, but barely lift their heads as we pass. From the number of cattle carcasses at the side of the road plenty fall victim to the road trains. Probably at night.

One goanna cought out by us as it was crossing the road. With three bikes passing in quick succession, it didn't know which way to run as we took evasive action. Also caught a glimpse of the Overlander Train on route between Normanton and Croydon.

Normanton reached by late morning, we set up camp in the Gulfland Motel and Caravan Park, had a swim then set off for Karumba Point for lunch. After all this time traversing Queensland, the additional 70km each way seemed a trifle. Karumba Point for some reason is a "must see" on the Grey Nomad circuit. Consequently both caravan parks are always full and it is well nigh impossible just to turn up and get a camping spot. Not sure what the attraction is? Good fishing apparently, and excellent sunsets over the Gulf.

The road out to Karumba passes through a wetland area, rapidly drying out at this time of the year. Some large Brolga type birds that we suspect might have actually been Sarus Cranes.
$6 Local Fish and Chips 4 lunch at Karumba Point. Followed by a short stroll before heading back to Normanton and our campsite. Another swim before pre dinner drinks.
Now sitting out under the stars post dinner waiting for the waning moon to rise. Tomorrow we head south towards Cloncurry.....

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Mt Surprise to Croydon. Tuesday August 8th

After our excellent pizza dinner at the charming Bedrock Village run by the equally charming "Bedrock Chix" we slept well under the full moon.

After pausing to allow Ursala to post a parcel at the local post office/gem store we were back on the road, enjoying the relative freshness of morning. We are back in the routine of riding mornings with a stop for coffee somewhere en route, aiming to reach our destination by lunch time or shortly thereafter.  This way we avoid the afternoon heat and beat most of the Grey Nomads to the best campsites.

Today we retraced part of our 2012 route and encountered our first stretches of single lane bitumen. Brought back memories of riding in Rhodesia back in the 60's as a pillion passenger with my father and a mate of his - where the main highways were just 2 strips of bitumen - the average venicle wheelbase apart. In retrospect I'm amazed at the level of concentration it would have required to keep the bikes on such a narrow track.

These single lane stretches are always a challenge when faced with oncoming traffic. Fortunately today traffic was light and no road trains!

Morning coffee in Georgetown. Which has its very own Peace Park!

20km west of Georgetown is the Cumberland Chimney - an old mining site now used as a free camp area. We'd camped there in 2012 - quiet spot with a lagoon formed by an old dam - a sanctuary for birdlife. New picnic tables and toilets have improved amenities. At 11 am there were already 1/2 dozen Grey Nomads setting up camp.

Gilbert River for lunch.

Croydon caravan park - $10 per person with grassy shady campsite and a pool. Supermarket across the street and a pub a block away. Quiet and off the main highway. Perfect.

Enjoyed todays ride as the landscape unwound beneath our wheels. Only 248km,  but a couple of stretches where the flat savanna is disrupted by ridgelines providing interesting riding and panoramic views out over the surrounding vastness. I realised that having been this way before and unlike last time knowing what lay ahead - we were able to relax and enjoy the riding.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Herberton to Mount Surprise. Monday August 7th

Weather cleated up overnight. Delightfully cool after Cooktown. Morning mist about.

 Paused briefly in Herberton for fuel before taking the scenic route via Tumoulin back to Kennedy Highway/Route 1.

Back in 2012 I spent 2 nights in the area exploring all the small villages and old mining/logging areas. I'd forgotten how high this part of the Atherton Tablelands was. 1160 metres was the highest point on the road. I'd also forgotten how extensive and fertile the whole area is. Truely a unique part of Australia. With the added bonus of have great motorcycling roads.

Immediately after Ravenshoe we lost a lot of hight as the tablelands merged into the Gulf Savannah landscape.  Good road with little traffic allowed us to make Mount Surprise by lunch time. Back in 2012 this is where Marco Ursala and I met up again after my Cooktown sojourn and their enforced Cairns stopover waiting for parts.

210km this am, and we decide enough for the day. The Bedrock Village in Mount Surprise turns out to be a surprise. Relatively quiet and well appointed with shady campsites and excellent facilities including a swimming pool and a bar. Also tonight is woodfired pizza night so that means dinner is taken care of.