Thursday, July 26, 2012

Seaforth – Cape Hillsborough – Shute Harbour

July 26th – Seaforth – Cape Hillsborough – Shute Harbour

Sometime during the night I decided that I'd head to Airlie Beach / Shute Harbour today. Telephone enquiries had revealed that the last ferry left before mid-day and I wanted to have enough time to do any last minute shopping as well as store the bike.

So after a lazy start to the day, we decided to ride out to Cape Hillsborough – an easy 12km ride. Climbed to the lookout and walked round the peninsula. Just a couple of km but great views. We even spotted a couple of turtles swimming below us in the bay. After a light picnic lunch, we headed back to Seaforth, with a detour down to Balls Bay where we had been told of another quiet municipal campsite on the beach. Our informant had bailed us up after breakfast, and started to regale us with stories about his rock and roll past. Johnny Grey. I checked him out on the net – turns out that amongst other things he's a Neil Diamond impersonator!
You meet the strangest people in municipal campsites!

Packed the bike (dry tent for once) and bade my farewells to Marco & Ursala. After 10 days on the road together it was strange to be setting off by myself. They'll have to amuse themselves for the next ten days while I go sailing.

Barreled up the highway to the Airlie Beach turn-off. Lots of road-works and traffic. Last year when I was in Airlie Beach I didn't get round to visiting Shute Harbour, which is 20 odd km further. Good section of hills and twisties to get there. Tucked away on the far side of the headland. This is where I found somewhere to store the bike for a week, also where I catch the ferry across to Hamilton Island to meet the others.

I found a quiet motel/lodge just up the hill from the ferry terminal. Coral Point Lodge is perched on the side of the hill with great views and at a reasonable price. Checked in, dropped my gear and headed back to Airlie Beach for dinner. A good feed of pizza and salad.

Should be a simple matter to drop off the bike and wander down to the harbour to catch my ferry tomorrow.
So – that will be it until the 6th August. No laptop while sailing – maybe the odd tweet if we're in range.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sarina to Seaforth

July 25th – Sarina to Seaforth

A reasonable night. Woke up at about 1:30am for a toilet stop. Discovered that Marco had woken up at the same time for the same reason. To many beers before bed. Had me wondering if old men that lived together ended up synchronising their urination the same way women who live together are reputed to synchronise their periods? I returned to bed to dream of old age homes full of old men waking up at the same time of night for a pee!

Woken at 5am by the neighbours – a couple of contractors for the local power authority – who were up and gone before 1st light. The evening before one of them told us his family were down in Woodford on the Sunshine coast, and that he spends up to 6 weeks on the road before getting home. His wife had just had a baby, so he was talking about giving up the road work – although the money was good. There appear to be lots of tradesmen like him working all over this part of Queensland. There are 'temporary' work camps set up all over the place with demountable cabins. Mostly set up by the mining and gas exploration companies it seems. They are also putting in new roads and upgrading the existing ones at a great rate.

Today a short but scenic ride. Bypassing Mackay by taking the inland back roads through sugar cane fields. The cane appears to be flowering, as they all had this feathery top – looking like stands of giant grass. Then across the Bruce Highway and back to the coast.

Over breakfast we had picked out some likely destinations. We are ever in search of quiet, out of the way cheap / free campsites. The evidence we have to date in our dealings with the Gray Nomads, is that there is a secret 'knowledge' they share, about the best places to set up camp for a night or two at minimal cost.
Today we struck it lucky at a small seaside town north of Mackay called Seaforth. It has a municipal campground, right on the beach. Shady trees and grass. Water, and hot showers – all for $21 per night for a site. As most sites are occupied by 4 wheel drive SUV's and a caravan, our 3 motorcycles and two tents are an easy fit. We have been told by the operator that under no circumstances are we to publicise the location!
Although the early part of today's short (100km) ride was through cane fields, the last 30km into Seaforth is through what looks like old volcanic plugs and basalt domes. Solid masses of rock that rear out of the coastal plains – spectacular scenery and a good stretch of winding road. A perfect approach to a great destination.

I only have to be in Airlie on Friday morning. The others have already indicated that they want to stay here for 2 nights. If I stay Thursday night as well, it will mean a VERY early start to get to Airlie Beach on Friday morning in time to park my bike and catch the ferry! Decisions decisions. Mmmmmmm.....

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

We Discover The Olympic Spirit

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.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Lunch in Emu Park

July 23 – Dululu to Byfield

Up at 7am – usual saga with dew sodden tents. Still the sun is shining coffee is brewed and the road beckons.

Today up over Mount Morgan and down to the coast via Rockhampton. Destination – Byfield.

Good riding up to Mount Morgan – stop for terrible coffee but good pasties. Mount Morgan is another Gold Town that has seen its glory days. Lots of impressive old building, looking sad and empty.

Next a quick descent down to the plains and Rockhampton. An interesting few kilometers of twists and turns – over all to soon and then a quick blast into Rocky. Interrupted by the usual road works and diversions.

Stop at a shopping centre to visit the supermarket, plus a camping supplies shop for gas cylinder for Marco's stove and the motorcycle shop next door for oil filters for the VStrom and the Ninja. Both of which will need an oil change/ service by the time we get to Airlie Beach.

A sweet ride to Emu Park on the coast east of Rockhampton and a very pleasant late lunch in a park overlooking Great Kepple Island.

We thought about pulling up at a Caravan Park for the night but they were all chock full. Damed Grey Nomads are everywhere.

So we push on to Byfield on a good quite road that rises and winds through state forests and ends up at the general Store in Byfield. The area is clearly an 'alternative' area. Lots of 'retreats' and 'galleries' and 'potteries'.

The general store is great and we ask the operators/owners where we can camp? The national park is a few km up the road, but you can camp out the front if you want? No shower, but a toilet and $12 for a load of firewood and a steel drum to burn it in. That will do us for the night. Much more our scene. With the promise of a hot cooked breakfast tomorrow! Yum!

If we can find somewhere to have a shower, we may hang about for another day. Otherwise – who knows?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Carnarvon Gorge to Dululu

Sunday – 22nd July.

Carnarvon Gorge – Dululu

Ran out of WiFi time at Carnarvon. Was unable to upload any pics. Trying again now from Dululu using Telstra Broadband, but link is tenuous and keeps dropping out. Patience will be rewarded in the end.

So – todays riding. 12 km out on the unsealed section. Easier 1st thing in the morning rather than last thing after a long days riding. Or maybe we're just getting better?
Easy riding until we hit the Dawson Highway at Rolleston. More traffic on this road which links Emerald and Gladstone. Stopped at Moura for food supplies for dinner, before leaving the highway at Banana (named after a famous yellow bullock called Banana) and headed up toward Mount Morgan.
Reached Dululu at about 4. Set up camp at a 'free' campsite used by the ubiquitous grey nomads. Pub for a sundowner and then a quick evening meal.
Now trying to upload some pics from yesterday and today, but internet connection is a bit hit or miss.

Tomorrow we head towards Rockhampton and the coast via Mount Morgan – a famous old gold mining town. The road down from Mount Morgan to Rockhampton is supposed to be fun on a motorcycle! Tomorrow will tell.

The general idea is to find a beach-side caravan park / campground where we can spend at least two nights. Plenty of time to get to Airlie beach.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Carnarvon Gorge

Where were we?

OK Surat and an overnight at the Fisherman's Club free campsite on the banks on the Balonne River.
A quiet enough night, disturbed only by the periodic detonation of the pneumatic air-canon across the river at the grain storage facility. Clearly on some sort of automatic operation it discharged regularly – a weired Australian country town version of the town hall clock, chiming away the hours. Why it needs to operate at night when all sensible birds are asleep remains a mystery. Perhaps the local owls have developed a taste for grain? Or the cockatoos have developed night vision?

Anyway – early departure delayed by the now familiar “wet tent syndrome”. This time caused by the copious dew. Finally on the road with Roma our destination for morning coffee. After a brief stop at the Roma visitors centre where we were briefed by Ann on all things to do with Carnarvon Gorge, we discovered the 'Bakearoma' coffee/bakery, and Donna – one of the staff – who asked – “What you riding”? “Motorcycle says I.” “I know that!” she snorts, “What kind?”

Turns out she and her husband are fellow bikers and when she found out that Marco & Ursala were from NZ, she sat down for a good chin-wag.

After coffee and a vanilla slice – mmmmm, I finally managed to drag the others away from Donna and we hit the road north via Injune for a fuel stop. As we approached the turn off for Carnarvon Gorge, the country side changed and we had good riding through some sandstone country – hinting at what was to come.

The turn off to Carnarvon is about 110 km north of Injune, and the sandstone escarpment that the gorge is part of looms all along the western horizon.

Good sealed approach road for the first 30 km in to the national park, lots of mad cows wandering about, particularly over blind rises. Care was needed and taken. The last 12 km into the camp ground were fun. Hard rutted mud, full of pot-holes, interspersed with creek-crossings both with and without concrete causeways. Fun was had by all. I took the standing on the pegs and blasting away approach. Which resulted in being splattered with muddy water at regular intervals. Still – I found it easer to keep up a good pace and weave my way around the worst of the obstacles. Marco & Ursala opted for a more conservative approach, and arrived at the campground a few minutes after me – not quite as mud splattered. I took may metaphorical hat off to Ursala for coping so well with the conditions! It was not an easy ride on a street bike.

Good campsite, a free slide show put on by the park rangers, hot showers, good food, wine and early to bed. Tomorrow (Saturday) it will be up to the gorge proper and some walking and site-seeing!

Saturday – 21st

Carnarvon Gorge - “Rest Day”

A rest day from riding (apart from the 4km from the campsite to the park visitors centre), but not a rest day – 12 km walking up the gorge.

Wonderful. Spectacular. Stunning. These are just words. Carnarvon Gorge is without doubt one of the most spectacular natural formations I've visited. Truly amazing. So – a day's great walking. Have a look at the pictures.

Back at camp by 4pm – a couple of beers, hot shower and another good meal.
Now we have to decide where we go tomorrow!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day 5 - Moree to Surat

Cotton Country

Thursday morning Moree. Misty start but soon clear blue skies. Cold but not freezing. No wind. Perfect riding weather.

Breakfast, pack then check tyres before we hit the road.

Moree and surrounding areas are dominated by large scale cotton farms. Harvested recently to judge by the hundreds of bales stacked in the fields and the cotton 'fluff' that can be seen along the roadside – dropped by the passing transport trucks.

Flat country, stock on the road not to much traffic, but lots of standing water indicates the amount of recent rain.

Morning tea at Mungindi on the Qld / NSW border.

On the banks of the Barwon river where Major Michell camped in 1846, on his way from Sydney to Darwin. 3 geese watched as we brewed our coffee.
Honking with delight and approaching closer when the Ginger Snaps were unwrapped.
Alas they were to be disappointed.”

On to St George on the Baronne River. An area that has been subjected to massive flooding over 3 successive seasons. Today the river is high – swollen with recent rains, but not flooding.

As we stop for lunch I notice that the cap from one of my storage tubes has gone missing. Clearly not tightened properly. Fortunately nothing lost, and a replacement obtained from a local hardware shop.

After lunch, a last dash up the Carnarvon Highway towards Roma, but we end up camping in Surat at the local fishing club's free campsite on the banks of the Baronne River.

Tomorrow on to Roma to see if we can camp at Carnarvon Gorge.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Day 4 - Warrumbungles NP to Moree

Wet wet wet!

It rained most of the night. We awoke to a very wet campground. Nothing worse than packing wet tents! A slow start, but at least the rain had stopped.
Despite the rain, the campsite at Warrumbungles is great. Hot showers and free gas cookers and BBQ's - All Power to the NSWP Parks Board!

Up the highway to Moree with lunch in Narrabri. Not the most exciting ride but concentration required when passing the Queensland bound trucks. Judging by the amount of standing water by the roadside and the flooding Namoi River at Narrabri - there had been plenty of recent rain!

At Moree we decide to seek shelter in a caravan park cabin. A wise choice.
An evening spent charging various appliances, uploading photos and GPS data and planning for the morrow.

Given the weather patterns, it looks like we shall be heading inland - hopefully to drier climes. St George, Roma and on to Carnarvon Gorge 600+ km up the road. Roads and weather permitting we'll take two days to get there. If the weather is good, we'll probably spend two nights at Carnarvon. Time and the weather gods will tell.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Day 3 - Cox's Gap to Warrumbungles

A pleasant ride in the country.

A very cold night! Lots of frost and dew in the morning making packing the tents more difficult. Morning mist hanging about as we make our way out towards the Upper Hunter Valley.

Decision time - do we head across the Hunter towards Dungog and on to Thuderbol's way and up the dividing range towards the New England Tablelands and Armidale? Or do we head inland towards the Warrumbungles and the inland road north?

The weather forecast for Wednesday/Thursday is predicting another front with showers. Knowing what the New England Tablelands are like when it's cold and wet I opt for the inland route. If  it gets wet, it will at least be slightly warmer than up on the dividing range. Time will tell.

A very pleasant days riding to Coonabrabran via Coolah. Dry, sunny and not to cold.
Camping tonight in the Warrumbungles - lets see what tomorrow brings?

Day 2 - Oberon To Cox's Gap via Bylong Valley

Paradise Found

Day 2 - July 16th and my birthday and away by 9:00 after coffee and breakfast. Oberon to Bathurst is traveled through pockets of mist and low cloud. Cold, but the day promises better.

"Through the mist a lone Rosella sits in the middle of the road. 
Waiting for the warmth of the sun.
To late it takes flight, only to explode in a rainbow of colour and feathers as it strikes my left boot."

Sofala and a brew of coffee. Sharing the park with a pantechnicon from the Dept of Human Services that has set up shop for the locals. Centrelink, Medicare, Pernsions - a one stop shop. Marco picks up some Medicare forms - just in case.

Fantastic riding with more to come. On to Rylstone for lunch and the Bylong valley. Fantastic scenery, as we run beside the sandstone terraces of Wollemi National Park . This wonderful valley with its rich farming bordered by the wilderness of Wollemi National Park is scheduled to be strip mined for coal. Unbelievable - just what the world needs - more cheap coal!

We reach our campsite at Cox's gap by 3pm after a great days riding. 

Tomorrow we will head out to the upper Hunter and decide on our route based on the weather.

Day 1 - Canberra to Oberon

A Baptism of wind and cold.

Although the day dawned bright and clear, the stiff SW breeze had a bite to it that spoke of worse to come. Away after 10 taking the back road to Goulburn. Halfway to Goulburn the weather had turned with the SW wind driving low cloud and showers across our path. Taralgo for lunch and then off up to Black Springs and Oberon. Temp falling to 4 degrees C and the low cloud / showers threatening to turn to sleet.

"Cold wet wind slices across the road.
The machine lurches and crabs sideways.
The rider smiles,accelerates and grips tighter."

Oberon by 3 and over a cup of hot chocolate we decide to give ourselves an early mark, and to spoil ourselves with a motel room. No way we were going to pitch a tent and camp in conditions like this.

Dinner at the Oberon RSL and early to bed. Weather forecast looking better for Monday (16th - my birthday!)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

OK - here we go.
Saturday night - the 14th July. Bikes are fueled up and waiting to be packed. Tomorrow am - weather permitting we set off.
Yours truly + Marco + Ursala.
Yamaha Super 10 + VStrom + Ninja.

The last couple of days - since Marco & Ursala arrived - have been pretty busy with last minute preparations, but we are as ready as we can be!

Just returned from a great dinner - to celebrate the start of the journey and my birthday - on Monday.

Apart from the general plan of +- 3 months doing an anti-clockwise circumnavigation of OZ, we have only a couple of deadlines.

Airlie Beach/Hamilton Island by the 27th - for a weeks sailing.
Then Darwin by the end of August.

Celeste will fly to Hamilton, for the the sailing, then later to Darwin to travel with us down to the Bungle Bungles / Kununurra and Broome.

But more of that later. Time now for a nightcap & then early to bed.