February 2009

Feb 1-4-Dazey arrived, it was good to see him again, having spent 5 or 6 winters at the South Pole, he’s recently sold his farm at Narrabri & moved to Armidale where his folks have lived for some time.  Dazey asked if we’d seen any camp drafting & when we said “no” we hopped in his ute and went to Stanthorpe to watch this uniquely Australian horse sport.  The aim is to “cut out” one beast from the mob of cattle in the yard or “camp” & block & turn that beast 2 or 3 times to prove they have the beast under control; then take it out of the yard & through a course of pegs involving right & left hand turns in a figure 8, before guiding it through 2 pegs known at “the gate”, the outside course must be completed in less than 40 seconds.  It was fascinating to watch the ability of the stockhorses combined with breathtaking horsemanship.  The next 3 days flew by fixing  the rear mudguards on our bikes, which had cracked and the rattling was driving us crazy,  and driving through the countryside visiting Allora, Yangan & taking the Falls Drive from Killarney to Boonah with steep descents & a highlight returning to Killarney via the Condamine River Road with 14 river crossings.  The area is exciting 4WD country, not that Dazey’s ute was 4WD however, not that that made any difference, we thumped and bumped down this rough dirt track following the river. All the river crossings had at least a foot of water flowing over them with a gravel river bed. It wasn’t too tough, but it will be when we do it on our bikes in a few days time.....

Feb 5—23–Greg’s one & only niece turned 18—Happy Birthday Sarah!  Neighbours Paul, Julie & young sons James & Alex came over for a barbie, bruschetta with Greg doing the toast on the barbie followed by bangers and mash on the front veranda of the Castle. Warwick experienced one of its hottest days on 9 Feb reaching 34 degrees & Jonathon picked us up the next day at 7.30am for our cycle ride, thank goodness the weather was cooler.   It was the first time we’d seen Jonathon’s touring bike, very similar to ours and even the colour was like Greg’s, a British Racing Green.  After the comparisons we started the 22klms ride up to Queen Mary’s Falls huffing & puffing in some parts (Jonathon’s built like a greyhound, no huff & puff from him), thank goodness the cafe was open at the Falls where we rested & had some excellent coffees and admired the birdlife.  Another 8klms uphill to Carr’s Lookout then a long steep decent to Cambanoora Gorge for our 14 klms of Condamine River crossings.  The scenery through the Gorge was spectacular, even though we’d driven through it the week before with Dazey, in the rain too, being on a bike awakens your senses to the sights, smells & sounds.  Only 1 car passed up in the Gorge so it was heaven riding through such a peaceful environment & fun & challenging riding through the river crossings.  A great experience & ride, thank you Jonathon.

Craig & Mary arrived from Brisbane, we’d stayed with them last April and it was again great to see them & catch up on their news.  They rabbited on about their bloody kids, who, despite appalling parenting seem to have done alright for themselves.  It was cool that night and we dined in as it was Valentines day and what passes as restaurants in Warwick were all booked out. We laughed and talked our way through my now famous lamb Koftas with cumin and cracked green olive tomato sauce, mmmm...Oh yeah, we drank a bit of wine as well. On the Sunday we had coffee at the Spring Creek Cafe & sat outside chatting & admiring the magnificent view for a couple of hours. It was really nice of them to have made the trek to Warwick and we were delighted to be able to show them what has been our little patch of Queensland for the last few months.

21 Feb Garage Sale Day!  Ads placed in 2 papers, notices placed at either end of the street, large notice on the garbage bin outside the house, we hoped this would bring in the crowds and it did! Starting time was 7am, a truck rolled up at 5.30am as Greg was putting up the notices & the driver asked if he could have a look, Greg said he could after he’d had his Weetbix!  From 6.30am to 11.30am we had a constant stream of people through the house, it was interesting to see who was buying what & why & by midday we’d sold everything except for a couple of items.  The couple who bought the fridge are picking it up tomorrow (Monday) so we’re lucky to have the use of it until our final night.   We spent about $1,500 furnishing the Castle when we arrived and we’ve recouped just under $950 in the garage sale. We think this is a pretty good result. So we’re now “camping” in the house and getting ready to start cycling again early Tuesday morning.  It’s fair to say that while we are looking forward to our next journey we will miss the comforts that Warwick has given us over the past 3 months.  Warwick and in particular our near neighbours have given us a bit of an insight into living in a small town, both the good and the not so.  We’ve been invited into peoples homes and welcomed as part of their community, Greg and I feel we’ve been lucky to have landed here and have enjoyed every moment of our summer siesta. We both have several kilograms to shift from our midriff from far too much fun with family and friends who have ventured our way, so it’s time to move.  

Our journey for the next 2 months will take us into unknown territory, out further west via to Goondiwindi, Cunnamulla, Charleville, Longreach, Winton, Hughenden then back to familiar territory being Innisfail followed by Cairns then up to Cooktown before we ride up to the top of Cape York.  We need to cover 2600 klms in 2 months to reach Cooktown by early May so we’d better get peddling!  Fond farewells to Terry & Mary (Mum), Raymond & Margaret, Joyce, Doug & Harriet, Paul & Julie & Alex & James, Debbie & Sheryl & Laura & Scabby the Cat.

Feb 24 Warwick to Lake Coolmunda 93.49 klms, Avg speed 16.4 kph, Cycling time 5.41 hrs; Total kms 6711.57 (not including the 800 klms we cycled when based in Warwick).

We were on the road just after 6.30am, Harriet racing to the window to yell goodbye as we turned onto the Cunningham Highway, our target to reach Inglewood 106 klms away.  Our preference is to avoid highways where possible however this one was relatively quiet & had a good shoulder to ride and plenty of rolling hills too.  After 40 klms we stopped at Gore for a coffee & chatted away to a friendly policeman who was interested in our journey, while we drank coffee and shared a very good home made sausage roll with sauce.  He suggested we camp at Lake Coolmunda, 13 klms east of Inglewood, “a few shady characters residing at the other one” so we took his advice and arrived at the Caravan Park early afternoon.  We both agreed it was a pretty good ride considering the heat, hills & first time ride.  Coolmunda Dam was built predominantly to provide irrigation was for agriculture, at full capacity it has a surface area of 1730ha, 30 klm of shoreline & 75000 mega litres of water.  Not only has Lake Coolmunda given the area a good water supply it also has the added attraction of recreational activities & bird watching.  We viewed the Lake in the distance & opted to wallow in the green, cloudy swimming pool instead.  We must now look like the dreaded “grey nomads” because for the first time we were invited by other grey nomads to the 5.00 o’clock drinkies. We accepted of course, but had to be content to share a beer between the two of us because that’s all we had. After cooking a pasta dinner in the camp kitchen then searching for a comet in the clear night skies (couldn’t be seen) we headed off to bed relatively early as we had a longer ride ahead tomorrow.

Feb 25 Lake Coolmunda to Goondiwindi 111.08 klms, Avg speed 17.8 kph, Cycling time 6.13 hrs; Total kms 6822.65

By 7am we were riding through Inglewood, once a tobacco & timber town & now becoming known for its organic produce & olive trees, we rode past some of the 340,000 olive trees apparently being grown in the area.  This part of the Cunningham Highway is flat & with relatively favourable winds (yippee) we’d ridden 53 klms by 9.30am so rested at Yelarbon, on the edge of Australia’s most easterly Spinifex Desert.  At 1.30pm we rode into Goondiwindi both feeling a bit of pain, me saddle sore wearing in my hard leather saddle & Greg pushing himself too hard forgetting he’s only into day 2.  We picked up lunch & found a shady spot by the Macintyre River & Bridge then rode out to the Goondiwindi Tourist Park, greeted by a cheerless soul on reception & set up camp by the dam surrounded by noisy Corellas & monster eating mossies.  We were told the mossies were much worse a week ago, crickey!  After a cool swim in a very clean pool we caught a cab back into town for a very good feed at The Royal Hotel. Greg thinks he’s mastered the art of navigation from inside a pub toilet, in Queensland at least. Here’s the theory; Men’s toilet walls are usually decorated with amongst other things, a condom vending machine. In Queensland’s relatively civilised south east the vending machines spit out condoms with names like “Sensuous Silken, Sheer Pleasure or Gossamer Glory”. Travel either north or west from the populous south east to cattle country and the vending is a completely different range. Obvious big sellers are the “Rough Rider or Ribbed Rhino and Greg’s favourite the “Savage Bliss”. So if you’re ever lost in Queensland, duck into the dunny and checkout the machine on the wall. Take careful note of the names of the goods on offer and you’ll pretty well know where you are within 50-100 kilometres. Not as accurate as a GPS, but pretty damn good. Greg has assured me he’ll keep a tab on this theory as we move through the country, so stay tuned for more gripping toilet wall analysis! God knows what he’d make of the Ladies toilets... 

Feb 26—Goondiwindi (pop 5000)

After riding 204 klms in 2 days we declared today a rest day.  With its border location on the majestic Macintyre River at the junction of 6 highways, Goondiwindi is a popular stop-over destination for visitors.  The major activity in the region is agriculture & with the town’s tranquil setting, tree lined streets, attractive parks & gardens it’s one of Queensland’s fastest growing rural communities.  After a ride along the river followed by a very good cup of coffee we strolled around the town, picked up supplies & took shelter in the huge camp kitchen for an afternoon of admin work.

Feb 27 Goondiwindi to Talwood 89.57 klms, Avg speed 19.3 kph, Cycling time 4.37 hrs; Total kms 6912.22 Temp 33C

If there was one good thing about leaving “Gundy” it was to get away from the huge, blood sucking mossies , even Greg used an anti-mossie repellent, something I’d never seen before.  No bites on him though, about 50 on me!  We passed the screeching Corellas as we left the Caravan Park, they wouldn’t be missed either—mental note for future rural living—avoid towns with grain silos.  With the wind in our favour we’d cycled 47 klms by 9am so stopped at the store at Toobeah (pop 120) surrounded by cotton & grain growing regions & famous for its horse sports.  The road was flat with little shoulder but luckily very few vehicles, it was lovely & quiet.  On hot days our aim is to arrive at our destination by lunchtime and by 12.30pm we were having lunch outside the store at Talwood.  Talwood (pop 130) has a pretty main street with well kept lawns & trees.  It belies its situation as a western town & brings to the fore the pride of the people in the area.  A small town with a whole lot of community spirit that has grown to service the surrounding rural industry.  We set up tent by the local oval and had a warm shower to wash the dust off before taking a five minute walk to discover the delights of Talwood. The town is also known for its annual Picnic Races held on the June long weekend & attracts people from all around Qld & NSW, the town swells to 10 times its population.  The Talwood Hotel, a beautiful country hotel, offers delicious meals & cold beers for the locals & travellers, perfect, so we headed there after setting up camp at Talwood Oval which offers free camping with showers too.  There were also some young and rather attractive contract workers from overseas who worked at the Talwood store, Greg tried to be nonchalant, but his busy eye muscles betrayed him...Why on earth he thought these girls would be even slightly amused by a fat, bald, unemployed, 47 year old I’ll never know. Come to that I’m not sure either.

Feb 28 Talwood to Nindigully 68.89 klms, Avg speed 17.1 kph, Cycling time 4.48 hrs; Total kms 6981.11 Temp 34C

Another hot & windy day for our 68 klms ride to The Nindigully Pub, a rambling historical pub established in 1864 & believed to hold one of the longest continual licenses in Qld.  It was a Cobb & Co. Change over station from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.  The original building has changed little since it was built & attracts many visitors not only for its historical value but also for the fishing in the Moonie River which offers free camping with free showers at the pub, again perfect for us as there’s nothing better than having a shower after a hot, sticky ride.  We arrived at lunchtime, parked our bikes at the outside bar & gulped down a refreshing lemon, lime & bitters the customers at the bar muttering we must be mad & asking the usual questions—how far ave yer come from? how far do yer ride each day? how many flat tyres ave yer ad?  There were balloons & “happy 18th birthday” messages all around the place for the owner’s son & we were told the kitchen was closed that night for the celebration. Having ridden to the place to sample their food we were so disappointed, this must have come across our faces as we were then offered a BBQ pack & we also told the bar was still open to the public so the night wasn’t going to be so bad after all.  After riding over to the river, having lunch ,setting up camp we went back to the pub for our showers in what could only be described as a very hot, corrugated iron building, still we weren’t complaining, at least we felt clean.  Back over to the pub later on where we sat in the very pleasant beer garden watching the arrival of utes for the party & trying to figure out the dress code for the event, some strange outfits—big, country lads dressed in long, elegant dresses etc.  Come BBQ time the owner offered us the food being dished up at the party—wild boar, steaks (Greg happy) & big bowls of salads, it was all delicious especially the tender, sweet meat from the boar & the crackling!