June 2009

June 1 Eliot Falls to Jardine River Ferry Campground, 50.29 klms, Avg speed 13.0 kph, Cycling time 3.51 hrs; Total kms 10,080.97

We were going to continue on the OTT until we heard a wooden bridge had collapsed at Bridge Creek (Nolan Crossing) resulting in a very deep crossing for us.  We decided not to risk it, crossed the Sam & Mistake Creeks then rode 9 klms along the Mistake Creek Road to once again join the Developmental Road.  We waved to the council guys still grading the road so we had a relatively smooth ride with gusty winds behind us & to the side.  We arrived at the Jardine Ferry by lunchtime, we could have ridden to Seisia however decided to stay put, why rush.  This camp ground is best described as “fair”, it could be quite pleasant overlooking the river & ferry & really just needed a good clean up, especially the facilities.  There were no hot showers, when Greg enquired why he was told the bottled gas had run out & it was early in the tourist season.   After many apologies the gas bottles were loaded onto a truck for replacement the next day.  We used the last of our Bertoli Pasta Sauces & dined on Creamy Bacon Parmesan Pasta Sauce with Salmon & Chilli, taking much better than the last one & for something different, beans rather than peas. 

June 2 Jardine River Ferry Campground to Seisia Holiday Park, 48.05 klms, Avg speed 12.1 kph, Cycling time 3.57 hrs; Total kms 10,129.02

When we cycled into the Jardine Ferry Campground/Service Station yesterday we were greeted with a large sign warning “If you make any noise after 10pm you will be reported to the Queensland Police”.  3 blokes in a ute arrived at 2am, obviously couldn’t read, parked in the light of the Service Station talking loudly & playing music, it must have been lound as it even woke Greg.  As there were 3 of them & 2 of us we didn’t tell them to buzz off, what a pity the manager didn’t live on sight.  Finally the music ceased & they caught the 8am ferry still playing their music.  We crossed the Jardine River & met Kathy & Bret again heading back south & Kathy told Greg about a short cut saving 10 klms on the way to Bamaga.  It was a tough 10 klms, more rotten deep sand & me yelling to Greg it wasn’t a short cut as we were riding so slowly, he rode further ahead so he couldn’t hear me!  It was a harder ride than we both thought but then we saw the bitumen road that would take us into Bamaga & finally into Seisia, 8 klms away.  We called into the only pub in the area & bought 12 beers & 2 x 2 litre wine casks (no wine in bottles for sale here) & were told by the publican that we had to carry half each otherwise we would be heavily fined by the police if caught.  In the meantime Greg was reading the “rules” displayed outside the bottle shop and chuckling to himself, see photos.  We headed for Seisia & my bike felt strange, I knew it was a flat tyre, the only problem we’d had on the trip up to the Cape.  We were so close to Seisia so we pumped up the tyre & Greg went flying down the hill disappearing from view, me hoping I’d make the distance but it wasn’t to be, the tyre went as flat as a pancake.  I pumped it up again & Greg returned pumping more air into it.  We set off again but it wasn’t to be, the tyre went down & about 1 klm from Seisia Greg had to fix the tube, what rotten luck.  It appeared the tyre liner overlap had again worn through the tube so another warranty claim is in the making.  Our campground made up for all the frustration, we’re camped overlooking the beach & Arafura Sea with magnificent views of the Torres Strait islands.  We optioned up & have access to half a hut with open sides which provides shelter from the sun & rain & also has power, a sink & a kitchen bench.  The managers kindly lent us 2 chairs with backs so after bush camping we feel quite spoilt with all this luxury.  That night we ate sausages, potatoes, zucchini & green salad, Greg said it was finally something he could chew, a simple but delicious meal washed down with beer & wine too!

June 3—4—Seisia Holiday Park

Bamaga is the main town of the area with post office, supermarket, takeaway food, bakery, fuel & government services but the coastal town of Seisia is far more attractive & when the sun shines (not much at the moment) the water is a most beautiful aqua colour.  The Seisia wharf is the hub of activity with fishing the main pastime & the ferries leave from here to Thursday Island & Monday is the unloading day for the supply ship from Cairns.   

June 5—Tip of Cape York Return Trip 81.80 klms, Avg speed 13.3 kph, Cycling time 6.08 hrs; Total kms 10,210.82

Our final destination, a 80+klm round trip to the “Tip” riding over more corrugations but travelling through a small pocket of lush rainforest.  For the final 1 klm we had to drag our bikes over rocks & boulders to reach the “Tip” & were thrilled to be standing at the most northerly point of the Australian mainland, approx. 10 degrees south of the equator & only 180 km to Papua New Guinea, having ridden 905 klms from Cooktown in 16 days averaging 53 klms per day.  Other tourists wondered what these crazy people were doing & took our photos when they heard about our adventure. We celebrated that night at the only entertainment joint in Seisia, the local Fishing Club, dining on beef burgers (only choice) & listening to an excellent local band.

June 6—7—Seisia Holiday Park

We caught the ferry over to Thursday Island (T.I. as the locals affectionately know it).  It lies just 30 klm off Cape York Peninsula in the heart of the Torres Strait with a pop of around   3,500 living on an island 3.5 square kilometres,  It’s full of history, The Green Hill Fort was built in 1893 for fear of a Russian invasion, The Cathedral was built in memory of the ‘Quetta’ shipwreck in 1890 when 133 people were killed when it struck a reef & The Japanese Pearl Memorial is dedicated to the 100s of pearl divers who died from compression sickness.  T.I. Was also important during WW11 as a base for Australian & American troops and....it served the best coffee in Cape York (except Thorsten’s!) at the Gab Titui Cultural Centre.

7 June, our last day in Seisia, was spent washing our filthy bikes, catching up on laundry, washing our panniers & finally at 5pm we sat down with a beer to watch another brilliant sunset.

June 8—9—MV Trinity Bay

We were booked to return to Cairns via the supply ship MV Trinity Bay, on 6th July, however,  are returning 4 weeks earlier to give us more time for our ride over to Darwin.  The MV Trinity Bay is a commercial vessel servicing the York Peninsula & Thursday Island on a weekly basis.  We boarded the vessel at 10am & departed at 5pm waiting for high tide, we didn’t mind the long wait as we were fascinated watching the crew unload & load the ship with all kinds of stuff—containers, machinery etc.etc.  With a small, friendly crew of 13 we soon slipped into a routine of : 7am brekkie, 9.30am morning tea, 12pm lunch, 4.30pm nibbles, 7pm dinner—with smooth seas, a bridge tour with Master Tony, real towels, bed, linen & pillows, fresh fruit & vegs & delicious meals, icy cold beer, a 4 berth cabin to ourselves, padded seats, 40 other lovely passengers (of which we were the youngest) it was all REAL NICE. 

June 10—15—Cairns

We could easily have spent longer on the ship, it was a great experience, unfortunately it ended too soon & we left MV Trinity Bay at 1.30pm, saying goodbye to fellow passengers, Barbara & Paul, collected Crazy Ruby & Horsey from the crew & rode to the Youth Hostel where we’re staying for the next 6 days to update the web, catch up on emails, collect our winter gear from storage, refit road tyres & mudguards.  We already missing the warm night air in the Cape, we’re back into long trousers & jumpers at night & not looking forward to the cold nights over the next few months.  Whilst here we also returned to C’est Bon French Restaurant for another unforgettable dining experience run so efficiently by owner, Junelle.

June 16—Cairns to Fishery Falls 38.22 klms, Avg speed 14.8 kph, Cycling time 2.34 hrs; Total kms 10,249.04

We finally said goodbye to Cairns, having visited 3 times in the last year, & hit the busy & noisy Bruce Highway with headwinds too.  Thankfully it didn’t take us too long to reach Fishery Falls,  less than 40 klms from Cairns the little village is nestled amongst cane fields & guarded by tropical Far North Queenslands 2 highest mountains, Mt Bartle Frere & Mt Belleden Ker.   The Caravan Park was surrounded by rain forest with lush green gardens with the Fisherys Creek running at the bottom, it was delightful.  Dinner that night was at the pub next to the Caravan Park.

June 17—Fishery Falls to Innisfail 53.67 klms, Avg speed 14.5 kph, Cycling time 3.42 hrs; Total kms 10,302.71

We diverted off the Bruce Highway to visit the small country town of Babinda, a town centred around the sugar mill.  We managed to find a cafe to recuperate from battling more head winds.  6 klms out of Innisfail Greg stopped at a stall selling bananas, he’d run out of fuel which was unlike him, so we boosted our reserves after eating several bananas & arrived at the BIG4 Caravan Park where we spent 2.5 weeks last Aug/Sept recuperating from falling off our bikes.  It was really great to catch up with the owners, Jill & Mike , over the next 3 days & to see they had moved into their new house, built as a result of Cyclone Larry in March 06.  Sadly their dog, Jess Pups, was no longer a part of their lives, & passed away at Easter.  We ate each night with Jill & Mike & had lots of laughs catching up with each others news.  We also caught up with Noel & Krys who we met at Mossman & had now relocated to Innisfail.  To our delight we discovered a decent cafe at Innisfail, Monsoon Cruising, run by Dave & Lynette.  They had renovated a cruiser damaged by Cyclone Larry & now serve great coffee & food moored on the Johnstone River. 

June 20—Innisfail to Milla Milla 64.01 klms, Avg speed 10.7 kph, Cycling time 5.57 hrs; Total kms 10,366.72

We had a tough day at the office as we crossed over the Great Dividing Range, climbing from 11 metres to 821 metres above sea level along the Palmerston Highway.  The view as we climbed was spectacular, it had the WOW factor at every corner as we rode through the Cairns Highlands.  The first 30 klms was undulating & not too heart stopping, but the next 30 klms was a ride of climbs then decents with the last 15 klms into Millaa Millaa mostly uphill.  Millaa Millaa is a quiet village located in the heart of the most picturesque dairying country.  We’d stayed here last year & hoped the only cafe would still be open  in the village & it was.  We recovered with several cups of coffee chatting to some other cyclists before riding to the Tourist Park.  We’re now wearing long trousers, enclosed shoes & our fleeces at night, it was going to be 10C overnight & chilly it was.  We headed to the camp kitchen & ate a meal I’d prepared at Innisfail, lamb koftas & rice, Yum. 

June 21—Milla Milla to Ravenshoe 28.37 klms, Avg speed 11.0 kph, Cycling time 2.34 hrs; Total kms 10,395.09

We’re still climbing! 930 metres above sea level to Ravenshoe, Queensland’s highest town.  The sun is out after a cool night and warming us up slowly. We took the same route as we did last year from Millaa Millaa, a winding road which fortunately isn’t suitable for caravans so it was quiet, full of bird sounds & more great scenery to take in.  Arriving before lunch we rode to the railway station where we’d heard you could camp for a small fee.  The area was full of other campers waiting to depart at 1.30pm on “Capella” the resident loco at the Ravenshoe Steam Railway.  I found out seats were still available so Greg quickly put up the tent, threw the panniers in the annexe, locked the bikes, I bought lunch & we then joined the other train enthusiasts & volunteers from Ravenshoe to Tumoulin, over high wooden trestle bridges, through open forest to Tumoulin, the highest railway station in Qld at 964.7 metres.   What a great afternoon on something we hadn’t planned, sometimes these events are always the best.

June 22—Ravenshoe to Mt. Garnet 47.18 klms, Avg speed 18.4 kph, Cycling time 2.33 hrs; Total kms 10,442.27

Yeah, the ride today was more downhill than uphill with favourable winds as we slid down the western side of the Great Dividing Range.  At one stage Greg & Horsey clocked 60kph on a downhill slope, Crazy Ruby doesn’t go that fast!  A great riding day, if only all the days were like this.  Mt. Garnet, pop 400, is a sleepy town on the southern edge of the Atherton Tablelands.  We celebrated Greg’s birthday here last Oct & again stayed here in April making our way to Cairns.  The Mt. Garnet Travellers Park is a delight, wonderful gardens full of birdlife & for the first time we saw a Spotted Bowerbird & nest.  Another delight was a sign saying “Cafe” at the entrance at the Park.  5 weeks ago Jule’s Cafe was brought back to life by Edita of Hungarian heritage so having a love of food.  We couldn’t resist the temptation & dined there that night on Potato Soup followed by Potato Bake, Silverside with White Sauce & Vegies, it was all delicious, what a gem of a find.  We slept well that night & the following night when a return visit saw us devouring Meatball Soup followed by Steak & another serving of Silverside.

Our Journey to Darwin

Welcome to Outback Queensland!  Our journey towards Darwin in Northern Territory (NT) will take us into new territory via “The Savannah Way” which links Cairns in Far North Queensland with the historic pearling town of Broome in Western Australia, some 3,700 klms away.  Saying goodbye to tropical rainforests & coral reefs we’ll be riding through a region of dry, hot & mostly flat (yippee) country known as ‘The Gulf Savannah’ which stretches beyond the NT border across an area as big as England.  We have crossed The Great Dividing Range for the last time for a long while.  It will be rewarding as well as mentally challenging riding through open & dry areas dominated by grasses, scattered trees with little shade, rocky gorges & hopefully an abundant of wildlife.  We will need to plan our water use well.  The weather over the next few months will range from 11C to 33C & we hope to arrive in Darwin by the beginning of October.

June 24—Mt. Garnet to Mt. Surprise 121.80 klms, Avg speed 17.0 kph, Cycling time 7.08 hrs; Total kms 10,564.07

We’re already experiencing some of the above landscape & wildlife too, the latter unfortunately as road kill, it makes you hold your breath when riding by, the smell is stomach churning especially on a hot day.  You’d think after leaving Ravenshoe all roads would now descend, not so.  We had more steady climbs along the Kennedy Highway for 50 klms to the 40 Mile Scrub National Park which sits on top of the Great Dividing Range at 780m.  After 68 klms we turned onto the Gulf Development Road, found a shady spot for lunch & with iPods turned up rode another 54 klms to Mt. Surprise through open pastoral country finally riding on gentle to flat grades.  Mt. Surprise is the 1st town within the Gulf Savannah & surprise, surprise, there is no mountain here, the MT stands for Mining Town famous for gem fossicking.  Arriving at Bedrock Village Caravan Park at 4.30pm, a Park we greatly enjoyed last October when heading south to Warwick, we said hi again to Marie & Peter & owners Joe & Jo, pitched camp, showered & made our way to the local pub for a well deserved beer intending to watching the State of Origin Qld vs NSW match.  We didn’t stay long, the after effects of our long ride took its toll & we fell into bed at 9.30pm.  We stayed 3 days at Bedrock, visiting Russell across the road for a decent cuppa coffee & saying hi to Clancy his snake.  At night we enjoyed Bedrock’s wood fired pizzas & BBQ with delicious fresh salads & fruit salad with ice cream.  Couldn’t we stay longer?  On our last night 2 other cyclists rode into Bedrock, Mark & Denise from Canberra, also heading to Darwin.  We briefly chatted & looked forward to catching up more in Croydon.

June 27 Mt. Surprise to Georgetown 93.65 klms, Avg speed 14.7 kph, Cycling time 6.23 hrs; Total kms 10,657.72

Our ride started with a gentle climb out of Mt. Surprise followed much later by a steep 2km climb over the Newcastle Ranges with fantastic views looking back..  We cycled into the open ranges having battled a headwind most of the way & set up camp at the Goldfields Caravan Park, very peaceful & overlooking the parched golf course.  Georgetown (pop 298) & 299m above sea level, once owed its existence to gold & is now a pleasant, sleepy little town on the dry Etheridge River. The decline of the town in recent times is obvious by the number of unoccupied buildings in the main street. The one aberration to this apparent decline is the presence of two Shire buildings, this rather eccentric duplication is not based on any love of the old building but rather than the old building contains the local hall where balls, meetings & functions are still held.

June 28 Georgetown to Ventura Creek Bush Camp, 80.53 klms, Avg speed 15.6 kph, Cycling time 5.08 hrs; Total kms 10,738.25

Undulating ride, relatively quiet except for the grey nomads towing their caravans. It seems that when most of the drivers got their Drivers License way back in 1960 they were told “never to leave the lane they drive in”.  It was a lesson well learnt as they seem very keen on driving as close to us as possible irrespective of the road conditions. We always gets lots of waves from them, they must think “poor sods, what a way to travel” as they sit in their air conditioned comfort.  We had another headwind although not too strong today.  We passed so many dry creeks & river beds & stopped for lunch at the Gilbert River (almost dry) Rest Stop & dined on sumptuous ham off the bone, thinly sliced Quicks Cheddar & Bramston Pickles followed by juicy, tart oranges.  We wish......the latter yes, the oranges & mandarins are really delicious at the moment & a welcome treat on the road.  What we really ate was tinned ham, soft warm pre sliced cheese, sweet corn relish on SAO biscuits. Sound mouth watering? It’s not. We bush camped close to the Ventura Creek which luckily wasn’t dry & after a refreshing shower, loads of cups of tea, we dined on Chicken Noodle Soup with Seaweed followed by Pasta & Pesto Sauce with Seaweed.  This Seaweed is a new find from a Chinese shop in Cairns, it’s light to carry & swells when hydrated with water, it tastes pretty good too.

June 29 Ventura Creek Bush Camp to Croydon 67.14 klms, Avg speed 18.1 kph, Cycling time 3.42 hrs; Total kms 10,805.39

We ate our Weetbix & tinned peaches listening to the cacophony of bird calls in the bush, a relaxing sound.  Over the past few days we’ve seen so many Red Tailed Black Cockatoos, one of my favourites.  We had a fast, mainly downhill ride into Croydon 125 m above sea level unfortunately passing again so much stinking road kill this time including eagles, kites as well as ‘roos & wallabies.  We saw a feral cat too.  We’re staying at the Croydon Caravan Park for 3 days waiting to catch the train to Normanton on Thursday, a journey we & Crazy Ruby & Horsey are looking forward to.

Croydon is an historic township in the heart of the Gulf country & was the scene of Australia’s last major gold rush with 8,000 people & 26 hotels.  Today it has a population of 223, one pub, historic museum & authentic general store trading since 1894.  It’s a lovely town, very clean & tidy & the history of the town has been displayed with great taste. We ate at The Club Hotel each night, mainly to catch up with Val & Phil, who we met in April at the Mt. Garnett Traveller’s Park & were helping their son & daughter run The Club Hotel for a few months.  We had lots of laughs with them & Mark & Denise who’d arrived from Georgetown & some delightful new people we met too—Bill, the CEO of the local council & Liz & Allan, from Millthorpe in NSW. Millthorpe is a tiny town west of Sydney and a town we know quite well. Why? Because it’s got a bloody good restaurant, of course! Liz and Allan have farmed there for many years and it was interesting to chat with them. Allan suggested we have a game of tennis at the court across the road from the caravan park and Greg and I jumped at the opportunity. What they didn’t tell us is that they’ve got a tennis court at home and Liz used to play A grade tennis. They were very tender with us as they shepherded us around the court. Greg has blisters on both feet from his sandals, but enjoyed the experience. Allan and Liz joined us for dinner that night at the Club Hotel and once again, for the third time, the lights were turned out on us.