March 2009

Mar 1 Nindigully to St. George 47.03 klms, Avg speed 12.7 kph, Cycling time 3.41 hrs; Total kms 7028.14 Temp 39C Headwinds

We slept peacefully by the river far enough away from the pub as the party raged til 2am.  As we only had 47klms to cycle we didn’t rush having our usual breakfast of cups of tea & muesli with tinned fruit & watched all the utes leaving the river banks where some had spent the night.  Going on the past few days weather conditions we thought it would take about 2.5 hours to get to St. George, how wrong could we be, it took nearly 4 hours, it was a terrible ride with hot headwinds gusting at 24kph, I couldn’t believe I could ride this slowly & thought there must be something wrong with my bike.  We were riding through flat, open conditions passing fields of cotton & sunflowers so there was nothing to stop the wind.  For me it was one of the worst day’s riding, listening to music on my iPod didn’t help much, for Greg his attitude is “head down, bum up and keep grinding”..must remember that next time!  We picked up lunch supplies at St. George & rode into the Kamarooka Tourist Park, a lovely, shady park in the centre of town with excellent, clean facilities owned by Glenda & Neil Waters.  We had planned to stay 2 nights in St. George to prepare for a 300 klm ride to Cunnamulla stopping at Bollon & a bush camp in between.  However as the temperature rose to 41C & with hot & unfavourable windy conditions forecast over the next few days, Greg decided to postpone our next stage until the riding conditions improve—THANK GOODNESS!!  I took him to the local Chinese restaurant to celebrate, excellent food too, much better than the one at Warwick.

Mar 2—4—St George

St. George is a very typical Queensland rural town on the vast flatlands beyond the Great Dividing Range, is 201 m above sea-level & has a population of 3800.  The town itself has magnificent water views & walk over & along the Balonne River, has wide streets & is primarily a service centre for the surrounding wheat, sheep & cotton farmers & vegetables & beef also make useful contributions to the local economy.  The town has natural beauty with many mature trees lining the streets especially the bauhinias as these produce beautiful purple & white flowers in early spring followed by the jacaranda trees in November.  For political buffs, it is also the seat of the National Party Member, Senator Barnaby Joyce.  There’s plenty to see and do here for the 4 days & our mornings are spent at the local dreadfully named cafe called Gossip and Giggles and afternoons are spent at the Olympic sized swimming pool cooling off from the extreme hot conditions.   

Mar 5 St. George to Bollon 115.03 klms, Avg speed 16.4 kph, Cycling time 7.00 hrs; Total kms 7143.17 Temp 29C

We rode past the Town Hall clock at 5am in the darkness, couldn’t wait for the alarm to sound at 4am so hopped out of bed at 3.40am.  We finished packing quietly and quickly and rode along the Balonne Highway, it was all so quiet, even the birds were still asleep and it was so chilly until the sun rose at 5.30am.  There was lots of fresh road kill—lots of roos and wallabies, a fox & young emu but we also saw lots of live ones too including a large brown snake as we rode into Bollon at 1.30pm.  Our cycle time was 7 hours so a long day on the bikes however the heat wasn’t as strong as previous days but the wind was quite gusty later in the morning.  We feasted on a rare lunch of hamburgers and chips at Deb’s Cafe mmm.... Bollon was established in 1887 and has a natural koala habitat.  I wonder if we’ll see any tonight as we’re camping along the banks of the Wallam Creek with showers available in town for the weary travellers—that’s us! Bollon is a tidy, friendly town that prides itself on its heritage as shown at the Heritage Centre, on display is the first telephone exchange that operated from the 1920s through to the 1980s when the service became automated.  The dusty streets are lined with Burdekin plum trees and the Bollon Hotel will be feeding us tonight. We enjoyed a couple of icy cold XXXX Gold beers and then dined in the pink dining room, me on pretty awful prawn cutlets and Greg, for a change, on Chicken breast and vegetables.

Mar 6 Bollon to Bush Camp, 85klms East of Cunnamulla 95.65 klms, Avg speed 16.9 kph, Cycling time 5.37 hrs; Total kms 7238.82

Unfortunately didn’t see any koalas in Bollon.  Chatted to Dave who camped nearby, he’d been riding around Australia for the past 4 weeks on his motor bike & was making his way back to Brisbane.  By the time we hit the road it was 8.30am, late for us when we have a long distance to ride plus we’re both carrying extra water for our bush camp tonight, Greg carrying a total of 24 litres & me 15 litres which means plenty of water for cooking, showers (luxury!), washing up & drinking water for next day.  The ride today was relatively flat with gusty winds, riding through open, savannah cattle country with wild emus & little traffic.  For the next 181 klms there are no shops, no service stations & no rest areas so I’m also carrying extra food as well.  On the causeway at Nebine Creek we stopped for lunch consisting of Mountain bread, tomatoes, onion, 2 day old cheddar (not processed! & just starting to melt) & apples, a welcome break from carrying the extra weight.  We pushed on into the afternoon wanting to cycle another 25 klms & found our bush camp down one of the many stock routes that line the countryside.  Setting up camp a flock of emus emerged from the bush and came to see what we were up to, it was a lovely sight to see them so close.  Greg went to hang the shower from a tree when the handle came undone & he spilt half the water he’d carried for the past 95 klms, he was very, very, very happy!!  For a good while the air turned as blue as the sky above.... So after having very quick showers, numerous cups of tea, fighting off the flies we did have a delicious dinner of Pasta with tomato, cream, basil & caramelised onion sauce (thank you Bertolli) served with packet salmon & peas & an apple for dessert.  To top the day off the mossies decided they’d have their meal of human flesh so we retreated to the tent listening to the cricket on the radio, Australia v South Africa in Durban. The Aussies are doing O.K after a pretty ordinary summer in Australia.

Mar 7 Bush Camp, 85klms East of Cunnamulla to Cunnamulla 86.86 klms, Avg speed 20.9 kph, Cycling time 4.09 hrs; Total kms 7325.68

It was so quiet in the bush last night you could have heard a pin drop.  Greg slept soundly, me on & off, I thought I heard some wild animal attacking our panniers on our bikes, still I wasn’t about to investigate.  Needless to say, there was no damage to the panniers and no evidence of any man eating reptile licking it’s lips at our arrival. We ate our muesli & fruit watching the sun rise & the birds wake, always a beautiful time of the day & by 7.30am we were riding with the wind in our favour (nice change!) on the flat Balonne Highway, with little traffic but sadly, passing lots of kangaroos that had been killed during the night.  We spotted a couple of emus, rode through loads of grasshoppers which luckily disappeared as we turned onto the Mitchell Highway to ride the last 5 klms into Cunnamulla by lunchtime.  It was a pleasant ride, could have been because we had just completed a long distance, 290klms, with so few services, we wont have to worry about this again until we leave Hughenden, roughly 1200klms away.  My hands are still giving me some trouble as I can’t seem to find a comfortable position to ride in. I get pins and needles and have to move them on the handle bars constantly. Greg thinks my seat is a little too far back and will move it forward for me in when we stop. Other than that our bikes are travelling well and our new stainless steel rear mudguards have arrived from France and will meet us in Long Reach. The Cunnamulla tourist office was closed due to renovations, whilst there an elderly fellow cyclist approached us & generously offered us accommodation for the next couple of nights which we kindly declined as we were staying at the caravan park.  This chappie, we guessed early 70’s, must have been fit as he was entering in the triathlon in the Cunnamulla Outback Masters Games in May. The supermarkets were shut by the time we arrived & not feeling like Mountain bread again we lunched again on hamburgers then rode to the Stephanie Mills Gallery, what a find, it served delicious coffee, offered comfy lounges & the latest Vogue Food magazines, we were in heaven for the next hour.  Too much fun, so we rode to the Jack Tonkin caravan park, set up the tent in the shade, spent the afternoon at the pool & had dinner at The Cunnamulla Hotel watching the locals in all their finery. The 000 (emergency services) Ball was on in town and it’s black tie. Most of the blokes looked like they’d come off the set of The Godfather, except for those gents wearing brown R M Williams riding boots under their black suits, and the chicks all corseted up in various colours and designs. Greg’s only observation was that “fat Sheila’s shouldn’t wear tight dresses”. Charmed I’m sure. The hotel had a nice dining room and we enjoyed soft cushioned chairs while we ate, me garlic prawns and rice and Greg, back to form, eye fillet steak with veg. We shall stay here until Monday to stock up on supplies, our journey now takes us north towards Charleville. Cunnamulla (pop 1650) is a town rich in heritage & colourful characters, like the ‘Cunnamulla Fella’ in the Slim Dusty song.  In the centre of town stands the statue of the “Cunnamulla Fella” as a tribute to the young fellas who worked the land and who were immortalised in song by the late Slim Dusty. All together now;

“Well I’m a scrubber and a breaker too,

I live on damper and Wallaby stew,

I’ve got a big cattle dog with a staghound’s cross, 

I never saw the scrubber he couldn’t toss,

Cause I’m a fella from Cunnamulla,

Yes I’m a Cunnamulla Fella.”

While the wool industry has been the economic mainstay during the 1800s & most of the 1900s, the township has seen the emergence of grape growing & beekeeping thanks to a steady water supply & abundance of Yapunyah trees.  It still remains one of the largest sheep-loading rail centres in Queensland.  The town has had its fair share of eccentrics & infamous characters such as Joseph Wells (distant relative??) who held up the bank in 1880 & was the last man in Australia to hang for such a crime.

Mar 9 Cunnamulla to Nardoo Station 38.51 klms, Avg speed 13.7 kph, Cycling time 2.48 hrs; Total kms 7364.19

Before we set off I rode to the shops for supplies while Greg updated the web. Our ride out west has now finished & we’re now heading north, it’s a short ride to our next destination and wouldn’t you know it there are strong NE winds!  We’re travelling on the Mitchell Highway, it’s so quiet with the occasional car/road train passing by, we’re definitely in emu country, there are plenty about with their offspring, it’s always a delight to see them.  We’re heading to Nardoo Station, a 110,000 working sheep & cattle property that offers accommodation for the passing tourist.  The property was very dry & dusty with no sheep or cattle to be seen, it had a great camp kitchen, grassy site to pitch the tent & an air conditioned shed that housed another kitchen with comfy chairs.  Here we had lunch & relaxed for the afternoon to escape the heat outside.  Carmel from Nardoo supplied us with sausages & salad and cool beer for dinner, before which we were treated to some investment advice from Carmel’s husband (Greg  is very glad not to listen to all the worlds experts for a living anymore) we then retreated back into the air conditioned shed to watch the tele before going to bed.

Mar 10 Nardoo Station to Wyandra Free Camp 62.43 klms, Avg speed 14.2 kph, Cycling time 4.22 hrs; Total kms 7426.62

The road was still flat with little traffic, the winds still gusty, this time from the east so not as heady as yesterday. Wyandra (pop 75) is halfway between Cunnamulla & Charleville & as such a railway settlement was established, followed by a school, which in 1898 had 60 pupils, slightly less as today’s population.  The town retains some great old buildings, most of which are in a dilapidated state except for the General Store & Post Office which served delicious filtered coffee.  We sat in the shade under a huge Poinsettia tree & chatted to Ray who was travelling around the country on his BMW Road Bike, he’d passed us earlier & waved as he rode by, he was surprised how quickly we appeared at Wyandra.  We dragged ourselves away from the coffee & shade & rode to the Wyandra free camp site that came with power, showers, loos, a shed with table & chairs & also horses & horse poo, again we were the only campers there.  The shed walls were brightly adorned with lots of “thank you” messages from previous happy campers & the history of the campground was also scribed on the walls:-   “When it was decided to have no free camping in Wyandra, a group of local people decided this had to change.  The local CDEP (Community Development Employment Program) donated time + funds, along with Paroo Shire Council who donated the land.  Volunteers, CDEP workers & Paroo Shire Council made it a reality.  In 2002 they hoped to have more showers installed”.    The site had a nice feel to it & after having lunch in the shed, checked emails, did our washing, had showers, set up camp, rode to the pub to pick up some beers & had dinner of pasta, tomato sauce & green beans.  During the day music played loudly from one particular house & at night it continued, how thoughtful to supply the music for the whole town.  Tragically I even hummed along to “Working 9 to 5” (I wish they did) which was followed by more head banging music.  Greg slept soundly throughout and it felt as though I’d just got to sleep when we were crawling out of bed at 3.45am to begin our next day’s ride.

Mar 11 Wyandra Free Camp to Charleville 99.81 klms, Avg speed 14.8 kph, Cycling time 6.43 hrs; Total kms 7526.43

With no other campers to disturb we packed and left the camp site at 4.45am, saving breakfast for later.  We rode through the dark with a full moon on one side and the sun rising on the other.  We spotted live goats, pigs, emus, kangaroos & eagles & the usual kangaroo road kill, it was a beautiful time of day to ride, except for the road kill.  We rode for 4.5 hours covering 53 klms before we stopped for breakfast in a lorry parking bay, we were over half way to Charleville.  I was glad for the rest & we ate our muesli & tinned peaches sitting on our stools watching the world go by.  By 1.30pm we arrived in Charleville and it had been a long ride, with hot conditions, strong winds & Greg announced we’d been riding a slow uphill too, no wonder I found the ride tough!  We picked up lunch at the local supermarket & rode to the Bailey Bar Caravan Park booking in for 2 nights to recover from our ride.  We found a grassy spot to pitch the tent & ate lunch under the shade of trees being stared at by a pet goat.  The owners also had a crazy 5 month old magpie, a friendly ginger cat & a slothful black dog.  After having very hot showers from the cold tap, it come from the artesian bore, we walked into town, had a welcoming cold beer at the historical Hotel Corones followed by an excellent meal at the RSL Club.

March 12—Charleville (pop 3550) is in the heart of Queensland's 'mulga country'. It is the largest town in the south west of the Outback region and was gazetted in 1868 and later named by the Government surveyor of the day, Mr WA Tully, after a town in Ireland where he had lived.  In March 1888, rail transport reached Charleville. This railway gave Charleville a direct link with the state capital, Brisbane. This line still operates passenger services twice a week to Charleville on board Queensland Rail's Westlander.
Cobb and Co, the famous coach company, based their largest coach making factory in Australia in the township of Charleville in 1890. The factory was moved to Charleville because the wood used in coaches made in factories closer to the coast would split and crack in the dry, dusty conditions of Western Queensland. On the subject of transport, Qantas scheduled its first fare paying passenger service from Charleville to Cloncurry, via Longreach and Winton, back in 1922.

Steeped in history, Charleville has heritage & architecture of a bygone era which was evident when we strolled around the town.  A highlight would have been a visit to the Cosmos Centre & Observatory where clear nights and a low horizon give visitors a great night sky experience but as we’re travelling in the low season the Observatory wasn’t open which was a pity. We enjoyed a coffee in a newish cafe and wandered around town enjoying our day off. It’s a joy to be able to get fresh fruit and vegetables and we gorge on them when available. This is of course distinct from any other gorging that may take place the rest of the time. The caravan park was invaded by Air Force personnel late in the afternoon as they were staying at the park whilst on their way to Darwin. Apparently some genius in the Defence Department in an attempt to reduce costs has reduce “air hours” so these poor buggers are stuffed into a variety of Toyota 4 wheel drives and vans and have to drive over a couple of days in the heat to reach Darwin. Some just slept under their trucks other pitched tents, but in any event the place looked like a bomb had hit when we left early the next morning with what looked like dead bodies all over the place.

Mar 13 Charleville to Augathella 88.12 klms, Avg speed 16.00 kph, Cycling time 5.29 hrs; Total kms 7614.55

Rose at 5.30am, packed quietly trying not to disturb the Air Force chaps & had breakfast before setting off at 6.50am, still riding on the Mitchell Highway, the winds are mild, NE so still not perfect, it’s going to be another hot day reaching 34C although thankfully it is less humid here in the outback.  The ride was slightly undulating, the scenery changing from gum trees to cypress pine trees, we also saw an Echidna cross the road.  We reached Augathella (pop 580) just after 1pm, rode to the well stocked supermarket to pick up some fruit then rode to Augathella Roadhouse where we devoured hamburgers for lunch.  The Roadhouse was the only place to offer camping facilities, luckily they only charged $6pp as the facilities were basic with little shade & grass & offered no camp kitchen.  Still we managed to find a shady spot under a tree, did some washing, had a shower then rode back into town to stock up on supplies for another long ride tomorrow.  We had a beer at the Ellangowan Hotel followed by dinner, Greg said it was one of the worst steaks he’d had, I just stuck with a plate of salad & veges, as with most country pubs, if you don’t fancy steak the choice is mostly fried food eg chicken parmigiana, chicken kiev, seafood basket, fish & chips etc.  Augathella itself is a pretty town & has a fascinating history of bushrangers & bullock teams who camped along the Warrego River.  We walked around the streets viewing the murals & wrought iron sculptures.  Greg said he’s now an Augathella Fella, another verse from the Slim Dusty song, all together now:-

“Now once I was a drovin'
On the cattle trails
I met a little girl her name was Ada Vale
I said, "Marry me Ada
And I'll be the fella
And we'll settle down in Augathella

I'll be the Fella
At Augathella
Yes, I'll be the Augathella Fella

Today Augathella is primarily a Merino wool & beef growing area with harvesting of cypress pine for building materials.

Mar 14 Augathella to Tambo 116.55 klms, Avg speed 15.9 kph, Cycling time 7.19 hrs; Total kms 7731.10

A couple of campers drove into the camp site late last night & we tried not to disturb them as we crawled out of bed at 3.45am to hit the road at 5.00am. We’re now riding on the Landsborough Highway & it’s busier with sheep/cattle road trains & wide loads carrying portable buildings & heavy machinery.  We climbed slightly for the first 4 hours + had a headwind, of course!  We stopped at 7.45am to have brekkie & decided to have a rest every 20 klms, not the usual 15 klms, as we still had 85 klms to travel.  Wild life spotting by Greg was a rabbit & lizard.  We also saw a man pushing his worldly possessions on a 4 wheel trolley heading in the opposite direction just as the temperature was reaching 35C & not a shady tree to be seen.  At 2pm we reached Tambo just as the wind was turning in our favour, we were dusty, sweaty, Greg had saddle soreness, I had leg heat rash & we were glad to be here.  We stopped in a very pleasant park overlooking Tambo Lake & unpacked lunch which consisted of tinned leg ham (yuk), cheese sticks, tomatoes, onion & a new item we’re trialling instead of Mountain Bread, Salada biscuits, which we decided we preferred to the former.  We had eaten all our grapes, plums & apples along the ride.  Before heading to the Tambo Mill Motel & Van Park we called into Fanny Maes for a cup of tea, this place had been recommended by a cafe owner in Charleville & it was very pleasant sitting in the shade on the wide veranda.  Across the road was the Van Park, they obviously don’t cater for tents as there was no camp kitchen & still they charged $27.50 per night!  However, we’re camped in the shade on a lovely grassy site under a huge bottle tree, they do have a swimming pool which we’ll use tomorrow as we’ve declared it a rest day.  We had refreshing showers feeling much cleaner then crossed the road to the Club Hotel Motel for  beers followed by dinner, they also had a relatively good wine list.

15 Mar—Tambo (pop 640) is a small outback town located on the Barcoo River.  It is proud of being the oldest town in the Central West & offers a selection of history & natural environments to enjoy.  After a very comfortable night’s sleep we strolled around the town which has some beautiful old buildings.  We treated ourselves to a cooked breakfast at Fanny Maes and had endless cups of tea sitting outside on the veranda.  We strolled back over to the Van Park & spent the rest of the day by the pool researching for our rides over the next week, checking emails, updating the travel log, reading & just relaxing before more long, hot, rides next week.  Couldn’t relax for too long, was just about to hop on my bike when Greg noticed my rear tyre was flat, a first since we changed tyres in Charters Towers last Oct, at the same time & for additional protection, Greg also used a tyre lining that guaranteed no punctures so what caused the flat?  As Greg took the tyre apart he found that the tyre lining itself had caused the inner tube to wear away where the lining overlapped to secure in place, just as the installation instructions advised.  Needless to say he’s still waiting to hear back from Netti, the Australian distributor, for a replacement tube as the manufacturer guarantees that if you have a flat tyre they’ll replace the inner tube and the tyre liner.

Mar 16 Tambo to Blackall 100.65 klms, Avg speed 22.5 kph, Cycling time 4.27 hrs; Total kms 7831.75

At 5.30am we said goodbye to Tambo & encountered perfect riding conditions—cool weather,  a tail wind (yippee), wonderful sunrise, undulating road with a good shoulder & smooth surface (even the latter makes such a difference), little traffic, roos hopping across the road & kites circling above searching for fresh road kill.  We also saw a wonderful sight, our first drovers, getting ready for another day on the Stock Route.  There were about a dozen dogs tied up in a line, the cattle all sitting and huddled together, the horses over the other side of the road & the drovers standing around the fire.  Dawn was just breaking so I think they were surprised to see us, I would have loved to capture the scene with photos but didn’t want to intrude on their peaceful environment so just waved.  Just after 8am we’d ridden 50 klms & stopped for breakfast.  By 11am we arrived at Blackall (pop 1620) having ridden 100 klms & just as the temperature reached 31C.  We had a decent coffee across the road from the historic Barcoo Hotel which had a small Caravan Park out the back & for $5 per night (Greg “Goldstein” bargained them down from $15) we set up camp in a grassy, shady spot.  After showers & lunch we called into the Tourist Office to see what Blackall had to offer.  A couple of weeks ago in Goondiwindi, we met a taxi driver who said Blackall was the worst place he’d ever visited & never wanted to return, mind you this was 50 years ago!  So far we had been pleasantly surprised with this small, outback town and it’s famous for many reasons:  It is home of the Black Stump which was used for surveying purposes & permanently marks the original Astro Station established in 1887.  Anything west of this point is said to be “beyond the black stump”.  It’s also the first town to start drilling an artesian bore back in 1885 & the famous shearer Jackie Howe (born near Warwick) put Blackall on the map in 1892 at ‘Alice Downs’  when he set a world record by shearing 321 sheep in 7 hours 40 mins.  It took another 58 years before anyone could match this feat & that was by machine shears.  There were too many attractions to see in the one afternoon & knowing we’d probably return to this part of the country one day, on motor bikes if Greg has his way, we took ourselves off to the Aquatic Centre for a swim returning to the Barcoo Hotel for refreshing beers followed by Shepherd’s Pie & Chicken Parmigiana for dinner. All the towns we’ve visited in the last week or so use bore water. Characteristics of bore water are; it smells of rotten egg gas, it’s hot, it tastes funny, it can stain clothes. The consequences of this are many and varied but include; difficult getting a cool shower and in some cases just too hot to shower, fowl tasting drinking water, so we’re staying with beer, constant disgusted glances from me to Greg thinking he may have disgraced himself in public, sweaty cheeks when using the toilet as even the toilet cistern water is hot.

Mar 17 Blackall to Barcaldine 108.54 klms, Avg speed 19.3 kph, Cycling time 5.36 hrs; Total kms 7940.29

Up at 4am & on the road at 5.30pm, not sure why it took us so long to pack considering we didn’t have breakfast.  We had favourable SE winds to start with, another beautiful sunrise & lots of wildlife around—roos, emus, kites & Greg saw a large lizard.  Lots of roo road kill again plus a tiny piglet & young emu.  After riding 67 klms we stopped for breakfast at 8.45am, it’s amazing how much distance can be covered in the cool of the day.  We’re still riding on the Landsborough Highway, relatively quiet vehicle wise, most traffic being road trains carrying cattle & sheep.  By 12.30pm we rode into Barcaldine or ’Barcy’ as it is affectionately known with the temperature a high 34C, luckily it’s always cooler on the bike with the breeze.  As we rode into town we passed the Barcaldine Tourist Park with grassy sites, shady trees & a great camp kitchen that could be seen from the road, this is where we’d spend the night.  In town we called into the Tourist Office, had a good coffee, picked up supplies for lunch then road back to the Tourist Park & sat in the shade of the camp kitchen for most of the afternoon doing admin stuff, neither of us feeling like getting on our bikes again to explore the town.  I did hop on my bike later for a quick tour around when I picked up supplies for dinner.  Barcy (pop 1600), named the ’Garden City of the West’ in 1900s exudes charm & character & its chief industries today are wool growing, beef cattle production & tourism.  It is steeped in history & one such event was the 1891 Great Shearers Strike, which saw hundreds of workers camp out in protest against poor pay & working conditions in the shearing sheds.  Shearers held their strike meetings in the shade of a ghost gum that became known as the Tree of Knowledge.  Many of the strike leaders were arrested but their efforts laid the foundations of the Australian Labor Party.  The Tree of Knowledge was estimated to be 200 years old and listed on the State Heritage Register.  Sadly it was poisoned around May 2006, by persons unknown, & has since been removed to Brisbane for preservation.  In its place a $8M Tree of Knowledge Memorial is being built opening on 2nd May 2009 by our Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd & Premier Anna Bligh (if re-elected).  The Memorial is essentially a ‘cube’ comprised of recycled timber batons suspended from a glass covered roof structure.  The 3,500 batons recreate the canopy of the original tree as it stood in 1891.  This structure is massive & some locals are against it saying the structure would look fine in Brisbane but not Barcy & the money would have been better spent on the hospital.  There’s much, much more to see here so again we’ll have to return another day.  Back in the camp kitchen we celebrated—a year ago we left Sydney on our cycle venture, nearly 8000 klms later we’re still on the road and still enjoying ourselves.

Mar 18 Barcaldine to Longreach 112.98 klms, Avg speed 23.4 kph, Cycling time 4.49 hrs; Total kms 8053.27

Rain fell quite heavily through the night with lots of lightening strikes.  Our destination today was Ilfracombe, only 79 klms away, so it was a treat to have breakfast first before hitting the road at 6.45am.  We had a fantastic tailwind & by 10.30am we were having morning coffee at a nice cafe at our destination.  After an hour or so and because of the favourable wind conditions we decided to ride to Longreach, only 27klms away, storm clouds were forming in the distance with lightening, with no where to take cover we arrived in record time!  We reached the Longreach Discovery Holiday Park just after lunch, its a massive park with little shade & not much grass however the campers (that’s us) have the best spot, lots of grass & shade & a big covered area with table & chairs.  In the afternoon the winds strengthened then down came the rain & thunder & lightening.  Our belongings were already packed away in the tent which kept everything dry & we sheltered nearby before dashing to the showers to warm up, the temperature had dropped rapidly.  We caught a taxi into town & had a disappointing dinner at the Longreach Club—food was expensive, not that exciting with terrible service too, they didn’t care and it showed. 

Mar 20—22-Longreach (pop 3,500) is one of 4 towns in the Longreach region, they are all located right in the middle of Qld approx. 1200 klms by road, NW of Brisbane, it’s hard to believe we’ve actually ridden here.  The Regional Council covers an area of 40,638 square klms & has a population of about 4,700 & the region was built around the sheep & cattle industries that thrive on the cast Mitchell Grass plains.  There’s so much to see here including the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, Qantas Founders Museum & School of Distance Education.  We’ll stay here for 3/4 days, as well as doing the touristy bit, we need to wash the bikes, update the travel log, collect mail from the Post Office etc.  Both our rear mudguards have cracked so Tim, our bike builder, has organised replacement ones to be sent.  In additional my bicycle computer died so there should also be new parts sent from Melbourne to fix the problem. 

Not much rest for Greg on Thursday as he installed the new mudguards & fixed my cycle computer, Crazy Ruby & Horsey are sparkling, both having been washed & anything rattling, tightened.  I cooked a huge pot of spag bol for dinner & also made a Chilli Con Carne, luckily Greg had some beer to wash down the kidney beans in the latter, he’s not a great lover of pulses!! 

Friday—in the morning we visited the Longreach School of Distance Education which caters for the education of isolated students in an area about twice the size of Victoria.  Unfortunately there are no on-air lessons on a Friday but it was still a great insight to learn how education is delivered ‘in the bush’ & see some of the work the children had sent in to the school.  That night we ate at the Eagle Nest Grill & Bar, newly opened it just won the Best New Business Award, the place was packed, it was a nice change from the pubs & clubs & deserved the Award. 

On Saturday we spent 6 hours at the QANTAS Founders Museum the worlds 2nd oldest airline, a fantastic place to visit. The Queensland & Northern Territory Aerial Service (Ltd) was founded at Winton on Feb 10, 1921 but was soon moved to Longreach where a hangar and the country’s first purpose built landing field were constructed.  The original Qantas hangar is part of the Museum & it’s a fascinating reminder that Qantas is the only airline to manufacture its own aircraft.  Besides looking around the Museum, we toured the magnificent 30 yr old ex-Qantas 747 Jumbo jet “City of Bunbury” to see everything from the undercarriage to the flight deck, sitting in the pilot’s seat & taking a walk on the wing, it’s the only place in the world where you can tour a fully equipped operational 747 jet.  As the runway doesn’t have the length for 747 landings, the pilot, who brought the jumbo here in 2002, had 6 months of training for the high risk landing.  It landed successfully with the outer engines overlapping the width of the runway, risky in itself due to the dust & stones.  We then toured the first ever QANTAS passenger jet registered in Australia, the Boeing 707 “City of Canberra” that recently arrived at the museum.  This wonderfully restored aircraft was discovered in England awaiting the hands of the demolition team & was rescued by the museum & a team of dedicated volunteer engineers.

It was a truly inspirational story to learn all about the return to its former glory & the journey home in a maximum of 6 hour stages.  One of these stages was to John Travolta’s home town, Orlando, not only is John Ambassador for QANTAS he also owns & flies a Boeing 707, # 13 in the ex QANTAS fleet & to have 2 of these planes together was a rare occurrence.  The rest of the afternoon was spent stocking up on supplies for our trip to Winton on Monday, office stuff & chatting to a couple from Emerald around the camp kitchen, dinner for us was spag bol.

Sunday is our last day in Longreach & a relatively easy day.  Once we’ve updated the web we’re having lunch at the aptly named Cattleman’s Bar & Grill at the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame then back home to get ready for an early start tomorrow.  We’re now heading NW to Winton 179 klms away, a distance we won’t cover in 1 day, so we’ll have a bush camp half way there.

Mar 23 Longreach to Winton 180.00 klms, Avg speed 17.9 kph, Cycling time 9.54 hrs; Total kms 8233.27

We enjoyed a very pleasant afternoon sitting in the outdoor area of the Cattleman’s Bar & Grill, the lunch best described as “fair”.  We were watched all afternoon by a kangaroo, lounging under the shade of a tree.  He’d lie on his side, put his head up then drop down again to the ground, life was tough, I nicknamed him “Greg”.  Today we set a a record, our longest ride to date and time in the saddle—we rode all the way to Winton, 180klms & 9.54hrs churning the peddles.  We set off at 5.30am, carrying an extra 30 litres of water, watched the sunrise, had breakfast after 48klms in 1 of 3 rest areas along the way and rode until 1.30pm through vast, open countryside, green with long grass from the recent rains & with hardly any trees for shade.  The winds were being kind to us & just after 1.00pm I was staving & with no trees for shade was prepared to eat by the roadside.  Greg suggested we continue to ride, there looked to be a row of trees on a ridge in the distance but by the time we got there the trees were in a field and not easily accessible.  On we went then ahead was a blue & white sign, always a good sign as it usually means a rest area and there it was, a newly constructed rest area, by this time it was 1.30pm & we’d cycled 110klms.  We sheltered from the heat of the day for 1.5 hrs & then the wind changed to a tail wind so we were off hoping to reach Winton in the light, we just made it as the sun set at 6.30pm.  2 choices of accommodation, either at the back of the Northern Gregory Hotel or the Winton Matilda Country Tourist Park,    we saw a sign for the latter first, focussing on the word “Ingound Pool” so needing no further encouragement we rode in, quickly set up camp, showered & rode into town, the time now 8pm.  As with most country towns the kitchens close at this time and nothing looked open, it was all in darkness until we saw the lights of the RSL Club offering chinese food.  The kitchen had closed however the cook kindly offered to cook us something, whilst we downed some long awaited beers he brought out our food, Short Soup for me and Sizzling Beef for Greg, & it was delicious.  Needless to say we slept well that night.

24—26 March–Winton

I don't have any effects after the long ride yesterday, Greg said he is suffering from depression, anxiety, psychosis & a severe thirst for XXXX Beer so we have declared the next few days rest days.  We found out the reason the town was in darkness, there’s a severe plague of Gidgee Bugs which occur around Townsville but are especially prolific in Western Queensland at certain times of the year when they appear in large numbers, they sure do, our panniers inside the annexe of the tent were covered as was the area between the tent and inner shell during the night.  They’re attracted to lights hence the publicans had dimmed their lights, the bugs disappear at dawn, smell if you crush them & leave orange poo everywhere!!

Winton (pop 900) is a picturesque, friendly town (we much preferred it to Longreach), rich in culture & heritage, it’s the ideal place to discover Queensland’s outback.  The home of Waltzing Matilda, the birthplace of QANTAS & the land where dinosaurs once roamed (we thought the huge, lime green, dinosaur feet garbage bins cheapened the town).  The legend of Waltzing Matilda began when A.B. ‘Banjo’ Patterson penned the ballad at nearby Dagworth Station in 1895, it’s believed the first public performance occurred at the North Gregory Hotel in Winton, several decades later Winton was the birthplace of QANTAS, with the Winton Club playing host to the first board meeting in 1921 & with one of the original airstrips located just outside of town.  The town honours its history with some great sculptures & artworks throughout the town, the Waltzing Matilda Centre is fascinating to visit , after a few hours we suffered information overload, we also visited the world’s first permanent Musical Fence & Arno’s Wall, an architectural marvel over 10 metres long, in which everything can be found, including the kitchen sink.  We had many cups of great coffee at the Royal Open Air Theatre Cafe, an excellent meal at the historic Winton Hotel (steak & Fettuccini Bolognese, guess who had what...), all afternoons by the pool & evenings spent watching some of the most brilliant sunsets we’d ever seen.  Tomorrow we push on to Hughenden via Corfield (pop 10) & Stamford (pop 7), winds won’t be that favourable however the distances are relatively short, 83, 67 & 64 klms respectively.

Mar 27 Winton to Corfield 83.42 klms, Avg speed 13.1 kph, Cycling time 6.21 hrs; Total kms 8316.69

A tiny town, Corfield (pop 10) can be identified only by the small cluster of buildings on the rolling Mitchell grass downs.  Once a busy railway siding, Corfield is now known for the annual Corfield Cup race meeting, when the population explodes with people visiting from near & far. We arrived in the mid afternoon after setting of at 7.30 am from Winton. The road was quite but the slight uphill and constant headwind and 35 degree temperature made the day tough. Our consumption of water is always large when we ride into the wind and today was no exception. The only commerce in Corfield is the local Pub, run by the local community,  and we made ourselves at home in the shade of the DOSA (“designated outdoor smoking area”. Who thinks up these things?) The pub opens three days a week and we had delayed our departure from Winton to ensure we could get a cold drink when we arrived. Great planning, but the pub didn’t open for another couple of hours so we set up camp in the field across the road and had a shower in the facilities behind the pub. Freshened by our ablutions and clean clothes we set off in the direction of the bar. The beer slid down, the locals friendly and, as long as it fit in a fryer, dinner was on. The salad was late as it was being delivered from Winton by a local coming that way so we had a few more beers before we delved into the culinary triumph. We both ordered Chicken Kiev because we were sure that the other options which had the word fish in them wouldn’t be much chop. Our Chicken Kiev was a processed dog poo shape covered in crumbs & fried to a dark brown brick like texture. Breaking open one of these nuggets released what I think should have been garlic and herb butter, but for us it was a runny watery sludge. Served with chips, of course, and a reasonable salad, we ate with gusto. Marvellous what a few kilometres on a bike and a few beers and wine will do to your appetite. We slept well.....

Mar 28 Corfield to Stamford 66.35 klms, Avg speed 11.8 kph, Cycling time 5.35 hrs; Total kms 8383.04

Slower day than yesterday due to the blustery winds, the countryside is so open, nothing to block the winds & literally no trees to shelter under that we could easily access, it was a hard day’s ride.  I had a minor hissy fit along the road and called Greg a variety of things before telling him to “shut up”. Big mistake... He took the piss out of me for what seemed like the next 50 kilometres but was actually about 20 minutes. Orr’s un-provoked are usually tame, mild mannered with only the occasional flair up. Poke them with a stick and cyclone Tracey looks like a love puff. What joy to arrive at the Stamford Roadhouse at 2.30pm where we ordered hamburgers & gulped down icy cold cokes.  Stamford was once a busy railhead for local wool graziers, it’s now a quieter place, firing up once a year in July for the Stamford Races.  Quiet alright, the pop is (7).  We camped at the Roadhouse for the bargain price of $5 including showers & laundry facilities.  Another couple had taken up residence in their caravan, when Greg went to the “Men’s” showers he said there was female clothing scattered on the floor, how lucky could he get! When he went back in there he found the door locked. He fetched the owner of the park who dutifully unlocked the door for him and life was going to resume its normal course...Not according to the rather large and un-attractive female who Greg described as wearing a reject circus tent with a very ugly red face sticking out where the centre pole should be . She declared that this was her bathroom and would he mind using the other one. With that she closed and locked the door even though our washing was in the washing machine in the “Mens” toilet. Greg asked her for the key which she handed over begrudgingly with instructions to hand it back as soon as he’d finished. Not bloody likely.. She came and asked me for the key and I referred her to Greg, he told her she should discuss the matter with the owner as she had opened the bathroom for him fully expecting him to use it. The tented blob said “F@*ck-ya then” and Greg wished her a “good evening”. After further discussion she agreed she would not lock the door if Greg gave her the key. She lied. I think Greg schemed all night but finally let it rest when we left the next morning.

Mar 29 Stamford to Hughenden 62.56 klms, Avg speed 12.5 kph, Cycling time 4.58 hrs; Total kms 8445.60

Setting off at 7.30am to try & beat the wind (we didn’t) the ride was again open & flat then at long last the environs changed to undulations & slightly more vegetation.   The winds were NE gusting to 15-25 kph so again tough with a temp of 30 + C.  A farmer riding a gator caught up with Greg & they discussed world events, farming practices and global warming (I’m sure) but more importantly the road from Hughenden to The Lynd Crossing which we have been advised may be closed because of wash out from the January rains. This is 244 kilometres of dirt road with no facilities and so requires some research and planning. We rode into town & had lunch at the FJ Holden Cafe then rode to the Allan Terry Caravan Park, booked in for 2 nights, set up camp, showered then walked to the local pub for drinks & dinner, the latter being “fair”.

Mar 30—Hughenden (pop 1500)

Hughenden has a lot to offer travellers with 4 National Parks, gemfields, mountainous volcanic basalt country & rich fossil & dinosaur areas.  Not that we saw much of the surrounding areas, only the town as we needed to decide our next route to Cairns from here, ideally it’s via The Lynd Junction, an unsealed 244 klm road with no services or heading east to Townsville via the Flinders Highway then North to Cairns, which is much longer and not as picturesque.  It’s very hard to ascertain from just one authority what The Lynd road conditions will be, opinions vary, so after speaking to as many people as possible—the Tourist Office, the Police, the local butcher, the RACQ website etc. we had decided to go on the unsealed road knowing that we can obtain water quite easily along the way.  With 2 or perhaps 3 bush camps before we arrive at The Lynd we’re stocked up with plenty of supplies.  Facilities at The Lynd are very basic so we’ll have to carry supplies for another 158 kilometres before we can get access to supplies, phone and internet. We stayed at The Lynd road house last year which has what they call a camping area out the back. The bathrooms were clean...back in 1957 when the place was built but no cream cleaner is strong enough to cut through all the grime now. The roadhouse is famous only for having the smallest  licensed premises in Queensland. The bar is about the size of a phone booth, it’s the only thing going for it... 

Mar 31 Hughenden to Bush Camp 77.86 klms, Avg speed 13 kph, Cycling time 5.58 hrs; Total kms 8523.46

I’m carrying 5 day’s worth of food—weetbix, muesli, tins fruit, salada biscuits, processed cheese (yum), tinned leg ham (yum yum), lots of tomatoes, sweet corn pickle, lots of apples, pasta, pasta sauces, deb, dried veg & salmon/tuna as well as snacks & tea/coffee.  In addition to my usual 5 litres of water, Greg is carrying 15 litre of water, however, we’ve been told there are plenty of clear, running creeks along the next 244 klms so we’re confident we can access water, always our main priority.  The Hahn Highway (also known as the Kennedy Development Road) is on the west side of the Great Dividing Range, the first 40 klms being sealed only with flatlands increasing in vegetation, dotted with rivers & creeks lined with river gums.  With the wind mildly in our favour & only an odd road train now & again, we absorb everything around, the scenery is breathtaking.  We stop for lunch at White Cliffs Creek which runs into Porcupine Gorge & filter water for our bush camp tonight.  We’re both now carrying another 10 litres each & huff & puff up a short, steep hill we could see in the distance whilst having lunch, it certainly got our hearts pumping.  By 4.30pm we started looking for a bush camp & found one relatively well hidden from the road & close to a dam where 10 ducklings were paddling around.  We have 2 hours before it gets dark, sounds like a long time but by the time we’ve had numerous cups of tea, showers, set up camp, cooked dinner, washed up, fought with flies & then mozzies we’re in bed usually by 7.00pm, either reading or listening to the radio.  The nights are now getting chilly so the sleeping bags are getting used for the first time in months.