June 1 Maleny to Kenilworth 41.17 klms, Avg speed 19.6 kph, Cycling time 2.05 hrs; Total kms 1993.1
It was a spectacular, quiet ride along the Maleny-Kenilworth Road, relatively flat and following the Mary River from Conondale, the half way point where we stopped for coffee. Conondale is a pretty little town who’s residents appear to be dentally challenged, for the few of them we met seemed to halve the full complement of laughing gear. The rain just started again and didn’t stop until we booked into the Kenilworth Hotel for the next 2 nights as the wet weather continues. Kenilworth, pop 300, is located in an idyllic country setting on the banks of the Mary River close to spectacular national parks and state forests, making it an ideal base from which to explore the Sunshine Coast Hinterland—”The Bush behind the Beach”.
We visited a couple of galleries, the local cheese factory, wondered through the backstreets admiring the lush farming country then saw the sign promoting the new town developments for 25 blocks, another country town being ruined by progress. As the pub closed at 6pm, dinner that night was cheese & biscuits and freshly picked mandarins ..yum...no yum from Greg though!
We had a call from Greg’s brother Stu at 7.00am to say the flood water was 4cms from entering his house. Parts of Kenilworth & Eumundi are now cut off with several access bridges covered in water. The local doctor couldn’t get to work, the chemist went home early & some kids couldn’t get to school. By lunchtime the rain had stopped so we walked to the Mary River to watch it flowing quickly under the bridge, apparently there will be more water coming down from Maleny. We’re hoping by tomorrow morning the roads will be clear to Eumundi otherwise we’ll probably be sleeping on the veranda at the Hotel as they are full tomorrow night. We’ll console ourselves with the $10 roast tonight which includes a jug of beer.
June 3 Kenilworth to Eumundi 32.77 klms, Avg speed 18.8 kph, Cycling time 1.44 hrs; Total kms 2025.9
We rode to Eumundi in sunshine and humidity, the latter we put down to the recent rains. The water levels had dropped quite dramatically and in the hinterland things are back to normal. We’ve booked into the local pub, “Joe’s Watering Hole” and have 2 bedrooms, lounge and kitchen all to ourselves. Eumundi, pop 1800, has one main street, Memorial Drive, located at a picturesque hilly setting in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast. Its emblem is a fig tree, examples of which adorn the main street in memory of 20 soldiers from the area who lost their lives during World War 1. Eumundi’s economic activities are Ginger Growing, Tourism, Dairy Farming, Strawberries and of course Markets. The Eumundi Markets, est. 1979, are one of Australia’s leading tourist attractions and the town springs to life with over 500+ stalls selling a plethora of all things locally handmade as well as organically grown produce.
June 4 Eumundi to Noosaville 21.72 klms, Avg speed 17.7 kph, Cycling time 1.13 hrs; Total kms 2047.6
After a stroll through the markets which included being accosted by a bible waving “God Botherer” we set off for the short trip to Noosaville and Stu’s place. We arrived just before lunch time so Stu, Greg and I had a very pleasant lunch sitting beside the Noosa River in the beautiful sunshine. Stu and Sue live in a large modern comfortable home with their two kids Sarah and Michael. So for the next 5 or 6 days we were included in their family comings and goings. Family life for all modern families seems to consist of transporting kids to various sporting, work and social events, invariably in opposite directions, and feeding them and their friends a constant supply of assorted food groups in relatively large quantities. This is only interrupted by computer games, mobile phone use, and extraordinary amounts of sleep. Sue and Stu’s family meets all the above criteria. Stu cooked a magnificent cottage pie for dinner before we joined Sue and Stu at the local cinema and went to see a movie The Edge of Heaven including Choc Top ice creams.
June 5—9 Noosaville
Noosaville lies on the Sunshine Coast which stretches for 65 klms from Caloundra to fashionable Noosa and features pristine sandy beaches, lush hinterland and rainforest and is dotted with just enough civilisation to make it the perfect holiday escape. Noosaville lies on the Noosa River and has its own distinct village character and relaxed charm. With its long stretch of walkways along the river its a popular destination for leisure and fitness.
It’s the Queens Birthday long weekend in Australia and Greg’s Mum, Robin, has taken the opportunity to fly up from Sydney and spend some time with us and Stu, Sue, Sarah and Mick. We made up a significant proportion of the cheer squad when we all went to see Mick run around the paddock in a game of rugby. It was a great evening, we had roast beef rolls, beer and wine, pleasant temperature and good under 15 year old rugby. Sadly Micks team had an, unusual loss. A good part of the weekend was spent on the following activities;
· Morning coffee at a variety of Noosa’s plentiful Cafes
· At least daily trips to both the supermarket and more importantly the well stocked wine merchant.
· Many hours of discussion of significant world importance around the outside dining table.
· Large quantities of food beautifully prepared by assorted participants.
· A trip to the very good Noosa farmers market.
· Spectators at the finish line of the Brisbane to Noosa (165 klms) cycle ride.
It was great to see Robin, Stu, Sue, Sarah and Mick again, and very generous of Sue and Stu to have us for almost a week. A big thank you to them. We plan to head off up north on Tuesday morning, and are looking forward to getting back on the road and into our routine. Robin will fly back to Sydney, Mick will get his bedroom back, and life will return to normal once again for the Queensland branch of the Orr family. The weather continues to threaten, at least showers, and possibly rain, but at least it’s relatively warm during the day, so we think we’re heading in the right direction.
June 10 Noosaville to Kin Kin 43.64 klms, Avg speed 16.7 kph, Cycling time 2.36 hrs; Total kms 2095.00
Back in the saddle again, the rain held off as we headed to Kin Kin on our way to Tin Can Bay, our next stop. Noosa Council recently developed 3 hinterland trails, all well marked and cleared, and 2 of those trails start at Kin Kin and take you through Eucalypt forest, luscious rainforests, rolling hills & dairy farms, we certainly saw some of this beautiful countryside on our ride. Kin Kin’s pop is 546 and our research the day before indicated a general store, camping available at the Showground and a pub. We rode into Kin Kin before lunch and a sign indicating “coffee” at the store was met with glee. Our joy was short lived as the store was deserted and up for sale. Thank goodness we had picked up lunch supplies at Tewantin. A tour of the Showground found the toilets locked and the ground soggy so we took ourselves off to the pub for a coffee and enquire about their accommodation, we had no choice really. The Kin Kin Hotel is a majestic old building and is currently undergoing renovation so we booked in for the night and spent the afternoon sitting on the upstairs veranda in the sunshine reading our books. As the pub was catering for a function in the local Village Hall that night there were 2 choices for dinner, a steak sandwich or a chicken burger, fine tucker too.
June 11 Kin Kin to Tin Can Bay 66.57 klms, Avg speed 17.2 kph, Cycling time 3.52 hrs; Total kms 2161.80
The tradesmen arrived at 6.30am so we were on the road by 8.30am, we didn’t mind as we had a long ride ahead. Another picturesque ride passing lots of macadamia and mandarin plantations. Crazy Ruby (my bike’s name as christened by Greg), for the record Greg’s is called Horsey, broke a spoke so we stopped at a stall selling bags of mandarins and feasted on a couple after Greg fixed the spoke. A local invited us in for coffee however we kindly declined as the spoke problem put us behind schedule. As we rode through Toolara Forest along the busy Tin Can Bay Road the environment changed quite dramatically, it was good to be riding on relatively flat roads for a change. Tin Can Bay—unwind, relax, the magic of Tin Can Bay is captivating in its simplicity, and, it was. The inlet adjoins the Great Sandy Strait and is the perfect place for sailing, houseboating, fishing and for sighting dolphins, dugongs, sea turtles and abundant birdlife...oh and one more thing it’s famous for—mosquitoes. They must have thought they’d won the lotto when they saw a pair of bare legs walking through the grass towards the water, I paid dearly for this adventure for the next 2 nights. We rode down the road to the local supermarket to pick up dinner and dined on a good steak, BBQ’d veges and salad. Before heading to bed early. We were the only people in Tin Can Bay not watching the Rugby League State of Origin round two. Just as well, NSW lost to Qld, having beaten them in round one.
June 12 Tin Can Bay to Maryborough 77.56 klms, Avg speed 18.7 kph, Cycling time 4.08 hrs; Total kms 2239.40
After we packed up the tent at the Kingfisher Caravan Park we rode down to the water searching for dolphins, alas none were to be seen. Another long ride for us however luckily it was a long, flat road in sunny weather riding through more forest and past an enormous army range. This was our first relatively long ride since well before Brisbane, and while we arrive in Maryborough at about 2.30p.m and in plenty of time, we were both glad to get off the saddles and have a nice warm shower. We’ve booked into The Wallace Caravan Park for 2 nights to give us a change to look around Maryborough. We tucked into a Red Rooster roast chicken which was both small and expensive, and a big pot of boiled vegies. Greg’s beer didn’t last long, nor did my can of G & T mmmmmm.
Maryborough is a large town, pop 26,000, and is one of Queensland’s oldest cities. In the days of the early colony, it was the second most important port after Sydney and the place where thousands of sea-tossed immigrants took their first shaky steps on Australian soil after months at sea. It has glorious colonial architecture, outstanding museums, magnificent parklands, riverside dining along the Mary River and wonderful examples of the Queenslander style homes. To get a good overview of the city we went on a bus tour with “Fran”. Fran drove a bus decorated to look like a “Queenslander” home, how tacky is that? Fran also spoke alot about things on closer questioning from Greg she knew absolutely nothing about. Not a good look for a tour guide. She was nice enough though and we both enjoyed the hour we had with her, not only because it gave us a very good look at the town, but because we were the youngest and slimmest of her tour group by a considerable margin. We’re still old and fat, but we didn’t feel it that day. After the tour we walked the parks, walkways and streets of Maryborough looking for the “vibrant cafe and restaurant scene” describes in all the tourist blurb, but to no avail. We did find a nice cafe for very good coffee, but lunch was some reasonable sandwiches in an old fashioned cafe served to us while we sat in a booth.
Arriving back late afternoon to our camp site Greg noticed that the tent had been slashed in 3 places on one side and quite low down. Luckily he was on the phone when he noticed the cuts otherwise the air would have turn dark blue! The cuts had gone through to the outer shell and a small cut had gone through the inner shell. The owner of the park had been cutting the grass that afternoon with a whipper slipper so Greg brought him over, however, neither he nor Greg could say for certain this was the cause as there were no grass cuttings surrounding our tent. Of course this happened at 5pm on a Friday so apart from a call to our insurance company and confirming the Macpac repairer was in Melbourne there was nothing more we could do until Monday morning, luckily rain was not forecast over the next few days. Over dinner we decided to buy a cheap tent in the interim so that our journey can continue.
June 14 Maryborough to Hervey Bay 41.18 klms, Avg speed 20.5 kph, Cycling time 2.00 hrs; Total kms 2280.70
The road to Hervey Bay was busy as we expected so we were glad we only had a couple of hours riding to do. Hervey Bay has an international reputation as the best place to view migrating humpback whales and the calm waters make it a haven for water sports, boating, fishing, diving and of course providing ferry access to the world Heritage-listed Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. Hervey Bay’s foreshore is lined with 15 klms of walking/cycling pathways with the panoramic ocean views of Point Vernon at one end and the action of the Urangan Marina at the other. We set up camp for 2 nights at the Happy Wanderer Caravan Park at Torquay, hopped on our bikes and rode the short distance to Urangan Marina, having a coffee along the way. Awful coffee with a lovely view. There was no restaurant/cafe listed in our food guide, however, we selected a local Italian restaurant and jotted down their number to make a booking later in the day. They were booked out. Bugga! Our options were, either the local Returned Service Mens Club (RSL), the Boat Club, or a pretty poxy looking Mexican place. The clubs could have been O.K but the only cooking skill required at most of these is the ability to use a deep fat fryer. Now we like our chips as much as most people, but we were hoping and expecting something a little more sophisticated. We lucked in when the Italian we originally wanted to eat at called Greg and said they had a cancellation. Yeehah! Pretty good food washed down with some pretty good New Zealand wine.
June 15-16—Hervey Bay
We did locate a decent coffee shop so after our morning coffee jumped on the bikes and rode the other way along the bike path to Point Vernon. We had lunch sitting in the sunshine at the Torquay Tavern and listened to a very good band for the afternoon. We made the decision to stay an extra night in Hervey Bay to purchase a new tent and post to the repairer. As we rode into Hervey Bay on Saturday we noticed several camp shops with one advertising a 3 man tent for $39.00—perfect! Monday morning Greg spoke to the repair man in Melbourne and it will take approx. 2 weeks to fix the tent. We rode to the outskirts of Hervey Bay and picked up our new tent, not the $39.00 bargain, we optioned up and bought one for $69.00 to give us more pannier room inside. It’s been a successful day, our new tent is erected, our old tent has been sent down to Melbourne, Greg’s stress levels are fine (self medicated with wine) and we’re now ready to continue our journey tomorrow to Childers.
June 17 Hervey Bay to Childers 74.01 klms, Avg speed 17.9 kph, Cycling time 4.07 hrs; Total kms 2358.80
You find a good coffee stop in the most unlikely places. The Miners Arms Hotel at Torbanlea had recently converted a room into a very pleasant coffee lounge full of cane chairs, leather lounges and “ladies who lunch” and business is booming. We needed our coffee before hitting the Bruce Highway, this was unfortunately our only way of getting to Childers and it met all of our expectations-noisy, busy, lots of logging trucks and this time quite a lot of “extra wide” loads being escorted by the police. The only positive about a busy road is that we tend to ride faster to get off it, luckily the road was flat and the weather was on our side, oh and also on the way Horsey broke a spoke then decided to get a flat back tyre as we were about to stop for lunch. On closer examination Greg noticed the tyre was also worn so he replaced both the tube and tyre with new ones. Considering all we arrived at Childers mid afternoon. It’s a welcoming country town set on a ridge with magnificent views of the surrounding cane fields and avocado farms. Its well-preserved historic buildings and fascinating museums have gained Childers a National Trust listing. Sadly it is also the place where 15 tourists perished in a backpackers hostel in 2000 and tributes can be made at the Palace Backpackers Memorial. Childers is popular with backpackers due to the seasonal fruit picking work that can be found in the region. This was evident at the Sugar Bowl Caravan Park which you could probably describe as being “feral” from the facilities to some of the people. Luckily we were allotted a small grass site not normally used for camping, Greg said it was the “honeymoon suite” compared to the other choices. Lucky too that we didn’t have to use the camp kitchen as we had our frozen spag bol, even backpackers were complaining about the state of the kitchen!
June 18 Childers to Bundaberg 60.11 klms, Avg speed 18.3 kph, Cycling time 3.17 hrs; Total kms 2419.10
We rode to Bundaberg along the Goodwood Road, much quieter than the other option, the Bruce Highway. We passed lots of fields of sugar cane, avocados, chillis and fields of ??? we have yet to identify. I saw a couple of emus in a field, it would have been a great shot against the background of cut sugar cane, Greg had the camera and was way ahead of me which was a bummer, have decided I’ll carry the camera in future. We’re staying at the Cane Caravan Park which is 10 * compared to the last one. We’ve booked in for 3 nights as Greg wants to try to solve the spoke problem, we discovered Crazy Ruby had a broken spoke too on arriving, we also want to purchase a new tyre. Dinner was at the Sugarland Tavern just around the corner, typical cheap tavern food however it gave us a break from cooking. Again, we are the slimmest in the building by a long shot, and we’re also easily recognised as tourists as we’re the only people not drinking the local Bundaberg Rum and most commonly Coke. This may explain the former. People eat early in the country, we swaggered up to the Bistro counter at 7.40p.m. And the girl had to race back to the kitchen to see if the “chef” would cook our meals! Luckily he was in a good mood, sadly it didn’t make ay difference to the food.
June 19-20 Bundaberg
Bundaberg is a picturesque, modern and progressive city with a population of 47,000. It’s located in the heart of a rich sugar and horticultural belt and is readily identifiable with the locally manufactured famous Bundaberg Rum and naturally brewed Ginger Beer and Bundaberg Sugar. The Burnett River flows through the city which is flanked by parklands and is home to one of our national icons, the Platypus. Bundaberg is also the most southerly access point to the premier isles of the Great Barrier Reef and marine visitors to the region include the giant ocean turtles which nest at Mon Repos Beach (from Nov to Mar) and humpback whales during their northern migration (July to Oct) - we’ve missed both! Bundaberg doesn’t have many cycle paths which is a pity as it’s flat and had wide streets, still we rode into town, purchased more spokes however Greg couldn’t get the tyre he wanted, luckily he’s already carrying 2 spares so hopefully we’ll be able to pick one up in Rockhampton. We rode down by the river and around some parklands then headed back to camp to get in a couple of hours reading before it got dark, around 5pm. Our peace was broken by a bloke we named Ron, we actually don’t know his name but he reminded us of a couple of Ron’s we’ve met before. Ron was obviously a Vietnam veteran, not that that’s a bad thing, but clearly, and apologies to Chris our Psychologist mate, Ron was suffering Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Symptoms included constant talking shit, not reading other peoples body language, distended beer belly, bum cleavage, stalking and other disturbing behaviour. Oh yeah, he too was an expert on everything, and you didn’t need to ask him. We both spent a lot of time trying to avoid him, difficult as he was next door.
Friday—Our morning was spent sitting on top of the Bundy Belle, a fully restored classic river ferry, for a 2.5 hour 17 mile river cruise along the Burnett River. Bruce, our captain, was a great guide and pointed out items of interest along the way. Sugar mills, commercial fishing and sailing activities were amongst the largest users of the river. It was perfect sightseeing weather and a pod of river dolphins gave us a great display. We’re now planning our route to Rockhampton, it’s only about 350 klms away however we’ll need a few stops on the way!!
June 21 Bundaberg to Rosedale 63.40 klms, Avg speed 17.9 kph, Cycling time 3.32 hrs; Total kms 2499.20
Our windiest riding day to date, a strong side wind that at times blew us across the road. We rode along the picturesque Bundaberg Lowmead Road, relatively quiet, passing lots of fields of sugar cane, which is harvested from May to December, and also huge plantations of macadamias. Perhaps the season is late for sugar cane as we haven’t seen any harvesting activity yet. Coffee stop at the Avondale Tavern then lunch in the park at Rosedale, a delightful, small country town before calling into the Royal Hotel which manages the caravan park behind. Our tent was pitched alone in the Cec Anderson Memorial Park, with the facilities housed in what looked like the old pavilion, a lovely old wooden building with long veranda. After Greg fixed another broken spoke on Horsey we had a drink at The Royal Hotel chatting with 2 locals, Allan & Bernadette, before having a rissoles and steak dinner. It’s still a bit cool at night and the fire of the Pub, along with a glass or two of wine ensured we both slept well.
June 22 Rosedale to Town of 1770 75.46 klms, Avg speed 19.7 kph, Cycling time 3.49 hrs; Total kms 2574.80
Luckily slightly less wind for a long ride to Agnes Waters then onto Town of 1770. The weather during the day was glorious, blue skies and sunny for a rolling ride along the Tableland Road, our coffee stop was at the Fingerboard Roadhouse where we enjoyed 2 cups of Bundaberg Coffee, good coffee too. We were tooted by Allan & Bernadette taking their Harley out for a ride to Agnes Waters. The towns of Town of 1770 ad Agnes Waters, located on the Discovery Coast, are surrounded by rural hinterlands, untouched national parks and lapped by the deep blue waters of the Coral Sea. The town of Agnes Waters is noted as being the most northern surf beach on the east coast of Australia and is a board riders paradise with unbelievable breaks. There’s not much surf north of here because the Great Barrier Reef blocks all the swell. We pushed our bikes along the boardwalk and had lunch overlooking this beach, not a board riders paradise today. One of the most beautiful locations on the Queensland coast is the Town of 1770 just minutes from Agnes Waters and so named after the visit of Lieutenant James Cook in May 1770, this was Cook’s second landfall in Aust and the first in Queensland-giving rise to the area’s claim to be the birthplace of Queensland. We booked into the Captain Cook Holiday Village at 1770 for 2 nights, set in six acres of bushland with an abundance of birdlife, especially wild bush turkeys! We dined at the Deck Restaurant & Bar attached to the Holiday Village and had our best restaurant meal since being on the road. The restaurant is run by Jutta and Richard and has only been open for 4.5 months, it’s location, food and service have earned them glowing reviews and for a Sunday night they were turning people away. What a find!!
June 23—Town of 1770
After riding into Agnes Waters to pick up supplies, we had a BBQ in the park at 1770 whilst checking emails and updating the web—what a perfect location to do some office work. Back at the camp we were invited for drinks by Geoff & Paul, who were cooking a mountainous amount of food on the BBQ for their families—11 in total. We trotted over to their cabins, met their respective wifes, Wendy & Rowena, and enjoyed their company before retiring early after our exhausting day.
June 24 Town of 1770 to Bororen 73.38 klms, Avg speed 18.1 kph, Cycling time 4.03 hrs; Total kms 2647.60
Windy again as we backtracked 32 klms to the turn off for Miriam Vale, stopping first again at Fingerboard Roadhouse for several cups of delicious coffee, we were ready for them after battling the wind. The wind dropped as we rode along Round Hill Road towards Miriam Vale with the Munro Mountain Range in the distance, open spaces, quiet road, both of us listening to Radio National, lots of toots and waves from drivers. We lunched in the park at Miriam Vale, an interesting town of 600, in a picturesque valley settled by sheep farmers and now supporting the timber and diary industries with tourism flourishing.
We were going to stay at the Caravan Park just out of town, however, after talking to a helpful chappie at the Tourism Office we rode another 13 klms, unfortunately along the Bruce Highway, and stayed at the Bororen Caravan Park set in a lovely garden + owned by Paul and Maurice + 2 white crazy cats, Biggles and Bob (he’s deaf). We saw another cyclist ride in around 5.30pm pulling a trailer, it sent shivers up our spines the thought of him on the Bruce Highway as it was getting dark and pulling quite a wide load. It was really cold at Bororen so we took ourselves off to the Bororen Hotel, sat by the fire and checked emails before devouring a most delicious meal of lamb shanks and roast pork.
June 25 Bororen to Tannum Sands 39.75 klms, Avg speed 21.0 kph, Cycling time 1.53 hrs; Total kms 2687.4
It was about 4 or 5 degrees when we woke up and way too cold for Greg. We spoke to our fellow cyclist Oliver (from Germany) over breakfast. We were patting ourselves on the back yesterday having cycled 73 klms yesterday, he’d cycled 150 klms from Bundaberg, has already cycled 9000 klms around Australia, some days cycling 180 klms so what’s 150 klms! We asked if he got lonely cycling on his own but he really enjoys it. Prior to this he’d walked 3000 klms from Germany to Spain and France again on his own. His plans today were to cycle to Rockhampton, about 150 klms, and again most of it on the Bruce Highway, we wished him well and a safe journey. We couldn’t stop thinking about him as we cycled only 30 klms along the Bruce Highway before thankfully our 9 klms turn off to Tannum Sands, our destination for the night. Tannum Sands and Boyne Island are seaside twin towns connecting by a bridge across the Boyne River. The waters of Tannum Sands have a constant temperature great for swimming all year round and along the foreshore is the development, Millennium Esplanade. Lots of money had been poured into this development, great cycle ways, board walks, BBQ facilities and we read later that the Aluminium Smelter at Boyne Island has contributed towards some of these facilities together with the local Government. The caravan park had a pretty good camp kitchen and we cooked Green Chicken Curry for dinner, which we both agreed was not really up to scratch. We’re still experimenting with packeted curry pastes and clearly some are better than others.
June 26 Tannum Sands to Gladstone 30.65 klms, Avg speed 17.6 kph, Cycling time 1.44 hrs; Total kms 2718.20
The Gladstone to Benaraby Road wasn’t as quiet as we’d hoped, in fact it was just as bad as the Bruce Highway, luckily we only had a short ride ahead. We rode into town and were having coffee when a couple + dog approached us. It was John, Ann and Blossie, our neighbours at the 1770 Caravan Park who were staying in Gladstone for a couple of nights too. After catching up on news we bade them farewell and checked into the Barney Beach and Sea Breeze Caravan Park, one of the cleanest and nicest parks we’ve stayed at and within a stone’s throw from the water. We were undecided whether to call into Gladstone as it is an industrial town however we hadn’t been before so decided to stay a couple of nights to look around. Gladstone’s pop is 30,000 and is one of Queensland’s most dynamic and prosperous industrial cities and the gateway to a diverse region with beaches, national parks and unspoilt coast and its deepwater harbour welcomes visiting yachts and is the stepping off point to islands such as Heron and Wilson. It is also a region synonymous with industrial growth and everywhere you turn you can see evidence of this. Queensland Alumina Limited (QAL) operates one of the world’s largest alumina plants, Rio Tinto Alcan has been a long term resident with interests in 4 major regional industries including RTA Yarwun which is the most technologically advanced alumina refinery in Aust, Boyne Smelters is Australia’s largest aluminium smelters and NRG Gladstone Power Station is Queensland’s largest and the list goes on and on. Tomorrow we’re going on a 3 hour free industry tour to the Rio Tinto Alcan Yarwan and Boyne Smelters. We found out John is going too, Ann couldn’t go as she has to look after Blossie, there are some disadvantages travelling with a dog. Dinner was a pretty sloppy pre prepared lasagne and veggies. It tasted O.K, but didn’t require too many teeth to get it down. While we were having dinner we met a couple Robyn and Graham and we enjoyed a good evenings conversation with them. They too were going on the Industry Tour tomorrow.
We rode to the waterfront Tourist information office to where the Industry Tour left and hopped on the bus with about 30 other bods. For city slickers like us the sight of all this heavy industry is quite daunting. In Sydney, of course, there is absolutely no evidence of the resources and mining boom that Australia is currently enjoying. Pretty well from the Hunter Valley in NSW right up the east coast of the country, you can’t escape its impact. The scale is huge and its effects on communities is very significant. Everywhere we go almost, there are men, living alone in cabins (called Dongas in Qld), caravans, tents, motels and hotels to build, work and service the mines and associated businesses. There is a significant shortage of labour and the companies involved are transporting people from all over the country to meet their requirements. Housing is in short supply and this is distorting the market. New housing, most of which are dreadful looking McMansions, are spreading around and across the towns like some insidious skin condition. We were told, while on the tour of the Alumina refinery, that they would employ you immediately with no previous experience and pay you $85,000 per annum. No doubt the work would be pretty ordinary and in tough, hot and dirty conditions, and as the plant runs 24/7 365 days of the year the shifts would be awful, but the working conditions, safety training and employee benefits seemed quite generous. After the tour of the Alumina refinery, which is in the process of being tripled in size, we then went to the Aluminium smelter. Like all smelters I’m sure, this one was big, ugly, hot and dirty. In fact it’s so hot in the smelter that the men work 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off in a air conditioned shed. The amount of electricity used is huge. This one smelter consumes over 10% of Queensland’s total power generation. A carbon tax is going to have a significant impact here. Huge sheds over a kilometre long heat, cool, separate and mould the aluminium from the alumina. Rods, bars and ingots are manufactured and shipped world wide. Again, they are short of workers and can do nothing other than throw large amounts of money at trying to attract them. Whilst the tour was enjoyable and informative, we both agreed it was good not to have to work there. The bus dropped us back at the Tourist office and we bade farewell to John and also Robyn and Graham, they were all leaving Gladstone immediately after the tour to continue their journeys.
June 28 Gladstone to Calliope 26.64 klms, Avg speed 16.4 kph, Cycling time 1.37 hrs; Total kms 2744.90
We’re making our way to Rockhampton going out west via Biloela and Mount Morgan rather than straight up the Bruce Highway. As Biloela is 126 klms from where we’re staying we rode 26 klms to Calliope leaving us 100 klms to ride tomorrow. Calliope is a former gold rush town and the gateway to many country towns throughout the area. There were supposed to be 2 country pubs in the town however we couldn’t find them, not like us. We checked into the caravan park at 11.30am, it was one of those parks that you didn’t feel safe leaving your gear behind so we stayed put and read. It was the next day that Greg told me he’d been chatting to a local caravan resident of 4 years, who happened to be outside hosing the dust on what could have been a front lawn. Greg was trying to get some change so we could use the washing machine. Anyway, the guy said that even though the caravan park look relatively quite, it wasn’t always like that, and that the riot police had been there a few months earlier to quell a fight that had broken out amongst some of the residents. Apparently, there were two teams of fighters each bashing their opponents over what one of them had said to another's girlfriend. Those residents, not in one of the fighting teams, thought that this was better than whatever was on telly, so they set up chairs and eskies to watch the proceedings. That was, as I say, until the riot police intervened and ruined the night’s entertainment. He then went on to tell Greg that he kept a baseball bat handy and also had a small fire extinguisher that you could apparently spray people in the eyes with the contents and then bonk them on the head when it was all empty. The guy did not have any change for the washer, but Greg said it was good to chat, it’s always nice to get to know your neighbours. No too many of the residents seemed to be burdened by over work, other than the constant tinkering under bonnets of cars that were well past their use by date. It did seem fashionable to ensure that all curtains and windows were tightly closed and sealed to ensure that no fresh air could dilute the tobacco produced fog inside. Needless to say, we stayed pretty close to all our gear and went to bed fairly early that night after a pretty good bowl of pasta with a new packeted sauce we’d found, yum.
June 29 Calliope to Biloela 104.15 klms, Avg speed 17.9 kph, Cycling time 5.48 hrs; Total kms 2849.30
We were on the road at 7.30am, couldn’t wait to leave the caravan park + we had a long ride ahead. Even though we were riding on the Dawson Highway it was a quiet road with a good shoulder and with a slight tail wind we arrived in Bileola at 2.30pm after riding 104 klms. The highway did have some hills and we both huffed and puffed up them and even though we’ve ridden steeper hills, we both declared it was our 11 day break in Brisbane that lost our fitness + also the other stops thereafter! Still we felt good after a cup of great coffee at the local supermarket cum bakery and checked into the Bileola Caravan Park, luxury after last night and with peacocks and guinea fowls wondering around. We’d hardly parked the bikes when Glynnes came over offering us a cup of coffee which we kindly declined otherwise we’d be jumping out of our skin. She and her husband, Max, had toured on bikes and knew that a coffee or tea always went down well after a ride, how right she is. They invited us over for a drink and they too had cycled parts of Australia and Europe. They’re making their way from Melbourne to Mackay for the birth of their 5th granddaughter, so as not to miss the event they are travelling in a small campervan + 1 bike and take it in turns to cycle towards their next destination whilst the other one leaves later and arrives with the campervan, not a bad compromise. We thanked them for the drink and walked to the local pub for the buffet, that was all that was on offer, as buffets go and we’re not huge fans of them, it wasn’t bad.
Population 6000 and “Biloela” is the local aboriginal word for white cockatoo and huge numbers gather in the early morning and late afternoons near the water ways. Biloela is located in the Banana Shire, named in 1880 not after the fruit but after a large bullock because of his colour. It’s a town in the heart of rich mining and agricultural region and an ideal spot from which to base an Australian bush adventure. We hopped on our bikes in the morning for a tour of the town and visited the Tourist Info office where we chatted about the accommodation arrangements further up the road. The lady there obviously took a shine to us as she rustled around in the draw in her desk and gave us a couple of drinks vouchers to be used in the local RSL Club in addition to a couple of “shopper dockets” for a meal deal. We then rode to the ‘Billie Brown” monument, erected by the Callide Valley Lions Club for their 40th anniversary paying tribute to local Billie Brown for his achievements in the performing arts (he appeared in the movie Dish). We also visited a beautiful story mural painted on the side of a water tower, giving insight into the women who lived/live in the area. We walked the 3klms to the RSL Club for diner with the idea that we’d catch the courtesy bus back to the caravan park after dinner. Great idea, except the bus doesn’t run Mondays and Tuesdays said the cheerful bar women. The walk home probably did us some good after the deep fried feast we’d eaten.