Clermont (pop 2000) was the first town in the tropics to be settled & the town was established through the discovery of gold near Hood’s Lagoon in 1862. Despite warnings from local aborigines the town continued to grow on the flood plain, until 1916 when a cyclone crossed the coast & within a few hours the town has been wiped out by the 2nd worst flood in Australia’s history with the loss of 65 lives. It was then decided to move what was left of the town to higher ground. Clermont is now the town for Blair Athol Coal Mine which currently exports in excess of 10 million tonnes annually. Luckily the mine doesn’t encroached into the town which is very attractive. Other major industries in the Shire are beef cattle & grain growing & gold fossicking a major tourist attraction as is sapphire mining at nearby Gemfields. After a morning visit to the local markets including a pretty ordinary coffee, a walk around Hood’s Lagoon, an afternoon relaxing at the Park in a couple of comfortable chairs, we felt ready to take on Clermont’s night life. The good folk of Clermont were having a 70’s themed Ball and so those not dressed in a variety of hideously coloured attire, were involved in what is the now familiar country courtship rituals. Hooning up and down and around and around the streets in “muscle” cars and utes, while shouting abuse at all comers. This is all done under a cloud of tobacco smoke and a blaze of both awful music and rum and coke. After an evening Chinese meal, where we were the only diners with wine, we also were the only people with chopsticks (bloody yuppies) we felt quite rested & ready for another day on the bikes.
Nov 2 Clermont to Capella 58.15 klms, Avg speed 15.3 kph, Cycling time 3.47 hrs; Total kms 5701.56
The distinct Peak Range, a succession of gigantic dome-topped mountains, is a photographer’s delight and dominates the surrounding downs as we headed to Capella. It was flourishing with the mining boom too with the kitchen of the local Lawn Bowls Club being leased by the mine and supplying meals around the clock. We benefitted too and had an amazing buffet dinner for only $20 per head. Capella is a relatively small town however must be flushed with funds as it has a large Aquatic Centre, Cultural Centre & large covered arena where singers such as Jimmy Barnes have performed. Greg wants to make another warranty claim, his new thongs he bought a few months ago have fallen to bits, if he’d kept the receipt, I’m sure he’d be posting them back for replacements. Accordingly, in a silly attempt to maintain the not very stringent dress standards of the bowling club, he scuffed and stumbled around the club dining room with this silly little bit of rubber dangling from his right leg. A new search for quality things will have to wait until Emerald.
Nov 3 Capella to Emerald 53.39 klms, Avg speed 18.3 kph, Cycling time 2.54 hrs; Total kms 5754.95
Finally a tail wind which saw us arriving in Emerald before 10.30am. Along the way we were both attacked by magpies swooping down like fighter jets & making holes in our helmets. I think my orange flag saved me as they attacked Greg more! Emerald’s quite a large town, pop 10,000, & is named not for its gems but for the lush green pastures that once surrounded the town. It’s the hub of the Central Highlands, located on the Nogoa River & is a thriving rural centre supporting agricultural & coal mining industries. We spent the afternoon scouring the streets for a much needed Cafe serving real coffee and making arrangements for our Melbourne Cup Day lunch. In the end we did without the coffee and Greg booked us into the Maraboon Tavern. Apparently for $60 per person we’ll get a seafood plate, glass of bubbly, buffet lunch and celebrities! We settled for the local Golf Club for dinner before heading back to the tent comfortable in the knowledge we don’t have to be anywhere tomorrow. We’ll rest our saddle sore bums & stay here for 4/5 days.
Nov 4 Emerald
Melbourne Cup Day has arrived! Ripper...
We’re not punters so Melbourne Cup day means, unlike many people here, lunch, not horse racing. Anyway it’s usually a fun day and were booked as a couple on a table for ten for this huge extravaganza including celebrities. We walked into town and actually found a cup of reasonable coffee, Greg had two, and then saw the sights of Emerald listed below;
1. There’s the park with a big painting on an easel.
So then we walked to the Tavern, Greg says he’s never been to a place with Tavern in the name he likes. We walked into the cavernous front bar with a queue at the betting desk, walls covered with TV’s and blokes all dressed in reflective safety clothing. We made our way to the rear of the building to a reasonably pleasant dining room with a view over the pool. As Queensland is not on daylight saving the festivities start at 11.00 am and we settle on a table with some locals. In short, lunch was O.K, just, our foray into betting was a disaster, the wine list was a tease, with plenty of wines listed, but only three in stock and neither of us knew who the supposed celebrities were. Including an Olympic Gold medallist in that hugely popular spectator sport (no, not synchronised swimming) beach volley ball. Still the others at our table were good sports and company for the day. Greg won a book for asking the Olympian a question and the day past pleasantly enough in air conditioned comfort on a soft seat not vying for space between your legs with your rectum.
Nov 7 Emerald to Springsure 68.99 klms, Avg speed 17.8 kph, Cycling time 3.52 hrs; Total kms 5823.94
Glad to leave Emerald & the caravan park so up at 4.30am to beat the humidity & heat for our relatively short ride to Springsure. To Greg’s delight he found a piece of rope & made a magpie scarer for future attacks. This boy should go on the Inventors program, a simple piece of rope with knots swirling above his head certainly kept them at bay—he’s now going to patent his Magpie Whipper Snipper. He now calls on the Magpies to take him on and take the whipper snipper challenge, to date none have accepted the challenge. Springsure is a charming country town sitting in a valley of spectacular mountain ranges with the famous Virgin Rock as a backdrop. We camp at the local road house cum caravan park and make preparations for rain as the clouds look ominous. While we wait for the rain we spend lazy afternoon at the pool, where the pool superintendent and local news correspondent wants to interview Greg, he declined. A leisurely walk around town was followed by dinner at the local hotel.
Nov 8 Springsure to Rolleston 69.44 klms, Avg speed 18.2 kph, Cycling time 3.49 hrs; Total kms 5893.38
As there’s no day light saving in Queensland, the birds go crazy at 5.00am, the sun rises at 5.30am, but it’s light at about 4.45am, hence our early cycling starts. By 11.00am we’d arrived in Rolleston which is the last stop before entering Carnarvon Gorge from the north, something the town could have captured on. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, the town wasn’t a vibrant place & the caravan park & managers were both miserable. Late afternoon, black clouds loomed on the horizon & we sat in the tent for a couple of hours as the storm hit with our weight saving the tent from being blown away. Amazingly we incurred no damage so we sloshed our way to the Rolleston Hotel for dinner and then, sloshed ourselves, back to the tent for a relatively early night.
Nov 9 Rolleston to Carnarvon Gorge Turn Off 63.52 klms, Avg speed 13.1 kph, Cycling time 4.46 hrs; Total kms 5956.90
We have a choice to make today—either ride in a strong head wind or stay another day in Rolleston. We opted for the former & left at 10am, carrying an extra 30 litres of water for our bush camp tonight. After a late start, battling winds, each carrying extra weight I then had a flat tyre. I could see Greg disappear over a hill in the distance not noticing this crazy women madly waving an orange flag, I was not happy.... I informed him of my displeasure at being left stranded by the road for going on an hour when he eventually returned & replaced the old tube that had caused the problem. Greg kindly informed me that he was not the local roadside assist and that unless I wanted to walk I should, in future, address him in a more pleasant manner. It was one of those days. By now it was 4.30pm & we had to find our bush camp soon before the light disappeared. As luck would have it we found the perfect spot just after the Carnarvon Gorge turn off, a raised siding leading to a farmer’s field that was out of sight of the busy road. After having a delicious meal of gnocchi ( a new experiment for us as it was cryovack packed) with pasta sauce our only regret was we didn’t arrive earlier to watch the beautiful sunset over the distance ranges. We had an early night and slept soundly.
Nov 10 Carnarvon Gorge Turn Off to Injune 108.36 klms, Avg speed 14.7 kph, Cycling time 7.22 hrs; Total kms 6065.26
The incredible Carnarvon Gorge is a wonderland of rainforest, creeks & cliffs & apparently should be number 1 on your list of spots to visit in Australia. However as the Gorge was another 40 klms inland & our water wouldn’t stretch this far we’ll visit another time. The scenery was magnificent though as we rode along the Carnarvon Development Road, it was steep though as we rode over the Carnarvon Range. It was also a long ride to Injune so we passed the time talking about food (how unusual) —if we had the choice where we’d have breakfast, what we’d eat etc. before moving onto lunch, via morning tea/coffee then finally dinner. We hadn’t heard anything about Injune from fellow travellers so didn’t know what to expect, we were pleasantly surprised. A quaint rural town of 500, it’s a township where it seems as though time had stood still. The local caravan park is managed by the friendly staff at the Visitor Info Centre, we liked Injune we arranged to stay a couple of nights, mainly to recover from our last 4 day’s of cycling. They had a local pool with free entry, surrounded by nice gardens with a BBQ and tables and chairs. The pub dished up a pretty good feed and we were welcomed to the veranda of the Injune Tourist office to catch up on some computer stuff. Having done my tax online, Greg is now working with his accountant to gather all the relevant stuff to complete his personal and the company tax. Best I go for a walk while Greg makes mutterings and expletives.
Nov 12 Injune to Roma 88.0 klms, Avg speed 17.1 kph, Cycling time 5.09 hrs; Total kms 6153.26
Less head winds & hills today so we had a good ride to Roma & arrived by lunchtime. Since we left Cairns on 25th Sept we’ve been travelling south down The Great Inland Way, 2691 klms long, which links metropolitan Sydney with enchanting outback towns concluding in Cairns. It traverses the Great Dividing Range over mountain ranges with craggy cliffs, across wide-open plains to fields of sparkling gemstones, through world heritage-listed rainforests & welcoming towns. Our ride along The Great Inland Way finishes here at Roma after riding 1694 klms from Cairns, we’ll now head east towards Miles & Dalby. We pull into the Roma Villa Caravan Park where we’ll spend the next few days and have a rest.
Roma, pop 6500, is the service centre for much of South West Queensland. It was the first site where oil & gas was discovered in Australia, Romavilla Winery is Qld’s oldest winery est. in 1863 & is next door to the Caravan Park where we’re staying, the Bungil Saleyards are Australia’s largest cattle selling facility & the Avenue of Heroes features 138 bottle trees, a tribute to the soldiers who lost their lives in the First World War. And....this Saturday is the Roma Cup, the largest country race meeting in Western Queensland, we’ll see if we can better our winnings from the Melbourne Cup which amounted to $0!
15 Nov—Roma Cup
Cup day has arriv’ , and we excitedly breakfast, shower and dress for the big day. We of course do not have our usual horse racing attire with us unlike the other inhabitants of the caravan park who are all tulle and stilettos, suits and ties. I don my fascinator (peaked cap) Greg slips on his sandals and shorts and we’re off. We arrive and take a seat in the Stand (is that tautology?) with a couple of beers. We’re not only significantly under dressed , but other than the Bookmakers, probably the oldest spectators by about twenty years. We were both looking at the race book trying to look like we knew what we doing. In the end Greg rang his mate Simon in Sydney to see if he had any tips. Simon rattled off numbers that could have been races and horses, but by this time the sun had taken it’s toll on Greg’s brain and all he could do was nod and say yeah... Undeterred we bet. Some people have toxic debts, we have toxic bets. In short we won nothing, we each had 5 beers, one steak sanger, one bucket of chips and had a great day. We traipsed back to the caravan park, next door, but the majority of race goers were really there for the post racing party which went on until 2.00am the next morning.
Nov 16 Roma
We awoke at about 5.30am to what looked like a scene from the first world war. Bodies lying all over the ground surrounded by bottles, items of clothing and assorted foot ware. I felt really old all of a sudden. Greg and I thought that we would stay in Roma for another day while the race and party goers made their way home, not a good time for us to be on the road. We thrashed the washing machine and went into town for a coffee, not bad, and then to a pub for a quick lunch, pretty ordinary.
Nov 17 Roma to Dulacca 100.02 klms, Avg speed 15.0 kph, Cycling time 6.38 hrs; Total kms 6253.28
We’re now heading along the Warrego Highway which stretches 750 klms westward from Charleville to Qld’s eastern seaboard. Cycling through small rural towns of Wallumbilla where we had morning tea at the Calico Cottage, Yuleba & Jackson we reached our free camp for the night, the garden of the Dulacca Hotel. It’s amazing the effect a severe thunderstorm warning has when you’re 10 klms from your destination & the announcer advising not to shelter under trees, we peddled like mad & arrived just as the rain began. With no room at the inn (fully booked with mine & gas workers, we felt like Joseph and Mary) we camped under the carport next to a huge rattling refrigerator, at least we kept dry as the rain fell heavily during the night. Dulacca is the site of the first push to eradicate the menace prickly pear, spurred on by the government’s reward of 40,000ha of land to whoever could restore their land to its original site. We dined at the pub with Greg devouring a steak that hung over the edge of the plate under which was a huge serving of vegetables while I made my way through a couple of pork chops.
Nov 18 Dulacca to Miles 45.12 klms, Avg speed 15.8 kph, Cycling time 2.51 hrs; Total kms 6298.40
Under a grey sky & light sprinkles we had a rolling ride, albeit short, to Miles passing through Drillham, which apparently was once a thriving metropolis, hard to believe! It used to be called Delerium Creek however the original map maker couldn’t spell, so it’s now called Drillham. Miles is known for spring wildflowers, the invention of the Condamine Bell & it’s well preserved pioneering history. A noteworthy attraction is The Dogwood Crossing@Miles , a dazzling state of the art IT centre which houses the local art gallery & library, 7 metre tall sculptured bottle tress form a stunning colonnade down the centre of the building. The town used to be known as Dogwood Crossing. As more severe thunderstorms were forecast we went upmarket & booked an o’nite van for the next 2 nights. It had all the mod cons you could wish for—fridge, tele, cooking facilities! It also had a bed that ensure if you didn’t before, you certainly had a bad case of spineabifida after eight ours on the bed. We walked along the great new riverside path they’ve created and enjoyed the coffee at the Creek Cafe over the next couple of days while we waited out the storms.
Nov 20 Miles to Chinchilla 46.49 klms, Avg speed 18.1 kph, Cycling time 2.34 hrs; Total kms 6344.89
Parts of southern Queensland have been devastated by storms, with houses losing roofs, local flooding after 200mm of rain in less than eight hours, and more than 18,000 lightening strikes over a six hour period, luckily we only received steady rain over the past 2 days. With a tail wind we arrived in Chinchilla (pop. 3,700) by 9.30am, the melon capital of Australia. We stopped at the Hi-way Cafe for morning tea and we both enjoyed a home made sausage roll and tomato sauce before pulling into the Cypress Pines Caravan Park. Chinchilla produces 25% of Australia’s watermelons & to celebrate the town hosts the nationally recognisable Melon Festival which includes an event called Melon skiing, where the competitor slips their feet into a couple of melons and skis down a course. Severe weather again forecasted for parts of Darling Downs where we were situated, black clouds threatened Chinchilla but luckily passed with parts of Queensland yet again hit by hailstones & damaging winds. Greg cooked up a storm himself for dinner, while I looked for houses to rent over the summer months on the computer.
Nov 21 Chinchilla to Dalby 81.78 klms, Avg speed 18.3 kph, Cycling time 4.28 hrs; Total kms 6426.67
No more dusty, dry landscapes as we head south west crossing black soil plains through one of the richest & most diverse agricultural regions in Australia. As we head towards Dalby (pop. 10,300) crossing 2 flooded roads (wet feet as we peddle through) from yesterday’s downpour the area has prospered from cotton, grain & livestock & is Queensland’s largest rural grain receiving areas & grain silos are the district’s landmark sentinels. The road is flat and the wind is almost with us, we make good time through the, by now, very wet and green country side. The region has exploded in recent times thanks to a mining & natural gas boom, evidenced by all the motels having “No Vacancy” signs. The Dalby Tourist Park has water up to the bank’s edge, it’s is now receding although more storm activity is forecast over the next few days. We make our way next door to the conveniently located Criterion Hotel for a few beers and dinner. What is it with blokes, if Greg has any more steaks I’ll have to brand him. I have a fair plate of spag’ bol’ and we enjoy some reasonable wine. We’re not on the saddle tomorrow while we look for houses to rent for summer again.
Dalby is a typical large country town with wide streets, picnic spots along the river & an attractive park in the centre of town. The Myall Creek Walk details the history of the creek & surrounding places, parts were still flooded as we walked into town, buzzing with people enjoying brekkie & coffee at a newly opened coffee lounge. It was doing a roaring trade, staff running everywhere, such excitement was great to see for the town & owners. We had no luck finding a house to rent in Stanthorpe, too expensive with it being a tourist area, so we switched to Warwick 60 klms north and saw a rental for a “quaint unfurnished timber cottage”, $175pw & located within walking distance from town, it seemed perfect. From the 2 shots taken of the outside & kitchen we knew this place needed some TLC but having lived in a tent for the past 8 months it would be heaven. Greg spoke to Debbie, the agent, and managed to get a 3 month lease. We celebrated dinner at the local RSL Club, unfortunately the roast of the day was disappointing, very bland and everything you’d expect for $15.00 per head. What with the large TV showing Australia losing to the Kiwi’s at the rugby league so called World Cup while the hired entertainment of two boof heads and a beat box belted out smashing hits from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s I can’t understand why we didn’t return for more the next night!
Nov 23 Dalby to Oakey 59.90 klms, Avg speed 19.0 kph, Cycling time 3.08 hrs; Total kms 6486,57
Over the next couple of days we planned on heading south via Cecil Plains & Millmerran on our trek to Warwick although we would be battling a raging head wind. As luck would have it, the Vice President of the local RSL Club talked to Greg while I picked up lunch at the supermarket. Even he said that if we’d eaten at his club we’d probably picked the worst spot in town to get a feed and the problems they were having with the kitchen! . Anyway he advised the road to Cecil Plains was flooded in parts. So before leaving Dalby Greg popped into the local police station to confirm the Cecil Plains road was flooded, he was greeted by an unhelpful chappie who didn’t know. We decided to ride along the Warrego Highway to Oakey, relatively busy with a narrow shoulder however we had a great tailwind. On the way we stopped at Jondaryan, a tiny hamlet, & had an excellent coffee at the local roadhouse. There was a terrible smell as we approached Oakey, couldn’t figure out what it was until we rode past the abattoir...the locals must be used to the smell. Luckily the Oakridge Caravan Park was the other end of town with a lovely grassy camp area and very good camp kitchen. I cooked Eastern-style lentil & spinach soup & no grumbles from Greg either!
Nov 24 Oakey to Nobby 78.80 klms, Avg speed 14.5 kph, Cycling time 5.25 hrs; Total kms 6565.37
We woke early and discovered the temperature had dropped to 7.5 degrees celcius although the sun was still shining. We ate breaky and moved around following the sun to warm up as this is 10 degrees below average for this time of year. We packed up and, as now headed S/SE, we had a head wind to Pittsworth arriving mid morning. After several cups of coffee and a sausage roll and sauce mmmmm, we decided to continue on & reach Warwick tomorrow as more wild weather was forecast in a couple of days. We criss-crossed the beautiful countryside to Felton where we sheltered from ,what was now a very gusty wind, in the entrance of the local village hall while we ate our lunch and then on to Nobby 40 klms away where Rudd’s Pub is located, an historic hotel est. in 1893 & a must-see. We set up camp in the grassy Council park opposite, paid the pub $2 for the powered site, they kindly let us use their shower & then ate there in the evening, it was worth doing the extra klms to experience this place. Kevin Rudd, our Prime Minister, celebrated 1 year in office today, seemed appropriate to be staying in a pub of the same name.
Nov 25 Nobby to Warwick 52.71 klms, Avg speed 17.2 kph, Cycling time 3.63 hrs; Total kms 6565.37
We rode through rich farmland to Clifton passing fields & fields of unopened sun flowers, zigging and zagging along the narrow Clifton/Allora road before stopping at Allora for a very good and welcome coffee break. The paddocks are filled with sunflowers when the Australia Day Heritage Weekend (26 Jan) & the Allora Show (Feb) are in full swing. Allora has been described as “the best little town on the Downs”, the old timber houses full of charm & the town centre with well-preserved colonial shopfronts & verandahed country hotels. .
At last we arrived in Warwick, had lunch in the park & Greg completed the necessary paperwork for the lease. As we can’t pick up the keys for another couple of days we made our way to Harts Tourist Park & cooked a meal in the camp kitchen listening to the heavy rain beating on the tin roof longing to be in our new home. The bloke behind the counter at the caravan park, also called Greg, found sitting behind the desk playing computer games whilst chain smoking, a little bit tiring. So after he closed the office promptly at 6.00p.m, he then heaved his body into a Jason Recliner Rocker and rested. The only sign of life the occasion shuffle while he rolled, what can only be described as Yak shit, into Tally Ho cigarette paper and lit up again. We know this because he occupied the outside area adjacent to the kitchen, so the whole place had that Yaky smoky smell. It went down a treat with our lasagne and salad.
Warwick is 162klms southwest of Brisbane, 480m above sea level, has a population of approx. 12,500 & lies on the Condamine River which forms part of the Murray-Darling Basin, ending its journey in the Coorang of South Australia, 1000s of klms and four States away. Warwick has long been known as the “Rose & Rodeo City” for its magnificent roses & for hosting Australia’s most famous rodeo. This prosperous city—the largest urban centre on the Southern Downs—is a place where people enjoy a modern lifestyle surrounded by some of Queensland’s finest sandstone buildings. No time for us to tour around today, we had furniture to buy and scoured the charity shops managing to pick up a 3 piece lounge, kitchen & coffee table, BBQ & colour TV for the princely sum of $160.00 including delivery! From another shop charity shop we bought an assortment of plates, cutlery, pans, kitchen chairs & fan & purchased a 2nd hand fridge & washing machine from another store.....it was a good start. Back to our camp site for our final night, again listening to more rain on the roof, the contents of our tent now getting slightly sodden. Greg has another warranty claim coming up—the bottom of the tent is supposed to be waterproof but obviously isn’t. I can see his blood pressure rising as we speak.
We’re looking forward to living in a smallish country town, and we’ve already experienced something of what to expect. We’ve been told (twice) that a policeman lives across the road. We’re not sure if this is to make us feel more secure, or as a warning against unruly behaviour. We’ve also heard of the parental shortcomings of the previous tenant and her alleged drug habit, nice...
Nov 27 to 30 Nov
Moving day—our house is best described as the worse house in the best street but we loved it. The smashed window was repaired, lawn cut, new TV aerial installed, place cleaned & new curtains put up (all organised by Debbie), windows flung open, hundreds of cigarette butts removed from the lawn, a 1 wheeled vacuum cleaner picked up at a garage sale for free, lots of annuals planted around the house & the single bed base/mattress & double bed base (found in the shed) installed in the bedrooms. No sooner had we set foot on the front step then Terry from two doors down came to introduce himself. Terry has lived in the same house, that his grandfather built, all his life so I suspect that if we need to know anything about Warwick, Terry’s our man. We did have to buy a new lawnmower, much cheaper than paying someone to cut the grass every couple of weeks, oh & a blow up DB mattress for our bed base. In a couple of days we had set up “Warwick Castle”, aptly named by Greg. During this time we also celebrated my birthday having dinner at Silks Restaurant at the Horse & Jockey Hotel, I had a delicious pork chop, Greg had his usual steak & chips! The staff sort of knew the difference between red and white wine and some guy played a guitar and sang in the front bar, so having had my birthday glass of bubbly, a reasonable feed and wine we went to sit in the front bar and listen to the music. At our age we looked like a couple of Polly waffles in a pool, but we’d had enough wine not to care and enjoyed our evening, before walking home as, just like in Sydney, there were no cabs to be seen.