Julie and I were supposed to be hiking the 5,000km Continental Divide Trail in the US in 2020, but COVID-19 derailed that plan. Instead, we will have an adventure in Australia, circumnavigating the country on our bikes, a distance of about 16,500km taking approximately five and a half months. We will use minor roads where possible and occasionally catch ferries across rivers and inlets to avoid busier inland routes. We will camp some of the time and stay in motels, hotels, etc, at others. There will be stretches of up to five days with no accommodation or resupply available, so we will need to be self-sufficient.

Day 015

Day:  015

Date: Thursday, 16 July 2020

Start:  Colosseum Creek

Finish:  Mount Larcom

Daily Kilometres:  111

Total Kilometres:  1625

Weather:  Cool early, but warm later.  Sunny all day.

Accommodation:  Cabin

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Toasted bacon & egg sandwiches

  Lunch:  Mars Bar/Snickers Bar

  Dinner:  Spaghetti bolognaise, apple pie & custard

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  Nothing in particular

Lowlight:  Some headwind climbing hills in the early afternoon wasn't much fun.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

Given the days are getting longer, we left a little earlier today, 6:30am, just before the sun rose.  The theory is that it's already quite light by that time, the traffic is lighter, and the afternoons are getting warmer.

Again dictated by where accommodation was available, our goal for the day was Mount Larcom, 111km away, where I had booked a cabin.  We could have aimed for Rockhampton with plenty of accommodation, but that was a further 78km, and although I believe we could have made it, our sweet spot for distance on sealed roads at the moment is about 140km.

The early riding on relatively quiet and flat roads was beautiful through lightly timbered grasslands, with mountains visible a few kilometres to the west (and the unseen ocean about 20 kilometres to the east).  We cruised through the waking village of Miriam Vale and carried on to the even smaller village of Bororen, where we stopped at a cafe and ate our breakfast at a table in the sun.

From Boronen, the road became more undulating and we began encountering long sections of roadworks which became the pattern for the rest of the day on this road as it bypassed the mining/industrial port of Gladstone.  The traffic controllers were very friendly and concerned that we got through some long sections of alternating single-flow traffic safely.  In one place, we had our own escort vehicle driving behind us, and at other times we were able to ride for long distances on completed sections of road, that were still closed to regular traffic.  However, there were also sections where we felt quite pressured to ride as fast as we could, often uphill, knowing that there was likely a long queue of traffic waiting to come through from the opposite direction.

Between roadworks, we took a break at the beautiful Calliope River rest area where we sat peacefully on a bench overlooking the manicured rest area populated with RVs and caravans taking advantage of the 24-hour free camping option. It looked an idyllic spot and we could see the attraction of the caravanning life in this part of the world.

Apart from a few sections where the road turned westwards and our crosswind became a headwind (see above), the last 30km passed quite quickly and we found ourselves at the campground where we had booked a cabin just before 2pm.  We booked in, did some laundry, and called a bike shop in Townsville, a week away, to book our bikes in for a service (though they have been behaving impeccably to this point).  Later, we walked a kilometre to the tiny town's post office and mailed back home some stuff we no longer need (mainly my wet-weather and winter gear …. Julie's hanging onto hers for a bit longer) and visited the little general store to buy some food and drink.

Another good day on the road.

Day 014

Day:  014

Date: Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Start:  Biggenden

Finish:  Colosseum Creek

Daily Kilometres:  147

Total Kilometres:  1514

Weather:  Cold early, but warm by the afternoon.  Sunny all day with a cool breeze.

Accommodation:  Motel

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Egg & salad sandwiches

  Lunch:  Ham, cheese & tomato sandwich/Chicken salad roll

  Dinner:  Hamburgers & chips, fudge brownies

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  None

Lowlight:  None

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

With a long day ahead of us because accommodation options were very limited, we made sure we were on the road by 7am, and pedalled north out of the very quiet Biggenden on a beautiful sunny morning.  The road passed through mostly rural grazing country, glowing in the early light, and the tiny village of Dallarnil where we got a tentative wave from some children waiting for their school bus into Childers.  The riding was easy and we were making good time.

After an hour we turned northeast towards Booyal and encountered some hills and a strong crosswind as the road followed a ridge offering good views to the mountains to our left.  There was little traffic, and I was a little uneasy about a pickup truck that passed us and then waited, with the engine idling, for us to catch up and ride past.  Nothing came of it, and no doubt it was just my imagination, but it was a reminder of our vulnerability in remote areas.

At Booyal, we reached the Bruce Highway, the main road to north Queensland from Brisbane, and stopped in for some breakfast at the little roadhouse.  We left there at 9:30am and had a good ride along the highway, which wasn't quite as busy as I expected, though there were still plenty of trucks and caravans.  In the Burnett River valley, there was a lot of agriculture, mostly cane fields, but once we crossed the river, our surroundings changed to lightly timbered scrub with not much evidence of houses or grazing.

The road edge varied from good to almost non-existent, so we were always watching our rear view mirrors.  Most vehicles gave us a wide berth if they could, but there were some that passed closely, sometimes unnecessarily, just to give us a thrill.  I seemed to get more friendly toots than usual (could it be something to do with Julie), and there were occasions when vehicles drifted in towards me, because, I suspect, they were busy checking out Julie in their rear view mirrors as they passed and not paying much attention to where they were going.

The road was undulating, but the grades weren't too bad, and we maintained a reasonable speed.  We reached our last town for the day, the busy Gin Gin, soon after 11am, and bought some sandwiches for a later lunch at the town bakery, as well as taking a short break.

From Gin Gin, it was 85km of nothing but bush to our destination, the Colosseum Creek Roadhouse & Motel.  It was an undulating ride, but we continued to make good time, stopping twice, once for lunch and once for a short break, to punctuate our journey.  Although the near-road vegetation was mostly lightly timbered scrub, we frequently had good views to mountains to the west, making the journey interesting.

One minor highlight on this section happened when we were descending at speed down a long hill towards some roadworks, and a single lane regulated by a traffic light.  After being green for most of our descent, it changed to red a hundred metres before we got there.  I began to curse, but then it changed back to green.  A traffic controller had spotted us coming and manually switched it back to green, holding up the opposing traffic a little longer as we flew through, giving him a wave as we passed.

We reached the roadhouse at 4:15pm, glad to have booked last night, as the proprietress told us they now had no vacancies.  Later, we bought hamburgers from the roadhouse for dinner.  It was a long ride today, with no particular standouts, but pleasant and rewarding nevertheless.

Day 013

Day:  013

Date: Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Start:  Wondai

Finish:  Biggenden

Daily Kilometres:  119

Total Kilometres:  1367

Weather:  Very cold and sunny in the morning, becoming milder during the day with an increasingly strong wind.

Accommodation:  Motel

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Cheese & bacon rolls

  Lunch:  Ham, salad & tomato rolls

  Dinner:  Sausages & mash/Butter chicken & rice, fudge & ice cream

Aches:  Nothing significant 

Highlight:  The strong tailwind we had for the last 38km to Biggenden that helped push us up and over a minor range of hills and down into town.

Lowlight:  The strong crosswind and occasional headwind we had for the 50km before our lunch stop at Ban Ban Springs.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

Our plans to leave at 7am didn't quite happen, not least because of a reluctance to get out of bed when the outside temperature was 0°C.   Eventually, we left our cabin at 7:30am, both wearing an extra layer and cycled into town on a beautiful sunny, clear and cold morning.  We stopped at the bakery to buy some food for breakfast and lunch, knowing we would likely not see a store until we reached Biggenden in 119km.

I spent some time reading maps and calculating distances last night, trying to balance our desire to follow back roads with our desire to include Cape York in our itinerary, which means we must not travel too slowly.  Our bikes, loaded with gear, are very heavy and this makes any route involving hills slow.  Although we are enjoying fast descents, they don't compensate timewise for the slow granny gear ascents.  Likewise, our progress has been quite slow on unsealed roads and trails.  There are parts of our journey where travelling on hilly and/or unsealed roads and trails is unavoidable, but where they are avoidable, we have decided to avoid them.

Accordingly, today we travelled directly north on a route that will intersect with the Bruce Highway (Highway A1) which we will now follow that north to Cairns.  Today's journey began with about 30km of back roads north from Wondai through pretty rural countryside, passing some lovely small rural schools en route.  We then joined the busier Burnett Highway, though it wasn't too bad, and battled the strong cold crosswind as we rode north through typical Australian outback country.  Farm houses, often Queenslander-style on stilts, ranging from immaculate to dilapidated, sat amidst cattle grazing land and some crop plantations.

At Ban Ban Springs, we stopped in a wayside rest area and ate lunch, closely watched by some prettily-coloured birds.  I even caught one perched on my handlebars examining the contents of my open handlebar bag.  At the start of the day, I had suggested to Julie that if we did really well, we might get to Childers, just over 160k from Wondai, but the decision point would be whether or not we reached Biggenden, which also had accommodation options, before 3pm.  We left our lunch stop at 1pm, giving us two hours, to cover the 38km to Biggenden.  Although ably assisted by a tailwind (see above), but not racing it, we reached a motel on the outskirts of Biggenden at exactly 3pm and decided to call it a day.

After checking in, I rode my unloaded bike the kilometre into the small town and bought microwaveable dinner supplies at the small supermarket.  Another good day followed by a welcome early night.

Day 012

Day:  012

Date: Monday, 13 July 2020

Start:  Yarraman

Finish:  Wondai

Daily Kilometres:  77

Total Kilometres:  1248

Weather:  Cool and mostly sunny with a fresh breeze

Accommodation:  Cabin

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Egg & bacon pies

  Lunch:  Toasted chicken melt sandwiches

  Dinner:  Southern style chicken, fudge & ice cream

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  The post-lunch 25km ride along the beautiful rail trail from Kingaroy to Wondai.  The sun was shining, a cool breeze was at our back, the surface was tarred, the scenery was quintessential Australian rural, and we knew we would be stopping early for the day.

Lowlight:  None really

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

It was a cool morning when we emerged from our motel room wearing our still-very-wet shoes and walked a hundred metres to the town bakery where we hoped to buy some breakfast to take with us.  Sadly, the baked goods pickings were slim, so we settled on a couple of hot egg and bacon pies (which were very tasty) and quickly ate them standing in the chill wind outside.

Then we headed out of town soon after 8am, and any fears of being too cold soon evaporated as we laboured up the first of several long hills on the busy Burnett Highway.  After 5km, we reached a back road we had planned to take to avoid the highway, but found it labelled "Private - No Entry', so ended up staying on the highway.  The hills and traffic continued until the downhill run into Nanango where we stopped in a picnic area for a break.  Nanango was typical of the country towns we are starting to see, with very nice visitor facilities and parks, often including free camping for RVs and caravans for up to 48 hours.  The streets are wide, the house blocks are large, and the pace seems slower.  I think we are going to see more of these.

From Nanango we turned off the Burnett Highway towards Kingaroy on a slightly less busy road which featured a long steady climb over a small mountain followed by a steady descent into the large regional town of Kingaroy, famous for peanuts and as the home of Jo Bjelke-Petersen, a larger than life Queensland Premier for 20 years.  Julie stopped at a roadside stall to buy some peanuts for later consumption.  We also bought some toasted sandwiches in town and then set off on our final leg of the day along the excellent rail trail that runs from Kingaroy to Kikivan.

A little out of town, we found a bench by the trail in a beautiful sunny spot to eat our lunch, and then rode the last 25km (see above) to our booked cabin in Wondai, arriving around 2:45pm after picking up dinner supplies at the small town supermarket.

It's Julie's birthday today, so it was good to have an early stop after three long hard days.  We celebrated her birthday with a microwaved dinner and some fudge and ice cream.  (I did offer that we could eat at the pub in town.)

Day 011

Day:  011

Date: Sunday, 12 July 2020

Start:  Esk

Finish:  Yarraman

Daily Kilometres:  97

Total Kilometres:  1171

Weather:  Overcast all day with rain in the afternoon

Accommodation:  Motel

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Egg & salad sandwiches

  Lunch:  Cheeseburger/Chickenburger & chips

  Dinner:  Chilli con carne, custard danish

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  Hot showers at the end of a long muddy day.

Lowlight:  We completed the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT) around 5:30pm, wet, cold, and with our bikes, bags and selves covered in mud.  We rode a kilometre into the tiny town of Yarraman where we had booked a motel, but decided we had better wash some of the mud off our bags and bikes beforehand.  So, we found ourselves washing as much mud off our (waterproof) bags and bikes as we could by the light of a distant street lamp under a tap at the back of a small toilet block at 6pm on a Sunday night after a long day.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

We slept in a bit after our long day yesterday, and didn't leave town until 8am, having bought some sandwiches to carry with us for breakfast.  Alas, after we had ridden 2.5km, Julie remembered that she had left her phone and watch chargers, etc, back at the motel.  We quickly unloaded her bike and she rode back into town to retrieve the forgotten items, giving her an extra 5km for the day. (Her misery was compounded an hour later when we stopped for breakfast and she found the sandwich container had broken open inside her handlebar bag and covered the contents with a tasty layer of egg and lettuce.)

Somewhat sobered by yesterday's slow progress on the BVRT, we were less ambitious today, aiming to cover the 96km to the end of the trail.  This looked a comfortable goal initially, but the surface varied from fast hard-packed clay to soft and stony, where we were lucky to make 10kph, and everything in between.  There continued to be gullies where rail bridges used to exist, that required a steep and sometimes rough descent, followed by feverish pedalling to get up the other side, or more often, walking and pushing the heavy bikes up the steep slope.

The scenery was excellent, as we followed the contours of lovely rural valleys that were more brown than green, and populated by cattle and horses.  There were quite a lot of other cyclists out, most on mountain bikes, along with a few walkers.  The former, we calculated, had made a good decision, riding the BVRT down the valley, and especially today when they had a light tailwind (while we were dealing with a slight headwind).

The heavy grey clouds had been threatening rain all morning, and it started raining just after we stopped for lunch at the tiny village of Linville.  We ate our burgers (there wasn't much choice) sitting on the verandah of the small general store, admiring the picturesque scene which included old railcars and the station, and contemplating a wet afternoon.

The next 16km from Linville to Blackbutt was steadily uphill all the way, climbing the Blackbutt Range.  It was all rideable, apart from the occasional gullies, but relentless. The rain fell and the clay surface became soft and slippery, clogging our cleats so it was impossible to lock into the pedals.  Despite the pleasant wet forest surrounds, it was a bit miserable.  We finally reached Blackbutt station around 3:30pm and took a break sheltering at a covered picnic table, before setting out on the final leg to Yarraman.  It was a relief to get some flat riding, though there were still a few hills, but the trail was muddy and wet and everything, including us, was likewise wet and muddy.

We were very pleased to reach the end of the BVRT and Yarraman at 5:30pm as darkness closed in, and we cycled into town cleaning gear and bikes at a tap along the way (see above) and checked into our motel.  Fortunately, they had a washing machine, so we could clean all of our muddy gear, and we did that while eating our microwaved dinner purchased from the small adjacent supermarket.

We had been hoping for an earlier finish, and will certainly try for one tomorrow.

Day 010

Day:  010

Date: Saturday, 11 July 2020

Start:  Coomera

Finish:  Esk

Daily Kilometres:  145

Total Kilometres:  1074

Weather:  Mild and overcast with occasional drizzle in the morning, and mostly sunny and warm in the afternoon

Accommodation:  Motel

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Pastie/Sausage roll

  Lunch:  Chicken & bacon toasted subs

  Dinner:  Hamburgers with the lot, chips, ice cream

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  The Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, despite being gradually uphill, was a beautiful ride through rural areas, arid eucalypt forests, small villages, and remnants from the old railway including some stations.

Lowlight:  The 60km from Beenleigh to Ipswich through Brisbane's south-eastern suburbs on a busy Saturday morning was very tedious, made more so by the number of hills we had to climb, and the number of traffic lights that impeded our progress.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

It was a day of miscalculations.  We planned to ride about 140km from the top of the Gold Coast across Brisbane's south-eastern suburbs to Ipswich, near where we would join the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT) which runs north-west from there for 161km.  Our target for the day was the small village of Esk, where I had booked a motel room.  It seemed very doable and I even surmised we might have an early finish and have time to do some laundry.

The first 25km north from Coomera along the Old Pacific Highway on a cool morning was pleasant enough despite the undulations.  It was obviously a popular cycling route and we saw many cyclists heading south from Brisbane for their Saturday morning rides.  The last section was through large industrial areas, but they were quiet and the riding was easy.

At Beenleigh, we turned westwards towards Ipswich and encountered increasing traffic and some enervating hills.  Everybody was out doing their Saturday morning shopping, and no doubt cursing the two loaded cyclists labouring up the hills on the busy roads.  The route, which we mapped out on Maps.me, was necessarily complicated in parts and we lost some time constantly checking directions.

Despite all of this, we still reached Ipswich more or less on schedule a little before 1pm.  We hoped to find somewhere to get lunch there, but the shops were at the bottom of a big hill and we missed a deli as we whizzed through at speed (always reluctant to stop at the bottom of a hill).  We continued out the western side of Ipswich confident we would find somewhere to get lunch on our way to Wulkaraka Station where the BVRT started.  Alas, we were wrong, and we started the BVRT with a few hundred mils of Diet Coke, some water, and some jelly beans.

The BVRT was beautiful (see above) but it was generally slow going.  Mostly, it was stony or hard-packed clay, but it was often rough, and because we were riding up the Brisbane River valley, it was frequently gradually uphill.  It was a lot slower than anticipated (based on rail trails ridden in Victoria), and it became apparent that we would not cover the 67km of BVRT to Esk in daylight.

The day was warm, and we were finding it hard work, with the added pressure of not wanting to be too late.  We reached the small village of Ferndale around 3pm and felt we might be revived by having a late lunch and replenishing our Diet Coke supplies.  We bought some subs at a Subway and ate them in an attractive nearby little park watching children have a good time in the playground on a pleasantly warm and sunny afternoon.

Then it was back to business on the BVRT.  We rode into the setting sun on a beautiful evening, but still at a very slow pace.  Occasionally, there were gullies to be negotiated, where bridges had once carried the railway, and we often had to dismount to climb out of them.  Once it became dark, our pace slowed even further, and we were very happy to finally reach Esk at 7pm.

We checked into our room, very tired and dehydrated (145km and 1400m of climbing), with plans to have an easier day tomorrow.

Day 009

Day:  009

Date: Friday, 10 July 2020

Start:  Byron Bay

Finish:  Coomera

Daily Kilometres:  130

Total Kilometres:  929

Weather:  Mild and mostly overcast, with a few periods of light drizzle.

Accommodation:  Motel

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Spinach & fetta quiches

  Lunch:  Toasted ham, tomato & cheese sandwich/Toasted chicken & avocado sandwich

  Dinner:  Spaghetti & meatballs, rhubarb & apple tart

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  A magic 12km bike path from Cabarita to Kingscliff that ran between the forested dunes on the right and luxury houses on the left, plus some beaches and rivers.

Lowlight:  Rather than ride the 25km coastal bike path through the Gold Coast conurbation, we decided to ride the Gold Coast Highway, because we thought it would be quicker (there were lots of strolling walkers to navigate around on the bike path, and you ride more slowly for safety), and because we are both very familiar with that coastal path anyway.  However, on the highway, the traffic lights, of which there were many, seemed to be deliberately sequenced to stop cyclists at every set.  Probably would have been faster on the bike path.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

The backpacker partiers didn't keep us awake and we headed west out of Byron Bay soon after 7am after a good night's sleep.  About 6km on, we turned north on a recommended minor road that paralleled the freeway, but after 30 minutes and a few hills, the suggested route required us to cross the busy fast-flowing four-lane freeway with limited visibility in one direction.  It was a bit nerve-wracking, and after getting across, we decided it would be better to ride along the freeway than deal with more freeway crossings.  And that's what we did for another hour until it came time to turn back towards the coast.

Suddenly we were on a very quiet rural road passing through cane fields and pastures to Wooyung (just a place on the map) where the road turned north to parallel the coast with forest on both sides and occasional access points through the dunes to the surf beach.  There was very little traffic and it was a lovely ride until we reached the holiday town of Pottsville where we found a bakery to have some breakfast.

From Pottsville, the coastal road became busier, although there was bike path available in places if we chose to use it (not always easier with driveways and side streets to negotiate) until we reached Cabarita beach when the bike path left the road and followed a beautiful course just behind the beach (see above).

At Kingscliff, we crossed the Tweed River and entered the busy city of Tweed Heads.  I made a navigational error at one point and we ended up riding down a long steep hill to reach a dead-end.  Faced with retracing our steps back up the hill, I spied a possible route through some thick undergrowth and down a steep slope that looked a way to reach a road and get us back on course.  After a few tense moments, we had negotiated our way down the slippery hill and were back on course.

We weren't exactly sure where the Queensland border was, and what would be required of us.  We knew that it was due to open to residents of other states at noon, though we had also heard that we needed a printed completed declaration in our possession, and we didn't have one.  It was around noon, and we decided to just follow the recommended cycling route through Tweed Heads, which closely followed the pretty Tweed estuary.  Although we did see some message signs on the highway about 100 metres from our bike path, we never encountered any police or signage, and before we knew it we were in Coolangatta and Queensland.

We stopped at the Greenmount Beach Surf Club for lunch and decided to follow the Gold Coast Highway north rather than the coastal bike path (see above).  Not long after we resumed riding we passed over the main freeway right above where the police had set up the border control.  There were cameramen on the bridge and the queue of vehicles waiting to enter Queensland stretched back as far as we could see.  It was tempting to give the queueing drivers and police a wave.

Apart from the seemingly endless traffic lights on the highway, there were a few hills to negotiate and the climb up the hill behind Burleigh Heads seemed even harder when we were passed at speed and with ease by a food delivery rider on his e-bike.

We detoured off the highway as we approached Surfers Paradise to the Isle of Capri post office and collected two parcels that had been express-mailed to us there after not arriving before we departed Terrigal - some maps for me (thanks, Jenny) and a new Garmin watch for Julie (thanks, Troy).  [Post Office Lady: "I was married to a BYRNES, once"; Dave: "Been married a few times myself" whilst racking my brains for which relative might be a candidate.]  Over a Diet Coke and jelly beans, we decided to aim for a motel about 30km away at Coomera, which I then booked, even though it was already well after 3pm.

We then got back onto the Gold Coast Highway and continued north, mostly on bike path, through Southport, where we passed the start/finish point of the Gold Coast Marathon.  Julie ran it last year, and it would have been held last weekend, but for COVID-19.  As we continued north through Runaway Bay, we frequently saw marathon kilometre markings painted on the road.  At least it was faster and easier on the bike.

I missed a turn at Paradise Point, which cost us a bit more time, and the sun was setting by the time we reached Hope Island where we stopped at a supermarket and bought some microwaveable food for dinner.  It was dark by the time we reached our motel at Coomera at 5:30pm, and although it had been a long day, we didn't feel that tired, and had managed to cross the border and pick up our parcels without incident.  I fear that if the Victorian outbreak of COVID-19 spreads to New South Wales, the border will be quickly closed again, so it's a relief to be across.