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 038

Day:  038

Date: Saturday, 08 August 2020

Start:  Croydon

Finish:  Normanton

Daily Kilometres:  155 (click for Julie's Strava and photos)

Total Kilometres:  4112

Weather:  Mild to very warm and sunny all day

Accommodation:  Motel

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Shared egg, lettuce & pineapple sandwich and chilli chicken wrap, and muffins

  Lunch:  Chilli chicken wraps

  Dinner:  Fettucine carbonara/Sundried tomato & chicken pasta, ice cream

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  Once again, the breaks we had during the day were special.  Even though we enjoy the bush and have plenty of peace and quiet while cycling, the rests, when we can stretch out, relax, and savour the silence, broken only by the quiet rustle of leaves in the breeze or the squabbling of some birds, is magic.

Lowlight:  None really.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

We were a bit slower to get going this morning and it was about 6:40am before we cycled out of the caravan park and out of the tiny town of Croydon to the sound of a few barking dogs in the pre-dawn gloom.  Maybe it was because it was the third ~150km day in a row, but more likely it was because we expected the day's ride to be relatively easy with flat terrain and a breeze that was either cross or following.  And maybe it was because we had decided to have tomorrow off in Normanton while we sort out our supplies for the next week's riding.

Our expectations of easy riding were not disappointed and we cruised along at a good pace on an almost traffic-free road for the first couple of hours, stopping for breakfast around 9am with 100km to go.  There weren't as many animals around, just a couple of wallabies and the usual birds in the savannah woodland that bordered our route all day.

That early good progress continued for the rest of the day, with thirty-minute breaks taken after every ninety minutes under the shade of a roadside tree on our little blue groundsheet.  The routine is usually to eat one of the snacks we are carrying, drink lots (flavoured milk/Powerade/Coke), and check Maps.me to see how far we have to go, and in Julie's case, the elevation profile.  There's usually five minutes free to have a pretend nap as well before we hit the road again, and then it's a few hundred metres before the legs start working properly.

As we neared Normanton, we spotted a distant flock of brolgas near a station dam, which was a highlight (though we had seen one solo earlier in the day).  Neither of us are ornithologists, which is a bit of a handicap when we see so many different kinds of birds each day, but that doesn't stop us enjoying and appreciating the variety.

We reached the sleepy Saturday-afternoon Normanton around 3pm and checked into our motel which is attached to the town's Purple Pub.  After showers, we went to the small grocery next door for some drinks and microwaveable dinner, and while there, checked out what was on offer that we could carry for the next week.  There's another small grocery about a kilometre away that we might also need to visit tomorrow to optimise our choices.

Normanton is a decision point for us, and we have decided to continue following Highway 1 and the Savannah Way north-west to Borroloola in the Northern Territory (NT).  There are just a few tiny resupply points, and none for the last 320km (with uncertain water).  The road is also notoriously bad and mostly unsealed, so the riding will be slow.  It's not a route many cyclists take.  The alternative is to head 400km south from here to Cloncurry and then Mount Isa and from there across to Tennant Creek in the NT before turning north.  This route is all on sealed road, with more resupply options, but is a lot further.  I have ridden it several times before, and although it appeals from a "security" perspective, we have decided to get out of our comfort zone and take the challenging route.

Day 037

Day:  037

Date: Friday, 07 August 2020

Start:  Georgetown

Finish:  Croydon

Daily Kilometres:  148 (click for Julie's Strava and photos)

Total Kilometres:  3957

Weather:  Warm to very warm and mostly overcast

Accommodation:  Cabin

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Egg & lettuce sandwiches

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

  Dinner:  Chicken Kiev & vegetables, ice cream

Aches:  Nothing significant 

Highlight:  We reached the top of a long gradual climb at 12:20pm about 10 minutes earlier than our planned lunchtime, to find a lone picnic table under a little shelter which was too good to pass up so we stopped for lunch.  It was a very peaceful spot surrounded by the almost soundless forest, and there were long periods with no traffic at all.  After eating our sandwiches, we briefly lay down on the benches and savoured the restful moment, perhaps wishing we could stay there longer.

Lowlight:  It's a toss up between (A) being identified as a father and daughter cycling team by a passing motorist we later met at our caravan park, or (B) Julie misjudging her dismount (failing to release her cleat) in front of our cabin on arrival, and knocking me off my bike in a chain reaction, leaving us both in a tangled mess on the ground, much to the amusement of a passing fellow camper.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

In many ways, today was a copy of yesterday, except that we didn't pass any habitation all day, apart from the occasional side road signposted to a cattle station.  We left about 6:20am, made good time along a flat road almost devoid of traffic through the waking bush.  There were lots of kangaroos and wallabies about and we even had a dingo trot across the road in front of us.

We stopped at 8:30am after 50 kilometres and ate our breakfast, sandwiches purchased from the roadhouse last night, by the roadside entertaining a nearby herd of cattle who probably hadn't had as much excitement in months.  After breakfast, the road was busier, a little more undulating and the roadside bush varied between savannah woodland and savannah grassland.  We took a mid-morning break at 10:30am then continued on into a growing headwind that meant we got no pedalling relief on the flats and downhills.  It gradually wears you down, even though the hills weren't steep.

At 12:20pm we stopped for lunch (see above), with 107 kilometres done and 41 to go.  That remaining distance dragged in places, particularly as the temperature was now in the low 30°Cs, though there was an overall descent and the headwind became more fickle.  We took a short break with 21 kilometres to go and finally reached the old gold mining town of Croydon (which has clearly seen better days, though is neat and tidy) a little before 3pm and checked into our cabin in the local caravan park.  We were both feeling very tired and glad of the early finish.

After showers, we walked to the small nearby service station/grocery and bought overpriced supplies for tonight and tomorrow.  Like today, there will again be no habitation en route to our destination.

Day 036

Day:  036

Date: Thursday, 06 August 2020

Start:  Undara Volcanic National Park

Finish:  Georgetown

Daily Kilometres:  145 (click for Julie's Strava and photos)

Total Kilometres:  3809

Weather:  Cool and sunny early. Warm and mostly sunny later.

Accommodation:  Cabin

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Egg & bacon rolls

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

  Dinner:  Spaghetti & meatballs, ice cream

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  None really

Lowlight:  None really

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

We left the resort around 6:20am, just as it was getting light, and first had to cycle the 14km back to the highway, primarily eastwards towards the rising sun, so the opposite to our general direction of travel for the day, which was westwards.  It was very quiet, and there were a few kangaroos and plenty of birds about, so it was pleasant riding despite a light headwind and a few hills.

When we reached the main road and turned westwards, the riding became very easy, with a following breeze, relatively flat and almost traffic-free road, and the soft light of the sun rising behind us illuminating the savannah woodland.  We made very good time to the tiny hamlet of Mount Surprise, arriving there at 8:30am with 50 kilometres under our belt.  A small cafe/service station was the only option for breakfast and resupply, so we purchased what we needed, and ate our breakfast at a cafe table.

The road after Mount Surprise was more undulating, and traffic increased, about half of it campervans and caravans, but also a few road trains.  In places, the sealed road was only wide enough for one vehicle with wide gravel edges, and trucks and large vehicles have priority, so we had to head for the gravel on occasions, and were tested by wind and dust as the behemoths passed.  However, most of the time, we had the road to ourselves and savoured the quiet bush and frequent sandy and mostly dry rivers we crossed.

As lunchtime approached, we had to climb up the Newcastle Range, which was scenic but very warm work.  At the top, we found a roadside rest stop and had lunch, purchased from the roadhouse this morning, at the sole picnic table.  With only 28 kilometres to go, mostly downhill or flat, we left in good spirits, and reached Georgetown soon after 2pm.  Before checking in at the caravan park where we had booked a cabin, we bought some drinks and snacks for the afternoon.

We were checked in by 2:30pm, which was great, and had time to do laundry and have a relaxing afternoon, before later walking into town and buying some microwaveable dinner and supplies for tomorrow's ride.

Day 035

Day:  035

Date: Wednesday, 05 August 2020

Start:  Undara Volcanic National Park

Finish:  Undara Volcanic National Park 

Daily Kilometres:  0 (but about 15 kilometres walking; click here for Julie's Strava and photos)

Total Kilometres:  3664

Weather:  Cool to warm and mostly sunny

Accommodation:  Tent (glamping)

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Bush breakfast (fruit, cereal, eggs & bacon, toast, etc)

  Lunch:  Muesli bars and chocolate

  Dinner:  Chicken schnitzel, salad & chips/Crumbed steak, salad & chips, ice cream.

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  The tour of the lava tubes was awesome.  One of them is the biggest, in terms of height and width, in the world and it was populated by microbats and had the roots of trees from the surface, five metres above, descending like stalactites.  In the places where the lava tube ceiling had collapsed, a kind of terrarium had been created of remnant rainforest.

Lowlight:  None really

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

We started the day with the "Bush Breakfast", put on by the resort, which was an "all you can eat" affair in a bush setting a few hundred metres from the resort attended by about ten guests.  A couple we chatted with were retired Queensland cattle station owners who were touring in their own light plane.  Us and them, the two extremes of grey nomad travel!  We ate our fills, because we don't yet know what the breakfast cost, but it I'm sure it will be expensive!

After breakfast, we joined the 8am tour group to some of the lava tubes in the National Park, which turned out to be excellent (see above).  Looking across the vast savannah woodland, you would not know the lava tubes were there apart from the small thickets of rainforest poking up from collapsed tube sections with their little micro ecological systems.

Soon after returning to the resort from the two-hour tour, we headed out on a 14 kilometre bushwalk that visited different parts of the savannah woodland.  The lower parts, near where a swamp forms in the wet season (November to April), it was teeming with birds and butterflies.  There was less obvious life on the plains and on the plateau we hiked along to several spectacular rocky outcrops.  We only saw three other people in the four hours we were hiking, and felt privileged and awed to seemingly have the vastness and peace all to ourselves.

We got back from the walk around 2:30pm, and then spent a lazy afternoon, before returning to the resort's impressive al fresco eating area for dinner.  This time, the kookaburra got the better of us, swooping from behind, momentarily perching on Julie's hand while snatching a chip from my plate, then flying off in a flurry of feathers and turbulence.

Day 034

Day:  034

Date: Tuesday, 04 August 2020

Start:  Ravenshoe

Finish:  Undara Volcanic National Park

Daily Kilometres:  145 (click for Julie's Strava and photos)

Total Kilometres:  3664

Weather:  Cold early then warm and sunny

Accommodation:  Tent (glamping)

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Egg & bacon roll

  Lunch:  Ham salad sandwich/Roast beef, salad & chutney sandwich

  Dinner:  Chicken schnitzel, salad & chips, ice-cream

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  Although it was very cold, riding down the mountain from Ravenshoe in the pre-dawn light directly towards the large full moon setting in the west was a spectacular start to our day.

Lowlight:  Julie got a puncture in our (almost) puncture-proof tyres in the late morning.  A solid piece of wire had somehow threaded its way in through the tread and out through the sidewall.  We swapped the tube for a new one and will repair the damaged one at some point.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

It was damp, misty and dark as we exited Ravenshoe about 6:20am and found our way back onto Highway 1, the Savannah Way, which began descending from the mountains.  A setting moon (see above) in a misty sky was directly ahead.

Further down the mountain, it got very cold, compounded by the wind created by the speed of our descent.  I was cold, with frozen hands and feet, so I knew Julie, who always feels the cold, would really be suffering.  We just silently hunkered down, willing the sun, which was rising slowly behind us, to generate some warmth and thaw us out.

Eventually it did, though we were still both wearing our jackets at 8:45am when we reached Mount Garnet, where we stopped at a roadhouse for breakfast after 45 kilometres.  This would be the last store we would see for a couple of days, apart from the slim pickings expected at Undara where we were booked to stay for the next two nights, so we stocked up on essentials, such as bags of chips and two-litre bottles of Coke, so we didn't have to pay extortionate prices (we'll just have to live with the cost of the meals).

By the time we left Mount Garnet, we were feeling warm enough to ride in our T-shirts, and we spent the rest of the morning riding along the quiet highway, bordered by scrubby timbered grazing country with cattle rarely seen.  The road was undulating, with plenty of enervating ascents, but there were also long gradual descents and flattish sections that gave us time to recover.

In the late morning, Julie had a rear tyre puncture (see above) that cost us 30 minutes or so, and then further on we took a lunch break at a pretty rest stop in the Forty Mile Scrub National Park, through which we had been riding for the last hour or so.  Four kilometres after lunch, we reached a junction where our road turned directly west, and the traffic became even lighter.  There were long stretches where we had the road to ourselves.  The grades were easy, and together with a slight following wind, we made good time in the warm afternoon sunshine to the turn-off to Undara Volcanic National Park, and the park resort where we had booked accommodation.  From the turn-off it was still another 14 kilometres to the resort itself, Undara Experience, including a last few hills, and we arrived at 3:45pm.

We checked into our small tent/cabin in the resort where there are a range of accommodation options, at a range of prices.  It's a bit of a captive market once you are here, and you must pay for a guided tour to the lava tubes, which are the main attraction, but I'm OK with that if it prevents vandalism and overuse.  After showers, we adjourned to the excellent al fresco lodge area where we later ate dinner, during which I fended off two kookaburra swoop attacks on our meals.  A few of the birds were perched in the rafters of the high shelter over the eating area spying out their opportunities. Each time, at the last second I spotted the diving attacker and held my arms up, triggering a last nanosecond change of direction by the crafty kookaburra.  You have to admire those birds.

Day 033

Day:  033

Date: Monday, 03 August 2020

Start:  Mount Molloy

Finish:  Ravenshoe

Daily Kilometres:  124 (click for Julie's Strava and photos)

Total Kilometres:  3519

Weather:  Cool and mostly overcast with occasional light showers

Accommodation:  Motel

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Egg & bacon subs

  Lunch:  Beef salad roll/Turkey salad roll

  Dinner:  Hamburger with the works & chips/Lasagne & chips, ice cream

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  Our last hour of riding for the day, down from the highest point (1,162 metres) on Queensland's highest road, to our motel in Ravenshoe (Queensland's highest town) was particularly enjoyable.  We had spent about 60 kilometres gradually, and occasionally steeply, climbing from Mareeba in indifferent weather through the scenic Atherton Tableland to the highest point, and although it had been interesting, we were ready for some downhill.  The last 25 kilometres through very pretty farming and forest country with occasional bursts of sunshine, underpinned by a feeling of satisfaction at completing the climb, was savoured by us both.

Lowlight:  I had a poor night's sleep in our beautiful old hotel because of a mosquito assault that had me itching and slapping in the dark at the tormenting insects I could hear buzzing close to my ear all night.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

Our route for today was to take us across the exceptionally productive, diverse and scenic Atherton Tableland from north to south, including a climb to some of the highest settled country in Queensland.  Although our planned distance was not great, more headwinds were forecast and we knew that the climbs would slow us down.  We sneaked out of our hotel, as quietly as the old floorboards would allow, at 6:20am and rode south out of town on a road still very wet from heavy rain in the small hours.

The road was flat, with very little traffic, the wind was non-existent, and veneers of mist partly shrouded the mountains behind the grazing land to our left, with the large and still Lake Mitchell to our right for some of the time.  It was a ghostly and beautiful early morning.  Apart from a couple of photo stops, we covered the 40 kilometres to the large regional town of Mareeba in good time.  It boasted 300 days of sunshine a year on the town sign, but it was wintry and cloudy when we arrived.  We got breakfast at a Subway and then, after a little bit of shopping, headed south out of town on the very busy Highway 1, which we were rejoining for the first time since Cairns.  This section is also known as the Savannah Way, and we will now be following it, more or less, for a couple of thousand kilometres across the top of Australia.

We were now gradually climbing, our speed was slow, and the busy narrow-edged highway kept us on our toes, with conditions made worse by occasional rain.  Most of the countryside was farming of one kind or another, but there were also some pockets of remnant rainforest.  We just kept plugging away and finally reached another large regional town, Atherton, in late morning where we took another break at a bakery and did some final shopping.  This was the last town we will see of any size until Katherine in the Northern Territory.

The climbing continued after Atherton, but the traffic was much lighter, making the riding more pleasant, and the countryside remained pretty and interesting, with increasing stretches of rainforest as we climbed over the Herberton Range, stopping for lunch at the top of one steep pitch, to our highest point of the day, and trip.

From there, it was an easy run (see above) to Ravenshoe and our motel, where we arrived at 4pm.  While checking in, we met another cycling couple (British), up from Sydney for a week's touring in the area.  We bought dinner at a nearby take-away, there being no microwave in our room, and went to bed satisfied with another good day.

Day 032

Day:  032

Date: Sunday, 02 August 2020

Start:  Palmer River Roadhouse

Finish:  Mount Molloy

Daily Kilometres:  113 (click for Julie's Strava and photos)

Total Kilometres:  3395

Weather:  Mild and partly sunny with a brief shower in the morning

Accommodation:  Hotel

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Egg & salad sandwiches

  Lunch:  Toasted ham, cheese & tomato sandwiches

  Dinner:  Fish, chips & salad/Hamburger & chips

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  The first two hours of riding, when there was no wind and we had the highway to ourselves was magic.  It was like having our own personal bike path through the Australian bush as dawn broke.  Didn't see any animals, apart from a few cattle, but lots of birdlife.

Lowlight:  A headwind came up around 9am and made cycling harder for the rest of the day, though it wasn't as relentless or strong as yesterday.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

We left the roadhouse at 6:20am, just as it was getting light, in the hope of covering some extra kilometres in calmer conditions before the forecast headwind.  It proved to be a good decision and we made good time in perfect conditions (see above).  We took a breakfast break around 8:30am, stopping by the side of the road, leaning our bikes up against each other, and sitting/lying on our small blue groundsheet while we ate the sandwiches we had purchased from the roadhouse last night and drank our flavoured milks.  Sometimes, the breaks are the best part of cycling or hiking.

The wind increased in strength after breakfast and we had to work a bit harder.  Traffic also increased, but it was still very quiet relatively, as the road passed through lightly-timbered dry grass grazing land, backed by forested mountains, with cattle roaming freely beside, and on, the road.  There were plenty of hills, but generally the grades were OK and we only had to resort to granny gear occasionally.

We had been travelling on a kind of plateau since yesterday's climb up the Byerstown Range, and after about 55 kilometres today, we got to enjoy a long steepish descent from the plateau before taking another break and riding the remaining 25 kilometres into the hamlet of Mount Carbine.  We found the roadhouse closed and had to resort to the small pub for lunch, which we ate on their verandah watching the world go by.  A few guys were playing pool, locals were stopping by, and some tourists were also lunching.

As we ate, we watched the palm trees across the road bending and rustling in the wind, into which we would soon be riding.  Sometimes 30 kilometres, which is what we had left to our destination, Mount Molloy, doesn't seem much, but with a headwind it's less inviting.  As it turned out, the wind was becoming fickle, and although it blew hard some of the time, at other times it dropped away to nothing.

The 30 kilometres passed faster then expected, despite a few hills near the end, and we continued to get cheers, thumbs up, and applause from passing vehicles to brighten up our day.  We have been struck by how nice everyone has been to us on our journey so far.  Motorists, fellow patrons at roadhouses and shops, and particularly, proprietors at the motels, roadhouses, etc, have been very kind to us.

We reached Mount Molloy, and our stereotypical Queensland country pub, around 2:30pm, happy to have a shorter day, and happy that the headwind had not been as bad as anticipated.  We had time for a stroll around the very small town after showers, and then enjoyed a few hours relaxing and blogging on the wide second-floor verandah outside of our basic room.

Later we had dinner downstairs in the pub, which was Sunday-night-quiet after a busy afternoon.

Day 031

Day:  031

Date: Saturday, 01 August 2020

Start:  Laura

Finish:  Palmer River Roadhouse

Daily Kilometres:  93 (click for Julie's Strava and photos)

Total Kilometres:  3282

Weather:  Mild, partly cloudy and windy

Accommodation:  Tent cabin (glamping)

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Muesli bars & Mars Bar/Snickers Bar

  Lunch:  Egg & lettuce sandwiches

  Dinner:  Chicken parmigiana, chips & salad, ice-creams

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  None really

Lowlight:  The wind!  Our first 62 kilometres, from Laura to Lakeland, was not only gradually uphill but was directly into a strong wind (the Weather Bureau had issued a strong wind warning) in fairly open country with little to shield us.  It was a constant battle to make headway, with some gusts almost bringing us to a standstill.  We reached Lakeland exhausted.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

Knowing we had a relatively short day, we slept in an extra half hour and left Laura about 7:15am, stopping by the roadhouse, which was supposed to open at 6am, to buy some food for breakfast.  Alas, it was still closed, with no sign of activity, so we decided to get going and make do with what snacks and drink we had with us.

We soon discovered that the weather forecast was correct and we were cycling directly into a strong south-easterly wind (see above).  Our speed was cut by half, with double the effort, as we ground our way to the south-east.  We stopped after nearly two hours, and just 22 kilometres, for breakfast beside the road.  The country was mostly lightly-timbered, with occasional small groups of cattle roaming freely and plenty of dead kangaroos on the road.  We also spotted a large black wild boar close to the road, but fortunately it took no interest in us.

The closer we got to Lakeland, the more open the country became, and the stronger the wind ….. and the more frequently we took breaks  There was also some large scale agriculture including one massive banana palm plantation and a vast field of watermelons.

Finally, we reached Lakeland, and a small roadhouse where we gratefully got out of the wind and had some welcome lunch.  From Lakeland, our route took us more directly south and what had been a headwind became a crosswind.  Much better.  The country reverted to timbered grazing land and there were some significant hills, including a never-ending climb up the Byerstown Range, at the top of which we took a break at a lookout (that we even had to cycle up an additional hill on a side road to reach!).

From the lookout, we rode the last 17km along the undulating road, with legs crying out for the day to end, and reached the Palmer River Roadhouse, where we had booked a tent/cabin for the night, around 3:15pm.  There was a large motorcycle group socialising in the pretty roadhouse beergarden and I got a few smart comments as I checked in.  The tent/cabin exceeded my expectations for a remote roadhouse and we were early enough, after showers and putting on a load of laundry, to spend an hour or two on the verandah overlooking the famous Palmer River (mostly dry with a few waterholes) where gold was found in the 19th century, bringing thousands to this part of the country.

Later, we had dinner in the atmospheric roadhouse, joining an eclectic mix of grey nomads, road construction workers and backpackers, and contemplated another day of headwinds and hills tomorrow.

Day 030

Day:  030

Date: Friday, 31 July 2020

Start:  Cooktown

Finish:  Laura

Daily Kilometres:  138

Total Kilometres:  3189

Weather:  Mild to warm and mostly sunny, with a few spots of rain mid-morning

Accommodation:  Motel

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Curried egg & lettuce sandwiches

  Lunch:  Silverside, cheese & tomato sandwiches

  Dinner:  Rissoles & vegetables/Chicken parmigiana & vegetables, ice creams & mangoes

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  None really

Lowlight:  We both had falls during the day.  Mine was a run-of-the-mill hitting soft sand unexpectedly and unable to get my foot out of the cleat in time as I went down.  Julie's was an attention-seeking dive as she tried to give room to an oncoming vehicle and hit soft sand on the roadside.  The 4WD stopped and the occupants got out to make sure she was OK.  The rescue mission soon turned into a long social chat by the roadside.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

We left Cooktown at 6:45am with legs still tired from yesterday, brought home to us by the climb up the relatively small Four Mile Hill on our way out of town.  Fortunately for us, that was the only significant hill for a while and a tailwind helped us make good time through the flat Endeavour River valley passing a mix of agriculture and grazing land.  As usual in the mornings, we saw school buses making pickups and the occasional child waiting on the roadside for the bus.

We stopped for a breakfast break after two hours at the junction where we left the road to Hope Vale and turned west towards Lakefield National Park.  We were happy to see the sealed road continue, knowing that, at some point, it was going to turn to gravel, but it became hilly as we crossed the Great Dividing Range.  It was hard sweaty work on tired legs.

The sealed road ended and our pace slowed.  Apart from two random sections of sealed road, the rest of the day was on unsealed road of varying quality.  At best it was hard-packed bumpy clay, and at worst it was a mix of jarring corrugations and insidious soft sand, that was exhausting to navigate.

We stopped for a lunch break at the entry to the remote Lakefield National Park, but there was little change to the timbered scrub on both sides of the road since we crossed the Divide.  It felt remote and endless, although every so often we were passed by tourists or locals in 4WDs, some slowing to wave and minimise their dust, others flying by with no acknowledgement. By the end of the day we were cached in red dust.

We took our last break at the Old Laura Homestead, dating from the 19th century and still seemingly in good repair, though not occupied since the 1960s.  It was a very remote property, more so in the days before the internal combustion engine, and must have endured some weather extremes.  Tough people.

The last 28km was on slightly better unsealed road, with sections under repair, but it was hard work at the end of a long day and we were both very glad to reach our motel in the remote, mostly aboriginal, settlement of Laura.  I bought some microwaveable dinner and drinks from the small general store across the road, managed by the same people who managed the motel, and witnessed the nightly feeding of the local galah population which resembled a scene from Hitchcock's  "The Birds".  The proprietress also gifted us some frozen mangoes grown in her garden which hit the spot after a very dehydrating day.

Day 029

Day:  029

Date: Thursday, 30 July 2020

Start:  Cape Tribulation

Finish:  Cooktown

Daily Kilometres:  106 (Click for Julie's Strava and photos)

Total Kilometres:  3051

Weather:  Warm and sunny in the morning, partly sunny in the afternoon

Accommodation:   Motel

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Muesli bars

  Lunch:  Egg & lettuce sandwich/Ham & salad sandwich, ice-creams

  Dinner:  Fish & chips/Hamburger & chips, ice-cream

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  There were skeptics and people who thought we were insane in the Cape Tribulation campground when they learned we were planning to ride from Cape Trib to Cooktown along the Bloomfield Track in one day.  We were starting to doubt our own sanity and carefully reviewed my blog from when I rode the same route 15 years ago.  It didn't fill us with confidence.  But we did it …. not comfortably, but in good time.

Lowlight:  Multiple hills, some with grades up to 31%.  We had to drag our heavily-laden bikes up with brute force, pausing every 50 metres with brakes jammed on, to regain our breath and composure.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

We knew we had a big day in front of us, and were apprehensive (see above), so made sure we got a good start by rising at 5:30am, quietly packing up in the darkened campground and hitting the road soon after 6:30am in the pre-dawn light.  We had the road to ourselves, as we pedalled through the dark rainforest, first on sealed road, but soon on dirt road with signs warning that 4WD was required for the road ahead.

The hills got steeper and longer as the morning went on, as we climbed over several mountain ranges, but there were relatively flat rainforest sections in between, some creek crossings where we got our feet wet, and a brief stop at the picturesque Cowie beach.  The worst of the hills were dramatically steep, paved in concrete to prevent erosion, and we struggled to make forward progress as we pushed the bikes up.  The downhills weren't much fun either, because rough road, loose gravel, and unwieldy heavy bikes, had us sitting on the brakes to maintain a manageable speed.  But it was also satisfying to overcome what the famed Bloomfield Track challenged us with, and to prove the doubters (see above) wrong.  A few vehicles passed us during the morning, and gave us a good cheer, and in one case, applauded as they went past.  We finally reached the Bloomfield River, signalling the end of the track, after taking four hours to cover 32 kilometres.

We passed through the small aboriginal town of Wujal Wujal at the Bloomfield River.  It was much changed from the last time I visited, with many fine new homes and a well-cared look.  We were now back on sealed road and after a few more kilometres stopped for an early lunch at a small roadhouse, eating at a table in their lovely flower-covered outdoor area.  Only five kilometres further on, we came to a small grocery in Ayton and treated ourselves to part two of lunch, an ice-cream and a flavoured milk. We felt we had earned a treat.

The hill challenges for the day were not yet over as we had to climb over yet another mountain range on our way north to Helenvale from Ayton.  Although the road was sealed, the hills were relentless and we found ourselves pushing the bikes again in a few places.  It was a warm afternoon and we were sweating big-time.  On the other side of the range, we enjoyed some really long high-speed downhills, but there always seemed to be a short granny-gear climb after each descent to keep us honest.  Our legs had had enough.

Although there were still pockets of rainforest, the country had become drier and more open with some cattle grazing.  Eventually, we reached the main road to Cooktown, the Mulligan Highway, and shortly after took our last break at a lookout over Black Mountain, an eerie seemingly massive pile of black forbidding rocks.

From there, we had only 23km to Cooktown.  It was mostly gradual downhill with a following breeze, so we made good time and felt we deserved an easy run to our destination, though there was a sobering climb over the shoulder of Mount Cook before the final descent into Cooktown, where we reached our motel at 3:45pm.

Later, we walked into town and the peaceful and scenic Endeavour River foreshore, regretting that, if we had only been exactly 250 years earlier, we would have found Captain Cook there repairing the damage his ship, Endeavour, had sustained on a reef just off Cape Tribulation from whence we came today.

On the way back to the motel we bought some dinner and supplies for tomorrow.  We leave the east coast now and begin our journey across the top of Australia.  We had hopes of riding all the way to the tip of Cape York, but have decided we simply don't have sufficient time if we want to be home before Christmas.  It was always doubtful that we would have time after our start date was delayed by the closed Queensland border, so it's not a big deal.

Day 028

Day:  028

Date: Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Start:  Cape Tribulation

Finish:  Cape Tribulation

Daily Kilometres:  0 (Click to see Julie's Strava for our walk and photos)

Total Kilometres:  2945

Weather:  Mild to warm and sunny all day

Accommodation:  Tent

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Roll & peanut butter

  Lunch:  Pies

  Dinner:  Pea & ham soup, canned Irish stew

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  As we were following the Dubuji boardwalk through pristine rainforest around noon, we rounded a corner to find two girls sitting quietly on the boardwalk.  At first we thought they were just having a quiet moment of contemplation, but then realised that they were watching a large brilliantly-coloured cassowary a metre or two away that also seemed to be having a quiet moment of contemplation.  A few metres away was another, making its way very slowly through the forest towards us.  The birds did not seem at bothered by our presence, nor did they seem aggressive (cassowaries have a reputation for aggression and can severely maim with their powerful legs and talons).  The girls moved on quietly, and we had some special time with these magnificent and quite rare birds letting us take as many photos as we wanted.

Lowlight:  Not really a lowlight, but while we were eating dinner in the airy camp kitchen last night, a car pulled up in the site next to our tent and a guy got out of the passenger seat and unloaded some camping gear next to our tent, saying goodbye to the female driver who then left.  A bit strange we thought.  Stranger still was that rather than set his tent up in the designated numbered site, he pitched his tent right next to ours.  Later, he came over to the kitchen, and while he ate a can of tuna emptied on to a slice of bread, explained that he had been given a lift to the campground by one of their employees after catching a bus to Mossman and was planning to stay for a few weeks.  It all looked a bit odd (I think he has an English accent …. which might explain it).  Today he has been walking around the campsite and beach wearing a black sock (with no shoe) on one foot, and nothing on the other.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

We both tossed and turned a bit last night, as was to be expected for our first night of the trip camping and sleeping on our thin air mattresses, but we did OK and woke in time to walk the short distance through to the beach to watch the sun rise over the Coral Sea as a freighter slowly plied its way north.  Beautiful.

After a leisurely breakfast in the camp kitchen (it is a very well-maintained campground with excellent facilities), we set off at 9am to walk along Myall beach a couple of kilometres north to Cape Tribulation on a simply superb morning.  Nearing the Cape, we followed a path that wound through the rainforest and along the north side of the Cape to a lookout with a spectacular view north along Cape Tribulation beach where we just sat and enjoyed the view for some time.

From there we walked down to the beach and then to its northern end and back.  Golden sand bordered by dark green rainforest, towering mountains behind and a gentle surf breaking from the sea.  It was a special place and there was a sense, shared with the few other tourists there, of awe and privilege.

We then walked along the road back to the hamlet of Cape Tribulation, where we bought some supplies from the sparse pickings in the souvenir shop/grocery as well as a couple of pies for an early lunch which we ate in a lovely nearby picnic ground.  After eating, we walked the two kilometre Dujubi rainforest boardwalk which was a special experience, showcasing giant ferns, strangler figs, staghorns and all manner of exotic vegetation, before surprising us with a couple of cassowaries (see above).

We returned to the campground along the beach, by which time it was early afternoon.  With nothing else on the schedule, we took a groundsheet and our air mattresses to the southern end of the almost deserted Myall beach and spent a few hours sunbaking on the sand in the lea of a giant spreading mangrove tree adorned by scores of staghorn ferns.  It was magic, just lying on the beach in perfect conditions with a light breeze, the sound of lapping waves, and looking up through the leafy branches to a cloudless blue sky (zoom in on the last beach photo to see Julie sunbaking next to the tree).

Later we returned to the camp kitchen for some more lazing around, before showering, having an dinner, and retiring early in anticipation of a challenging day's riding tomorrow.

Day 027

Day:  027

Date: Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Start:  Port Douglas

Finish:  Cape Tribulation

Daily Kilometres:  84 (Click for Julie's Strava and photos)

Total Kilometres:  2945

Weather:  Warm and mostly sunny

Accommodation:  Tent

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Savoury rolls

  Lunch:  Pasties

  Dinner:  Chicken & sweetcorn soup, instant noodles, bread roll & peanut butter

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  The Daintree National Park, a world heritage-listed site, is a very special place.  Dense dark rainforest-cloaked mountains meet the Great Barrier Reef (also world heritage-listed) at coconut palm-fringed sandy beaches.  It was a beautiful ride through the forest (apart from the hills) and visiting some of the beaches and lookouts.

Lowlight:  None really

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

We left Port Douglas at 6:45am and rode for an hour through mostly cane fields to Mossman, where we shopped for food for the next 24-36 hours, knowing that we couldn't be sure of what stores and food would be available in the remote Daintree region where we would be spending the next two nights.  While there, we also bought some rolls for breakfast which we ate in a town park.  

We knew we didn't have a lot of kilometres to ride to Cape Tribulation, our destination for the day, but we also knew there were a couple of big climbs, which once again, Julie was eagerly anticipating.  Because of a lack of time pressure, we rode shorter legs for the day, taking a break at Wonga Beach and also having a rest while we waited for the Daintree River ferry in the late morning.

Not far into the darkly beautiful rainforest on the northern side of the river, we began the difficult climb up to the Mount Alexandra Lookout on the narrow winding road.  It was granny gear most of the way, plus a few short stops on flatter sections to regain our breath, but we made it to the top, impressing some of the tourists also enjoying the spectacular view south over the Daintree estuary.  Needless to say, the descent was a lot quicker, though I made an unscheduled stop after a branch fell from a tree without warning just in front of me and a piece flew up taking a small chunk out of my left shin.  Just a little blood.

From the bottom of the hill we rode through green rainforest tunnels, crossing crystal clear creeks and ever watchful for the famed but rare cassowary.  No sightings.  It was notable that many of the accommodations and other commercial tourist spots that we passed along the way were closed, apparently due to the pandemic business slump, which was kind of eerie in peak season, as it is now.  We stopped for lunch at the Daintree Rainforest roadhouse where we got the last two pasties (no pies) for lunch and ate at an outside table.  We also bought four litres of Coke to see us through the day ahead!

The last hour involved more beautiful rainforest, a visit to the lovely Thornton Beach, and a tough climb over the Noah Range, before we reached the campground at Cape Tribulation, just behind the palm-fringed beach, where we had booked a site for two nights.  After pitching our tent, showering, and putting a load of laundry into the campground washing machine, we went for a stroll along the tropical beach, and then had a lazy evening anticipating a relaxing day off tomorrow in paradise.

Apart from the two main climbs (and you have to pay a price to reach some of these exotic places), we had a great day.

Day 026

Day:  026

Date: Monday, 27 July 2020

Start:  Babinda

Finish:  Port Douglas

Daily Kilometres:  134 (click for Julie's Strava and photos)

Total Kilometres:  2861

Weather:  Cool early then sunny and warm

Accommodation:  Motel

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Egg, bacon & cheese jaffles

  Lunch:  Beef, cheese & pickle sandwich/Chicken, cheese & mayo sandwich

  Dinner:  Bangers & mash/Pad Thai, ice cream

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  Our late afternoon walk around the Port Douglas headland and town.  At the end of a beautiful day it was lovely to stroll past the vast hard sand Four Mile Beach, populated with walkers and some swimmers, then follow the path up around the rainforested headland with many lookout spots, before descending to the beautiful parklands by the river.  Small groups of backpackers, grey nomads and others were gathered on the lawns beneath the palms, playing games, drinking, chatting and playing music while they waited for the sun to set behind the mountains across the river.  Perfect.

Lowlight:  The trusty Sony hardcase/waterproof camera that has accompanied me on many adventures over the past five years was used for the last time today.  It had developed some idiosyncracies in the last year that made me ponder its future, then two days ago it bounced out of my handlebar bag as the bike jolted across a cane railway line and crashed onto the road.  It lost part of its shell in the impact, and although it still worked, more or less, I got a replacement camera as we passed through Cairns today.  Hopefully, it lives up to the service provided by its predecessor.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

We cycled out of a sleepy Babinda at 6:45am, shortly before the sun rose, and joined the Bruce Highway, and many Monday morning commuters heading towards Cairns.  The road was undulating through the now-accustomed lush green farmland and sugar cane plantations beneath the towering Bellenden Ker, Queensland's second highest mountain (1,593m).

After a breakfast break at a roadhouse on the outskirts of Gordonvale, we continued on into the sprawling tropical city of Cairns where we hoped to take care of a few mundane needs - a more powerful bike pump, a new cycling top for Julie, a new camera for me (see above), and a post office to mail home some more unneeded gear.  Despite some shopping around, we failed to get the pump or the cycling top, and as expected, it did cost us some time.

We did, however, have time to detour around the attractive Cairns waterfront (if you ignore the mud flats) before continuing north towards Port Douglas, our goal for the day.  On the northern outskirts of Cairns we bought some sandwiches at a roadhouse, which we ate at a shaded picnic table in an adjacent park, before riding along the spectacular Captain Cook Highway that hugs the coast, passing by beautiful beaches, through patches of rainforest, and touching spectacular lookouts.

It's a scary ride in some places, with no road verge, blind corners, and fly-in tourists who have just collected their rented campervan from Cairns airport.  Friend, Meredith, had warned me of its dangers, and originally we had thought of riding it first thing in the morning.  But that's also the time all of the day tours and casual tourist workers head north, so we decided mid-afternoon might be better.   It wasn't that bad, though we had some occasions where a nervous driver was reluctant to pass us, yet we had nowhere to get off the road, so chains of following vehicles built up behind us as we pedalled furiously uphill on the winding road.

The last 15 kilometres left the coast and passed through more cane sugar country before we took the side road to Port Douglas, one of Australia's premier resort towns.  The last few kilometres passed resort after resort along a lush palm tree lined road, until we reached our motel near the centre of town.  After checking in and showering, we went for a lovely walk (see above) past the beach and around the headland and town, buying some microwaveable dinner on the way back to our room.

Another good day.  We will now be in more remote areas, with limited internet access, so the daily journal reports may not arrive daily!

Day 025

Day:  025

Date: Sunday, 26 July 2020

Start:  Cardwell

Finish:  Babinda

Daily Kilometres:  126

Total Kilometres:  2727

Weather:  Mild and misty early, then warm and sunny

Accommodation:  Guest House 

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Curried egg sandwich/Chicken, cheese & avocado sandwich

  Lunch:  Roast beef, cheese & pickle sandwich/Corned beef, cheese & pickle sandwich

  Dinner:  Aussie pizza, cheesecake.

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  For the first hour of the day, there was little traffic as we rode through misty fields and rainforest as the sun rose.  Eerily beautiful.

Lowlight:  None really.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

We left our motel shortly after 6:30am and detoured via the Cardwell waterfront on our way out of town to take a look at the magnificent dawn vista.  Then it was northwards on a quiet and misty highway (see above), making the riding very enjoyable and interesting.  Everything was exceptionally green, as might be expected in the region that experiences Australia's highest annual rainfall.  Cattle were silhouetted by the rising sun in their misty paddocks, while the many creeks we crossed were crystal clear and bordered by dark dense green rainforest.

As we neared Tully, our planned breakfast stop, the mist cleared and sugar cane plantations, some of them being harvested, surrounded us.  Columns of steam, pumped high into the atmosphere by refinery chimneys, seem to be the trademark of sugar towns, and we could see Tully's many kilometres before we reached there.  We stopped at a busy little town roadhouse and ate our sandwiches at an inside table (all of the roadhouses we have visited have been strict about signing in with our contact details if we eat at any of their tables) as people came and went on their Sunday activities.  It was, by now, a beautiful sunny morning.

From Tully, it was 53km to our planned lunch stop, Innisfail, and we took a short break about halfway at another roadhouse where we bought some cold drinks on what had become a warm morning.  At Innisfail, we detoured via the attractive Johnstone River waterfront before getting some sandwiches at another roadhouse on our way out of town and riding a short distance to the town railway station where we found a nice shady spot to eat.  Not too many trains pass through Innisfail, and my reading of the timetable indicated that the only one for the day had passed through two hours ago.  We had the place to ourselves.

On the way out of the town, it was nice to see several local cricket games in progress in a large park.  Further out, banana palm plantations, their fruit clusters covered by colourful plastic bags, joined sugar cane plantations and mango tree orchards alongside the road in the verdant tropical environment.  At one point we passed a cane train whose two engines had been derailed in some kind of bizarre concertinaed accident.  The driver was sitting by the engines apparently waiting for help, while the long train itself was stretched across two side roads preventing access and exit.

The remainder of the ride was undulating with much more traffic, dominated to the west by the looming bluish mass of Bartle Frere, Queensland's highest mountain at 1,611 metres.  We reached the small town of Babinda around 2pm, riding up the short main street and past its closed supermarket to our guest house which had originally been the nurses quarters for the adjacent hospital.  It was an atmospheric and well-kept solid period building, with the downside that we had to drag our heavily-laden bikes up a number of steps to get anywhere near our room.

After dropping our bags in our room, we rode 6km along a side road to the beautiful and popular Babinda Boulders swimming hole on a crystal clear stream amongst jungle-like rainforest.  We didn't swim, but others were, while others enjoyed the lush picnic grounds.  Very pleasant.  Then it was back to the guest house to relax.  With the supermarket closed Julie later walked into town and bought some pizza for dinner.

Day 024

Day:  024

Date: Saturday, 25 July 2020

Start:  Townsville

Finish:  Cardwell

Daily Kilometres:  167

Total Kilometres:  2601

Weather:  Mild to warm and mostly sunny

Accommodation:  Motel

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Mushy pea pie/Sausage roll

  Lunch:  Tuna, cheese & tomato sandwich/Chicken salad sandwich

  Dinner:  Chicken Kiev & vegetables, ice cream

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  Nothing in particular

Lowlight:  The last 40km dragged a bit.  It was quite warm and humid and the road surface was rough  making it seem like we had to work hard all of the time.  But, it was the end of a longish day, so not surprising we found it a bit tedious.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

We left our motel at 6:30am and pedalled out of a quiet Townsville in the early light.  It was mild and I was in a T-shirt.  Julie's concession to the milder temperatures was to dispense with her sleeves, but she still wore her jacket.

By 7am, we were back on the Bruce Highway, heading north with a slight following breeze, and making good time on our newly-serviced bikes and new tyres (which despite supposedly having greater rolling resistance, didn't seem to be affecting our pace).  There was a reasonable amount of traffic, but it was lighter than usual, being Saturday, and there were far fewer trucks.  We seemed to get a lot more toots and friendly waves during the day than usual, especially from motorbikes, who maybe think we have something in common (not sure what that is apart from having "bike" in the name).  The country was mostly forested, with occasional cattle grazing, and some small settlements.  Roads off to the right were signposted to various beaches, while to the left were densely-forested mountains.

We took our first short break at an attractive rest area that was full of caravans, RVs and tents who had overnighted there, then carried on, conscious that we had many kilometres left to cover for the day.  At Coobie, with 70 kilometres behind us, we stopped for a late breakfast at a small roadhouse, that turned out to have a very limited selection of food.  We settled for a pie and sausage roll and ate them at a table outside on the beautiful morning.

Another two hours of cycling took us to Ingham in the Herbert River valley, home to extensive sugar cane plantations in various stages of growth and harvesting.  As we passed through Ingham, we stopped at a bakery and ordered some sandwiches for lunch that took an extraordinarily long time to be prepared before we ate them at a table outside.  We were kicking ourselves for not having ridden around the next corner where there was a service station partnered with a bakery chain that we knew would have had good quality prepared sandwiches to go. Not really a big deal, but finishing the day at 3:30pm rather than 4pm is attractive to us.

From Ingham we crossed another 12km of sugar cane plantations before reaching a long climb that Julie had been eagerly anticipating all day.  It was a grind, and hot work, but not steep enough to get us into granny gear. From the crest, and on the descent, there were some dramatic views to the imposing mountainous Hinchinbrook Island just offshore, which is a National Park with limited access and some great hiking, I hear.  Another one for the "bucket list".

After the descent, the ride north was a bit tedious (see above), broken with a short stop on the roadside that elicited more good-natured toots and waves from passing traffic.  Eventually, we reached the very picturesque small oceanside town of Cardwell with lovely views to Hinchinbrook Island and others further out on the Great Barrier Reef.  As we rode through town, we attracted the attention of one of a pair of police officers using radar to check the speeds of motorists.  He crossed onto the median strip and pointed the radar gun at us as we approached before exclaiming "21 kilometres an hour!  You can do better than that!"

We checked into our motel right on 4pm and showered, before walking a few kilometres in the late afternoon sun along the lovely foreshore path and taking in the peaceful scene, which included signs warning not to swim because of crocodiles.  The water was actually quite muddy (not sure why), so wasn't very inviting anyway.

Back in the motel we had the usual microwaved dinner, satisfied with another enjoyable day.

Day 023

Day:  023

Date: Friday, 24 July 2020

Start:  Townsville

Finish:  Townsville

Daily Kilometres:  0

Total Kilometres:  2434

Weather:  Mild and sunny all day

Accommodation:  Motel

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Apple danish

  Lunch:  Turkey, cheese & cranberry sandwiches

  Dinner:  Chicken Parmigiana, chips & salad

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  A picture perfect day for our excursion to Magnetic Island

Lowlight:  None

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

Leaving the motel around 7am, we bought some breakfast at a nearby bakery, and caught a local bus into Townsville's ferry terminal on a cool and brilliantly sunny morning.  The bus air-conditioning system could not be turned off, so it was a very cold trip with the windows fogged with condensation. 

We were comfortably in time for the 7:45am ferry to Magnetic Island, a 25 minute ride across smooth aquamarine seas with mainland mountains and mountainous islands blue silhouettes on the horizon.  Magnetic Island had a very laid-back vacation feel to it and many of our fellow passengers looked like day-trippers.

After a quick check of a walking trail map, we decided to start by taking a short bus ride to the trailhead for the well-known Forts Walk and were walking by soon after 8:30am.  It was a perfect morning for the bushwalk which visited various World War 2 fortifications built on an island mountain top to defend Townsville against the Japanese who bombed in Townsville in 1942 and operated submarines off the coast.  There was also some personal interest, as I know that my father spent some time stationed in the Townsville area during the war, though I don't recall Magnetic Island being mentioned.

The various concrete emplacements, with descriptive plaques, were scattered within the serene bush setting and some commanded spectacular coastal views.  Today, it looked like a great place to be posted, but I suspect it was not much fun at the time.  The very pleasant hike was made even better by some koala sightings close to the track.

After completing the 4km Forts Walk, we decided to follow another trail 6km back to Nelly Bay and the ferry terminal.  It was also a beautiful walk with many great views over the ocean and down to Horseshoe Bay.  It passed through a variety of forest types ranging from arid to jungle amidst boulders and bird calls.  Excellent.  The hike finished with a road walk down to the shoreline past appealing holiday cottages and grander holiday homes.  It was not hard to imagine spending some leisure time here.

Back at the marina, we bought some sandwiches and ate them by the dock before going for one last short walk along the coast to the inviting Arcadia Beach, spending some time admiring the view and day, and then returning to catch the 1:35pm ferry back to Townsville.  Holiday-makers, intent on getting an early start to their weekend, poured off the incoming ferry dragging various bags and buggies.

In Townsville, we caught a bus to the bike shop and picked up our serviced bikes with their new (almost) puncture-proof tyres, and enjoyed a chat with Mick, the proprietor, before returning to our nearby motel.  We then spent a lazy few hours, before meeting Robert, a former Terrigal Trotters running club mate who now lives in Townsville, for dinner in the adjacent pub.  A very pleasant way to end an excellent day.

Day 022

Day:  022

Date: Thursday, 23 July 2020

Start:  Home Hill

Finish:  Townsville

Daily Kilometres:  102

Total Kilometres:  2434

Weather:  Mostly sunny and mild

Accommodation:  Motel

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Egg & lettuce sandwich

  Lunch:  Chicken & bacon melt sub

  Dinner:  Southern fried chicken & vegetables, custard danish

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  Early arrival in Townsville giving us plenty of time to leisurely attend to a few chores during the afternoon, including dropping our bikes off for a service, a haircut and beard trim for me, some correspondence for Julie, laundry and some trip planning. 

Lowlight:  Finding Julie had a flat rear tyre as we left our motel accommodation this morning.  We found a glass splinter that had caused a slow leak, replaced the tube and hit the road, more determined than ever to swap our tyres in Townsville to some tried and trusted Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres, as already intended.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

Thunder crashed, lightning flashed and rain poured for a good part of the night.  We heard in the morning that a nearby town had received 93 millimetres of rain overnight.  When we eventually got going, after repairing a flat tyre (see above), there was a lot of standing water evident as we pedalled through Home Hill (and for the rest of the day).

The previous evening we had received an email from a friend, Graham, informing us that Home Hill was his home town and that his family had been pioneering sugar cane farmers in the area, and may be mentioned on a town memorial.  We did a bit of research and worked out where the memorial might be, and visited it on our way out of town.  It was informative, but unfortunately we could not find any specific mention of Graham's family as hoped.

Leaving Home Hill, we crossed the long and historic Burdekin River Bridge before passing through the larger town of Ayr and turning west towards Townsville through cane fields with the imposing Mt Elliot in front of us.  For about one and a half hours we got payback for our tailwind of yesterday as we pushed into a headwind that made for hard and warm work.  We persevered until we reached a roadhouse we had targeted for breakfast and were very pleased to take a break.

From there, the road swung northwards and the headwind abated as we passed along the base of the mountain.  There were long stretches of roadwork, and some sections of alternating single-flow traffic governed by traffic lights required feverish pedalling.  It made for faster travel and we reached our next planned stop, the Alligator Creek Roadhouse, and had a Diet Coke and a few jelly beans.

Then it was just an hour into the city of Townsville where we got an early check-in from the friendly motel lady, unloaded our bikes, showered, and then rode our bikes a few hundred metres to the specialist bike shop where we had booked a service a week ago, arriving 30 minutes ahead of schedule!  After a chat with the friendly proprietor, we left the bikes, and walked down the road to get some lunch followed by a lazy afternoon catching up on some chores (see above).  We have tomorrow off and will collect the bikes early afternoon.

Day 021

Day:  021

Date: Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Start:  Proserpine

Finish:  Home Hill

Daily Kilometres:  164

Total Kilometres:  2332

Weather:  Cool to mild and overcast all day with periods of rain

Accommodation:  Motel

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Egg & lettuce sandwich

  Lunch:  Ham, cheese & pickle sandwich/Egg & bacon roll

  Dinner:  Chicken & vegetable pasta, apple crumble

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  Flat ride with a gentle tailwind nearly all day

Lowlight:  Getting to within 15 minutes of our destination and having the heavens open.  Couldn't be bothered to stop and don my rainjacket, so arrived at the motel looking impressively wet.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

We were quite apprehensive about today's planned ride of 164km because the weather forecast was for lots of rain.  Periods of rain drumming on the motel roof during the night only increased our concern.

As it turned out, though the roads were wet, it was not raining as we pedalled through the cane fields on our way out of Proserpine around 6:45am.  However, there was heavy low cloud cover and fog shrouded the nearby mountains.  Before long, it did start to spit with rain but not enough to get us very wet.  Pleasingly, the traffic was lighter than we have become used to on the Bruce Highway, and a following breeze and lack of hills also lifted our spirits.  Perhaps the day wasn't going to be as bad as anticipated.

After an hour and a half, we stopped in at a roadhouse and ate some breakfast.  Several customers commented that they had seen us along the way and the clerk was building up the size of a hill we were going to encounter to Julie (which didn't turn out to be big at all).  From the roadhouse we continued to make good time despite occasional light rain.

We pondered our pet hates as we rode, apart from the usual complaint about drivers passing too closely when there is no oncoming traffic and plenty of room to move out.  Mine was the poorly finished expansion joints on the bridges we cross, and there are many each day.  Almost inevitably on the road edge where we have to ride, they are either big bumps or large gaps.  Julie's pet hate is the placement of cat-eyes in the middle of the very narrow road edge which are hard to dodge when traffic is passing.  We might also have added, for today, the cold shower we got whenever passed by an 18-wheeler.

After skirting the regional town of Bowen, I scored a rear tyre puncture around 11am.  It wasn't hard to find.  A large screw had gone completely through the tyre and both sides of the inner tube.  We changed the tube, reinflated the tyre and took a short break before continuing on, not having lost too much time.  Around 1pm, we stopped at a roadhouse and bought some lunch which we ate in an adjacent picnic area.

The last 56km passed quickly and easily through cattle country with some very long straight stretches, though we were hit by some heavier rain just short of Home Hill, our destination (see above).  We arrived at our motel just after 4pm, checked in, and then I rode into the town supermarket and bought our usual microwaveable dinner.

Despite our apprehension and occasional rain, I doubt we'll have an easier 160km (100 miles) on this trip.

Day 020

Day:  020

Date: Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Start:  Proserpine

Finish:  Proserpine

Daily Kilometres:  0

Total Kilometres:  2168

Weather:  Mostly overcast, with mild temperatures and a cool breeze

Accommodation:  Motel

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Quiche

  Lunch:  BBQ with salad, fruit

  Dinner:   Bangers & mash/Chicken parmigiana & vegetables, apple pie

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  See below

Lowlight:  None really

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

For our day off, we walked through the small Proserpine shopping centre, buying some breakfast at a bakery, and caught a 7:45am local bus for the 24km ride to the resort of Airlie Beach.  From the shopping centre, we walked along a pretty path past the lagoon round a point to the marina where we joined a day boat trip through the Whitsunday archipelago to the famed pure white Whitehaven beach.

The scenery on the boat trip which passed a number of islands, as well as circumnavigating the large Whitsunday Island, was spectacular, despite the cloudy weather.  Whitehaven beach itself is a wonder, with the strip of pure white sand bordered by a brilliantly turquoise sea and backed by the dark green of tropical forest-covered mountains with bold rocky outcrops.

The trip also gave us the opportunity to take short bushwalks to some awesome lookouts, as well as strolls along the beach at different points, and a yummy BBQ lunch was provided.  The wind had picked up for the first part of the trip back and some excitement was provided by our skipper playing games (safely) with another excursion boat that was also racing through swell.

We returned to the harbour around 4:30pm, and on our walk back to the town to wait for the bus it began to rain …. good timing.  It was 6:15pm, dark and wet by the time we returned to Proserpine, and we bought some microwaveable dinner at the supermarket on the way back to our motel.

Although the weather wasn't perfect, we had an excellent day, and felt lucky when we heard that trips for the next two days had just been cancelled because of a poor weather forecast.  Of course we will be riding our bikes for the next two days!

Day 019

Day:  019

Date: Monday, 20 July 2020

Start:  Sarina

Finish:  Proserpine

Daily Kilometres:  159

Total Kilometres:  2168

Weather:  Cool early, then warm and partly sunny

Accommodation:  Motel

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Ham, cheese & tomato sandwich/Chicken & cheese sandwich

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

  Dinner:  Chicken parmagiana & vegetables, ice cream

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  None really

Lowlight:  None really

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

Our goal for today was to get to Proserpine, 159km away, where we will have a day off tomorrow.  Knowing it was a long way, we set off soon after 6:30am intent on getting as many kilometres as possible under our belt in the morning.

The first 35km to the major regional city of Bowen was very busy with commuter traffic in addition to the usual trucks (but too early for caravans) along the flat road with cane fields either side and a beautiful sunrise lighting up the fields and mountains.  Although we didn't go right into the centre of Bowen, we passed through its suburbs and industrial areas, encountering the usual traffic lights and roundabouts, and on our way out of town, took a breakfast break at a service station.

From Bowen, the road passed through more hilly areas, with the cane fields and cattle pastures backed by green mountains.  The cane harvest was underway, with harvesters, trucks and cane trains active along the way, always giving us something to look at.  The feel was quite tropical, with lush vegetation around farmhouses and in the pockets of forest near the road.  We were working up the hills, and it became sweaty work as the day warmed up, but our fitness levels have improved, and apart from some gasps of relief at the top of the bigger hills, we maintained a good pace.

We took a couple of short breaks along the way and then stopped for lunch at a service station at 1:30pm with just 38km to go.  The elevation profile for the last leg showed gradual downhill, but it missed a couple of long ups, and there were also some sections into a steady headwind that made it a grind.  No matter how far we go each day, the last leg is usually hard work, and today was no different.  Thankfully, the last 15km was dead flat and we were aided in some places by a following breeze.

We reached our motel in the middle of the small sugar town of Proserpine at 3:45pm and checked in for two nights, happy with our day, and looking forward to a day off tomorrow.  Later, we bought microwaveable dinner from the nearby supermarket, did a load of laundry and had an early night.

Day 018

Day:  018

Date: Sunday, 19 July 2020

Start:  St Lawrence

Finish:  Sarina

Daily Kilometres:  122

Total Kilometres:  2009

Weather:  Mild and overcast all day, with some very light drizzle in the afternoon

Accommodation:  Motel

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  None

  Lunch:  Ham, cheese & tomato sandwich/Egg & lettuce sandwich

  Dinner:  Bangers & mash, apple crumble & ice cream

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  None really

Lowlight:  Julie got a rear tyre puncture (our first) after only a few kilometres.  After a lot of stuffing around (we believed the tyre was tubeless and initially tried to repair it as such), we eventually fixed it by replacing the tube, only to find at our lunch stop, fifty kilometres later, that the tyre had lost pressure.  Although we had removed a glass chip earlier, that apparently wasn't the problem.  However, after much tyre examination we still couldn't see a cause and solved the problem by replacing both the tyre and the tube.  Expensive, but there's a limit to how much you can be bothered messing around.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

According to Google, the only store in St Lawrence opened at 7am.  Thus, we timed our departure from the hotel for 7am and rode the short distance to the store, which showed no sign of activity.  A guy across the street leaned out of his window and yelled across to us that the store opened at 7am, but sometimes later.  We decided to wait until 7:15am, as it was nearly three hours to the next store and we didn't have anything for breakfast and only water to drink.  At 7:15am, the guy from across the street opined that the store proprietress had been at a party in a park down the street last night, and might be sleeping it off.  We gave up and rode out of town.

Initially, we had to follow a gravel road back to the highway.  At first, it passed through some beautiful wetlands (we were close to the coast) with lily ponds and lots of birdlife.  Then it passed through bushland and along the way Julie's rear tyre punctured (see above).  It took time to fix it, and that, combined with a later start than planned to try and get supplies, made an early finish to the day less likely.

We got back onto the highway with about 115km to go to Sarina, where we had a room booked.  It was overcast, mild and not too hilly, and we made good time through cattle grazing country.  After an hour or so, the highway came very close to the coast, and we left the highway and paralleled it on a minor road that passed through the very low-key beach village of Clairview.  The sea was calm, with low islands visible in the distance, and the shore was a mix of rocks, sand and mangroves.  Very peaceful.

We returned to the highway and continued riding north, accompanied by lots of caravans and trucks, and dodging dead animals in various states of decay and pungency on the road edge. At Carmila, we stopped at the roadhouse, bought an early lunch, and ate it at a picnic bench.  After we had eaten, I noticed that Julie's rear tyre had lost a lot of pressure, and we spent more time making repairs (see above).

With only 63km to go, we decided to have another break mid-way to Sarina, and continued on through much greener country and many sugar cane plantations.  It was harvest time, and there were harvesters going in some fields, trucks and narrow-gauge sugar cane trains transporting the cut cane, and stubble being burnt.  After our break, the road passed near some misty mountains that seemed to generate a light drizzle which cleared as we neared Sarina.

We reached our motel soon after 3:30pm, so not too late, and later bought some dinner to microwave from a supermarket across the road.  Not everything went to plan today, but we learnt a bit, and were lucky it was a planned short day.

Day 017

Day:  017

Date: Saturday, 18 July 2020

Start:  Rockhampton

Finish:  St Lawrence

Daily Kilometres:  174

Total Kilometres:  1887

Weather:  Cold early, then sunny and warm

Accommodation:  Hotel

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Chicken, cheese & mayo sandwiches

  Lunch:  Chicken salad sandwiches

  Dinner:  Chicken Kiev, chips & salad/Rump steak, chips & salad, apple pie & ice cream

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  Julie's longest ever ride

Lowlight:  The last three hours of a long day when a headwind made life tough.

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

We left soon after 6:30am in cold conditions, but not quite as bad as yesterday.  It was going to be a big day to get to our booked hotel in St Lawrence, 174km away, and we were determined to be focused on the task at hand.

The elevation profile, which Julie always checks religiously, showed that we were to gradually climb for the first half of the day, to Marlborough, and gradually descend for the second half.  What the elevation profile didn't tell us was that we would have a light tailwind for the first half, which passed fairly comfortably, and a light headwind for the second half which negated any downhill benefit and made the last part of the afternoon a bit of a grind.

Apart from breakfast at the roadhouse at Yaamba and lunch at the roadhouse at Marlborough, there was pretty much nothing else but brown grass cattle grazing land alternating with lightly timbered forests, and low tree-covered mountains in the near distance on both sides of the road.  The traffic was moderate, but not too bad.  Less trucks than yesterday.  The only excitement of the day occurred when Julie upset a magpie and was dive-bombed a couple of times.

We were very pleased to finally arrive in the tiny village of St Lawrence, and check into our basic room in the very atmospheric old pub.  Corrugated iron everywhere, a long verandah, a long trek to the bathrooms, and a jukebox blaring old tunes to entertain the small number of baby boomers, some staying in the hotel and others camped out the back in their caravans.

After showers, we ate in the pub while planning out our next few days, and were glad to get to bed after a long tiring day.

Day 016

Day:  016

Date: Friday, 17 July 2020

Start:  Mount Larcom

Finish:  Rockhampton

Daily Kilometres:  88

Total Kilometres:  1713

Weather:  Very cold early, but warm by the afternoon.  Sunny all day.

Accommodation:  Villa unit

Nutrition:

  Breakfast:  Apple pie

  Lunch:  Chicken & bacon melt sub

  Dinner:  Chicken pasta bake, vanilla slice

Aches:  Nothing significant

Highlight:  Getting a good deal on a 4.5 star villa unit and stopping early enough to enjoy it.  Julie even got some sunbaking in (trying to remove that bike short tan line 😁).

Lowlight:  None

Pictures: Click here

Map and Position: Click here for Google Map

Journal:

Although we had a very nice cabin for the night, we soon learned that we were within easy earshot of both the highway and rail line.  All night we could hear trucks and freight trains rumbling by, although we are both so tired at the end of each day, it was easy to go back to sleep.

It was a very cold morning and we both froze for the hour of cycling before the sun got some bite.  Then, by soon after 9am, we were down to short-sleeve shirts, and very warm by noon.

We only had a short day's travel to Rockhampton along the very busy Bruce Highway which carries a lot of traffic between the two major regional centres, Gladstone and Rockhampton.  It was mostly flat through grazing country against a backdrop of low mountains to both the west and east.  The road paralleled the rail line, and there seemed to be long trains passing to and fro every 30 or 40 minutes, many carrying coal, but also cattle and containers.  It's a busy part of the world.

We had a brief breakfast stop at a roadhouse at Marmor, then cycled straight through to the city of Rockhampton.  It was surreal after a week of tiny towns to ride into a large town with roundabouts and traffic lights.  We stopped at a Subway for an early lunch and to work out where we would stay for the night.  There was a hotel/motel listed on Google about 35km further on, but it would not answer its phone.  Given there was nothing for a long way after that, we phoned the last motel on the north side of Rockhampton and negotiated a good rate on a villa and an early check-in for a Friday afternoon treat (see above).  On our way out of town we bought some food for dinner and snacks for tomorrow.

We checked into our unit at 1:30pm, and spent a lazy afternoon and evening.