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 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.

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.