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.