Monday, July 26, 2010


Boulia is a small town with one of everything and friendly locals and travellers.

The caravan park was great, especially as the manager discounted the fee. One of my unpowered tent site neighbours started quizzing me and then gave me a fine cup of tea and three slices of banana cake (four were offered). Jenny was her name and a very nice woman.

Then my next door neighbours offered me a dinner that turned out to be a huge rump steak with onions, peas, chips and gravy. A very handsome meal from a lovely couple. One was a former road train driver who hit over three hundred kangaroos in one night, the other a very intelligent woman who grew up on a dairy farm.

Middleton to rest area at relics of Hamilton Hotel 112km

Left Middleton before 8 for some nice riding in some cool air over some plains and rocky hills to admire. At about 45km for the day I entered agape a range of beautiful orange hills made up of coloured powder and pebbles pressed into ledges and blocks. Some stretches of red gravel smeared across the sides of the road, with an orange gravel road all made a stunning sight.

After this range came an almost treeless yellow plain of the Mitchell Grass, broken by a string of trees at a creek sometimes. A major tailwind shuttled the bike along on a fantastic day of riding.

Another bonus, the ancient bore water at this rest area, pumped by a clattering windmill, tastes superb with no after taste at all!

Rest area to Middleton

Rode across some gently inclining land with more of those fine ranges about. The last 10 kilometres the road enters a spacious, yellow plain with a few more orange ranges in the distance.

At Middleton I was greeted by an old farmhouse turned into a pub. You walk into the front door and people are watching tv in the room on the right while you turn left into the bar full of welcoming faces.

Decided to stay the night at the rest area across the road with the sign that says 'Hilton Hotel', with two open sheds coupled together, a kitchen sink from the 1950s probably, spinifex thatching one of the ceilings and a few benches.

There was also a nice couple, Stephen and Claire from Boonah in a caravan with a dingy on top of the towing Land Cruiser. They set up a fire and and cooked up a couple of delicious pizzas in their portable pizza oven. They invited me to join them for some pizza and great conversation.

It was a very nice evening with their company, a brilliant pink sunset on the Western side of the bubble, and watching events across the road at the pub. Some kangaroo shooters were getting ready for a hunt in a four wheel drive utility vehicle with spotlights on the front and a rack on the back for hanging the carcasses. A father and his daughter first whizzed around the paddocks on their motorbikes, trying to outdo each other, then took a leisurely horse ride. The lady manager of the pub would come outside and crack a whip to quieten her barking dogs. At dusk the roo shooters set off in rush, driving the engine hard, when they heard where some kangaroos were.

Winton to rest area 90km ~

Rode out of Winton just after 8 in the morning to yet another tailwind most of the day. The vast, blank yellow grass (Mitchell Grass) appeared again unless a creek gave rise to some trees and shrubbery.

I noticed some exquisite orange triangular humps poking up out of the flatness. I came to the Diamantina River causeway (almost dry again). This river flows all the way to Lake Eyre.

Then more of those hills showed up spectacularly with the classic flat tops and diagonal sides with greenery on the upper levels and glowing orange below. Then a newly made rest area appeared (not on the map) with a charming lookout to all these ranges, including some yellow pyramidal hills too. The only very rare litter about was from the construction works and the place was totally clean.

Winton day off

Had a great day in Winton. Went to the opening night of an art exhibition for two artists, a clothes dyer and a painter. There was free food and I shook hands with the Honourable Bruce Scott, a member of Parliament. He is in a right wing party, but I overcame my Marxist leanings.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I arrived in Winton, the official start of the Outback Way, Australia's longest shortcut from Northern Queensland to Southern WA around mid-afternoon after a blazing tailwind on flat land all the way.

The information centre in Winton is very, very helpful. The manager and the service desk showed me where the free showers were in town and tried to think of other ways to help me and chatted quite a lot. At first sight Winton is a dusty, windy place with delapidated houses but most things are available here and the people seem nice.

The town water comes from the ground hot, so the tip is to have a shower in the late afternoon when everybody has their sprinklers on and the water has not cooled as much in the town pipes. There is a sulphuric smell in the water and you can imagine a mix of ancient inland sea animals, including the dinosaurs, and the ash from diabolical volcanos going into the ancient sand filter for the water.

Camped last night at a free camping area called Long Waterhole, 2km south of Winton. The winds were quite bad, however, and the place is quite dusty. Staying tonight in a pub room. Tomorrow I ride out to Boulia about 360km West of here.

Ilfracombe to Rest Area 68km N of Longreach

Had an easy ride into Longreach from a Sou-easter over some flat land to arrive before 10 in the morning. Longreach has a lot of tourist attractions.

I rode out of Longreach about 11 with a fine tailwind boosting the bike to maximum speed until reaching this basic rest area. With only a big, broad sky, a bin, a table and chairs, and a twin toilet, I laid out my sleeping mat for a snooze on the white gravel with the sun on my back warming it in the cooling air.

A Pommie turned up in a sedan, got out and ignored my big, friendly "hello there". He paused then asked me "you're not a dangerous psychopath are you?". I said, "no, are you?". He seemed genuinely worried, keeping a safe distance and adjusting to my postures as we chatted. After that he went to the car and gave me a can of lemonade and some nice sandwiches. Weird.

A white coloured stick insect was fooling around near the rims of my bike. It moved about like a panther with extra long paws and then ran to some invisible target, loping quickly and rocking forward and back on the skip.

That night a few campervans turned up for an amazing pink sunset on a white lattice cloud pattern. Later some cattle road trains turned up too and made a racket.

Barcaldine to Ilfracombe 79km

Rode in to Barcaldine, a town with only a few square blocks and lonesome streets. A revered town tree had died a few years ago but was still boxed in a wooden protective enclosure, like a post-modern building growing on a tree trunk. A kid bounced a ball against a closed shop wall one street off the main.

I left Barcaldine at noon and the land was very flat. Sometimes the vast stretches of yellow grassy fields were dotted with dying trees. Other times a few more woods.

The landscape was turning into geometrical lines, with the white lines of the road, grey lanes, power lines, the table and shelter of a simple roadside rest area. I began to lose a grip and pulled into a caravan park at Ilfracombe.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Alpha to Barcaldine 140km

In Alpha I slept on a table in the park next to a rest area. There seems to be a great little main street in Alpha, just off the highway going through the town. I arrived there after everything was shut though.

Left Alpha a bit before 8 O'clock and the riding was arduous for some reason, until I saw the sign for the Great Dividing Range at 440km altitude! After that there seemed a long almost imperceptible decline, though with a headwind, for most of the day.

I decided to go for Barcaldine in one day with a little night riding (about ten minutes). At dusk the animals cross the road returning to their night quarters. I passed a dam on the right and there were tens of Kangaroos and echidnas crossing from the right side to the left side. Some of the Kangaroos just stop in the middle of the road and loiter. The Echidnas just make a dash with each of their four legs operating independently of each other. It is important to be wary as a cyclist that the animals may stop to look at you and be distracted from the traffic.

Found a rest area just outside of Barcaldine where I was quickly invited to dinner with Adrian and his family. Our table was joined by Kiwi Bob who was planning to ride around Australia next year and a truckie who had a disposable can of Coffee that heats itself up.

Anakie to Alpha 124km

Was glad to leave the caravan park at Anakie. It is a very fine place for motoring campers but for the tent campers the grass is full of thorns. I also recommend not camping anywhere 'pets are welcome' as the camping area is where people take their animals.

Rode out in trepidation about crossing the Drummond Ranges. After some easy hills in a thick fog (perhaps the blinding fog made them easier?), I climbed a set of bigger hills and thought that was the range. This climb, however, curved to a frightening vista of the dark ridge of a mountain range with no apparent gaps.

I stopped just before this large range at the town of Boguntungen where a couple of Afghan-Australians pulled over in a work car to ask me questions. They told me where there was some excellent rainwater in a tank, gave me an accurate description of the road ahead, and did not ask why I was riding a bicycle which was unusual.

I started the winding ascents with no problems but then the longest ever slope into the heavens appeared along which I had to push the bike the last 300 metres. This one lasting incline was the only major pain on the range. At the top of the hill was a sign indicating the top of the range about 12km from Boguntungen.

A fantastic descent brought monkey noises from my mouth, first down the range and then at a gentle downward slope for a long time. The road on was mainly inclines and declines with the trees becoming sparser in parts.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Comet to Emerald to Anakie 116km -

Woke up in Comet at the first hint of blue in the sky with no heat in the world beyond my sleeping bag and sleeping bag liner. The sleeping mat was also doing just great. I snuck in a few sets of ten minute snoozes before dashing for the showers.

The ride out of Comet was at first an inert drudgery from pebbly road mix and some climbs. After not long, however, an interfering crosswind swung enough behind me to hurtle me along the now flat country. Comet to Emerald is mostly easy and flat.

Rode out to the village of Anakie, a town a kilometre off the main highway. Went into a pub to get money out from the Eftpos machine and ordered a diet coke. I took the diet coke into the bar area where a rough looking set of mugs were staring at me. Most were quizzing me and there was plenty of banter, but one bloke was very drunk and aggressive and started talking to his mates about wanting to bash me. I left reluctantly without another drink as the other people were great company.

Duaringa to Comet 110km ~

When people tell you it is all flat from here on, they mean that it is flatter than before, and maybe flattish overall. Today there were some difficult climbs and gullies, but certainly easier than yesterday with easier slopes mostly.

Dingo was the first town on the way and has a friendly but very expensive roadhouse. After Dingo were some nice ranges in the middle distance to the south which had orange cliffs illuminated by a golden sunlight.

The next town was Bluff with a big train station servicing the coal industry. After Bluff I rode past some great heaps of coal ready for loading onto conveyor belt that passed over to the other side of the road. The conveyor ended at a big metal drum that emptied the coal into train carriages. Some of these coal trains take up to a maximum of 101 carriages, not including engines. One poor bugger told me he had stopped and counted the carriages and proudly told me it was 102 carriages, not including engines. The next town is Blackwater, a coal mining town which seems to have a big rest area and showers available, according to a sign.

Camped at Comet at a very small caravan park for $10, almost worth it for the shower.

Rockhampton to Duaringa 115km

Left Rockhampton 7 O'clock and for the first time headed to WA. The main road out of Rocky splits at a big roundabout, like a prism separating the soot and noise of the east coast highway from the dreams of the road west. This road got ever quieter in stages of elation at the longer gaps between the purring, grinding and ominous hind traffic.

The country was golden brown round hills spotted with trees with burnt black trunks like the humps of a Brahman bull.

The riding was across flat and easy slopes for the most part but 50km from Duaringa a sharp range appeared that got my muscles aching and heating up to a fatigue. One hill just before town was a slow grind like an echidna scratching at hard earth. After summiting this hill, however, another steeper and longer hill appeared where the cars shrank in size as they tracked up the embankment. The man at the Post Office in Duaringa told me the story that upon sighting this second hill, a Japanese tourist had abandoned his broken down moped that he was pushing toward town.

In Duaringa there is a vast dirt parking area with hearths for open fires where the caravaners camp for free. Showers are free with a request for a gold coin donation. At this place I camped next to a bloke who with an off-road trailer camper made in Australia. He had had some high level jobs but had been on the road for over a year. He invited me for coffee and then a fine dinner of sausages and salad with balsamic vinegar.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"The Vagabond" by Robert Louis Stevenson

Give to me the life I love,
Let the lave go by me,
Give the jolly heaven above,
And the byway nigh me,
Bed in the bush with stars to see,
Bread I dip in the river,
There's the life for a man like me,
There's the life forever,

Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o'er me,
Give the face of earth around,
And the road before me,
Wealth I seek not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me,
All I seek, the heaven above,
And the road below me,

Or let Autumn fall on me,
Where afield I linger,
Silencing the bird on tree,
Biting the blue finger,
White as meal the frosty field,
Warm the fireside haven,
Not to Autumn will I yield,
Not to Winter even!

Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o'er me,
Give the face of earth around,
And the road before me,
Wealth I seek not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me,
All I seek, the heaven above,
And the road below me.

My top reasons for cycling

I get asked "why are you doing this", so here are my top reasons in no order:

  • To ride a bike is fun.

  • To complete my ninja training.

  • To complete my jedi training.

  • To get fit is fun.

  • To look for my mojo.

  • To see spectacular landscapes.

  • To separate my needs from my wants.

  • To experience adventure.

  • To live in the spirit of the poem, "The Vagabond" by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Gladstone to Rockhampton

Rode out of Gladstone on the road to Mount Larcom yesterday afternoon and did about 20km before camping near a sportsground in a tiny little town whose name escapes me right now.

Hit Mount Larcom just after 8 O'Clock in the morning and had a home made pie at the cafe and an iced coffee. Then rode on to a roadhouse about 45km from Rockhampton for a quick break. Then to Rockhampton!

The whole day of riding was either flat or with very slight undulations and mostly a tailwind boosting the bike's speed.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Miriam Vale to Gladstone

Left Miriam Vale about 8am after a hot shower in the morning too. Having some consternation about my lack of weight loss. I was convinced that the shiny windows of the roadhouse were distorting my body to make my stomach look bigger, massive in fact. This is an issue I have to resolve as I would hate to get to Perth and still be as fat as ever.

40km on from Miriam Vale is a small town of Benaraby with a very good rest area and two roadhouses. The second one going North does a very good burger with the lot.

I took the turn-off to Gladstone at Benaraby and encountered quite a few hills that you find near a headland. I was told by two people that the route to Gladstone was all flat, unlike the highway that bypasses it.

Gin Gin Miriam Vale

Stayed at a rest are just out of Gin Gin that is very large and busy, but plenty of people around.

I rode out of the rest area about 7 O'Clock in the morning and it was not long before some even worse than the day before appeared. I still did it without getting off the bike to push, but stopped mid-hill for a quick break a few times.

Stayed out the back of the Pink Star Roadhouse in Miriam Vale where they had a camping are and hot showers, my first shower of the trip.

Childers to Gin Gin

Left Apple Tree Creek about 7:30am for some high and mighty hills on the road to Gin Gin, about 50km further North. Most of the distance was hills. These hills were achievable but culminated in a heavy fatigue.

There is a shop after the first set of slopes at a sign post for a town named 'Booyal' which had a school and not much else. At the shop, I bought a 1 litre milk and a packet of smarties. Then some more hills lead to a series of vistas of cows on round hills in the foreground and murky triangular mountains in the background.

There was one small stretch of flat land on a nicely paved highway between canefields and orchards, but then some more hills lead the approach into Gin Gin.

Internet is available at the Gin Gin library but opening hours are limited and so are the computers for which you need a booking. There are a supermarket, cafes, op shop and fish and chip shop in Gin Gin.

Gympie to Childers

Started the day at a roadside rest area 29km North of Gympie where I laid down my sleeping mat, bag and pillow in a concrete enclosure used for giving out free coffees and teas to the motorists on weekends.

Grabbed a hot pie, a packet of chips and a 1 litre Pepsi Max at a supermarket in Tiaro about 25km along.

The next town on the highway was the harvest town of Childers. I call Childers a town of the sneaky host, where the hosts (the farmers, the accommodation providers) are really the parasites upon the workers. It does, however, have a good supermarket with friendly staff.

Camped at Apple Tree Creek rest area just North out of Childers. Not recommended as it is too close the main road and noisy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Short note from Gympie

Hello out there!

This is a note from an internet cafe in Gympie, about 60km North of Noosa, on my first day on the road!

The day began tough. The sky was in different segments of gloom and spitting down cold splotches. I had to say goodbye to my parents, brother and niece at the caravan park. The first stretch of road had a killer hill with a sign warning about the steepness. On this hilly road with no safe shoulder, I had to get off to walk the bike and wondered if a single-speed was crazy.

Once I entered the main pipeline of traffic going North on the Bruce Highway, however, the excitement of beginning a journey quashed the inclemency of the cold drizzle. What is more, a tailwind began to help my mighty galleon, the superbike, to float over the hills. Happily, I think the single-speed will not be defunct on a sealed road with hills, so far.

Gympie now has an Aldi clearly visible from the highway which is great for a tourer on a budget.