Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rockhampton to Midge Point

Sunday 15th May 2011

After a pancake breakfast a la McDonalds because the pie shop wasn't open until later due to it being Sunday (that is, "one of Australia's first pie shops with innovative drive through"), I left Rockhampton around 9.30 am for the quick 36 km ride to Yaamba rest area by lunch.

I tend to do shorter rides or before lunch rides on Sunday's because Sunday afternoons are the worst (lots of idiots racing around driving dangerously or overtaking when I'm in the way).

I saw lots of dead kites on the side of the road, and even saw a tawny frog mouth sitting on the road trying to garner some radiant heat. It didn't even blink a rather large eye at me as I rode past it.

Ordered a salad sandwich from the roadhouse across the road. While I was waiting for the sandwich to be made a guy behind the counter with his arms crossed and sitting on a bench at the back was asking me a bunch of questions. When I said I was from Melbourne he asked me what the weather was like down there at the moment. I said I didn't really know as I'd ridden up and I hadn't been there for months.

Sat myself at a picnic table for several hours reading and listening to Radio National.

Finally set my tent up around 4pm on the grass as far from the road as possible.

A Japanese man also cycle touring arrived but he didn't come over to me so I respected that he probably wanted to be left alone.

Had food and went to bed on dark but then a Wicked van full of young German guys showed up to kick a footy around in the dark for half an hour - and it kept landing near my tent which was shitting me off. I yelled out fuck off at one point but was ignored. Finally they stopped. Tools.

Had a good rest here as it was pretty quiet once ze Germans got nicked.

Monday 16th May 2011

Rode about 70 km today to Marlborough. The shoulder was OK in parts, but mostly quite narrow and in some parts non-existent or at least unsealed which was sometimes ok, and sometimes rather difficult.

There is a long straight section where you ride between a dry plain and the great dividing range off in the distance, and the coal railway which feels very wild west.

There was a part where I could pick up a conversation between one of those 'bus full of backpackers' tour operators driving a bus full of backpackers, talking on the CB radio to the truck behind it who was an oversize carrying a swimming pool on its side. The bus driver was saying "we have two girls here who want to get in your truck" and the truckie was saying he only really had one spare seat. The bus driver said "well the girls really only want to have a threesome" and the truckie was "well righto I'll find somewhere for us to pull over" and the another truckie got on the CB and said hey I'm going your way I have two spare seats and the truckies were fighting over these girls they hadn't even met yet. I was laughing my arse off. The truckie with the swimming pool back came up with a stunning retort to the other truck who tried to come between him and his new friends. "Your truck might have two seats mate, but mine's longer". As my CB has only an 8 km range I never did find out which truckie won the race or if indeed the girls decided to hop on any truck.

Once I reached the BP servo about 7 km out of Marlborough I decided it was lunch time and ordered a fish burger AND an egg and lettuce sandwich. Luckily I only had another five kilometres to ride, as my stomach was about to explode.

After about 70 k of riding that day, I camped at the Marlborough Caltex in the little mowed grassy area off to the side. This servo was really dusty and the wind was blowing the dirt everywhere. I spent the afternoon reading the highly depressing Requiem for a Species by Clive Hamilton.

The spot was quiet compared despite being a major truck stopping area and close to the highway. I think the long grass surrounding my tent must muffle the noise. There was heaps of mosquitos swarming above the mossie netting on my swag. It was a clear night so I didn't put the fly over the top and slept under the stars.

Tuesday 17th May 2011

About an 80 kay ride today for a little side trip to the very nice rest area at St Lawrence. Saw lots of dead kangaroos, including a large Eastern Grey about the same size as me and lots of Red kangaroos.

Coincidentally I am reading a book at the moment called 'Kangaroo' which is proving to be very interesting. Apparently some of the smaller kangaroos that live in trees are related to possums and there was an ancient kangaroo with huge incisor teeth that was called Fangaroo. It sounds like something you could make into an Aussie vampire movie, although finding young adult Kangaroos with really good hair for the poster pin-ups to play the parts might be difficult to cast.

The centre of St Lawrence has a post office, a civic office, a general store with not much food in it, a library and a pub. The rest area at St Lawrence (can stay for free, or make a donation, hot showers cost $1) looks out over a hay field, to the mountains beyond, with a wetlands in between. A really nice spot.

There is a small triangle of grass dedicated to tent camping, but there are one or two other spots near picnic tables where you could pitch a tent.

There is a walkway to the wetlands (on the way keep an eye out for Kangaroos, especially at dusk). At the end of the walkway there is a viewing platform or shelter where you can sit down and hide from the birds.

Wednesday 18th May 2011

Today was a rest day in St Lawrence. I visited the wetlands, wrote the previous blog post, used the library to upload it, and visited the pub for dinner.

The wetlands is a haven for water birds. The Australasian Grebe and the Cotton pygmy-goose were the birds I could see that day. 

That night I went to the pub about 5:30pm to inquire whether they were serving meals. The guy behind the counter told me to follow him out onto the balcony, where the cook was smoking a cigarette and talking on her mobile. He asked the cook what meals were on today. 'Steak 'n veg... or rissoles and veg' was the reply. Being vegequarian I said Oh that's ok I'll pass. Then the barman said 'You're not one of them vegetarians are you?' to which I confessed and he said that's ok we've got seafood platter. He said to return at 6:30 pm, which I did.

Arriving back at the pub I end up talking to the three other people in there - the barman and two hi-vis wearers warming stools. The barman asks if I'm travelling on that bicycle. I said yes. He said where from. I said Melbourne. And so continues the questions. It actually wasn't all that bad actually, as there were compliments to be had which I can enjoy with a beer. The barman poured me another beer without really asking if I wanted one and took from my change. My huge meal then arrived and I enjoyed that. Two beers and a plate full of deep fried marine life later I say see you later guys and return to camp.

Photos from St Lawrence

Thursday 19th May 2011

As I was just about to leave St Lawrence I had a look at my total odo and realised I had missed the 6000 click over.

Today was a 70 k ride to Carmilla Beach. There was a decent shoulder most of the way. 

At lunch time I stopped at the 'exotic fruit garden'?? for a double-scoop wafer cone of home made ice-cream. A little further on I stopped at the Carmilla servo for lunch (fish burger). After that was the 6 km ride on the Carmilla Beach road. This ends at a patchy dirty road that forks - one side is a picnic area with toilet block and boat ramp, and signs for crocodiles. The other fork is the road to the Carmilla Beach freecamp. This ends in a very very sandy area. 

I had difficulty erecting the tent as the sand was terrible. Even my sand pegs were pretty useless. I couldn't put my fly up as I only have 4 sand pegs and they were being used on the tent; and were no good for holding anyway - more of a token effort. I thought well it didn't look like it was going to rain anyway.

I dragged my bike through the sand to the nearest camping spot I could find. This was the hardest thing all day and it was only about 50 metres. 

I spent the afternoon on the beach, walking up to the southern end of the beach and back.

At about midnight I woke up and decided I really needed to pee. As I'm unzipping my tent I hear a few spots of rain on the tent, and by the time I'm out of the tent its pouring. I need to pee so there's no turning back. Over the next few days I would find out that unzipping my tent (or waking up with the intention of the same) is the equivalent to cloud seeding.

Friday 20th May 2011

As soon as I opened my eyes in the morning it started raining. Great. I packed up my wet gear, dragged the bike through the wet sand back to the mud road, the rode to short distance to Carmilla Beach road, rode that the 6 km back to Carmilla wearing rain gear and thongs.

At Carmilla I had some breakfast (egg and lettuce sandwich, an iced coffee and I also bought a kit kat for morning tea chocolate break). While at the counter a female grey nomad told me I was healthy up until the chocolate bar before she got into the passenger seat of a car. I always inspire random acts of parenting from these grey nomadians. The old blokes tell me I'm doing this or that wrong when putting up a tent and the women will tell me I'm not eating right or I should ride safe. Ideally I should be able to do random acts of son-or-daughtery in return, like asking them to wash my clothes or raiding their pantry.

Leaving Carmilla on my very unhealthy chocolate fueled bicycle I thought that perhaps the weather was clearing up, but I was wrong. After riding through a little bit of sugar cane farmland it started pouring, and it was difficult to see much ahead. I'm wearing a hi-vis vest of course but you do become a little weary when the rain gets this heavy. There is no where safe to pull up and definitely no where dry to wait it out (if it ever intends to stop pouring) so you just need to plough on and hope no one does anything stupid out there like driving in the shoulder or too fast around a bend. It was raining so hard I couldn't see much in my rear vision mirror; pretty much just a wall of white. I had my CB radio on again, as I'm doing most days on the highway now to listen out  for big trucks, and one of the truckies was on saying "why would you ride a pushbike on a day like this?" Well, if I had that kind of an attitude I'd probably be about 10 kay out of Melbourne by now. Riding a pushbike in the rain is fine, albeit a little damp for the cyclist; its the car and truck driving that is dangerous.

At Illbilbie (insert first dog on the moon inspired cartoon of a bilbie with the sniffles) I stopped in the roadhouse for a snack and to get out of the rain for a few minutes. As soon as I walk in the door a truckie dining on his truckie fare says to me "Great day for riding a pushbike" "Yes, the best!" I grabbed another egg and lettuce sandwich, an orange juice and a packet of m&m crispies (what, is that all?) and sat down for a while. The egg and lettuce sandwich turned out to be the local variation of egg, lettuce and road gravel so I gave up on that and just ate some m&ms (after checking the roadhouse for any grey nomad 'mums') as they were crispy which is a texture I like, rather than gravelly which is a texture good only for road building it turns out. The rain actually stopped for a bit so I headed back out onto the highway (after noticing a dome tent complete with washing hanging out to 'wet' right next to the highway). I was only about a kilometre down the road when I looked in the mirror and saw a touring cyclist wearing a hi-vis vest in my rear view mirror. Initially I dismissed this as simply having an out of body experience as it looked just like I was following me down the road. Once I realised this was ludicris I rode up to a wider part of the shoulder and pulled over and stopped so my shadow could catch up.

Rather rudely I suppose I think the first thing I said to this cyclist was "Hi are you riding to Sarina" because I really wanted to not have to pay full price for an expensive unpowered tent site. Anyway my charming display of etiquette swayed my fellow traveller to share a tent site at Sarina. After a bit of chatting and introductions we continued the ride to Sarina.

The shoulder was actually quite nice although the weather could have been sunnier. At about 1pm we got to Sarina. My plan was to check into the Sarina Palms caravan park which, according to their website, has unpowered tent sites for $25. We get there and the guy behind the counter says $27 and they only have powered sites and its a concrete slab and actually he can't let us stay there anyway. OK. So we go to the other caravan park in town called 'Tropicana' and it's also $27 for unpowered grass site which is ridiculous but when you're splitting it between two people it's almost manageable. We set up camp and shower and head to subway and woolies, and have a chat about life on the road and living simply and things like that.

Saturday 21st May 2011

Rode the 34 kilometres to Mackay, stopped at the Dick Smith to pick up a spare mobile phone battery, met up with Adam again, visited the bike shop to see if they have any Schwalbe marathon plus tyres in stock - nope, and then rode the Blue Lagoon trail down to the beach. 

Headed out of Mackay about 2pm to head to Kuttabul another 38 km away. Caught up with Adam about 15 km out of Kuttabul. He was chatting to two 'grey nomad' cyclists who are also credit card tourers at the moment, riding road bikes with very little gear (two panniers on one, a back pack on the other). They were great to chat to.

We got to Kuttabul's caravan park (Jolimont) at about 4pm, checked in with the very friendly lady ($20 for the site). The camp site had a great view to the mountains.

The camp kitchen here had a wide screen TV and we watched Bondi Vet (with our own commentary) and Doctor Who on it, probably denying one of the residents a large screen footy night. They repaid us in kind with a 3am blasting of antiques roadshow.

After a 10 km jaunt around Mackay I ended up with 84 km on my odo for the day.

Sunday 22nd May 2011

From Kuttabul it was a 60 k morning ride to Midge Point. At the turn-off to Midge Point (after refueling at the service station - egg and lettuce sandwich, wagon wheel) I realised I had a slow flat tyre. This is the first flat in a while. I rode as far as I could before it got a bit too wobbly, pumped it up about 10 k out of Midge Point, and continued riding without fixing the flat to get to the caravan park called Travellers Rest ($20). We got some great grassy camping spots right next to the beach, but unfortunately it rained intermittently during the rest of the day, and most of the night. Midge Point does have midgees, I can confirm. I fixed my flat, realised my rear Marathon Dureme tyre is far more bald than I realised, so had to actually put a boot in the tyre where the tyre has ripped on the inside. I also realised my rear brakes is a little bit broken so I'll have to get that fixed next time I am in a bike-shop-town, hopefully Townsville.

Adam on the road to Midge Point

A wetlands area on the way to Midge Point

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Back on the road

Thursday 5th May

After waiting around forever in Brisbane - well three months - for the Bruce Highway to stop closing every second day due to flooding and nature kicking our arses and other things, and then having to deal with com-fits and chats to police when I caught a burgular in the backroom of my folks house who had stolen my Dad's wallet, I finally got around to leaving on the next leg of this big ol' bike tour.

I caught the train from my folks all the way to Caboolture. The train trip was rather long, standing up, holding onto my ladden steel horse to prevent it biting or kicking the fellow passengers, or falling over.

I was entertained by a Caboolture man telling his tale of giving up smoking only for his wife to get breast cancer and the stress making him smoke again, and then when his wife was in remission having his house broken into and getting in the way of a man wielding a knife and almost losing his arm. Finally, the train got in to Caboolture, around 12:30 pm.

Made it out of Caboolture without even a single stab wound to ride Beerburrum Road and Steve Irwin Way with no shoulder - I don't recommend it. [Insert I'd give my right arm, or someones arm anyway, for a decent shoulder joke here]

The only really nice part of this route is the glimpses of the Glasshouse Mountains including the pointy one which I've always called the Pinnacle, although I'm not sure of its real name, and the mountain that reminds me of a gorilla, Tibrogarrin - a huge wide mass of a thing. There's one bit where you come around a bend in the road and there is Tibrogarrin looming upon you even though it is a fair way off. The traditional owners found this mountain of some spiritual significance, and I guess I feel it to, in a its-a-huge-gorilla kind-of-a-way. I don't know - I guess the big lump just seems alive. It is certainly imposing.

Tibogarrin looming around the bend

This path beside Steve Irwin Way had a lot of potential for fun, but unfortunately only lasted about 1 km.

 I remember going on a hike around this area in my early teens - all I really remember is the topographic map we had, laughing at 'The Pin' because we we're impossibly easily amused, The Gorilla, pinapples, and lots of walking, as you'd expect.

Back to the ride, there was one part of Steve Irwin Road where roadworks cut the road down to one lane with a stop-and-go man letting alternative directions through in turn. I rode up to beside the car at the start of the queue on the stubble grass that passes for the nature strip beside the road, much to the displeasure of the line of cars. The stop-go man called me over and asked where I was riding to and where from. He then said he'd let me through first and give me a head start on the cars. Yes! This was great as there wasn't enough room for cars beside me which means a kilometre line of cars being very impatient and trying to squash me - and probably succeeding. Anyway I now had a challenge so on the green light I raced off with one eager eye on the end of the roadworks about 300 metres ahead and the other eager eye on my rear view mirror awaiting the descent of the line of cars beside me. Happily, and needless to say as I'm talking to you now, I made it through before the cars and even another 200 metres before they came through. I thought I was pretty good. In reality they probably had to move machinery around without cars in the way.

Further up on Glasshouse Mountains Rd there is a lake, or wetlands really, which I really should have stopped at to take some photos as the sun was setting over it and there was birds taking off n stuff. But I was pretty eager to find camp at this stage as riding with no real shoulder at dusk is stupid.

About ten to five, after about 40 km, I made it to my camp for the night - a rest area called Jowarra Park, which is eight kilometres north-east of Landsborough on Glasshouse Mountains Rd. I found some grass to set up the swag and after cooking some lentil dhal and rice, doing a bit of reading of Tina Fey's Bossypants, I hit the hay to the old familiar sounds of heavy truck traffic and engine brakes. Zzzzzz.

Sun setting on the first day (looking back)

Friday 6th May

Back in the planning stages, I put on a map to ride the b-road way for about 70 kays to my next camp, just past Yandina. However there was a stretch of this that looked interesting - through a forest - but turns out its a dirt road - and given the weather Queensland's been having, would likely be pretty impassable [insert memories of the Murray River 'dirt' road here]. So I was stuck on the stupid Bruce Highway. I got to Yandina (I think 40 kay) by 10.30am and the camp was only two km further on. I just hung around at Yandina until lunch time, went to the bakery, and then rode off to the campsite - Browns Creek Rest Area - which I got to by 1 pm.

Here I thought about putting up the hammock but was too lazy to dig it out of the bottom of a pannier - that's pretty lazy!

One of the other 'campers' was an old couple with a bus with a trailer with a torago van on the back with a dinghy on the roof of the van. Christ! When I got there he had a sander out sanding away at something in an otherwise idyllic bit of bush by a creek. Later his wife collected some firewood and he got a full-size petol chainsaw out to cut it up. I have seen it all.

I just did some more reading, when the neighbours weren't making such a racket, put my tent up around 4pm, and got to cooking and eating.

Some people invited me to join their campfire chat group but I didn't feel like having to answer the usual questions so was antisocial. I already said g'day to one bloke. I had made quota.

Being this lazy makes me sleepy so I went to sleep pretty early.

Saturday 7th May

This day I was going to ride about 50 km to Amamoor but this involved Traverston Crossing Road which involves a dirty big hill. Instead I decided to ride 85 km to a rest area a few kilometres out of Gympie. There was another rest area I guess 5 or 10 km out of Gympie which looked nice and had water, but I kept riding to the next one. The next one was muddy, small and very close to the freeway, with no drinkable water. It is however right next to a wetlands which is nice in the afternoon and morning light with lots of interesting birds and reflections. This rest area is also a park-and-ride which I don't really understand but I guess parking is an issue and I guess its cheaper to drive to a few kilometres out of Gympie and catch the bus? I don't really know how big Gympie is as I didn't go into the city - I only stuck to the Bruce Highway outskirts which is your usual city outskirts of borderline industrial industry. Anyway I got a few strange looks from the people on the buses, me sitting beside my swag like a hobo (It's apparently much more stylish to sleep in the back of a station wagon). The name of the rest area was the Chatsworth Park Rest Area.

Sunday 8th May

Rode an early 60 km before lunchtime to get to the Tiaro rest area which is behind the hotel. Felt pretty good about having ridden 60 km in a few hours as the quality of the roads (especially the shoulders) leaves a lot to be desired, with only small patches of wide bitumen shoulder where you don't have to be contantly popping off the road into the grass or slippery gravel.

After lunch I set up camp and a lady who had seen me at Browns Creek rest area two days earlier was there, telling me she had seen me before and I was travelling fast.

There is another rest area further up the road a little but it is apparently a fairly small area.

Monday 9th May

This was a tough day. It had rained a little overnight and when I woke up until about 3pm it didn't really stop. There was very few kilometres of good shoulder, a lot of oversize trucks delivering stuff to the mines up North (parts of buildings, demountables, very large dump trucks). These oversize trucks would plague me all week.

By the time I got to Childers I had just about had enough. But I kept riding onto the rest area called "Apple Tree Creek" 7 km North of Childers.

Earlier in the day I saw a couple (one male, one female) who were probably cycling to Childers (and doing it a lot faster than me, too, travelling light) and I saw a couple of blokes riding south fully loaded in Childers (we just waved and smiled from opposite sides of the road).

With a crappy road, a few hills thrown in, rain and dealing with oversize trucks sneaking up and forcing me from the road, I felt like in those conditions 90 kilometres is probably my maximum distance for sanity.

It had finally stopped raining by the time I got to the shelter (picnic table with roof over the top). Yes, stop raining now that I have a freaking roof, will you?

Tuesday 10th May

Rode a quick 50 km to Gin Gin, visited the bakery (garlic prawn pie) and the IGA, chatted to local Mark who used to do some cycle touring in his youth and now lives in a van on a mountain, doing his art.

Rode another two kilometres to the Gin Gin Rest Area which has drinkable water and I found a grassy area a way back from the road for a bit of quiet.

Wednesday 11th May

Road 60 kilometres to the Granite Creek rest area. This day really tested me because the road was so poor and the oversize trucks were thick and fast. I think there wasn't any water here, but I can't remember now.
The start of a winding downhill north of Gin Gin the truckies call the "Dipper". No lines and no room for bikes either. You see this sign a lot in Qld due to unfinished roadworks (flood and lack of money involved). It's fine to overtake unsafely when this sign isn't present.

Thursday 12th May

Rode about 90 kilometres to the lovely Boyne River Rest Area which 49 k N of Miriam Vale. There is water here and a grotty shower cubicle. Today didn't feel so bad - I think there was a decent shoulder a lot of the way. I stopped at Miriam Vale for lunch (fish burger) and the general store here is one of the "charge three times as much for everything" ones. I was getting low on rice and red lentils and they didn't have these items at a price I could afford so I ended up getting rice noodles and tuna which for some reason were cheaper.

Boyne River rest area is really nice because there is a grassy area that goes well back from the road (I pitched my tent way up against the fence at the back for maximum quiet) and it has really nice views to the Boyne River.

Boyne River in the background

Friday 13th May

Rode a quick 50 kilometres to Mt Larcom which is a tiny town. Stayed at the caravan park for $10. Rode into town and had lunch, bought some supplies from the general store and read the local paper in the library.

Had my first real shower in many many days.

Saturday 14th May

Rode 75 kilometres into Rockhampton and grabbed some lunch from in town. Rode over the river and checked into the Rocky YHA at 2pm($22), had a shower (getting spoilt), washed my clothes, changed into my civvies (whoo jeans, not shorts) and rode over to the Stocklands shopping centre to buy some thongs (lost a pair again) and actually find a 500 gram bag of rice and some red lentils at the supermarket. Bought a pizza from Pizza Capers (Savanna seafood is delicious) and went back to lie in a bed and do some reading.

Didn't do any touristy things like visit the botanical gardens, because I just couldn't be bothered. Probably need a rest day :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tour video

I'm just starting out with this whole video editing caper and didn't do a lot of filming during the first chunk of the tour from Melbourne to Brisbane (via the Murray).

I'll probably do more filming, especially when I get to the west coast. 

I made this on my 'getting on' laptop using Microsoft Movie Maker so I was limited in how clever I could be with sync'ing music and visuals unfortunately.

I have a mobile-phone sized video camera called a Flip Mino-HD which is very compact for its high-definition shooting.

Anyway, without further ado, my first film from the tour...