Thursday, June 2, 2011

Midge Point to Alligator Creek

Monday 23rd May 2011

Woke up to rain and a sodden puddly mess of a camp site at Midge Point. Got up and walked to the toilet block where a grey nomad asked me "Is it wet down there?". Being my first interaction for the day, I was not in the mood for obtuse questions from old men who think they are superior because they are towing a thing around four times as large as the average third-world family house where as lowly me sleeps in a tent. (My eyes also glow read at this time of day). I replied with "It's wet everywhere, mate." Other snarky first-thing-in-the-morning replies could have included "No, its actually a ray of sunshine right where I pitched my tent which was lucky, huh?" or "Oh do be quiet or I'll call the home to let them know you've escaped again, Gramps". He then asked the question he originally should have tried "Is there water laying about down there" to which I replied with a slightly more civil "Yes, there are a few puddles."

Eventually packed up the wet tent and rode from Midge Point the back way on a lovely quiet road through rural land, crossing over some interesting tropical creeks and with views to the ranges the whole way. This b-road lasted about 20 kilometres before it joined up again with the Bruce Highway which we rode for another 22 to Proserpine. The road wasn't too bad - the shoulder pretty good from memory and the traffic only just starting to pick up by the time we got to Proserpine. 

Adam on the lovely quiet b-road towards Proserpine

After a quick visit to the information centre (this one was actually quite helpful to our amazement) and trip to Woolies to get a discounted double shot iced coffee ($1.29) and a choc chip muffin the size of my head, we set off again on the roads to Airlie Beach. Along the way we both realised if you're going to eat a cranium-sized mid-morning snack you need to let it digest a little, as we struggled on the remaining 28 kay to the Airlie Beach Base backpackers where we camped for $10 a night each. It didn't help that we rode up the two dirty big hills into Airlie Beach as we didn't realise at the time that there was a flat cyclepath along the waterfront. FAIL.

The flat cyclepath in Airlie Beach, without the bastard hills.

Anyway we made it to the backpackers where a douche sitting on a stool at the counter (I don't think he actually worked there) asked the usual questions and then tried to be a macho hero telling us he'd only ride that far on a motorcycle and then he made some revving noises at us (complete with handlebar accelerator-twist motions for the hearing-impaired). If I was a far wittier person I would have shut this guy up with a pat on the shoulder and a "Nevermind, some of us are tough while others of us just pretend to be". Instead I just rolled my eyes and said "Good for you".

Once checked in we proceeded to not put up tents in a timely manner feeling quite exhausted despite not riding all that far. Perhaps double-shot iced coffees with oversize wide-load bakery items aren't the energy powerhouse that I have always assumed them to be?

Eventually got around to eating lunch at 4pm and went down to the beach. Went to a Thai place on the esplanade for dinner. Drank the free house wine (mistake) at the dodgy backpacker bar which has a greasy pole in the middle (cringe). Stayed there, outside, chatting for a few hours that night about life, the universe and everything else messed up.

Tuesday 24th May 2011

Early morning concrete dugong sighting at Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach friendly cockatoo (as opposed to the ones who eat brains)

Rest day in Airlie Beach. Really didn't do much. Walked along the waterfront boardwalk to Cannonvale and back. Lazed about in hammocks writing a blog post and reading in the afternoon. I'm currently (slowly) reading On the Road (Keroac) because Adam convinced me to do so. Cooked a meal in the under-resourced kitchen, watched 'My Family's Crazy Gap Year' and 'QI' on the big TV with the terrible reception.

Actually the bad shared kitchen and the shitty TV aerial reminds me of the toilet situation at this backpackers. The information lady in Proserpine said the camping area had recently re-opened, but it seems recently means 'that day' as they  had no toilet facilities for campers. They  had to break the door in in one of the condemned buildings out the back to provide us with the toilet and a shower (one to share for all the tent and van campers). On the first day you had to walk through a gap in one of the 'no entry' fences and duck under some no entry tape to get to the loo. Weird.

Wednesday 25th May 2011

Leaving Airlie Beach

Leaving Airlie Beach we rode the flat cycleway (boardwalk) this time. On Shute Harbour road we stopped at the "most interesting shop in town" to see if there was a fix for Adam's broken tent poles but no. The service station across the road had a big sign up saying "HONK FOR THE MAROONS" which we changed to "HONK FOR THE MORONS". This was a bit silly because as we carried on to Bowen, every time a car honked us we thought "Oh crap, I'm a moron."

Took the road off Shute Harbour Rd that heads to Bowen. It was another b-road with sugar cane and rural properties and great views to the ranges again, with less traffic so was a really nice ride.

B-road heading towards Bowen

Back onto the Bruce Highway again, but still with a view to the ranges, we got into Bowen, and after visiting the Woolworths to stock up, checked into the Wangaratta caravan park at Queens Beach. 

View to the ranges from the Bruce on the way to Bowen

The beach was pretty nice at sunset and sunrise, with the wide open sky picking up all the pink and purple hues.

View the Picasa album of Queens Beach, Bowen, Qld

Despite it being State of Origin night, and Bowen (which is pretty scary bogan land at the best of times) it was a reasonably quiet night where we were.

Thursday 26th May 2011

A 50 k ride from Bowen to Guthalungra rest area, all on the highway today. We got to Guthalungra by about 1 pm and the rest area was pretty nice as we found a spot with a sheltered picnic table a fair way back from the highway. We thought this would be great - a nice peaceful talk to no one for a while and just chill out and read. Unfortunately Gary spotted us. Gary was apparently the youngest racing bike rider of his generation or something, starting competitions at 8 years old. He showed us the pictures to prove it. The son of a bike shop owner, he told us the story of starting up a class of his own that they called 'midgets' and he went on to tell us he's been living on the road for 35 years now, at one stage with nothing but a backpack, but now with canvas on his ute. He reckons he drives along the highway at 70 km per hour as he likes to take it easy and all the truckies know him because of it. Later he would tell us we were carrying to much stuff and we should just have a backpack and a racing bike and we'd easily do crazy distances each day. (Yes, but would you actually see anything but the white line?)

A few car-based campers showed up a bit later. We grabbed all the firewood we would find but then Gary stole some of it. Later he asked us to let him know when we got the fire going so he could cook his chicken and pork chops. He asked Adam to help him find more firewood and they were off for ages so I just assumed Gary was an axe murderer. But they did actually return. And they even had firewood to back up their story of going off to collect firewood. Anyway, we got the fire going before dark and just about everyone camping who wanted to use the fire came over and did so and stayed for a chat. It was someones birthday and Gary (who had by now drunk a bottle of Port and some beer) kept saying "Who's the birthday boy then?" which was pretty funny for us but pretty embarrassing for the guy. I think at one stage we had 11 of us sitting around the fire chatting so it was a pretty fun night and the fire kept the cold at bay.

Curiously, Gary never did eat those pork chops.

Friday 27th May 2011

One minor issue was the Guthalungra roadhouse had a problem with its water pump so we couldn't use the toilets there. So it was a case of the wanders-off-down-the-road that leads to the refuse tip as necessary. In the morning a lady came up to me when I was packing up and said "All packed up then?". Grey nomads have a habit of making an obvious statement sound like a question. I believe they are trying to be friendly but really it only achieves irritation. I wandered off into the bush to dig a hole and the same lady walks past. I was waiting for her to say something like "Doing a poo, then?" but luckily she drew a line there.

Bruce looking a lot different now
We continued North along the Bruce Highway and stopped at Inkerman for a "driver reviver" free coffee or tea. We ended up having lunch there. Eventually we got back on the road and reached Home Hill. Here there is a rest area where tents are not allowed, which is quite unfair. There are free showers and power sockets here, and free BBQs. The information lady, when she wasn't trying to sell me a bag of mandarins for $1, told us we could camp in the park next to the racecourse for one night as long as we were packed up early. We checked out the park and decided to keep riding to Ayr to stay in the Burdekin Cascades caravan park there for $16.

There were a few sugarcane fires going and there is black soot covering Ayr, gathering in gutters looking like little strips of black rubber but it is light as a feather and crumbles on touch. It is known locally as "Burdekin Snow" and it covers caravans and tents with filth each night as it settles. No idea what it does to your lungs.

Saturday 28th May

In the morning we visited the autobarn to pick up some hose clamps to try to 'bush mechanics' a solution for Adam's tent pole dilemma. The issue was that his tent poles were splitting at the point where they join together, so the aluminium cylinders that make up the poles wasn't supporting the weight of the tent and bending. I thought if we find something to wrap around the splitting pole, like a cuff, and then secured it with two or three hose clamps it might just work - to imitate how the folding tent pole worked before the splits, but still allowing the tent pole to be folded and packed away. We weren't having any luck finding something to act as the cuff but we found some hose clamps at least. Then we decided we were deficient in vitamin hotcakes so stopped at the golden arches. The placemat on the tray mentioned the "Ronald McDonald Learning Program" which sounded a bit Orwellian to us and we pondered what this would mean. Would kids be tested on the nutritional value of a sausage mcmuffin as part of the Ronald McDonald curriculum? "Nil" "Correct". "I've got an A+ in hotcakes!"

I would say Adam's bike is a little more attached to the golden arches than mine.

We rode 66 kay along the Bruce to the Alligator Creek Roadhouse. We found a shady spot away from the generators and caravans and set up tent and hammock.

Somewhere along the way inspiration we had hit that we could use one of the many many empty cans strewn along the highways and biways of Australia as the required flexible metal sheet to act as a cuff to solve the tent pole issue. So we did this once we got to camp and it actually worked - by cutting a rectangle of required size from the can, wrapping it around the split pole and securing it with the small hose clamps (the screw on kind). So bush mechanics 1, flimsy tent pole 0. Creativity at least a B, to go with our A+ in hotcakes.

And after that, we just lazed about reading.

That night after cooking and also eating some hot chips from the roadhouse we tried watching Dr Who. I was drinking a drink I had bought in the pay-for-petrol section of the roadhouse and the TV was in the food eating section.  The lady who worked in the food section asked me if I had bought the drink in her section of the roadhouse. I said no. She told me if anyone wants to change the channel I'm not allowed to turn it back because "I wasn't a paying customer". Of course someone overheard this and changed the channel to some pile of dogs droppings and we missed the last part. (Luckily we caught the repeat the next night in Townsville!)

I have a bunch of half decent photos from Airlie and sunset/sunrise photos from Queens Beach but I forgot to bring that SD card to this internet cafe. Oops. You'll just have to wait a few days maybe. 

You should check out Adam's website including the amazing photos and illustrations, but you are not allowed to like it more than my blog, ok? Ok, deal.

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