Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Coffs to Cairns - Wrap Up

2463 km ridden 
21 days cycled (doesn't include Proserpine to Airlie Beach day as it was only an hour of cycling)
3 rest days
7 nights in tents at caravan parks
9 nights camping in Rest Stops - a fantastic resource for low cost travellers - get The Guide to Queensland Roads for details
1 night camping in bush
5 nights in YHA hostels
1 night in pub - Burdekin Hotel, AYR - No star establishment - great karaoke though!
1 night camping beside pub - Marlborough Pub $5.00 each
0 punctures
1 mechanical failure - 2 screws broken in packrack
1 pair of sandals lost
xx bottles of Gatorade/Powerade consumed 
20 bottles of Ice Coffee - Tony's fuel of choice at morning tea
xx stubbies - Carlton Mid, Toohey Extra Dry
xx No of times Tony said "Oh my bum" - And no I didn't offer to rub his cheeks!!
xxxx No of trucks that passed us on the road
40.1 Kg weight of Joe's luggage at Cairns Airport
Costs - approx $2000 each including fares

Roadside Memorials - too many to count! - It was better further north although there was stretch of road near Gladstone that was like a war zone. For your families' sake drive carefully.

May 29 - El Arish to Cairns - 128 km

We didn't have any muesli for breakfast and had intended to get breakfast at Innisfail but imagine our surprise when we got up at 6:00 am and a coffee/snack van had set up next to us.  We had coffee and breakfast before we got on our way.

When we got in yesterday, there was the usual signs about crocs and what not to do, but although we like to live dangerously we camped a reasonable distance from the creek.  Turns out there is a 14 foot croc in the creek behind where my tent is. 

 The guy from the coffee van has it as the first question in his FAQ.  Read the FAQs, they are quite funny.

Headed off for Cairns.  Stopped at Edmonton for lunch and then headed for the YHA.

A kind but simple girl at YHA when she heard I had cycled from Coffs to Cairns thought I was here for the Ironman competition.  I think I will give her a signed copy of this photo.

We showered and organised ourselves for getting home.  We got bike boxes from the LBS, Trinity Cycleworks and Joe packed up his bike for the trip home.

We went out for dinner to a restaurant called The Salt House and had a great feed of shellfish and a few cheese platters.  As you can see from this photo, Joe had too much to drink and started getting silly.  Fortunately, being both more mature and relatively sober I was able to look after him.  Word of advice...get Joe drunk at your own risk, its not pretty.

Saw quite a few dead cane toads as we came further north.  Joe is working out a way to harness live ones to his bike.  He has worked out how to keep them together and attach them to the bike, he just has to learn how to steer them and get them jumping at the same time.

May 28 - Lucinda to El Arish - 140 km

Headed off from Lucinda.  I didn't lock down the flap on one of the panniers and lost a good pair of sandals somewhere between Lucinda and Halifax. So if you see them, send them to me.   It wasn't worth the 10 or so km to go back, so I wrote them off.  The turn off to the Bruce Highway wasn't sign posted, so we missed the turn off and did about 6 km before we realised our mistake.  Checked the map and then headed back the way we had come and took the correct turn off.

As we were heading back we saw this cane train that had come across the river.  It was moving fast so I put up my hand for them to stop so I could get a picture.  Good guys that they are, did stop.

Eventually hit the Bruce Highway and headed for Cardwell.
Soon after the turn off we had to go over the Cardwell Ranges.  The hills were not too bad except for this one.  Not a problem normally, but they were doing roadworks and the road was very skinny with almost no shoulder.  A B double crowded Tony off the road and into a concrete wall.  No injury, but his heart was pumping faster.

 Got to Cardwell and one of the first things I saw was this sign outside the hardware store.  

Had morning tea at Cardwell and visited the rain forest centre run by National Parks.  I got a T-shirt saying I had walked the Thorsborne Track.  I only mention this because when Peter Howard and I did the walk 5 years ago, they were not available then. Peter will be livid he doesn't have one;-))

 After a good break we headed off to Tully for lunch.  

We had talked about going whitewater rafting at Tully, but decided to push on so we could beat the bad weather that was meant to be coming.  Pity because Tully is the best whitewater rafting in Australia.  

Tully has the big Gumboot as it's totem because of the areas high rainfall. The Gumboot is 29 meters tall which is the amount of rainfall that fell on Tully in their record year 1950 .

At one stage we were going to go to Mission Beach for the night, but decided against it because it would have been about a 150 km day.  Also Joe did not want to get WET ( he was pretty happy about getting high and laid though).

Another cane train in Tully.

We got food for dinner at Tully and then headed off for a rest area at El Arish for the night.  Saw this Tip Top bread truck that had gone head first into a gully as we headed for El Arish.

 We had intended to spend a lot more time camping in the bush when we first started the trip, but the rest stops are just too good to pass up.

This one was a bit close to the road, but was still OK.  Joe had bought some prawns and Spanish mackerel for tea, so we had a great feed with some beer that Joe bought at the El Arish tavern.

May 27 - Bluewater Creek to Lucinda - 114 km

An early start again in cool but fine conditions. The wind was variable sometimes across us and other times in our faces. Although our speed was lower than other days we reached Mutarnee our 1st stop by 9.00 am. Very neat servo but not much stock. All the pies were beef and there was no veggie options at all so Joe had to get a pack of chips, less than ideal fuel for the morning.

Saw this sign on the way into Ingham.  Of course we know what makes a Maltese cross, but what makes a prawn wild?
Arriving at Ingham by 11.00 am we found the only cafe (Cafe Fiorelli) that was open and settled down to catch up on the blog. The staff were not fussed that we sat there for 2 hours and only ordered tea and coffee while we had the laptop and phone plugged in to recharge.

Back at Granite Creek rest stop Tony Pike who was travelling there with his wife Suzy had taken pity on us and provided some red wine with dinner and also recommended that we go to Lucinda. So after another lunch of lettuce, cheese and tomato rolls we headed the further 30 km to Lucinda. 

An interesting ride along the Herbert River and through some mangroves to Halifax and then Lucinda.  Lucinda is located near the south end of Hinchinbrook Island, the largest island national park in the world.  If you are walking the Thorsborne track from north to south (as Peter Howard and Tony did), a boat from Lucinda picks you up from St Georges Point to take you back to the mainland.

We checked into the local caravan park. Shane the manager was very helpful including showing us where Tony and Suzy were camping. Unfortunately Tony wasn't able to keep his promise of a feed of prawns as the weather meant he hadn't been able to put the boat in the water. It was nice to catch up. Thanks for recommending such a super spot.

A big feature of the area is the "long pier" which is used for loading bulk tankers with sugar from the storage facility. It is 5.7 km long. A bit of an eyesore in such a beautiful spot but interesting anyway.
We arrived too late to buy fresh fish so we had fish and chips for dinner. The battered barramundi was superb.  Here is the pier at sunset.  You can also see the swimming area in the foreground.  It is surrounded by crocodile nets as there is a croc just around the corner at the boat ramp.

Apparently the captain of the Palm Island ferry will not walk down the boat ramp to get into his tinny to go out to the ferry because he believes the croc has it in for him. The tinny is mounted on a fork lift, he gets in and then the fork lift takes him down and places him and the boat on the water.

Another big day tomorrow as we enter the Cardwell Ranges.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

May 26 - Ayr to Bluewater Creek - 128 km

Day started off well. We couldn't get to our bikes as they were locked away in a secure area of the pub so we headed down the Maccas's for breakfast. It was the only thing open. A bit amused to see all the local fitness freaks heading there for coffee after their morning jog. It was the only thing open in town.

Back to the hotel to discover we were now locked out. Fortunately there was a cleaner mopping the bar who let is back in and we were able to access our bikes. We were back in the saddle only marginally later than normal. 

It was still quite cool and the wind was now across us rather than behind. We made steady progress and didn't stop for morning tea until we found a servo after 60 kms.  
Hey, not far to Cairns now!!!

Imagine my surprise when I came over a hill on the way into Townsville and saw what I thought was the ATO FM radio station with a boot scooting picture of Kent Perdrisat beaming down.  Turns out it wasn't Kent, or the ATO but it did look like it at first.

After that we reached Townsville by lunchtime. 

We had organised our trip so that we could take in some of the interesting shows up here.  Whew, glad we didn't miss Sexpo.

We had a good look around and were impressed at the interesting old buildings.  Got some mighty big spiders up here.  This didn't do much for my arachnophobia.

 A local shopkeeper warned us to lock up our bikes in the CBD. Not sure who would steal 2 fully loaded touring bikes (35+ kg each). I hope they have a ute! We bought groceries and rolls for lunch and dinner at the supermarket.

We had lunch in a park in the CBD. Lovely lush tropical vegetation. Felt a bit odd with the very cool weather.

Back on the highway we headed for Bluewater Creek rest stop with a quick stop at a roadside "fisho" for some mackeral fillets. The rest stop was very well populated before we arrived with up to 30 camper-vans and caravans. Many of the residents appeared to  have been there for many days despite it being restricted to 24 hours only.

Excellent fish and vegie curry for dinner followed by an early night.

May 25 - Guthalungra to Ayr - 72 km

The weather deteriorated overnight and we woke to to find that the wind had shifted and our tents were being battered. We quickly packed up in the wet and wind and retired to the Service Station next door for breakfast while we waited for the rain to pass. 

While we were having breakfast Tony read a copy of "The Highway Evangelist - The Voice of the Christian Trucker - Transport for Christ Australia".  A fascinating read particularly the article "Gods hand on the wheel". The wind became less wild but the rain continued, so we eventually got on our bikes and headed for Ayr.

The 72 km passed quickly and we arrived in Ayr soaked through and set about finding accommodation so we could wait out the bad weather. We visited 2 Tourist Information sites where we were "helped" some very nice but clueless people. One moment of disbelief was Tony being asked if we were travelling by car. We were stunned that the woman thought Tony was choosing to dress in lycra as a fashion statement!

After researching some dodgy options we settled for the Burdekin Hotel as it was least dodgy. It was pretty basic and had some interesting residents (most without teeth) but there weren't many other options and we needed to get warm. Apparently it has been the coldest May up here for 22 years. During the afternoon it got down to 13 degrees but the wind and rain made it feel much colder. Being in the tropics no-one has any form of heating and the locals get around shorts and sandals year round.

The weather was still abysmal so after hot showers and warm clothes we headed down the main street for lunch. We found a noodle bar which was just what we needed.

We dried our wet clothes and spent the afternoon in the municipal library reading and blogging before heading out to dinner at the Commercial Hotel.

The highlight of the day was the Karoake Night back at our accommodation. Although we declined invitations to sing ourselves (we didn't know any Kenny Rogers or Kasey Chambers songs) we did enjoyed watching the locals some who could actually sing and some who were just enthusiastic.  I loved the guy singing and boot scooting as well.

Funny old night in this rough QLD bar with the rough locals.  None of this boutique beer or choice on tap, just VB, Carlton or XXXX.  And what was with the massive Esky behind the bar.  Everyone helpful and friendly though and everyone having a good time.

Friday, May 25, 2012

May 24 - Airlie Beach to Guthalungra - 130 km

Woke up to another grey day however we stuck to our schedule and were on the bikes by 7.30 am. With fresh legs and some wind assistance we powered along until we were approaching Bowen. At this point we were held up by roadworks. We had to ride about a kilometer of slippery muddy unsealed road to get into Bowen. Fortunately no accidents and we reached the city center by 10.00 am having covered 80 km in 2.5 hours.

We found our way to Jochiems "Award Winning Bakery". We were somewhat cynical about the awards however morning tea was excellent and the bakery was very busy. We sat outside in the sun for 45 minutes before we reluctantly hopped back on our bikes. 

In order to avoid having to go through then roadworks again we followed a road passed Bowen's northern beaches back to the Bruce Highway. The wind strengthened and we were travelling so well that we kept on riding until we reached Guthalungra about 2.00 pm. Just before we got there we passed a Japanese cyclist towing a big trailer against the wind. We applauded him at the same time thinking he was crazy. He really was doing it the hard way.

We had late lunch before setting up our tents. The wind was getting stronger so we tried to site our tents "into the wind". 

The rest stop was very popular and I counted 15 camper-vans and caravans at one stage. A number of our fellow campers came to chat to us about their cycle touring experiences and to check out our bikes. 

As usual we had an early dinner because of the fading light. We weren't particularly hungry because of the late lunch and we were attacked by mosquitoes as we ate. Another early night.

Obviously a pretty boring day today, so I thought I would update you on some of the cycling hazards we come across.

This one is real common.  Parts of truck tyres are littered all over the shoulder as we ride.  sometimes just bits like this, at times, most of the tread.
One of my pet hates is going across bridges.  Most bridges have these expansion joints and they ALWAYS raise at the edges in the shoulder.  Bridges are often at the bottom of a downhill and you want to maintain momentum so you are going fast. When you hit the ridge, the panniers jump and can really throw the bike off.  Not fun when you are going across the bridge at the same time as a truck.
This picture shows the ridge a little better.
Tractors and boats lying on their  sides on the road are a real problem. Glad it doesn't happen too often.

Water over the road...not good.  You never know if there is potholes or gravel under it.  Swerve around it you say, no worries unless you've got cars or trucks beside you.

Queuing for roadworks.  I really don't like going through the roadworks with a giant Kenworth sitting 5 metres from my bum revving its engine.
Narrow shoulders, eroded shoulder and rumble strips are all shown in this picture and all are hazards for cyclists.
This doesn't look too bad, does it?  But when you are riding across a narrow bridge with ridges at the expansion joints, a narrow shoulder and then there is this dinky barrier that is about calf level (thigh level for Joe) I get paranoid.  A truck going either way generates soooo much wind and vacuum that they regularly move us around as they go past and could easily blow us into the rail. Give me a shoulder high barrier.

Cars and especially trucks overtaking coming the other way.  Scares the fecal matter out of you when you see a Kenworth and a Mack racing down both sides of the road at 110 + km.

 All trucks generate a "bow wave" as they move along and also create a vacuum behind them.  So a truck going your way initially pushes you along and then you get this pull towards the rear of the truck as it passes.  The worst trucks we have noticed are the low loaders that seem to generate twice as much wind as a normal semi.   One of these trucks going passed can push you forward at least 5 km faster as they pass.

When the truck is coming towards you you get the initial "bow wave" then 5 seconds later a major blast of air that can drop you speed by 5 km.  When a number of trucks are travelling in convoy it almost seems to generate a small localised hurricane.  Some of the worst trucks we came across are pictured here.  They were common around Gladstone and Mackay and often travel in bunches.  Wrong collective noun for trucks I know.  What is the correct one?  A fleet of trucks? A convoy of trucks?  

We come across these all the time as we get further north.  Not a major problem, we just lift the front wheel and bunny hop across the croc.  Potholes are the bigger problem.  Wouldn't want to hit one of those at speed.