The round Australia ride finished back in Canberra on 2 December 2008 after seven months and one day on the road, with 15,840 kms under the tyres and a new appreciation for this vast country.  Some observations and anecdotes from the ride up the east coast to Cairns: (click on any picture for a larger version)

A high-octane start to the ride 

Getting ready to leave 1 May 2008

Our tank filling mate Lother there on
the left on a previous training ride to Lake George

We left Canberra at 8.30am on the First of May after a send-off breakfast attended by 50 odd friends and relatives.  We were accompanied for the first few kilometres by Lother, whom we had met near Lake George one day on a training ride. 

As the suburbs of Canberra gave way to the highway, Lother bid us farewell, and produced a couple of two litre drink bottles that had been turned into food containers by cutting a clever lid with a knife, and inside were a selection of high-carb treats, including oatmeal cakes and biscuits, all hand-made obviously.  We managed to keep the contents rationed at tea stops for the next three days until the last stale crumbs were despatched somewhere between Mittagong and Camden.  The extra boost these high-carb concoctions gave us were a pointer to how a suitable diet would help see us through the long pedals ahead.  So thanks Lother, the gesture, and the food, were both sincerely appreciated! 

Experience, and disaster averted 

Riding with the BUGgers near Bundanoon

We scored a fantastic camping opportunity at Bundanoon on the lush green lawns of the YHA.  Use of the hostel kitchen combined with the comfort of our tents made for a very pleasant stopover.  The hostel manager introduced us to a group of riders from Sydney, the St George Bike Users Group or BUG as they were known, who were cycling to Moss Vale and we were invited to join them.  It was fun riding with a diverse group whose sole aim was the complete enjoyment of a quiet ‘bike stroll’ through the Southern Highlands.  Although we had 30kgs of gear to haul, we had no difficulty keeping up with the leaders.   

However, at one point I nearly came a cropper.  On a fast downhill run I gave my bike and trailer free rein and was scooting past some of the BUGgers (can I call them that?) at over 40km/hr when I turned my head to say something to someone, and momentarily my balance was distracted and the bike began to wobble quite severely.  Luckily the long and sometimes arduous preparations for the ride included getting used to the trailer’s behaviour, which instantly clicked into place and I locked up my arms and just managed to scrape through the wild swinging from side to side of the bike as the trailer sought to unseat me.  I knew how close I had come to crashing out of the ride, and for the rest of the ride I never again took the bike for granted when my concentration threatened to lapse. 

The deepest rail cutting in Straya between Mittagong and Picton.  Getting the bikes down and up again was hard work! On the Old Pacific Highway between Hornsby and Gosford.  The photo stop was a good excuse to stop climbing for a brief rest. A short ferry ride from Newcastle saw us heading along the cycle path to the Stockton caravan park.

A bum steer at Picton 

We chose to leave the Hume Highway at Mittagong and head towards Sydney on the old highway, a quiet back road these days.  We both remembered a notorious hill from trips to Sydney in our youth, the dreaded ‘Razorback’ at Picton, which brought back memories of long slow climbs in cars stuck behind chugging trucks.  Armed with this (somewhat misleading) knowledge of the upcoming horrendous climb, we enquired of the Tourist Information Office as to the possibility of an alternative route that did not involve climbing the dreaded Razorback.  The young chap at the TIC turned out to be a keen cyclist himself and recommended a route through Douglas Park.  “Nah mate, there are hills but not too bad, you’ll sail up them, not as steep mate”.   

To cut a long climbing grinding story short, his idea of a not very steep hill and ours proved to be incompatible.  Two of the climbs, though perhaps not as long as the Razorback, threatened to have us pushing the bikes up on foot.  I was down to 4.5km/hr on at least two occasions, which is about as slow as it is possible to keep going on the bike.  After that little episode we both treated local expert advice about hills with a very large grain of salt, and as the ride continued we learnt that almost always the gradients on the major roads were less than the minor roads. 

What we missed (didn't miss) in Sydney

Giving Pennant Hills Road a miss 

As we approached Sydney we began to have doubts about the wisdom of riding through the metropolis.  The route from Camden to Hornsby would have been OK but for Pennant Hills Road, an eight km section of busy road with no verge whatsoever.  As we pondered the merits of finding a quieter route through Pennant Hills, we agreed that there was nothing to be gained by riding through Sydney other than a lot of angst.  We wouldn’t miss out on any scenery along the M7 and M2 freeways, and it made more sense to give the whole hole a miss. 

So, having been advised by the BUGgers at Bundanoon that we could take our bicycles on the train for free out of peak hours, we rode from Camden to Campbelltown railway station and caught a comfortable stress-free ride to Hornsby to join the Old Pacific Highway and freedom. 

Adventures on the F3 Freeway 

We shoulda gone right not left

The Old Pacific Highway runs more or less parallel to the freeway, but it is a lot hillier and winding than the newer road.  We set out from Hornsby knowing it would be a good test, and it was.  After climbing out of the Hawkesbury River Bridge for an hour we were rewarded with some great views and further ups and downs until we came to the Peats Ridge Road, where we had intended to turn right towards Gosford.  But the road was closed, due to a washaway earlier in the year.  

By the time we had struggled to this point, it was nearly 5pm and we had at best one hour of daylight left.  To go around via the alternative route would have taken 2 hours.  Pete suggested we head on down to the washaway and camp if we couldn’t get through, which in hindsight would have been the sensible choice.  However I knew that the freeway was only a few hundred metres away up a bank, and just a few kilometres along the freeway we could turn down into Gosford and be there before dark. I suggested we take this route to get to Gosford and the comforts of a caravan park. 

The freeway has a nice wide verge, however we didn’t count on the short-sightedness of the NSW traffic engineers who designed the bridge over the Mooney Mooney Creek, which had absolutely no verge or footpath.  On the way to this bridge, even in the breakdown lane we were being buffeted by the three lanes of non-stop traffic.  I was ahead as we descended the long curve to the bridge, and as it came into sight I made a split-second decision to continue across, hoping the traffic would go around me for the 480m trip across the bridge.  Luckily, during the minute it took to pedal the distance, there were no trucks in the left lane and the cars were able to go around me.  I pedalled up to a rest area where I found a radar cop doing his duty, expecting to be challenged for riding a bicycle on the freeway, but he wasn’t interested in causing trouble and in between making calls about speeding vehicles, was quite interested in our dilemma.  He actually said if we had gone down Peats Ridge Road to the washaway we probably would have got through! 

After a few minutes I still couldn’t see Pete coming across the bridge so I started to get a bit worried, then after a few more minutes I espied a speck moving painfully slowly along the left hand barrier, sure enough it was Pete, but he was walking his bike and trailer.  Turns out he had carefully started to ride slowly as far left as possible, but a truck in the left lane had created a shock wave that literally threw him against the guard rail, taking off some skin and knocking the wind out of him.  Not willing to trust being able to stay upright, he was forced to slowly push the bicycle across as the trucks and cars zoomed by inches away. 

Anyway all’s well that ends well, and as we left the freeway a few kilometres further along and descended into Gosford, the sun had set but darkness had not yet arrived.  The day’s travails did not end there though, as it turned out there was no caravan park in Gosford, and we had to cycle to a little place called Wyoming, where a Jack Daniels-toting manager kindly allowed us to set up the tents behind the permanent vans, with blaring music, constant traffic and a rail line 100m away to lull us off to sleep. 

Pete's friend Karen trying out 'the mighty rig' in Newcastle.

Picturesque Port Stephens.  Waiting to ride across the water to Hawks Nest and a couple of days rest

In the end we caught the ferry rather than attempt the over-water ride which has yet to be sucessfully done


One of the best investments for the ride was a supply of foam earplugs, the type that you squeeze and then expand inside the ear.  One trick to getting the best acoustic protection is to lightly wet the ear canal before insertion, for some reason this allows the foam to bed right in and all but the most penetrative of noises is effectively muffled. 

My recommendation?  Any time you’re travelling anywhere, throw a few pairs in your kit, no matter how you’re travelling.  Then if you find yourself in a noisy environment, you can make all the yobbos and traffic just go away as you enter a world filled only with the sounds of your own breathing. 

Visiting my folks at Hawks Nest for a couple of days luxurious not riding

About to depart Hawks Nest for Nabiac and another luxurious day not riding

Sighseeing in Laurieton before heading off to Port Macquarie

Just out of Crescent Head with fellow cyclist Daniel who showed us the sights of the region

The road into the lush green Bellingen valley where we had a rest day at friend Carrie's

1,000km milestone.  Seemed to be a big achievement at the time, but later on seemed insignificant

Couldn’t get an Indian feed at Woolgoolga 

Sikh temple Woolgoolga (no food here either)

Not far north of Coffs Harbour we chose the sleepy little town of Woolgoolga as our stop for the night, partly because it was convenient and partly because we had heard it was a Sikh town and we both like Indian food, and what better place to get nice Indian tucker? 

Well, turns out there are probably hundreds of better places to get Indian food.  We could possibly have enjoyed a sumptious curry at the top of the hill but when your transport is a bicycle that you’ve pedalled all day, the allure of an extra climb dulls just a little.  What we really found confronting was the attitude of the various Indian damsels we encountered during our fruitless search of the shopping centre.  We figured if anyone would know where to get Indian food it would be representatives of the local Indian population, but all we got were blank stares when we asked.  Still not sure if they didn’t understand us or if their culture somehow prevented them acknowledging our questions. 

For the record, we ended up in a Thai restaurant. 

Luxurious riding following the McLean River on pancake flat roads

Smallest post office in Australia not far south of Ballina

Another ferry, this one dropped us into South Ballina

Access to Brisbane from Surfers  

Travelling by bicycle you quickly realise that the car is king to the planners and all other forms of transport, even good old walking, plays a very distant second fiddle to the internal combustion engined noise makers.  Nowhere was this more evident than the culturally endowed corner of Australia commonly known as Brisvegas. 

No pedestrians, bicycles etc welcome in this hallowed
ground  reserved for the noisy smelly machines

Seeking to travel from Surfers Paradise, an evil but necessary destination when travelling along the coast, to Brisbane, we found ourselves facing a sign at the start of the massive motorway banning bicycles, pedestrians, horse-drawn vehicles and other undesirables from the holy ground reserved for the anointed ones.  Which is OK because I can understand the average IQ in the Brisvegas area is probably so low that the pea-brains wouldn’t know how to avoid crashing into forms of transport not in a manic hurry, but I digress.   

So, we couldn’t use the motorway, but there was no alternative route signposted.  It was as though all other forms of transport didn’t need to be considered, as they couldn’t possibly be present in this transport corridor.  Using our inadequate maps, and several dozen stops and queries from bemused Brisvegans on the way, we managed to find a tortuous route towards Brisbane that took around two hours longer than it would have if there had been some sort of rudimentary signage for an alternative route.  All it would have taken was a few dozen signs laying out the alternative route into Brisbane, something as simple as ALT VEHICLES and an arrow every now and then, and the memories of going into Brisbane would have been reasonably pleasant rather than the still strongly unpleasant ones I still carry today. 

To unilaterally ban all slower type vehicles from the main corridor between Surfers and Brisbane, without providing at least some form of alternative route signage, is in my opinion a gross negligence and shows either a breathtaking level of arrogance from those in charge, or at best a symptom of a corner of Australian society lacking the intelligence and humanity to think of those who don’t travel in the cocooned cabin of a car.  For a comparison between the chosen ones' route and what we were expected to follow click here.

Last of the NSW beaches from Cabarita, south of Tweed Heads

Look Ma, no panniers, no trailer.  Must be a rest day in Brisbane.

Another shot of scenic Brisvegas.


The corner of the caravan park is just visible bottom
right, our tents were even closer just out of shot

Keith and Chris the managers of the
unfortunate Caboolture caravan park

Sleepless in Caboolture 

One of the least impressive places we stayed was Caboolture, the first overnight north of Brisvegas.  The entire 2km cycle into the city is a long ugly strip of franchises reminiscent of the ugly streetscapes you see in American movies, and after a short section of not unpleasant inner city, we found ourselves heading out towards a freeway and the caravan park. 

The manager was rather apologetic and offered us free camping, and even shouted us a spag bol dinner which we much appreciated, as we had arrived just after dark and going back into town to get supplies would have meant dodging tradies in the dark, not a recipe for a long life.  The reason soon became evident for the kindness however, when it was revealed that the camping spot was only 50 metres from the freeway, and only 20 metres from the night roadworks which to our delight included a pile driver.  I shoved the earplugs in really tightly and somehow managed to get to sleep as the large machines nearby forced large pieces of metal deep into the earth.  Pete did not fare so well and basically did not get to sleep at all.  As you can imagine, there was a sense of relief next morning as we pedalled away from not a very pleasant stopover on our journey north. 

In the shadows of one of the Glasshouse Mountains

About to find out we weren't invincible, a bit further we had to get off and push due to the gradient

Trying to dry out the gear after heavy rain overnight at Gympie before heading out in the rain again

Loser caravan park manager 

The backpackers just a block away

Despite the fact that we had two separate tents, we only ever requested a single tent site, because our two small tents occupied no more space than a standard family tent, and caravan park owners were generally happy with the arrangement.  However, at the Riverside Caravan Park in the sleepy tourist town of Noosa, the fat balding sweaty manager, exuding charisma from every pore, attempted to extract $48 from us for two tent sites.  When we pointed out we could fit on one site, he claimed it was fire regulations that didn’t allow the two small tents to share a site.  We declined his generous offer in no uncertain terms and as we returned to the bikes, this shining example of business skills shook his fist as he yelled “You won’t do any better anywhere in Noosa you know.” 

Just around the corner was a backpackers, and we called in to get a recommendation for an alternative van park, and discovered that they offered camping on an unused block out the back, and we could put our tents up and use all the facilities of the hostel for the princely sum of $10 each!  Great kitchen, super-cheap internet, and lively young backpackers around to liven the mood made for a very pleasant stay.  

So much for the caravan park manager’s threat that we wouldn’t find a better offer than his attempt to rip us off.  As a result of calling into the backpackers on a whim, we left Noosa feeling good about the place rather than the bad taste we might have carried with us instead. 

Sundays in rural Queensland 

At most there would have been 50 people in the
area encompassed by this view of Maryborough

We rolled into the pleasant town of Maryborough at about 1.45pm on a Sunday.  We were hungry and thirsty as usual, and we passed a nice home-made pie shop on the way in, thinking it might be nice to come back to if there was nothing better in the centre of town.  Sure enough there wasn’t anything better so we back-tracked and got back to the pie shop just after 2pm, to find they had just closed.  Along with every other business that didn’t have a red and white bucket or golden arches out the front. 

After a fruitless search for a café, pub meal or anything other than McGross, we chanced upon a gentleman who directed us to a small bakery still open.  Not surprisingly, the whole retailing effort for the metropolis of Maryborough was in the hands of an enterprising Asian shopkeeper.  Coming from a region where most shops are open all weekend, we hadn’t really paid any attention to what day of the week we were arriving or departing, as we assumed naively that the rest of Australia would be much the same.   

I guess if we were into bogan food we wouldn’t have even noticed that Maryborough’s main shopping area turns into a ghost town come Sunday afternoon. 

North of Tin Can Bay QLD, one of the
few wet days we had to ride through

Flat roads, sugar cane scenery, all
we need are some bloody road verges

Typical camp site in a caravan park, who needs a cabin or hotel?


Two little stories from Childers.  We had just depatched some postcards at the post office and were waiting for the pedestrian lights, when one of a long line of motorbikes passing through town stopped briefly.  The pillion passenger’s visor went up and a pair of eyes inside the helmet said “G’day John”.  I was a bit slow off the mark, only being presented with half a face to test my recognition skills, and it took a few moments to recognise that the mystery passenger was Kyla, the daughter of a good friend of mine down south.  I was just about to start a conversation when the lights changed and off they went, joining the rest of the motorbike pack heading out of town. Such is the fate of the pillion passenger, to be whisked away without a moment's notice.  Small world. 

The other memory from Childers is one of noisy bloody trucks.  The campground is a little way out of town at the bottom of a descent, and trucks leaving town have the foot down to get up the hill, those that are coming into town use exhaust brakes as they approach and pass the camping ground.  And there were many trucks using the road all night to boot.  Even the earplugs had a hard job keeping out the loud ones.  Cannot recommend the Childers caravan park as a nice quiet relaxing stay as a result. 

Worst caravan park of the trip 

All looked OK until after we had paid
and looked
at the camp kitchen

After Childers we cycled to Bundaberg, determined not to be kept awake by trucks again.  There were four caravan parks to choose from, three on main roads and one on the river, on what looked like a nice quiet street.  The bloke in the tourist information office subtly tried to steer us away from our choice but unfortunately not strongly enough as it turned out.  We were after peace and quiet after the Childers experience. 

Off we went to this van park by the river, and although it looked a bit daggy, as we rode in it seemed OK.  The metal grill protecting the reception counter should have been sufficient warning, but by the time the manager came out and gave us a bit of blurb, we thought it might be OK.  Well, it was OK in that we didn’t get robbed or assaulted.  But the camp kitchen was filthy from top to bottom, there were a constant stream of despo fruit pickers moving around, and to top it all off just behind the campground was a metal foundry and a metal stamping machine working night shift.  Aaaargh!  Talk about leaving the Childers frying pan for the Bundaberg fire.   

Never mind your inner city drug addicts, if you want to see the lowest level to which humans can stoop without actually being locked up, try a caravan park full of fruit picking backpackers and despos.  The whole place was unkempt, with paper and filth blowing around the mess-ridden vans and cabins, and no-one had cleaned the benches or fridges in the kitchen for months.  From then on, we took a little more notice of the way that tourist information offices recommended places to stay. 

One interesting character worth mentioning was a Japanese fruit-picker, just a slip of a girl, who started in the kitchen at about 6.30pm and dish after dish didn’t stop cooking and eating until after 9pm.  Presumably she was only eating the one meal a day, but we reckon she put away twice what we would eat in a day, and in one long meal to boot! 

Tea stop out of the way, ready to push on up that long ribbon of tar

Pulling in to take a breather somewhere along the Bruce Highway. Note the lack of a decent verge

We had looked forward to this roadhouse but it was shut so we boiled the billy on their table anyway

Rumble strips and bikes 

Next time you’re driving down a road with those concrete rumble strip, have a look at where they’re placed.  Chances are they are laid down outside the white line, somewhere in the verge, and when that verge is already of a minimum width, trying to ride a bicycle and trailer along the little bit of remaining asphalt isn’t easy.  Normally when the verge is minimal, it’s no big deal because in between vehicles we would ride in the left of the traffic lane and move off when necessary.  But the rumble strips are difficult and uncomfortable to cross, so once committed to one side or the other generally it was necessary to stay there. 

Quite a few times heading north in Queensland, and again in South Australia mainly, when the verge on the left of the rumble strips was insufficient, I had to ride on the left of the actual traffic lane, inconvenient for vehicles and a lot more dangerous that being over on the verge.  Obviously the traffic engineers who came up with the concept of continuous rumble strips on narrow roads have never ridden a bicycle on the roads.  Perhaps it should be compulsory training for them before they’re allowed in the real world. 

Mongrel drivers up the east coast 

If only all the roads were this wide

Throughout the ride I was impressed by the courtesy and professionalism of just about all the drivers we encountered.  However, there were a few noticeable exceptions: 

Pacific Highway, east coast.  A dual lane road, nice and straight, light traffic, minimal verge.  Cycling along, not worried about checking the rear view mirror too often as there were practically no cars or trucks, when a B-double truck zoomed by with about 18” between the handlebars and his massive tyres.  This criminally pig-ignorant truckie, instead of moving over just to the right hand side of his lane, was not willing to alter his god-given line one millimetre as he roared past at about 80km/hr faster than I was pedalling. If I had been a bit wobbly at the moment he passed, and any of those tyres had clipped the bike, I definitely would not be here to recount this tale.  To the truckie whose obvious pig-headed dislike of bicycles on ‘his’ roads could so easily have caused a tragedy I say: “I hope you’re proud of your stupidity, you certainly wear it like a badge.” 

Bruce Highway, once again a quiet road, a bogan commodore coming up behind me swerved to come close and toot his horn next to me.  Very funny, losers.  Although I did get quite a shock, I was able to maintain composure and made it seem like I had not been ruffled by their juvenile and potentially lethal skylarking.  I just muttered under my breath words to the effect “I hope you have a serious prang.”  It would make me happy to know that my utterances had come true sometime, some place. 

Bruce Highway, up north somewhere.  I was a couple of hundred metres behind Pete and a long line of cars and trucks was coming the other way, when from one of the cars, a missile was thrown at Pete, and as it hit the road and bounced harmlessly behind him, it threw off a long tail of liquid.  Some pathetic excuse for a human being had thrown a full can of beer at Pete.  I was pretty sure I could tell which car had thrown the can, and got the number plate, but there was not enough certainty to be able to report it to the police.  Luckily the stupid moron who threw the can wasn’t accurate, because a hard heavy object thrown at 100km/hr would have been lethal if it hit Pete anywhere in the head or upper body. 

Leaving Gladstone, we ended up on a winding narrow road that was also the route for a constant flow of mining trucks.  Most were reasonably competent and gave us as much consideration as their busy schedules allowed.  However, one pea-brained non-entity only recently descended from a particularly dumb chimp driving a B-double decided that he would overtake another B-double as they were coming towards me.  no matter that there wasn’t enough room on the road, or that there was no verge and a drop-off into the roadside drain.  This half-witted loser just headed straight for me, his wheels astride the white line.  I couldn’t ride off the road, so all I could do was move onto the 30cm of grass off the tarmac before the drain fell away, stop and wait.  As the truck passed by me with inches to spare all I could think of was the sooner we get the worst roads in Australia finished and go outback, the happier I would be. 

Although there are no specific examples to report, we noticed one thing about drivers throughout the trip.  Almost without exception, a mathematician could have written an ironclad behavioural formula applicable to the relationship between a town or city’s size and the distance from it.  Time and time again we didn’t even need to see a road sign to know we were getting closer to a major population centre.  Invariably the drivers became less courteous to us and to the other road users the closer we got to a town or city.  The most obvious sign of this drop in standards was the tailgating and the unwillingness to slow down in our vicinity even if the road was narrow.   Tradesmen are the worst offenders, to them two seconds of their time might as well be made of solid gold, such is the importance they place on not being held up, even momentarily.  Some well-meaning folk had warned us to be careful of the road trains outback, and we were of course, but in reality the biggest threats we faced on the roads was the traffic associated with population centres.   

Waiting for a truck to clear the parking lot of a roadhouse somewhere

Tea stops in the middle of the bush sections were a pleasure, especially when traffic was busy

No chance we would nod off even if we were completely and utterly fatigued

The surprising effects of cross winds 

The biggest factor in determining average riding speed is not the topography, rather it is the wind.  There were some days on the ride when the topography ruled, from Cairns up to the Atherton Tablelands for instance, but in general if we had even light tailwinds we would expect to see 25km/hr on the speedo on flat ground, whereas the same light winds as a headwind would mean we might be lucky to be travelling at 17km/hr on the same piece of road. 

A 90 degree side wind, if its light, does not have much effect on the speed, despite acting as a bit of a headwind due to our forward motion.  That is until traffic comes into the equation.  Then all sorts of effects come into play, mainly from the big trucks.  In northern Queensland we often had long straight roads with a lot of B-Double trucks in both directions.  On days when we had a noticeable crosswind, the effect of oncoming trucks was very pronounced.  We could be pedalling along at 21km/hr and if a couple of large trucks came past the side wind was instantly transformed into a double-strength headwind that took up to 30 seconds to die away.  This had the result of knocking our speed back by as much as 8km/hr, which although it doesn’t sound like a lot was very frustrating.  The worst vehicles were not road trains or well packed B-Doubles, but pantechs and the like.  However nothing came even close to the wake generated by the low trailers hauling large plastic rainwater tanks.  They would knock 15km/hr off the speed in an instant, and I soon learnt to not even bother pedalling for a period when one came the other way. 

Surprisingly, the vortex generated by trucks that were going our way and overtaking us hardly had any effect, perhaps adding a couple of km/hr to the speedo for a short period.  No wonder there’s an indelible impression in cyclists minds that the wind is out to get them and only occasionally begrudgingly offers a helping hand. 

The Marlborough Pub, Queensland.
I can highly recommend a stopover

Camping at Marlborough, near Mackay 

When we arrived at Marlborough we assumed there would be the usual caravan park or similar accommodation.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that the pub offered free camping on a large grassy paddock out the back, and charged a whopping $2.00 for a shower.  And all this over a km from the highway and the incessant traffic. And talk about laid back, the publican had locked up for the afternoon, but the other campers told us just to pitch the tents, have a shower and pay the publican when he returned.  To top off a very relaxing stopover we had steak and chips and a couple of beers in the public bar once the sun had gone down.  The only minor thing to detract from the perfection of the site was a railway line a block away, I believe I may have heard one train trundle by in my sleep but I can’t be sure, perhaps I was dreaming. 



Passing through some drier country meant lots more water use

Getting closer to Cairns and looking forward to  a good rest for a few days

The road in Nth Qld passes through scenic green and often interesting country

Unfriendly Sarina 

One of the two unfriendly caravan
parks in otherwise lovely Sarina

Of all the towns and cities we visited over 231 nights away from home, I can announce that the unfriendliest was Sarina, about 30km south of Mackay.  From the brochures etc it looked like a nice place to overnight, picturesque setting, close to nature parks and the caravan parks were off the main road.  But, on arrival at the office of the Tropicana Caravan Park, the lady made it obvious we weren’t welcome.  She hived us off with some story about our tents not fitting or the camp kitchen not being suitable or something, and suggested we try the other camp ground. 

Feeling a bit put out, as we hadn’t encountered such a negative attitude so far on the ride, we headed over to the Sarina Palms Caravan Village.  The owner there was even more direct, stating that he wasn’t interested in having us stay.  We have since found out these uppity owners have formed the opinion  that tents damage their precious grass and therefore should not be allowed to pollute the pristine Sarina environment. 

As a result of these pig-ignorant owners, we were forced to strap our weary bones back onto the bikes and ride a further 35km or so to Mackay to seek accommodation where we were to be accepted as suitable.  So thanks a lot Sarina’s caravan parks, I hope the oil crisis hits hard and your precious caravans disappear from your town and you end up as homeless beach-bums. 

Tully, raining one day,
wet and gloomy the next

Perils of wet cane rail tracks 

Tully is the wettest place in Australia.  The saying goes – ‘if it’s not raining in Tully, it has just finished or it’s about to start’ – would appear to be accurate.  As expected we copped rain on and off all around the Tully area, though mostly it was light showers, and as a result the roads were wet all the time. 

Just after leaving Tully, with Pete well ahead, and in light rain, I approached one of the many cane rail crossings that cross the road, this one crossed at an angle of 30 degrees, and was glistening wet, but I thought nothing of it. However as the front wheel contacted the wet metal it slid slightly, which caused it to get momentarily affected by the small gap between the rails, and before I even realised I wasn’t in control, I was lying sideways on the road surface, still hanging onto the handlebars.  

Luckily there were no cars directly behind or I might have ended up under some wheels.  I freed myself from the bike and yanked the bike and trailer off the carriageway onto the verge and discovered that my rear view mirror had smashed, and I had a gouge out of an elbow and below the knee.  Nothing serious fortunately so I righted the bike and continued pedalling, caught up with Pete at the next scheduled stop and thought a cup of tea sounded like a top idea. 

The gouge below the knee took a good month to heal, but the wound to the elbow was still a bit hollow and tender as far as Perth, but it too eventually healed up properly.  For the rest of the ride I treated all rail crossings and grids with possibly more caution than strictly necessary! 

Some cane cutting entertainment at a tea stop north of Tully, just a bit noisy though

Climbing out past a mill somewhere way up there.  The sugar mills were a regular sight from the road

Sugar cane country

Cars and trucks are anti-bloody-social things 

The machines powered by the internal combustion engine (cars and trucks) may well be convenient but they overall are the single most anti-social device we had to deal with.  Not such a problem outback, but on the densely populated east coast a lot of the riding was downright unpleasant due to the noise that these infernal machines create.  Added to the unavoidable cacophony of tyre on tarmac and whistling wind, a significant number of owners choose to add to the unpleasantness further by amplifying the smelly exhaust noises.  It’s hard to describe just how intrusive and anti-social a busy highway is to the unprotected ear but it made us actively seek out the quieter roads even if the riding was harder as a result. 

After we left the east coast the intrusions of these noise-producing machines diminished greatly.  There’s a great deal of difference between an occasional road train or a few caravanners passing by sporadically, and the constant roaring in the ears of a busy highway.  Heck, out west, sometimes we’d have 20-40 minutes of splendid isolation, and the throb throb of an approaching road train was almost a welcoming diversion in the stillness of the outback.

And even if we felt intruded upon, the drivers out west were almost universally courteous, moving to the opposite side of the road to overtake, blipping the horn early if we didn’t notice them coming up behind, and mostly happy to give us a cheery wave as we waved back.

The final day into Cairns with some great scenery to help us along

Exploring Cairns foreshore and muddy 'beaches' just after arrival

Went for a walk up a hill for a change of exercise, Cairns in the background