Dusting Up The Outback

29th and 30th June 2017

Airlie Beach to Mount Coolon 320kms

What a superb day’s ride. An early wake up without an alarm, nuts and berries for breakfast, sitting out the front of our cabin, in the tropical gardens, then pack and load the bikes. A last chat to Bryan and Jude, who have been fabulous to talk to about their business, and ideas for the future. I hope we get to see them again. Even with the excessive talking we did, we got going well before ten, and it was starting to really warm up.

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It looks as warm as it is, bloody lovely.

With rain forecast (40% chance of 2mm) along the coast, and time on our side, we decided to head up to Bowen, to see how the little town that was smashed by Debbie, had recovered. It’s only 70kms away, and we could take a different road out of Airlie. A nice little road through the cane, away from the bulk traffic. The we joined the old A1, through to Bowen. This town is known as Australia’s Salad Bowl, and as we came in, I really couldn’t see why. First impressions are of a salt mining town, industrial and unattractive. But deeper in the town, some lovely old buildings, and a neat, tidy, town with pristine beaches, which we could see from the top of Flagstaff Hill. Wow, what a view.

 

 

Great views, and magic colour ofnthat water. There was a cafe up here, but it was damaged by water in the cyclone.

Leaving town after getting fuel (none where we are going today), and more food shopping (getting boring), we took a turn off the A1, onto Peter Delemothe road, heading to Collinsville. Now I could see why this place is Australia’s salad bowl. I have never seen so many tomato bushes. Miles of them, and corn (reminded me of that horror movie, Children of the Corn, I’m not stopping here), and mangoes, and lots of other stuff I couldn’t identify yet. Kilometres of farms growing produce. Then, it stopped, just like that, and the scenery changed. Bush, and hills, and the odd cattle. Really beautiful area, and the road was pretty quiet too.

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Miles and miles of food crops. 
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Stopped for a coal train, heading back to Collinsville for a refill. Bloody long.

Collinsville came along pretty quickly, as happens when you are enjoying yourself, and just in time for a toilet break and some lunch. I was actually pretty hungry. This town is a bit bigger than I expected, and definitely a mining town. There was some great murals around, that we neglected to capture, and lots of stuff about Pit Ponies…?? What is that about? Well, it is about horses that they used in the mines, right up until February 1990. They used them to carry supplies into the underground mines, for the workers, and they even made them honorary union members to protect their rights, and keep them working in the mines. The miners even went on strike to try to keep them even though they knew it was going to come to an end eventually. The miners just loved the pit ponies. Great story.

 

 

The poor old Motel has seen better days, best we keep going hey?

After lunch, of the old travel fave, ham, cheese, tomato roll, we had just over 120kms to get to Mount Coolon, and we discovered the last bit would be on gravel. Bummer! How far? We guessed about 10kms or so. Right’O, what ever, that’s not too bad. Let’s go! Old Stupid Destiny, was freaking out and having a conniption, as she wanted us to go some really really long way round, and arrive in 4 hours time! No idea why, when the 77 road (now called Bowen Developmental road) will take us straight there before dark, and in less than an hour and a half. We ignored her, and carried on to enjoy the ride. Until, way way too soon, we came to the dirt. Which ended up being just over 50kms long. It wasn’t too bad, a bit loose and rutted in places, but we could happily do 60 kays an hour, and then we reached a section that had been watered, graded and rolled, which was fantastic and we sped up to about 75, before the last bit that was rough and corrugated. It was a good ride, and we even had a race with a very big steer, that got woken up from his rest under a tree, thought he was being mustered, and took off running parallel to us. At one stage he got up to almost 50 kays per hour. Not bad for a huge thing like that. It was pretty funny to watch, let me tell you, and we’re grateful he didn’t freak right out and run at us. Now we are fed, showered and happy, in our tent, camping for free behind the little old pub on the Policeman Creek. Fantastic!

 

 

Love this red vibrant dirt. It’s a beautiful country. Except when it’s all over your gear and bike, hey Will?

 

 

Arrived safe and sound, and we’ll both have a beer, thanks Isaac?

Mount Coolon to Charters Towers 270kms

“Hey, Will and Jenny!” What the hell is that? Oh, it’s Darryl, the publican. “Morning Darryl, how’s it going mate?” “You guys can come have some breakfast if ya want, cereal, toast, coffee, tea, what ever!” Wow, that is nice, free camping and free breakfast. What a treat. I can have some toast for a nice change. “No worries, mate, that would be great, be there in a sec.” So we were awake, just laying in our tent reading, when Darryl gave us a shout out, so we just rolled up our bedding, and went to have a coffee with Darryl.

 

 

Beautiful outback morning until you sit down on a sticky Green Tree Frog. But he’s pretty cute.

After a long chat, and hearing some interesting information about this little town, we got to packing, and hitting the road. Another 58kms of gravel, but it was a fair bit better than yesterday’s bit, so we happily cruised along, enjoying the flat station lands. Just ahead of me, Will startled a flock of Australian Bustards, which are becoming quite rare, and they took off in all directions. It took us a while to identify them, as it’s been a while since we have seen any. They used to be common in the Northern areas of our country. Dodging the occasional Bulldust hole, (I definitely did not want to hit them) we took it nice and easy, hanging out at around 60-65kms/hr, and were very happy to relax a bit on the occasional stretch of Tarmac. It’s the chance to glance away from the road for a minute, I was lucky enough to spot a Jabiru standing guiltily in the bush. I slammed on the skids, and called to Will to stop and come back slowly, so we didn’t startle it and miss it. Way cool, and although the photos aren’t the best from a distance, we still got a couple.

 

 

This old town was a gold mining town, and this old kiln made bricks. It looks brand new. Hasn’t got any damage at all.

 

 

Now Will is showing off, giving his butt a break. Then he left me in his dust, before I spotted the Jabiru. It was a fair way away, but you can tell what it is.

It took us about an hour to do the gravel section, and it was all concentration and care, but it was probably the best part of the day’s ride. The rest of our day was spent at 110 on The Gregory Highway, getting to Charters Towers. With one small stop, for fuel at Balyando, which is just a small roadhouse and caravan park, where you either have to buy something, or pay $2 to use the toilet (the only way they will give you the security code). With a huge rant on the toilet door as to why the security, going into great detail about the costs and hassles of sewerage and water in the bush. Deary, deary me, been at this too long, maybe? Another motorbike pulled in for fuel, while we were there, a massive Victory cruiser, with two people aboard. They were riding 650 a 850kms a day, saying they don’t mind doing 1000. Gee-zuzz, we don’t even do that in a car these days.

 

 

Nice to take a break, and we were totally gobsmacked at the number of TMS (Too Much Shit) vehicles/vans here too. Wow!

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Quick stop to get the music started, and back to the long red highway.

Cruising down the red highway, it wasn’t long before the big Victory eased passed us, and disappeared into the distance. After all, it’s motor is as big as both ours put together. So we turned our music on, and sat back and enjoyed the ride into Charters Towers. We pulled over at the Info bay, and noticed a caravan park, 200mtrs down the way. It looked good, but they were full, couldn’t even squeeze in a tiny tent. So off we went through town, which looked like a busy place. Lots of older buildings, and true to a good old mining town, plenty of pubs. Staying on task, we turned up at the next place, opposite the golf course, and they could just squeeze us in. Phew! And our spot was right next to the camp kitchen, on the grass, and very nice. Oh, and we got free cake as we came in. You beauty!

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Our nice little spot near the camp kitchen.

After the usual routine, I set up and Will shops, we settled in with the other campers around the campfire to chat. It has been pretty noticeable on this journey, that there aren’t many people our age, out travelling around. At this park in particular, there are not even any children. Caravans, campers, motorhomes, even tents, but all occupied by the over 60’s. Fascinating! A vehicle pulled up right next to us, with a TVan camper. This is my dream camper. Simple, small (ish), and goes anywhere with ease. Steve and Sue, the proud owners, let us watch the set up, and showed us inside. I still love it. So we spent yet another night talking with the Grey Nomads about places they’ve been, and the different types of vehicles. Very interesting.

 

 

This is a “when I win lotto”  dream, I’m sure.

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