1st to 3rd July 2017
Charters Towers to Townsville 255kms
Awoken by the Gaggle of Grey Nomads in the camp kitchen, eating their high fibre breakfast (not that we can talk, with our nuts and berries), made for a pretty early start. But we did well to delay our departure, by relaxing in our little Helinox chairs, in the sun, drinking our coffees. The park had well cleared out by the time we were riding out the gate. All ready for the next “Gaggle” to arrive in a couple of hours. For us, it was a quick tour of the town, fuel, and then off North on the Gregory Highway (The long way to Townsville).
Busy place, a real meeting place for the travellers. Great old buildings, with a pub on every corner. Sign of a good old mining town.
Not too much traffic on this bit of road, most travellers take the fast route, which is about 135kms, along the Flinders Highway. Us, well we want a longer, more interesting ride, so we are doing a bit of a loop, to take in the Hervey Range road, hoping for some interesting sights, and quiet roads. Cruising along nicely, after 55 or so kilometres, we came around a bend and we were totally blown away by what we saw. Hundreds of caravans, on both sides of the road, going way back into the scrub, oh my god, hundreds of them. What the hell is going on here? As we looked left and right, I spotted a familiar big blue and green bus, so we decided to pull in and say g’day. Alf, who we’d met and chatted to, way back in Westmar, and spotted again in Clermont, was parked up, way back in the bush. He was surprised we’d spotted him, thinks he might need to get deeper in, and offered us a coffee and another chat. He tells us, Fletcher Creek is a well known free camp site, and the Grey Nomads, a savvy bunch, always come here for extended stays, this time of year. There is the Creek, but other than that, it really is the middle of nowhere. Was nice to talk to Alf again.
Alf told us about one guy who had been living here for about 6 years. Bit crazy hey? There were all sorts of set ups, even two old Volvos with trailers.
Further down the road, we pulled in for a toilet break, and spotted a suspicious car, running, and it looked like it was empty. We thought they must be using the toilet, but after we noticed the unlocked doors, used them ourselves, and had a bit of a look around, we got a little concerned. Not really wanting to find what our imaginations were conjuring, but unable to ignore the possibility of someone needing help, we ventured up to the car. Nothing looked bad, and on closer inspection, we discovered the occupant was having a sleep, with the aircon on. Phew, thank god, that was a little scary.
Another 50ish kilometres, and after the road had narrowed to very thin, one lane bitumen, we turned onto the Hervey Range road. I must say, that the few vehicles we did come across on the narrow section, all pulled over and stopped, to let us cruise pass with ease. That was nice. We were all slowed down and ready to go off road, but didn’t need to. Very thankful, and amazed at the courtesy. So the newly sealed Hervey Range road, was very pleasant. Just as we’d hoped for.
The road runs across the top of the range for the majority, and the descent was short and sweet, but we did stop at Pipers Lookout to take in the great view of Townsville, 30 odd kays away. As we took off to enjoy the downhill run, somehow Will’s jumper flew off his bike onto the middle of the road. So we pulled over to the side, not super safe, but vision was clear in both directions. Will went back and collected it, and before we could move off, a bloody truck with a trailer came passed us. Bugger, bugger, bugger. So now, we got stuck behind it, all the way down to the flats, going mega slow on the descent. At least we had time to listen to the live rounds firing away in the distance, from the Army training area.
It was a great view on an overcast day, imagine on a clear blue sky day. Wow!
Stupid Destiny seemed to be taking us on an around about route into Townsville, which is a pretty big city these days. But to her credit, we found our way to Rowes Bay caravan park without any drama. They are pretty full, as it is the Townsville Show Long weekend, School holidays, and just a busy place at this time of year. A tent site is all they have, but that is all we need.
Slacking in Townsville
We had a pretty good sleep, and a nice relaxing breakfast of crumpets with avocado tomato and Vegemite. Got to love the Aussie camp kitchens, with kettles, toasters and microwaves. Usually good Bbq’s, and fridge/freezers. Makes the cost of a site sound more reasonable ($35). Time is on our side, and the weather wasn’t looking great, so we’ll stay another day. Will heads off to do business, and returns to tell me to pack up. What? Aren’t we staying? Sure we are, but I got a cabin. Won’t be ready till later, so we can go sight seeing. Cool. So we took a walk along the foreshore, hopped on the bikes and checked out Castle Hill, and The Strand, where we had lunch, shopped at Coles, and returned to move our stuff to a cabin. We also did some washing while we could, and then cooked up a delicious curry to enjoy in peace and quiet. It wasn’t the best weather, but it was a good day.
The amazing fig trees were huge, and all different. Castle Hill was cool too, with heaps of people walking up for exercise, and some nice walks once you get up there too.
Townsville to Mission Beach 245kms
A very warm, humid morning, but the sun is shining. Casual pack up, and unfortunately a pretty straight forward route today. Checking all the maps, shows that there are plenty of little beaches and villages to check out, if you want to, but none have loop roads, they are all just in and out on the same road. Bit of a bummer, but as we got going, the weather started to change. Further northward, it was looking quite ominous, getting darker and was definitely raining.
We took a pause in Ingham, which is renowned for flooding, and on the way in, we were delayed with extensive roadworks, obviously to repair damage and ensure they last longer. It took us nearly 2hrs to travel just over 100 kays. While there, we spotted another couple on one motorbike, who were also travelling from Perth, but had gone over the top. They were a young European couple, who had been living in Perth, but thought they’d see what else is out there. Lots and lots, hey? They had told us they’d been in Tully, (right near Mission Beach), and it had been raining for the last two weeks. No way, really?
As we continued north towards our destination, it started to rain. Ugh, bloody hell. Neither of us had our waterproof liners in, and both of us had all our vents open, so as we came into Cardwell, we pulled into a nice beachside park, and got out of the rain. Vents zipped and weather checked (not good news folks), we took off again. The rain wasn’t super heavy, and it wasn’t cold, but wet is still wet, and makes for more risky riding. At Tully, it was starting to get heavier, so again we pulled over, this time under the Caltex canopy. Just as we did that, a real tropical downpour came over. Phew, good timing. Waiting for it to pass, and checking the radar, it was all heading in a north westerly direction. From here, we’re heading more easterly, so hopefully we’ll miss the worst now. It was a pretty ride through to Mission Beach, in the drizzle, and through the Cassowary Conservation zone. Be awesome to spot one of these rare birds.
No swimming? On such a lovely day too! We are in croc country, not to mention stingers, deadly snakes, and don’t piss off a Cassowary either.
25 years ago, when living in Darwin, we’d planned to head to Mission Beach and work for a while. But some beautiful children and reality got in our way. So we were both pretty happy to finally check it out. We found a little bar, bought a couple of beers, and looked at accommodation options. So many choices here, but we would like solid shelter from the rain, and booked a cabin at Mission Beach Hideaway Village. Simple, easy and done. So we had another beer, and relaxed a bit before heading over there. When we arrived, I went in to check in, and was met with a very blunt, response. “Nope, you can’t have a booking, because those cabins are all booked out!” Hmm, but I have a booking confirmation? I was expecting the lady, to query the process, and look into it, and try and help me with some accommodation , but what I got was a very rude, accusing tone, telling me that I could call booking.com if I wanted, and I could use her phone. Gees, I’m standing here holding my phone, that I used to make the booking, and will booking.com be able to suddenly make one of the cabins not be booked? I was starting to get a bit angry at this rude lady, so decided to stay calm and excuse myself from the situation, and go outside. Telling Will what had happened, he got to finding somewhere else, while I called booking.com to see what had happened. They rang the rude lady, and after a long time on hold, told me that there was a computer error, and there was nothing they could do. No shit Sherlock! (Yep, I was a bit angry). Will sorted the YHA, so I went inside to let her know we’d be okay, like she gave two shits! “Oh, I was going to upgrade you to one of the other huts!” Too late, lady, you’ve missed the boat, should have done that in the first place. So ultimately, I would NOT recommend that place, and the YHA, ended up being a great spot, with interesting, young and old people, whom we enjoyed tacos, wine and great conversation with, while it rained on and off. Sometimes not so good things turn into awesome things, and rude people miss out on your money. Huh!
A bar, a beach and booking.com! Should have been a great experience, but for a Bad tempered Broad.
Probably would’ve ended up here 25yrs ago, anyway, only we’d be the cool young guys, not the freaky old cootes.