Which Way? The Savannah Way!

2nd September to 3rd September 2017

Mount Garnett to Undara 110kms

We had a nice night in our little cabin, with a comfy bed, and got up early. We enjoyed a relaxing coffee with the bloody nuts and berries, and were doing well with the packing. Will rang ahead to Undara, as we had done a bit of research, and knew you had to book on a tour to see the Lava Tubes. They are in the National Park, and if you want to see them, then you go on a tour. While he was doing that, our neighbour for the night, Kuni, a little Japanese man, travelling on his own for the last 11 months, came around to say good morning. He was a very nice man, with a great sense of adventure and good humour. He has been to so many places in Australia during his time here, and is almost around the full circle. Really lovely man, and very interesting. We gave him our paper map of the Cairns region, which he was excited about.

Thanks for an enjoyable stay Gary, well worth the stop on day one.

While chatting to Kuni, Gary (the new owner of the park) came over to chat also. Lucky we were packed, and ready, because we chatted for ages, and finally got going at about 10:20am. We had an hour and a half to get to Undara, just over 100kms away. Our tour was at 1pm, and we had to check in and set up before that, oh and we needed fuel. Gary was a nice bloke, and he has a great attitude towards his new business. It was a pleasant place to stay, and I’m sure Gary will make it even better. All they need is the pub to reopen.

Our ride to Undara was very enjoyable. There really was no pressure, and the road was good. Light traffic, cool temps of about 22C, light winds, and lovely scenery. The Savannah Way, which joins Cairns to Broome, is a road we haven’t been on before, so it is great to be seeing the different landscapes and places. At this stage, it doesn’t look much like a “savannah”, with lots of hills, woodlands, and rocky outcrops. Along this short section, we passed through the 40 Mile Scrub National Park, which was very pretty. We stopped at a little rest area, with a short walk through the scrub, which I did, before we did the final ride into Undara.

Nothing like taking a walk in the bush in Full bike gear, but it was nice. So far this ride, we’ve seen the most other bikes travelling too, even if they are locals on a weekend tour.

Lots of cattle in this region, it’s what they survive on. Beautiful hilly areas, caused by ancient volcanic activity, and interesting bush. The road into the camping area was good, and we even saw a little whip snake, slip quickly across the road. It was busy at the camp ground, but they did a good job sorting us out, and it is a very well equipped facility, with something for everyone. Not to mention, free tea and coffee, all day, and delicious chilled rain water.

Undara, well set up, with something for everyone. Most of the staff are backpackers, plenty of work out here on the road.

So we got set up, out of our riding gear, and prepped for the two hour tour. Our camping neighbours said hello and gave us some negative advice about riding motorbikes, and drinking the tap water, and we wandered off smiling and shaking our heads. The tour was great. Lots of interesting information, and amazing formations. I didn’t even know Australia had these volcanoes. The Lava Tubes are actually some of the best in the world, and I think are the longest. They are certainly pretty big, and although we had to do a lot of stairs, the stupid dick knees (with my good orthotics in my boots) held up okay. Well worth the pain tomorrow.

Jason was a great guide, and told us way more information than I can remember, about how the tubes were formed, and how the tourist attraction came about. It was really good.

We did the archway tour, there was an Active tour, which has you climbing over rocks and going through small openings. There was also a sunset tour, which would have been good, we would have seen bats.

After the tour, we relaxed at the camp, and went back to the Railcar Bar and Bistro for a couple of beers and dinner. They have done a great job with the communal areas, and they have a fire which they light every night for everyone to sit around and enjoy. So it was an early night, with a big ride day tomorrow. If you are in the area, this place is definitely worth a stop over. There are some pretty big walks to do, the Lava Tubes, and the interesting place itself. You could easily spend a few days here.

Having a delicious beer at the bar. Dinner was nice too.

Undara to Normanton 470kms

Getting up early was not difficult, with all the birds going off, and we’d gone to bed quite early. Being in the tent meant it was roll up stuff, time, while Will ducked over to the “free coffee” area, with our thermos flasks. By the time he got back, all the bedding was packed up, and I was doing my rehab exercises. We smashed down (choked down more like it) our nuts and berries, then one of our nice neighbours let us know about some free bananas in the camp kitchen. Apparently the nearby banana farm drops off the marked ones they have trouble selling. Fantastic, we can always take a few bananas.

We had a nasty surprise when getting brekkie! Oh dear, my nuts and berries had to be eaten out of my plastic cup. Old faithful plates, bit sad it’s a goner!

So off we went, all loaded up with rain water and free bananas. It was only about 22C at around 9am, the sun was shining, and there was a light breeze. We really weren’t sure what we were in for today, but at this stage, it was looking pretty good. Lots of interesting woodlands, and amazingly, this savannah wasn’t flat and boring. We were actually weaving our way through a small range, and to add to the fun, the good quality duel lane road, randomly evaporated into a rough single lane beast, and I just hoped a bloody big truck didn’t come the other way and make me have to go bush at 100 kays an hour.

Good road, not so good road, good road again……can’t we just fix this, it is Highway Number 1, after all?

There was no figuring why they didn’t just make it all a good road when they were out there, as some single lane bits were as short as 1km, but the good wide bits were always in an area that would be very dangerous if single. Anyway, all the oncoming traffic was super respectable, and they all slowed (well most did) and got off in the dirt, so we didn’t have to. So it wasn’t a real problem after all.

50 kays and we passed through Mount Surprise. Short and sweet, a little shop come servo, a caravan park, a few bits and pieces, blink, it’s gone! Next, another 50kms on, was Georgetown, and it looks very similar to the last one. We need to get fuel here, or we’ll be in strife, so we got a salad roll as well. They had a nice outdoor sitting area, so we had a cold drink, ate our rolls, and rested a bit. It was getting warmer now, at around 30C at 11am, so we topped up our water too. The next town is Croydon, 150kms along.

Fields of ant hills, they were cool, and some crazy people had even dressed some up. 

Good little town, good little roll, and we’re good to go.

Up and over another small range, and the views were pretty awesome. Unfortunately there was no safe places to stop and admire them or get a picture. Bummer! The single lane, good road, swapsies continued, until we rode through Croydon. On Google maps, it looks like a bigger centre, with more facilities, but it didn’t look very appealing on the way through. We had enough fuel to get to Normanton, so just kept going. It was now 35C and still heating up. Luckily we have well vented suits, and while riding we’re quite comfortable. It is really important to drink plenty of water too, so both of us managed to get through 1 and a half of our camel backs (1.5ltrs each) and a 600ml Coke and 500ml coffee.

Some interesting sights at an old siding, just past Croydon. It is really remote out here.

Only one more short break to stretch and eat a banana before doing the last 100kms to our destination. Both of us were amazed by the amount of road kill along this road, and the billions of really large Whistling Kites being menaces to us as we rode past, while they tried to demolish the dead animals. The other thing that is out here, is cattle. This region is full of cattle stations. Once past Croydon, we really were in savannah country, it really flattened out, and there were lots of cattle, some free ranging, but hiding under the trees.

Now it’s 36C, and about 3:30pm, and we roll into Normanton. It’s Sunday, Fathers Day, (happy Father’s Day all you Dads out there) and the fuel station is closed, and all we see is a big Purple pub. Oh and a caravan park. Phew. So we sort out the caravan park, and discover there is a little grocery shop across the road that’s open, which we visit, and get some meat to go with our last veggies, then visit the Purple pub. It’s the locals pub, and we meet a couple of interesting locals, have a couple of nice cold beers,then head back to cook some dinner. We’re buggered.

A real outback pub, and the locals were really friendly and loved to chat.

As we’re getting sorted to cook, a couple of fellow campers wander past, who we recognise. It’s Phil and Robyn, who cooked us dinner way back in April at Ceduna. We’ll blow me down with a feather! Fancy catching up to these two, lifestyle travellers. So we had a chat, a beer, and then we cooked dinner. It was nice, and the camp kitchen is pretty good. It’s a pretty good park, with a very big pool (used to be the town pool) and I think I’ll do my exercises in that tomorrow. It is warm….at last!


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