21 April 03 - Flinders River to
Bang Bang Jump Up.
After a peaceful night sleeping topless (we left the fly off the tent) we awoke to flies and mozzies at 4 am! These little buggers don't give up and as soon as you move, so do they. We packed up as quickly as we could with our fly veils on.
Along the road we were passed by a couple of road trains and after we had done 20 km the sun decided to get up. The sunrise was particularly nice this morning especially because of the the clouds and the shape of the suns rays as another day dawned. As much as I hate getting up early, I must admit that a 5 am start to the ride is a good idea because it allows you to get some km's in before the sun gets too hot, and because you get to see the sunrise.
The road was generally flat today as we were riding along through grassland plains. The road surface was a little course making for hard work and with no downhills, there was nowhere to take a breather and coast along.
We eventually came to the Bang Bang Jump Up which is a small escarpment in the middle of nowhere. Named after the nearby Bang Bang Station and rising no more than 150 metres it is the only prominent thing on the horizon around here. The road up the jump up is the single lane variety and with the traffic passing it made for an interesting part of the ride, especially when the triple trailered road trains went past. At the top of the jump up is a wayside stop with a small shelter and a rubbish bin. We arrived a little hot and sweaty and decided to call it a day. There is some shade here and we have put the tent up and had a little rest before lunch and now a coffee and diary time.
The flies here are as thick as they were on the road and when I say thick, I mean thick! We must have stumbled into the fly breeding capital of Australia. They get in everywhere and the sound of their buzzing in your ears is enough to make one go barmy. The only respite from them is in the tent but only after chasing quite a few of them out one door while their mates are trying to get in the other. A fly veil is a definite must here and taking a toilet break is most comical.
While we have been here a couple of road trains have come through, the drivers stopping to make sure the cattle are evenly spaced and not bunching up. They use and electric cattle prod to move them in the trailers which are double deckers. I am not sure which deck is the best to be on though because the one's on the top get sunburnt and the ones on the bottom, although in the shade, get pooped on from above, not that I know if a cow cares about that sort of thing. Anyway, here are a couple of pictures of a road train. The front on shot is about how close they come when they pass us on the single lane bitumen. They stay on the tar and we get off on what little dirt there is and the blast from them is unbelievable and it is especially scary if they pass us in the dark. 62 wheels and who knows how many tonnes of steel and cattle all passing us at 100 km/h just 6 feet away. Interestingly, if the driver moves the front of his truck 6 feet, the rear trailer moves about 18 feet and they have been known to clip cars and caravans as they pass them and not even know anything has happened, that's why everything gets off the road as they come along, and if there is one either way then it's a case of "head for the hills!". The drivers are all pretty good though and we often get to chat with them on the radio or listen to them telling their mates where we are.
Today's Distance - 46.28 Km's. Total Distance - 11,543.1 km's
22 April 03 - Bang Bang Jump Up to Bush Camp 28 km N Burke & Wills Roadhouse. Start time: 4.50 am, Finish Time: 10.00 am. Ride Time: 4:39:11, Distance: 59.15 km, Average Speed: 12.6 km/h, Max Speed: 25.4 km/h. Weather: Sunny, hot and around 35o C again with a 10 knot S-SE Headwind.
Yesterday was a short day but thankfully we were able to get some shade to melt slowly in. We spent a peaceful night with only a few road trains rumbling past early in the evening before we again headed out early and under a canopy of stars and some cloud. The Southern Cross clearly visible in the sky as we rode towards it.
The road today was kind to us and although the surface was reasonable the road was also a thin strip with the occasional wide bit. Riding in the dark was fun especially when cattle are on the side of the road and then decide to run when you are almost on top of them. Now that is okay as long as they run straight, but the one this morning decided to run straight for a bit then take a sharp left turn right in front of me, the result being my almost gaining a rather large a hood ornament on the trike.
Dawn broke with an unimpressive sky but a beautiful coolness to ride in. The scenery was light bush with plenty of anthills in it looking like forgotten tombstones. After about 30 km's we were in the region of Donor Hill and the station there. This part of the country is beautiful with it's red soil, white trunked trees and the spinifex grass that blankets the area.
Apart from the cattle mustering earlier, wildlife today was a mixture. Kangaroo's bouncing along at a great rate, an Emu grazing in the paddock, great mobs of white cockatoo's sitting in the road then taking flight when we approached. Road kill was a few kangaroos and a calf.
As we approached the 60 km mark Joanne and I came across a roadside stop with some beautiful shade trees so we decided that was enough for the day and plonked ourselves in the shade to await the arrival of Bill & Julia who were some 45 minutes behind us and suffering with sore knees, a dwindling water supply and their get up and go having got up and gone.
So the rest of the day has been taken up with some trike maintenance on James, lunch, sitting around talking, discussing distances, maps and strategies, and typing the diary up. Tomorrow will see us up early and off to the Burke & Wills Roadhouse, said to be, like the road we have been riding on the route taken by the ill fated Bourke & Wills on their attempted expedition to cross the county from South to North.
Riding in this area has been a challenge, heat, flies, mozzies all in plague proportions not to mention watching the water supply and battling a road and terrain that is quite taxing and of course not being sure if the headwind was a good thing or not, not to mention that we are less than half way down to Cloncurry and will have more of this to enjoy. The interesting thing is that it you soon learn that out here, the country and the conditions are very harsh, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it but ride, ride, ride and get used to it. Is it still fun and enjoyable? You bet! So far though, we and the trikes are holding up well. The next interesting bit after we get to Cloncurry will be across the Barkley Tablands as we travel from Mt Isa to 3 Ways then up to Darwin.
Today's Distance - 59.15 Km's. Total Distance - 11,602.2 km's
23 April 03 - Bush Camp 28 km N Burke & Wills Roadhouse to Burke & Wills Roadhouse. Start time: 4.50 am, Finish Time: 7.15 am. Ride Time: 2:17:39, Distance: 27.68 km, Average Speed: 12.0 km/h, Max Speed: 19.9 km/h. Weather: Sunny 32o C with a 10 knot S-SE Headwind.
A peaceful night with a nice cool breeze was most welcome and although we had a short distance to travel we were up and on the road early. Bill & Julia had misjudged or consumed more of their water supply than they wanted so we lent them some to make milk for breakfast before heading out onto the road.
Another canopy of stars overhead and a waning moon guided us as we rode the short distance to arrive at the Burke & Wills Roadhouse just after they opened at 7am. There is not much to tell about the place except that it is on the route of the ill fated men it is named after, almost everyone who passes here stops for something and that there is a population of 5 or 6 people here, all living and working at the roadhouse, a little like the roadhouses across the Nullarbor. Oh yes, and about 3 km North there was a sign saying Burke & Wills International Airport, not than I think any Boeing 747's would land there, but out here, you just never know.
There was a young German backpacker serving when we went in to book a campsite and she obviously had not done this part of the job before. She had absolutely no idea what we wanted, and just before I got a pen and paper out to draw our need, Joanne mentioned we wanted to stay the night. Now the young girl thought we ordered a steak and went to fill in the docket saying "steak". Thankfully there was someone else there who heard us trying to explain what we wanted and they intervened before we had ordered the whole menu before getting somewhere to camp. J
The caravan park come campground is a few slabs of concrete with water (bore) and power poles underneath a small roof scattered amongst a few trees. The ground is hard as nails but the place has showers, toilets and cold drinks in the fridge, so it is fairly luxurious more so because there is absolutely nothing in any direction for hundreds of kilometres.
So after a wonderful shower and a change of clothes I gave Bill a hand to fix a broken gear cable while Joanne & Julia got the washing going, then it was time for some lunch. Everything is expensive here because of the transport costs and two hamburgers (burger, lettuce, beetroot, carrot, onion, tomato and sauce) and a drink was $18 and a 600 ml milk was $2.60. So that was our splurge for our visit and it'll be a self cooked dinner of 2 minute noodles for tonight.
Today's Distance - 27.68 Km's. Total Distance - 11,629.9 km's
24 April 03 - Burke & Wills Roadhouse to Bush Camp 54 km S B&W Roadhouse. Start time: 5.00 am, Finish Time: 11.30 am. Ride Time: 4:57:06, Distance: 54.65 km, Average Speed: 11.0 km/h, Max Speed: 19.6 km/h. Weather: Sunny 30o C with a 5-10 knot S-SE Headwind.
We had a pretty good rest at Burke & Wills Roadhouse even though after a few hours sleep last night were woken by some other campers coming in around 11.30 pm, and who just had to camp near us rather than anywhere else in the couple of acres that makes up the caravan park/camping area. Some of them then took off around 4 am, and we presume without paying as the roadhouse was closed when they came in and it was the same when they left. Anyway, we packed up and headed off down the track once more. Another canopy of stars and a moon to guide our way. It is rather nice to ride each morning looking for now familiar star groups and satellites, the Southern Cross always visible as we head southwards.
We rode along through more open grasslands on the once again course surface of the single bitumen road. Thankfully not much traffic was around and we had the road to ourselves except for the occasional cow who stood there wondering what the hell was passing them. The area around here is pretty bland as far as things to look at, but at our speed we see everything there is to see and as usual the sunrise was nice as was the pink and blue hue that colours the sky on the opposite side to where the sun is rising, as can be seen in the picture below.
We rode on some more, Bill & Julia struggling 34 litres of water, some of which is extra after they bought a 15 litre container ($10.70) at the roadhouse. We too are carrying extra water and between us Joanne and I have 37 litres of water onboard, ours being bore water from the caravan park/camping area because it is not too bad to drink and we didn't want to spend money on water unless we had to. We figure we have to get our stomachs in training for bore water as that's about all we will get for much of the trip from now on.
We rode on through some interesting bush where one side of the road had a small range and some beautiful looking trees, the other had dead and dying trees with little grass or spinifex but with what looked like sandy plains behind making it look like there was a beach and ocean off in the distance (we wish).
Travelling slow we get to see most of everything and it seems that every 10 km or so the bush changes in some way, grasslands become bushy, flat terrain becomes rocky, light soil becomes red etc. Some 30 km after we left we started to ride through a beautiful range of contrasting red rock and white ghost gums, again with spinifex underneath. part of the view was like the picture below.
As you can see, the road is still not very wide here (about 3 metres). We look forward to the odd bit of wide road for a couple of reasons, one, because there is more room for us and passing traffic and we don't have to get off into the dirt or get sprayed with dust and rocks, and two, because the surface is smoother. Joanne and I ride side by side a fair bit and it is nice to be able to discuss the terrain and things we are seeing, but one eye is almost permanently fixed on the rear view mirror and one ear pricked for the sound of traffic, so the other eye and ear are very busy trying to take all the scenery etc in. Sure makes for a busy day at the office - but what an office!
So we are now camped in the bush enjoying the shade, a coffee and some ginger nut biscuits not far past Gleeson Station which has Mount Dromedary and Black Mountain on it near the road. Not real mountains but called so anyway.
Today's Distance - 54.68 km's. Total Distance - 11,684.5 km's
25 April 03 - Bush Camp 54 km S B&W Roadhouse to Bush Camp 78 Km N Cloncurry. Start time: 5.00 am, Finish Time: 10.00 am. Ride Time: 4:14:01, Distance: 48.44 km, Average Speed: 11.4 km/h, Max Speed: 21.3 km/h. Weather: Sunny 30o C with a 10 knot S-SE Headwind.
Anzac Day - They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old, age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we shall remember them. Lest we forget.
Another peaceful night in the bush we packed up in the chilly pre dawn and hit the road again. The road was mostly the same as before as was the terrain. Dawn brought thoughts of the nations celebration of Anzac Day and all the people who would be attending dawn services and then marching today.
Being able to see what was around is always a bonus and we saw hundreds of bush budgies flying around in flocks being watched by a wedge tail eagle who was probably licking his chops at the thought of budgie for breakfast. Not long before this a road train had passed us on a wide piece of road and had thrown a rock up which hit Joanne just under her right eye. No damage but I think she'll have a shiner and will definitely duck her head the next time a road train passes. I guess it's almost a good idea to wear safety glasses but am not sure how practical they would be.
We were doing it a little tough battling into the wind today and a few hills added to the strain. About 37 km's after we started we came to the top of a long hill we had been climbing and Joanne spots a rocky outcrop off to one side. It was here that she decided that "we" were going to climb to the top and hopefully see the range that she had spied off in the distance. So while Bill & Julia caught up to us, "we" clambered up through the scrub and rocks to see what was on the other side. What greeted us was one of the most magnificent views we have seen for a long time. From our vantage point we could see the tree covered plain as it stretched away toward the range about 10 km away. I took a panoramic shot of the view but as usual it doesn't do the view justice. We climbed back down and pedalled on where we met Bill & Julia at a rest stop where we intended to camp today. A couple of times today we rode through wattle bush country and the perfume was wonderful. Not long before our stop we came across some road kill and Joanne yelled out "where's the perfume now?", I thought she had said something about it being a bad perfume and I replied "yes, wrong bottle!".
So here we are, at the rest stop, using the table and chairs under the shelter, spread out like we own the place waiting for the sun to move so we can figure out where the afternoon shade will move to and where we will put the tent. We have lit a fire and cooked the traditional Australian bread - damper for lunch, have spoken with a South African Doctor and his wife who are here working in Mt Isa for a few years. We then spoke with another couple who are driving around Australia with their pop up caravan. This couple were very nice to us and just before they left they gave us a nice cold bottle of lemonade. Not long after that a triple trailered road train full of cattle from the Northern Territory came in so the driver could prod the cattle and get them level and stable again. He also had a flat tyre on one of the trailers but wasn't going to change it because he didn't want to get covered in cow shit while changing it. He told us that all up the rig weighs 140 tonnes loaded with cattle.
Today's Distance - 48.44 km's. Total Distance - 11,733.0 km's
26 April 03 - Bush Camp 78 Km N Cloncurry to Bush Camp 28 km N Cloncurry. Start time: 4.50 am, Finish Time: 10.00 am. Ride Time: 4:20:07, Distance: 52.02 km, Average Speed: 12.0 km/h, Max Speed: 29.8 km/h. Weather: Sunny 30o C with a 10 knot S-SE Headwind.
Another peaceful yet cool night and yet another 4 am wake up for a 5 am start. A short uphill then a nice downhill to start the day. The moon has just about deserted us and it was strange to be riding using the lights. Before long the dawn was upon us and we were able to ride and see the terrain which was back to bush with red soil and some very nice trees, and some largish hills. We passed the Dugold River which actually had some water in it but it was too dark to see how much.
We were heading for Quamby, an old railway town which according to the advert in the tourist book had a caravan park with a pool. Upon arrival in Quamby we were very much disappointed. The place consists of the Quamby Hotel (which used to be a staging point for Cobb & Co), a derelict caravan park, some old sheds and an old railway signal opposite. The place has obviously seen better days and fortunes. We rode on towards the Corella River where there was supposed to be a campsite, but on arrival we met with disappointment number 2, the river was bone dry and we couldn't find the campsite. The only good thing about the river was that if we camped there we would have had no problem seeing the crocodiles in the river J
We rode on hoping to find a campsite but figuring this might be another big ride day when we spied a nice campsite off to the left. A quick check and Joanne and I made the decision to camp there. Bill & Julia followed us in when they arrived. So we have a nice shady spot off the road and have lit a fire and cooked our lunchtime snack of Damper. A traditional bread made from flour, bi-carbonate of soda and a pinch of salt, mixed into a dough and placed in the coals of the fire until cooked. We modified it slightly and used a pot and the lid to cook ours in. Joanne and I cooked wholemeal and Bill & Julia plain. Here's the photo's.
So we are almost at the end of this part of the trip, one which I must admit I was a little worried about because of the distances we needed to carry water because even though the maps show lots of rivers and creeks up here, they are mostly all dry, the terrain and the fun of road trains and the single bitumen road, as it turned out, those fears were unfounded and it was a great ride. Tomorrow is Cloncurry, shopping, uploading this to the net, a nice long shower and maybe even a swim in the pool.
Our camp was a good one but there were plenty of 3 cornered jack thorns around and Joanne seemed to have her share of a collection. Only one puncture to repair which was good, and she only got that because I had put a normal thin tube in the last time I repaired a puncture rather than replacing the thorn proof one.
Today's Distance - 52.02 km's. Total Distance - 11,785.0 km's
27 April 03 - Bush Camp 28 km N Cloncurry
After another peaceful night in the bush, and with a short distance to ride in the morning we had a sleep in today. Bill & Julia got up around 5 am and took off around 6 am and we got up when they left and headed off at 6.45. The sleep in was wonderful, especially after all the 4 am wake up's.
The road was the same as was the scenery but the traffic slightly busier than it has been. We rode along listening to "Macka" on the radio as we are prone to do on a Sunday and the kilometres just rolled by. We pulled over for a road train to pass and Joanne informed me that her front tyre was going down. She had gone too far off the dirt and found a 3 cornered jack - seed head with 3 thorns on it.
Puncture fixed and before we knew it we were in Cloncurry and riding through town to the Oasis caravan park on the Julia Creek side of town where Bill & Julia had not long arrived at. We have a beautiful spot that will be in the shade all day, a table and benches and a sink right near us - everything we need. The rest of today will be taken up with odd jobs and relaxing before we look around town tomorrow and upload all this to the Internet.
Today's Distance - 30.05 km's. Total Distance - 11,815.1 km's
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