Distance cycled: 5600 kms
Route: Brisbane - Wynnum - Caboolture - Buderim - Maroochydore - Noosa - Cooran - Gympie - Biggenden - Gayndah - Munduberra - Eidsvold - Monto - Biloela - Dululu - Mount Morgan - Gracemere - Rockhampton
Hello again everyone. Well, it's been a while since our last blog entry but we've finally arrived in sweltering Rockhampton. We seem to have moved a sizezble distance up the map now since leaving Sydney but time, as always has slipped away from us and we find ourselves with 3,000kms + still to do in just over 2 months.
Our stay in Brisbane with friends from Glasgow Prue and Neil turned out to be our longest break so far, testimony to the great time we had with those two. After a few days in Ipswich at Prue's sisters Kate, we relocated to Prue's parents house in Lota on the coast. As Prue's folks were away we had the house to ourselves pretty much as Prue and Neil are living in a granny flat downstairs. We had a much needed rest there and managed to get loads of jobs done as well such as obtaining malaria tablets and getting follow-up vaccinations. It turns out that as British Nationals we are entitled to free healthcare here just like the Aussies which cheered me up immensely as a mere doctors appointment costs in excess of $60. On leaving Prue and Neil, we discovered we missed them both immensely having spent the whole week with them.
Prue and Neil
Random scotsman steals bike
Name that film
We love geckos
We cycled off into the distance, John Wayne style and headed for Brisbane city centre. There are always times when you have to spend the best part of a day getting out of a hellishly congested, polluted city and this day was no exception. Cycling in cities really does nothing for us. It's stressful, noisy and dangerous but is unavoidable sometimes.
We arrived safely at the Story Bridge and crossed over into Fortitude Valley where Ben's gear cable snapped. Thankfully it snapped very close to Brisbane's best bike shop, "99 bikes", ( http://www.99bikes.com.au/ )where Simon and Nick gave us a free gear cable and lent Ben the tools to fix it. Thanks guys, we need more cheerful bike mechanics like yourselves(bike mechanics are notoriously grumpy - no-one knows why). Keep up the good work.
Nick and Simon
We were running late because of this bike mishap and as dusk was approaching we found ourselves still in the Brisbane suburbs with no chance of reaching the countryside for camping before nightfall. So we looked for someone kind enough to let us put our tent up in their garden and saw a sign for Lucy Street. Ben said "let's try here, Lucy(Hine) will look after us." We asked the first person we saw on the street and it happened to be an amazing guy called Luke. He showed us somewhere to put the tent in his garden and introduced us to his wife Amanda and kids Sam and Ruby. What a wonderful family. They invited us in for a shower and treated us to a cold can of lemonade. Next morning we sat in the sun enjoying quiche, toast and vegemite, melon and tea which Amanda made for us before setting off. It was just the perfect night for us as I must admit, it's easy to become a bit soft after more than a week indoors in a nice comfy bed with air-con on tap. Our stay with Luke and Amanda meant our transition back to life on the road wasn't too difficult.
Camping at Luke and Amanda's
Luke, Amanda, Sam and Ruby
The next night our good fortune continued as Prue's Aunt Isla organised a night for us at Landsdowne camp site where she used to work. We spent a great night in a luxury villa watching Top Gear and the Winter Olympics. Thanks to Neville, Janelle and Don for a lovely night. We cycled through the quiet little towns of Beerburrum and Beerwah and enjoyed the relatively quiet roads with nice views of the Glasshouse mountains.
Man eats cake
The thing they were looking for in "Close encounters of the third kind"
Villa at Lansdowne Caravan park
The next day we headed North to Buderim to visit Isla and her husband Chris. We spent a lovely afternoon with them and were treated to a champagne lunch no less. Thanks so much to you both and have a wonderful time in Scotland. We would have loved to stay the night there but had arranged to go to our friend Jared's sisters in Maroochydore about 15kms away. So, we set off feeling pretty merry to tackle a short but brutally hilly journey North.
Ben, Chris and Isla
Jared's sister Vanessa and her husband Martin put us up for a few days in Maroochydore and on leaving Martin said, "I feel like we're saying goodbye to some old friends". I couldn't agree more. You guys are ace and I'm sure we'll see you again some day. These two are from Dunedin in NZ and we reminisced about what a great place it is. We went for a forest walk and enjoyed a swim and some muscle pounding under a pretty strong waterfall. Afterwards they treated us to a fish supper. Martin runs a cool shop in Maroochydore which offers therapies such as Reiki, Hopi Ear Candling, Crystal Therapy etc as well as selling very reasonably priced new age gifts from the shop. You can find his details in the section "places to stay and shop".
Martin's shop - coastal well being
Walking in the woods with Vanessa and Martin
Vanessa, Martin, Tane
These two told us a story of an excited foreign friend who claimed to have seen a kiwi in the wild. They were amazed as they, having lived in NZ their whole life had never seen one. However, on seeing the picture they had to disappoint their pal, letting him know it was a hedgehog not a kiwi. Same thing really.
We left Maroochydore and set off on a 120km ride to Gympie, to the Northwest. We stopped for lunch at Noosa, a very over-rated, over-priced trendy town on the coast. On our way there, a bunch of ****wits side swiped Ben in their ute and tried to knock him off. We were furious and called the police straight away. It's the first time we'd had anything like that done to us and it was a bit of a shock. However, we're still here. Ben got another puncture in his so-called indestructible Schwalbe Marathon plus tyre so we headed to Coolum Cycles ( http://www.coolumcycles.com.au/ ) where a wonderful woman Barbara gave Ben a good quality tyre for less than half price. Thanks Barbara, we've had no more punctures to date. It was a pretty long ride and we found ourselves still cycling on the Bruce Highway, 15 kms from Gympie as night fell.
Sunset at Gympie
It was a pretty hairy ride into town as we tried to veer round potholes in the dark guided only by our less than adequate lights. We have since purchased some better ones.However, we arrived an hour later to find that our warm showers host Andrew had gone out in the car looking for us. Clare and Andrew then put us up for a couple of days in a double bed. Clare's cooking was, without a doubt, the best we've been treated to so far and we had a great time with their little toddler Rosie, who is such a friendly, happy wee soul. Infact , she's so friendly and trusting Andrew says, that she often tries to go off with people who come to the door selling stuff. Clare and Andrew are big cyclists/mountain bikers themselves and they took us to meet a load of their friends from a cycling group. What a great bunch. Thanks for telling us your story about the maniac on the loose on the Northern Territory. It still brings a smile to my face and we have recounted it to several others who found it just as funny.
Rosie and Ben
Andrew, Rosie, Ben, Clare, Sue
View from Sue's
We had intended to go from Gympie out to Maryborough on the coast and follow the Highway up. However, Andrew suggested we stay inland for a few hundred kms and see "Burnett Country". This area is full of little gold mining towns with wide streets, original saloon-style shop fronts, men in cowboy hats and very friendly folk. Infact, cycling through the towns of Biggenden, Gayndah, Mundubbera and Eidsvold I could have sworn I was in America's deep South. Yes, it had all gone a bit country and western. We loved these towns. Everyone wanted to chat to us about our trip and loads of people stopped to say they had just seen us passing through the last town etc.
In Biggenden, as we relaxed in a park under one of Australia's many covered picnic benches, a lady came over and invited us for a free sausage sizzle. She couldn't have found two more interested parties if she'd tried and as we sat munching on sausage butties and drinking ice-cold cordial in temperatures of 37 degrees we asked Bonny what this was all in aid of. She explained that part of her job was to go to the towns of the Burnett area and invite the towns young people to a barbeque where she could talk to them about what they thought of the town. All these towns have a problem with young people leaving for the cities and so they are trying to find out what would encourage the youngsters to stay in the area. Unfortunately, Bonny couldn't find any of the towns youngsters that day and so we relieved her of her burden of sausages and sat chatting with another lady Sharon. That night, as well as a free lunch , we got a free night in the campsite at Biggenden.
We set off the next morning through the lush greenery of Burnett Country and headed for Gayndah. Everyone assured us that up until a few weeks ago, the whole area had been as dry as a twig. However, it had rained so much recently that everything had burst into life, a site locals hadn't seen for many years. We arrived in Gayndah and did our usual trick of getting a cheap bottle of juice from the supermarket shelf and hiding it in the freezer under some peas. We then wait outside for 15 mins or so then go back in to retrieve the bottle. Et voila, it's ice cold! Buying drinks that are already in the fridge usually costs more that double the price but not when we go shopping. Consumer revenge on a small scale. We sat in the sun drinking yet another bottle of fizzy juice and set off for one of Australia's many free rest stop/camp sites which always have a toilet, drinking water and a covered picnic table. We spend a lot of our breaks in parks as you can always find some shelter and a water supply.We spent a quiet night there disturbed only once by some young lads "hooning" in a 4 wheel drive.
The next day we arrived in Mundubbera, having spent yet another day being chased by fields of cows who always look really disappointed when they reach the fence and can't follow us anymore. As I rummaged in the bargain bin in Mundubbera supermarket, I heard someone excitedly scream my name across the shop. It was Bonny(sausage lady). We chatted for a while then Bonny went off to get Sue the local journalist for the Burnett Times who took some pictures and did a story on us for this weeks paper. Bonny then came down with a gift for us: some mosquito repellent bracelets, bandanas and an ornament of our favourite Australian bird, the Kookaburra. We were so touched by this but Ben, who can't help but be honest said we couldn't take the ornament due to it's weight. The other gifts however were really useful, thanks so much Bonny. Bonny then invited us to stay the night. We would have both loved to but a tail-wind was blowing us to Eidsvold, 40 kms away, so we reluctantly set off. However, it proved to be the right decision. We rode at full-speed to Eidsvold and arrived there less than 2 hours later. Graham even let us stay the night in the local campsite for free so we're glad we set off when we did. We met an interesting man called Wolfgang who gave me a sapphire after telling me that the streets are quite literally paved with gold over in the mining towns of Emerald and Sapphire. Apparently, there are sapphires just lying around all over the place. The next day, Andrew called over to us from the street. He shouted us a drink in his cafe as he'd seen us cycling in Gympie, a few hundred kms away and was impressed we'd got so far. We cycled 80 kms to Monto by which point I could no longer hide from the fact that something was wrong with my body. Both arms were becoming increasingly numb on the bike as well as my left leg and my neck and back were aching. Over the last few days, Ben had adjusted my seat, stem and handlebars umpteen different ways but I was still in a lot of pain. It was really getting me down and I began to fear the worst.
Andrew.... serves the best milkshakes in the world
Last Saturday, on my 31st birthday, we arrived in Biloela. We went straight to the White Cockatoo campsite( http://www.discoveryholidayparks.com.au/ ) to see if we could get a free nights camp to enjoy a birthday bottle of wine in the tent together. At the reception desk, we met Roy who said of course we could stay the night for free. He then started looking for keys at which point we realised we were getting a cabin(and a very swish one at that) for the night. Roy said we could stay a few days if we liked then led us to a canteen with fridges full of buffet food. He explained that this food had been made for the workers who stay there during the week but as it was the weekend, they had gone and all the food had to be eaten by Monday. He then thrust a cold can of Coke into our hands, showed us the swimming pool and told me to have a nice birthday. It was just one of those moments where things couldn't get much better . I did indeed have a nice birthday thanks to Roy's amazing generosity.
Happy birthday to me
Free buffet at Roy's
And ice cream to follow
Pool at Biloela
However, despite getting caught up in the excitement I couldn't ignore the fact that I was not right so we went round to A & E at Biloela hospital. Unbelievably, I was led straight into a room to see a doctor after 5 mins. I explained about the pain, numbness and discomfort on the saddle. The doctor concluded it was more likely to be poor set-up of the bike trapping a groinal nerve than any more serious condition. So we went back to the cabin to enjoy the rest of my birthday. On Monday, 2 days later after a good rest we managed to acquire some new handle bars and went round to Jim's Cycles in Biloela. Chris , who owns the shop was so helpful, lending Ben his tools to change the bars round and selling us cables at a rock-bottom price. We cycled 75kms to Dululu against a headwind and I was still uncomfortable on the bike. It became clear I'd have to get rid of my expensive Brooks saddle and try someting else.
Baby kangaroo found by the side of his dead mum who'd just been knocked down
We spent the night at a lovely free campsite in Dululu then set off to Gracemere the next day to stay with Chris and Gina from warm showers. So here we are now, writing from Chris and Gina's flower shop. We went into Rockhampton yesterday and met Phil from Different Cycles ( http://www.differentcycles.com.au/ )who has given us a couple of different saddles to try as well as Johnny from Tuckers Bike shop( http://www.tuckersavantiplus.com.au/ ) who gave us a saddle to try and some free inner and outer gear cable. The generosity of bike shop owners has been amazing so far and we appreciate all the free and discounted parts we've been given. Hopefully, we can ride off from Rockhampton tomorrow with a comfortable saddle. If not, I'm not sure what I'll do next. Chiropractor? New legs?New bike? Walk back to Scotland?And to Chris, Gina, Nel, Phil and Helena we think you are awesome. Thanks for the fine hospitality and erudite conversation! We'll see you in Scotland some day on your world tour. Chris, you are a comedian and no mistake. I hope Gracemere's ready for it's first anarchist coffee shop. You can buy flowers from his shop at Horton's Arts and Crafts, Shop 4, Lawrie St, Gracemere.Ph: 07 4933 4599.
Chris's flower shop
Is this an orange that I see before me?
Cycling to Gracemere in the pouring rain
Chris's bike - jealous
I am constantly touched by the generosity of all the people who've came in and out of our lives. Some people have helped us in a really big way but we are just as touched by the simple words of encouragement and best wishes from a stranger. Australia is great for that. We are now aware that time is of the essence and must get a move on if we're gonna make it to Darwin for May 19th. The weather is heating up though and Rockhampton is so humid that you are soaked with sweat 5 mins after getting out the shower. I really need to get well again so please say a little prayer for me that I'm back to full health with my new saddle. My new night time project is learning Indonesian before we arrive in Bali in May. A word for anyone going there who'd like to learn the language: it's so simple. No difficult grammar or pronunciation, just say what you see. It'll be nice to hold a conversation with people out in the sticks. I hope I get to use it. Anyway, ciao for now.