For previous blog entries of our ride through NZ, Australia, South East Asia, China and Central Asia, click on the little arrows beside the dates in the Blog Archive below and use the scroll down menu.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Australia - Townsville to Darwin

From the Burnett Times


Route: Townsville - Charters Towers - Hughenden - Richmond - Julia Creek - Cloncurry - Mount Isa- Camooweal-Three ways- Daly Waters-Katherine-Darwin


Distance cycled: 9776kms





At last we reached the turnoff for the Flinders Highway after spending the last few months sauntering up the NSW and Queensland coast. We started heading West from Townsville into the Outback and took it easy on our first day, setting up camp at Reid River rest area after 65 kms. We bumped into Conor who gave us a number for his brother in deepest Cloncurry. We thanked him and promised to look him up on our way through. We reached the town of Charters Towers the next day and admired the original and well-preserved architecture. There was a country music festival on that weekend which explained why everyone was dressed as cowboys. As it turns out however, that's the general look in Western Queensland. We camped wild that night by the side of the highway appreciating the natural beauty of this area. The sunset was stunning as it settled on the flat, open landscape and we felt very contended. After Charters, the road really flattened out and was to stay completely flat for the next 500 kms.






Lookout - 550 metres up the Great Dividing Range

The horizon was as flat as the sea for many, many miles and the road never changed direction. This place is beautiful and the colours of the landscape, so intense. Furthermore, we had a South-Easterly wind blowing us all the way to Mount Isa. It was some of the best riding we'd ever done and we covered the 900kms from Townsville to Mount Isa in just 9 days. Every car on this lonely road gives you a friendly wave or a pip of the horn. They know where you're heading and it's a long way with not much inbetween! We've also been introduced to the phenomenon of road trains. These 53 metre long beasts truly are the kings of the road and when we hear one coming we get out of their way quick smart. The last carriage has a tendency to swing around wildly at the back so it's best to give them a wide bearth.



Nearly home then


We arrived in Hughenden, a small outback town 400 kms from Townsville and spent the night in a campsite. As it was a public holiday, we enjoyed a free "Driver Reviver", tea, coffee and biscuits supplied to the travelling public on the highways. We'll do just about anything for a free digestive biscuit.We covered the 100 or so kilometres to Richmond in a record time again and set up camp by the side of Lake Fred Tritton. Richmond is yet another friendly little town with a rich history in mining and farming. Despite their remoteness, all the towns we have been to so far have an extremely close knit community and made us, the travelling stranger feel extremely welcome. Life runs at a very slow pace out here, which is fitting for the temperature of Inland Australia and so many people took the time to chat to us about our trip and offer us help. Food is more expensive out here which is no surprise considering the geography but we managed to make our food we had bought in Townsville last 5 days.






80 year old Hugh, biking round Oz to raise money for prostate cancer charity


We left Hughenden and cycled 115 kms to Richmond where we camped by the side of Lake Fred Tritton. The following day was a 100 km stint to Flinders rest area . We arrived in the dark to be welcomed by the sight of a roaring fire and spent a nice night with some backpackers. The next day, we did our longest stint without a break, 96 kms. We usually take a break after 50 or 60 kms but as there was no shelter, we just pushed on through the midday sun. In Julia Creek, we booked into ther campsite and enjoyed having the local swimming pool, with an entry fee of 60p, all to ourselves. A man called Graham shoved $5 into my hand for some cold drinks, appalled that we had to drink hot water on the bikes all day. In Scotland, we have the opposite problem where it's so cold the water freezes and cracks open your bottle.We stayed at another rest area the following day at Oorindi. The rest areas are great, offering toilets, drinking water, tables, shelter and sometimes a cold shower.

Arriving in Cloncurry, we got in touch with Conor's brother Brendan and his wife Sally who we spent a great day with. Thanks to you both for putting up a couple of strangers. As Brendan said, if you don't take a chance with people you'll miss out. We got to meet the local Cloncurry folk at a cattle drive dinner and Brendan showed us his book he had just had published.


The Kersh family

Whilst bedridden after an accident, Brendan had time to see just how much work Sally did for him and the kids and wrote this book as a token of appreciation. I'm sure mothers everywhere would relate to it( http://www.brendankersh.com).

53.1 degrees



Would you like to see some puppies?







We did a big day the nest day, cycling 120kms to Mount Isa. After hundreds of kilometres of flat, straight road we enjoyed slogging up a few hills. We hadn't seen a hill since coming over the Great Dividing Range which to be honest, wasn't as big a climb as we'd imagined. It had been an amazing ride through Western Queensland and we enjoyed the freedom of cycling on a road where approximately 1 car passed us every 10 minutes. It was magic. After a car passed us, we could still see it 3 or 4 minutes later. It was the longest, straightest road we'd ever been on. Arriving in Mount Isa, we went straight to Jim and Peta's. Jim is the brother of warm showers Jackie from Mackay. We spent a lovely couple of days with these guys camping in their beautiful, tropical garden with Chester the dog. Thanks so much for the lovely food and great hospitality.


Whilst in Mount Isa, we managed to get an interview on ABC North West:





................and featured on the front page of The Star newspaper:



We are following in the footsteps of Anne Mustoe who I mentioned in an earlier blog. Anne was in her sixties when her husband died and she decided, with no previous cycling experience to cycle round the world. In her book "Lone Traveller", she detailed her ride from Townsville to Darwin and we are following her, trying to match her impressive distances. Sadly, Anne died recentely whilst cycle touring in Syria. We really felt like we knew her and it is with her in mind that we do this part of the trip.




It was great to get to the supermarket again here we filled every space in our panniers with food before setting out into the wilderness again. We did a short day on the bike, stopping after 65 kms at the WW2 rest area. We set off early next morning to cycle to Camooweal, 135 kms away. Camooweal boasts an impressive population of 310. A truck pulled up in front of us about 30 kms from town and Rob, who had heard us on the radio, gave us 6 ice-cold milkshakes. Fame at last. This gave us the push we needed to finish the ride in the sweltering heat. We had a celebratory ringing of the bells as we crossed from Western Queensland into the Northern Territory. Now we were getting somewhere. We stayed at Avon Downs rest area and went to check out the Outback police station there. It appeared to be manned only by a horse and cow eating grass in the front lawn so it's just as well we didn't have any pressing police matters.


John and Maureen - our support crew in Camooweal!





A stick insect named Stevie LeeWonarah Bore

Next day we broke our record and cycled 155 kms to another rest area, Wonarah Bore. we arrived buggared but pleased with our efforts and enjoyed another amazing Outback sunset and sunrise. Before setting off, ex-Edinburger Ron and his wife Karen let us shower in their mobile home which refreshed us for the day ahead. They took a risk leaving a Glaswegian in their van and were pleased to find it still there when they came back. We did 95 kms to Frewena rest area the next day and then zoomed off to get to 3 ways, where we made our first right turn in almost 1600 kms.I wasn't having a good day that day and long overdue a rest, slowed down to a snails pace. Ben, ever the gentleman, sped off to avoid having to listen to my complaining. When I arrived at the next rest area, Ben was drinking a cold beer with this man:












We spent a couple of hours with Frank, drinking beer and listening to music before reluctantly getting back on the bikes to get to 3 ways. We really wanted to spend the night there with Frank watching "Avatar" in his car and drinking more beer but something was pushing us on. Frank was an amazing guy who will probably never get to read this as he doesn't do the internet. Before we left, he started emptying the boot of his car, giving us tea, coffee, biscuits,meths,tins of soup, fishing line,hooks and toilet roll. Frank, we hope you have had the best of luck since you left us that day, you deserve it.








And so, we arrived at 3 ways in the dark. Another milestone, less than 1000 kms to Darwin. We were happy to have reached triple figures. Ben took a day off to fix the bikes and I did a 50 km round trip to the aboriginal town of Tennant Creek. It was an eye-opener to say the least. As I cycled down the main street, people smiled and waved but I could say that a lot of them were not in good shape. A lot of Aborigines seem to find it hard to deal with the negative influences of drink and drugs and lose control of their lives. People living on their land in more traditional ways seem to have happier, more wholesome lives.
We then started cycling North up the Stuart Highway, stopping at the lovely quiet campsite of Banka Banka. Alex let us stay for free. This is a great little spot with pristine amenities and beautiful suroundings. (http://www.bankabankastation.com/ ) Ph: 08 8964 4511.








We arrived the next day at Renner Springs, again staying for free. A gang of geese who we called the T-Birds kept trying to attack us. However, we stood up to them and like most bullies this confused them and they left us alone. Renner Springs has the Desert Inn where you can enjoy drinks and great meals. Definitely a great place to stop.Ph: 08 8964 4505







Then we arrived in Elliott. Once again we had been warned about this town and once again found the people friendly and welcoming. Funny that. Wayne at Midland campsite let us stay half price. Ph: 08 8969 2037. Elliott has a bad reputation but we found it a nice place to stay so please don't be put off. Little towns like Elliott need the business. Infact, Elliott brought us more good fortune than we could have ever imagined. There were only a few of us in the caravan park and straight away Carol offered us some food. We found ourselves with eggs, potatoes, sausages, cheese, tomatoes and onions which was great as we were running low on food. Then Barbara brought us over hot chicken curry with rice. We couldn't believe our luck. In the middle of the night a couple came in and started setting up camp in the dark. Ben went over to offer them our headtorches. The next morning Graham came over to thank us for the previous nights offer and invited us over for breakfast. We said our goodbyes after an enjoyable morning together and set off. A few kilometres up the road, Graham and Iris pulled over in front of us and gave us a bag with some jelly snakes in it. We were delighted and as we thanked him I noticed some $50 notes in the bag too. Graham said "and there's some money for a new camera". They had given us $300 to replace our broken camera. We couldn't believe it. It goes without saying we want to say a huge thankyou to you both. Your kindness was amazing and in Darwin we bought a CanonPowerShot A490, thinking of you both. We cycled on that day with huge smiles on our faces. It was one of those days where everything felt right with the world.






We stopped after 25 kms to take a couple of well-deserved days off at Newcastle Waters rest area. As usual, we were looked after by our friends, "The Grey Nomads", an affectionate term used to describe the thousands of retirees spending their twilight years circling Australia in caravans and motorhomes. We enjoyed soup, bread, cakes and ice-cold drinks, good company and good conversation. As usual, everyone was interested in our trip.





The next day, John and Colleen pulled up next to us. John got out his home-made rum and before long, a good time was being had by all. Peter and Chrissy came to join us and offered to lend us their spare camera until we got to Darwin. We were delighted as this would mean we wouldn't miss out on photo opportunities.


Colleen and John

We left Newcastle Waters and faced an unexpected headwind so gave up after a few hours. Greg at Dunmarra gave us a free night in the campsite where we enjoyed cold Bundaberg Ginger beer by the pool. Ph: 08 8975 9922. Paul and Denise even made our dinner.




A desert rose


We got to the famous Daly Waters pub the next day. Once again, we got a free nights camp and we started to realise just how good-spirited people were in the NT. Daly Waters is a bit of a "must see" really, especially between 4.30 and 5.30pm when they play "Toss the Boss". This is a happy hour with a difference where, if you win the toss of a coin, you get your drinks free. (http://www.dalywaterspub.com/)



Manu and Elodie



We were so lucky that we ended up stockpiling drinks then having to give them away. We polished off the rest of the rum that John had given us and then met French couple, Manu and Elodie, travelling round Australia. We spent a great night with these two dancing outside their car in the middle of a field till 4 in the morning. Ben didn't have quite as late a night as me and next morning made me cycle 90 kms to Larrimah. It was a hellish day, during which I promised myself I'd never cycle with a hangover again.




Alcohol and bizarrely pornography restrictions apply in some Aboriginal towns






Get a bike

We arrived in Larrimah where the pub and campsite have a lot of character, just like Daly Waters. It's a nice place to stop and they even have a free mini zoo. Ph: 08 8975 9931.The lovely Ann let us stay for free and gave us a loaf of bread and some meths for our stove. People had been so good to us us in the NT.













The long and not so winding road






Ant Hills - all over the NT and Western Queensland


















Night cycling in the NT




Save yourself a fiver, get to the Driver Reviver!



"It's not the heat that'll get ya, it's the humidity" Thanks for the tip.


Anders and Pierre

Bitter Springs










We then reached Mataranka and went to the famous hot springs. Bitter springs is a natural, croc-free thermal pool. We spent the day there with Manu and Elodie and heard that 2 Norwegian cycle tourers were staying at the campsite. Ben went to find them and came back with Helena and Jardar, cycling around Oz. These two had done an impressive 11,000 kms in 6 months and a longest day of 220 kms. We spent the day at the Springs together before going our separate ways.


Helena and Jardar



We arrived in the big aboriginal town of Katherine. The place had a real buzz about it with all the Aboriginal folk hanging around outside the shopping centre. We joined them and enjoyed a lavish lunch on the grass after a visit to Coles supermarket. We always go a bit mad with the shopping after several days in the Outback, treating ourselves to whatever we fancy.


Porridge - breakfast of champions

We stayed the night at Red Gum campsite, you guessed it, for free. It was a lovely campsite with a nice pool and only 1 km from Katherine Hot Springs. Ph: 08 8972 2239. Ben bumped into another French couple cycle touring on a tandem. We had become increasingly amused by the vast number of French people we met on a daily basis and wondered if there was still anyone left in France. Ben helped Arnaud and Julie with a temporary repair to their hub to help them get to Darwin and we did two great days cycling with them. The first day we cycled to Edith Falls in Nitmiluk National Park. It was a 20 km detour off the Highway but totally worth it. We stayed for free again in the campsite. Whilst making dinner, a familiar accent drifted across the campsite. Ah, fellow weegies.


Adrian and Lorraine


Adrian and Lorraine from Anniesland were travelling around Oz in a camper van and looked after our bikes and belongings the next morning while the 4 of us hiked up to the upper pools for a swim. What a lovely couple. We trusted them without hesitation with all our worldly possessions which says a lot about them. On our return they even had tea and toast waiting for us. We hope to see you again in Glasgow one day.



Edith Falls




The four of us then cycled to Pine Creek. Looking for a nice, quiet place to stay? Then come to Pine Creek service station where Bruce gave us a free night. Ph: 08 8976 1217. We had a memorable night with "The French" where we started to realise just how many amazing places they had been on their bikes. We watched some of their videos on the laptop of their travels through South America which rekindled my desire to do Alaska to Chile by bike if we get back from this trip. Ben wasn't so keen at first but is now. Anyway, he has to come, I need a bike mechanic!

Arnaud and Julie


Post bush fire



We said goodbye to our new friends as they headed off to Kakadu National Park and we cycled to Adelaide River. arriving in the dark, we realised how much the NT comes to life at night. It's an amazing experience cycling there in the dark as long as you don't hit one of the many kangaroos jumping across the road. Someone told us a story of finding a dead kangaroo, sfiff with rigeur mortis, propped up against a tree with a cigarette in its mouth and a beer in its hand. Ah Australian humour.













Thanks to the farmer who let us draft him for 20kms on the way to Darwin!

We arrived at Adelaide River campsite and Judy, as well as giving us a free night, went off to make us a meal. What a perfect way to spend our last night before reaching Darwin. We were feeling happy. the kind of happiness you only get once in a while where things couldn't get much better. We had a Driver Reviver in the Adelaide River pub where Charlie the Buffalo from "Crocodile Dundee" now resides and set off. We arrived in Humpty Doo a few hours later where we spent the night with Kingsley a warm showers host. Kingsley made us a nice meal and the 3 of us cycled into Darwin the next day. We found Darwin clean, tidy and with a very cosmopolitan feel to it. The sea was blue and would be very inviting if it wasn't infested with crocs.



Kingsley

We then went to stay with Chris and Heather, friends of Heather and Keith who we stayed with in NZ. Nothing was too much trouble for this guys and we felt totally at home in their house and in their company. We are here now sorting out all our jobs before flying to Bali on Sunday. Heather and Chris took us out for a lovely meal and made it clear that we should help ourselves to the internet, telephone, food and anything else we needed.



It was just the sort of help we needed to get organised for the next leg of our journey. And thanks also to Julia, Heather and Chris's daughter who spent time driving us round Darwin, giving us lifts and treating us ato a day out at the museum. You are all wonderful and there will always be a bed and some good hospitality for you in Scotland when you make it over.


Heather, Chris and Julia

The lovely Chrissy and Peter who we met at Mindil market to give the camera back. Thanks so much.


And the sunset at Mindil

Darwin - more sex shops than you can shake a stick at. Our last night with our new friends Manu and Elodie. See you in France. Bonne route!

And so, the end of Australia. It's been a blast and the thing that we will remember most fondly of this country is how good people were to us. The Aussies are a good bunch and in general, will do whatever they can to help you. Thanks to everyone who has made our trip so amazing, you know who you are. Our trip has worked out better than either of us could have imagined and I hope we can inspire others to go on their own trip of a lifetime. We have been so fortunate but have not become complacent. Things, I expect will not be quite so easy in Asia. Australia is a great country to travel in and we always felt safe here. I would recommend it to anyone. Now the hard work really begins as we venture into the madness of S.E Asia. As I always say, wish us luck. Now we really need it.Oh and by the way, Anne Mustoe beat us to Darwin. Indonesia here we come!




Thought for the day: The Scots, it would appear are well-loved the world over but sadly, not the English. So nae luck Ben

7 comments:

  1. Wow Margo! I feel rather guilty that one continient down I am just catching up with you guys....Your journey so far sounds incredible I am completely in awe of what you have achieved and think of you both often. Can't wait to read your next post, Good luck in Bali! Much love and positivity, Laura (shiatsu!) xxx

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  2. great to hear more stories from your mission! will be thinking of you guys as you head in to asia - janus xo

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  3. Belated happy birthday Margo, hugs from Eileen and I. Best of luck from all the guys and girls in the club and keep writing I love hearing your adventures.

    Bill/Eileen

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