Four days of cycle touring in North Queensland

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Ten of us met at the top of Hervey Range, most of us having ridden about 35kms from Townsville with our bikes loaded with gear and water for four days of cycle touring in the heat and possibly dry landscape near Townsville. The sensible ones waited until they got to the Heritage Range Tea Rooms to fill up the largest of their water containers with the bore water on tap there. This is not officially offered as drinking water by the Tea Rooms, but is a safe and good source of water for thirsty cycle tourists!

IMG_4497We love that climbing a hill with an extra 40kgs of weight in water and gear doesn’t really make that much difference to one’s ability to get to the top. It was the first time most people had climbed Hervey Range on loaded touring bikes and everyone made it with no problem.

The real adventure for us felt like it started after a stop at the Tea Rooms for a steak sandwich and coffee when we said goodbye to three cyclists and seven of us continued on. Beyond that point the road is gently undulating and rolls along through green grasslands and sparse scrub. Townsville has had rain recently, so everything was a brilliant lush green, making the heat feel slightly less…well…hot!

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Cold Coke and cold chocolate! A cycle tourer’s delight on a hot day!

At Keelbottom Creek, which is on the main road and a popular weekend bush camping spot for locals, we came across a friend of two cyclists in our group. To our delight he had brought cold coke and chocolate! We weren’t sure we needed it so soon after downing our breakfast at the Tea Rooms, but what the heck! It would have melted anyway…

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Swimming in Keelbottom creek.

We had quick dip in Keelbottom Creek before heading off again. There were plenty of SUV’s and utes going past carrying their camping gear. As usual we experienced overwhelming self-righteous pride as we pedalled our own way on our camping weekend.

A further approximately 40kms (we had done 75kms since leaving Townsville) is the left turn to Dotswood Rd. It’s not hard to miss because it is pretty much the only left turn on Hervey Range Rd and it has a tall rectangular white sign listing a bunch of places on it. Dotswood is one of those places. The sign does not say Dotswood Rd though, so that is something to be aware of. I know a photo of the sign would be helpful right here, but I didn’t think to take one. Maybe next time…

Two of our group were happily pedalling along a few kilometres in front of us. They missed the turn and ended up doing an extra 8kms before we reached the turn, realised they weren’t there, flagged a car down and asked the driver to let the two cyclists know they had gone too far. Needless to say they were knackered, and we were well rested, by the time they made it back!

Waiting at Dotswood Rd...

Waiting at Dotswood Rd…could they have turned here and continued on without waiting? Or have they missed the turn…?

Dotswood Rd had a bit of soft sand, gravel and corrugations to deal with. One of the group found herself laying in the soft sand and leaving her mark…

Jane layeth here...some soft sand that was hard to avoid at times!

Jane layeth here…some soft sand that was hard to avoid at times!

Keelbottom Creek crossed paths with Dotswood Rd and we got to have another swim. The water was flowing quite fast due to the recent rains, and it tasted great!

I need a swim! Keelbottom Creek where Dotswood Rd crosses over with a grid style bridge. One week earlier the bridge was two feet under water!

I need a swim! Keelbottom Creek where Dotswood Rd crosses over with a grid style bridge. A week or two earlier the bridge was two feet under water!

Our camp for the night was at Fanning River, right next to where the grid style bridge crosses the water. It is unsuitable for cars, which makes it perfect for cyclists! Keelbottom Creek, shown in the photo above, would be another great spot to camp, but it does have room for cars, which could make it a bit noisy and unpleasant if a few turned up for the night.

Fanning River where the road crosses over.

Fanning River where the road crosses over.

We had 115kms on the clock when we arrived at the camp spot. There was sufficient water for a wash and a paddle….

Fanning River

Fanning River

We had a small fire (although it was too warm an evening to sit close by), cooked up dinner and went to bed early, worn out after a day of good riding.

Our favourite..the good old Trangia and fresh veggies.

Our favourite..the good old Trangia and fresh veggies.

Army style cook-up complete with ration packs.

Army style cook-up complete with ration packs.

Morning pack-up. It's amazing to think that this chaos fits into bags on bikes!

Morning pack-up. It’s amazing to think that this chaos fits into bags on bikes!

After yesterday’s enjoyable ride, we were all looking forward to the second day of riding. It would be roughly 35kms to Mingela, where we hoped to get some more water, then another 40kms to Ravenswood with a meal booked at the pub. What a carrot! One of the group was heading straight home from Mingela to Townsville. He had a beer and a sandwich to get him home.

Resting at Mingle Pub. The toasted sandwiches were FANTASTIC and had homemade relish on them.

Resting at Mingela Pub. The toasted sandwiches were FANTASTIC and had homemade relish on them.

Looking back on the road from Mingela to Ravenswood. It was a bit hot, but we had the lure of showers and pub food to keep us going.

Looking back on the road from Mingela to Ravenswood. It was a bit hot, but we had the lure of showers and pub food to keep us going.

One of our favourite sights...a bunch of loaded touring bikes!

One of our favourite sights…a bunch of loaded touring bikes!

First stop in Ravenswood - the Historical Imperial Hotel

First stop in Ravenswood – the Historical Imperial Hotel

Ravenswood showgrounds…cheap and comfortable

We set up camp at the Ravenswood showgrounds. There was a big family reunion on that weekend, so there were quite a number of caravans already set up, and the karaoke that night was something we wished we hadn’t heard, but the shower, toilets and shade were brilliant. We were near a big open shed, which came in handy for one of our group who was sick of sharing her small tent with a snorer and decided to get some more room. It would have been a great spot to set up camp if it was wet and windy too.

Dinner was worth having at the Historical Imperial Hotel because you could help yourself to the selection of freshly cooked vegetables. The beer was good too.

Road between Ravenswood and Ayr

Road between Ravenswood and Ayr

Our third day was a 90km cycle on a back road between Ravenswood and Ayr. It was dirt for the first 45kms (roughly speaking) and pretty bumpy in points. We wished we had 50mm tyres, which would have provided a great deal more comfort. Our 35mm Schwalbe Marathon Deluxe tyres worked fine, but didn’t do much to absorb the vibrations!

There were plenty of cows grazing and they were quite curious at times, either running across in front of us, running along beside us, or suddenly heading off behind us like in the photo below.

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Celebrating at the end of the dirt road. It was great while it lasted but we were all happy to reach the bitumen again!

Celebrating at the end of the dirt road. It was great while it lasted but we were all happy to reach the bitumen again!

Shady spot for a rest

Shady spot for a rest, 20kms from Ayr

We had booked a campsite at the Big4 caravan park in Ayr. They were happy to charge us $10 each, which might seem expensive for some of the cycle tourists we meet, but it was a lot cheaper than the standard $30 or more that we have often paid before at caravan parks!

It was Easter Sunday so there were no supermarkets open. We obviously hadn’t thought this one through very well and were unprepared. The caravan park came to rescue though, they offered to lend us their car so we could drive the 12kms to Home Hill where there was an independent grocery store open, full of fresh fruit and vegetables and all the things we were after! We were so grateful, feeling desperate for a good home cooked meal. The others settled on take away and we all ate together in the camp kitchen before heading early to bed again, ready for the final day of the trip.

Big 4 caravan park in Ayr. The grass was green and lush, the site was shady and the amenities were clean. There were some noisy backpackers on the road just near our tents keeping us awake most of the night, but the park itself was great!

Big 4 caravan park in Ayr. The grass was green and lush, the site was shady and the amenities were clean. There were some noisy backpackers on the road just near our tents keeping us awake most of the night, but the park itself was great!

We had mapped out a route from Ayr to Giru, which would avoid the busy Bruce Highway. This took us 51km through the cane fields and quiet country roads. (If you would like to get details, contact us and we can show you where we went).

Waiting for us in Giru were two friends who had ridden out to meet us. We were delighted to find the general store open and bought cold drinks to go with our lunch. Tatsuro turned up as we were getting ready to go. He was planning on reaching Townsville that night so we gave him our address and invited him to stay the night.

Tatsuro Hamao - a cycle tourist from Japan who had just spent 8 months travelling anticlockwise around Australia after arriving in Darwin.

Tatsuro Hamao – a cycle tourist from Japan who had just spent 8 months travelling anticlockwise around Australia after arriving in Darwin and plans to keep pedalling for about 6 years! Lucky guy!

Two of our group decided to head straight home along the Bruce Highway to get home. The rest of us said goodbye to Tatsuro and rode home via Woodstock. There were a few cars, but it was mostly traffic free, enjoyable riding. About 60kms from Townsville we met another friend who was cycling out to meet us. It was great having some company because the last 25kms felt a bit tough. In true touring fashion we decided that 10kms was not too close to home to stop for ice-cream and cold drinks.

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Parting of ways...two down the Bruce Hwy and the rest of us onto Woodstock.

Parting of ways…two down the Bruce Hwy and the rest of us onto Woodstock.

Lunch stop weariness on the way to Ayr

Lunch stop weariness on the way to Ayr

Ortlieb Hi-Vis reflective panniers work well, as do the reflective tyres

Ortlieb Hi-Vis reflective panniers work well, as do the reflective tyres

I'm knackered alright!

I’m knackered alright!

Mingela Hotel toasted sandwich...delicious!

Mingela Hotel toasted sandwich…delicious!

Intrepid tourer

Intrepid tourer

Onward ho! Leaving Fanning River camp.

Onward ho! Leaving Fanning River camp.

What's wrong with this army ration pack bread that I have charred over my little flame...

What’s wrong with this army ration pack bread that I have charred over my little flame…

Ready to leave Keelbottom Creek

Ready to leave Keelbottom Creek

By the time we got home we had ridden 409kms over the four days, broken two spokes and seen two of our Ortlieb panniers decide to lose an attachment point. Our Da Brim helmet visors worked a treat, the long-sleeved cotton shirts kept the sun off, and our Ortlieb 4 litre water bags were great. We were pretty tired when we got home, but all we could think was…

…when’s the next trip?!…

One of our next posts going to be about our gear. We had some issues with some of the stuff, and discovered some great workarounds, which are worth knowing when you’re out and about on the pedals. Keep an eye out for it!

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3 responses to “Four days of cycle touring in North Queensland

  1. Pingback: Gear issues – Ortlieb panniers | The Bicycle Pedlar·

  2. Pingback: Cycling ‘hacks’ | The Bicycle Pedlar·

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