Unwashed, slightly grimy and covered with zinc, we arrived in the small town of Quilpie just after 9am the morning after our peaceful roadside stop. We had eked out a small cup of tea from our remaining water, and eaten the rest of the biscuits for breakfast before heading with two bottles of water each for the 30km trip into town.
It was Friday morning and the town was gloriously quiet! We rolled around the Main Street checking out the neat and tidy gardens, clean footpaths and flowerbeds..
A Quilpie pie from the bakery was first on the list, along with quick trip to the visitor information centre. Our smell was even putting us off so we didn’t spend long there before we checked into the Channel Country Tourist Park. They set us up on a patch of grass under a tree even though it was only 9.30am, and we spent the rest of the day washing, walking around town and generally enjoying this small and friendly place.
There are two supermarkets in Quilpie, but they shut at 12pm on a Saturday. We planned to be at the Quilpie show tomorrow and too busy for grocery shopping! Our next leg to Windorah was 246km with no food or water stops along the way. We also didn’t know how limited food supplies would be the further we went past Quilpie, so decided to stock up.
If you’ve been cycle touring or hiking before, you will probably have experienced the desire to eat something different than rice and tuna curry (or whatever your main dish is). We had the brilliant idea to get some green curry paste and coconut milk. Our staples of carrot, onion (broccoli if we had any) and rice, would taste delicious coated with green curry paste instead of our old friend Keen’s.
The supermarket didn’t have satchets of green curry paste, only jars. We were determined however, and a small jar of curry paste, along with a medium size can of coconut milk went in the basket. Baked beans were another canned good that got purchased as well as a block of chocolate, bag of pretzels, packet of biscuits, oranges, apples…any weight considerations seemed to have gone out the window.
Saturday morning we were at the show for the early best pet and bike competitions (sadly these were kids only). Later on there were partner carrying races, cake competitions, bull riding, sheep counting, pig races and circus entertainment. We watched the Quilpie band play, chatted with the CEO of the Quilpie Shire Council and ate freshly hand cut and cooked potato chips.
We met people who confirmed the zero unemployment in Quilpie, read signs advertising job vacancies, and spoke with others who had moved to Quilpie for the fantastic lifestyle.
Like most of the small towns we have travelled through, Quilpie gets its water from the artesian bore. It comes out of the bore at about 71 degrees and has to spend time in a cooling tank before being used in the town. The water did have a sulphur smell about it, not quite as bad as Blackall, but needed time to sit before the smell disappeared.
On Sunday morning we packed up, managing to squeeze our huge load of food and water into the trailer and on the bike. With a potential three nights of roadside camping, we needed a lot of water and had 32 litres on the bike. The plan was visit Baldy Top Lookout on the way out of town, then only do about 40kms before pulling up for the afternoon. Two more days of 80kms would only leave us with about 40km to get into Windorah on the fourth day.
Baldy Top Lookout was amazing…
From then on, we quickly realised we were going to do much more than 40km that day. It was still early and we had an almost tailwind that kept us pedalling along quite happily, despite our heavy load.
The road became narrow in places, with single lane bitumen. Apart from a few caravans and a couple of road trains, we rode undisturbed.
50kms out of Quilpie was a brand new rest stop with picnic tables and shelters, toilets and roadtrain parking. It was still freezing in the shade at that time of the day, in contrast to the later heat of the afternoon.
We decided to call it a day by 100km. It was around 3.30pm when we found a lovely spot 100 metres off the road, sort of behind some bushes and trees. It didn’t matter, we got a couple of waves from the drivers, but by 5.30pm, the last of the handful of vehicles had come past and we had absolute peace until the next morning.
It is hard to describe the beauty and peacefulness that we enjoyed that night. With no fly on the tent we watched the stars come out as darkness fell and the birds became quiet.
The next morning we discovered one of our new 10 litre Ortlieb bladders had burst a tiny bit of the seam on one side and was losing water, one slow drip at a time. We were able to move the water into other bladders, but a leak like this could have a HUGE impact out here. Needless to say, we will be following this up with Ortlieb when we get back home.
We lightened the load with a breakfast of baked beans and two of the bread rolls we bought from Quilpie, we weren’t in a hurry.
But we did do 100kms again that day as the wind continued mostly in our favour. There was hardly any traffic except for the seemingly endless (but not really that many) caravans, for whom we had to keep moving off the single lane bitumen. Harrumph!
We were offered water by a couple of caravan travellers, stopped by one to ask if he could take our photo, and photographed while at a rest stop. It was great chatting, but we started to feel like we wouldn’t get anywhere!
The landscape was big and varied. We came across the old telegraph poles…
And the perfect bike lane right on the highway!
It was nearly 4pm when we hit the 100kmish mark and reached a newish looking rest area that had picnic tables and toilets. Two roadtrains were just leaving when we pulled up and we decided to stop here for the night. Based on last night’s experience, there wouldn’t be anymore traffic until tomorrow.
With the knowledge we only had 51kms to get to Windorah tomorrow, we had two cups of tea with our gingernuts, ate green curry and the block of chocolate we had successfully carted from Quilpie. It had only just started getting a bit soft in today’s increasing heat.
We set our sleeping mats and bags up on the concrete floor under the shelter and fell asleep around 7pm with another wonderful view of the stars.
Until some ridiculous hour when three roadtrains pulled up for their scheduled break! At least they were quiet except for the loud rumbling of the engines and squeak of the trailers as they got back onto the road. The next visitor wasn’t so quiet. We were both startled awake by the sound of a vicious dog barking at our feet! Of course Mick wasn’t scared at all, but Jen’s first thought was of wild dogs and been eaten alive!
Thankfully the dog’s owner was quick to get him back in the ute and they stayed quiet until the sun rose.
After such an eventful night, we woke early to a magnificent sunrise. Celebrating our easy 50km into Windorah, we had another two cups of tea and didn’t bother with breakfast. We would be having bacon and eggs in no time.
The theory was good, but the raging headwind was not. Doing 12km/hr is only good if you’re on a ride to the shops with the kids, not when you’re trying to get to a shower and breakfast!
We stopped for an orange at the 25km mark, feeling rather gloomy, but impressed by the stark landscape and occasional sand dune. At the 40kmish mark, we stopped in grateful amazement at Cooper’s Creek bridge. This oasis was calm and cool with the biggest body of water we had seen in a long time lapping against the banks.
It was a good while before we got going again. The final 10kms could take another hour! Thankfully the road turned in a more westerly direction after a couple more kilometres and it was with relief that we sailed into Windorah not too long later, dirty, smelly, hot and hungry.