Fat Bike Tour – Bowen River – Burdekin Dam – Fletcher Creek – Townsville

This post is very late, but it is finally getting a go. At the end of September 2020 (last year) I took the opportunity to do a quick bicycle tour before the heat really started to kick in.

It felt like cheating, but I got a lift to Bowen to start this tour. Riding down the Bruce Highway from Townsville to Bowen has never been an appealing option and now we own a car, I thought it would be a good time to use it! I left at 7am…sort of…Jen was in the car zigzagging across town looking for coffee and breakfast options. Nothing opened until 8am so we gave up, I had a ride to start!

It was a cool morning as I left for Collinsville. Riding past the market gardens at 37kmh on a slight downhill, my front tyre started to rumble. Figuring it was just the extra speed I kept going until the rear tyre joined the rumble and I realised I had two flat tyres. Punctures are always a pain but particularly when you have a loaded fat bike!

Two new tubes fitted and I was away again. 20km further down the road the rear tyre started to rumble again. Yep, another puncture. I pushed the bike up the last part of the hill to a clearing with a small patch of shade. With no more spare tubes it was a glue and patch job. By now the day had warmed up considerably. A generous motorist stopped to see if I was okay and gave me a bottle of water.

Fat bike tyres don’t come in the Schwalbe Marathon Plus or Marathon versions, which are super puncture resistant and our normal touring/commuting choice. I had Schwalbe Jumbo Jim tyres, promoted as being puncture resistant…if set up as tubeless. Needless to say, this was not the case with my tyres…you don’t want to get me started on that tubeless malarky!

Along with punctures, I had to deal with vicious magpie attacks as I got closer to Collinsville. Over several years, the Da Brim helmet brim has been an amazing magpie protector, keeping magpies from swooping and proven many times. We sell them, so we are definitely biased, but there has always been a pile of anecdotal evidence as proof. Today’s magpies were different! One even came UNDERNEATH my Da Brim and got my ear! This was previously UNHEARD of!

Collinsville did have nice hot chips, almost making up for their scary magpies and wicked thorns. They also had water, which I needed because I had underestimated my requirements and punctures that made the trip longer than expected. It was a good lesson in being prepared for the unexpected!

About 30km from Collinsville is the Bowen River Hotel. It was established in 1861 and was very pleasant with cold beer, chicken schnitty’s and green grass for the tent. It was there I met up with a couple of cycle tourists who had been in our shop a few days previously and made their way down here. True to form, there are no photos and I can’t remember their names, but it made for an enjoyable evening (or perhaps that should be afternoon, by the time evening had rolled around I was fast asleep!).

I was undecided what to do the next day. I could push onto the Burdekin Falls dam or have a rest day in the shady pub grounds and mend punctures. After fixing punctures, it was only 8am so I hit the road. The rear tyre was a bit soft so I gave it some more air but didn’t check the pressure. I figured if it went flat in the first 10km I would go back to the pub.

The ride to the Burdekin was hot and slow with a long steep range to cross about half way. It was a lot slower, tougher and hotter than I expected so I needed to top up my water from a dam. Cool and clear, I didn’t even filter it.

The last 15km for the day was tough. The hills leading to the caravan park are probably the hardest I have ever ridden. I finally pulled up at about 4.30pm. There are no pubs or cafes here so I cooked rice and a freeze-dried Thai chicken green curry. It tasted great, but I was pretty hungry!

An easy day followed with a breakfast of oats, tea and coffee, washing of socks and jocks in the shower, and an attempt at a damper in the Trangia. it was edible and tasted okay, but I’m not sure how it would rank with a classic Australian drover. I’ll have to hone my skills on this one before I offer to do the cooking on our next big cycle touring adventure.

Upon checking the tyre pressures, I found the rear tyre was down to 3psi! No wonder it was tough yesterday!

After a restful day at the dam, I rode to Charters Towers where I camped at the caravan park. It was my birthday so I had a big barbie cookup with a beer or two.

The next day I rode up the Gregory Developmental Road to Fletcher Creek. The Dalrymple National Park is here, with some great bush camping spots. A mountain biking mate and his family were camping out and provided a welcome cup of tea and break from the ride before I crossed the Burdekin River to continue on.

Ian gave directions for when I reached Dotswood Road. Dotswood Road is a dirt road that traverses from Hervey Range Road through to the Flinders Highway at Mingela. We have ridden up and down it a number of times, but never crossed over to Dalrymple National Park. It certainly turned out to be an adventure because the instructed right turn onto Dotswood Road should have been left. It was late in the afternoon when I turned right…and rode 11km before realising and turning around to ride in the opposite direction.

It all added to the adventure because I rode through the night until I reached the end of Dotswood Road. That was enough. I ate half a packet of biscuits and, wrapping the ground sheet around me as protection from the wind and cold, lay on the ground and went to sleep.

On my final day I rode down Hervey Range Road and home. Too early for the Heritage Tea Rooms, I kept going until I reached the Rupertswood General Store where I scoffed a fantastic meat and potato pie. The rest of the ride home was long and slow and I was knackered. It had been a great trip with a taste of adventure. I was already looking forward to the next one!

2 responses to “Fat Bike Tour – Bowen River – Burdekin Dam – Fletcher Creek – Townsville

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