The senses are heightened as we escape the confines of Brisbane and head south west towards Boonah. The colours seem brighter, yellows, greens and browns drift by, all offset against the deep blue sky and the intoxicating smell of wattle/mimosa. We are escaping to the country for a few days. Queensland winter days are low 20’s Celsius and clear blue skies. I cannot think of better motorcycle riding weather, even if the mornings are a little nippy.
After a false start two weeks ago, when we woke with colds on the day of departure and ended up swapping the bikes, “Bee” aka Honda CB500X and “the Bird” aka Triumph Thunderbird for a slot in the COVID testing queue, we are finally away. A negative COVID test result a couple of days later was expected, but in these times one always has a small question-mark over the outcome. The all clear came via text and we were able to reschedule once we had thrown off the last remnants of our colds.
Unlike Streak and Storm, the Bird and the Bee are not equipped to take everything bar the kitchen sink. Space is limited but with some judicious packing we are able to fit everything we need for three days in the Bird’s not so cavernous panniers and we are off for our first road trip with these two bikes. “Streak and Storm” our usual mounts are a world away and who knows when we will get to ride them again.
Leaving the city traffic behind, we wend our way to Boonah, a small country town about one and a half hours from Brisbane. A regular stop for us for coffee but instead of returning to Brisbane as we usually do on a day’s ride, we are heading west, up over Cunningham’s gap where the sound of bell birds ring in our ears. We can feel like we are really away with the dividing range to our backs as we travel towards Clifton in the Toowoomba region for lunch and the air decidedly cooler.
Anne has a connection to this area as some 25 years ago she was member of a team that competed in a national innovation competition. Her team won the State (Qld) competition and then travelled to Perth for the national finals. They did not win but secured best national ‘Marketing’ prize which was the area Anne led. The product you ask? The processing of pig waste! We’re not sure what happened to that product but Anne found it a fascinating experience, apart from the smell.
As we like to take our time, and be off the road by 4pm at the latest, to avoid meeting wildlife head on, our first night is at Oakey. We have not made a booking, with all the uncertainty, but head to the same motel we had booked a couple of weeks back and were allowed to cancel on the day with full refund because of our COVID hick-up.
As the local school finishes for the day, we hear pop music coming from the school speakers. The motel manager tells us that each month the best class gets to choose the song to be used instead of the school bell. What a good motivational tool. As we walk to the local shop in our motorcycle gear the younger children wave and say hello. Not sure that you get that in the city.
The motel manager offers to run us up to the local club for dinner, which as always in the country serves up a hearty meal before a constitutional walk back to our motel.
Wildlife is always a concern with country riding, but given that we avoid riding at the start and end of the the day as a rule, we see little wildlife close up which is a good thing. Very occasionally we are surprised and watching a pheasant rise up and fly within a wing’s length of my helmet was enough to increase my heart rate in spite of the medication I take. I was just envisioning what a pheasant emblem would look like embedded on my jacket when it veered away. Minutes later a large eagle glided a couple of meters above our heads and then a really large goanna decided to cross in front of us, and immediately turn across the road again in the opposite direction, all in the space of 10 minutes. They say things happen in threes so that’s enough excitement for one day.
We have not been to the Bunya Mountains for 20 years, so what will have changed – not much I hope. The mountains rise up to over 1000m / 3000 ft. from the surrounding plains providing great TV and mobile phone coverage for the locals. The Bunya Mountains National Park, which covers some 19,000 hectares, is the second oldest National Park in Queensland. It is named after the Bunya tree which is famous for nuts that saw Australian Aboriginal people travel from hundreds of kms to harvest the nuts every three years until European expansion into the region in the 1840’s and the subsequent farming and logging in the region curtailed this practice.
The road from Jondaryan to the Bunya’s still has a section of dirt that we remember from our previous visit. Some things do not change. A twisty single lane road with hairpin bends takes us up from the open plains east of the Bunya mountains to in the cool and quiet of the magnificent Bunya and Hoop pine trees that surround us. We were lucky not to come across any vehicles making the decent. It really is a single lane road. We will be coming back a different way.
One of the great pleasures we have riding is meeting other motorcyclists. This time we meet those from 2 years old to over 70. The two year old was not talkative but just loved motorcycles and was enthused just by seen our helmets. The parents were at a loss to explain his love of motorcycles as neither rode although his mother had ridden dirt bikes on the farm as a child, so maybe it’s in their DNA.
The restaurant at the start of the national park allows us to leave all our motorcycling gear on a table between our coffee and lunch bookings while we meander between the impressive pines. They also have the Shackleton scotch bar with over 100 Scotches on offer. We will have to make a return trip and spend a night in front of the log fire sipping single malts.
Onward to Kingaroy the peanut capital of Queensland and original home of our former state premier Sir Jo Bjelke-Peterson. Before our time I hasten to add. When he was premier, Queensland was sometimes known as “Jo’s Place” and he was famous amongst other things for deflecting questions from reporters with “don’t you worry about all that”. His wife Flo was famous for her pumpkin scones and also became a Queensland state senator. An interesting couple.
Warmer weather greets us on our third and last day on the road, heading home on our wedding anniversary. We celebrate with coffee and cake at the Goomeri Bakery. We had learnt that the owner while spending time in France offered the local baker her time for free to learn the baking trade. The result a wonderful french bakery in central Queensland.
We always enjoy travelling down new roads and the Goomeri to Gympie will be worth riding again. We stick to the back roads up from Gympie via Kenilworth and Maleny to Woodford and finally a twisty ride up over Mt Mee. Three days of good weather and riding over 830km and we are home. A wonderful experience, the riding, the people we met and the weather and one that we will repeat.
The thirst for adventure has been rekindled and we are lucky to be in Queensland. Our state is seven times the size of the UK and two and a half times the size of Texas so there is much to explore, so next week we swap two wheels for four and our adventures continue.