Inland Run

The maps have been refolded, the tent packed and we are ready to depart Airlie Beach, but where to? We have decided that with the strong 40km/hr winds scheduled for the next few days and approaching school holidays that Cairns and the Daintree will have to wait until another day. Inland and south it is. To head south on our planned route, we must first head north 80km/50ml before we can turn inland.

As we approach Bowen, the ocean comes into view again. It is interesting to note that while travelling up the Queensland coast on the Bruce Highway glimpses of the ocean are few and far between until you are north of Cairns. 

Another large Queensland sculpture – the Bowen mango

Cane train crossing.

As we progress away from Bowen the strong winds are abating and the landscape changes. We leave behind the green sugar cane fields and cane train crossings and are moving in cattle and coal country. We have decided to take a route that keeps us parallel to the coast but on roads we have not travelled before. Our planned route will take us to Collinsville, Nebo, Dingo, Banana, Mount Morgan, Monto and back to Brisbane. We also realise that the clouds and rain that seemed to have followed us up the coast have dissipated and we are now riding blue sky days, perfect!

And then we finally got blue skies and funny clouds

Our first stop in Collinsville for morning coffee. We were lucky to spend an engaging hour talking to a local cattle farmer Stephen about his property on the Burdekin river and also the barramundi and crocodiles that inhabit the river. I was not expecting crocodiles to be so far inland.  I think I will keep my toes out of the water should the opportunity arise.

Burdekin cattle farmer Stephen.

Commemorating the Collinsville “pit pony”

In the Wikipedia entry on Collinsville, it talks about coal being discovered in 1866, but in the next sentence mentions that the aboriginal name of the town was “Moongunya” which means “place of coal”! How often do we see the term “discovered” used when the locals knew always where it was, perhaps we should use “discovered by …” instead for accuracy.

Unlike the coast, road traffic is light, however in this coal mining region oversize loads seem fairly common and, unlike the oversize signed loads we see in and around Brisbane, these are wider than 50% of the road. Locals just pull over when they see a pilot vehicle approaching. We did find that the trailing vehicle was helpful in getting us safely past these mammoth loads on numerous occasions.

Fair warning

No overtaking yet

I think we can call this an oversize load(s).

Oh no, we stopped too long, will have to get past them a 3rd time!

That’s why we don’t ride at dawn or dusk – too many kangaroos

An overnight stay in Nebo took us back to the same pub we had lunch at last year while in the camper van.  This is the only time that our paths crossed with last years trip. We get talking to a couple of people who were from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and lo and behold were friends with Katie who was expecting the baby in Rockhampton, small world.

We had been puzzled since our trip last year by a shrub we had seen planted in well spaced rows in cattle country. Again we are seeing the same plant. We did not understand what this was. It turns out to be Leucaena, which is a legume fodder crop, that originated in the Americas, that used as a cattle feed supplement. Always something new to learn when travelling.

Nebo pub

Lunch is taken at Kell’s Snack Shack, parked at a road junction off the Fitzroy Developmental Rd near Middlemout. This enterprising person has a mobile kitchen with its own truck mounted generator providing meals and coffee to passing motorists. A steady stream of road trains, trucks and service vehicles arrive and depart while we are there, a testament to the service provided and a CB radio to take orders in advance is a smart move.  

Kell’s Snack Shack mobile van in Middlemount

Popular Kell’s Snack Shack mobile van in Middlemount

Must be the town of Dingo

We return to Rockhampton to see new Harry and proud parents Katie and Gus. While we had missed Harry on the northward trek, he arrived in time for us to see him on the way back.  We will also get to see his new home as we are invited to spend Friday night with the new parents and Harry at their home, on a cattle property, outside Banana.

Katie, Gus and baby Harry

We dine that night at TruFusion, an Indian restaurant on the riverfront in Rockhampton. The food was fantastic, but do not order as much tasty nan bread as we did! 

Archer Park train station in Rockhampton is now a museum

Heading for Banana gave us an opportunity to take the Burnett Highway to Mount Morgan, a wonderful twisty motorcycle road. The fun of riding at its best but curves are tight and any overspeed and you could be on the wrong side of the road. A visit to the railway museum which was on the now abandoned Moura to Rockhampton rail line gave us the history of the area based around the Mt Morgan Mine which operated for almost a century extracting gold and copper.  At one time it was one of the largest gold mines in the world.

Lovely road to Mount Morgan

Mount Morgan Station

Banana was named after a yellowish bullock

A night on a cattle property. A first for us although there are no cattle at present. Katie and Gus are excellent hosts and give us a tour of the property the next morning.  I should not have offered to open and close gates as I did not realise how many there were!

Little Harry is now home

The property outside Banana

Proud grandma Catherine

Anne loving her baby cuddles

Sunset in Banana

We take the Burnett Highway (A3) from Biloela to it’s southern end at Nanango. We had never ridden this route before even though it is not that far from Brisbane and were pleasantly surprised by both the twists and turns and the change in elevation along parts of the route.  In addition, traffic was light which made it all the more enjoyable. We will ride this route again one day.

Painted grain silo by Drapl and The Zookeeper in Monto, Qld

With the new locally acquired COVID cases in Brisbane is a lockdown looming? Breakfast is taken at the Goomeri Bakery, a French style bakery with a well deserved reputation in Goomeri while we wait for the 10am Queensland COVID update. We have been on the road for 14 days so are now outside any historic quarantine rules. We have decided that if a lockdown is declared for Brisbane and SE Queensland we will turn around and head north again. 

Enjoying a rest and oversized croissant at Goomeri

No new COVID cases and no lockdown, so we are off to Montville to spend a night with friends Pam and Jim who have a wonderful country retreat overlooking Lake Baroon. Great to catch up.

The scenery quickly changed from this…

… to that. Good to see green again, approaching Maleny

Great to spend a night with Pam’nJim.

A short run back to Brisbane and we are home.  Our first proper motorcycle adventure since 2019 is sadly over. It also our first in Australia since we tried to ride to Melbourne for Christmas 2012 and I ended up being airlifted to John Hunter hospital in Newcastle NSW. 

We took only 15 days and covered just over  3,100km / 1,900 ml. but we have not lost our  passion of this type of adventure.  While we are restricted now, I think that 2022 will open up more opportunities for travel, so hopefully we can be “back on the road again” as Anne likes to sing as we depart in the morning. 

But for now, it’s been back to reality, trying to turn our backyard wasteland into something more presentable.

We moved these 5 cubic metres of soil by hand – good exercise!

– Anthony

Mission Accomplished!

We have done it.  Negotiated over 1400 km from Brisbane to Airlie Beach in the last 8 days, coping with roadworks, rain and gusty winds.  All this to deliver a birthday card! With Australia Post cutting back on postal deliveries, we thought we should hand deliver the card for our friend Jane’s birthday. I have to advise that this is not a cost effective way of delivering mail, but is a lot of fun to do.  We will probably stick to Australia Post in future – or maybe not says Anne.

We are delivering a birthday card.

Having dragged Anne away from Bargara we head north.  Anne is happy as there is a new red dot on a Bargara coastal development plan. No commitment from us for a while yet but it does give us a placeholder in an area that we have both come to enjoy being in. The only slightly worrying event is that the sole of one of my motorcycle boots came off in a similar fashion to my hiking boot last year in Carnarvon Gorge, just before my eye problem, hopefully no more repeats!

We lunch at Tannum Sands, a coastal community outside Gladstone that I, Anthony, used to head to for a fish and chip lunch at when I visited Gladstone for business about 20 years ago. Most of my potential industrial customers for natural gas were in Yarwin to the north of Gladstone so we ride through there for old times’ sake. The three Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) plants built over the last 10 years on Curtis Island are sadly not easily visible from the road. It has been interesting to see the huge expansion of an industry that I was in. Interestingly, the experimental plant looking to produce oil from shale is now repurposed as an environmental fuels plant and a site developing bio fuels has also been built.  A sign of the times.

Gladstone power station, supplying power to local industries.

Rockhampton is where a friend Katie is expecting her first child. We had hoped our arrival would spur on the birth, but alas we do not have such powers, and will have to wait to meet the new arrival on our return journey. While exploring the town, we visit to the Rockhampton Railway station which is impressive with five platforms, reminding me of the stations in France which have more than the three trains a day scheduled. 

Rockhampton Station, platforms galore.
Where to put a electricity sub-station if you are short of space in Rockhampton.

While we like Bargara, we also wanted to see Yeppoon and the surrounding area which so we head to Emu park just 50kms from Rockhampton for a quick look and end up spending a night there!  Beaches with rocky headlands and a campsite with beach access draw us in.  The place is pretty full but we are lucky/unlucky? We get an unpowered site although the neighbours are noisey and a little messy.

Looking out over the Whitsunday’s at Emu Park headland.
Flying foxes, our noisy neighbours at Fishermans Beach Holiday Park.

We discover a beautiful ANZAC centennial memorial with a coastal walk highlighting not only the contributions of the Australian Army, Navy and Air Force in WW1 but local individuals who served as well. A nice touch and fabulous location.  

Part of the ANZAC memorial at Emu Park based on a 1917 Western front photograph.
Brothers from Emu Park who served in WW1, part of the ANZAC memorial.

A leisurely lunch with the weekend papers and then back to our neighbourhood bats for a raucous early evening departures and an equally loud early morning return.

Given the thousands of bats roosting next to us, the clean of motorbikes and tent was surprisingly quick. We were told that it all depends on which direction they return from.  I think that next time we will try to avoid such close proximity.   The rain overnight confirmed our reconditioned tent is now a dry-weather only tent – the rain even came from the ground up so in addition to cleaning the bat poo, we had some drying to do also before we could move on.

A gentle Sunday morning ride up to Yeppoon gives us ocean views and a chance to think about this area as a possible place to live. It does seem busier than Bargarra and will be warmer in summer being that much further north. Yeppoon will also be in the Cyclone belt, something to consider when moving.

Here, as elsewhere in Australia, property prices have soared in the last 12 months. Low interest rates, negative gearing and the desire of many people to leave the large cities for a quieter rural life have supercharged the property market.  We catch up with Brett and Yvonne for coffee, who followed a similar route to us from Vladivostok in 2018. It is always nice to catch with fellow travellers and exchange experiences, especially when we have covered the same ground although their trip was far more challenging with Yvonne having a major accident and still continuing – tougher than I am (Anne disagrees again and reminds me of having a heart attack while riding in Bhutan and carrying on for another week).

Drying the sleeping bags at the BarraCrab caravan park Clairview, Qld.

The name “Laguna Quays” in the 1990’s was synonymous with boundless tourism development in coastal Queensland. Laguna Quays in the Whitsundays was planned to have its own international airport to enable visitors from Japan primarily to fly direct to the Resort. The project floundered after some initial development and the runway is just a faded image on Goole Maps. Since Laguna Quays rise and fall was in the 1990’s, little can be found on the internet. Revised development plans are announced and then fade into nothing.  No signage exists to say the development was ever there and at the abandoned security building at the entrance “Keep Out Residents only” signs abound.  I was expecting to find an overgrown jungle out of an “Indiana Jones’ movie set, but no, well kept lawns and fairways on the golf course abound. We could only assume that those who purchased all those years ago are still on the hook for maintenance fees and rates.

The unfinished runway, partially built resort and derelict harbour

Arriving at Airlie Beach we head for the campground where Anne has booked an en-suite campsite. A first for us and I have to say that we really enjoyed having our own shower and toilet a few steps away. Great for storage of the motorbikes’s gear as well as recharging phones, iPads, cameras, helmet intercoms etc. No more cramped tent at night with all our gear.  Unlike our Streak and Storm based adventures with a three person tent, our Australian tent is definitely a two person only model. 

Camping with an en-suite at Big4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort, Airlie Beach.

It is great to catch up with Jane and Paul over a couple of days but any thoughts of sailing whisked away by strong winds forecast to last all week.  We hand delivered our birthday card and had an early celebratory dinner with the best Roederer champagne!

Us with Paul and Jane celebrating the successful birthday card delivery

We enjoy walking on the foreshore although entry into the inviting blue sea is tempered somewhat by the signs posted along the beach.  Our glorious Queensland coastline come with a couple of unwelcome additions, just add water.

Let’s head to the water
But remember to wear your stinger suit.
The stinger suit does not help with these.

Our last night in the tent is taken up pouring over maps, which way next, North to Cairns, or inland and back south. We decide to sleep on it and see what tomorrow brings.  Will the 40km/hr winds forecast for the coming days continue?

– Anthony 

Out of the fog

Early morning fog swirls ahead of us, we can hear breaking of the waves, but they remain unseen as ghostly shapes fade in and out of vision. Then as the fog starts to clear, the waves come into view and the ghostly shapes solidify to become paddle-board riders cresting the swells.

Out of the fog, a magical experience

We are standing on Nelson’s Beach at Bargara enjoying the first day of spring, yes we are on the road again and on motorcycles, back to our roots. So how did we get here?

While Australia has been both extremely lucky and vigilant, Covid-19 still manages to get into our communities and cause lockdowns that make travel planning interstate problematic.  We were scheduled to spend two weeks in Tasmania a couple of months ago, but lockdowns and designated hotspots derailed our plans at the last minute.  Given that state borders are the new travel boundaries, we still have all of Queensland to explore and with the heat of summer fast approaching, it was time to get out and head north for a couple of weeks.  The only problem is that all our current travel gear is in the UK. Time to dig out all our old camping gear we have not used for decades and see what the moths have left us.

Fifteen year old kerosene, perished valves, decades old sleeping bags and a smelly leaky tent all challenged the preparation process. I did find during testing the stove that the home smoke detector works well!  With some judicious cleansing, a waterproof spray and a few parts replaced; note buy the spares pack at the same time as the stove because when you need them 20 years later they are long out of stock, we are good to go.


Just a little more WD40 and a hammer

With no Covid-19 cases in the community, we head off early so by the time the daily Queensland Government Covid-19 announcements are made we are outside of Brisbane and past Noosa. It feels so good to be loaded up and riding again, our smiles are wide as we head north.  

Given a lack of space and our confidence in weather forecasters, we are leaving waterproof outerwear behind.  If we get a rainy day we will just wait it out. No one told the rain gods and a cloudy start turns to rain outside Gympie, turn around and run for home? No, we are made of sterner stuff and ducking into a service station till the rain storm passes helps.

We just missed the oncoming storm

While this is a road trip will allow us to explore parts of the Queensland coast we have not seen before, we also want to revisit some of the places we have visited over the last few months looking for a quieter place to live. We have enjoyed Manly but it has grown busier over the last few years while we have been travelling overseas and we feel that somewhere smaller is what we are looking for.

Our first stop is Hervey Bay, where friends have just moved to and it gives us an opportunity to both catch up and also learn a little more about living in Hervey Bay. We are provided wonderful hospitality and our stay is over too quickly. We are moving on to Bagara next and into a tent for the first time since Iceland in 2019.  

With our dear friend Leanne in Hervey Bay

Caravan parks appear full, with NSW and Victorian number plated vehicles. Their owners are staying in Queensland rather than return to indefinite lockdown in their own states.  This does not affect us as we do not need a powered site. We get a lovely space looking into the forest with no one within 50 meters, how lucky can we be. 

Camping at Bagara

Happy we met 47 years ago

Anne is happy on this special beach

Mon Repos conservation park, Bargara

September 1 and the first day of spring and as the morning fog dissipates we notice patterns on the beach, have the local wildlife been busy overnight? No we meet locals Kay and Cynthia who are producing a range of what I would call “beach art”. They are here today to celebrate the first day of spring.  Their art puts a smile on our faces – it is bold and happy.   Kay and Cynthia were just as open and inviting as their art.

Kay and Cynthia’s mandala,Hello Spring, smiley and flower


Kay and Cynthia, beach artists

After chatting for a while we invite them for coffee – thinking about it now, we’re not sure if they were finished making beach art for the day but they graciously accepted.  This little coffee shop on the beach is full of regulars – surfers, paddle boarders, skate-boarders, business people, artists.  Having explained that we were considering Bargara as a possible retirement place, they introduce us to Bill, a local developer.  Our morning walk on a foggy beach suddenly turned into a whole day of connections.  Bill tells us we need to call Molly (his real name is really Grant – yes, there’s a story behind this).   And Cynthia invites us to afternoon tea followed by walk to a special place built by Bill in consultation with local Aboriginal artists and elders.  What a morning already and a what a day this promises to be.

Anthony having his Poppy nap in Bargara

Time for a late shower and lunch before meeting Molly who gives us a great tour of the development and explains Bill’s philosophy, environmental work, such as creating the smallest lighting footprint to prevent disorientation of Loggerhead turtles.  I (Anne) would move there now if I could!…  Time to head to Cynthia who has made a special orange and passion fruit cake to cater for my lactose intolerance!  We seem to have so many interests in common, such as travel, the arts, energy, nature.  We’d better stop before it gets too late for our walk!  Off we set with Cynthia, her husband Dave and a visiting friend Helen.  Remember our Carnavon bush trip where Anthony’s boots fell apart, this happened again!…  Lucky Dave had some strong glue.

At the yarning circle, we bump into Bill again who is there with photographers and artists who have been commissioned to create more mosaics along the paths in the estate.  Bill has built strong connections with the local Aboriginal people which means a lot to me.  What a day this has been with so many connections.

Dave and Cynthia at the new yarning circle in Innes Park

As always, I am the one driving a potential move (poor Anthony!)  and I have had a clear idea of what I would like from a potential move:   a small place with a soul and a vibrant community, and proximity to nature. And not too far from medical facilities.  Could Bargara be the place?…

– Anthony & Anne