Tuesday, August 25, 2009


After settling in for the night at the Bluewater rest area I had the chance to meet up with a few of the "Grey Nomads"(retired campervaners) who seemed to know all the ins and outs of what goes on in a sleepy little town in the middle of nowhere.

It seems that each Friday the local community center(just across the football field) holds a burger and hot dog night to rise funds for various school projects in the area.Not to be one to seem like the dullard in the group I didn't need any convincing when asked if I would be joining the assembed cast of van-dwelling characters at this weeks version of "eat-as-much-as-you-can" Friday in Bluewater.

We had early cocktails(cheap wine and beer) at the camper nearest to me which was owned by Scottish Eddie who is perhaps on par with Billy Connelly as one of the most hilarious Scotsman on the planet.He is a retired physics professor with a degree in electrical engineering and spend all his time writing out lengthy equations to show just how useless all the equipment on most of the campervans are.There was a never-ending line of guys coming over to him and asking about solar-panels,inverters,voltage requirements for camper t.v's and all kinds of other things electrical.It was pretty funny to see all these grown men acting like school kids in trouble every time they approached him with a new problem.Eddie loved it as it kept his mind busy and gave him something to do.His wife loved it too as it kept him out of her hair for most of the day.

It was Eddie who was responsible for my taking a rest day that Saturday as during the Friday burger night he was telling so many funny stories and buying me wine that at about 8pm I had a decision to make.Do I leave the fun early and ride out in the morning or do I stay with all these funny old folk and enjoy the evening?It was a no-brainer really and I hung out with those great old campers for that night and the next day,lounging on the grass an watching the wild horses tear up the football ground.

The decision to stay ended up being a smart one as I realised that as I was about to pass through north Queenslands biggest city the next day it was a good idea to do it on a Sunday when the roads would be quiet.I have learned from experience that the best day to ride through any city is on a sleepy Sunday morning.I was only around 40k from Townsville and it didn't take me too long to reach the outskirts where I found,to my surprise,a brand new ring-road which by-passes the city.Cyclists or course,are not allowed to ride on motorways like this one but I was in no mood to ride through town so I hopped on the best stretch of tarmac that I and seem thus far and sped around the city.

The enevitable happened and as I neared the end of the short by-pass I heard the all too familiar sound of a police siren directly behind me.It's not the first time I've been pulled over by the cops for riding on a motorway but unlike the Quebec cops,who gave me shit about it,this guy was sympathetic to my plight and let me ride on with a friendly warning and good luck wishes for the rest of my trip.I was glad to be through Townsville but I must say that I was a bit pissed off with the fact that it had taken me so long to reach this little milestone.Had I not taken the detour through the Atherton Tablelands I would have passed Townsville some five days earlier and would not have spent so much time in soggy misery trapped in my tent going nowhere.The upside,and there always is one,is that my delay did allow me to meet with some great people and it was those people who managed to put a whole lot of enthusiasm back into my head when I was starting to get a bit down over the whole process.

One thing that I did find out from the folks at Bluewater was the exsistance of Australias best rest area,the comfort stop at Home Hill.I had spoken of the lack of opportunity to plug in my laptop and charge my phone while I was on the road and they told me all about this great rest area in the middle of sleepy little Home Hill about 140k to the south.I was really pleased with the though that I would be able to get in touch with the world again and really,really pleased to learn that I would be able to have a hot shower.I really needed one by that stage let me tell you. First things first though, I still had to get there so onward it was down the hot highway ever southward through the dusty brown landscape that surrounds Townsville.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful although toward the late aternoon the lanscape did change a bit and I rode through a huge area of marshland that left me wondering exactly which country I was in,Australia or Malaysia?Everything about that stretch was so different to the rest of the scenery on my trip that I did spend a fair amount of time stopped on the side of the road taking picures.I also started looking for somewhere to camp for the night.There was no way I would be able to reach Home Hill in one day and after a long pause in the shade of a small truckstop outside the tiny town of Brandon I decded to just pull over and camp on the side of the road.

As luck would have it I did spy some tyre tracks cutting through the roadside scrub and I followed them to find a nice flat area to camp,well hidden from the highway a few meters away.I went about the daily ritual of setting up camp and organizing dinner but this night I was in for a treat.It is cane harvesting time and I was treated to what is fast becoming a rare event in the north,the awesome cane fire!Farmers have always used fire as a means of buning off all the vegitation around the cane stalks,making it easier to cut and handle.The greenies have pretty much put a stop to the practise due to the huge amount of smoke that these fires produce and to see such a large one so close and at sunset was a real treat.

With the fireshow over it was back into the old tent for a long sleep knowing that I only had a short 40k or so to ride to get to my next stop at Home Hill and reconnect with the world.

Early morning in Cardwell,Nth Queensland