Gulf 2 Gulf
NORTHBOUND Transcontinental Cycle
Port Augusta to Karumba – 2,307 kms Cycling from 5th May to 3rd June 2022
STAGE 1: PORT AUGUSTA TO MARREE – FLINDERS RANGES
All up, there will be 20 cyclists, 3 staff, and 2 volunteers, starting with the bus trip to Port Augusta from Adelaide. We stopped at Clare for a nature break, coffee, and snacks. That night we stayed at Port Augusta’s Shoreline Caravan Park and spent some time learning to put up our individual provided tents (Pop Up Pods). Let me explain, each tent is a circular shape in the carry bag and once you take it out of the bag it pops into shape. It only takes about three seconds. You then secure it to the ground and hey presto – my portable ‘home sweet home’ until June 6th.
It was now time to put our bikes in ‘Ready to Cycle’ mode. I decided to hire a bike from the organisers of the G2G, Outbike, and a Giant Talon (same as my very own Trekking bike). I added all my personal gear onto the hire bike, my additions were basically the stuff straight off my “Northern Express” that I use for Outback Treks (Seat, Aero bars for GoPro, Garmin connection for my 1030, Pedals, Mirror, Repair kit, 10L Topeak Backloader). With our bikes ready and gear packed we were ready to start at the head of Spencer Gulf the following morning.
For me, this was at first, a little overwhelming as I have always cycled solo, that is, me and my PTSD. Well, I thought that I would certainly need to learn how to share time and talk with other people. At least the other guys and gals were all of the same frame of mind, they loved cycling. A wonderful common bond.
You know, my biggest issue is that I’m very deaf, and once I explained that to the group they
were very understanding. At least I was able to be a part of the conversations. Of course, there were times when I did have some difficulty hearing, but all in all it was great.
I didn’t have to organise anywhere near as much as when I go on my solo treks which gave me time to just enjoy the cycle. I had a cup, plate, bowl, knife, fork, spoon and a tea towel. Breakfast was made at our campsite every morning and dinner was made in all our bush camps. When we stayed in a caravan park we would have dinner at a pub or diner.
After breakfast was all cleaned up we would then make sandwiches for our lunch. These were put in a large cooler and were ready for us when we stopped for lunch on the ride. Did I mention that there was a morning tea stop every day, with hot tea or coffee, fruit cake, biscuits and sometimes other nice stuff. Oh, and on longer days cycling there was also afternoon tea. I was certainly being spoilt in comparison to my solo adventures. Like I said I did not have to organise anything …….just enjoy the bicycle ride.
DAY 1. Thursday 5th May – 45.2 km Time: 2:24:49 Avg: 18.7km/hr
Port Augusta, 25km Woolshed Flat (Morning Tea), 21km Quorn
Let’s step back in time, to the afternoon before, out came the tents, up in 3 secs. It was unbelievably quick going up, it’s just the putting them back in the bag that became the issue. It should only take about 10 seconds (with some practice), it was very funny to watch everyone learning. Many laughs were had and some anguish, putting the tents into a circle and into the carry bag.
It was not too hard a day to start us off as there were sealed roads to Quorn. We waited until the school and commuter traffic subsided and headed off around 8:50am. We got a little lost getting to the Quorn turn off, I noticed two cats sitting high on a house roof watching us looking at the map…haha. Finally, we were on our way to Quorn, a gentle climb winding through scenic Pichi Richi Pass. We all arrived safely, put up our tents, washed up ready for dinner and headed over to the Austral Hotel.
DAY 2. Friday 6th May – 67.3 km Time: 2:54:50 Avg: 23.1km/hr
Quorn, 38km Wirreanda Creek (Morning Tea), 29.3km Hawker
Let me share ‘tent saga stage 2’……..Now, some of the guys had worked it out. Quickly packing their tents into the carry bag and then helping others with theirs. This morning chore had helped to break the ice as they say. Even laughing at yourself was funny.
It was a relatively comfortable cycle, mostly flat with a slight rise to morning tea. Gently climbing from that point and at the at 54 km mark there was a 3 km climb. Once over the crest we descended gradually for 10 km into Hawker.
Cycling on the bitumen for the first 2 days reminded me of my Darwin to Broome cycle where the first 900km was bitumen before I hit the dirt. On this ride we had half the kilometres before we would hit the dirt of the Birdsville Track.
DAY 3. Saturday 7th May – 54.6 km Time: 2:52:11 Avg: 19.0km/hr
Hawker, 38km Arkaba Creek (Morning Tea), 16.6km Ikara (Wilpena Pound)
‘Tent saga stage 3’ ……..OMG, the day before I had the tent all packed away easily – but not a chance in hell on this morning. I just couldn’t replicate it again….”HELP” There were 10 lines of instructions on the tag in the carry bag, “How to pack up your tent”. Way to complicated. Pete (bus driver and all round fix-it staffer) showed a few of us how to do it in four moves. It looked so easy. All I can say is on day 3 I was still learning.
We headed off, on the Flinders Ranges Highway heading to the National Park and Wilpena Pound. The final 21 kms we climbed steadily for 11 km, had a reprieve for 5 km and then last 5 kms gently swapped between up and down. The campground had restrooms and we had use of a bus bay shelter with power, water, sinks, lighting and tables. It was quite a beautiful National Park camping area. After finishing the regular afternoon routine of setting up the tents and gear, many of the riders went walking on some of the trails. I headed up towards the Pound.
That night we enjoyed our first night of camp cooking .
DAY 4. Sunday 8th May – 78 km Time: 3:58:20 Avg: 19.6km/hr
Wilpena, 37km Brachina Gorge Road, 26km Blinman, 15km (dirt) Angorichina
‘Tent saga stage 4’……..reporting that with only a little help I got my tent put away. Yahoo…..
About 13km out camp half the riders decided to take a dirt road, part of Mawson Trail 24 kms, while the rest of us including me, went via the bitumen, all riding the same distance. At the point where the two routes reconnected we were to meet and enjoy morning tea.. There were some huge climbs through this section.
I along with the other bitumen riders had finished morning tea before the riders that took the dirt road route had arrived, so we continued on ahead to Blinman where we planned to have lunch. It was quite a climb into Blinman. After lunch and all the riders back together we road to Angorichina, the entire 15kms was all dirt.
This was our second night of camp cooking. Having the five staff members taking care of the food was amazing. We, the riders, could sit around a campfire, chatting, laughing and enjoy the sunset. It was so different from my usual solitude cycle treks and I was enjoying it the company.
DAY 5. Monday 9th May – 89 km Time: 3:59:11 Avg: 22.3km/hr
Angorichina, 17.5km Parachilna, 44km Beltana, 27.5km Copley
‘Tent report stage 5’……..All good now
On this section of the ride we followed a dirt road mostly downhill through the awesome Parachilna Gorge that had about 6 creek crossings. It was a truly beautiful area. I came across a creek crossing that looked a little treacherous, so I stopped, got out my camera, thinking the possibility of capturing a photo or footage of another rider losing control or coming off the bike was high. Along came Simon and Ian, I waited, but everyone made it across safely highlighting how good they all were as cyclists. I got a good laugh from Ray who stopped to see if I was okay, and I told him why I was waiting there.
After this there was an 8km slightly downhill ride to our morning tea break near the old Parachilna Pub. That 8km was extremely rough, I told the team that it was good practice for the Birdsville Track.
We then headed north onto the main road for about 20km (bitumen) then 15 km (dirt) climbing
gently towards Beltana. The rest of the day was a gradual downhill on bitumen, passing Leigh Creek township on to the old village of Copley.
Copley’s campground was standard and we had dinner at the old 2-storey pub. Unfortunately dinner that night wasn’t a very good experience at all, some riders waited up to 2 hours for their dinner, a couple of the guys didn’t get theirs and my pizza was still frozen in the centre, quite disgusting really.
DAY 6. Tuesday 10th May – 116 km Time: 4:09:59 Avg: 28.1km/hr
Copley, 34km Lyndhurst, 28km Farina, 26km Side of Road, 28km Marree
We headed north to Marree with a slight tailwind making the days ride a lot quicker than the last 5 days. We stopped near Lyndhurst for morning tea. Boy, I remember feeling so spoilt having this every mid-morning.
The landscape in this area is much more open and mostly flat, allowing you to see the small ranges of hills in the distance, and the mountains that we were leaving behind.
When I cycled into Marree I felt the feelings you get when ‘coming home’. I know the place well having stayed at the caravan park for 4 days in 2019 and at the hotel for 4 days in 2021. We set up our camp at the Oasis Caravan Park and had only a short walk up the main street to the Marree Hotel for dinner both nights. We had a planned rest day here in Marree.
I was indeed lucky to see my Birdsville Track buddy Alan as he was working at the Hotel. You can read about how I met Alan in the blog from last year’s B4B cycle up the Birdsville Track. Seeing Alan was like seeing a loving family member. Like a brother who I lost contact with but found in one of the remotest parts of our country.
Dinner that evening was extremely good, great service and excellent food.
DAY 7. Wednesday 11th May – MARREE REST DAY
It was great having a rest day, I had the chance to get all my washing done, repack my gear, prep the bike ready for the next 520km – the Birdsville Track. Some riders were concerned with dirt roads we are about to encounter. For me, having cycled the Track last year, I was not worried at all.
I took the opportunity to go for a run out on the Oodnadatta Track, 14 kms. I spent a couple of hours with Alan and some riders at our campsite and enjoyed a beer (Just 1) We have an easy start tomorrow with only 54kms to our next camp.
STAGE 2: MARREE TO BIRDSVILLE – THE BIRDSVILLE TRACK
The next leg was on the infamous Birdsville Track that is well known by the exploits of the famous Mailman, Tom Kruse. My love of the Birdsville Track dates back to when I drove the Track in 2019 and cycled it in 2021 and now in 2022 cycling it again with a team of extraordinary men and women. This was a tough task for some and easy for others, it’s both physically and mentally tough but was easily doable.
We planned to head off at 8.30am and meet at the “This is the Birdsville Track” sign for a big group photo.
DAY 8. Thursday 12th May – 53.7 km Time: 2:23:21 Avg: 22.5km/hr
Marree, 53.7 Clayton Station
We started the Birdsville Track on cool morning. We were in no rush as we only had 53 km to reach the Clayton Station camp site. The site had a shower, toilet and an artesian spa. The first section of the Track to Clayton was quite good to cycle on. It was way better than when I cycled it last year and the headwind that I had the entire three days it to me to reach the Mungerannie Hotel was nowhere to be seen. You can see the difference when last year I averaged 12.7km/hr to the pub and on this cycle I did it at 19.8km/hr.
We had morning tea at around the 27 km and we reached our camp spot well before lunch. Funny story, well funny for me, but not so for Brendan. He arrived first and Ray and I followed him into the camping area. Brendan started heading for a nice spot behind some shrubby trees. I told him, “Not a good spot there, that’s where the septic goes”. He then went down the paddock to the left of the spa and set up his tent. I then headed over to where he was going originally and set up on the nice spot with some shrubby trees. Ray, who cycled into camp with me asked, “Why are you going there where the septic run off is?” I told Ray, it was payback time and that I was only joking. This left a fabulous spot for both of us to set up our tents…. while Brendan had a fair way to walk to his solitary little camp site.…..we laughed for ages.
We all spent the afternoon in and out of the spa, it was lovely and so nice after the first day of riding the dirt track.
One of the jobs we all helped with before sunset, was collecting firewood. The nights at this time of year are still quite cool and the evening campfires were just the best.
It was another campsite dinner and the routine had now become second nature to us all. I enjoyed having dinner in the outback, the clear air, the beautiful sunsets and the stars at night so bright.
DAY 9. Friday 13th May – 82 km Time: 4:05:25 Avg: 20.1km/hr
Clayton, 30km morning tea, 27km lunch, 25km Coopers Creek
Day 9 was a solid 4 hour ride and 6 hours for some. Some sections of the road were quite arduous and brutal on the hands and legs for some of the team. There was certainly a lot of photos taken on today’s ride by the team. We all made it and now we only have 70km to ride tomorrow to the Pub followed by a well-deserved rest day.
The Coopers Creek camp site had shady trees but these trees had thorns everywhere. So we decided to camp away from that area where it was a bit more in the open. The site had toilets but no showers and we weren’t spoilt with the spa like last night. We were still able to shower as Pete set up some solar shower bags for hot water with a shower tent for privacy.
I really enjoyed the campsite dinners in the outback. We all had a chair to sit around the campfire eating, drinking and chatting. Every night there was spectacular sunsets, everyone tried to get their best photo – I was in Kenny Mac photography heaven.
DAY 10. Saturday 14th May – 70 km Time: 3:54:13 Avg: 17.8km/hr
Coopers Creek, 25km morning tea, 26km lunch, 19km Mungerannie Pub
We saw the landscape change on this length of the ride from the long flat sanded areas to narrow sandhills. These dunes are the junction of the Tirari and Strzelecki Deserts.
David (our bike mechanic) would drive ahead every morning with the morning tea. On this day he found a shady spot at around the 25km mark. It was a nice break from cycling on an extremely rocky road that was windy and hot.
After lunch, the road colour would change off and on and with each change so did the cycling surface. By that I mean, when it was a lighter colour it was relatively smooth (still some corrugations) and when it went dark brown it was rocky and horrible. Near the end of the days ride, there were three sand dunes to climb, I would say about 4 kms in total to Mungerannie Pub turn off and to all the riders delight it was all corrugations. We had a headwind nearly the entire distance and the last of the corrugations made for a brutal way to end the day.
Those of us who arrived first set up our tents then we sat in front of the pub, cold drinks at hand and cheered all the other riders coming in. It was a tough and challenging cycle but all in all a great day.
Mungerannie Pub has space for camping and also cabins. Some of the guys and gals upgraded rather than camping. The facilities at Mungerannie are truly fabulous considering we are nearly halfway up the Birdsville Track and in the middle of nowhere, as I call it. This will be my third stay here, I camped here for 5 days in 2019 and 2 nights last year 2021 when I cycled the Birdsville Track.
Everyone ordered dinner at the restaurant-bar and then we all sat in the massive dining room to eat. The team agreed that what I told them about how good this place was, was indeed true. After dinner After a great night I headed back to camp and a the few that stayed and, “hit the turps” as they say, had an even better night.
DAY 11. Sunday 15th May – REST DAY
The dingos were howling during the night on the other side of the lagoon. So they tell me…… Well I didn’t hear them, don’t forget I can’t hear much without my hearing aids. The guys all discussed at breakfast how noisy they were.
I made sure I told everyone about the magnificent works burger that Phil, the owner of the pub, has on the lunch menu. I certainly had one and I think all the team did as well. Russell (the cook) laughed when I told him I that I had recommended “the works burger” he laughed and said that he’s never made so many in one day.
We now have four long days of cycling ahead which meant three nights of bush camping ahead of us before we would reach Birdsville.
Cycling along the Birdsville Track with its extraordinary visions of this vast outback, so different from my town living on the east coast in Ballina and cycling along green rolling hills of the Northern Rivers area.
Did you know that extending across most of Australia, the Outback nearly covers 6 million km², a vast landscape of big skies and far horizons. The night sky seems closer, the air is cleaner and clearer. This section of the Birdsville Track that we were cycling, may be only a small part of the Outback but it still contributes to the Outback’s essence of remoteness.
I love the outback for this reason as I sometimes yearn for silence and space.
DAY 12. Monday 16th May – 85 km Time: 3:38:29 Avg: 23.3km/hr
Mungerannie, 28km morning tea, 57km Mt Gason Creek
We planned to cycle 80kms today, but we ended up cycling a bit further to find a nice spot to set up our camp site. It’s not like when I’m cycling by myself, I can stop anywhere. We had 20 cyclists, 5 staff, 3 buses with trailers. We needed quite a large area to camp comfortably.
We stopped along the way at Mirra Mitta Bore to have a look. The bore gushes hot water at 95°C, certainly not spot we viewed as a swimming spa.
Cycling further we found a spot in the middle of nowhere making it our first night without any site facilities including toilets.
DAY 13. Tuesday 17 May – 81 km Time: 4:04:13 Avg: 19.8km/hr
Mt Gason Creek, 24km morning tea, 26km lunch, 31km Goyder Lagoon South
Today’s highlight was the rather large snake that we saw. From the photos I took it was able to be identified as a Strap-snouted brown snake that is highly venomous and definitely worth giving some space. It was a beautiful creature and was probably two metres in length.
I really enjoyed the campsite cooking this night and the warmth of the campfire. One of the guys (Colin) offered to make a couple of dampers. Well, let’s say they were unbelievably good. We all had some with cream and golden syrup or honey. They were that good that this wasn’t going to the only night Col would make damper for us. All these hidden talents of the riders were coming out.
I have always been an early riser. So I would be up in the dark just before 5am, trying not to wake the ‘sleep-in’ guys. I would go to the campfire, expose some of the still red hot ashes and put on more wood to get the fire started again. I would fill the kettles and put them on the fire so that the next group of early risers could have their first morning hot coffee. I then watch the sunrise, what a great way to start any day.
DAY 14. Wednesday 18 May – 94.4 km Time: 4:46:49 Avg: 19.8km/hr
Goyder Lagoon South, 27km morning tea, 24km lunch, Goyder Lagoon East
Let’s just say – we rode and rode and rode…..
Nearing the end of our ride at the 80km mark, we decided to cycle on a bit further to find a good spot to camp. Along the way we did not have much luck finding a spot where we could get the three buses off the road safely.
It was another great night, by the campfire with good company.
DAY 15. Thursday 19 May – 60 km Time: 2:31:16 Avg: 23.7km/hr
Goyder Lagoon East, 30km morning tea, 30km Birdsville
Birdsville…..yahoo, we all made it. A landmark day to end the first half of the ride in one of Australia’s most iconic towns. I was here last year, and in 2019. Then when I thought of it, I was here in the late 70’s for a fortnight during Christmas and New Year. I have always been drawn back to this area.
The first place most of us visited in Birdsville was “The Bakery”. Coffee, a pastry and two of the famous triangle shaped Camel Pie was my lunch order. The friendliness and service was better than I’ve experienced from any East Coast bakery/café.
We were camping at the Birdsville Caravan Park with wonderful hot showers and all the mod cons. It was a chance to wash off all dust from the last four days. Walking around and seeing all the bike gear hanging on lines was a funny site, the washing machines sure got a workout.
Again some of the guys and gals upgraded to cabins – what a bunch of sooks!!
I had a letter from the AEC waiting for me at the caravan park office, my postal vote that I organised before leaving. We all headed to the Birdsville Hotel for dinner.
DAY 16. Friday 20 May – REST DAY
No cycling today so I went for a 10 km run out on the Simpson Desert Road. It was quite cool and a little windy at the time of the morning. I love running, there is something so peaceful about running away from all the craziness doing something that not only helps physically but mentally. Running has helped me through a lot of traumatic periods.
Today I had a massage, and my muscles thanked one of the volunteers Tracey. I packed away all my washing ready for the next section where we would be cycling to Mt Isa. The tires on my hire bike were now totally bald, so I used the rest day to put on a new set of tires and some well needed bike maintenance.
We were informed the road to Bedourie is flooded at the northern end and that we would have to do an extra 50kms detour going around Lake Machattie, this meant an extra 80km plus of dirt. A few of the guys weren’t at all happy hearing the word ‘DIRT’.
Some of the riders went for a bus drive out to visit Big Red, a 40m high wind-blown dune that marks the eastern edge of the Simpson Desert. I have seen it twice so took the opportunity to rest, remembering that I would be cycling it in September in the Simpson Dessert Mountain Bike Challenge.
STAGE 3: BIRDSVILLE TO MT ISA – CHANNEL COUNTRY
Considering we were going to do 240kms instead of 190kms, and with 80kms of dirt, we knew it would be a long and tough two days. We planned on splitting up the total distance equally each day depending on how easy it was to find a good spot to set up camp.
DAY 17. Saturday 21 May – 119 km Time: 5:08:35 Avg: 23.2km/hr
Birdsville, 58km morning tea, 30km lunch Cacoory ruins, 31km Lake Machattie
The riders we nicknamed Princess Fiona and Shrek headed off early as usual, about twenty minutes before the rest of us motley crew started. It always gave us good incentive to chase them down, all just bit of fun. The first 88kms we were pushed by a fabulous tailwind then stopped for lunch at the Cacoory ruins.
We stayed on the bitumen cycling up to the 110 km mark, where we turned off the main road and headed around Lake Machattie Road for another 9kms, this was all dirt. We set up camp and had yet another great evening under the stars.
DAY 18. Sunday 22 May – 121 km Time: 6:00:50 Avg: 20.2km/hr
Lake Machattie, 70km morning tea/lunch, 51km Bedourie
Knowing that we had 70 kms of dirt to the turn off heading back towards Bedourie we all decided to cycle there in one go for lunch, it took just under 4 hours. It was absolutely brutal, the going was quite hard. Today happen to be our longest day in the saddle, it was a long and hard cycle.
In Bedourie we stayed at the Simpson Desert Oasis Caravan Park that had showers and toilets. We set up our tents on grass. It’s amazing how something as simple as some green grass instead of red dirt could make a group of riders feel happy. Our campsite was opposite the general store and tavern which is where we intended to have dinner.
DAY 19. Monday 23 May – 103 km Time: 4:53:07 Avg: 21.1km/hr
Bedourie, 30km morning tea, 43km lunch, 30m Amaroo
The road from here on is all sealed and makes for the fast riding. Most of the team changed their tyres back to slicks the night before they had dinner, some of us kept the same ones. It was a long day cycling, nearly 5 hours for us quicker ones and up to six or seven hours for the others. Let me tell you there were some tired souls at camp that night. We had had three big days of cycling since Birdsville and we now have four long days ahead of us.
Another bush camp and dinner. I’m finding the bush camps absolutely wonderful, probably because the team including the staff and volunteers happen to be a great bunch of guys and gals. They are so positive even on days where some were struggling. One of the ladies had only been cycling for three months and nearly all her friends with the exception of one said that she wouldn’t make it. Well, she’s blown that away so far. Bloody hell she just cycled the Birdsville Track including the horrible detour around the Lake Machattie, what a champion Marg.
DAY 20. Tuesday 24 May – 92 km Time: 4:16:46 Avg: 21.5km/hr
Amaroo , 31km morning tea=, 31km lunch, 30km Boulia
Green Grass………so soft….omg, this is heaven. Boulia Caravan Park next to the river had great facilities. It felt like we were a thousand miles from the red dirt of the Birdsville Track.
This was the day that I hit, ‘the wall’ as they say. I was completely drained, nothing left in the tank, I struggled over the last 15kms. I would say this was because I did not eating enough calories and I know now that lunch is my main problem when doing these long cycles. On other epic cycle challenges that I have done, I have found it difficult to eat lunches, or to carry enough for the calories that I needed. I found with this trek that sometimes when you line up for lunch, in the back of the line there’s not much variety left. Sometimes just cheese on bread or a wrap. One of the guys had even purchased tins of creamed rice to have at lunch as well, smart move.
So, after I put my tent up I headed straight to the Australian Hotel’s café and ordered a Steak Sandwich, salad and chips with an extra side serve of salad, coffee and 2 Cokes. After devouring that I went back to camp, showered and packed away my gear. I felt much better, I felt full.
Our Tracey, such a genius, got a copy of the dinner menu and we all pre-ordered our meals. With a massive table set up for the 24 of us, we paid for our meals and hey presto we ate. After my late afternoon snack/huge meal I still enjoyed a large dinner.
DAY 21. Wednesday 25 May – 100 km Time: 4:18:31 Avg: 23.4km/hr
Boulia, 39km morning tea, 26km Lunch, 35km Wills Road
Knowing we had 306 kms to Mt Isa with two remote camps, getting lots of kms behind us at the end of the day makes for a happy lot of campers. And we did it, another long and tough day cycling… finishing on the magic number 100kms.
DAY 22. Thursday 26 May – 125 km Time: 4:46:20 Avg: 26.3km/hr
Wills Road , 48km Dajarra, 30kma break, 47km Waverley Rd
We stopped at the village of Dajarra and bought some drinks and other items. We had the best tailwind all day today and we cycled way further than expected. The campsite talk was all about how we only have 81 kms to reach Mt Isa. Funny how with all the 100 plus kms stretch we’ve done, this 81km seems like a walk in the park….haha
DAY 23. Friday 27 May – 81 km Time: 3:37:18 Avg: 22.3km/hr
Waverley Rd, 40km morning tea, 41km Mt Isa
We had now left the flat country and started seeing some ranges. We enjoyed more twists
and turns, and gently climbing then we descended the last 20 km to Mt Isa. We had a headwind today which was such a huge change from yesterday when we had the speedy tailwind day.
It was so bizarre, there was traffic lights, we’ve spent 23 days cycling the outback and visiting small towns and now we were in the big smoke. Ray and I stopped at the first set of red lights, we looked at each other and laughed. No words needed to be spoken……..it was just so funny.
Because we got into Mt Isa early Ray and I did some chores in town. Ray went to the bank and I went to the bike shop, then we found a café and had a lovely coffee and lunch. We enjoyed sitting in the sun before heading to the caravan park.
Our campsite was at Discovery Holiday Parks, again a few upgraded into cabins, I of course stayed with my trusted tent set-up. Yet another fabulous spot to set up our tents, our campsite was all soft, mowed green grass – I thought that was an upgrade enough.
Dinner was a short 400 mtr walk from camp to the Overlander Tavern. Meals were fabulous. We were all amazed that this was the end of the third section of our epic cycle. Seven days straight and let’s not forget how big some of these days were.
DAY 24. Saturday 28 May – REST DAY
When I was putting together my diary for this trip I noticed we had a rest day here in Mt Isa and so I Googled Parkruns. Well, they had one, and I sure got quite excited about that.
I packed all my running and cycling gear the night before so that I would not wake everyone up. I got up early, quietly got ready and cycled over to the other side of town and competed in the local Mt Isa Parkrun (5km). It was my 91st Parkrun.
Not expecting to run fast because of the last 23 days cycling and only 2 training runs over that time, I thought maybe I would run it in 30 minutes. Must have been the excitement of doing this 5km in Mt Isa because I was 8th outright, 1st in my age group (65-69) with a time of 26:01.
After the run I cycled over to town and had breakfast with Ray and David. Yum!
I put some road tyres on the hire bike, did my washing, and repacked my gear. When I say repacked my gear I mean that I put out the clothes I need for the next section, bike gear, riding and camping/pub clothes, eating gear, toiletries, electronics and meds and all this goes onto the bus. The rest of the not required gear gets put in the big bag and goes into the trailer.
That night we all ate well, as we have a long and somewhat hilly day of cycling to Cloncurry.
STAGE 4: MT ISA TO KARUMBA – GULF COUNTRY
In this stage we were now crossing the legendary Gulf Country. The last section to the finish with 2 more bush camps.
DAY 25. Sunday 29 May – 120 km Time: 5:20:57 Avg: 22.3km/hr
Mt Isa, 58km morning tea, 27km Burke and Wills Memorial lunch, 35km Cloncurry
How can I explain day 25, probably in three words “lots of cycling”, the hills were many and there were long climbs. The climbers went ahead with ease, me, I kept turning the circles of my pedals, remember I am not a climber.
DAY 26. Monday 30 May – 82 km Time: 3:47:55 Avg: 21.6km/hr
Cloncurry, 48km morning tea, 34km Three Rivers Rest Area
With a good rest area just 82 km north, we cycled around to the local Cloncurry bakery for coffee as there was no rush to get to our next bush camp. It was funny seeing all the bicycles outside the small bakery, at least 15 of us. Filling up and ready for our Bush camp for the night.
We had intermittent phone service the whole ride, I would check in when I could with family. So it was a surprise when I had a phone call from my DVA Advocate with information and requests from DVA for further paperwork. This frustrated me as I had already sent in what information they needed and felt that this news interrupted how I was feeling on the ride. I’m lucky to have an advocate who can support with this.. many don’t.
DAY 27. Tuesday 31 May – 102 km Time: 3:50:07 Avg: 26.6km/hr
Three Rivers Rest Area, 44km morning tea, 58km lunch at Burke and Wills Roadh
After the phone call the previous morning I woke with feeling frustrated and angry so as I do I cycled all my anger out. I took off like a mad man and cycled as fast as I could averaging nearly 29km/hr for 42kms. The guys’ wanted to know what super pills I took……..jokingly. I told them why, I was getting rid of all my anger and frustration the way that I did and how this helps me. I have shared about my PTSD in my previous blogs and how exercise helps, so jump on and read. All gone, I’ll not think about DVA until I get home.
Luckily, it was mostly downhill and with a huge tailwind increasing our average speed for the rest of the day, we got to the Burke and Wills Roadhouse before midday. We had lunch on the front veranda watching all the road trains and caravaners.
I washed my cycling clothes and dried it in the warm wintery sun on a makeshift line I put near my tent. Thank goodness, can you imagine the smell….
Dinner was at the diner. I find it amazing that places like this in the middle of nowhere can make such beautiful meals, no matter how many people rock up. Look at our group – 23 of us.
DAY 28. Wednesday 1 June – 89 km
Burke and Wills Roadhouse, 50.7km morning tea, 38.3km Bang Bang rest area
I woke up very early as I couldn’t sleep. I remember the owner saying they would be up early for two workers that had to head off at 6am. I was sitting at the roadhouse watching the stars and a new day with a soft red glow in the eastern sky when the owner asked if I would like a coffee. Oh yes I said and we chattered for ages.
Breakfast was being served over at our campsite. We all got ready for our days cycle to Bang Bang. It’s the only rest area on this section, there are shade shelters for our dinner and breakfast, toilets and lots of space. It will be our last bush camp dinner.
DAY 29. Thursday 2 June – 111 km
Bang Bang, 49km morning tea, 23km lunch, 39km Normanton
Morning tea was on the northern side of the Flinders River where it is known for their crocodiles, lucky there was none this day.
We arrived in Normanton after a long day on the bike. We set up camp in Normanton Caravan Park, in the centre of town, where we had more green grass and all good facilities.
We enjoyed dinner at the Albion Hotel.
DAY 30. Friday 3 June – 79 km
Normanton, 29km morning tea, 50km Karumba Point
A flat ride to finish – I am sure all riders were happy with this. We had morning tea at the 29km mark near the Burke Development Road junction, then a very flat and straight ride to Karumba. We rode to the Karumba Hotel in the main township and waited for everyone gather before our victorious ride to Karumba Point boat ramp.
The campground is adjacent to the boat ramp. Unfortunately we were booked into a site that was hit with direct sunlight for two days which meant within our tents it was 45°C. After such lovely camp sites over the last few days it was a little disappointing.
Not far up the road was the Karumba Point Sunset Tavern where we spent most of our time in the cool shade of the large trees overlooking the gulf and sunsets. Absolutely spectacular sunsets.
Oh…. and nearly forgot to mention – Happy Birthday to me, I turned 67 on day 30 the final days cycle.
DAY AFTER, Saturday 4 June
Rest day before we head back to Cairns and depart for home.
So that’s it. Congratulations to the G2G North Bound Team, you’ve crossed Australia by bicycle in 30 days.
I’ve clocked up 2,307kms and gained a bunch of new, really wonderful friends. I’m certainly a lot fitter, more tanned (bike tan) and lucky enough not to have a sore cycle butt (thanks to Kenny Macs Bum Cream) – Formula on the blog.
Cheers Kenny Mac