A week meandering up to Airlie

Yes I know it’s been a while coming but internet troubles aside I really have been a tad busy….honest. Thought I had better post a short update on the past week before we head off into the wilderness on Monday (hopefully to pop out the other side in 16 days time!)

Day 2

Warwick – Killarney – The Falls Road – Darlington Park Camp

After the trials and tribulations of my first day on the road day two could only improve, well couldn’t it? Day started a bit later than planned, I really need to work on the unpack/pack thing, it’s taking forever. Rough plan was to head back east and hopefully meet up with a new Facebook friend of mine, Darren Wilson, who lives on the Gold Coast. Sounds great doesn’t it, where do you live….err Grangemouth…oh well I’m from the Gold Coast!. Aussies have something right at least.

Well thanks to Darren, I got some pointers and headed off into the rolling hills of Killarney and the Falls Road. Nope it isn’t Belfast, couldn’t have been any more different. What an amazing twisty winding hilly route. Just suited to Katie. She deserved it after yesterday. The decent was like something you would expect to see in the Pyrenees. Darren had also suggested a wee section of ‘moderate’ off-road so off I headed. Looked ok at the bottom of the climb but time was ticking on and I was low on fuel so discretion and valour Ian, only day two after all, and decided to head back to the nearest town for fuel and supplies before backtracking to find a campsite I had spotted earlier. Had a wee detour to find a ‘bottle O’, don’t ask!. Arrived at the campsite and was well pleased. What an amazing site and what has been the norm to date the people were really friendly and helpful. Katie got the pick of the site up on the hill and we retired for a quite night. Well sort of, sitting in the pitch black admiring the stars I see what looks like another motorbike heading up the hill in the distance. Getting closer and closer, am thinking I could really do without the hassle as I need sleep, the thing then heads directly at me, am thinking he can’t see me and am going to get run over so I make a dive for my head torch!. At the last moment he stops. It’s the owner on his quad. Off he pops and says, we thought you would like a hot sausage roll! Hell yeah! Honestly made my day J.

Day 3

Duck Creek Road – O’Reileys – Canugra – Nerang – Darren’s

Awoke to a still morning with low mist clinging to the trees across the valley. Determined today to make it across to meet Darren before I have to head north. So with more than a little trepidation I headed out towards Duck Creek Road again. It looked ok in the dry yesterday but I wasn’t filled with confidence when the camp owner shook her head at the prospect!. Well got to the gate at the bottom of the climb and hopped off for a drink and open the gate for a group of riders who had just descended, on BM’s. Well that was it, my head said. If a bloody BM can do this then Katie will fly it, of course had not accounted for the fact that they were on the downward leg, it was wet and getting wetter. Also didn’t help my confidence when pulling away from the gate my front wheel slipped on some camel crap and I dropped the bike on its side into it! . Crap…literally!.

Well filled with adrenalin now off we headed and thankfully we were both rewarded with a brilliant, if a tad slippery, rocky, twisty ascent into what looked like a tropical rainforest at the top. The pictures could not do it justice. Great confidence booster. Well out we popped onto the road at the top and it was well damp so we decided to drop back down off the hill and find the nearest coffee shop. Lucky us, we came across a Lama farm…that I’ll do!. Plenty of time on our hands now and the main job done off we headed for the Gold Coast and Darren’s.

I can see now why they named it the Gold Coast, really classy place. Well Garmin did its job and we pulled up outside Darren’s pad. Have to remember I have never met or even spoken to Darren in my life. I could best describe the next 24 hours as like a reunion with a best mate I’d not met in years. The greeting and the amazing hospitality shown by Darren, his lovely wife Mandy, their two amazing girls and of course the obligatory dog left me feeling completely in awe. I can’t thank them enough for welcoming me into their home, me a complete stranger, and only hope that at some time in the future, on their planned travels abroad, I can return the favour.

I came away the following day feeling totally overwhelmed by my stay, and to boot with a with a load of spares provided by Darren, more advice that I could possibly remember, a great plan for a route back from Perth to Sydney, a unique insight into Darren’s new business venture https://www.facebook.com/HARDkitsRR and a chance to drool over some genuine Dakar history in his garage. Chuffed…hell yes!

Day 4

North – Frenivle – Esk – Camp Somerset Dam

Armed with a rough plan of attack we headed off the following day to get some distance north towards Airlie. One nugget of advice from Darren was to look for the brown roads on the map, dirt! Well at last we found some and spent a good part of the day exploring Km after Km of hot dusty gravel roads linking short sections of tarmac. Hard for a UK rider to understand but these ‘dirt’ roads are main highways for the locals linking the numerous remote farms, settlements and schools and they are equally as well signposted as the main roads. You can go on for hours and not see a soul.

After a great day we spotted another nice campsite, almost deserted, near Somerset Dam. So Katie got the prime pick again and we spread out under the trees for another quite night. The only rations available was at a petrol station across the road. Yet again my luck held out and the proprietor, who had only just taken on the business and was trying to make a real go of a store, small restaurant and petrol station was so glad to see a customer I got the full treatment, including two of the old man’s beers free (despite the lack of a liquor licence!). Result!

Day 5

Next day is better off forgotten. Lots of tarmac Km’s trying to make distance north and a crappy motel room to boot. Can’t win em all!. Only highlight to mention was the spinning parrots!. Honestly, check out the phot gallery.

Day 6

Bundaberg – Deepwater NP – Agnes Water

Late start today as I wandered around Hervey Bay trying to find a few spares, all to no avail. Key objective was to collect my new Helinox camp chair from Australia Post in Bunddaberg. I was still really keen to find a beech camp site before we head west so spotted what looked like a prime choice in Deepwater National Park near Agnes. Well left myself too much to do again and arrived at the entrance track late. Rushing before the sun went down I headed in and made a big mistake. 7km to the site and the first km was deep soft sand all rutted up by 4×4’s, great!. Fully loaded and on road tyres Katie and I went down twice in the space of a hundred yards. Bad decision so off I jump and start dragging/digging Katie (did I mention the fully loaded bit?) around out of the sand so we could head out back to the main road. Sweating my socks off we eventually made it out just as the sun was going down. Another lesson learnt and the second is to have a plan B. So stuff it off I head into town and get the first vacant room I can, and as my luck still seemed to be holding a nice room it was too. The receptionist even took pity on me, given what I must have looked like at that stage, and gave me an upgrade and a discount to boot. Result again!.

Day 7

Minam Vale – Boyne Valley – Diglum – Rockhamption – Byfield – Camp Red Rock

Lesson learnt from yesterday. Don’t leave camp too late in day. Well given the plush bed and room 10am ain’t that bad?

Plan today, more miles north and please just a little dirt. Given the flexi card got a bashing last night too we MUST camp. So banging the miles in off we head again and manage to find another 50km’s or so of dirt between the longer stretches of tarmac as we head further north, and yes it’s defiantly getting hotter and dryer. We turn west to get off the main A1 route north and find a really nice quiet section of tarmac that ribbons its way through the Boyne Valley towards Rockhampton. Stop by a bizarre monument in the middle of nowhere commemorating the 1956 Olympic torch relay. Reminded me of Gordon who was born in 1956, taking his turn to care for Mam and Dad now, god bless him.

Arrive at the planned camp site in Byfield State Forest with time to spare tonight and throw the tent up in time for a pie and a beer before the sun goes down, classy!. What I’d not accounted for was the ants that proceeded to have their evening meal courtesy of me. Crap, and I am still suffering for it two days later!

Day 8

All tarmac today and a long 460km’s….zzzzzzzz. At least the plan came together today with a nicely reconnoitred stay at a wee motel at Seaforth Bay. Usual amazingly friendly greeting, Katie certainly draws a crowd!, followed by the best room the guy had to offer and prime parking for Katie. Nice find Seaforth a lovely quiet beech village.

Day 9

All things come to he who waits!. A nice short 160km up the road to Airlie Beech today for the weekend and a rest before the big off on Monday. Importantly also I met up with Magnus the owner of http://outbackadventuretreks.com.au/ the company supporting the expedition across Australia. What a character Magnus is, to say the least!. We had a great chat while Manus helped (instructed) me on how to fit tyres the correct way> I learned more in 30mins there on hints and tips with bike maintenance than I have in years. Had a great chat about bikes and stuff, as you do and the trip to come. Was a little perturbed by Magnus telling me that of the last few cross Oz trips they have only had 50% of the group made it to the end!. Well don’t care if am Mr sensible for the next two weeks but there is no option B for me, this is just the start not the end!.

After a nice cuppa, new boots for Katie and a deserved wash down we headed off across to our digs for the next three nights in Airlie Beech. Serious yacht city this place, with a touch of Blckpool mixed in, bit weird. Found the digs…….agghhha. Dumpsville!. What followed was another lesson learnt in perseverance and how to make the most of your situation, accent and the lone traveller. I was given a real dump to stay in and nowhere near Katie. So after some thought popped back to reception to woo the ladies into giving me a nicer pad. Guess what…..result, three in a row…feel am on a roll now!. We were upgraded to a ‘luxury’ villa. I say ‘luxury’ tongue in cheek as life is relative as we all know. At least Katie is parked right outside under cover.

Day 10

Airlie Beech R&R

Two days R&R before we head west so today I spent half a day shopping for ‘stuff’, probably more than I need, and the rest of the day fettling Katie and rationalising my kit before Monday.

So now I actually have a day off on Sunday and a chance for some ’touristy’ stuff before meeting up with the tour crew and the other guys on the trip tomorrow night for a light ale or two.

Might have to wait a couple of weeks for my next full update once we arrive in Perth but will keep you posted via Facebook and you can follow our progress via the ‘Location’ page of the website

Better off now and give my old bones a rest!

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