January 31, 2011 GMT
Anthony and the Goliath
Monday 31st January 2011 Ė I awoke to a calm and peaceful morning today. Cyclone Anthony did a bit of mischief down at Bowen but we were unaffected in Townsville. So, by the time Iíd retrieved my bike from the toilet block, it was about 7am before I got on the road. However, I made good time and got to Ayr by 8.30 so stopped for a cuppa in the local servo. The headline on the paper read ďAnthony and the GoliathĒ and the girl behind the desk was quick to advise me Iíd be best to head as far west as possible and get away from the coast because the second cyclone (Cyclone Yasi, aka Goliath), currently over Fiji, will be a category 4 and will destroy everything in its path. As Iíd already missed the turn off for Mount Isa (in the west), I left the servo like a bat out of hell and continued south with the intention of turning off at Mackay. However, by the time Iíd reached Bowen and had a chance to consider her advice, I decided Iíd be better off getting as far south as possible as the cyclone isnít due to hit until Thursday which gives me another 2 days to clear to impact area.
So much for spending a month meandering my way down the coast Ė at this rate Iíll be in Sydney by next weekend!
Iíd made Mackay by 1pm. However, I then ran into a strange phenomena that I havenít encountered in Australia before Ė a traffic jam. A van had run into the side of a bridge which meant all the traffic from 4 different directions was backed up for miles. It took me 2 hours to travel the 30km from Mackay to Sarina! Iím now in a small village called Carmila, about 100km south of Mackay. Tomorrow Iíll try and make it to Hervey Bay.
Posted by Jill Maden at 08:28 AM
January 30, 2011 GMT
Calm Before the Storm
Sunday 30th January 2011 Ė When I left Mount Molloy the ownerís brother-in-law told me to watch out for 2 cyclones making their way towards the coast. However, I was too busy trying to fit the plastic supports inside my panniers so they wouldnít collapse again (I think this is why the last set ripped) to pay much attention to the weather reports, so I was up at the crack of dawn this morning and on my way south down the Bruce Highway. I wasnít exactly sure how far Iíd go, but, Townsville seemed like a good target.
It was a fantastic ride Ė somehow all my nerves had gone and I was handling the bike (even with all its luggage) with no difficulties. Needless to say, I was loving every moment. Its sugar cane country between Cairns and Tully, then banana country from Tully to Ingham. Everything is so green and lush at the moment and the Great Dividing Range (I think) to the right gives a spectacular backdrop. So I meandered my way along and by about 1pm had reached Townsville so decided to stop.
As there isnít a YHA in Townsville anymore, I decided I should camp, so made my way to the caravan site on the foreshore. As I asked for a tent site the lady behind the desk said ďDo you know about the cyclone thatís coming in tonight?Ē. ďErr, vaguelyĒ I said. So she showed me the weather report with the cyclone heading straight for Mackay, a town about 30km south from here. So she suggested I take a cabin instead and park the bike in the toilets overnight so that it doesnít get blown across the park when the cyclone hits. So Iím off to go batten down the hatches and make sure everything in my cabin is on the floor before the winds comes.
Posted by Jill Maden at 05:41 AM
Round the Bend
Saturday 29th January 2011 Ė I got the call late yesterday afternoon saying my new panniers had arrived so this morning I jumped on the bike and headed up to Atherton to collect them (I ordered them from the same place I got my tyres as I thought Iíd be going back that way before I changed my mind and decided to go down the coast). I took the road to Mareeba via Kuranda which is very windy then took the road back down over the Gillies Ranges to Gordonville. Now Iíve done some twisty roads since Iíve been in Australia, but this took the biscuit. About 30km of hairpin bends and steep descents with amazing views over what must have once been a volcanic mountain range. I loved it!
Posted by Jill Maden at 05:38 AM
Friday 28th January 2011 Ė I decided to do a bit of sunbathing today so donned my bikini and headed down to the lagoon on the Esplanade. This is the first time Iíve done any sunbathing since I arrived in Australia and like most Brits abroad my stunning white flesh practically blinded the locals. I did, of course, apply sunscreen but when I later got changed back at the hostel I realised I hadnít applied it very evenly as my tummy and legs were covered in red blotches where Iíd obviously missed some bits.
One thing Iím happy to report about Australians is that the men here still uphold the fine tradition of short shorts and what the locals call ďbudgie smugglersĒ (i.e. speedo style swimming trunks). I must confess its really very nice to see a bit of leg from time to time!
Posted by Jill Maden at 05:37 AM
January 28, 2011 GMT
East Coast Epic
Friday 28th January 2011 Ė Contrary to my first thoughts, Iíve now decided to return to Melbourne via the east coast highways Ė going through the centre at this time of year would mean dealing with temperatures in excess of 45C and Iím not sure Iím up to that again. Whereas the east coast route will only be about 30C! Plus its a much more populated and interesting route and is also a more direct route to Canberra and Batemanís Bay. The only trouble is thereís a cyclone developing off shore so there may be more flooding, but hey ho, either way thereís risks involved and Iíd rather take my chances on the coast than melt in the desert again.
So the plan is to spend 2 weeks getting from Cairns to Noosa (just north of Brisbane), where Iíll stay with a friend of my brotherís, then another 2 weeks from Noosa to Canberra, then a final week or so getting back round to Melbourne where Iíll stay for a week so that I can sell the bike before flying to Hong Kong on about 12th March (dates not confirmed yet) then back to the UK a few days later. Along the way I hope to take in places like the Whitsundays, Fraser Island, Byron Bay, Coffís Harbour, Newcastle and Palm Beach (where they film Aussie soap opera ďHome & AwayĒ). So its going to be a great trip and I intend to savour every moment.
I feel quite sad that my trip is coming to an end. Iíve had the most wonderful time here and I canít believe I actually managed to ride the width of Australia in 8 days!!! It would have been great to have had some romance but I think the lack of it has made me learn how to find happiness within myself and that in itself is a wonderful thing. And who knows, Iíve still got 6 weeks to go ....
Posted by Jill Maden at 05:13 AM
On the Road Again
Thursday 27th January 2011 Ė Iím free! Iím back in Cairns, staying in an insect free room at the YHA and acutely aware of how much anxiety Iíve been carrying in my body since arriving in Mount Molloy. Iíve ordered a new set of panniers for the bike as one of them has developed a large tear, so Iím staying here for a few of days until they arrive. It feels good to be back, even though its not the same town it used to be Ė enough of it is still the same to make me feel at home.
Posted by Jill Maden at 05:11 AM
January 24, 2011 GMT
Monday 24th January 2011 Ė Over the weekend I spoke to both my mum and my dad who are dealing with health issues at the moment and last night had an overwhelming desire to go back and help them. So this morning I phoned the ownerís sister to get a contact address for the owner. Suddenly it was all too much and I was in floods of tears, so she took the situation in hand and arranged for the ownerís son to move back in and take care of the pets and to contact the owner to let her know. Iíve still got a couple of days work to do this week, so weíve agreed Iíll leave on Thursday and start making my way back to Melbourne (as this is where my flight departs from).
Having just done a massive ride up here, Iím going to give myself a bit more time to get back again so Iím hoping to be back in Melbourne by the end of Feb and home by early March. As the east coast is still affected by the floods, I think Iíll go inland and come back via the ďred centreĒ (i.e. Darwin, Ayres Rock & Alice Springs). I might then try and ďnipĒ across to Canberra and Batemanís Bay to say goodbye to friends there, then return to Melbourne.
This trip was originally meant to be for a year, but as Iíve done pretty much all the things I came here to do (apart from crossing the Nullabor) and had more adventure than most people have in their lives, I think returning home after 6 months is still a bloody great result! So keep tuning in for the final updates of my trip down the centre!
Posted by Jill Maden at 01:11 AM
January 23, 2011 GMT
Sunday 23 Janurary 2011 - As if to test me, a Praying Mantis flew into the living room last night. The cat immediately went after it and half killed it but left it with just enough life to flounder on the floor for a few hours. So, after another sleepless night from the dog barking at every shadow that passed, my resolve for staying in the house was severely dented this morning. Then, this afternoon I came home to find the squirming dissected innards of a cockroach on the kitchen floor with the cat overlooking it with a gecko in her mouth. So in answer to the question at the end of my last entry, it would appear Iím the type of adventurer that has absolutely no stomach for insects. To say they are ďcreeping me outĒ would be the understatement of the year! I canít stand them!!! So I think Iím going to have to look into finding some alternative accommodation with fly screens and air cooling devices because this is freaking me out!
Posted by Jill Maden at 09:08 AM
January 22, 2011 GMT
Saturday 22nd January 2011 Ė The wet season is well and truly upon us this week. It must have started about 4 or 5 days ago when I took the dog for a walk up to have a nosey at a lovely old Queenslander-style house thatís for sale on a nearby hill. Just as we got there, the heavens opened and we had to shelter on the veranda for about half an hour for the rain to subside enough for us to run home (not that it made any difference, we still got soaked). And its pretty much been raining ever since.
The rain also brought out a huge plague of ďflying antsĒ which swarmed the kitchen. These just look like petals being blown in the wind, but they are actually termites that lose their wings and burrow into the woodwork of your house. The rains also heralded the first appearance of bats in the house. All this, combined with the presence of frogs, geckos (small lizards), huge moths, spiders, flies, ants and the dog having several barking fits during the night, all left me feeling somewhat shaken, and by Thursday, I had practically decided I should move out and entrust the care of the house and pets to the ownerís son. I even got as far as writing an email to that effect, but luckily, my internet account ran out of credit and I couldnít log on to send it. By Friday morning, I had re-assessed the situation and decided I needed to focus on all the positive aspects of living in the house. Within a few hours I started to feel better and after a particularly fun night in the pub, by the end of the day, I had changed my mind and decided to stay. After all, what kind of adventurer would I be if I ran away after only 2 weeks because of a few wee bugs (well, lots of bloody great big ones actually, but you know what I mean)?
I'm just hoping the roads will be open tomorrow so that I can get back down to the coast for work and a music festival to raise money for the Queensland Flood Disaster Fund.
Posted by Jill Maden at 06:10 AM
January 16, 2011 GMT
Sunday 16th January 2011 Ė After a few days of air-conditioned luxury in the car, I decided it was time to take the bike for a spin again, so I rode it down to work and back again. This is the first time I have ridden it naked (i.e. unladen) for weeks, and what a difference it makes. The road to the coast crosses the Great Dividing Range so is another windy, twisty one full of hairpin bends and steep decents, but I managed it with scarcely a touch on the brakes. It reminded me of how much I used to love riding Ė back in the days before I lost my confidence and became a jibbering wreck Ė not that Iíve been that bad for quite some time Ė but it was lovely being able to throw the bike around a bit for a change and not worrying about it all collapsing underneath me.
Now I must make special mention of the unsung hero of my travels here. The bike, which is a stallion of a machine, has been a magnificent travelling companion. It has stayed upright despite having the most nervous of riders at its reins and its provided utterly reliable service day after day in the most challenging conditions. It even has great fuel economy despite the mass of luggage its had to bear. I couldnít have asked for a more trusty steed and I feel very lucky to have found it. Its going to be really great to get out on it some more without all the baggage and really let it run free! Do I sound like Iím talking about a horse here? Well, I guess it is something of a mechanical horse, albeit, not quite so frisky.
Posted by Jill Maden at 10:17 AM
January 13, 2011 GMT
Thursday 13th January 2011 Ė Oh boo hoo. I had been so looking forward to going back to Cairns, but OMG, what a mess theyíve made of it. Obviously the town planners were more interested in increasing their bank balances than in preserving the essence of the town. Every spare bit of land has been filled with either a horrible hotel or a hideous shopping centre. What used to be a lovely, open, low level town with a sense of space and plenty of green areas, has been transformed into a concrete labyrinth. And, worst of all, the lovely little house we used to live in in Clare Street and had such happy times in has been knocked down and turned into a set of soulless apartment blocks.
On the plus side, the Esplanade has been very nicely landscaped to include a swimming area and the central plaza is still pretty much the same, but beyond that, yuk, yuk, yuk!
Maybe its true, one should never go back. Although Iím sure Iíll return again just to make sure I wasnít just suffering from heat stroke and impaired vision!
I stopped off at Kuranda (a 60ís market town) on the way home, which, Iím pleased to report, is still exactly the same as its been since the beginning of time, so all is not lost!
Posted by Jill Maden at 07:11 AM
January 12, 2011 GMT
Life in Mount Molloy
Wednesday 12th January 2011 Ė Sorry I havenít been online for a while, life in Mount Molloy has been pretty full on since I arrived and this, plus the fact that everyone wants to know if Iíve been affected by the floods, means I thought I'd better update this again.
Thankfully, I have not been affected by the floods. These are all happening much further south, with Brisbane currently being inundated. The CBD has been shut down and people are being moved to evacuation centres around the periphery. The news is just full of stories of communities being devastated and I give thanks that I was not caught up in any of the major floods on my way here.
I actually arrived in Mount Molloy a few days early so the people Iím house-sitting for used the opportunity to introduce me to the community. On Friday they took me to a local swimming hole (oh, the joy of being immersed in cold, refreshing water) followed by dinner at the pub where I met many of the locals. On Saturday it was their sonís 21st birthday so I spent the day helping them prepare the local hall for a big party that night, where I met most of the rest of the good people of Mount Molloy. Sunday was breakfast at the ownerís mother followed by lunch with her father. On Monday, they finally left and I headed down to the coast to go and get ďorientatedĒ at the ownerís business. It turns out she has a spa in one of the towns there and part of the reason she chose me to be her house-sitter was because she was hoping Iíd help out at the spa. I agreed, thinking it would only be a couple of half days a week, only to discover sheíd rostered me on for 4 full days. So now Iím doing massage on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays! The people at the spa are very nice but Iím not exactly sure I want to be spending my time doing quite so much work, especially seeing its on a voluntary basis! Anyway, the busy season will be over at the end of January so hopefully it wonít be for that long.
After my orientation I returned to the house and decided to blitz the kitchen. The family that own it are, how shall I put this, quite ďcasualĒ when it comes to housework, and, as a result, the kitchen has an ant infestation. So 5 hours later Iíd scrubbed the fridge to within an inch of its life and removed all traces of food on every surface I could find.
This is a beautiful house but it doesnít have any insect screens, air conditioning or overhead fans, so the only way to keep it cool is to leave all the doors and windows open. This has the consequence that every insect known to man comes for a visit every day. I have a standing fan in my bedroom which keeps the mossies off during the night, but for the rest of the time, Iím a living target. Despite smothering myself in insect repellent I have been eaten alive. Iím just hoping I donít get Denge Fever!
The ownerís son was supposed to be moving out when they left for their holiday, but he was still here on Monday, then on Tuesday he went missing, as did the dog. I searched the pub and his grandmothers but no-one had seen him, however, today, when I got home, the dog had reappeared and a few items had been moved around so I presumed heíd returned the dog and gone to his new residence.
I have also been working my way through a huge mountain of laundry that was left behind, and, as Iíve now got 3 days off, Iím hoping to do a bit of a cobweb and nest removal programme. But first, Iím going to Cairns tomorrow to visit my old stomping ground from when I lived there in 1989 which I am really looking forward to. The owner has left me her car so its making getting around a lot easier (and cooler).
Thanks to everyone who has been sending me emails checking Iím okay, I do appreciate it.
Posted by Jill Maden at 10:15 AM
January 06, 2011 GMT
I Made It!
Thursday 6th January 2010 Ė Well, 3,330 km and 8 days of riding later, Iíve finally made it to Mount Molloy. And what a beautiful place it is. High up in the rain forests, just a small town with one main street containing a pub/hotel, a cafe, a post office, a general store and 2 art galleries. It was sunny when I arrived but weíve just had the most almighty thunder storm. I loved it! The sound of the rain hammering down on the tin roof and the energy of the storm was fantastic. The house Iím to be looking after is absolutely beautiful too. I think Iím going to love it here (apart from the mossies that is, of which I think, there will be many!).
Posted by Jill Maden at 04:55 AM
January 05, 2011 GMT
Wednesday 5th January 2011 Ė Ride statistics:
Charters Towers - Atherton
Distance: 502 km
Total ride duration: 10 hours
Temperature: humid but cooler
So Iím almost there. I left a very humid Charters Towers at 6 am and took the Gregory Development Road up to Ravenshoe. As this goes up into higher ground it was actually quite cool, so this combined with a much better road surface, made for a really lovely ride. I arrived in Ravenshoe by 1pm. This put me in a bit of a quandary as I couldnít decide if I should go to Cairns to get a new tyre for my bike (the front one has been bald since Cobar!) or continue inland along the Kennedy Highway. So I asked the Tourist Info man and he said I could get the tyre replaced in Ravenshoe. However, when I turned up at the recommended place, it turned out they didnít stock tyres for road bikes. So the man there said there was a bike shop in Atherton and to try there. So thatís how I came to be in Atherton. I found the bike shop and they have the tyres so Iím going to take it in there in the morning then continue up to Mount Molloy.
So Iím almost there, only another 100km to go!!!
Posted by Jill Maden at 08:00 AM
January 04, 2011 GMT
Water Over Road
When I woke up this morning and thought about having to do another Development Road in the blistering heat, I almost didnít get up at all. I had really scared myself yesterday and I didnít want to end up over-exposing myself again. So I prayed (Iíve been doing a lot of that recently), ďIím going to need some help today GodĒ. Within a few minutes, it occurred to me that I should just ride as far as Charters Towers (250km), then do the Development Road tomorrow morning when its still cool.
So feeling a lot better with this plan, off I set. About 70km outside of Charters Towers, I saw the first sign for ďWater Over RoadĒ, however, it was only over my side, so I was able to pass it quite easily on the other side of the road. 10km later though, another sign warned of more ďWater Over RoadĒ and this is what I was presented with:
It was 300mm high, flowing quickly and the road was full of pot holes so I decided the best thing to do would be to turn back and get some breakfast at a nearby roadhouse, then see how it was on my return. When I got back an hour later, all the cars that had been queuing up had gone and I was the only one there.
The depth indicator showed it was now 200mm high but this was still too high for me, so I decided to wait and see if it subsided anymore. Just when I was thinking about how a truck driver ferried Ewen and Charlieís bikes over some rivers on the Road of Bones in Long Way Round, and how good it would be if that happened to me, a lovely man called Keith pulled up in his Land Cruiser ute and offered me a lift over. He was so masterful and just took complete charge of the situation. He drove his ute onto a verge so that the ramp at the back wasnít too steep then just walked my fully laden bike over as if it was a push bike. We needed to unload it to get it up the ramp, then I had to stand on the back of the ute and hold onto it for dear life so that it didnít topple over as we forded the creek. A couple of other guys helped us get it back off again. I gave him a huge hug at the end which he seemed to appreciate even though I was soaking wet!
I was so overcome with gratitude that I cried practically all the way into Charters. I have met some of the kindest, most helpful people here. They never make a fuss, they just assess the situation, realise I need help, and provide it.
So now Iím in Charters Towers in a lovely old traditional hotel with gorgeous big verandas and a cool afternoon breeze. Iím going to try and make it to Ravenshoe tomorrow, then it will just be a short trip to Mount Molloy the next day. And then Iíll be there!
Posted by Jill Maden at 06:25 AM
January 03, 2011 GMT
Monday 3rd January 2011 Ė Ride statistics:
Balcardine - Hughenden
Distance: 480 km
Total ride duration: 8 hours
Temperature: unbelievably hot!
Had the day off yesterday, but back on the road today.
Balcardine onwards saw the introduction of my first 3-trailer road trains. As I came out of Longreach I encountered 4 of them in a row so I got whipped all over the joint.
I set off at 6 am again so made good time to Winton, but the ride up the Kennedy Development Road to Hughenden, oh my god, I thought I wasnít going to make it. Its 214km of single track, heavily rutted road without a single stopping place to offer any shade. I pulled over at the side of the road about 6 times to drink and soak myself in water but by the time I got to Hughenden, I was a jittering wreck. The man at the petrol station gave me a seat in his shady workshop and then let me use his shower as I was shaking with heat exposure. Although I made it to Hughenden by 2pm and could have tried to do another 100km or so, I figured I should quit while I was still alive, so booked into the local motel.
Tomorrow, Charters Towers, then somewhere up the Gregory Development Road, maybe Ravenshoe if Iím lucky.
Posted by Jill Maden at 06:27 AM
January 01, 2011 GMT
Saturday 1st January 2011 Ė Ride statistics:
Cunnamulla - Balcardine
Distance: 674.6 km
Total ride duration: 10.5 hours
Temperature: donít know but still very hot
Well, how did you spend New Yearís Day? I bet it wasnít riding 675 km in the hot Ozzie outback! But I made it to Balcardine Ė woohoo! I got up at 5am and was on the road by 6am. This is definitely the best time of day to ride. It was still quite cool and amazing colours brought out by the rising sun. Plus, there are loads of animals about at this time. I saw kangaroos, emus, cows, birds of prey, and even a wild boar crossing the road ahead of me! Most of them wait until you get up close to them, then decide to run across in front of you. I practically chased 4 young emus up the road at one point!
The cooler temperature also makes it much easier to cover the distances. By 8.30am Iíd arrived in Charleville. The lady at the servo called the police for me and confirmed that the road from there to Augathella was closed, which meant I had to do a short detour (of 100km!) along the Warrego Highway where I joined the Landsborough Highway which took me to Augathella. From there it was a straight run up the Landsborough to Balcardine. Although the scenery is lovely, the Landsborough is a really bad road to ride Ė tonnes of pot holes and bumps, on several occasions I found myself flying through the air as I hit a bump too hard. By the time I got to Blackhall, the last town before Balcardine, the lady in the service station said part of the road had been washed away so to be really careful. As Iíd been going for 9 hours by this stage and was completely knackered, I took her advice and reduced my speed to 80-90 kph. And just as well, apart from the missing piece of road, I also passed a terrible crash. I couldnít make out which way up the car was but as there was also a road train at the side of the road (untouched), I imagine the car was trying to overtake and misjudged it.
Anyway, I arrived safely and found a nice motel. The owner said someone had managed to get through from Townsville, so I plan to take the same route next, which is:
Balcardine Ė Longreach Ė Winton Ė Hughenden (one day)
At Hugenden Iíll be able to join the Flinders Highway which will take me through to Charters Towers, where I can pick up the road to Mount Molloy. So only 2-3 more days riding, yeh! I havenít decided if Iíll have a rest day here in Balcardine tomorrow, or press on while the weather is still good. I have blisters on my bum from all the riding!
Posted by Jill Maden at 10:01 AM