Knowing that the opportunities to cycle tour are few and far between when one owns a bike shop, we decided we needed to take any opportunity we could to get away for a ‘mini-tour’. After plenty of discussion and planning with a friend, we closed the shop on the weekend and headed for an overnight trip from Townsville out over Hervey Range then turned onto Dotswood Rd. We camped just over halfway along the road at Fanning River and continued to Mingela the next morning where we joined the main road back to Townsville.
To our delight, we had some Warmshowers guests (beastsinjungle.com) staying with us on their way from Hong Kong to New Zealand. They packed up their tricycles and came for the trip, sharing their experience and enthusiasm with us over the weekend.
The weather was absolutely perfect! North Queensland winters are a brilliant time of year to be cycle touring with little or no rain, very low humidity and often cool evenings making sleeping very pleasant, even in a tent.
After having an early lunch at Hervey Range Heritage Tearooms, we continued on Hervey Range Rd until we reached Dotswood Rd. This road consists of gravel and dirt, and some sand which we discovered a few kilometres in. Our tandem came to a wobbly (almost crashing) halt as we lost control in a thick section of sand. The sandy part only lasted for a few metres and we were able to get back on an easier section of road very quickly. Our friend on a steel frame road bike with 28 millimetre tyres and a trailer had a little more trouble controlling his steed and later commented that his upper body got more of a workout than his legs!
It was only 41 kilometres from the turn off to Fanning River, where we were to set up camp. There was a couple of fantastic grid type bridges to cross which created some excitement…
It was about 4.30pm when we arrived and we were glad to get the camp fire going and tents set up before having a wash in the river and getting stuck into pre-dinner snacks of cheese and crackers and chocolate chip biscuits. We were particularly excited to try out an extravagant purchase of lightweight camping chairs, something we wished we had when we spent 8 weeks cycle touring 18 months ago. The chairs were ordered from Helinox after much internet searching and reading of reviews and comments from other people. These chairs were not even due into Australia until just before our tour, and we could not believe our luck when they arrived a few days before we set off. The chairs were wonderfully comfortable and well worth the extra weight (roughly 500 grams each). It is so nice to sink into a comfortable reclining seat when you have spent all day in the saddle!
Thankfully there was no alarm on Sunday morning and everyone emerged from their tents at different times to make a tea or coffee.
By the time we packed up it was 9am and we were eager to get back on the bikes.
We had 27 kilometres of dirt road before we reached Mingela, all of which was good to travel on. Our friend’s skinnier tyres did continue to cause some suffering, but our 35mm tyres were pretty good at rolling over the bumps and coping with the gravel we encountered.
At Mingela we turned left onto the Flinders Highway, the main route from Charters Towers to Townsville. Traffic was courteous except for one (dare we say ‘bogan’ ute) which drove as close as physically possible while beeping it’s horn and being a general nuisance.
The service station/roadhouse at Calcium was exactly what we needed, just a little bit further than expected, particularly after Captain M. kept promising it was just around the corner! The coffee was brilliant and the food was filling and tasty and not expensive. Well worth stopping if you need a feed! They also have toilets and a shower, which could be good if you needed cleaning as well as food. Justin and Cher stopped at Reid River Rest Area for lunch. They had camped overnight here on their initial journey into Townsville.
We arrived back in Townsville at about 3.30pm after enjoying a tail wind all the way from Mingela.
It was a great weekend, a ‘mini tour’ of 226 kilometres which scratched the bicycle touring itch and infused us with enthusiasm for the next one! We are already planning the next one…