It had been a surprise to find out the previous afternoon that Atherton was only 18 kilometres from Herberton. My plan had been to have a short day and spend the night at the Big4 caravan park in Atherton, which it is set up for the bike riders who come to ride the mountain bike trails Atherton is becoming famous for. 18km was a bit too short however, and I decided that after a coffee I would continue onto Mareeba, where I would visit a friend of mine who lives there.
One of the attractions of the Atherton Tablelands is the Atherton to Mareeba Rail Trail. It is only three quarters completed and open to the public, but I was interested to see what it was like.
The trail was not clearly marked as I headed out of town towards Mareeba across the bridge. The woman at the visitor’s information centre told me to cross the road after the bridge, where the veterinarian clinic was. The problem with this was the big PRIVATE ACCESS ONLY sign planted at the start of the trail at this point.
I deliberated for a couple of minutes, then decided to take the risk. It was only one block further along that the trail appears to start properly, complete with signage. There were a number of bike riders entering and exiting the trail on all sorts of bikes, which was great to see.
Riding along the trail was wonderful! There were no vehicles to worry about and the scenery was so lovely I was grinning. A tailwind and slight descent enhanced the experience.
As the trail approached Rocky Creek, which is where the current trail finishes, the trail did indeed get rocky and there were a couple of creek crossings. These were dry but the dip down into the creek then up the other side was quite gravelly and, well…rocky! am definitely not a confident mountain bike rider by any means, and with a loaded bike, on fat, but slick tyres, I was a bit nervous at these points. After a bit of a slip at one section, I got off to walk, but that was worse because my shoes were slipping, as was the bike. A few nervous laughs later, I made it up the steep, slippy section, and enjoyed a rest in the shade.
Overall the rail trail was brilliant, but the next 20km on the road to Mareeba had me grinning even more! When people tell cyclists the road is flat or downhill, we know to take it with a grain of salt. There are ALWAYS hills of some sort and the smallest undulation in the car can really slow you down on a loaded touring bike.
Well, the road from Rocky Creek to Mareeba is DEFINITELY downhill or flat ALL the way. I was cruising at between 30-40km/hr the WHOLE way! I couldn’t believe it! There was mostly a shoulder to ride in, and I can’t remember if the traffic was unpleasant because I was too busy enjoying the descent!
It is about 50km from Herberton to Mareeba. By the time I had finished for the day I had done a few extra kilometres riding to visit my friends Viv and Justin…
…and then to Theresa and John’s place for dinner and a bed. Viv’s mum, Theresa, wouldn’t hear of me spending the night in the caravan park and welcomed me into their home. I got to meet both Viv and Justin’s families as everyone was there for a family dinner that night. It was a true Australian Italian experience I am very grateful for.
Tonight is to be my first night in a bed in a house since the start of this trip and I am quite looking forward to it!