Townsville-Gregory Developmental Rd-Charters Towers-Townsville

We were a bit worried about our latest cycle touring trip. Not that we couldn’t do it, but that we were not really that fit and 360kms with a loaded touring bike in warm conditions was going to feel a bit uncomfortable. We started thinking ‘weight weenyish’ and worked on minimising our load. Our wonderful Helinox chairs got left behind, and  the Trangia was downsized to just the burner, fold-up windshield and two bowls for cooking.  We managed to fit everything in two rear panniers which saved even more weight. Our new Wilderness Equipment Space 2 tent fit nicely strapped on top of the front rack. This was our version of being cycle touring ‘weight weenies’.

A bunch of us set off around 6.30am on Saturday of the long weekend for the Heritage Tea Rooms, a favoured breakfast spot when we head up the Hervey Range. For the four of us continuing on, this would be the last ‘luxury’ meal we would have until we reached Charters Towers the following afternoon.

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It wasn’t until we reached the Tea Rooms that we realised James had decided to start his tour at the top of the Range, hitching a lift in a car to breakfast. Needless to say, we all gave him a hard time, despite the fact he was riding an old Peugot that someone had gifted him just a few days beforehand…

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We filled water bladders and bottles at the Tea Rooms. They have bore water, but is perfectly fine to drink. We had loaded our Salsa Powderkeg Tandem with 5 litres of water in bottles mounted on the bike, then filled up our two 4 litres Ortlieb water bladders at the Tea Rooms. The next water stop wouldn’t be until the Burdekin River. Vic told us this was another 60-70kms up the road. We trust Vic. He lives up that way, he knows his stuff…

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The winds were definitely in our favour for the next 35kms to Dotswood Road. By then we had done about 75kms since leaving Townsville, and this trip was going fantastically. There are some definite ‘undulations’ once you get along the road a bit, but this meant we got to enjoy some downhills after slow uphills, and we felt great.

According to Vic’s calculations, we had less than 30kms to go from Dotswood Road until we reached the Burdekin River, where we would stop and have lunch and refill our dwindling water supplies. As the day was wearing on, the wind blew every which way, but mostly against us, and it was hot. Adding to the sensation of being in a dry sauna was the lovely sound of blistering bitumen, a sure sign the daily temperatures were getting up there.

There were cries of joy when we finally reached the Burdekin River at about the 125km mark (what’s another 10-15kms…Vic!). It’s amazing how much water you need when it’s hot and you’re pushing up hills with a loaded bike compared to riding around town early in the day. Constant sipping of tepid water does become unappealing after a while, so it was wonderful to fill our bottles with fresh water as well as jump right in! IMG_0856We used a Sawyer water filter (because we brought it and it had to be used) but the water was flowing and probably okay to drink anyway. James just drank it straight, but he didn’t ride up the Range, so…IMG_0853

The beauty of the Burdekin River being further along than we thought, was that the day’s end was now only 20kms away. After an hours rest by the river, and at about 3.30pm, we set back off into the heat of the afternoon for the final leg, which turned out to be rather tiring and…well…hot!

The Bicycle Pedlar - Salsa Powderkeg

Towards the end of Hervey Range Road is a little rest area/memorial/historical site with one picnic table and shelter. This was our stop for the night. There is no water, toilets or electricity, but it was quite luxurious to have a table to sit at. First job was to brew up a cup of tea to have with some fruit cake.

The Bicycle Pedlar - Trangia

We were excited about putting up our new Wilderness Equipment Space 2 tent for its first proper use. We sell these now (order only) and were hoping the tent lived up to the Wilderness Equipment reputation we had been bandying about! It was nice just having the inner up to keep out the bugs but let the breeze in. We didn’t think there was much threat of rain (unfortunately). Our previous tent only had a small fly screen section and was a bit hot to sleep in during the warmer months.IMG_0866

James likes his $20 department store special…that’s the joy of cycle touring, if it works for you, then that’s what you should do/use/eat/drink…IMG_0868

It was an early night. We managed to stay up chatting until 7pm, but then it was lights out until about 5am the next day. The general consensus was that we would leave at 7am to try and avoid riding through the hottest part of the day. After yesterday’s dry day, and knowing that we had about 60km to go before the next water source, the group was keen move on. Leaving in the semi-darkness the next morning at James’ insistence that it was indeed 7am, we were reminded that technology is only good when it works…smartphones in Australia seem to convert to daylight saving along with the southern states unless there is phone reception to tell them otherwise!IMG_0881

Gregory Developmental Road doesn’t have much traffic really and it tends to come along in spits and spurts. It was pretty exciting to watch two of these trucks with 5m wide loads heading past on the single lane of bitumen.  There is only 20km of this between Charters Towers and the Hervey Range turn-off. The rest of that 100kms is double-lane bitumen, usually with no shoulder; but traffic was fantastic, a usual pleasure once you get out of town, and we had no difficulties.

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55km down the road, Fletcher Creek camping area was a bit sad to behold. There was no water in the creek and the barren and dusty campgrounds didn’t do much to boost our spirits. Tea and fruit cake and a break for half and hour helped though.

Charters Towers was just as dry as the rest of the trip, but the caravan park had some beautifully green patches!

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It didn’t take long to pop into the Zara Clark Museum which was about to close and is well worth a longer visit…The Bicycle Pedlar - Charters Towers
…then head to the pub for beers and two steak burgers each (they were only $5 on account of it being footy grand final night), and head back to the caravan park for bed. Well, we couldn’t keep our eyes open, but the others stayed up to watch the Cowboys play the final on the camp kitchen TV. We don’t really like to mention it, but the fact that the Cowboys were getting flogged meant everyone was very quiet and we got a great sleep!

It rained and thundered quite heavily for a period during the night. We were delighted to go to sleep enjoying the sound of rain hitting the tent. Not Rob though, rain was so unexpected that he left a window on his tent open while watching the footy and returned to find his tent converted to a wading pool…

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We felt pretty good the next morning after a restful afternoon and evening. Last time we wanted breakfast on a Sunday morning in Charters Towers, we had a great feed at the PUMA roadhouse on the western side of Charters Towers. It didn’t quite live up to our expectations this time and may not be on the itinerary next time unless we’re desperate for an open cafe. Those few extra kilometres and hills were going to bite later on!

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For the first 80kmish, everyone agreed they didn’t feel too bad even though it was slow work. The photo above was taken at the rest stop just before Mingela (50kms out of Charters Towers). If you look carefully at the grass on the other side of the road you will get an idea of what we were pedalling against…ALL DAY!

The initial feeling of wellbeing was somewhat depleted by the time we reached Calcium PUMA roadhouse for a feed, with 50kms still to go and no sign of the wind easing.

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Calcium PUMA roadhouse – only 50kms and one strong headwind to go.

That’s probably all there is to say about this trip…oh, except for a comment about the distance. Remember how we talked about a three day 360 kilometre trip? Well, it turned out to be 380kms…

 

 

 

 

 

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