The tourist brochure we had seen in Clermont declared Jericho to be a thriving small town complete with a couple of shops and a caravan park. Fortunately the local manning the visitor information centre in Alpha informed us there was nothing left in Jericho apart from a pub. Everything else had shut up and left town. The showgrounds were open for camping though, with toilets and hot showers.
We bought some more food from the SPAR in Alpha (finally remembering to get our favourite touring food – fruit cake!), to cover us until we reached Blackall, probably three days away.
Arriving in Jericho, we spotted some sort of police setup in the Main Street. It was the local policeman and his wife with a ‘Driver Reviver’ stand in celebration of Road Safety Week. We pulled up for a cuppa and a couple of biscuits before they packed up, chatting about life in small towns and the small amount of crime that happened.
Sitting at the bar of the Jordan Hotel in Jericho, we chatted with locals and visitors. Apparently the locals know that the Jericho pub is better than the Alpha pub, and we could see why. Beer was cheaper, the hotel was a classic old country pub with wide open doors and windows, and there were people sitting at the bar (usually a good sign).
Bob and his son were travelling to the Birdsville races. He shouted us a beer on the strength of that and we were well happy as we walked the kilometre back to the campground.
Jericho showgrounds have toilets and showers. For a measly $5 for a tent site, and $2 for a wonderful hot shower, the setting was basic but spotlessly clean. It was a great spot for a camp. The one disappointment was the lack of a washing machine. We know, hand washing is not that hard, but we were planning on doing a load of clothes at Jericho and hand washing just seemed too hard in a laundry tub. If we had known, we would have pushed through and done the washing at Alpha, even though we arrived about 4pm, which is getting a bit late to do washing.
The answer to this, of course, is to wear your clothes for another couple of days (thankfully Merino doesn’t get as rank smelling as synthetic clothing so we only got the odd whiff of…well…smelly 2, 3 or 4 day old unwashed cycle tourers).
We were slow to get going the next morning in the cold, with two cups of tea and a breakfast of baked beans and bread from Snow’s Bakery. It wasn’t until about 9.30am that we got pedalling. If this road was going to be slow going, we were only going to aim for 60km before pulling up for the night.
To our delight, the first 30km was good bitumen. The air was cool but the sun was warm and we pedalled away, enjoying the clean air.
After 30km, the road became gravel as promised on the map. Gravel and soft sand to be exact. This surely was adventure riding at it’s finest. Our speed wasn’t too bad, we were still managing 16km an hour. It was the sand that could give away at a moment’s notice and land you on the ground as the front wheel succumbed to the softness. This only happened once, thanks to Mick’s skilful manoeuvring, and we were going so slow that the landing on sand was of no real consequence, but the whole effort was tiring! The handlebars got bumped out of whack, the dynamo light was pushed upwards, and Mick landed heavily on his hip, but, apart from that we were okay.
At this rate however, we were going to take HOURS to get through!
An Ergon worker stopped to check we were okay at one point, and was able to let us know that there were only about 10-12kms of gravel left. If we could just get to that point, which would give us 80kms for the day, we would be laughing!
Full credit to the Ergon man for his accurate directions, at around 80kms we reached the bitumen and started cheering. At any point now, we could pull off the road and find a camp…
…which is a great idea except when all around is flat plains with sparse trees and grasses. It wasn’t until around 90km that we found a pocket of trees that looked like a good camping spot off the road.
One tick (on Mick) and a dinner later, we were in the tent, ready for sleep. There was almost no traffic on this road and it was guaranteed to be a quiet night.
The next morning we rose in the cold (again) and decided a cup of tea was in order before we headed off for the last 30kms to Blackall.
Mick discovered the spare chain had worn right through the pocket in the Ortlieb pannier and needed to be contained in something stronger on these rough dirt roads. We decided to put the chain on the floor of the trailer, hoping that would prevent further damage.
Around 7.30am we set off for Blackall, hoping for a big breakfast of eggs and bacon. We arrived around 9.30am, just in time for the demonstration of sheep droving for which the Landsborough Highway was shut. The local taxi driver gave us a fresh mandarin, courtesy of an old drover called Lee, who had returned for the 150 year celebrations and was selling them for $10 for $3kg up the road. The taxi driver also gave us his card because the Tania Kernaghan concert was on tomorrow night…for free. He could give us a ride out there if we wanted to go.
Blackall was in the midst of it’s 150 year celebrations, running for ten days. We had arrived at the right time!
After checking in at the Blackall Caravan Park for two nights, showering and getting some long-awaited washing on the line, we set off for a walk through town. There were blacksmith demonstrations, historic machinery and other fantastic country displays to be seen!
A coffee at the old Masonic Lodge made us feel quite sophisticated for a while…
The following morning we headed to Tina’s Cafe for the best big breakfast and coffee we had eaten all trip! Well, it was the only big breakfast we had eaten so far, but It is well worth the visit if you’re passing through!
We headed off to watch the weaners sale at the saleyards. It was so different to what we are used to, and very interesting to watch, starting with the array of white Toyotas in the carpark.
After the saleyards, we headed out further to the old Woolscourer, where they sheared, cleaned the wool, and pressed it for sale. Due to the Blackall 150 year celebrations we even got to do the tour for free.
Greg said hello after the tour. He seemed to be related to most people in town, although he now lives in the big smoke, somewhere near the Gold Coast. Greg is a bush poet and he regaled us with story after story of local history and tales about the area.
Blackall gets most of it’s water from the Great Artesion Bore, which covers a massive part of Queensland and beyond. It provides free hot water for the residents and for the local aquatic centre, where a swim entry fee costs a mere $2.
It was on the way back from here (we swam in our shorts and they were just about dry in the ten minutes it took to walk back to town), that Greg pulled over in his Mercedes and offered to take us for a spin around town. He drove us out to the billabong a few miles out of town where someone was fishing, hoping for ‘yellow belly’…
And took us to meet his old uncle Buck who, at 83 years of age, was still riding a horse…
We had asked a few people about the dirt road to Quilpie too. Not one person thought it would be good for us to ride on. Most people thought it was pretty sandy. We decided we needed more time if we were to travel the 220km to Adavale on sandy gravel, then 100kmish to Quilpie on more gravel/bitumen.
Tomorrow we leave for Tambo. It’s highway riding, but it will get us around to Quilpie eventually and hopefully without too much traffic.