In 2007 I set off on a trip to the Gulf on my Honda Shadow. In the previous summer there were significant rains and the roads were in pretty bad shape in far north Queensland. I didn't get as far north as the Gulf but had to turn east and head across the Flinders way to Cairns and then back home through the centre of Queensland. So in August 2014, seven years after my failed first trip I set off to redeem myself and finish the trip I had planned to the Gulf. This time weather and road conditions came together and I was able to make it all the way to Karumba.
Day 1 saw me head off for the short run to Forbes. I had planned to call in and see family but most weren't home so I spent a chilly night in the local caravan park after dinner in the camp kitchen. A cuppa the morning at Esme's Cafe and a chat with sister-in-law Linda set me in a good mood for the days riding into Bourke. Kidman Camp Caravan Park was my digs overnight and it was so cold I shouted myself a cheap cabin for the night. I enjoyed some camp fire live country music, poetry and a nice bush stew at the caravan park with other caravanners.
Day 3 saw me cross the border into Queensland and on to Charleville. The ride was uneventful except for the lack of petrol at Enngonia and Barringun. I arrived at Charleville but pretty much on fumes, even with the 5 litres of spare fuel I carried in the trailer. The next day I left the Cobb and Co Caravan Park headed for Longreach. Familiar roads and a strong tailwind made the days travel quick, easy and comfortable. On arrival in Longreach I opted to use a different caravan park than normal. It advertised itself as a small friendly family park. Well there was a family, but they only had about three teeth between the lot of them.
Fortunately I ran into another bike group staying there while on their way to a charity poker run in eastern Queensland. Dinner with that group at the local pub was fun and we swapped lots of stories. I stayed in Longreach an extra night to carry out a few "simple" repairs to the top box lid which had snapped a cable. The job ended up taking the better part of six hours and all of the patience I could muster. Lucky for me I had quite a few of the park locals to watch me and give sage advice between beers (without offering me one). The next day was on to Julia Creek, a lovely little country town I had visited and fallen in love with while caravanning through Queensland the year before.
I reluctantly left Julia Creek to make the long and dusty trip all the way to the Gulf. Again I needed the reserve petrol as I headed for the Burke and Wills Roadhouse at the four ways about half way through the leg. The roads from here are all development roads, which simply means that they aren't very developed yet. I arrived in Karumba the day before my birthday and set up camp in the Sunset Point Caravan Park which was fortuitously just down the road from the Sunset Tavern. I spent my 59th birthday in Karumba and enjoyed a feed of Barramundi and a few cold beers while watching the sun set over the Gulf.
Next day I was off across the Savannah Way to Mount Surprise. This was a challenging day with the Savannah Way in possibly the worst condition I have ever seen. Probably more than half of it was dirt (red dirt) and the water truck seemed to be just ahead of me all the way. Mount Surprise has the Bedrock Van Village which is a real find. Although you do wonder what the hell such a sophisticated and high quality van park is doing in a town the size and location of Mount Surprise. It was just an overnighter there and then a short day of just over 400 klm into Charters Towers. I love this town although others don't see it. It just has a feeling that I enjoy. I took the opportunity to rest up before the long road south and stayed an extra day.
The 4th of September saw me head to the little town of Capella. I had been there before and intended to stay in the local showground which is a well-known free camp with showers and toilets. Unfortunately the local Council had decided the year before that the free camp was not in their best interest. This turned out to be lucky as I found the local caravan park to be a great place to stay. There was a happy hour before dinner and then a fire and a few drinks after. I love places like this where strangers are invited to interact with the locals. Next day was on to Roma where I booked into the only caravan park in town that still takes overnight campers and is completely taken over by miners. The mines are feeding these small towns plenty of cash now, but when they leave so will the caravanners have left, and I think they'll go through a real slump.
Story continues in next column
25 Aug - Nowra to Forbes - 439 klm
26 Aug - Forbes to Bourke - 467 klm
27 Aug - Bourke to Charleville - 453 klm
28 Aug - Charleville to Longreach - 515 klm
30 Aug - Longreach - Julia Creek - 452 klm
31 Aug - Longreach to Karumba - 507 klm
2 Sept - Karumba to Mount Surprise - 465 klm
3 Sept - Mount Surprise to Charters Towers - 404 klm
4 Sept - Charters Towers to Capella - 428 klm
5 Sept - Capella to Roma - 428 klm
6 Sept - Roma to St.George - 650 klm
8 Sept - St.George - Nowra - 1049 klm
Total - 6,257 klm
The next day was a pretty long one of 650 klm. This got me into the Pelican Rest Caravan Park in my home town of St.George quite late, so I barely had time to set up the camper before dark. I bumped a very strange bloke in the camp kitchen that night who was bicycling across Queensland. His bike had lost a shoe and he was awaiting parts for over three weeks. I took an extra day in St.George. I love this place. I visited the local winery and bought some product, and some even made it home.
After a few days rest in St.George, I headed south with the intention of staying in Dubbo overnight. I got into Dubbo about 2.30pm and decided to cover a little extra ground before stopping for the night. By the time I got to Lithgow some hours later, it seemed pointless to stop overnight so close to home, so I just kept going. I got home about 9.30pm after dodging the wildlife and covering 1049klm in the day. This was a very rewarding trip which went mostly as planned. The bike and camper trailer performed beautifully and never failed me.