Touring with Gibbo:
Cooktown or Bust!
The Stockman Hotel at Texas. Always a good spot.
Gotta love undercover parking.
Early morning view from 'the Tower' in Charters Towers. Nice.
Gorgoeus architecture in Charters Towers
Early morning view from 'the Tower' and cute Rock Wallaby
Bill's arse on the way down.
Hinchinbrook Island from a lookout on the way to Cardwell.
The view from the motel out to the Coral Sea.
Aint that just beautiful, but don't even go too close to the water... Snap snap!
Camping at Malanda. Bill's other side.
All aboard the Daintree Ferry
View up the Daintree River... Very noice.
Cooktown Lookout and Lighthouse.
Finch Bay... stunning!
Lion's Den Pub... meh!
Motoring out and sailing back. Kewl!
Green Island... Very average.
The Kilkivan Hotel... Good pub!
Fred Brophy's Boxing Tent.
Out the back of the pub with the fire going.... Very kewl.
Love undercover parking. Thanks Fred.
Dayboro view of bikes from the pub.
Dayboro: Two very average mugs.
Ever since our February AGM, there had been a run to Wellington on the books, slotted in for early June. My mate Bill came up with a 'cunning plan' to do a small detour before that ride, to Cooktown Queensland. For me it would be just under a 6,000km detour and for him about 8,000km. We are both on recently purchased second hand bikes. He on a Suzuki VStrom 650 and myself a Victory Cross Country Stage 1. What could possibly go wrong... It seemed like a fine plan.
The plot was to meet other mates, members of the UNEMCC, at Texas Qld., and ride for a day with them before heading north on our own. We had also planned to maybe catch up again on the way home. The idea was we would travel a circuitous route, a bit inland, to Rockhampton and then up the Bruce and Captain Cook, eventually to Cooktown. Return would be via the Bruce, which turned out to be a crap plan. We were at the very end of 'the wet' and thought we might miss most of the damn Grey Nomads (GN's) and their bloody vans on the trip. We took our camping gear with the intension of camping a few nights.
This was to be a long ride. We did not have any real intension of doing the 'tourist thing', though I did that a bit ... it was all about riding - doing some serious k's.
The first thing you need to be aware of when you get to Qld., is that your need their Covid 19 app (Check In Qld). I have to say over the entire trip I was more than impressed how almost every business demanded that you sign in and wanted to check you had done so, before you were served. Very impressive. Vic in particular could take a leaf out of the 'Banana Benders' book, and so could (to a lesser extent) NSW businesses ... who are generally slack.
Day 1, May 8th: Ashby to Texas. (338kms)
It was a lovely ride over. The M1 north and south of us, is now way better with new divided road. Turn off at Woodburn and ride across to Casino and then meeting up with Kog and Wiffo at the Lunatic Hotel in Drake. The road from Woodburn to Casino, in a word is crap. Hopefully this will attended to in the near future.
The Lunatic is always a great spot with good food. Then off to The Stockman at Texas to meet up with Bill. The Stockman is another favourite of ours, always a good place to stay and enjoy. You can park your bikes under cover out back.
Day 2, May 9th: Texas to Wondai (352kms)
Great day's riding, with very little traffic. We stopped off at the Quinalow Hotel for lunch (very good tucker) and then The Cecil in Wondai for a drink. I'd had the Victory for a month or so, and it's a 365kg beast (dry) ... to my chagrin I dropped it doing a tight U bolt outside The Cecil. It did say 'no u turn' ... Bill. The sign is worth taking notice of Mr. Ride Captain. Nothing hurt except my pride.
If I was staying in Wondai again I would stay at the Cecil ... looks good and the publican and his lady are both lovely. We stayed at The Wondai Hotel, which is a pretty bloody crazy place with some very 'interesting' people. The stairs are a killer. Pretty average rooms as well. You can park out back, but no undercover. Overall ... nah!
We said a fond farewell to the lads as they headed back to their digs and lives off the road.
Day 3, May 10th: Wondai to Rolleston (530kms)
We had a pretty lazy day after a slow start (the amount of 'cleansing lemonade' consumed over the last two nights may have had something to do with that). Again nice roads and no traffic. The Biloela Pub was great for lunch with good food.
The Rolleston Hotel is a hoi-moi and it was nice not to have to lug luggage up stairs. They have old motel rooms, but they are fine. Good dinner so no complaints. By this time we are getting the 'middle of nowhere' feeling which I really like ... Very few GN's.
Day 4: May 11th Rolleston to Charters Towers (616kms)
This was a big day in the saddle. In fact the biggest we did the whole trip. Again good roads, if somewhat boring and be careful of fuel. We fuelled up at Clermont and there is nothing north of there except the Belyando Crossing Roadhouse. It does have petrol (despite what Google Maps say) but only 91 ... that's your only option. It does have camping, but don't bother, itís a pretty bloody ordinary spot, with equally ordinary staff. It has fuel, that's its only drawcard.
Pressing on, we made Charters Towers in the mid arvo and stayed at the Commercial Hotel. Apparently, yet another new mine is being opened close by, so accommodation is scarce. Yet more raping and pillaging of our natural resources. Yet another bloody huge staircase to drag the clobber up, bloody hot and not happy Jan. The Commercial is OK and food is quite good.
Day 5: May 12th Charters Towers to Cardwell. (298kms)
We started the day with a walk up to The Tower. Itís about 4kms round trip and a good walk. Lots of interesting history about the area and lovely rock wallabies as well. Well worth the sweat on the walk. Charters Towers had a late gold rush and boom in the 1870's through to the 1890's. It reminds me a lot of Bendigo. There are some gorgeous buildings and worth a slow stroll to take it all in. A day could be spent in Charter's Towers, no problem.
This day we headed to the coast via the Townsville Ring Road to Cardwell, where we would have a rest day, day 6. We stayed at the Cardwell Beachfront Motel for the two nights and were looked after very well by the owners Steve and Janet. Being in the accommodation gig myself, I am very attuned to service/ hospitality, and they have it just right.
Day 6: May 13th Cardwell. Rest day (0kms)
Cardwell has an interesting history which is well displayed on the esplanade. It took a big hit with cyclone Yasi in February 2011. The marina has never recovered. I really enjoyed Cardwell and would go back again for sure. It is really lovely. The big downside, as in all north Qld., is that you have this gorgeous water body looking out to the Coral Sea and you canít swim in it. If the stingers don't get you the Crocs will. You canít even go out in a small boat ... ugh! I could not live anywhere where that was the case, it would drive me nuts.
We frequented the Marine Hotel and loved the food. Great seafood. On the second night we had dinner at the Cardwell Beachcomber Motel (not to be confused with the Beachfront Motel we stayed at). The Beachcomber was bloody awful. Very ordinary menu with poorly trained staff and expensive. Never again! After reading the menu Bill said ... "I guess itís too far to walk back to the pub!" We should have sucked it up and walked. Can't wait to do the Google Review for that place.
I also booked a new rear tyre change in Cairns. More of that later.
Day 7: May 14th Cardwell to Malanda. (167kms)
A great ride up to the Atherton Tablelands and a nice change with less humidity and a little cooler.
We did our first, and as it turned out only, camping at the Malanda Falls Caravan Park. After setup we just had to do the Gillies Range Road down to Gordonvale and back. That's 54 kms of great road each way so add 108kms to the total for the day ... well that's what it should have been, except on the way back I missed a turn and did a detour through Atherton (of course I meant to do that), so add a another 30 or so kms for me. The Gillies Range Road is a MUST do. Tight and a very good surface. I have to tell you that getting 1/2 tonne of Victory around tight corners going downhill is quite a challenge. It was a lot more fun coming back up with less traffic, but I did have a 'moment' when I overdid the throttle, a rear slip and a small highside ... that got my attention! It was a great ride and thoroughly enjoyable. Try to avoid peak hours, and yes there can be lots of slow cars on the road, and did I mention the GN's ...
We had dinner at The Malanda Hotel. The largest wooden pub in Australia. The food was good and there is some very interesting footy memorabilia around the walls.
Day 8: May 15th Malanda to Cairns (195kms)
We had done the Gillies Range Road, so we rode to Cairns via Mount Molloy and Port Douglas to have a squiz. We did a 'stopover' in Mareeba at Coffeeworks. Don't bother, you will just get pissed off. You can't complain about the service, because there isn't any! A classic example of inefficient staff, poorly trained and dreadful management.
Mount Molloy is a good place to stop. The Coffee House Cafe is good for a snack and coffee and unlike the Bruce very little traffic and a good surface.
Port Douglas ... let me be clear here, I will never go there again! People everywhere, nowhere to park, the food and grog are very expensive and not that good. I would not rate The Central Hotel highly at all. Then down Captain Cook Highway with the expected traffic, so different to what we had seen over the last 7 days. We did the motel thing at Cairns for 3 days. I can recommend the Guiness at P.J. O'Briens and the Pho Viet Vietnamese Restraunt. Both are excellent. This was also the night that I saved my mate Bill's life. We were just about cross at the normal crossing with the green man showing, and a bus came through a red light and nearly cleaned him up. I saw it coming and held his shoulder to stop him. No I did not get his rego number, but I wish I had ... idiot! That day I also booked a reef trip for 17th.
Cairns is pretty damn quiet atm, mind you so is the rest of North Qld.. The lack of OS visitors are really killing it. It is surviving with the help of Aussie cheap fares. The Reef Terminal is bigger than Ballina Airport. I was there 3 times and only once was there another punter in the whole terminal ... Ouch! You can also notice that there is a lack of maintenance on the boats ... money or lack of it perhaps. There are millions of pics of Cairns ... no need to add more here.
Day 9: Cairns May 16th Cairns to Cap Tribulation and back (280kms)
Bill's done the Cape Trib. thing already on a previous trip. We considered hiring a car, but the prices are ridiculous, so nah. It is really worth doing and a great day out. The Daintree Crossing will cost you $13 return, rip off but there you go. The ride up the Cape is very tight but the road is generally an Ok surface. It turns to crook dirt at the Bloomfield Track ... OK for chook chasers but not a Victory ... u bolt, and no, I didn't drop it this time.
On the way back I came across a heap of 'push bikies', and I have to say I scared the shit out of them with the said Victory in the tight corners ... it is loud. I came across a guy from Perth, on a BMW GS doing the big lap including Tassie ... impressive. He was hoping his rear tyre would last to Mt. Isa. I know that feeling. I changed my rear type in Cairns when we returned from Cooktown.
Day 10: Cairns to Cooktown May 17th (326kms)
Great ride up the hills to Mount Molloy, though the traffic was pretty horrendous. It would be a great road with little traffic. But, getting away from the traffic on the coast was good. The ride down from Mount Molloy through Lakeland to Cooktown was lovely ... little traffic, good surface.
Our first stop was the Lighthouse and yes Hi 5's all round we made it. Be careful going up to, and especially down from the lighthouse... it is STEEP and TIGHT. 1st gear corners and beware of oncoming punters. Slow and steady does it. The view are great and a wonderful feeling that we had made our goal.
The Cooktown Hotel was the only place booked in advance by us ... what a disaster. Never stay there. The guests are generally 'crackheads' and the owner has totally lost the plot. Two nights there was a nightmare. There ain't much choice in accommodation you can afford in Cooktown, but never stay there.
Day 11: Cairns to Cairns via Lions Den Hotel May 18th (60kms)
The RSL is simply awesome. Great food, excellent service ... impressive! I really like Cooktown. It's got lots of history. The local historical society is fantastic, the Museum less so, but still worth a visit. I took a walk down to the Botanical Gardens (a lot of which is closed off sadly) and then to Finch Bay. Just a gorgeous piece of beach and headland. Careful, don't go near the water ... you know why ... snap snap!
Given we had not been on the bikes, we decided to take the short trip out to the Lions Den Hotel, Rossville. Now I have a routine I do each day as I start in bike prep. etc.. This was not such a day, so my routine as out. I climbed aboard the Victory and forgot to take the disc lock off. What happens in such a situation is the front wheel does 1/2 a rotation, come to an immediate halt, but you do not! Down I went. Again nothing hurt except my pride.
After that poor start, it was a Nice ride out. The pub has a history with the diggers off to the Palmer Diggings staying over on the way ... itís a bit cheesy how it sort of set up to be 'oldie worldie' but really ain't ... but interesting ... ish.
Day 12: Cooktown to Cairns May 19th (340kms)
Again we went via Mount Molloy back to Cairns. Again a nice ride, until we came back on James Cook Hwy. north of Port Douglas ... more traffic. I was going out on the reef, so I dropped off the Victory at Wayne Leonard Motorcycles to get a new Metzeler Marathon fitted. I was going out to the reef the next day so they had all day to fit the tyre. Again we stayed at the Comfort Inn. We chose to dine at the Cairns RSL. Again the food was good (you can always rely on a RSL) and we joined up as members and got discounts ... kewl.
Day 13: Cairns to Cairns May 20th (out on the reef)
If youíre in North Qld. you have to do the reef thing. I went out on a Sailing Ketch out to Green Island. The trip there and back was great, I loved the boat and crew. We only had 9 on the boat ... the journey back under sail was awesome. It was windy so snorkelling was a bit challenging and I have to say the coral was not that impressive. I walked round Green Island, and had a good look ... and in a word 'sad'! I am told by the crew its $600 a night. The resort was setup for the Chinese (oops!) and current occupancy is 8%. It looks like there has been no maintenance done in ages. Not impressive at all. I didn't get back to Cairns in time to pick up the bike, so did that first thing next day. We dined in at the motel in their restaurant, the Yum Sing ... expensive for what you get and the wine was stupid expensive.
Day 14: Cairns to Bowen May 21st (548kms)
Early start retrieving the bike with the brand new rear tyre. The tyre was expensive, well we were a long way north, I get that, but I was only charged $30 to fit it on the bike at Wayne Leonard Motorcycles. There is a dude there (Rowan) that just does that, fits tyres, and he is pretty dam good at it. What I didn't know was Victories have a particular tube with a very wide valve stem ... so he had a lot of stuffing about to do to make it work. Well done young man!
Of course as we left Cairns, it started sprinkling at bit and wet roads and new rear tyre, and I took a wrong turn, all the usual disasters, and off we went down south on the Bruce, the A1 (not called that because it's the best road, trust me) to Bowen. Biggish day in the saddle and Jesus ... roadworks, and more of same all the way. It seems the Banana Bender Government in their infinite wisdom has decided to put in overtaking lanes and a wide centre lines instead of doing the divided road thing as has happened on the M1 in NSW. It's a goat track and their #1 road ... to be avoided as much as is possible. On the positive side, there is a ring road round Townsville, excellent! We did the motel thing again the Port Dennison Motor Inn, and at the Grand View Hotel down the road for tucker ... both very good.
Day 15: Bowen to Rockhampton May 22nd (524kms)
Another day on the Bruce ... not so good. Again on the positive side there is a new ring road round Mackay too, excellent! Pretty tedious day in the saddle with all the damn roadworks, and all the nuff nuff Grey Nomads going north, so it was very hard to overtake. I have to confess I have a prejudice against the GN's ... especially the ones with stupid big vans travelling at 80kms/ hour. I truly do not get it, they can't go bush in those monstrosities, my advice to them is stay north well away from NSW, you're collectively a nightmare on the road. Very amateur drivers who do not have a bloody clue how to manage a large combo vehicle on the road. I will now get off my soapbox!
Bill booked us into yet another Motel, Porky's ... I kid you not ... sounds to me more like a brothel, but it wasn't and we were greeted by a lovely lady at the motel ... it's a good spot. We tried the Criterion Hotel for dinner (I would not bother, too yuppy and crap menu) and settled for the Heritage which was excellent.
Day 16: Rockhampton to Kilkivan May 23rd (467kms)
We continued south on the dam Bruce and by the time we got to Gin Gin, we spat the dummy. After having lunch at the Highway Hotel Gin Gin ... very nice. We headed across through Mount Perry and Ban Ban Springs to Kilkivan. It was so, so good to get off the dam Bruce, I can hardly explain. We had stayed at the Kilkivan Hotel before and had a good time. It's owned by Fred Brophy. He is the last man with a travelling boxing tent. Years ago every show had one and now he is the last. The sport of pugilism is simply not my gig, but we had a fine time with Fred out the back of the pub with him regaling his life's story to us around round the campfire, I am sure for the 3,000th time, but it was different and fun. The food and the wine were both good and fairly priced, unlike other places we have been to. I would highly recommend this pub. Itís old and has a charm. We stayed in the moi section out the back which is old but perfectly comfy. Kilkivan itself on a Sunday and Monday morning well ... not a lot happening. There is a park near the pub where there is 'free camping' for the GN's ... naturally, they are all too tight to walk 20 metres to the pub and have a beer or meal. Don't get me started on the GN's!
Day 17: Kilkivan to Wynnum May 24th (282 kms)
This was a great day in the saddle (not counting Gympie). We did the road less travelled again through Kennilworth, Woodford, Mount Mee and Dayboro. Bloody marvellous! We had lunch at the Dayboro Crown Hotel. It was excellent, and then headed off to Wynnum where a mate of ours has his digs. We were welcomed back closer to home, but still in Canetoad County. Thanks mate for your hospitality. You know you are always more than welcome at Squeakygate Retreat.
Day 18: Wynnum to Home May 25th (271 kms)
After a night of too many beers (wait, as I recall, that's what happened every night on this trip) we set off south back past the zipper into God's Own Land ... NSW. I have to fess up and admit that I missed the move left to take the M1 down through the Gold Coast to NSW. Yes it is the largest sign in Australia, and impossible to miss, but I did it... doh... years of training. We stopped at the Telgun roadside rest stop. I have stopped there before as it has good coffee. Bill and I said our goodbyes, as he was heading off to his home in Vic. As I said before we got no rain, though we rode on wet roads quite a bit, but the moment we left Telgun the heavens opened ... not that it was for long, but, welcome back to NSW. Just the normal cruise down the M1 to home and it was good to be home. Bill, on the other hand, rode all the way back to Victory, straight into lockdown... bugga!
The next day a did a service on the Victory and begun getting the Vulcan ready for the Wellington run, as one does!
It was a wonderful 18 days on a bike. We had generally good to great roads in Qld. (not counting the Bruce) with little traffic (not counting the Bruce). We had no mechanical issues on either bike, so it was pretty much smooth sailing. I would have liked to have done more camping, but other than that I would not change much. The Victory is a beast, but perfect for long distance. It's very comfy with a lot of protection upfront, with buckets of grunt. It's a bugger when your stationary or doing .2km/hr., one needs to be very careful of gravel underfoot, deep gutters etc.. It's big and tall and needs to be respected as such. Would I go back to North Qld. again... probably not. I am a coastal type dude and the fact that you cannot swim in the ocean from their beaches is just too much of a bummer for me. It's just what we do all the time in the North Coast of NSW, God's Own Country.