Cape York to Newcastle 2007
Something we said we would never do: “another stupid epic”. After last years
Perth to Newcastle ride we all said “no more”, Phil insisted “latte only”. Then
Moylie starts on about the Cape and here we are.
Allan Moyle, Ross Hayter, Phil Stewart, Tony Farnham, Bryan Edwards, Ian
Kidd, John Gillard and me Martin Parker. Our support crew Maurie Doughan
and Annette Stewart. A team assembled on the tip of Australia, the country’s
most northern extremity, ready for a big ride home.
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The logistics this time are different, mountain bikes for the first dirt 1100 k’s
then road machines for the last 2500 k’s. We need camping gear, supplies for
the top section and a sturdy trailer for the bikes and other gear. We need a
four wheel drive for the Cape leg and the bus from Cairns home. Lots to do,
lots more than last year. But Allan and Helen take care of most of this as
usual, organising all of the details that need sorting out and leaving enough
flexibility to allow us to change if the need arises. They do a great job.
On paper the ride has everything, 10 days of crazy dirt covering 1100 k’s and
then 2400 k’s of road home. We will ride territory that few will ever see, the
last frontier, some call it. A rest day here and there to allow the body to
recover and plenty of hard work. We will average 175 k’s per day according to
the plan, so it’s big.
Phil and Annette. Tony and I have chosen the easy trek up. Fly to Cairns for a
two day holiday, then fly to Horn Island for a look around it and Thursday
Island for a few days. Then we will take a boat to Seisia and meet the rest of
the crew at Bamaga. Not locked in the bus and four wheel drive for 5 days,
cramped up with bikes and luggage, just chewing kilometres. We’ll leave that
to Al, Ross, Ian, Bryan and Maurie. Jack flies to Cairns and then Bamaga on
his own due to work.
Our trip to Cairns via Brisbane goes well and we are greeted by warm
weather, much different to the floods and cold conditions we left behind.
Settled into Koala Court Motel we enjoy relaxing in Cairns, walking around,
coffee, food, drinks, ah. Poor bastards on the road with the gear.
The temperature at Cairns is 24 by day and 21 by night. What will it be a
thousand k’s north. We call into a few bike shops to check if anyone knows
anything about the Telegraph Road, everyone says it’s bad, some say closed
at the present. One guy says he rode it in 19 days can’t be done in less, we
have 10. Interesting.
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So two days in Cairns is a real good start .
We clear the fridge of beer (despite Tony only drinking bottled beer at Xmas)
and head for the airport and Horn Island. Great wait at Cairns airport, a
visiting American school choir entertains us.
Two hour to Horn Island in cloud cover, you can’t see much. Then down on
the ground. What a place, isolated, backward and hot. We are in the Torres
Strait, a maze of hundreds of islands that dot the ocean all the way to Papua
New Guinea. Busing through the dusty empty streets we wonder what is
ahead. Heat and humidity and a relaxed view of the world from the locals is a
big change from sophisticated Cairns. Everyone on the plane takes the ferry
straight to Thursday Island leaving just us to take the bus to the Wongai Hotel.
What a place, on first appearances it looks quite run down and unloved. On
second glance nothing changes. At reception nothing changes. Our rooms
aren’t available, toilets are being installed, come back later. Annette is looking
uncomfortable as we are recommended the other island drinking spot for a
beer, because it’s cheaper. So we walk through the gravel streets and the
heat to the resort and museum. No beers until 1.00 but the museum is open.
It’s very interesting, war and pearling history with a bit of art thrown in.
Interesting enough to spend an hour. Then a few beers and a stroll back to
the Wongai. The rooms are ready, they are clean and spacious, we find the
bar full of locals, then the pool and restaurant and our concerns are eased. It’s
quite nice and offers the difference we had hoped to find in the Torres.
After a few beers we walk to the jetty via the beach with the croc’ warning.
Kids are jumping off the jetty into the blue water below ignoring more croc’
warning signs, good on them.
A trip over to Thursday Island fills in the afternoon. It’s a small but interesting
place, war history, territorial history, pearl diving history. It’s as you might
expect, relaxed and slow paced, just nice.
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Then back to Horn and a few beers with a guy called Jobe Bada, an American
on a short working holiday behind the Wongai bar, A character and Phil and I
enjoy a few hours with him. Then the biggest oysters in history and bed.
The next day is much the same, tourist stuff, poking around the place and
chatting with the locals. Time in the bar, dinner, a chat with Jobe again and off
Next day we have changed our plans from the 7.30 AM Thursday Island to
Seisia ferry to the 2.30 P.M.. So a relaxing morning just looking over Horn and
Thursday for the last time. The last frontier they say and it’s true, a remote
and untouched place.
We had planned a rendezvous at Bamaga Pub on the mainland which would
have meant a 7 k walk then a wait to see who arrived and when. The late ferry
changes all that. The best case for us it the blokes and bikes waiting for us at
the wharf. That almost happens, we have only walked 200 meters and we
spot the troop carrier and trailer, great timing.
It’s all smiles and handshakes as three separate groups finally meet up for a
mammoth ride. The bus people are rattled but healthy. So the team is
reunited, bikes safe and gear secure. Off to Loyalty Beach to camp and get
the bikes and gear ready.
What a beautiful spot, our cabins on the beach are comfortable and look right
over Torres Strait. Wash down the bikes, take them for a run and check gear.
Big problems, Ian’s bike has snapped from forks. We are 1100 k’s from the
nearest bike shop, not good.
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Day One Thursday 28 June 2007
The Tip to Loyalty Beach. 43 k’s
The changed plans include a lazy morning, check the bikes and have a run to
the Cape around lunch time, ride back to Loyalty Beach and the event is
started. Dramas with bikes, broken forks for Ian, that’s bad. A trip around the
camp and a run to Bamaga ends up at the tip (dump) looking for parts. No
luck, then to the wreckers who suggests a land fill site out of town, that’s
where we head. A pile of rusted old frames delivers a rusty orange wreck of a
bike. We take it back to camp where Rossco eyes it and scratches his head. It
can’t be done, can it. The wrong size head stem doesn’t put Ross off, he cuts
and saws various pieces and in an hour we have something that with a bit of
welding and grinding at a local garage will see Ian ride tomorrow, amazing.
What a man.
So off to the Tip, that’s the real tip for the starting ceremony. Ian will ride in the
truck today but maybe he’ll ride a bike tomorrow.
Everyone is happy, anticipating the start of a great journey, photos, a few
laughs and a solemn moment for Rossco’s brother Roy.
We are ready to start the Ride for Roy.
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Then we ride, wet muddy roads are fast and a bit of fun. Jack’s crank comes
off and is stuck to his sandal, that’s bad. Lucky we have Rossco, it’s fixed in
no time. It’s a gentle path on a great road, red dirt packed hard and fast. Only
Jack stacks it, a big slide in the mud, no damage but the first one down.
We are soon back in camp. Not what we had planned for day one but a great
Back in camp, tea, bickies, bike repairs and a beautiful afternoon including a
fantastic sunset and great hospitality from the Loyalty Beach fishing lodge.
Just a few beers to finish the day and off to bed in a comfortable cabin.
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Day Two Friday 29 June 2007
On to the Telegraph Road
Loyalty Beach to Twin Falls 108 K’s
We ride at 7.00, clear sunny sky, slight southerly breeze on our nose, just
enough to make riding pleasant.
The first 55 to Jardine River was great, except for the last bit of sand and
rutted road, a few falls, Brian twice, Rossco as well. Ian is on, a rigid jury
rigger machine that gives no comfort, he’ll be the hero of the tour on that
After Jardine the road is good to the 90 k mark but all up hill. Rossco and
Allan lead, again. The rest of us are getting our legs, it will take a few days.
The run from the Development Road to the Telegraph Road is spectacular,
real mountain bike stuff and arriving at Twin Falls is a good reward for a good
day in the bush. The camp is a basic bush camp, put you swag where you
can and a tent for Annette. Phil’s puts his camp stretchers together, takes an
hour. Then into the river and under the falls for a recovery swim, it’s an
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absolutely beautiful place and we lap it up. We share a chat and a beer with
the flies, thousands of them.. We all relax and contemplate tomorrow.
Sleeping in the bush for the first night is great, It smells, good, dingos howl
and we all retire early, catching sleep.The team is forming, new guys and
Annette getting on well with everyone, it’s good.
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Day Three Saturday 30 June 2007
Twin Falls to Bramwell Junction 87 K’s
We leave beautiful Twin Falls on another great sunny morning to take on the
This was always going to be a big day on the Telegraph Road, an ancient
track that has not seen maintenance for 70 years. the most arduous four
wheel drive track around. And, it lives up to it’s reputation.
A hard run to a drink stop at 18 k’s then on our own for the rest of the day.
Lots of water crossings, all very pretty but all linked by a track that delivered
everything but most of all sand. Terrible stuff just like beach sand, kilometre
after kilometre. The Kurri boys excel carrying the “Nancy” boys across river
crossings so they don’t wet their shoes. One day they will go to sandals. The
good bits of track in between trick you into enjoying yourself, then the sand
jumps out and grabs your front wheel and over you go. Most falls are just fun
but Brian is tiring, lots and lots of getting back up off the ground. He has bark
Then we find an iron stone ridge and Allan hits a huge rock, falls off and has a
very nasty elbow. It’s bad, real bad. We haven’t any first aide stuff with us so
patch him up as best we can, he’s back on, tough guy. Everyone backs off a
bit. Then we find a couple camping on a river, they have sterile water and
bandages. He needs stitching badly, but it won’t happen out here.
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The country is all rolly polly hills, the ridges are good riding but the bellies full
of white sand, I hate white. We are off walking a lot, it’s hot and we are out of
fuel. We should have prepared better. We have to fill up camel backs and
water bottles from streams, that’s a risk.
We don’t meet up with Annette and Maurie until Bramwell Junction, at 4.00
PM, our first food for the day, a hamburger and a coke. It is the best ever.
Everyone dreads getting back on the bikes for the scheduled last 40 k’s while
we wait for Brian and Ian to arrive. Allan and Rossco decide to camp here,
relief. But it means a bigger day tomorrow.
Everyone drank well today but food was too late, we learn. Riding from 7 to 4
on four weet bix, an orange, a muesli bar and gels is not good.
The roadhouse manager is really good, lets us camp on and around the
veranda of the shop. A shower and a chat with him and his English
backpacker staff is a relaxing change from flogging the bike all day. We
unwind after a tough, tough day, all licking our bumps and bruises and feeling
sorry for Al. He’s gone to Bramwell Station in search of stitches. A lady that
stitches up ripped pig dogs has offered help. Fortunately a visiting nurse
recommends wound dressings and anti biotic, a better option. So huge steaks
for dinner, a beautiful sunset, beers and off to bed to prepare for another go
tomorrow. Today was hell but we survived, bikes and bodies are durable
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Day Four Sunday 1 July 2007
Bramwell Junction to Archer River 170 K’s
If yesterday earned the name Hell today earned the title Childbirth.
The day started with another great sunrise, a clear day and a big ride ahead.
Jack gave everyone the shits by talking loud enough to wake everybody up at
5.00. We all need all the sleep we can get but that doesn’t worry Jack, he’s up
so we’re up. He was already in strife for his snoring on the veranda, there was
an uproar during the night and even the mild mannered Ross had a bit to say.
So we ride at 6.30 and enjoy a good run to the drink stop. The country
changes a lot, low scrub then trees then grasslands. The changes in country
change the road material so we go from good gravel to crazy corrugations to
sand but all up it’s a fair track. As the day wears on everyone is going well
and looking forward to lunch which is about 5 k’s late and nobody had
anything left to give. Then Annette and Maurie appear roadside with steak
and sausage sangers and we live again, salads, cold drinks and we are
refuelled for more. It’s incredible how quickly food and a short break bring
Head winds make this long day harder but we complete in 7 hrs 53 on the
bikes. Allan is the hero today, not a word about his smashed elbow. Then Ian
on his rigid machine whacking along and only occasionally complaining. Then
Bryan, spectacular. We pull into camp at 5.30, Ian and Brian an hour later, a
On the back of yesterday’s torture, today was made more difficult, all hilly and
tough so we should now be set for the tour. Mentally and nutritionally today
was a great lesson for the days ahead.
Dinner at the Archer River Roadhouse is divine, good food, cold beer and a
few red wines before an early night. Tomorrow is only short so sleep will aid
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Day Five Monday 2 July 2007
Archer River to Coen 67 K’s
Tony has been my room’y so far and each night we share a room together,
sometimes with others and sometimes with Phil and Annette. But he and I,
Morton and Shorten are usually together, Judith asked me to look after him.
He’s a good bloke and a lot of fun on tour. Also very tough, not the most
skilled rider but he will be there when all others have died.
A sleep in and a 9.00 AM start, a short 67 is meant to aid recovery. We’ll see.
After bacon & eggs we are all smiling and ready to ride. We are an oddity out
here, there are no other cyclists and all the tourists think we are crazy, the
locals know we are. Everyone wants to take our photo, maybe they think we’ll
The track turns out a bit sandy, corrugated and a bit hilly. It’s hot and the run
to a drink stop goes well. Jack and Ian get a shower from a road works water
truck. The drink stop is by a nice creek, our washing is hanging out to dry
between trees and we are all relaxed. Then, onto the bikes and off again.
Onto a good track with a surprise 22 k’s of tar. All up a good day, freshens up
The Exchange Hotel is our home, a humble one but clean. I’m in with Annette
and Phil, first time I’ve shared a room with my sister since our teens. A good
pub, in a very busy little village. It’s the hub for supplies and accommodation
for the road workers in the area. Every tourist with a van and four wheel drive
pulls in and stops, refuels, spends money, goes to the pub. The five or six
businesses in town are all going well. They probably need to because the wet
season sees them cut off from the south.
The publican is a good bloke, steaks and salad for dinner, a few reds and
Tony breaks out.
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Day Six Tuesday 3 July 2007
I hate white
Coen to Musgrave 110 K’s
The recovery day might have worked, we’ll see. Everyone is well except Phil
who has a chest cold and is a bit off, but rides on. We cut 50 k’s out real
quick, a great surface. At times the red dirt that was only last week a
quagmire is dried out sufficiently to become a smooth, hard, marble like
surface, and we enjoy that. It runs fast and the mountain bikes glide rather
We have seen snakes, alive and dead each day and today some of us spot a
big brown on the road. There are also lots of birds in the roadside scrub,
particularly around watercourses, and cattle, rough looking brahmas, poor
looking stock that do well to survive out here.
Morning tea is good, strong black tea with fruitcake. We ride on and see
white, that’s bad, it means sand. The track takes back control for the next 30
k’s, it’s ugly. We all hurt a bit but Annette and Maurie serve up strong black
tea, banana sandwiches and lots of goodies at lunch. A lay down on the
brattic,e then off for the last 30. It’s cranky for a bit, then we hit the Bamboo
Range, black tar and down hill, wow. A cloud also covers us for a 5 k downhill
thrill, beautiful. That’s enough to take us over the last stage with strong legs.
Brian was hoping for a fall free day but Ian ran him off, try again tomorrow
We have all been telling Tony that he is the oldest on tour at 62. We all know
that Brian is actually 67 but we won’t tell Tony and give him heaps about it
every day. He won’t find out until he reads this journal. He’ll go off. So today
he cops it again and looks suspiciously at Brian.
Musgrave is very isolated, one roadhouse and it’s dongas for tourists. It’s very
clean and an oasis for us. Shady beer garden, and a nice dinner, two big pork
chops with vegies. We all enjoy a good chat having arrived at 2.00 so we rest
and recover at Musgrave and enjoy Sam’s company, a German backpacker
and a good looker.
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The country generally has been very poor since Loyalty Beach. Apart from the
last 60 k’s to the tip there is no rainforest, just poor scrub country, dry and
offering little feed to the cattle that run here. It’s not what many of us had
expected. Still, the great weather makes up for the lack of scenery. It’s a great
break from the cold winter at home.
It is often too hot for Allan who likes to ride with no shirt.
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Day Seven Wednesday 4 July 2007
Musgrave to Laura 140 K’s
A lovely sunrise greets us as we get the breakfast, packing, routine going. We
are now just a system, wake, shower, pack, eat, load the truck, water up and
The splits today are 60/40/40. We all enjoy a great run into morning tea
averaging 23, everybody is all smiles. Cake , biscuits, muesli bars, tea and
back on the track, 60 gone. The country is lumpy but the surface was great to
lunch. Lazing on the brattice, egg sangers, cheese and tomato, water up and
go again, 100 gone. The last leg as usual is the worst as the heat gets to us
for a couple of hours. As the sun goes down it cools a little and the run into
Laura is good. All up everyone performed well and the bunch finishes pretty
close to each other.
Bryan is a legend. He is 67 years old and has never ridden a mountain bike.
He’s borrowed one for this tour. He rides a fair bit of road but no bush. He has
skin off everywhere and he is clearly suffering at times. Yet he pulls into each
stop, often completely spent and has a laugh. On top of that he is a really nice
bloke, very genuine and good to be around.
We had seen lots of Brahman cattle during the day, a few snakes, an eagle
carrying a snake and a pair of brolgas in a water hole. There have been lots of
birds, particularly parrots throughout the ride and in camp this afternoon there
are heaps of them.
So we are 760 k’s into our trip and feeling healthy, tanned by the sun and
stronger in the legs..
The accommodation is strange, a small hotel run by a grubby publican. He
employs four French back packers, far too many for the size of the place and
he is all over them, sleazy. So Phil entertains them speaking a language that
he believes is French but lapses into Italian and Spanish, as usual he’s
hilarious. Then we listen to the “Sate of Origine” match on radio but fall asleep
before half time. Sleep is good.
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Day Eight Thursday 5 July 2007
Aurevoir mon belle ami
Laura to Palmer River 95 K’s
Some of us enjoyed the Pidgin English spoken by the locals on Horn and
Thursday Islands but last night’s Pidgin French from Phil was something else.
As we mount our bikes to leave the Quinkin Hotel we remember last night with
Braised Steak and Vegies from a tin for breakfast puts down a good base to
ride on. , we are heading for tar today. A last roar from the track, dirt, dust and
corrugations just to see us off. It’s another hard slog to Lakelands for lunch.
Sangers, cake, tea, under a great shady tree. Then off onto the tar. The road
takes a sharp turn, up for 8 kilometres to the top of the range. This brings out
the strength in our legs, a hard climb made easy by a week of ridding.
For the first time we see culverts and cuttings and even a bridge, all designed
to make travelling easier. Up to now we have ridden a dirt ribbon that has
followed the ancient contours of the land. Where the Great Dividing Range
went, the road went. Just man travelling the face of the earth, un-engineered,
unaltered. It’s been great to ride in such an isolated place but signs of civil
work mean easier days ahead.
Then we arrive at Palmer River, what a great place. Just a road house on the
top of the range, nothing else, but it has everything, plenty of space, a bar,
restaurant, beer garden. The dongas are igloo tents on wooden floor, clean
and tidy and a view of the valley. Paradise. This is the best roadhouse we
Ian is stuffed so after a shower he sleeps, waking only for dinner, great rump
steaks with salad on the barbie. Then he goes back to his slumber. All up he
gets 13 hours sleep, he is shot. But Ian has and will stick at it. I am confident
he will find his legs somewhere down the road. And the rest of us are not
much better, in bed by 8.30.
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Day Nine Friday 6 July 2007
You’re So Vain
Palmer River to Mount Molloy 115 K’s
Another French lesson from Phil last night has us all shaking our heads this
morning. A nice warm bed and plenty of sleep add to the good humour. Tar
ahead is also lifting spirits.
Spaghetti and baked beans on toast sets up a good ride. Rolling hills with
climbs all day. The country improves as we approach the mountain and after
a climb to the top of the range it’s a good decent.
We arrive at Mt Molloy and the pub is ours, upstairs is our home for the night.
It’s a relaxing afternoon and we all know we have this thing beat, only the
downhill to the coast and a run to Cairns tomorrow. We relax, coffee at the
local and a pie or a chicko roll..
There is a band tonight, Boss Hogg. We drink the pub out of Oyster Bay
Chardonnay. Then the publicans special brew of port, in carafes is also drunk
out and we finish the night drowning out Boss Hogg and all the locals singing
Your So Vain. The sight of all of us in full voice led by Annette raising a glass
of port in her hand was something special. She is really relaxing and having a
Our biggest night on tour, one to be remembered.
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Day Ten Saturday 7 July 2007
Mount Molloy to Cairns 112 K’s
A big night so a late start. All a bit dusty but there is no fear of the day ahead.
Just 112, on tar, with a screaming downhill and then a coast ride to Cairns.
For the first time we are in really good country. Magnificent trees, green
everywhere. After about 30 k’s we hit the top of the range and marvel at the
sight of the Coral Sea. We take off downhill. The bends are sharp, 35 k’s
speed limited. Rossco takes them at 60 and grins. It goes on for a while and
you feel like you are leaving the last frontier behind and re-entering
civilisation, if it really is that. Then out onto the flats and a cruise to Port
Douglas for coffee. It’s surreal, out of the wilderness into a place like this, we
lap it up. Then we mount for the narrow but scenic trip along the coast to
Cairns and all relish the thought of a rest day, or two. The scenery is
spectacular and our lunch stop on the beach is glorious.
We hit Cairns together and make camp in cabins at the Cairns Caravan Park.
Very nice place, clean and well run. Even better, our road bikes have arrived
and the fast fun is about to begin. Farewell to the dirt, we have travelled 1100
on mountain bikes and flogged them pretty hard. They are amazing machines
almost indestructible. But they will go on the trailer and take the easy way
home. They can rest but we will ride on.
Pizza and beer for dinner and guess what, another early night.
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Days Eleven and Twelve Sunday, Monday 8 & 9 July 2007
The original plan was the Cape to here in 10 days but we rode it in 9 so we
get an extra rest day, a chance to recover and put the road bikes together.
Eat, rehydrate, relax, stroll into town, a short ride, washing, repacking,
shopping, sleeping, coffee. It’s all good
We’ve been following the Tour De France as often as we can and enjoying
the event. The drugs in sport issue has been a topic of discussion. A browse
around Allan and Rossco’s room is interesting.
Jack leaves us here, going home to dig coal. It’s a shame he can’t continue
with us but it can’t be helped. Maurie runs him to the airport and we wave to
his plane climbing over our cabins. We are down to 7 riders.
We have dinner on the first Cairns night at the Cock & Bull Hotel. Its good
food and Rossco has some guests. Tony has a mishap with two bottles of red
and glasses on a tray, didn’t see the step. The red is all over him and he cops
heaps. He’s great value on a trip.
Al takes the four wheel drive back to the hire company and picks up his Moyle
Family Hotels bus. We need to pack swags, bikes and other gear that we will
no longer need. Maurie and Bryan do a great job of making it all fit neatly
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 20
Night two, a huge red emperor and some prawns are on the menu for dinner.
It is absolutely beautiful. We are all fairly buoyant by now, a tough mountain
bike leg behind us and the prospect of a good road ride ahead, just 2500
kilometres of it.
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Day 13 Tuesday 10 July 2007
Cairns to Cardwell 185 K’s
The mountain bikes were incredible but today we are back on the tar ‘till
home. The roll out of Cairns is effortless. We are intimidated by traffic having
been in the bush so long, but it soon abates and we adjust. A stage of 93 to
Innisfail goes well, then a headwind hits, not a monster but enough to make
you work. The team is pretty tight, having fun. Phil has come a long, long way.
Now a great rider he is seldom on the back.
Once again my Norco is a dog, the heaviest bike on tour. Allan is on his slick
Olmo, Rossco on his beautiful Trek, Ian rides a flash De Rosa, Bryan is an a
Avanti and Phil & Tony cruise on Racelines. I’ve got to update.
All up a good day, scenery and adjusting to the seat of a road’y. The track
was a bit narrow and busy but we all enjoyed 185 on tar.
Cardwell is a beautiful little coastal village overlooking Hinchenbrook Island, a
good place to come back to.
The food was bad at the pub but the beers OK. A stroll back to the motel and
an early night.
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Day 14 Wednesday 11 July 2007
Cardwell to Townsville 171 K’s
We whisper out of Cardwell, these are great machines. The legs just roll over
as we watch the sun rise over Hinchenbrook Island, a serene morning. The
country is spectacular but the road unkind and dead. There is a great climb
just out of town to pump the legs up. Lunch at Rolling Stone is great. More
tourists stop and take our photo, marvelling at what we have done and
contemplating what we still have to do, they don’t understand. After a stop,
the road gets fast and we all stick together.
The support crew, Annette and Maurie have everything down pat by now.
Breakfast has become a selection of cereal or something on toast, spaghetti,
braised steak, mushrooms. We need a drink stop and a snack at 60 to 70 k’s,
a mug of black tea is a bonus. You start to run out of fuel at about 140 to 150
maybe before. So when you see the bus on the side of the road you know it’s
a can of coke, black tea and sandwiches. This gets you through to the finish.
Carry a gel and lollies if you need them and you should be right. You can get
through a single day of 200 k’s on much less but day after day burning 10,000
calories and more, you need a good food routine. Courtesy of Annette and
Maurie, we have it all,
Phil has developed monkey bum, a nasty rash. He is shifting all over the bike
to get comfortable. He’s tried anti fungal cream, ever reliable Triple B Cream
and is still having trouble. Rossco thinks it is his seat height and after a simple
adjustment down things will improve.
We arrive safe and well on the southern side of Townsville at 2.40 after 171
k’s. A clean, comfortable caravan park with nice cabins. Sitting around
relaxing on arrival you can feel the high spirits.
A bus trip to town, a walk along the great foreshore and a nice dinner at the
pub. Tony has some family along to enjoy dinner, his neice that also had
lunch with us on the Perth ride, at Port Augusta. What more could you ask for
before a night of recovery.
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 23
Day 15 Thursday 12 July 2007
Townsville to Bowen 200 K’s
Another perfect riding morning. Townsville was great and as we slip out of
town we all consider a trip back. It’s a scenic morning and all ride well. The
bunch is tight for the stages to lunch, helping us make good time. Then things
get a bit messy. We have had the usual head wind all morning and it starts to
pick up. The road is patchy and as we grind towards 200 tiredness gets to a
few. Most ride strongly but Bryan runs out of gas, tilting dangerously to the
right. Leaning into the passing traffic he is a real concern. Three of us drop
back to help and just two k’s out of town we decide that walking is a safer
option. Then the bus comes to the rescue and the rest of us complete a tough
200. A great achievement 200 into a brutal wind. Bryan is tough and he will
recover but he will need our support from now on.
On the road most of us spot a large croc’ lolling in a roadside pond called
Didgeridoo Billabong. Jack had insisted that he wanted to swim at every
opportunity from the Cape to Cairns. We all told him not to be stupid. Today
proves that they are there, even all this way south. Annette’s insistence that
Jack not swim was good advice. Even in Townville on the beach they had had
a croc sighting just last weekend.
Dinner at the Castle Motel is good, beer, wine, bed.
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 24
Day 16 Friday 13 July 2007
Bowen to Mackay 193 K’s
It’s funny how your attitude changes when a rest day is coming up. Bowen
was nice but this morning it’s all business, get this 193 k’s done and have a
break. Great morning, we are blessed with fine weather. The route through
the cane fields is scenic and pleasant. Then dead road and a few hills to
Proserpine. A break at 63 k’s under a mango tree watching the cane industry
up close. Morning tea is a joke, lamingtons, cream cakes and apple turnovers
for Ian, his favourite. Ian has really struggled at times but you can see him
gaining strength and losing weight. He won’t admit it, but it’s happening.
The run to lunch is more dead roads, slightly uphill and into a headwind,
normal. Lunch is as big a joke as morning tea, more great food.
After lunch the ranges arrive and we get to hide from the wind. Climb and roll
for the rest of the afternoon, a hard day all round. After yesterday, Brian has
chosen a day on the bus, a wise decision. He is enjoying the chores as a bus
hand and we enjoy his humour. He will recoup his strength and ride again.
The Best Western at Mackay is clean, spacious and comfortable. Just across
the road from the Shamrock Hotel it is ideal for two nights and a rest day. We
all relax, a good feed, a few beers and bed, bliss.
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 25
Day 17 Saturday 14 July 2007
Rest is good, sleep, a cooked breakfast, walking, touring, washing, fixing my
eighth flat, just giving the legs a rest.
The Shamrock, is on again tonight and we win the meat raffle (rigged). We will
have dinner in for a few nights.
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 26
Day 18 Sunday 15 July 2007
Mackay to Clairview 127K’s
A rest day followed by a short day, a good recovery plan. We all understand
the need for food, water and sleep. On the Perth to Newcastle ride we slept
restlessly, perhaps we all lived on the edge of exhaustion. This trip we are
travelling better, more sleep and a bit more of an understanding of what we
are involved in. We will all take it easy today to really get the benefit of a short
The day starts with a frost so short gloved fingers, sandaled feet and
uncovered arms freeze. After an hour of good roads, it warms. A great
surface, not much headwind and some beautiful valleys deliver a great day.
Very scenic, mountains, cane fields, creeks and rivers. All up a beautiful day
to Clairview for sausages and gravy for lunch.
Brian cruised into a gather up stop and failed to dismount. Straight into a
culvert, rolled the bike a few times and remained trapped, cleated on tight. It
was hilarious. No skin off, just wounded pride.
The van park is grubby, but a fantastic spot on the ocean to spend an
afternoon. Sun lounges on the beach overlooking a maze of islands. Rossco
and I take a lounge each and sleep for an hour on the beach. Paradise. A lazy
afternoon, a stew for dinner and believe it or not the whole team is in bed
asleep by 6.45.
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 27
Day 19 Monday 16 July 2007
Clairview to Rockhampton 200 K’s
What a sunrise. We are all up after 11 hours sleep, looking forward to a hard
200. Breakfast of steak & vegies on toast and we are off by 6.30. Our second
really cold morning with more frost on the grass as we cut into the road. The
wind gets up early and we find the worst bit of tar so far. It grabs at your tyre
making progress difficult. Then the headwind gets stronger, the toughest yet.
The run to 70 has everyone agreeing that it was just awful. But tomato soup
and goodies revive us. Then back to the road and things improve, the road is
kinder and the wind abates. Lunch is great, a valley view just outside the
gates to a major Brahman cattle stud. Then a good run to Rock’y.
Any 200 day is hard and some do it tougher than others but we are all in safe
and well. 2160 k’s down, 1500 left in 9 ride days. It’s all about numbers. Our
average speed to date has been around 25, not bad in the conditions. The toll
of riding long distances on consecutive days creaps up on you if you let it. The
only thing that can really stop you is your mind. You can feel that you have the
legs for it and you know how to eat and drink too survive so you just have to
overcome any negative thoughts and you can make it.
Tonight we bar b que at the motel, beer, red and more sleep to sustain us
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 28
Day 20 Tuesday 17 July 2007
Rockhampton to Miriam Vale 180 K’s
An overcast day greets us, but that means it’s not so cold. After negotiating
the exit from Rock’y we are into the country. Fairly flat then a bit of range
country with climbs that give a bit back. Then I flat for the tenth time. I am
killing them, few others have had any, and my rims are very tight to change so
it’s a real pain. Morning tea at 66 is good, lunch is a treat at 125 and then an
afternoon push to the Miriam Vale Hotel. Very old, very country but clean and
a good feel about the place. The main street is antique and has a bit of life to
it. Cane, cattle, rail and the council are the mainstays. The locals are friendly
and we relax.
“The Bear” rode very strongly today, he can have a go with his natural fitness
levels. There isn’t much that will stop Tony and we all admire his strong will.
Annette & Maurie have the timing and variety of food just perfect. Just when
your body is craving food or you need water they are there. They make
completing this ride achievable.
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 29
Day 21 Wednesday 18 July 2007
Miriam Vale to Childers 160 K’s
A chilly, frosty start which we have all prepared for, but still freeze for the first
30. Then the wind gets up and dead roads take us to morning tea at 70. A
nice break after a hard morning of ups and downs. Then a good run as the
wind abates, sometimes getting onto our shoulder and even behind us for a
little bit. The leg to Gin Gin was fantastic, no wind, the biggest tar climbs on
tour and good long downhills. Then a good push to Childers, another neat,
tidy, prosperous town.
The motel is called the Panda, so Tony is amongst friends.
An afternoon stroll around town and a chicko roll completes a good day.
We check a few pubs out and decide on a run down joint that serves crumbed
cutlets, they are good. Sitting around enjoying each others company is a good
way to pass the time.
Home in bed at 7.30
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 30
Day 22 Thursday 19 July 2007
Childers to Noosa 200 K’s
More frost at Childers, the coldest yet and it lasts the longest. We suffer for an
hour and a half. But clear skies promise another great day and the track is
good, improving for cyclists each day as we head south. Our days are simply
routine. Alarm at 5.45, shower, dress, pack, breakfast, load the bus, air in the
tyres, water up, food in your shirt and go. 35 k’s to a gather up stop, another
35 to morning tea, gather up after 30 and another 30 to lunch, find the next
camp. All you have to do is stick to the routine and pedal.
Some are a bit anxious about today, a few real mountains ahead and 200 is
always tough. But the road takes strong riders comfortably from the tablelands
to the coast and we all arrive safely, riding strongly. Another demon is in bed.
Speed wobbles on the last big decent scare the hell out of me and cause
Tony to take to the bush at 65 k/p/h. Scary stuff, I thought I was gone. This
bike has to go.
A surprise for me today, Denise, Adrienne and Mary, my wife, daughter and
mother in law arrive and drive out to Gympie to see us. Good to see them.
A rest day tomorrow so after a few celebratory beers at the van park I leave
for the Emerald Resort in Noosa. What a place to relax.
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 31
Day 23 Friday 20 July 2007
What a place for a rest. Perfect weather, good food, Denise. What can I say.
A lazy morning, everyone devours a cooked breakfast at the Flying Fish. Then
a stroll along the beach, a bar-b-que for lunch in camp with the team. Basil, a
mate from Coolum who is going to South Africa with us calls in for a chat.
Then back to the unit for a sleep. Dinner in a local restaurant and into bed. Big
ride tomorrow. Rest is good, the body needs it for the final six day slog home.
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 32
Day 24 Saturday 21 July 2007
Noosa to Beenleigh 180 K’s
Back to work, we have 180 to do today. Farewell to Denise and the family and
onto the bike.
Phil is our guide today, we are in his hands. We have been told that the
motorway is out of bounds, no bikes allowed. So it’s off behind our fearless
leader. Noosa to Eumundi and then straight onto the motorway. Thanks Phil.
But, for a while it’s all good, a smooth surface, good shoulder all the way to
the northern outskirts of Brisbane. Then chaos, it becomes clear why we
shouldn’t be here. A narrow shoulder gets tighter at each bridge or overpass,
barely 10 inches of shoulder to travel in. Entries and exits are death traps, it’s
real, real bad. Fear drives our feet and we are stuck here, not knowing how to
get off. Motorists abuse us and we question our sanity. The sooner we get off
the better. Then it gets worse, we have lost the rear of the peleton, we are
split and the front is fearing for the safety of the guys at the back. Rossco
rides back against the traffic looking for them but has to turn back. We decide
that we need to take the next exit and just as we leave the motorway we see
the other guys on the bypass road. The police have put them off the
motorway, not before Phil takes a spill and loses skin.
So that bit is over and after 80 k’s of illegal travel on the motorway that
included crossing through Brisbane City, we are back together and safe, if a
little shaken. As Al said, easily the most stupid thing he has done on a bike.
Brisbane is hell for cyclists.
What a group of people. We took too many risks today. If ever anyone was
going to lose it, it was under the pressure of fear today, but everybody stuck
tight and internalised their doubts.
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 33
Arriving at the McNevin Motel, Beenleigh after 180k’s is a relief for riders and
our support crew. Handshakes and beers are exchanged. The run today was
a longer one than planned so we will make Ballina tomorrow and chew a big
chunk out of the homeward journey.
We are all thinking about tomorrow, how to get out of this place safely. Allan
suggests a bus forward to a safe starting place and we all relieved. Do it safe
and look after each other,
A shower and a clean up of all the gear helps us relax, then dinner in camp
and we are off to bed again.
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 34
Day 25 Sunday 22 July 2007
Beenleigh to Ballina 130 K’s
Good decision to bus forward and after about 20 k’s we de-bus and put the
bikes together. Breakfast at McDonalds and off on the road, our last day in
Queensland. An overcast start turns to rain by the time we ride through
Surfers Paradise. The run to Tweed is good and the rain clears. Then we
leave Queensland and cross into the home state. 2890 kilometres from the
northern tip of Australia to the southern border of Queensland, what a feat.
The freeway is a breeze once we are through to Cudgen. A great surface, a
safe, wide shoulder. But it’s not a breeze, it’s another headwind and it blows
all day, look at the average speed 22.2 for 130k’s. But the climbs are good,
great big long climbs, especially the one out of Byron, the best on tour. It’s
good to see everyone smiling as they conquer the big climb. Then another
and another followed by a few more bumps to Ballina. A short but hard day.
Coffee and pies at Billinudgel then soup and sangers on arrival at Ballina. The
team is strong and the recovery is incredibly quick, all smiles in the camp.
Only four more ride days to go, it’s incredible. We loaf around the motel
Dinner at the Australia Hotel, a good night. Back in camp most sleep through
a domestic that brings the police to a neighbouring room. Phil is on security at
the Almara Motel peeping through the blinds.
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 35
Day 26 Monday 23 July 2007
Ballina to Grafton 130 K’s
Heavy rain overnight woke us all and put the wind up us. But at dawn it had
gone and we rode into a clear day on a flat track. Everyone prepares the
same, nicks’, ride shirt, arm warmers, leg warmers, long fingered gloves, ear
warmers, coat. Not Tony, he’s in sandals, nick’s and a ride shirt, crazy. He’s
been my room’y most nights, wouldn’t get a better bloke but sometimes you
wonder. He’s ridden like this for days and must be freezing.
Riding you see and sense things you just don’t see in a car. The smells are
great, freshly ploughed earth, cut sugar cane, a sugar mill, lantana, trees, it’s
all good. And you appreciate the scale of the landscape. The huge figs that
flash past in the car loom up slowly on a bike and as you get closer to them
you appreciate their majesty. Valleys and hills in the distance take on more
significance because you know that in a few hours ride you will confront them.
We ride along the mighty Clarence River today and what a sight it is, wide and
flat, huge stretches that make the day interesting. We’ve passed huge cane
fields for the past 13 days, it’s a huge commercial industry that you just fly
past in a car but really see on a bike.
Phil snuck up on Al and Rossco and flogged them for a stage win into
morning tea today, pretty to watch.
All up an easy day eaten up by all riders.
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 36
Day 27 Tuesday 24 July 2007
Grafton to Kempsey 196 K’s
Two new faces take the train to Grafton to ride home with us, Jack is back
and he has brought along Gary Brown, the Dog. Good to see them but a pity
they couldn’t make the whole tour. Jack did the first 10 to Cairns and the Dog
was with us from Perth to Newcastle last year.
The welcome is warm, a great dinner at the motel Bar B Que area and the
temptation of beer and red wine. Some are too weak to resist. The drink leads
to boasting of victory. “Fresh legs will do you in” claims the Dog, promising to
leave us tour veterans for dead.
So off we go onto a great day, clear and quite warm for this far south. Tony is
dressed in shorts and sandals again, weird.
The hardened seven clip along quite quickly courtesy of the first decent tail
wind on tour. Through Woollgoollga, Coffs, Urunga, Macksville and on to
Kempsey. A snack.
A good surface with a few bumps, we love it. But the Dog is on the bus by
Coffs, so much for tearing our legs off. Jack is gone by afternoon tea, flat out
on the road licking his wounds.
We celebrate a good day but the Grog Dog is asleep before dark, a show dog
not a working dog. “I’ll never drink again” is the howl.
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 37
Ian had a great leap forwarding form today, held on well and road
comfortably, good on him. You can see him getting fitter and losing weight.
The early days were very hard on him but he stuck it out, a tough man.
It’s Rossco’s birthday, the most popular man on tour, a gentleman and a
gentle man. We all wish him well and share a cake at lunch and again at
night, a great dinner at the Moon River.
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 38
Day 28 Wednesday 25 July 2007
Kempsey to Bulahdelah 186 K’s
Last night was a great dinner and a bit of fun with Tony playing spoons. What
a man that Spear, flogged Tony mercilessly.
The morning start is glorious, fine and clear. The run to the gather up point at
35 is good. Then Phil who stole a stage yesterday begins a plot. To prove a
point he starts last and goes through the field one by one. He gets to a hill
cranks up and smiles as he blows Allan away. Then Rossco gets the
treatment . He takes the front and stays there for 20 k’s today to lunch at Kew.
He had copped it for allegedly stealing a stage yesterday but today he earned
it, steady, strong circles with Rossco and I on his wheel. Pretty to watch. You
would not have believed it if you were on the Perth ride last year. A lean,
mean riding machine. He is frightening. He has beaten Tony in by 4 minutes,
Ian by 8 minutes, Allan in by 14 minutes and Jack and the Dog by a huge 17
He mentally broke Tony today, causing him to grasp at excuses, for the first
time ever falling back on his age as a reason for being unable to match Phil.
So a really beautiful day, good track, wide shoulder, great climbs and all fun.
Everybody is up for our last evening together.
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 39
Day 29 Thursday 25 July 2007
Bulahdelah to Newcastle 91 K’s
So here we are on the last day of another epic. Cape York to Newcastle, 3600
kilometres ridden in 25 ride days. A few days rest along the way and a great
tour with great people.
Just the final easy leg home. The plan is to cruise to Heatherbrae McDonalds
for morning tea and then lunch at the Stag and Hunter Hotel.
The feelings are mixed. It will be great to get home to Denise and the family,
get a bit of work done on the flood damage left behind, relax a bit and give the
body a rest. But I feel strong, could ride forever and so much more could be
achieved if we rode on, a different sort of family, the ride team. So today is a
cruise, ride your own pace; have a chat enjoying the great shoulder on new
Pretty soon we are in Heatherbrae, looking forward to coffee, and getting
excited about finishing. But where is Phil, can’t be missing, he was just on the
back with Gary. A search of the road forward to Hexham, no Phil, backtrack
the highway, no Phil. We all scratch our heads. Then he turns up at Hungry
Jacks after having been to Raymond Terrace McDonald (which is burnt down)
Incredible, how could you travel 3600 k’s and get lost in the last 25, only Phil.
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 40
So, back together again we are off as one, spinning into Newcastle. I have my
18th flat for the tour but it doesn’t dampen sprits. What an achievement, what
great people, what a great country.
We are home, in Newcastle, at the Stag, enjoying Allan’s hospitality once
more before going our separate ways home
Great trip, great people. You are lucky if you get opportunities like this one in
your life. If you do you should take them, enjoy them and seek out more. So
where to next, Someone started talking about South Africa, we’ll see.
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 41
Day Stage Start Finish Distance Average Time Maximum
1 The Tip to Loyalty Beach 2.00 4.30 45 20 2.1 53
2 Loyalty Beach to Twin Falls 7.00 2.00 108 15 5.27 47
Twin Falls to Bramwell
3 Junction 7.00 4.00 87 21 5.5 39
4 Bramwell to Archer River 6.30 5.30 170 22 7.53 50
5 Archer River to Coen 9.00 12.45 67 20 3.21 48
6 Coen to Musgrave 7.00 2.00 110 22 4.59 60
7 Musgrave to Laura 7.00 3.30 140 21 6.45 46
8 Laura to Palmer River 7.45 2.15 95 23 4.26 66
9 Palmer River to Mt Molloy 7.45 1.45 115 24 4.53 71
10 Mt Molloy to Cairns 7.45 1.45 112 26 4.4 61
11 Cairns Rest Day
12 Cairns Rest Day
13 Cairns to Cardwell 7.00 3.30 185 26 7.07 46
14 Cardwell to Townsville 7.00 2.40 171 25.7 6.35 70.3
15 Townsville to Bowen 7.00 5.00 200 24 8.22 39
16 Bowen to Mackay 7.00 4.35 195 25 7.37 40
17 Mackay Rest Day
18 Mackay to Clairview 7.00 12.30 127 25.1 5.02 38
19 Clairview to Rockhampton 6.30 4.10 200 25.2 7.53 49
20 Rockhampton to Miriam Vale 7.00 3.55 183 26 6.58 24
21 Miriam Vale to Childers 6.40 2.50 156 25 6.22 54
22 Childers to Noosa 6.30 4.00 200 25 7.46 71
23 Rest Day Noosa
24 Noosa to Beenleigh 6.40 4.00 183 25 7.09 60
25 Beenleigh to Ballina 7.30 2.15 130 22.2 5.43 79.7
26 Ballina to Grafton 7.00 12.45 133 25.3 5.08 44
27 Grafton to Kempsey 6.45 4.00 196 27 6.59 58
28 Kempsey to Bulahdelah 6.40 3.30 187 27 6.57 67
29 Bulahdelah to Newcastle 7.30 11.45 91 25.6 3.32 54
Total Distance 3586
Average speed for whole
Average speed for dirt 21.4
Average speed for tar 25.26
Total ride time 112.4
Average Distance 150
Average on tar 170
2007 Ride diary Cape York to Newcastle - Martin Parker 42