Friday, September 9, 2016

Ride Report Far North Queensland 6 August – 8 September 2016

Like all good trips do, ours started with a pre-ride planning meeting. We had already booked the accommodation for the first week and a half, so the meeting was rather brief considering the length of our ride: Plan A was to leave Andrew’s house at 9am, stop for coffee and a pie at Boorowa and then meet at the motel in Dubbo whenever we got there. Of course, there was no Plan B. 

The whole trip was like that – Andrew and I rode together most of the time but we also did our own thing, having enough confidence in each other’s riding and navigational abilities that we would surely meet up again at the end of the day.

Andrew at Lightning Ridge.

We took five comfortable days to ride the 2,500km to Cairns, stopping overnight at Dubbo, St George, Emerald and Townsville and visiting such iconic locations as Lightning Ridge, Clermont, the Belyando Crossing Roadhouse and Charters Towers. We stayed in motels, cabins and hotels and usually managed to find a bakery or café with coffee and pies for morning smoko.

The roads have been improved out of sight since I rode to Townsville in 2008. My memory of the Gregory Development Road (from Clermont to Charters Towers) was of a single lane of bitumen that you had to get off whenever a road train came through. Now, it’s a beautiful two-lane highway with more caravan-towing grey nomads than road trains. 

Speaking of grey nomads, I decided to get into the spirit of the open road and wave to them as they went past. But their responses were like those of most Harley riders – they wouldn’t wave if they were hanging from a flagpole in a cyclone. End of experiment.

Andrew had a two-week leave pass but before he left Cairns to head home we rode most of the fantastic roads around Cairns, Port Douglas and the beautiful Atherton Tablelands. 

Looking back towards Cairns from the only lookout on the Kennedy Highway.

After he left I did a five-day business trip around Yungaburra and Mission Beach and then spent another three weeks riding home via Bowen, Nebo, Dingo, Duaringa, Dululu (passing through these three D-towns towns in alphabetical order), Banana, Theodore, Cracow, Eidsvold, Gayndah, Toowoomba and Manilla, staying in Airbnbs and with friends. 

I had dinner with Suzy Arnold and Norm MacLachlan at the Grand View Hotel in Bowen (they had been shadowing me for days on their dash from Canberra to FNQ and back). I also made a side trip from Toowoomba to Cedar Creek (near Samford, north-west of Brisbane) to see an old mate. Altogether I rode 6,900km.

The biggest surprise was how good the Queensland roads are these days, with smooth, well-maintained surfaces, excellent alignment and slow vehicle turnouts that other motorists actually use. In fact, the worst road on the whole trip was in NSW, from Texas to Warialda on the way home. But a warning: the coastal Bruce Highway is infested with slow caravanners who often travel in tight packs, making overtaking difficult and driving truckies mad.

My favourite roads were (in order from north to south):

  • The Captain Cook Highway up the coast from Cairns to Port Douglas and Mossman – tight and sweeping curves and scenery but lots of tourist traffic. (# 3 in the Hema Motorcycle Atlas)
  • The Kennedy Highway from Cairns to Mareeba – a fun climb up to the tablelands with some tight corners and one spectacular lookout (don’t miss it!). (# 101)
  • The Gillies Highway from Gordonvale to Yungaburra and Atherton – a sustained climb with hundreds upon hundreds of unrelenting tight s-bends. It’s so incredible I rode it in both directions. (# 1)
  • The Palmerston Highway from Innisfail to Millaa Millaa and on to Atherton – fast, smooth, sweeping bends, great views. (# 12)
  • Dubbo to Charters Towers. A whole different spirit.
  • Toowoomba to Samford via Hampton, Esk, Wivenhoe Dam and the aptly-named Mt Glorious and Mt Nebo roads – a favourite of Brisbane riders. Steep, tight and sustained. (# 7 & 13)

Ian Paterson

The Riders were:

  • Ian Paterson        GL1800
  • Andrew Campbell    FJR1300
Corned beef sangers at the Whistle Stop Café in Yungaburra.

Pie, peas and dead horse at the bakery in Tully.
Or to Canberra or to Paris.

Oh what a beautiful morning (for a ride!). Near Dululu.