Fringe Dwelling and Wine Swilling Part Two – Heading North
By Alan Lane-Richardson
In Part One, our intrepid travellers, Alan and Meredith, rode their Calis South from Brisbane via Sydney to Adelaide, and the adventures continue on the way home …
After a big night I somehow managed to keep the eyes open long enough to survive the morning whilst the troops rose and put on their riding clobber. We left Hendrik’s and headed north through a gorge that is a fantastic ride with plenty of corners and things to see. At the end of the gorge some of our party peeled off and headed in another direction leaving Hendrik, Di, Meredith and I to continue exploring. And explore we did, with a number of detours, stops and starts, before eventually taking a number of gravel roads that lead us to the Clare Valley. Funny things those “patches of gravel”.
The idea was to go to a fantastic pub in Clare with a humongous cellar and great food and beer, but when we got there the darn thing was closed for renovations. So we tripped into town for some lunch at a winery. The stress levels in the town of Clare are apparently fairly low to non existent. It took a number of attempts to get the basics – like a bottle of wine and napkins! On completion of the meal we parted ways. Hendrik and Di back to Adelaide and Meredith and I out towards Broken Hill.
That night we got as far as Yunta, which came highly recommended by some joker. We think they must have meant the town before Yunta as the Yunta camping ground turned out to be a patch of gravel behind an ablution block just meters from the road! We were quite surprised that you could travel a couple of hundred kms in South Australia and go from lush hills to desert. I was also intrigued with the number of abandoned stone houses out in the bush dotted all over the place. Out there it can be a bit of a moonscape but at the time we passed through it was relatively green and a fantastic ride.
We rose early at Yunta to head out to Broken Hill. We actually liked Broken Hill, it sort of reminded us of Kalgoorlie with red dirt, big streets, workers’ cottages, lots of pubs and a mine right in the town center. Next town on the list was Wilcannia. We had been told by many a person not to stay at Wilcannia and if possible to keep going. Well, we loved the joint. Took a few photos of the buildings, and found the BP servo at the back of someone’s house. In the town, most of the windows were boarded up in the main street which sort of reminded us of a couple of places we had been to in PNG.
With our bike tanks full, we headed out towards Cobar from Wilcannia. We ended up having to camp the night on the road in a parking zone. Facilities at the parking zone were zippo, but we had a ball watching the moon rise! The next day we sort of started heading out towards White Cliffs along the dirt roads, but sensibly we turned round after about 15kms due to time constraints and fuel concerns. Maybe another time.
We eventually arrived at Cobar for breakfast, a place for really crappy coffee. We pulled into this servo and I spotted the cappuccino machine and thought, “YES!”, and promptly ordered a flat white. I should have known when the person serving looked at me strangely and said, “It’s a bottomless cup with the self serve over there.” Anyway the flat white (made of water) was full of floaters and tasted like s***, so I left it and we left the roadhouse and Cobar.
Cobar to Bourke was interesting as the terrain changed slightly from wide open spaces to scrub. In addition the temperature started to warm up (so we knew we were getting closer to Queensland). Before Bourke we did a lefty up a gravel road into Gundabooka National Park. The park was a fantastic spot where lots of flowers were in full bloom from recent rains. There were plenty of the proverbial flies, ants, and lots of different birds (a definite ‘must’ place to come back to).
We arrived in Bourke just in time for lunch. We visited the river, checked out the paddle steamer landing, took some photos of the oil fired engine, took a photo or two of the local township, and had a chat with some of the locals. Then we buggered off towards Cunnamulla. Nice town Bourke!
The landscape to Cunnamulla was horrendous. It’s a moonscape with no other words to describe it. The farmers are basically “mining for agriculture” (Hendrik’s terminology) The jaunt from Bourke to Cunnamulla is a big sandpit with sheep searching for stalks. The road kill was enormous piles of kangaroos or sheep with the odd pig thrown in. I could hardly believe farmers could push the environment so far. Just south of the border we pulled into a place called Barringun to fuel up so that the white Cali would make it through to Cunnamulla. Let’s face it, I wasn’t in any hurry to camp out on this stretch of road. Seriously, this is one place you have to visit if you want to taste the real oz desert farming!
At Cunnamulla we found a caravan park and pitched the tent. Behind our tent site there were rolling sand dunes and all that was missing was the sound of waves to convince us that we were at the beach. For tea we headed into town for a well earned meal and a beer. The town was fairly dead so the RSL was the place to go. It was here that we met Mr HOG who was cutting serious K’s on his Harley so that he could get home in time for a promised dirty weekend. He and many Harley mates had gone to Uluru for the recent Harley convention. Needless to say they’d needed a support vehicle. Apparently he had packed a $1,200 clutch kit for his bike, just to be on the safe side, and it had to be fitted just before Alice. The new clutch must have worked alright because it had got him from Alice to Cunnamulla traveling 800+ kms per day without a support vehicle.
Cunnamulla to Charleville was done non stop and let’s face it why would you want to stop anyway? At Charleville we pulled into the Info Centre to find out stuff about Carnarvon Gorge. I was leaning on the bench trying to work out what I wanted when a voice from beside me said, “G’day, how are ya?” I turned around and there, right smack in front of me, was my mate Nick from Bris Vegas (Nick has a Ducati Monster but prefers to ride his Vespa 150!). I shook my head in disbelief that he was there (not at his choice of vehicles) and suggested that we had a coffee and cake in town. We idled away an hour or two in Charleville with Nick and his family, which was great except that we were running the gauntlet to get to Carnarvon Gorge before the sun set and roos set foot on the bitumen.
With map in hand we left Charleville and headed for Mitchell then on to Roma. At the servo in Mitchell we asked if the roads out to Injune were all bitumen or still gravel as indicated on our road maps? “Yep, they’re all sealed!” we were assured. But having already been given a few bum steers (remember Yunta) we asked the question a couple of times just to make really sure. “Well, I’m not that sure” was the final reply. Hence the reason for going to Roma.
We arrived at Roma with plenty of light and plenty of time and pulled into the Info Center. The bloke at the center actually seemed to know what he was on about, but it turned out he was basically a bullshit artist. He reckoned we would need to take it real easy as there would be plenty of cops and the roads were really windy. My ears pricked real sharp at the proposition of some windy roads for a change. Maybe if you compared the road from Roma to Injune with a straight edge then you could say it was twisty, and maybe those wallabies hanging out along the roadside were actually cops in disguise?
At Injune at the caravan park you can get the first nights accommodation for $12 and the next two nights free. Ye ha! The facilities are very clean, actually the ablution block was brand new. And, get this, the pub sells cans of Bundy for $4.50 each as take away which is just across the road from the caravan park. This must be heaven! There is also a circuit walk around the billabong which when done at night needs a torch otherwise you could get slightly wet. Most importantly we ran into a bloke with a bike tied to his trailer who comes from Redcliffe and knows Ron who has a yellow Cali like Meredith’s, so we were at home chattin’, as usual, under the pergola at the caravan park.
From Injune we headed off to Carnarvon Gorge for the day, two up on the yellow Cali. The road in was a bit on the rough side, definitely not Le Mans territory unless your arse is made of leather. We took a quick hike up the gorge to visit the Moss Gardens, though we didn’t venture further as we hadn’t actually planned to do any serious walks and didn’t have enough water for just those serious moments when you need it most. We got to see a couple of snakes, lots of cattle, and many birds. The gorge is great and a place we’ll definitely be revisiting with all the clobber.
Before we knew it, it was time to leave Injune and head back to Roma to fuel up at the BP. On arrival at the servo there were all these Harley dudes in the café. The bikes were all nice and shiny (ours were all covered in crap) and the blokes looked like they had just started out. But hell no! These blokes were still on their way home from Alice. And blow me down if the 5 bikes didn’t actually have a support vehicle, for f***’s sake! Who else would have a dinky little Latte, or something, for a support vehicle to the red centre?
We had a quick chat with the guys and one bloke asked if we would be back in Brisbane that day. What a question! We blasted past them out of Roma when they were cruising at some ungodly 80 to 90kms in a 110km zone. (Meredith said it was a road construction zone with a 60km limit, but I doubt that!) Unfortunately, we just had to do it again further down the road after stopping to adjust some luggage. Just this time we lifted the speed so we really blasted past never to see the Harley crew again.
We left the main road at Macalister and headed for Bell so we could go over the Bunya Mountains. A bloody nice road, very quiet, through agricultural paddocks that eventually wound through the hills into Bell. Even on from Bell up the Bunya Hwy wasn’t too foul either, probably one of the best parts of the ride. The ride up into the Bunya Mountains was a superb way to begin the ending of a fabulous trip.
In the Bunya Mountains we found a very long Red Bellied Black snake, a Green Tree snake, and lots of birds. We included an hour’s walk to stretch the legs, and a quick late lunch at the café at the lodge. Then we traveled down the mountain to Maindenwell through some fabulous valleys and not so rough gravel roads. Headed up to Nango but turned off to go through Tarong National Park via Morrinsville and out to Yarraman. From Yarraman we did what you would expect, we headed back to Brisbane via Kilcoy and Mt Mee stopping off at Dayboro for a quick Dark and Stormy at the Dayboro Pub. And, most importantly we were still back in Brisbane that day thanks to our Cali’s.
Heading North – Travel Notes
Day 10 – (390kms)
Adelaide, Gorge Rd, Clare Valley, Yunta
Day 11 – (560+kms)
Yunta, Broken Hill, Wilcannia, Rest area 110K before Cobar
Day 12 – (550kms)
Cobar, Gundabooka NP, Bourke, Barringun, Cunnamulla
Day 13 – (540kms)
Cunnamulla, Charleville, Mitchell, Roma, Injune
Day 14 – (310kms + ~7kms on foot)
Injune, Carnarvon NP, Injune
Day 15 – (700kms + ~5kms on foot)
Injune, Roma, Chinchilla, Macallister, Jimbour, Bell, towards Kumbia, Bunya NP, Maidenwell, to Yarraman via Tarong NP, Kilcoy, Neurum, Woodford, Mt Mee, Dayboro, Brisbane