The Mighty Murray River!

The Mighty Murray River!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cecil Plains to Dalby


 Cecil Plains to Dalby = 43km
Cummulative totals = 1892km and 21, 893km
Dalby tourist park = $25 unpowered (oh big difference to last night!)
Well here we are in the very busy town of Dalby.  This town has a population of over 10,000 and is far busier than Warwick despite the similarity in population size.  If you look at the above map you will see that all highways pass through Dalby!
We had a little sleep in this morning (20 mins) before heading off with all the cotton trucks towards Dalby.
Last time we rode this it was in September and the road was relatively quiet ... this time it was a little busier but at least the trucks were very courteous to us ... maybe because they have loads on their trucks that are worth a fair bit!
So last time we passed through here there was a road that I couldn't believe they named and when I first saw it I had to ask Neil the pronounciation of it, then I thought it was a joke, but I posted it on the blog before and I will post it again ....
 can you believe that!  it is a true road as I was doing the maps last night on Google and it was on there ... you would hope it is German and the 'w' is pronounced as a 'v' !!!
Despite what the profile looks like we are riding on flat land and cross the Condamine ...
 This is a major river and eventually runs into the Murray, so it may look a little empty but they do build Weirs along the way to trap the water so here it looks like it is drying up butr when there is rain it is flowing!
It is flat country around here, such a big difference compared to the mountains and hills we rode only last week.  I would expect the next few weeks will also be flat country ... this is the sort of country you want to cycle in with a tail wind ... NOT a headwind (which is coming up according to the weather forecast).  This country has no hills, trees or bush along side the road to block out any wind so when you have a headwind ... you have the full headwind and the same with a tail wind!
 We couldn't resist getting off the bikes and going into one of the cotton fields.  This one was close to the road and was easy to get to ... the field had already been picked but this was a plant the was sort of growing outside the rows of cotton plants ...
 Like I said this road was busy with all manner of traffic and it was a surprise to see some grain machinery on the road ... maybe they are going to pick the sorghum (thanks for the link Sharon on what it is used for!  and the spelling!)
So we link up with the Warrego highway and are on it for 2km and I tell you it is a busy highway there are just trucks going everywhere ... actually they are all going to Toowoomba or coming from there!  They are carrying everything from containers, cattle, pipes, goods - you name it I can guarantee a truck is carrying it!  There is also alot of little white utes driving around with numbers all over them ... for the Coal Seam Gas.
We get to the caravan park well before lunch and the little motel across the road is fully booked and has all these utes parked outside - the coal seam gas.  And I think that is why Dalby is such a thriving little community.  Although we have passed heaps of farms with protest signs outside their gates for this coal seam gas and we have been seeing them from around Gunnedah and onwards to here and I suspect we will be seeing alot more protest signs along the way!
The park is nice, no kitchen but it does have a bbq and a tiny fridge.  There are a few campers and I would imagine that the park will start filling up with vans later on in the afternoon.  This is a popular spot for passing through caravaners.  Our spot it under and between 2 lovely shady trees and will get shade for the bulk of the day.  The oversized vans are in front of us on bitumen (no grass) and the smaller vans that want to unhook are along the river edge also with grass.  The shopping center is close and can be accessed by the path that runs alongside the park next to the Nyall River.  Neil is there now buying up some bakery markdowns I hope!
We will be having a rest day here tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Leyburn to Cecil Plains


 Leyburn to Cecil Plains = 83km
Cummulative totals = 1849km and 21,850km
Cecil Plains caravan park = $5 unpowered (bargain!)

What a day it has been.  We woke to a very light ground fog that quickly disappeared but not before it had made everything extrememly wet and poor little Kouta just couldn't settle as he doesn't like sitting on wet grass and didn't fancy sitting in his basket that was on cold concrete under the table ... he is so fussy
The wind this morning was a fairly strong east south easterly and so was behind us for at least the first half of the ride.  It is fairly flat hence the name of the area - Condamine Plains as all the irrigation of the farms are from the Condamine river that we basically followed.  At sometimes during this first half of the ride we were riding along at 20km per hour which is relatively fast.  We got to really enjoy the riding and also the extremely quiet road.  Plenty to look at in the fields - there were a lot of sorgum fields ...
 and a close up of the sorgum plant ...
 off course it is left to dry out in the field before harvesting ...
 what sorgum is used for ... I don't know and neither does Neil!
This road ends after 36km and you come out on the Gore highway which goes to Toowoomba.  Now this road runs east - west and we had to go on it for 6km and by now our east south easterly had turned into a east north easterly so it was a headwind.  This highway is a major thoroughfare for trucks, not too many passed us the brief time we were on it but there were heaps going the opposite way!  When we came to our Cecil Plains road we decided to stop for a cuppa since there was a layby of sorts ...
 ha some truckie had left his trailer there so we made use of it and leaned our bikes on it!
From here we take a road that runs in a north west direction and we have a side wind blowing instead of a tail wind.  Fortunately as the day progresses the wind eases a bit.  Not long after we started along this road we come across a farmer that is picking his cotton crop.  Cotton is grown a fair bit around these places so it was interesting to stop and watch and the farmer even stopped and chatted with us.  All his bails are going to the gin in Dalby.
Below is a photo of 2 large bails that weigh 17 tonne each and then next to it is the machine that packs the cotton into place and then next to that is the tractor and machine that picks the cotton - more like a vacuum really!
 these bails are massive ...
 here is a closer look at the packer and picker machines
 ou can see at the front of the picker the vacuum shoots that pick the cotton and then it goes into a cage at the back and that is emptied into the packer which compresses and shapes the bail.
 One thing that is typical of cotton (apart from it being all over the place alongside the road!) is that it grows in really black soil.  We are not sure if that is natural soil (as I always thought Australia had red natural soil) or if it has been pumped with chemicals and the like to create a soil for cotton to grow.  All I know is that there are massive dams near these fields full of water as cotton growing isn't exactly light on water!
Really when you look at a field it is like seeing snow ...
 it really does look like  the cotton balls you buy in a bag!
 Riding along here there is plenty to see.  The large bails at 17 tonne are worth $14,000 each (the farmer that chatted to us mentioned it ... ha funny when we were chatting to him and his worker all they wanted to talk about was us and our journey and all we wanted to talk about was the cotton process!)
Another thing about cotton is there are 2 ways to bail  - the large bail or these hay bail types ...
 we never got to see these being done so we assumed the are picked and bailed at the same time just like a hay bailer.  They are carried to the gin on a road train with either 5 or 6 bails on the front trailer and 6 on the back trailer.  We had a few overtake us today!
When you touch the bail it is so soft but compact and has all bits and dags hanging off it as well as some of the plant it came from ... I suppose they take it to the gin and that is where it is cleaned ...
I think if I collected all that is along side the road I would be able to make a 17 tonne bail!
We have been to Cecil Plains before on our way back 4 years ago.  It was quiet at the time and now since it is in the middle of cotton picking season the caravan park is busy as well as the alternative, which is by the river, there were heaps of free campers down there and I even think some of them were working in the fields on the loaders as they looked like they were set up to stay for a while along side the river.  We opted for the caravan park as she only charged us $5 for unpowered and it even has a free washing machine so we did some as we arrived here mid afternoon.
Tomorrow is a short day to Dalby, where we will have a rest day on Thursday and weather permitting we will head off on Friday.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Warwick to Leyburn


 Warwick to Leyburn = 63km
Cummulative totals = 1766km and  21,767km
Leyburn rest area = free ($2 showers across the creek at shop)

Hi di hi campers, we are back after visiting Dave and Aggie and the kids at Warwick.  It was good to sit out the long weekend and we decided not to brave the traffic yesterday that would be returning home after a long weekend.  Instead we left this morning where it wasn't so busy on the roads.
We started with a very fine misty drizzle down into town and out for about 5km along the Cunningham highway and then it seemed to clear although south off us the clouds were definitely threatening to absolutely pour down, but since we are heading north west the clouds weren't going in that direction so we knew we weren't going to get much rain and we were right by the time we got to our turn off along Sandy Creek Road (9km west of Warwick) we had fine clear weather.
It has been such a loooooooooooooooong time since we have basically had the roads to ourselves ... we guessed way back at Coolamon where the back roads were quiet ... since then all major and minor roads are full of traffic through NSW!
If you look at the profile it looks a bit up and down but it wasn't as bad as the profile looks ... it was more rolling and believe it or not we had a strong tailwind that helped us up the inclines!!!  Neil pipes up behind me that it is nice to have this tailwind!  We don't think we have had a tailwind this strong at all this trip and if we did it was only for part of the ride, but today it was very easy riding.
We were sort of following the Condomine river so there was alot of farm land and floodways.  We saw some interesting houses ALL on metal poles due to the flooding that can happen in this area ... below is a photo of what sort of view we had during todays ride ...
 I think Kouta was happy to be back on the road, he liked being in a house and sleeping with us in room and even on the bed but unfortunately Jimmy and Bradley are not dog likers and were a bit afraid of him at first but warmed up to him but still wouldn't pat him and we all know that next to food patting is Koutas'favourite past time!  Dave and Aggie loved Kouta and couldn't believe how quiet he is!
 We get to Leyburn just after lunch and there is only one other caravan (now there is a few more).  This place doesn't have power but does have a toilet and water.  It is beside a creek and has these gum trees that are full of corellas ... the birds make the tree look like it has white flowers on it!
 if you look closely at the tree all the corellas are in pairs ...
These birds collectively are incredibly noisy and every now and then they will collectively leave the trees and swoop to another group of trees ... there must be at least a 1,000 of them and we wonder how they don't bang into each other when they move about!   we decided to pitch our tent near the one and only table ...
 we also decided to splash out and pay $2 each for a hot shower that is across the creek behind the shop ... now Queensland hygiene standards can be a bit lapsed at times and I think this shower has slipped under the radar!

They weren't dirty just a little worn, but the shower was lovely and hot and it was nice to get rid of the grit and sweat off us.  Tomorrow we head for Cecil Plains.  We have stayed there before.
I forgot to mention we weighed ourselves at Dave and Aggies and Neil has lost 3.5kg and I have lost about 2.5kg, although I kept forgetting to weigh myself and when I did remember I had eaten and was full of good food!!!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Stanthorpe to Warwick


 Stanthorpe to Warwick = 62km
Cummulative totals = 1703km and 21,704km
Dave & Aggies place!

What a huge mistake to think there would be no traffic on Anzac Day!  It was a nice morning to start a little later and have a 2nd cup of coffee so we did.
Completing the rest of the hill and just going along looking at all the apple farms and there are heaps of fruit places with cafes and rest stops to take advantage of the passing traffic on the New England Highway.  We had a lane to ourselves and it was good.  The traffic was there but didn't worry us, most were just cars.  At the top of the summit we were at just over 900m.
The apple season has finished so all the fruit places have them for sale unfortunately they are all in big packs so I couldn't pick up any.  We did pass this farm which we thought initially was a strawberry farm (hydroponic) but we realised that it might be growing parsley and herbs.
so thinking this is just fantastic in our own little lane beside this main highway ... life couldn't get better.
We stopped for a break at a small place called Dalveen I think and there was a group of backpackers in tents and vans camped there.
So after about 20km our perfect world diminished completely ... our shoulder disappeared, the traffic was horrendous.  For some strange reason we thought everyone would leave Thursday night ... no they have all decided to leave on Friday morning so every man and his ute loaded up with gear decided to leave.  
When there was no shoulder to ride in we had to ride out in the road and unfortunately there wasn't enough room for us and cars so they had a tendancy to squeeze through and we had quite a few close calls.  I have always said that Queenslanders are the worse drivers in Australia they have no regard for safety or road rules!
Fortunately the main bulk of the ride is down hill but he last 20km was rolling and the shoulder just disappeared completely ... I think I aged 20 years today.  We got to the outskirts of Warwick just before 1pm and I tell you I was at my witts end, I was so frazzled and relieved to get to Warwick.  We found a town map and found Dave and Aggie live on the outskirts of the norther part of town.  We took note of the streets and when to turn left and right.  We crossed the Condomine river and then had to turn onto Weewondilla road and took one look at the road and thought crikey look how steep it is.  We decided to ride on the footpath and it was a munter of a sooty grunter that I was going about 4km an hour and when that happens the front of the bike twists and turns and you end up getting the wobbles and at one point I nearly took out a sign post and then when I looked up I saw a rubbish bin plonked right in the middle of the path and new that I could navigate the bike around it safely so I decided to get of the bike and walk!
Dave and Aggies' house is a few streets on just past the golf course.  The 2 boys (James and Bradley) have grown so much and James is actually taller than Aggie!  Happy to see them and we will leave here on Monday morning.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Texas to Stanthorpe


Texas to Stanthorpe = 102km day 1 = 62km and day 2 = 40km
Cummulative totals = 1641km and 21,642km
Top of the Town Caravan park = $27 powered or unpowered and with Top Tourist discount!

We should have taken the Cunningham highway ... with all the trucks constantly bearing down on us it would have been alot easier compared to what we have just been through the past 2 days of cycling!
Now we knew it was going to be hilly getting to Stanthorpe but we didn't realise just how tough it was going to be ... Neil said after the first hill that we should have taken the Cunningham highway whereas I didn't agree until after the third hill!
We left early at 7.30am and the road is very quiet and the first hill was a lovely gentle thing for about 6km so I thought well if it is like this then that is okay.  At the top you sort of cycle along a tableland for about 10km but you can see in the distance more hills and you wonder just which one is yours!
 along this tableland there is a Twin Hills Silver Mine ...
 the gate was heavily fortified and I don't think they would have liked us to bushcamp outside the gate ... it was too early for that!  Down the road there was an old and disused mine site ...
 At about the 18km mark you begin your second hill and the warning signs are everywhere for this one - winding for the next 8km ... okay I thought that must mean that it has alot of corners or blind spots with crests ... it had both!  It was a narrow and winding road that would be difficult for caravans to drive through.  Fortunately for us there wasn't many cars or vans going through ... about half way through the undulations, steepness and windiness I began to think that we may have taken the wrong road!  By the time I got to the last we bit I was shocked as to what confronted us ... a real nasty 10%er that I decided that was too steep for me (I think it may have been steeper as later on there was a 10%er and I managed to ride that one ... just!)
I walked it but Neil managed to ride it ... he did say that the handle bar was swerving alot as he was going so slow!  It was tough pushing the bike up the hill.
 I think I have forgotten to mention that the bikes are heavier than normal as we know we can't ride the full 100km in the one day so we will have to bushcamp and there is no where to pick up water so we have to carry the extra.  Also knowing that it is going to be a hot and hard day we took full capacity water so Neil had an extra 5kg of water and I have and extra 7kg of water so the bikes are very heavy and you definitely feel them on these hills.
So after the 2nd hill it is up and down, up and down, up and down and so on to the third hill which is just after the turn off to Glenlyon Dam.  Now the 3rd hill starts of nice and easy and is in steps with the last step at 10% .... OMG I was going to die this is the 3rd major hill like Mt Dandenong in Melbourne in less than 40km!!! Crikey I know we should have taken the Cunningham Highway now!!!
So below is a photo of the mountains ahead of us ...
 and here is me at the top of the last major hill ... note the 10% warning for the downhill which is what we just came up!  Not that I want you to look at my chest but I would like to draw your attention to my arms and chest as they are glistening with sweat which is just pouring off me ... on the first step of this hill a random fly decided to fly by my mouth just as I was taking a huge intake of breath and oooops down it went ... crikey did I gag ... that is the 2nd one this trip ... I am thinking of having a "swallowed fly" count on the blog!
 So from here at the 38km to Pikes Creek at 60km it is up and down and we are absolutely knackered, there is no flat piece of land, you are either going up or down.  We were hoping to camp at the creek but there was no suitable ground as it was rock hard.  So we decided that we would have a wash in one of the many rock pools as the sweat had dried on us and I was covered in a white film ... I could wipe off the salt that has dried on my face, arms and legs put it in a small container and use it in our cooking!
We felt much better after a wash to get off all the grime ... I felt sorry for the tiny wee fish in the rock pool as once we both finished it was now a salt water pool!
We found a spot to camp a further 2km on and quite frankly I didn't care where we camped as long as it was soon ... you will see a levy behind the tent - that is the road!
 we were close to the road but it didn't matter as there is hardly any traffic.  Guess what was for dinner ... weetbix x 4 each - it is quick and easy!  We did give Kouta a quick haircut and it did come out a bit like a crew cut but the weather is getting warmer so it was time for a trim ... I have forgotten to take a photo of him!
We both had a great nights sleep and woke this morning and for a change had weetbix for brekky!
We set off at 7.30am and we knew there would be less up and down today and more gradually going up with 2 small climbs.  The traffic was more today and we don't know where they were coming from but as we got closer to Stanthorpe there were more dirt roads so we assumed they were all coming from there.
Neil saw a wedge tail eagle feasting on a kangaroo on the side of the road but I missed it when it flew off as a car came by so we stopped and waited for it but it was wathcing us and it wouldn't budge no matter what we did so this is him/her sitting in the tree watching us!
 the last 15km into Stanthorpe is predominantly flattish as it is sitting on a tableland so it was nice riding in middle gear for the last few kms.  Because we are coming from the west where not many people arrive from (most come from the New England highway which runs north and south) there were no tourist signs for the caravan park or information center so we stumbled across the business center and Neil googled the caravan park while I went into the supermarket to get something for lunch.  I came out all SMILES from there ... I got the best thing in the bakery department ... a mark down caramel mud cake for $2 .... bargain!
 I couldn't shovel it down my throat fast enough!!!
 Stanthorpe is a nice town, cold in winter as it is about 850m above sea level,  The caravan park is massive with over 200 sites.  It costs the same for powered and unpowered and has the tourists section seperate from the backpackers section.  The backpacker section is for the seasonal work which is apple picking at the moment and this will end soon and then it becomes pruning season.  We didn't see any apple farms coming in so maybe they are on our way out ... or maybe it is like Young with its' cherry capital of Australia and we saw one farm ... yeah right!
So tomorrow we go DOWN to Warwick ... actually it is a little more climbing to just over 900m and then down!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Yetman to Texas


 Yetman (NSW) to Texas (Qld) = 42km
Cummulative totals = 1539km and 21,540km
Texas van park = $15 unpowered

Hi di Hi campers, we are officially in Queensland our 3rd state to ride in and will probably be cycling in this state for a good 3 months!  We had a good rest day at Yetman yesterday, 2 vans and the tenters went so that left us on one side of the tennis courts and another on the other side!  We decided that since the Geelong vs. Hawthorn game starts at 3.230pm that we would have our dinner at lunchtime.  They have 2 bbqs here at the hall, very clean so we used them!
 When we had arrived here the day before we  pitched our tent so that at 3.30 it would be in the shade so that we could watch the game in the tent ...
 it was a good game made even better by Geelong winning and looking good for a grand final berth!!!  So happy we got this AFL app, despite yelling at it when it freezes or crashes at crucial points in a game! yesterday the internet was slow so the bulk of the last quarter couldn't upload and down load fast enough to keep pace with the video but the most important part we didn't miss which was when they managed to get ahead by 4 goals ... so happy when we beat Hawthorn!
This morning we woke and it was relatively mild, I put on the polyprops just out of habit, I didn't really need them on!
We left at 8am, I had forgotten to check the profile so we didn't really know what was ahead of us so we assumed a hill!
We took the Bruxner Way that runs straight east towards Texas.  Not alot of traffic this morning but there were more trucks than yesterday (no trucks yesterday!) ... 5 trucks more than yesterday!  One thing we came across the whole way were cotton wool on the side of the road - it was everywhere, they must have blown off the bales when the trucks barrel along here as they still have their pods or seeds in them
 there must be a few cotton places around - we know Cecil Plains and towards Goondiwindi has cotton fields but surprised that there is cotton laying on the side of the road as the picking season I think is coming up so this must be last years crop.
Not far from the turnoff to Texas we came across a little road called Old Texas Road so we looked at the map and decided to take this road as it cuts out at least 5km and a little backtracking.  Now towards the end of this road we came across a farmer shooting out of his driveway across the road and turned around and back into the driveway ... 2 of his cattle had escaped in the open gate as he was hearding them, as we passed we slowed in case we spooked the cattle (like we always do and they start bolting along!) and the farmer got out of his Ute and I tell you we both nearly stopped dead ... this guy was a dead ringer for Anthony! same height, size, walk and even same face, look and funny hat ... it was unreal Heather!!!!  We think it might be Anthony's long lost cousin hiding in the backwaters along the NSW & Qld borders!
At the end of the road you turn left and you cross the Dumaresq River and are in Queensland
 and just up the road is the small town of Texas
We have been here before but approached it from the north and left via the south and now we are approaching it from the west and leave via the east to Stanthorpe which is a 2 day journey with hopefully a nice bush camp along the river before Pikedale.  This is a quiet road we think and with all the local knowledge it is apparently sealed, you go to Glenlyon and then north to Pikedale and then east to Stanthorpe.  Looking at the profile it is a gradual uphill for the first 85km and then along to Stanthorpe.  Texas is at 300m above sea level while Stanthorpe is at around 800m.  Most of the hills are gradual with one or 2 steep ones along the way, our aim is to do at least 60km the first day and 45km the next.  No blog tomorrow as I doubt there is reception going over the mountain ranges!