It’s hard to believe after all the planning and preparation for this trip and how quickly the trip is over.! It’s just over three weeks since we rolled out of our driveway in Canberra and now we’re back home.
In total over the three weeks we traveled over 7,070km, staying at over 13 locations, travelling from the outback to the coastal strip, from red dust to coral reefs, from treeless plains to tropical rain forests, and from the cold to the warm. This is such a vast land of contrasts. And I love it.
Below is a map of our route highlighting our camping locations (red) and other locations we stayed.
Th last leg of our trip was from Inverell and is a trip we’ve done numerous times visiting family. A road traveled when we moved to Canberra, when the kids were little and hanging out to see grandma (are we there yet?), and after the kids grew up and left home. We’ve driven it, and ridden it many times.
To shake it up I wanted to try a new route from Willow Tree to Merriwa to check out a painted silo at Merriwa and then take the Putty on a weekend, the playground of Sydney riders and stop off at the Grey Gums cafe to enjoy a coffee with an array of other riders who are there on weekends.
The Merriwa road has only been sealed in the last few years and its been on my ride list. But today was not going to be that day as the road was closed. And riding the Putty was much quieter than I had expected on a Sunday. Maybe the cooler weather has kept the crowds at home. But it was still interesting to see the assortment of bikes and different groups of riders who were at Grey Gums.
From the Putty it is simply a matter of battling Sydney traffic to the freeway and then down the freeway to Canberra, ending our three week ride. Pulling into the servo around the corner from home we topped up the bike’s fuel for the 27th and final time, using $726 of fuel on our trip.
And then it was over.
Before we left we emptied our fridge / freezer to defrost it while we were away. A couple of days before we got home we got one of our kids to turn it back on. Therefore we knew that we’d be arriving to an empty fridge and would need to do a run to the shops after getting home. Arriving home we found this surprise in our fridge. I was surprised as Megan knows I’m not a fan of roast duck.
Such a beautiful gesture … but all wasn’t as it seemed.
I bet she was giggling when putting this gag together..!!
The ducks are a bit of an in-joke in our family stemming from a YouTube clip of comedian James Veitch being a bad room mate.
The Vanilla Slice challenge
Sitting at the Harden bakery eating a vanilla slice on our first day the idea of a cross country vanilla slice challenge became a thing. There was no prior thought put into a scoring methodology we were just making it up as we went. Little did we realise how hard it was going to be just finding vanilla slices in a lot of towns. And given our truncated time frame we really didn’t have the time to search out contenders.
Along the way we were encouraged to drop into a few towns with good vanilla slice reputation such as Seventeen Seventy south of Gladstone but these were significantly out of way … next time.
With the lack of competition we did discussed going back and moderating the score we gave the original one at Harden as we didn’t want to score the first one too high … but in reality no others came close.
So the winner of our challenge was the vanilla slice from the Harden bakery.
Our plan was riding to Cairns and back in three weeks. To achieve this we needed to cover the distance, while allowing time to experience the country we are travelling through, and having sufficient time off the bike to recover. The consistent theme of our trip was not having enough time. We planned a day off in Charleville and wondered what we were going to do there for a day … only to wish we had more time. And that happened everywhere we went.
So did we bite off more than we can chew on this trip..?
Probably. But we had three weeks and we wanted to catch up with friends in Cairns so we made a plan to accomplish that. And while it was probably a tad too ambitious it was still an awesome trip.
So what did we learn or what would we change for our next trip?
- 600km days for this type of ride is too much. We found that 350 – 450km was a nice comfortable distance for a day where you didn’t need to be watching the clock everywhere you stopped.
- If getting into a small town at lunchtime grab lunch before setting up camp otherwise everything maybe shut when you go back.
- 2 nights at a location only gives you one day to look around which is not enough time to look around and to also have a rest.
- Camping on hard stony ground is terrible and should be avoided.
We camped for about half of the time and were really happy with our setup, and after a couple of days we got really slick with setting up and pulling down our camp. Looking over our setup there were only a few things we would change for the next trip.
- We used our Trangia cooker (with gas insert) pretty much every day for making tea and coffee and only pulled out our larger cooker once to cook a meal at Porcupine Gorge. As we planned on eating at pubs for most nights we probably didn’t need to take the extra cooker which took up valuable room.
- Likewise we took a larger table which we didn’t use at all. This would likely be different on longer stays in the one location. In contrast our little Helinox table was pulled out every day. These Helinox tables are not cheap but they are an awesome little table.
- The Helinox stretchers were really good although we will be looking at the extender legs to lift them off the ground a bit to make them easier to get in and out of … apparently we aren’t 20 anymore! The extender legs lift the stretcher from 16cm off the ground to 38cm off the ground, which doesn’t sound like much but would make a big difference.
- I really hate the cocoon feeling of most sleeping bags so I slept in an inner bag with my sleeping bag unzipped and used it as a blanket, which worked really well. One of the big advantages of my inner bag is that it has a pocket for my pillow which stops it disappearing during the night, however I’d like to make a new inner bag for future trips with a few improvements over the current one.
- This was the first use of my power station and it worked great but I found that I used it more than expected for things other than cpap, like changing phones, helmet intercoms, etc which meant I used more power than I was expecting and the bigger one in my previous review would be much better.
Our Trip Plan
- Day 1 – Canberra to Trangie – camping at Trangie Caravan Park – 480km
- Day 2 – Trangie to Bourke – camping at Kidman’s Camp – 325km
- Day 3 – Bourke to Charleville – camping at the Red Lizard Camping – 485km
- Day 4 – non-ride day
- Day 5 – Charleville to Longreach – camping at the Longreach Tourist Park – 537km
- Day 6 – non-ride day
- Day 7 – Longreach to Winton – camping at the Matilda Country Tourist Park – 212km
- Day 8 – Winton to Porcupine Gorge – camping at the Pyramid camp ground – 312km
- Day 9 – Porcupine Gorge to Cairns – 540km
- Day 10 – non-ride day
- Day 11 – non-ride day – I took a side trip to Cooktown with Russell – 666km
- Day 12 – non-ride day
- Day 13 – Cairns to Townsville – camping at Rowes Bay Holiday Park – 385km
- Day 14 – non-ride day
- Day 15 – Townsville to Airlie Beach – camping at Island Getaway – 270km
- Day 16 – non-ride day
- Day 17 – non-ride day
- Day 18 – Airlie Beach to Yeppoon – 540km
- Day 19 – Yeppoon to Sunshine Coast – 620km
- Day 20 – non-ride day
- Day 21 – Sunshine Coast to Inverell – 605km
- Day 22 – non-ride day
- Day 23 – Inverell to Denman – 400km
- Day 24 – Denman to Canberra – 520km
And a few stats from the ride
- Total distance travelled: 7,070km
- Total fuel stops: 27
- Total fuel used: 455 litres ($726)
- Average fuel consumption 6.44ltr/100km
- Camping costs – $373 ($28.70/day)
So where are we heading next…? We really need to get to WA…
Let the planning begin.