Last time we left you we were up at Cape Hillsborough enjoying some time off our asses. We had met a bloke named Paul involved in the Adani coal mine protests a few months back up at Wallaman falls. We got chatting and he offered us his place at Cape Hillsborough if we were going past. We weren’t really, it was about 120km out of our way, but thought stuff it and we made the little detour.
Paul wasn’t home but had left instructions for us on where he’d left a spare key and how to turn the power and water on. All this from a person who we had been chatting to for 10 minutes. People have been really kind to us on this trip. I’m not sure if it’s because people feel sorry for us or they think we are poor, but the bicycle has opened a lot more doors for us than if we had been getting around by car.
On the way to Paul’s place, we rode through the cane fields and cattle farms. Once again I found myself thinking what this place must have looked like before us, white fellows, got here. In Qld roughly 370,000 hectares have been cleared for sugar cane. That’s a lot of land for us fatty’s that love a cake or three. When compared to around 340 million hectares of land cleared for grazing it’s just a drop in the ocean. No wonder our native animals are feeling the pinch. That’s why people like Paul and our warmshowers hosts in Mackay Peter and Jackie are so important, out there on the front line, fighting for what we have left.
Before I start singing “hello darkness my old friend” let’s lighten the mood a little. My gypsy sidekick had a few toilet issues out at Cape Hillsborough. At one stage she had to shit in a bucket because there was a frog in the toilet and she didn’t want her bum anywhere near it. Add to the mix a rat running past and poor old Annie wasn’t having the best start to her morning routine.
On the billboard for Cape Hillsborough there is a picture of some Wallaby’s kicking back on the beach at sunrise. We thought: “shit that looks relaxing, let’s join the cute little buggers”.
So up at 4am we got, jumped on the pushy’s and had a short little ride down to the beach to join the wallaby’s and watch the sunrise. In reality we were probably a little naive thinking we were going to have it all to ourselves. On arrival we were greeted by something that resembled a really tacky petting zoo. There were people everywhere chasing wallaby’s with their zoom lenses. We decided to give it the ass and kept to the other end of the beach. Not everything is as it seems.
We had heard after we visited Cape Hillsborough that the park rangers bury food in the sand on the beach to entice the wallaby’s down. Aaah nature don’t you just love it!
On the way back to Mackay we came across our first fellow cycle tourer on this trip. Darren ( @everywhichwaybutlost ) was on a recumbent and has been on the road since 2015. Ana was more impressed with his bike. She now wants a tandem recumbent so she can sit in the front and take naps when she is tired!
It was a big day for me once we got back to Mackay. New sandal day!! Boy was I pumped. My last $20 specials from Kmart had finally disintegrated and that’s not putting any mayo on it. The Gypsy would prefer me to not to dress like a complete flog but after my purchase of fingerless gloves, my ascent through the ranks to reach full cycle touring geek is now complete. While at Canefield central buying my sandals, I noticed the shoppers generally fitted into 3 categories. First there were the ones fresh out of the big house sporting an ankle monitoring bracelet. The second group was the ones with a shit tattoo, and if you couldn’t afford a tattoo, or you were an outstanding citizen, you just got around in one of those horrible fishing shirts.
From Mackay we had been tossing up whether to get a bus to Rockhampton. On the drive up from Sydney, from the comfort of our rental car the scenery resembled something out of a mad max movie. To put it simply it looked pretty shit! After staying another night at our warmshowers hosts back in Mackay, the bus idea was quickly put in the bin. Peter had a way for us to get to “Rocky” that kept us off the highway. He sold it as the worlds biggest bicycle path… and we bought it! Peter loves his cycling and has done a fair bit of riding in the area and put it all down on a map with info on where to get water.
One of the nights on the way to Rocky we spent it at funnel creek. What a ripper of a spot to camp. We weren’t expecting that when we rode past. What made it even better was “ Big Scotty “ who was camped there in his 4×4. Our first impressions of this big lump of a man with tattoos of guns on his back living in his 4×4, was we were going to be his next victims. When he led us to a swimming spot a few hundred metres from our camp I thought “yep, this is it”. Ana had the same thoughts too, while she was checking he didn’t have any rope on him or a pistol down the back of his shorts.
Turns out not everything is as it seems! You couldn’t have met a nicer fellow! Scotty used to work in Croc relocating. Now he works for Qld parks. He is living out of the 4×4 because where he is based its a mining town and the rents are sky high,l. Also, when he knocks off on a Friday afternoon he hits the road and goes camping for the weekend. We cooked up a storm together that night and enjoyed a few beers around the campfire. Well, Scotty cooked up the storm, he supplied the steaks and potatoes in a camp oven, plus a few beers. All we could bring to the table was pesto pasta!
The one downside about the worlds biggest bicycle path is the amount of road kill on it. Our own private bike path started to resemble the killing fields! The cars weren’t discriminatory out here, all the species were copping it. The worst thing about road kill on a bicycle is not riding past and seeing some poor bugger who’s been splattered and had its brains pushed through its asshole. It’s the smell, you get a taste of it a long way back and you know what lies ahead. Then once you have past the scene of the crime it takes a long time to leave your nostrils!
Next up on our way down the path was Markwell station and a night with Simon & Sue. We organised to stay there through Peter & Jackie in Mackay and what a great couple they turned out to be! Some of the other stations we have been through made you not want to eat meat because of all the damage the cattle has done to the land. Simon and Sue were a breath of fresh air. They had so much care for the land and their actions were driven by conservation not profits. Keeping a good coverage of grass in the paddocks, fencing off creeks and streams, keeping trees in the paddocks and not over stocking the land, are unheard of any other stations in the area.
A part of that is due to the terrible floods that ripped through the area in 2017 from the aftermath of cyclone Debbie and believing climate change played a big part in it. The wall of water that came through their property taking everything in its path was mind blowing. They lost a few high voltage power line towers that washed away in their paddocks and had water lapping half way up their kitchen cupboards. If you look at the photo of their house below you get some scale of how much water came through their property.
After the rain washed everything away it was tough times on Markwell Station they went 6 weeks without power and Sue got Ross River fever. After Simon gave us a tour of the farm we got fed steak again that night for dinner. It’s been a tough life for us whenever we come across these farmers.
The next day was the worst day we have had on the bike so far this trip. 125km of pavement went by but it felt like 1025! Welcome to the worlds longest day. The last 30 kms of it we wished we were anywhere but on those bikes. Our asses were squealing and both of us were squirming around the seat to find a position that was comfortable. Our spirits only lifted when we were within eyesight of the pub & campground and talk focused on how many things on the menu we should order. We decided over dinner that night we are not doing that again. This is meant to be a holiday.
After a rest day at the pub sitting on rubber doughnuts so our freckles could recover. We set sail for Rocky. Our asses pleaded with us to break it up into 2 days. We were reluctant at first but when they threatened us that if we didn’t they would make us shit the bed in our sleep, we caved to their demands. Turns out it was a pretty good ride taking the back way into Rockhampton. Glad we didn’t listen to the bloke at the Marlborough pub who I’d asked for some info on the road. All he could give us was “ fuck that!” While he was sporting a look that said: “ I really want to punch you in the face for even thinking about something like that.”
We found a good camp that night on the Fitzroy river at Glenroy crossing. We got some advice of the locals driving past. “Don’t swim in there, it’s full of crocs.” When a farmer stopped at nighttime to check on us and give us some water he informed us he has a 5 metre croc at his place just up the river. We were happy we kept out of the water.
It felt like we were cycling into One Nations heartland when heading into Rocky. There were billboards up everywhere. It really does ruin the scenery seeing that red headed moles face everywhere.
Rockhampton was a pleasant surprise. After everyone talking shit about it we were fearing the worst. But we found it pretty nice. Well nice enough to sleep in the park in the middle of town. We were up 4:30 next morning to pack up the tent before the gardeners could find us.
Yeppoon was flash. Not what we were expecting at all. For a minute there we thought we had gained a few hundred kms and lobbed on the Sunshine Coast. After a few too many terrible fishing shirts waltzed past we knew we were still in bogan country. The lagoon was a big tick, with the infinity pool overlooking the ocean it felt like you could swim straight into the sea.
The reason we headed out this way was we were headed to Great Keppel Island. I don’t know who was more excited about having 9 days out of the saddle, us or our assholes. We had organised beforehand to do a work exchange at the Great Keppel Village. A couple of hours gardening each day and we could pitch the tent and stay for free. The colour of the water and white sand hypnotised us immediately. It was a strange feeling swimming around in water and not thinking about being eaten by some prick. Benny the manager looked after us. If he was anymore relaxed he would fall asleep upright. In the kitchen we got a nice surprise, Janet and Bruce were here, a couple we met earlier in our trip at Wonga Beach. They really are great people, and we thought that before they gave us leftover sausages, bacon, salami, cheese & chocolate! Janet started surfing at aged 50. There is hope for this Author yet. I just need a counterweight for my head and I’ll have the balance problem sorted.
We had the best time on Keppel and fell in love with it. Knocking off work in the morning, we would have the afternoon to explore the island by sea kayak, foot, or snorkeling. If that was too strenuous we would spend the afternoon laying on the beach. Well Ana did I laid in the shade.
Just like most things though if you dig a little deeper or explore a little more, you soon start to realise not everything is as it seems. This island is no different to the mainland with its treatment of the First Nation peoples. Poor is one way of putting it. To remove people from their home so some assholes can run a few sheep is pretty shit. A few were lucky, they got to stay and be used as slave labour and fed scraps. There are reports off some “gins” (aboriginal women) hiding in a tidal cave. The men were out on the tip of the headland trying to keep the settlers away from them. The men were shot and the women taken away. That tidal cave had another use for the settlers. It came in handy when any of the natives “misbehaved” by interfering with the sheep. They got chained up in the cave. Some made it through the night with water up to their necks, others drowned. There is reports of a rusted iron ring in the rock face at Svendsen’s beach. We went there one day by kayak. I think I found the tidal cave but no evidence of any rings to see if it was true.
Since we kicked them off we have done a stellar job looking after the place. Great Keppel Island resort was booming in the 90’s. With the advertising campaign “Get wrecked on Keppel”. There was some fun to be had out there. The resort got sold once it had gone past its used by date. It’s been mothballed now and the place is a fucking tip in paradise! How can you build all that and just let it go to waste? It doesn’t make sense. Underground nightclub, runway, swimming pools and squash courts all lie in ruin. The homestead involved in the poor treatment of the First Nations people gets heritage listing for running sheep for a few years, but we turn a blind eye to injustice and waste. To me it doesn’t really add up.