Central Queensland Coast
The Bruce Hwy would have to be as boring as the Albany Hwy only longer with more traffic. We pulled in to Airlie Beach that arvo and booked into the Island Gateway Caravan Park. This area is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands.
We set up camp and headed into town to pick up supplies. My little
brother, Moog, was right, this place was backpacker central and the
main strip was jumping. He’d warned me about getting whiplash from all
the eye candy. The good news is my neck is much better now. You know
what they say, ‘Doesn’t matter where you get your appetite, as long as
you eat at home’.
After we’d done a bit of a shop Kate dragged me into a pub for a
beer and to listen to a young bloke on guitar called Jason Bull in
Magnums Bar on the boardwalk. He was great so we had to stay longer and
have more beer. Brilliant.
My folks have had a painting I’ve loved for years by an artist
called Halmyard of a road and I’d always wondered where it went. So
before we set off I’d managed to locate it with the help of the
internet. The painting was called ‘The Road To Dittmer Mine’. Turns out
it was an old gold mine and the painting was from the 50’s. It was
located about 14km west of Proserpine which was about 30km west of
We were very close and I was dead keen to see if this road still existed. We set out and after a few wrong turns we were headed in the right direction. We crested a hill and there it was. We kept going along the road following the line of Kelsey Creek with the potholed road bottoming the Nomads suspension. We eventually came to a little settlement called Dittmer where the old mine was.
There were about 20 houses and not a soul about. ‘Was that a banjo
note’, not really. We turned around and went back to the valley to
locate where the artist sat. We found it and using a copy of the
painting located a couple of the original trees beyond doubt. I was
stoked, I now knew where the road in the painting went.
We hung out in Airlie Beach for a few days cruising around to Shute
Harbour and taking in the sights and checking out the live music every
odd night. One night the place was raided by about 30 cops, some in
uniform some in overalls and a few observers scatter through the crowd
to signal to the uniforms and the sniffer dogs. Heavy scene, man. They
went through the place like a dose of the salts.
When we left on the Monday I now had a new set of gloves that had
been sent to Airlie Beach and they were tight. I hate wearing in new
gear. We headed south down through Mackay. Arseholes in cars and trucks
still trying to kill us with insane manouvres.
We camped at the back of a little pub in Marlborough for $4 for the
night. The local shop seemed a bit like a ‘local’ shop for ‘local’
people, if you know what I mean. We met Rob and Lynda who were keen
riders and called in to their place in the morning before we set off.
It was then a run south through Rockhampton and left at Miriam Vale
until we arrived where we are in the town of 1770. Nice spot but the
sandflies are a bit friendly. We are going for a dive on the Barrier
Reef on Friday. As for the lowlifes, I’m a firm believer in ‘What goes
around comes around’ and I hope it comes around in spades for the
I can’t wait for this bloody drought to be over so we can get warm
and dry. Seriously though, I think somehow this joke about me and Kate
being rain gods has gone too far. We’d actually said to people further
north of here, here being Rainbow Beach just south of Fraser Island,
when they told us how much Brisbane and the south east of Queensland
needed rain that they shouldn’t panic and to keep an eye on the news
because we’d be down there and we’d sort it out.
Sort it out! Holy shit! Try the most rain in 24hrs in August
anywhere and anywhen in Australia. 713mm or 28 1/2 in. in the old money
in 24 hrs. Unbelievable and a bit scary.
Anyway, going back to when we were in the town of 1770 we had a
great trip out to Lady Musgrave Island which is part of the
southern-most part of the Great Barrier Reef.
Kate walked the island while I scuba dived the outer wall of the reef. Very nice but not as colourful or as many different species of marine life as you’d see further north. Kate was lucky as conditions were as near to perfect as you get on the open water. We saw turtles, whales and a huge pod of dolphins near the island.
You can actually sail into the coral atoll through a channel that
was blasted in by some aussies in WW2. Up until the 60’s they used to
stock the outer-lying islands with goats for shipwrecked sailors to
survive on. Since they got rid of the goats the vegetation has exploded
on the islands.
After leaving 1770 we headed down through Childers and Bundaberg and
on to Hervey (pronounced Harvey) Bay. We jagged another spot right on
the beach with our little camping rig. Sort of reminded me a bit of
Busselton. This is another gateway to Fraser Island but is a longer
ferry trip than from Rainbow Beach. Had a bit of luck in a second-hand
bookshop. I managed to find a copy of Streetbike No2 which I have been
looking for along with No1 for years. I’m missing No3 because some
bastard, Des, borrowed it and never returned it.
For those not in the know it was a magazine on home-built special
bikes edited by Geoff Seddon in the early nineties and it was brilliant
before someone else took over and custom motorcycle then meant changing
the fuel mapping chip and adding after-market exhaust pipes. Speaking
of bikes ours have been going well. The biggest problem now is keeping
the rust of the aftermarket chrome parts (rack, driving lights etc.).
The factory Kawasaki chrome is holding up well in the wet weather we’ve experienced. Kate went out on a whale-watching tour while we were in Hervey Bay while I just chilled reading those old mags. I’d seen enough whales when I was a deckie on a fishing boat. When she got back she reckoned it was pretty rough and didn’t get as close as the promotional pictures showed.
From Hervey Bay we headed down to Rainbow Beach in the rain with the
plan of getting a 4WD and heading over to Fraser Island for a few days
exploring and camping. It rained all the way there and was a bit
worried about the narrow flogged out road with water sitting in the
wheel tracks and a constant stream of semi-trailer and overwidth trucks
coming at us. It was a bit hairy.
We were lucky in that Kate had booked a cheap cabin with no dunny or
shower as we wanted to keep the camper dry when we stored it during our
Fraser Is trip. Then it came. Rain like you wouldn’t believe for about
three and half days. Nice case of cabin fever during that time and
there was water everywhere. Luckily the park we were in had good
Then we saw on the news how a couple of locals had the shit scared
out of them by being confronted with a group of Indonesians carrying
assault rifles. Turned out they were the crew of an Indonesian naval
ship the Arung Samudera that had been wrecked on Rainbow Beach during
the storm. The ship was a three master sailing ship heading for Sydney.
The sails had been shredded and the diesel motor had failed and they
were washed ashore during the storm.
Kate and I hiked out to the wreck yesterday to have a look. It
looked like a pirate ship from a distance especially in the sea mist.
The keel has been broken and there is still a big swell running.
Fraser Island is still closed so we won’t know if we’ll go there
tomorrow or if we’ll go south to Coollum Beach. That’s if the roads are
open again yet through Gympie. Never a dull moment, eh? I’m still
certain someone is having a lend of us with all these water
restrictions (can’t even wash your car in Qld.) and stories about the
drought. Conspiracy? Perhaps.
Anyway we missed out on going to Fraser Island because the storm
flogged hell out of it and many of the inland roads were still
underwater. We heard from the QPWS that some people had managed to get
across in spite of the closures. Two 4WDs had been lost to waves and
rivers and one bloke was thrilled to get back with his car after a big
wave on the washed out beach took his brand new boat off his trailer
and then threatened his whole rig. He managed to save the car and
trailer but his boat was lost.
So we left Rainbow Beach and the waters had only just come down enough to let us out. The water was just below all the bridges as we headed down through Gympie, which was actually having a big country music muster to raise money for drought affected farmers but was ironically flooded. It’s tough in the bush.
We headed down the highway to Coolum Beach. What a top little spot.
We managed a campsite overlooking the beach. From here we did day rides
to check out the area. Noosa was a bit of a let down. Lot of repairs
going on but seemed a bit like a playground for rich posers. From there
we headed for the hills via Eumundi, Kenilworth, and Maleny through
magic backroads onto some that would give a good rollercoaster a run
for its money to a beaut little place called Montville. The views were
incredible. A great ride.
When we eventually left Coolum and the first dry days we’d had for a
while we headed to Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo. This was a must on
Kate’s ‘to do’ list. I thought the $50 each entry was a tad on high
side. The Komodo Dragon scared the shit out of me. Big feral bastard
that was behind a glass panel. It was good as far a zoos go but I don’t
know about $50 worth because they still try and touch you up inside.
From there we headed to Brisbane through the, made for motorcycle,
winding backroads of Beerwah, Peachester behind the speccy Glasshouse
Mountains, Dayboro (bloody good bakery) and into peak hour, walking
pace traffic on steep urban streets-SHIT! I cooked the clutch on the
bike in this bloody traffic and am noticing a bit of slippage now when
I get up it (might have to replace the plates soon).
Kate and I rode out across the Mt Glorious road, a famous Brisbane
bike road, to the Wivenhoe Dam. What a ride. Kate’s brain went into
meltdown after it from having to concentrate so much. Lots of bikes on
the road. It would be worth flying over just to hire a bike and ride
these roads, they are that good.
We decided to take a back way to the Gold Coast and went down the
Lindsey Hwy then east over Mt Tamborine, another very popular biker’s
haunt, fantastic ride. At one of the pubs up the top of Mt Tamborine
there must have been about 200 bikes of various makes in the carpark.
We headed down to Nerang then up into the mountains again to
Springbrook to see the waterfalls and the ‘The Best of All’ lookout
where you walked with 2000 year old Antarctic Beech trees and looked
out over an ancient caldera (volcano crater) into northern NSW. It was
cold so we backtracked down the mountain and headed south along the
This wound down through a beautiful mountain valley into NSW. We
could see Mount Warning, so named because sailors used it as a guide
for the mainland and it is the highest easternmost mountain therefore
the first part of Australia to be lit up at sunrise. We ended up
camping at the Murwillumbah showgrounds for $15.
We packed up and put on our wet weather gear as we headed into the
Nightcap Mountains to Nimbin. Over the years I’d heard a lot of stories
about Nimbin. Many seemed farfetched and exaggerated. They weren’t. It
was raining as we pulled into this psychedelic wonderland of wacky
baccy. The murals looked fantastic and the locals looked like something
out of a Woodstock poster. As I removed my helmet I was hit by a
powerful waft of dope smoke. Surely not, even Amsterdam wasn’t like
Turned out we’d parked in front of the hemp embassy which is next to the Hemp Bar. Walking around the town and politely refusing offers of ‘marijuana’, ‘smoke’ and local herbs we found the Rainbow Cafe that does old fashioned home made chips.
Kate got a photo under the 10ft hemp tree they had growing out the
back of the cafe in their garden. I was left wondering ‘Where the hell
am I?’ The town has its own police station but we didn’t see them. I
think ‘alternative lifestyle’ in Nimbin means you don’t smoke dope and
you have a job. We spent a week there that afternoon.
In actual fact we spent a few days there as it was pissing rain most
of the time, one night the winds were that strong they blew our bikes
over. A few more scratches and a bent brake lever was the only damage.
The surrounding Nightcap Mountains are beautiful and it was a great
experience to see for ourselves this legendary area. We dressed on the
Thursday morning ready to leave ‘The Disneyland of Dope’ in the rain
and head south to Evan’s Head (60km south of Byron Bay) via Lismore.
It continued to rain until it stopped for a bit on Friday. To illustrate how pathetic we were we got excited on the Saturday when we saw a dry bit of concrete. From here we explored the surrounding area. Byron Bay was a beautiful spot with some nice beaches but has long ago lost that small town appeal and is another poser place.
The happiest chap we saw was the parking inspector who was tearing
off bits of paper faster than someone who’d had a dodgy curry. AND
there was a traffic jam for about 3km of cars still trying to get in as
we were leaving. You can stick that.
We cruised up to Mullumbimby and Minyon Falls through some more
magic roads then down through Bangalow and called in to Lennox Head.
Yesterday we rode up to a place called ‘The Channon’ because Kate
wanted to check out the ‘Mega hippy Market’ to tell the truth I’m all
marketed out but it was a nice ride up there. Kate reckoned they
weren’t as good as the Denmark markets. Today the sun is out and the
rain has stopped, it’s bloody beautiful and I’m in shorts for the first
time in a while.
We’d been carrying this little gas heater for the camper all the way
up into the Territory and hadn’t used it once. So in Katherine in a bid
to reduce weight in the trailer we posted some gear home, the heater in
amongst other things. Then came the rain and we’re talking record
levels of rain and cold temperatures whereever we went culminating in
the 28 inches in 24 hrs up near Fraser Is.
It was then we thought it might be a good idea for Kate’s sister to
send it back to us. It finally caught up with us as we were leaving
Evan’s Head. It was spooky the way the weather came good and the sun
came out after that. Even if we don’t use it on the trip home we’ll
keep it with us for its magical ability of keeping the rain away. Weird
We rolled south out of Evan’s Head after changing the tyre on the
trailer. One of the trailer tyres had a strange wear pattern, so I put
our spare on that was the same as the tyre that was wearing much
better, a ‘Duro’.