Rob 'n BOB on the BNT

Toowoomba, Qld - 9 January 2004

Astounding that it has been a full month since my last update, but for various reasons I haven't been able to get on to the web ever since.  I hit Biggenden on christmas eve and the library was about to close, just allowing me time to check mail, but not enough to send any.  Then Kilkivan and Nanango, same thing, on New Year's eve, and their libraries remained closed till Jan 5, and then a few days ago in Blackbutt I was able to read e-mail, but for some reason unable to send any.  Now I am in Toowoomba, a 100,000+ town west of Brisbane, and a few more amenities than all the small communities I keep passing through.

It's tough when so much time has passed since the previous installment, because where to begin, without getting into an exceedingly long and boring tale!  Perhaps I'll keep it a bit more generic, with here and there some detail where warranted.  I've passed through a lot of little mining towns, Mt. Morgan being one of them, not long after Rockhampton.  I checked into a caravan park and had just pitched my tent, when it started to pour and what shows up?  John and BOB from DarwinAnother BOB trailer - this one with a little Aussie flag!  John, a bloke from Darwin, had bicycled from Darwin to Adalaide, via Alice and back also inland through Dubbo and on his way to Rocky.  Although he travelled mainroads, or at least paved roads exclusively, there was so much in comman that we just kept talking and talking.  I  should say: we had a good yarn!  His trailer, being on bitumen only, looked so new still, compared to my worn and torn specimen.  After Mt.Morgan I've been following old wagon roads, coach roads, and various other types of track.  The progression in the level of road was as follows: first an occasional track, which became a mailman's route, then wagon road, coach road, motor road, highway.  Not all roads of course make it through this full progression, and some fall into disrepair, or become 4WD tracks at best.  What the guidebooks describe as 4WD tracks can mean anything from a pretty good, wide gravel road, to almost undiscernable ruts in the ground, I guess it depends on who wrote the particular section description.  Kroombit TopsI haven't been plagued by too much mud, but one memorable section, just before reaching Kroombit Tops National Park, and there was no way of avoiding it or detouring around it - there were no other tracks.  I spent hours travelling a section of about 8 kms, which was regularly turned into sticky black mud.  Scrape, push,scrape, push,..........  It became the day from hell.  But then, I ended up at the residence of Neil Rideout, the trail coordinator for the Kroombit section and I was invited to stay, had a real bed to sleep in and other than eat a lot of their food and rest up a bit, I helped them a tiny little bit with some repairs on their fences and shuttling one of their vehicles when they all went out mustering cattle the following day.  Neil gave me detailed instructions also on how to get to detour the for bicycles near to impassible Kroombit Tops section, and as it turned out, I was now following the OLD National Horse Trail, which was a great trail that ended up in Cania Gorge, a beautiful valley, where I stayed at a very pleasant caravan park at the end of the road. 

Dave on hike at
        Cania GorgeThey have a bird feeding hour late in the afternoon which attracts hundreds of rainbow lorikeets, as well as king parrots and other birds, that come and eat right out out of your hands.  Very entertaining. I spent the next day hiking many of the short walks in the park, together with me mate, Dave, who was tenting not far from my site.  He's from Brisbane and plays in a band called "Life in Slippers", just working on their debut CD, and they'll probably be famous one day, and I can say that I hiked with their lead guitarist / vocalist! 

The track has lead me through a number of state forests and National Parks, all of guidebook #5 follows mostly good gravel tracks, and is therefore very popular with cyclists.  Apparently.  Not that I saw any.  In Mt. Perry I received my repaired mobile, apparently it needed a new battery.  Too bad that the warranty doesn't cover Australia.  Only in Canada, pity!  But good to be able to yak on the mobile again - it's so much more fun to talk to Gwen from the comforts of my campsite than from a payphone.  And occasionally, when on a high ridge, in the middle of nowhere, you may get a signal, and such I was able to call her on her birthday!

Burnett RiverSo far the most marvellous campsite I have stayed at was along the Burnett River.  Where the 4WD track crossed the river there was just room between the rocks to find a level spot for my tent.  This was the FIRST clear running river I've come across.  A river that flowed, and with clean, clear water to boot, what a treat!  When leaving Biggenden on Christmas Day, I saw my first echidna ...... dead, on the road, poor thing!  I hope that one day I'll see a live one or two.  When in Biggenden I bought some liqueur, called Kara Mia, a Aussie variation on Kahlua.  But it turned out to be virtually undrinkable, only by adding lots of "cream" (=extra strength full cream milk powder), was I able to work my way through the bottle over the next several days.  With the occaional variation with some added cinnamon or ginger it actually wasn't so bad.  Perhaps I should buy another bottle ...... NOT! 

christmas at Muskett FlatOn Christmas Day I rode into Musket Flat, a community, no a town (!) of 6 residences, and asked at one house if there was a place where I could pitch my tent in town.  Next thing, I had a supersized stubby in my hands, and was invited to put the tent in their yard, stay for lunch, dinner, and we drank punch all afternoon.  Richard and Ricki Birt, my generous hosts, had made 10 liters of fruit punch, and initially only Rich and I were drinking it.  The level didn't seem to go down much until some of the others started to help out.  We went swimming in the local pool - a cattle dam just behind their house. The kids seemed to greatly enjoy it, so I went for a refreshing swim in the mud as well, slipping through the slimy mud when entering and getting out again.  Next morning Richard prepared an egg and toast breakfast for me, and they would have liked me to stay another day or so, but I felt it was time to hit the trail again.  I'll never forget all the wonderful people I keep meeting during this adventure trip, it is really heartwarming. 

In Miva, another little community of a few houses only, I decided to camp at the little picnic area by the historic car and rail bridge, but when it started to pour and kept raining on and off all afternoon, I was quickly "rescued" by some locals who invited me over and have a real bed in the basement and a few beers and some tucker as well.  When I got to Kilkivan, I was close to the Murgon wine growing region, but it required a detour of 50km out and back again, and I decided against.  NanangoBefore the next little town, Nanango, I camped at the upper watershed of the Brisbane River, only a trickle at that point, but a beautiful little campsite, with a nice clean waterwhole.  The swimming wasn't great because of all the weeds in the water along the edges, but once you struggled through them it was nice and clear in the middle.  The next day is when I called home from atop a ridge, great fun!  In Nanango I celebrated new year's by going for dinner at the RSL, where I "splurged" on their special for the evening, beef satay for $7.50, with all you can pile on your plate veggie and salad bar.  If all their customers were of the bicycle touring variety they couldn't survive very long on help yourself salad bars, because the amount of food I take in seems to be ever growing and growing!  And where does it all go?  Same with all the water I drink during the day, some days I must drink 10 liters of water and other fluids (soup, tea) or more and there is no evidence of it at the other end!  In Nanango I treated myself to a couple of massages, first on new year's eve and a second one on my birthday.  My back has been hurting for weeks, since I overdid it by having to carry BOB across some creeks, and it isn't often that I hit a community of a size where they have a massage therapist!  The first was a regular massage, the second one a "Bowen" treatment, more an accupressure type of poking.  I think it's made a difference, although I'll have to be a little more watchful of the stress I put on my poor (old!) back. 

Emu GorgeFor my birthday dinner I went to the one and only local restaurant "Copper Country", just under new ownership, a Dutchman, who used to work at Harrison Hotsprings!  They have a tiny 3 acre vineyard, but their wines are actually made by Kingaroy Wines in Kingaroy.  Very good stuff, especially their Shiraz!  Big, full bodied, spicy, yummy.  Emu Gorge was one of my next stops, a State Forest camp, nested away in the bottom of Emu Creek valley, a STEEP descent into, and an equally steep climb out the next day.  But a beautiful spot it was, and well worth the extra sweat. 

I arrived in Withcott yesterday.  Was quite excited about it, not that there is much to Withcott, but that is where 5 years ago I started my first day ride on the BNT, and the start of my fascination with the trail and here I am again!  I had lunch at the pub, a few beers and rissoles (isn't that a much nicer name for meat balls!), then an icecream nextdoor and then on to the new official BNT camp just below Preston Peak Winery!  I am camped literally below the vineyard in a little wooded area beside the road and a well / spring a few hundred meters down a little track, where I can wash up and fetch water.  Jenny and I at Preston
        PeaksI met Jenny Rushbrook, one of the BNT Administrators, this morning at the winery, she arrived just after I had done a full tasting of all their wines. We had lunch together and HEAPS to talk about.  What a great pleasure to finally meet the person I've been e-mailing with for many months now!  She told me that I'm only the third person to camp at the new R.M. Williams Reserve so far - it has only been established since last spring, no, that is fall here!  After lunch Jenny drove me into Toowoomba, where I'm first getting this "off my chest", and then have to do many more errands.  A new pair of bicycle shoes are in order.  I don't know why I thought I'd go through four pairs of tires, but only one pair of shoes that I've worn for two years already!  A fair bit of "pushbiking" is done by pushing your bike here, so the soles are virtually done.  So far my equipment hasn't failed me.  Only two broken spoke nipples, a dozen or so punctures, and that's about it.  BOB has kept well too, no sign of fatigue in any of his joints yet.  Contrary to me old back!  The only thing I've chucked is my solar battery charger, it just wasn't reliably charging and since I've discovered that I can plug in much more oftern that I had anticipated, a regular battery charger is more useful.  Toowoomba is the HALFWAY POINT of the trail!  Yes, I am half way done, and Melbourne is all downhill from here, everybody tells me.  However, in time I'm not quite halfway, since the mountainous section is going to take longer than the previously relatively flat country.  It's been getting hillier all along, and my average number of kilometers per day is going down, I think, but I haven't really checked this carefully.  I have now ridden 3500 kms, of which 2700 official trail kms.  My third set of tires is waiting for me in Glen Innis, still a couple or so weeks away. 

Alright Mates, Hooroo again!  Hopefully, the next episode will be a little sooner again.

Rob 'n BOB

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