Terra Australis - 2nd Leg
MAREEBA - LONGREACH • 1237k 6,131Vm
Day 7 sees our virtual ride heading south east to Central Queensland and the city of Longreach the western most point of the Terra Australis route.
The first six days for the Cape York - Mareeba Leg are detailed in the previous Blog.
NOTE: While the current Covid19 travel restrictions remain in place I have put Terra Australis entries on hold until it becomes clear that the event can proceed. I have every expectation that this will be the case however for the time being I'm happy to receive Expressions of Interest [EOI] by email and send out the Course Notes and .gpx file for all or any particular Leg of interest to prospective entrants.
DAY 7 MAREEBA - LYND RIVER 250k 1540Vm
Our 2018 Terra Australis finisher Brendan Corbin is currently the one confirmed starter for the Mareeba - Longreach leg. Another two have lodged an EOI and are well underway planning their ride. Brendan reports he has a new Salsa Cutthroat he’s prepping for the ride. These riders will head out on Saturday morning 6 September so effectively 24H ahead of this virtual Day 7 seven ride. Someone to chase, some tracks to follow….
For most riders Mareeba will be a chance to resupply for staples, get some laundry done and maybe a bike service. The journey ahead travels through some very remote country with days of open sky, mid to high 30º+ temps and conversations with the local cattle.
The other near certainty will be some easterly breeze on the shoulder and with some decent paved roads there’s expectation of knocking over some decent K’s for the day. From the get-go it’s Mango country, this is a rich food basin watered by the Mareeba Dimbulah 176-km gravity-fed main channel which takes water from the Tinaroo Dam through Mareeba, Walkamin, East Barron, Mutchilba and Dimbulah. Our race route follows the water channel for much of the distance out to Dimbulah…. and it flows in the direction we’re going. Filling a bottle isn’t a problem.
From Dimbulah the route links across to a rickety rail line with attendant service track that the historical Savannahlander train from Cairns does a weekly trip out to Forsayth and back. It’s something of a mystery how this is achieved taking account of the condition of the track/sleepers and timber trestle bridge crossings.
At the 100k mark the rail trail pops out on to the Burke Development Road, with 72k of pavement through to Chillagoe. Almarden conveniently halfway along with a Pub offers a cold drink and water popup. Chillagoe has a couple of Pubs and a counter meal might be the go to fuel the tank for the road south. At Chillagoe the road swings south on the Bolwarra Road.
The first 20-30k can be a bit chopped up by tourist traffic visiting the local caves. Hopefully if it’s had a grader over since the wet season it will improve further on and the endless creek gully dips can be hit with enough speed to get up and onwards to the next one without loosing too much momentum and speed.
At 200k there are some stock yards and a big dam …. riders need to have a thoroughly well planned cue sheet identifying these water opps right the way through to Longreach.
At 225k the twinkling lights from the Bolwarra Homestead will pass on the night riders left. Another 25k and our target distance of 250k will be achieved for the day … maybe midnight? Sleep will come easy on this barmy night under a million stars. Tomorrow the Lynd River freestyle crossing will be first up after breakfast.
Thanks to Penny McClymont, Bolwarra Station for the pics.
DAY 8 LYND RIVER - FORSAYTH 210k 1350Vm
Riding late into the night yesterday to achieve our 250k target has strategically left us 20k from the Lynd River for our crossing at first light.
Up and away in darkness, dawn will be breaking as we arrive at the point where our gps trace leaves the formed road and heads in a random line through the scrub. No point in looking for a track because there is none. Bush bash your way around a few low rises and you’ll arrive at the Lynd River which in this dry season is a massive sand bed. On the far bank a large billabong, knee deep lies across the apparent race route. It’s freestyle, wade across, have a swim, go around.
The opposite bank presents as an impenetrable scrub barrier … no invitations there! It’s pick your own poison again …. the volume of water that flows through these rivers each wet season ensures that there’s a massive amount of debris collected. Along the river banks fallen trees, logs, sand bars accumulate and it’s wish and hope you can drag yourself and bike around and over to negotiate a way through. Best option is to try and find a cattle pad that has a semblance of a path down to the water and is heading back inland roughly in the direction of the gps trace.
Once clear of this challenge the country opens up and it’s possible to get your bearings from the large oval clay pan [25k] that is clearly visible on satellite images. From here the gps trace is on a more accurate alignment to what was once a known track. It is now barely discernible but as you pick your way along over fallen branches and encroaching scrub, pick up a cattle pad and some progress unfolds. Eventually there’s the odd opportunity to get back on the bike and after 2-3k there’s enough clear line to keep riding. An hour or two will have slipped by with this little adventure.
The gps route now generally follows a track thats had a dozer blade over it a few years back. Dodge around multiple erosion gullies and you will arrive at a gate that leads into the Bullaringa NP. There is no public access to Bulleringa National Park however that hasn’t deterred NP’s constructing a network of well formed roads and fire trails …. plenty of wild horses and cattle for company otherwise it’s enjoy the scenery and solitude, refill from a freshwater billabong at 49k on the way across.
At 62k you exit Bulleringa into the VanLee Station. Footy and Leanne Prior are your hosts and offer a welcome water re-fill from their front gate shortly after crossing the enormous Einasleigh River at 92k. The tracks across VanLee are mostly two track dam access tracks with some off the bike sand sections. The odd bit that’s had some love from Footy’s grader. Plenty of dams and tanks along the way …. it will be high 30’s so keep an eye on your hydration.
From the VanLee Homestead it’s back on to formed shire roads [as always grader dependent] passed Dagworth Station at 112k and onwards to Georgetown at 170k just after you have crossed another giant river this time the Etheridge River.
The Georgetown Ampol Servo has an excellent cafe, well stocked mini mart and does a good coffee. It’s 6:30pm closing weekdays ….. possible from today’s start otherwise it’s the pub for an evening meal.
Back on the bike after a refuel it’s 40k of pavement all the way to the turn down to Gilberton Station. Forsayth is left, 1k off route, hosts an excellent Pub meal and combined General Store….. maybe a shower and bed?
There’s been some slow riding through the day and 210k will be a job well done. It’s a tough undulating route south to Gilberton Station…. early night, early rise.
DAY 9 FORSAYTH - GILBERTON STATION 143k 1400Vm
Rob and Lyn French were instrumental in encouraging me to bring the race route down from Chillagoe, Georgetown and Forsayth to support these small communities and on through their cattle station which also operates as Gilberton Outback Retreat for some drought proofing … most retreat guests get shuttled in on a chopper … Terra Australis riders are at the other end of the spend spectrum and I dare say appearance spectrum …. arriving hot, dry, beaten to a pulp by the punishing ride down from Forsayth.
That said all rider needs are attended to … cold drinks on arrival, laundry, shower, bed, dinner, breakfast if required and a bundle of food to get riders down to Hughenden the next re-supply town 320k down the race route.
All of the country down from Chillagoe through to Hughenden has had two mighty consecutive wet seasons and will be in stunning condition for this years ride with bountiful native grasses up to your ears and plenty of fat cattle along the way.... even the Roos are fat!
Heading out from Forsayth as dawn breaks is a vision splendid in the early morning light … this is one of the most memorable days down the Terra Australis race route, stunning landscape, challenging riding through a hundred gully drops with little ups to punch out the other side … your knees will remind you of this escapade tomorrow.
In spite of the remoteness in this part of Queensland there are some busy little eco tourism operators and two of them along the race route … Cobold Gorge and Agate Creek fossicking will pass by on the way to Gilberton. It will be hot but there are plenty of dams and cattle troughs to be discovered for a dunk and drink along the way. A closer look at the route profile and you will notice it aint flat …. with a decent 16% climb at 105k.
At 140k it’s a relitavetly short day however the hospitality, shower, laundry makes it an essential overnight stop! Plan accordingly….