Recalibrating my goals: Longreach to Boulia - A treadling Hyohakusha - CycleBlaze

June 24, 2017

Recalibrating my goals: Longreach to Boulia

Longreach to Boulia
550 km

In reaching Longreach I achieved my first goal. So Stage I is finished and I've made it this far so it's time to recalibrate my goals. Stage II is Longreach to Boulia - The Outback.

From Longreach to Winton is about 185 km, with nothing much between here and there. There is a dinosaur footprints site about 100 km out of Winton, which I may or may not have a look at. There is also a national park about 40km out of Winton, which I may or may not stay at. And my package should be waiting for me in Winton...

If I take my time getting there, Boulia has the camel races from the 14th to 16th of July. So I guess I have some incentive to go slow. I don't need much incentive to go slow. If I go slow enough Andrew and Bella may even catch up to me ;-)

From Winton to Boulia is another 365 km, of more or less the same wide open outback. I'll pass through Middleton and its iconic pub where I plan to have a beer and camp for the night. And I'll go past the ruins of the Min Min Hotel, home of the mysterious Min Min Lights, which I promise you oh faithful reader not to be carried away by. And I almost forgot the famous Winton Chicken Races.

Longreach sits on the Tropic of Capricorn. Crossing over into the tropics - it always has an impact. I'll be skirting along it from here to Alice.
Heart 0 Comment 0

To Winton

In Winton I am. I got here in two and a bit days. The ride across the plains was fairly flat and there wasn't much to look at apart from endless miles of dried out Mitchell grass (named after the Major, I think). It is all large cattle stations and fenced both sides of the road, so the only places to stop were the roadside rest spots for vehicles. And that turned out well...

I met a number of nice grey nomads at these stops and was given cups of coffee and biscuits (cookies for you N Americans) and had lots of good intelligent conversation. At one rest stop we were suddenly overtaken by a mob of camels being led by a mob of ferals, tatoos, plaited beards, ponytails, burnt brown suntans.... "Feral" is a term we use in WA to describe the bush hippies, remnant of a long lost era (a tribe some would say I once belonged to - or at least hung around the fringes of).

They had a good story to tell. At least one of them must have known something about camels. They went into the desert west of Boulia, located a mob of wild camels (really wild camels that had had no previous contact with humans), somehow managed to catch them (with the aid of a mustering helicopter and stock yards, and something about carefully and slowly chasing them in a counterclockwise direction of ever decreasing circles, but I think the mustering helicopter and the stock yards were the most important factor in the equation), quickly tamed them and were now walking them to the Queensland east coast. Just catching them is a great feat, let alone taming them enough to walk them 450 km along a busy two lane highway where I met them....

Which brings me to the next point. While talking to the head feral, he told me they had already lost their best camel, a massive white male. He told me they had alreay been contacted by rich arabs who were willing to pay $1 million for it. The tragedy happened early on the journey. It apparently spooked when a big roadtrain passed, it reared, broke its lead and then broke its neck. They had two males in the mob and decided to freight the other to the coast because white camels are rare and he was now possibly the last of that blood line. So the mob they were walking consisted of females and their young. There were about half a dozen calves (plural of young camels??) in the mix.

Walking camels 1000 km to the coast. I sincerely hope the rest of the mob gets there in one piece...
Heart 0 Comment 0

They still had at least another 600 km of increasingly busy highway to negotiate before they reached their final destination. I don't think anyone asked the camels if they thought it was a good idea.

They claimed to be doing it to raise awareness for a number of good causes (I forget which ones now), but had no specific information about them. I sure hope they make it to the coast without any further untoward incidents.

I spent three days in Winton and could have spent considerably longer. There is a surprising lot of stuff going on in this small town. Dinosaurs have put the town on the map. A local farmer found what looked like very big bones popping out of the soil in one of his paddocks one day. He had an inkling that they might be dinosaur bones and it didn't take long to confirm. That was about 17 years ago and they are finding new bones popping up in the black soil paddocks all of the time. They announced another significant find the day I arrived. I think all the local farmers are now regularly checking their properties to see if any more dinosaurs are coming to the surface. So far it's been Sauropods, big herbivours, and one mid size carnivour. The original farmer has created a non profit organisation and built a world class museum and research centre about 20 km out of town (Age of the Dinosaurs if you're interested in such things). It was impressive. There is also a dinosaur footprint site about 100 km south of town. It too was discovered by a local out looking for opals. The people of Winton knew about it, but kept it secret for about 10 years before the public found out.

I might have managed to get to the Age of Dinosaurs site on my bike (20 km one way) but never the second. I got lucky. At the caravan park I met a great family (mum, dad and teenage daughter - the Nisteds): they adopted me ;-) and I am a better man for it. Mum (Janet) was recovering from a dose of food poisoning, so it was dad (John) and daughter (Vivien) and me taking in the two sites over the next two days. They are heading onto Birdsville: there is a music festival there this week end.

John and daughter Vivien Nisted. Then adopted me for my stay in Winton.
Heart 0 Comment 0
Bushwalking at Dinosaur Footprint Park. Courtesy and copyright of Vivien Nisted.
Heart 0 Comment 0

My goodness - there is so much happening out here right now. Winton has three caravan parks, at least as many motels, two pubs and they fill up every night of the week with grey nomads and car travellers queued up for hours trying to find accommodation. The dry river bed has hundreds of grey nomads strung out along it, free camping. There is a film festival going on in town, too - with great films and guest speakers. This week end Birdsville has the music concert and in a week it's the camel races in Bedourie, followed by more camel races in Boulia the following week. And don't forget the nightly chicken races at the North Gregory Hotel.

What a hoot...

The nightly North Gregory Hotel Chicken Race. There was a $400 pot, split between the winner and the hotel, who donated their half to the RFDS.
Heart 0 Comment 0

Pedaling to Boulia

It was hard getting out of Winton at my usual 0900. I just kept meeting people and chatting. I spent an hour at the bakery talking to a guy about long distance cycling. I finally got out of town about 1000hrs, after mailing my bike lock to Alice Springs. It won't be needed between here and there. Camels don't steal bikes. Dingoes might, but their legs are too short to reach the pedals.
I had a fairly brisk quartering tail wind for most of the ride, so I did about 90 km in four hours. You can't beat that. The first 70 km were fairly boring - flat riding through dry mitchell grass country and fenced on both sides of the road. The next 20 were through "Jump Up" country - rolling flats with small tabletop mesas. The greygreen foilage and the red dirt mesas slowly unfolding before me as I rode along.

I ended up camping the night alongside a nomadic school teacher and his wife. They travel outback Queensland and NSW doing relief and short term teaching; apparently they can't get enough of them. They were excellent company for the evening.


Next morning the tailwind was still blowing (all praise to the cycle gods) and it was a pretty quick four hours of riding to tonight's camp spot, the Middleton Hotel. It dates back to the mid 1800s when it was a Cobb & Co stage stop. Nothing much has changed inside, even the owner looks like he's been there for the duration. You can camp in the dirt for free across the road from the hotel and get a great hot shower at the hotel for a gold coin ($2) donation to the Royal Flying Doctors. Passed another dingo strung up to a road sign today - they are doing it tough...

They shoot 'em and hang 'em from the road signs and fences. They are protected in the NT, 4 days ride from here.
Heart 0 Comment 0

I've got another 200 km left to Boulia.

In Boulia


I arrived here two days ago. It took two days (100 km per day) to get here. I didn't expect to do it so quickly, but I had tailwinds in the mornings and the cycling was just magic. I think maybe it was some of the best riding I have ever done, anywhere, fullstop. The afternoons were hard work though with temperatures in the low 30s and crosssing winds from the south that made the riding harder. But I could still plod along at 16+ kmh, so I can't really complain.

Sunset, Middleton Hotel.
Heart 1 Comment 0
The Hilton: opposite the Middleton Pub and my home for the night. No aircon, no tv, no pool, no charge.
Heart 0 Comment 0

The night and next morning at the Middleton Hotel was one of the most memorable stops I think I will have in a lifetime of cycling. Lester, his wife Val and their daughter (didn't get her name) are genuinely generous and pleasant people. Lester and his pub are famous in outback Australia, and deservedly so. Between Lester and the two opal miners staying there I was laughing and smiling the entire time until I left late the next morning. The hot shower was amazing and their bore water was sweet and odourless. I left about 1030 and popped out 100 km by the time I called it quits a few km west of the old MinMin Hotel site (yeah, another establishment that burnt to the ground). Fell soundly asleep under the stars watching the night sky.

That left 100 km to Boulia for the next day. I woke at 0500, in the dark; kicked over the coals of the campfire and got it going and had an early brekkie in the predawn dark. I was packed up and ready to go by 0730. And my goodness it was a beautiful day. Riding in the early morning light with cloud cover and a tailwind with the open plains for company - I can't describe how fantastic that ride was. 20 km into the ride I arrived at the Gladys Hasted rest stop. They had a free supply of great bore water and even a cold water shower. I filled up the bottles and shivered under the cold water shower. A great way to start a ride. I intended to do two short days, but the possible bush camp sites left a lot to be desired. The mid day flies and ants were ferociously territorial and drove me off. There were a couple of very good looking creekside campsites about 20 km out of town, but by then I figured what the heck, I'll finish the ride - another 100 km day. And that last 30 km were into the crosswind and it was warm (30+ degrees).

It was a good choice; the campground here is a great spot and they are only charging me $10 a night. I've been here two days now, reconnecting with family and friends and trying to organise my next big challenge: the desert ride to Alice Springs. It's about 800 km from Boulia to Alice, and at least 600 of that is dirt. There are no towns, no water points, no grocery stores to resupply, no mobile phone coverage - just the road through the desert.

Marine reptile fossil, Boulia Stonehouse Museum. This head is about 1.3 metres long. That eyeball is about the size of a tennis ball. Again: found by, excavated and donated to the museum by a local - these people are into dinosaurs.
Heart 0 Comment 0

Have faith my little reader, I will keep you posted, but it will be about 4 weeks, possibly more before I can update the ride journal

Photos will follow shortly, before I set off into the desert.

Stay tuned for the fun...

Rate this entry's writing Heart 3
Comment on this entry Comment 0