I managed to meet up with Cleve at the Bowen River Rodeo. He plays a good tune on the squeezebox. It made for a few great nights in the historic Bowen River Hotel.
8km before the Bowen River Hotel, Strathmore homestead lies on the left hand side.
It was there I first called in and was warmly welcomed by friends of Sally & Paul, the owners.
The beautiful old homestead has been a little neglected so there is a massive job in scraping off paint, sand-papering and repainting (so if anyone out there is interested, let me know and I’ll get you in touch with Paul & Sally)
When I told them about my plan of following the bicentennial trail along the Burdekin dam I was told this is impossible.
I don’t like these words. But the fact is that water flows over the dam and the road below. It makes trying to get across similar to suicide. Not a good idea. I was a little disappointed but I had the whole weekend to come up with a new idea (most likely to get back to Collinsville and follow the highway either on the coast, or inland)
I had decided to have a look at the rodeo now I got here.
I scraped a little paint of the old homestead together with Jed,
who’s been here doing this for 10 weeks! I got a blister on my hands after a few hours…. But Sally gave me a ticket for the rodeo and I got to borrow a swag to camp out on the grounds.
Not many use a tent here in Australia. A swag is the way to go. Especially on a rodeo. I have never quiet understood it, because you sleep open under the stars, wich is great untill a snake or spider crawls in with you… But the swag I borrowed had some mesh, so I didn’t have that problem.
Or so I thought.
Untill I crawled in early on the sunday morning and got a mean bite from some sort of spider. I never saw it, but it wasn’t a deadly one. So that’s lucky.
It did hurt for a while.
The morning it all started the cattle was taken from the yards at the homestead to the rodeo grounds, a tricky business. With so many people around it’s easy to spook them and have them running in the wrong direction. It did happen, but the cowboys soon had them under control again.
There was campdrafting.
A unique Australian sport where the rider has to control one beast out of a herd and run it through a course within a certain time.
Rope and Tie,
Of course bull riding, the most dangerous of all rodeo events.
And Saddle Bronc riding.
I still think them guys are mad. But even kids as young as 6 are keen to give it a go, so there were bucking calves for the young ones.
Family and friends cheered from the side lines.
Not everybody made it to the grounds,
but everybody seemed to have a great time.
I gave my camera a proper workout (to see all my pictures of the Bowen River Rodeo click on this link)
When it was time to make tracks Paul mentioned he had rung Greg.
Greg & Anna live on a property just down the track. Right on the river. Greg could get me across in a tinny, Paul told me. I set off, but not before I was decked out with a 2 way radio, and the channels for the stations on the way (19, 21 & 29). He didn’t want me to get in any trouble and there is no cell phone reception out that way.
It didn’t take me long to cycle the track up to Strathalbyn. Where I spent a day looking around as Anna,
with her two year old on her lap and a rifle on the dashboard,
(can’t learn young enough, what do we do with the roo?…. “BANG!!!“)
showed me her backyard.
We visited the yards where her little men knew exactly what to do and how things worked.
They weren’t slightly fazed by walking through a pen with a big mean bull in it. Those big powerful animals still frighten me when I get to close…
Greg, James and Liam were busy branding,
dehorning and castrating young bulls.
In this case it pays to be female…
I though getting across the river in a tinny involved me riding down to the crocodile infested Burdekin river, throw my bicycle in the little boat, and go to the other side.
It was slightly more complicated.
To get to the boat we had to follow the banks for a while. The soft sand is very hard to push my bike through. Liam & Greg came up with the fabulous idea to put my bike on the quad.
It worked, I got across the river where a sign let me know there was no crossing.
But there was
Across the river the landscape was totally different. From being in the scrub to manicured cane fields where Eric was just attending to his vegetable garden.
After moving to Australia from Italy in 1954 he found his way to this part of Queensland where he has been farming cane ever since. The farm is now run by his two sons and Eric and his wife moved into the new house recently, he told me. It was in 1976.
I met Harry a few months ago in New Zealand, where we kept bumping into each other since I go at about the same speed. (his Enfield keeps breaking down)
A text message told me he was in the area so we met up at the Imperial hotel in Ravenswood where the pizza was a million times better than the one we shared last time. You can see how he’s doing on his mission to get around the world on vegetable oil on his blog.
It wasn’t too late in the day I called into the Mingela pub for a coke before heading up the track to find a nice campspot. Over half the population of Mingela was gathered in the pub.
The population is 10.
Countless beers, stories and one marriage proposal later the sun had long gone down and I was offered a bed in Doug’s (70) camper van.
In the morning a massive road train had pulled up for breakfast.
When I mentioned I’m on my way to Mount Isa he told me to Jump in! Very helpful, but I wasn’t looking for a lift. I’m going up the cape first and then ride my bike towards Mount Isa… He shook his head in disbelieve and went along his way. Another 12 hours at least for him to get there on the direct road. Another 2 months, at least, for me. (On a not so direct road)
I took a little detour of the trail to stop of in Greenvale to visit the three rivers hotel.
A song Stan Coster wrote, made famous by Slim Dusty. I was sad to find out this isn’t actually the place the song is written about. Still the beer tasted just as good.
Because of the detour I had to get across the Burdekin river again.
But this far inland it’s a lot smaller. And there are no crocodiles. I was told.
It didn’t go as smooth as I had planned.
I tried to push my bike through, not counting on the really sharp rocks on the bottom cutting into my feet. Not counting on the river being a little deeper, and the current being a little faster than it looked like from the side.
I got about halfway when the bike got stuck against a rock with water flowing strong on both sides.
I was shaking with the effort it took me to keep it all upright. I considered my options.
It was not all too likely any traffic was going to come through any time soon so I decided to push through and hope I got to the other side.
The current picked up my bike immediately and as I held on tight we all went a few meters down the stream. By this stage I didn’t care everything got wet. I just didn’t want to let go and see all my gear disappear.
I struggled to pull the lot up the other side and miraculously my camera stayed dry this time. Everything else was soaking though so I waited for the sun to dry things out while I sat down for an hour or two.
Not too long after I was overtaken by a car, Mel just got home from work and offered me to chuck my gear in her dryer for a little while.
With a job in town, and three kids she is a busy lady. This is Tara, her youngest.
They live in a gorgeous spot on the hill overlooking the lagoon. A great spot except when you get a cyclone coming over, as happened last year when they had to sit through cyclone Yasi in the bathroom. It took three days before anybody could get through to them and Mick, Mel’s husband is still busy clearing up trees and broken fences.
Before I rode off they warned me that I will have to cross the Burdikan one more time.
Not to keen on repeating my ordeal I took all my gear off the bike and carried it across piece by piece. The crossing was nowhere near as hard as the first one. There was no current to speak off.
Mel mention she would give the next property a ring, letting them know I was on my way. I didn’t know how far it was. But just as the sun set I noticed a house through the trees.
Ben was there all by himself. He looks after the place while the owners are away.
Ben likes dirt bikes and pig hunting.
He also cooks up a pretty good feed which was lucky for me.
I got back into hillier terrain as I got further up the track.
Just as the sun was setting and I tried peddling hard to get to the crater lake I’ve been told about, a man at a gate asked how I was going. “Slowly!” Is my usual reply. As it turned out Graham has been living happily on a hill with a view and his horses for many years. Back in the day he was a jockey,
But after breaking just about every bone in his body after a massive fall he’s happy training racehorses on his property here on the tablelands.
He also makes a mean curry
I admired some giant trees on the way into town.
The longest downhill ride I’ve had in Australia took me to the bright lights of Cairns.
Where they must’ve been expecting me…