Day 68 (1 July) – After a bit of a sleep-in and the usual non-ride day relaxed breakfast, we noticed the rain of yesterday and last night seems to have moved on and the clouds were breaking up…phew! Caroline joined the queue for the laundry giving her an excuse to talk to the other ladies about the ride and the fundraising. A number of folks shared stories of husbands or other family members with prostate cancer and the importance of getting checked. Then… the power went off – all over town. Uh oh, our sheets were stuck, soaking wet in the washing machine. With the power due to be out till 3pm, we moved on to food stocktake and compiling our shopping list. Hayley took the opportunity to go for a run – training for her next event in August. The power returned on-schedule and the machine picked up where it left off, allowing Caroline to get everything through an on the line / in the dryer before dinner – lucky we have tomorrow here as well to get it all dry. Caroline took the opportunity to cook for a change and filled us up with chilli beef with beans and cornbread.
Day 69 – Having today also in Thargomindah, we started with an early walk around town in the thick fog and then along the lovely walking track that winds beside the Bulloo River to Pelican Point – a local picnic spot and swimming hole. Swinging past the Foodworks we grabbed extra bacon for a pancake, bacon and egg brunch on the BBQ at the caravan park camp kitchen.
The fog hung around till after 10am, finally clearing to give our washing and our camp a chance to dry out. Win and Russell, other travellers from Sydney whom we had met previously, popped by to say farewell as they set off. As it turns out, they know some friends of ours (Nathan & Bridgitte) in Sydney – Wow, what a small world!! Hayley and I then cleaned all the bikes, lubed chains, repaired the two flat mountain bike tyres we’ve been ignoring and swapped Caroline’s gravel bike to the wheels with road tires. Meanwhile, Caroline finished selecting pictures and uploading the last blog and getting some rare rest day rest! We finished the day packing away as many of the awnings, etc. as we could while they were dry. I don’t remember what we had for dinner, but no doubt I ate too much (part of me still seems to think I’m burning 5500 calories a day on the bike)!
Day 70 – Wow, the dew sure settled last night – anything outside was dripping wet!! This meant we couldn’t get going as early as we liked while we waited for things to dry as much as possible before packing up. Eventually, Caroline rolled out of town while Hayley and I sniffed out another coffee and snapped some pics of the large, very cool wall murals. The café at the information centre was closed (it was the weekend after all), so on to the roadhouse where we also scored one of the delicious slabs of fruitcake my brother Russell had brought back previously. I found out that they come from the bakery in Cunnamulla and of they are very popular!! Something else to look forward to when we get there – a bakery full of yummy treats!
Well, Caroline landed the rare trifecta today – smooth road, clear skies (e.g. warm) and no headwind – Woohoo!! Should have bought a lotto ticket… oh wait – not even Telstra mobile reaches this far out of town. Not a lot along this road till Hayley went off the edge of the bitumen to let a vehicle past and created a pair of deep wheel tracks in the not so obvious soft ground – we had mud flying off the tires and thudding under the car for several kms, oops!
After all the flat country, we arrived at the carpark for Lake Bindegolly National Park – a string of saltwater and freshwater lakes that form after good rain. The lake is the largest and most permanent in this area and is home to a number of rare plants in the delicate lakeside vegetation, as well providing a feeding and breeding ground for thousands of waterbirds. We stopped beside the highway next to the letterbox for Dynevor Downs station for lunch. Hayley headed off for a 5km run beside the road, which she fairly described as “pretty boring” and soon enough we were underway again. We crossed a creek called “Cry Woman Creek” – which seemed appropriate, and later “Capsize Creek” – also appropriate – among the numerous floodway and small creeks that litter this flat countryside. Caroline made the most of rested legs and good conditions to wrap up 118km for the day, putting us about 10km west of Eulo. Hayley practiced her newly acquired skills of following wheel tracks off the road and cross country to park up in a pleasant little nook among the trees for tonight’s camp. I ‘leftied’ out a firepit with the shovel to make Captain Matt proud and we set about warming up with the piles of firewood around us and some of the lumps we’ve been carrying since the fella’s split them for us back at the Dig tree. I mixed up a damper and popped it in some coals wrapped in alfoil so we had garlic bread to go with our dinner of Spaghetti Bol. I’d like to think using alfoil showed a bit more campfire prowess than brother Russell’s camp oven method…. But we may have to leave that to a future bake off!!
Day 71 – Happy 4th of July Caroline!! A freezing cold start with the thermometer dropping to -2.7°C while my cold fingers got the coffee and porridge underway. Fortunately, the coals from last nights’ fire were still hot and everyone enjoyed thawing out a bit while sipping their morning brew as the sun came up.
Caroline was hoping for another trifecta, but managed about 2.5 with only slight wind for part of the day. Her morning was brightened by a collection of cheery waves from passing cars and with the forecast predicting fairly quick riding conditions, meaning an early arrival into Cunnamulla, thoughts turned to the bakery and hot pies!
Getting close to town the phone’s sprung to life and a quick google showed the bakery was closed on Sundays (today) – noooo!! Having passed a number of billboards for Cunnamulla Camel Burgers from the Cunnamulla Coffee Shop, we called ahead to make sure we had time to get our order in before it closed too. With the lunchtime rush underway, we enjoyed relaxing in the park across the road while waiting for our burgers.
Pulling into the Cunnamulla Tourist Park by early afternoon gave us plenty of time to set up. Hayley went for a run to suss out town and what pub options we had for dinner. After a longer than normal hot shower to wash out the road grime, we were all rugged up to stroll off for dinner. Lucky we walked, not ‘cause we drink much, but because the dinner at the Hotel Cunnamulla was deliciously large – we may have to head back to Cunnamulla just for another pub meal! While we had set out in search of a steak and chips, we were very glad not to find any and instead the lamb shanks and sticky pork belly was awesome value for money!
Day 72 – With a short ride today to Charlotte Plains, there was no need to rush out from under the warm doonah. So after a 7am sleep-in, on went the coffee pot and the morning pack-up routine ticked along. Before leaving town Hayley and I had to get to the IGA, butcher and bakery for some supplies, so Caroline headed for the bakery to get a coffee. As Caroline manoeuvred her bike to a safe place, a lovely couple – Graeme & Jen – enquired about the ride and after a short chat shouted Caroline her coffee and a lamington! With supplies packed into fridges, freezer and our pantry, one last stop for fuel and we set off east on the Balonne Highway.
A short 33kms later, we reached the turn to Charlotte Plains Station and loaded Caroline’s bike for the dirt track drive in. After a brief stop at the homestead, we continued the 8kms to the bore and rather busy camping area; then set about finding somewhere not too close to others, but not too far from the hot baths and the toilets. Once lunch was sorted, it was on with the swimmers and over to relax in the hot artesian water. Not sure if boardies, Ugg’s and a down jacket is acceptable to wear anywhere else; but it is here, so when in Rome… While the water leaves the bore at 42°C, it cools a bit in the pipes and in the bore drain to a very pleasant temperature for a soak. The sandy bottom bore drain (like a small canal) is popular with the kids – there’re even some kayaks to play on. Meanwhile, the adults tend to soak in the numerous bathtubs, often with a coffee or wine in one hand. The water is quite hot – so hydration is essential!! With muscles soaked and bodies relaxed, it was time to dry off and slip on the Ugg’s and for Caroline to relax a bit, while Hayley and I contemplated dinner prep and the remaining camp setup.
Day 73 – Hayley decided an early morning bath was in order, so we all strolled over to the tubs with hot coffees in hand. While Caroline and I stayed snug in warm clothes, Hayley bravely changed to swimmers and sank into the freshly filled hot bath. Lovely pictures of steam coming off the water with the sunrise in the background amid the morning peace with just a few other campers and birds for company. Sadly, this was interrupted by a low flying drone – too close to people and completely inconsiderate of the morning mood. I get it – the video / pics would have been awesome, but the time and place was not. I’ve left my drone in the box numerous times for these reasons.
Anyway, once the coffee was empty, it was back to finish breaky and break camp. This took a while as we scraped, brushed and flicked as many of the prickles and thorns of everything as we could before packing things away. We had discovered last night while chatting to the neighbour that there was a 5km track back to the highway, saving us a lot of time meandering across the farm. So, we returned to the highway and headed west to where we had turned off yesterday, unloaded the bike and Caroline rolled out from where she left off. All up we enjoyed our short visit to Charlotte Plains, but felt like it was missing out on a great opportunity. No doubt running a place this size and a campground with just 2 people is a big ask – but the camping/visitor component at least seems to be tired and short of its potential. The countryside has changed quite a lot over the last couple days, with a lot more trees and grass. We had a road train of cotton pass us and there are sheep in the paddocks. Caroline rolled through 51km feeling a little tired till we broke for lunch on the side of the road. Sitting in the warm car, a nap for Caroline, while Hayley and I worked on our step count beside the road. Soon after taking off again, a group of goats ran across in front of Caroline – one white, one black and a little brown baby one – cute. The afternoon rolled along for another 50km to a stock route camp near a waterhole. It looked quite pleasant till we discovered just how many thorns there were on the ground. Nevertheless, it was away from the road, had plenty of firewood and a nice flat spot to sit while we waited for the beef curry to cook. It took a while, but at least it was delicious in the end.
Day 74 – Another sub-zero morning with a solid frost on the car and trailer. After breakfast, Hayley applied some treatment to Caroline’s back with the Theragun to easy some tightness. Once things had mostly dried out, we were finally underway. A couple fellas driving past gave us a few laughs as they exclaimed over the UHF radio, “What the F*** is she doing riding way out here? She’s a long way from nowhere!”, followed by some quicks number calcs on the distance from Cunnamulla and on to St. George.
Light wind made for good time along the straight, almost flat, highway for 55km to a lunch stop in the lovely little town of Bollon. Not much here, but a pretty park on the banks of Wallam Creek was a nice backdrop while eating our sandwiches and banana bread. I ventured to the little Café for some coffees and the cheery lady told me it has been quite busy lately… “I don’t know where all these caravans come from or go to, but they just keep coming”, she said. So great that many rural towns have received a boost in tourist traffic as Aussies get out to explore the country. While we were munching, some grey nomads stopped to ask about the ride and gave a donation to the charities. They said they had heard about us somewhere and thought it may have been on Macca’s show on ABC radio – but couldn’t really remember. Anyway, I pinged a message off to Macca and a couple other places to see if they might be interested in more of the story. Heading off after lunch with a 100+km day in her sights, Caroline surprised a couple of emus beside the road as we passed the turn for Bollon-Dirranbandi road and we kept clocking off k’s heading east.
We passed a number of farm gates and stock water points before the ‘blue signs’ started. So far on our travels we are used to seeing a blue sign with 5km to a rest stop. But this time it was “10km”, “6km”, “5km” with symbols for toilets and picnic tables, “2km”, “500m” and finally some nice new bitumen off the side of the road. After such a long ‘sales pitch’ it turns out the toilets are some way from being finished, though the picnic table was there. Maybe the sign guys over-achieved on their delivery date, or the toilet construction team is dragging the chain (haha). Either way, we found a nice flat spot back in the trees. With 113km for the day done, we assembled a campfire and decided there were enough leftovers in the fridge to have an easy dinner by just reheating them in the pot. Then we remembered the Sara Lee box in the freezer and found room to fit in some berry cheesecake for dessert. Hayley and I will no doubt need to walk it off tomorrow!
Day 75 (8th July) – We got going a bit quicker than yesterday. While the daily routine doesn’t change much, it’s generally all pretty low stress as we go through the pack up routine and get underway – though some mornings seem a bit smoother than others. After yesterdays solid effort, Caroline only has 55’ish kms to St George today, and we are all wondering what delight we will find for lunch! However, the sky was overcast and rain is forecast later today. Caroline set off and in no time the dot on our digital map was moving across the tablet screen and rapidly closing the gap to town. It was still AM when we jumped out of the car to get a photo or two as Caroline crossed the Weir over the Balonne River and rode down the main street of St George.
We parked in St George and headed off to explore the cafe’s we could see across the road. The second one was busy, looked interesting and turned out to have some yummy food and good coffee for lunch. Then we went around the block and pulled in at Kamarooka Tourist Park to set up for out 2 nights in town. The BOM was pretty spot on today and sure enough the rain arrived just in time to spoil Happy Hour around the fire in the park and we battened down for a wet night.