The reef is calling and I must go

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Mackay to Bloomsbury

I awakened Will with a breakfast fit for a King (King William of Cycles): almond muesli topped with chia seeds, apple pie, cheesecake and vanilla ice cream. We rode off happily along the Pioneer River and slowed our pace as we scanned the water looking out for crocodiles!

I ruined the day however, or at least my bike did, when I got the first flat tyre since we’ve been riding (it lasted about 8,000 kilometres – thank you Schawalbe!). This was no puncture, however, but the walls of the tyre had shredded. Will to the rescue, and he did a quick fix by patching up the wall of the tyre with cardboard to stop the inner tube popping out. Until we reached a bike shop, this would have to hold out!

Tyre shredded

Will discovered a slice of entertainment while on the bike: riding past a field of cows and ‘mooing’ at them. The cows would jolt their heads up in surprise with grass dangling from their mouths, hesitate for far too long and, once we had already cycled past them, they start to run clumsily, shunting the rest of the herd into action.

Their cumbersome over-reaction to Will’s ‘moo’ is made more comical when they don’t stop running; along the length of the field and then back through the forest, even up a very steep hill beyond the hedges.

Mackay to Bloomsbury cycle route Strava
Mackay to Bloomsbury cycle route 102.0km

Bloomsbury to Conway Beach

Our camping companions included a truckie who had the generator running all night, which wasn’t conducive for a good night’s sleep and some backpackers, who entertained us in the morning trying to shoo away a big hairy spider that was on the outside of their campervan, only for it to crawl inside through the window!

One of the great things about cycling off the highway is seeing how creative people are with their letter boxes:

Aussie microwave post box

Aussie washing machine post box

Post box emu

Even though today was a shorter day, our legs felt tired. Over rolling hills, we turned down a dirt track as wallabies scooted out of sight: we arrived at our WarmShowers host in their jungle retreat in a national park.

Conway national park

Will was happy because after wanting to learn celestial navigation, our host showed him how to find the Southern Cross; this has now become a ritual as soon the night comes, “Linds, Linds, south is that way”, as routine as brushing teeth before bed. Further intellectual gains included how to make cashew ice cream, how to electrocute yourself with a hand-held ‘massage’ device, how running on an empty beach with a dog is awesome (even if I lost the race each time), and that Aussie politics mirror those of the British.

Cedar Creek Falls
Cedar Creek Falls

We will remember our hosts in Conway Beach fondly – they were charming, caring, down-to-earth, and funny, with an inspiring passion for nature.

Bloomsbury to Conway Beach cycle route Strava
Bloomsbury to Conway Beach cycle route 74.2km

Conway Beach to Bowen

The wind pushed us 80km before our first stop – we couldn’t miss a coffee at the Big Mango. At the coast at Bowen, we were told that, if we’re lucky, we may be able to spot sea turtles – we didn’t waste any time pedalling to the end of the long jetty.


After 10 minutes of watching the ocean with fierce determination, I spotted our first sea turtle! A huge shell broke the surface of the water as it grabbed a breathe of fresh air. We were both so happy and surprised to see it, and now we looked even more intensely at the water to spot more. Soon our eyes adjusted to more dark shapes appearing from the depths, gulping in the fresh air and diving back down out of sight. There is a beauty about the ocean that could’ve kept us there for hours.

We did leave, eventually, extremely happy with our new encounter.

Cycle tourists

Tonight, we stayed with a couch surfer. A worn-looking manly lady-man. We reflected later that she had all the right intentions but perhaps lacked the conviction: a veggie who believed that the meat industry is filled with animal cruelty and artificial processing…She cooked us pasta…with salami. It was decided we eat outside, despite a distinct pong, and swarms of insects that flew around blindly, dive-bombed into the table and then get stuck lying on their backs, all arms flailing. Joining us for dinner was her ‘friend’ with mannerisms reminiscent of a Mr F Gump. He also seemed to have good intentions and speak of good values: family first, be humble and family first (again). He explained that he didn’t like to tell people how much he earned, or about his possessions. We all nodded in agreement: so modest. He continued to tell us how many houses he had, and where they all were, the large amount of money he earned, and how many boats he had. But he reminded us: he doesn’t tell people this.

Conway to Bowen cycle route Strava
Conway to Bowen cycle route 97.2km

Bowen to Ayr

Today was the meeting of travellers in the middle of nowhere: we joined an older gent in a VW camper who had previously cycled around Australia in 1991 and a German who was cycling south from Cairns to Brisbane. When we thought this was coincidence enough, along comes an astonishing lady with her dog and her cart. She is Tracey, who is taking 2 years to walk around Australia to promote awareness for mental health [OneWomanWandering].

One Woman Wandering

In the evening, we relaxed in luxury in our camping chairs in a lovely park before dinner. After showering under a tap, setting up camp and ready for bed, a big beam of light shone directly through the tent. “Come out with your hands up” – ok, they didn’t shout this, but it was the police, and they were here to move us on. Reluctantly, we re-packed our bags in the dark and dismantled our tent as quickly as possible amid a cloud of bloodthirsty mozzies. We cycled 1km down the road to a campsite the policeman helpfully directed us to. It was closed, and the sign outside stated ‘NO TENTS’. We could only laugh. Darkness had very much been established and the chance to find a wild camp would be difficult, so we cycled 10km up the highway to the next nearest rest area marked on our map. We pedalled quickly in fear of possible drunken Aussie drivers (it was a Friday night), and with so many bugs around it felt like it was raining, we kept our mouths tightly shut so that we avoided any unwanted dessert.

Bowen to Ayr cycle route Strava
Bowen to Ayr cycle route 126.0km

Ayr to Townsville

A pleasant yet unremarkable cycle to a remarkable house, designed and built by our hosts. The couple were lovely and made us feel relaxed and welcome, providing us with snorkel and goggles to enjoy their glorious lane-swimming pool. They and their house were filled with character and creativity, and we simply didn’t want to leave so soon…but today was the day we booked our scuba diving in Cairns: we were on a tight cycling schedule!


Ayr to Townsville cycle route Strava
Ayr to Townsville cycle route 78.4km

Townsville to TYTO Wetlands (Ingham)

After raving about the Driver Reviver supplying free coffee to the drivers who get exhausted pushing down on the pedal, only 1 out of the 6 we have passed have been open. Pfft. We later learned that they are in fact only open during school and public holidays. Boo. Today we cycled as far as TYTO Wetlands, which is a beautiful nature reserve.

TYTO wetlands

With the late afternoon sun setting over a lake, we joined the locals to listen to some live music in an amphitheatre, the first of the ‘Sunday sessions’.

TYTO Wetlands

Shoes and socks off, we set up our camping chairs and agreed it was the perfect end to a day of cycling…only to be exceeded when a lady who we had been speaking to earlier brought us homemade biscuits. A local reporter also took a photo of us for the local paper; probably noting our bicycle touring escapades, with the tagline: Mad dogs and Englishman.

Townsville to Ingham cycle route Strava
Townsville to Ingham cycle route 107.5km

Ingham to South Mission Beach

A nice climb to start the day with views over rivers and mangroves. It was hot and humid as we rode through tropical rainforests, but we were excited as there were many signs noting cassowaries were often seen around this area. Another climb, another climb, and after just another climb, we reached the home of our mountain biker host in his nature paradise, sat high on a hill. Not only did wallabies live in his garden, but also he had a family of four kookaburras that sat hungrily on the lamppost opposite the balcony. As our host often hand-feeds them, I was given a chance to earn their trust…and on my third attempt, patiently dangling a piece of raw chicken out, Mr Kookaburra stared deep into my eye, back to the tasty delight, and back to me.

Feeding a kookaburra

It was brilliant when he leapt forward, grabbed it, and dashed away back to the lamppost.

Ingham to Mission Beach cycle route Strava
Ingham to Mission Beach cycle route 122.8km

South Mission Beach to Innisfail

With grey skies and big grey clouds on the horizon over the sea, we left while there was a break in the rain. Following the advice of our host, we passed by a local playground…where he said we were likely to see (and he was right!)…a cassowary and his chick!

We cycled along a brilliant, winding coastal road to Bingil Bay, where the rainforest meets beach. The rain got heavier and we were soaked, but pleased we took the detour. We cycled through meadows and rolling hills, but the rain would not let up. We took shelter outside a library to brew a coffee when a friendly chirpy chap came to say hello. He revealed he was a WarmShowers host, and despite needing to pack for a 3-month trip to Europe, he welcomed us to stay. Will and I often make a toast to celebrate one good thing each day, and meeting our host and his wife were definitely today’s article. They were an amazing, inspirational couple with a passion for cycling and new adventure. Our host was also incredibly excited to show Will his camping gear, particularly the homemade camping stove he had perfected over the years.

Mission Beach to Innisfail cycle route Strava
Mission Beach to Innisfail cycle route 71.1km

Innisfail to Cairns

Toasted raisin bread is Will’s new favourite breakfast. Obviously, this is an incredibly important observation worthy of the blog.

With rain very likely again today, we cycled quickly to the Boulders – a beautiful, crocodile-free swimming spot.

The Boulders

We were also full of energy as our destination was Cairns…and the Great Barrier Reef. With diving booked for tomorrow, we were flying along the highway, through tropical rainforest. Nothing was going to put us down! Not even a dog that chased us at some speed barking frantically…and as we pedalled hard and fast to get away from it, we looked round to see that the dog had stopped suddenly…to have poo.

Hey, running does this to the best of us.

Innisfail to Cairns cycle route Strava
Innisfail to Cairns cycle route 108.0km

Posted by Lindsay

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