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July 2nd 2006
Published: August 7th 2006
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Running away from Brisbane 23-29/06/06

Up early and finish the packing, then try to eat breakfast; the YHA, which has 165 bed spaces, is incredibly poorly equipped and has the grand total of three spoons in the kitchen, ten mugs, about the same number of bowls but, oddly, hundreds of knives. Stupidly we are on the porage today as we need the fuel for cycling, so while Vernon cooks the breakfast I stand next to two people who are eating cereal (and selfishly using 67%!o(MISSING)f the hostel's spoon supply) and as soon as they have finished I get their spoons and bowls off them. Stopping only to perform the same trick on two tea drinkers, I race back into the kitchen with my booty, wash it, dry it and jealously guard it until the chef has completed his masterpiece.

Breakfast over we are on the bikes and heading north, we follow an on-road cycle route out of Brisbane, which keeps us off the busiest routes and takes us over a few ups and downs, they're not long enough to call hills, but they are very steep by Aussie standards. We head towards Caboolture on a back road which tries (and sometimes manages) to follow the railway, it is fairly narrow and has no shoulder, so although there is less traffic on it than on the Bruce Highway, the passing can be a bit hair-raising. As we get into Caboolture the road throws a final test at us in the shape of a nasty little uphill to a set of traffic lights, we struggle up it past the queueing traffic and are rewarded for our endeavours by a group of teenage girls in a people carrier cheering as we go by.

The evening is spent doing routine maintainance, replacing chains, oiling things and Vernon puts his new tyre on, to replace the other new one which got damaged on the way into Brisbane.

On the 24th we set off for Gympie, honestly believing we will make the distance before nightfall. Our ride takes us through the Glasshouse Mountains, a series of volcanic plugs rising from the plain. We keep stopping as one of us says "Ooooh, look, must get a photo", then a few metres down the road the other one does the same. We have found a road called the Old Gympie Road, which was superceded by another road a bit further east before the Bruce Highway was built. So effectively we are on the back road of a back road, there isn't much traffic and what there is is generally surprised to see us and tries to drive into the opposite ditch to avoid us. The only problem we have is that OGR is very corrugated, it goes up, then it goes down, then it goes up and down again, then to throw in a bit of spice it goes up, down and round a huge corner before a stop sign appears out of the blue. The brakes are beginning to smell a bit hot!
When we reach Palmwood we have to get onto the Bruce Highway and have two long hills to ride up, but they are the usual Aussie type hill and a pleasant change after some of the ones we have ridden up today, so we pick a lowish gear and twiddle up them with little effort. We reach Nambour as the sun is setting so we call it a day and agree that we'll reach Gympie tomorrow.

On the 25th we set off for Gympie and actually make it this time! As we leave the motel about 50 motorbikes ride down the road, mainly Harleys by the sound of them. We keep up with them as far as the lights (which are on red), then they blart off into the distance and peace is restored. We follow the old highway to Eumundi before getting back onto the Bruce for the rest of the day. The highway is single lane and has no shoulder so there are a few hairy moments and the hill climbing muscles are tested again as we near our destination. Gympie is a mining town and has the landscape to show for it, we roller coaster our way to the night's accommodation and spend a while checking the brakes, which are looking remarkably well considering the pounding they've had since Brisbane.

26th, the plan today is to get to Hervey Bay, which is 77 miles away; we receive the usual dire warnings about the mountains which stand in our way and are advised to go as far as Tin Can Bay (25 miles and 10 of them out of our way) instead. We're getting the hang of this by now and smile and nod as our informant warms to his theme, before cycling off to do our own thing. We are taking the back road through forestry land as far as Maryborough rather than getting back on the Bruce, it is quieter and hilly for the first 20 miles or so, then it becomes much flatter. We get overtaken by a lot of logging trucks which seem to be in two bits, the front is the cab and a short trailer and the back is another trailer, it all appears to be held together by the logs which lie between the two units. We even see an empty truck which has the rear trailer carried on the front trailer. They are big and make the road shake, but the drivers always give us room or, in the event that there's one coming each way and it's going to be a bit tight, the driver of the truck going our way gives a blast of the horn from a fair way back to warn us of his presence.
We ride into Maryborough at 3.30 pm and seek the advise of the information centre staff who tell us that the road to Hervey Bay is "rather" hilly and it will take us over two hours to get there. As the daylight goes by about 5.15 pm we decide to stop for the day and ride on tomorrow.

27th, It's a short ride today and we don't rush to get out of the motel, the owners tell us to put our bikes on the train and not to camp anywhere except in a caravan park and we will be killed on the road and there's a lot of maniacs out there you know. We smile and nod then ride off to Hervey Bay on an almost completely flat road, in 90 mins we are there. We book a tour of Fraser Island which leaves on Friday, so we have a couple of days to mooch around and do nothing much before we go. We are advised to ride along the beach-side cycle path, a 10 mile route with no traffic, sadly it does have pedestrians who, in the time honoured tradition of peds the world over, wander all over the cycle side of the path without looking for other path users and don't hear our bells and yells because of the ipods stuck in their ears or simply because

Sitting in an old gum tree (eyeing up our lunch)
they are not listening. Favourite is the guy who stands at the side of the path, looks straight at us, then steps out in front of us and stops there. We get back on the road, it's safer!

Fraser Island 30/06/06-02/07/06

Up early, put everything we're not taking with us in the locker room, the bikes are locked to the window bars and everything else is in a locker, then we get breakfast and wait for the bus to pick us up. The YHA is the last pick-up point and we're soon on the ferry and heading to the largest sand island in the world. Our group is 10 strong with an age range from 17 to retired, so quite a mixed bag then.
We drive through the rain forest from the ferry landing at Moon Point to Yidney Scrub where we get to stretch our legs with a short walk through the forest, then it's on to Lake Garawongera for a swim. The lake is rather acidic (pH 4.5) and leaves our skin and hair feeling very soft, it's also rather cold and while Chris and Richard (the young and reckless part of the group) dive straight in the rest of us do the "ooh, ooh, oooh, coooooold" bit before deciding it's okay really.
After lunch we drive to the east side of the island and play in Eli Creek for a while before heading on to the wreck of SS Maheno, which was driven aground in a typhoon after it had escaped from the tug which was towing it to Japan for scrap.
We reach camp by 5 pm and spend the evening chatting about this and that.

The next day we are driven to Indian Head, a rocky outcrop from which we watch whales, sharks, dolphins, rays and shoals of fish in the water below. We then drive further north to the Champagne Pools, a couple of rock pools where we swim as the waves break over the rocks. Next it's over to Wathumba on the west side of the island for lunch before a game of cricket on a sand bar in the Yeerall Creek with Steve, Sheila, Chris and Richard. Vern makes a fair attempt at playing the game and can even bowl a bit. I am rubbish, the couple of times I actually hit the ball it is caught easily; however my novelty bowling confuses everyone and has them all running around like mad trying to rescue the ball from wherever I have thrown it. In the end we vote Chris and Richard joint winners and agree not to nominate a loser!

Sunday, our final day on the island and we start with a drive south towards Lake Wabby, the lake is reached by walking over sand dunes, Vern and I decide to walk up to the view point, the rest of the group stays by the lake to swim and sunbathe. At the bottom of the hill is a sign indicating that there are toilets at the top, when we get there we can't find any further signs, so I wander off down the only obvious path for a few hundred metres before finding the toilets near a car park which is also unsigned. When I return to the viewpoint Vern is chatting to a couple of Victorians who are up north for the winter, the woman comments that in Queensland there are always signs at the beginning of routes and nowhere else, you just have to trust that you're still on the right track.

Later we drive to
Give me sand, lots of sand under starry skies above...Give me sand, lots of sand under starry skies above...Give me sand, lots of sand under starry skies above...

don't fence me in (with apologies to Cole Porter). The Lake Wabby sandblow - Fraser Island
Lake Allom to see the turtles there, they are rather shy, but swim up to us as long as we stay out of the water, if anybody jumps in they all scarper. We have been warned that we shouldn't feed them at all as certain foods can cause a nasty disease which shows as a green colouration on the shell and is fatal. A group of Aussies appear and one of the children throws some bread in, I tell her she shouldn't feed the turtles and she stomps off to her mum who backs me up, so it's kind of sad that one of the adults in the group then chucks some food into the lake and when the children yell at him for throwing bread in he tells them it's okay because it is biscuit crumbs. So that's okay then, because we all see queues of turtles down at the supermarket stocking up on biscuits - GRRRRR.

We head back to the ferry and finally see a dingo on the beach by the ferry landing, Greg (the guide) has been promising them all weekend so it's good to finally see one. Back to the mainland as the sun sets, we are dropped off at the YHA, rescue our bags and bikes from the locker room, sort dinner and have a few beers while watching the Tour de France, hopefully we'll be there next year watching it for real.

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