The long and dusty road
Monday, 15 Jan, 2018
Gladstone - St Helens
There wasn't much wind when we set off around 9:30 via the petrol station to pump up our tyres for a day of dirt road riding. Rob was there ordering a second breakfast and we had a brief chat before heading off.
We enjoyed a little more bitumen before the road turned to dirt after about 2 kilometres. The road wound through farmland before opening up and exposing us to quite strong southerly winds. It was a taste of what was to come as the wind picked up over the day.
The little river just outside Gladstone
Heading through the farm land
Sheep driven along the road
It was dusty riding, and we appreciated those vehicles that slowed down to pass us. One lady, who had passed us very slowly spoke to us on her way back as Jonno and I waited at the junction to Mount William National Park. She confirmed that there were toilets and picnic tables in Anson Bay, and gave us the helpful advice that we could take a dirt road out at the other end of town.
Along the dusty road
We headed down a steep hill into Anson Bay and found a spot for lunch. It was incredibly windy, and we had little protection from the wind. We had covered 30 kilometres, mostly dirt, with another 45 kilometres to look forward to.
The descent into Ansons Bay
The wind whipping up the chop on Ansons Bay
Our windy lunch stop
The dirt road out of Anson Bay was much more gentle than the road in, and quite protected from the wind so it was an easy climb out. Once back on the main road we had a stretch of bitumen downhill to a beautiful waterhole, then a long climb out. I wasn't prepared for the hill, having stopped to take photos, and ended up walking much of the hill. I walked the hill at much the same speed as Georgia and Simon, Jonno was long gone.
Through the waterhole after the smooth descent, now the climb out!
The early part of our afternoon ride was lovely, almost rainforest and then we rounded a corner and felt the full brunt of the wind. At times we rode into it, at times it pushed us sideways. It seemed to be everywhere but behind us. At times I was hunched over the handlebars to make myself as small as possible to minimise the impact of the wind.
We had a routine whereby Jonno would stop every 30 minutes, and then the rest of us would wander in 10 - 30 minutes later. It was good having a time target to aim for, and we would look forward to spotting the red panniers in the distance, knowing it would mean a brief rest from the bikes.
The little hamlet of Priory was the first sign of civilization marked on the map, and sould mark our return to bitumen. Our hopes were raised as we encountered our first bitumen for many kilometres only to lose it again a few hundred metres later. Our next sojourn on bitumen had a similar outcome, and it wasn't until we struck bitumen for the third time, and saw the sign on the other side of the road marking the beginning of gravel that we knew we were on the homeward stretch as Priory was 9 kilometres from St Helens.
We stopped at the side of the road for an apple, as there didn't appear to be much to the town of Priory. A check of the weather site showed that the winds were up to 35 km/hour, and from the south east. Hardly surprising that we had found the going so tough.
Back on the bikes for our last leg, we crossed a bridge and sighted a few houses. Then we were through Priory and heading to the highway.
A stop for an apple before the last slog into St Helens
The wind seemed even stronger as we entered the outskirts of St Helens and approached the coast. Jonno and I stopped off at the supermarket to buy supplies for a big breakfast tomorrow whilst Simon and Georgia headed to the campsite. They found a good spot, relatively protected from the wind.
I dropped our supplies into the camp kitchen which was heaving with people. The campsite was so busy, and it is possible that people were seeking protection from the wind by cooking indoors.
Once showered we headed out to Logan's Hot and Spicy restaurant, an Indian restaurant that was just 500 metres from the campsite. This meant we could leave the bikes behind. We had done around 73 kilometres, mostly on dirt. Enough for one day.