Miz Lizzie rides again… Mackay to Townsville

…and we’re on the road north.

After the stresses and strains of organising the motorbike club annual national rally, we’ve treated ourselves to a week off and a road trip north. For the next seven days, this is going to be home:

Many of you will recognise those quilts and curtains. I still have a job to do there, covering the seat cushions and backs instead of that horrid pink and blue splodgy print. It’s absolutely the worst kind of 1980s commercial upholstery fabric. Miz Lizzie herself is feeling quite rejuvenated these days. She’s a lady of mature years, but we’ve given her a new lease of life with a reinforced under-frame, new heavier springs and new, larger wheels. She sits a lot higher these days, and can handle much rougher terrain; after the first day’s travel we opened the door to find not a thing had shifted. Formerly we could expect to find at least a couple of things had fallen off shelves or out of cupboards or off the bunks. She’s also a lot easier to level when we park up, which save loads of time.

We’re in Rollingstone, just north of Townsville, for two nights. It has enabled me to take the overlocker (serger) in to the mechanic here to get the motor bearings fixed; I’ll pick it up on the way back down. We’ve had a lovely lunch out, revisited the view from Castle Hill in Townsville, and got some errands done. We’ve also enjoyed the local produce: freshly caught tiger prawns for a stir-fry and a just-picked pineapple for dessert. Tomorrow, we’re packing up again and heading another 400km further north, to the Atherton Tablelands of Far North Queensland. More photos from there. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with the afternoon view from the caravan window….

…and sunrise this morning, peeking over the edge of the mirror-smooth Coral Sea on an ebbing tide. High above, the day’s first flight from Cairns to Brisbane is just catching the light. Another day in paradise begins.

It’s hell, but someone has to do it.

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We’re on the road again

Miz Lizzie is packed, our schedule is planned and printed, and we’re off.

We’re heading north once again, into a fortnight of gastronomic indulgence, experimentation, and purchase. We’ll be staying at two caravan parks we haven’t tried before but which come highly recommended.

Part 1 of the trip is from Mackay to just north of Townsville, at Rollingstone, where the van park has absolute beach frontage. We’ll be there a couple of days. Part 2 is Rollingstone to Redlynch in the north of Cairns, right where the rainforest rolls down to touch the edge of the city. It’s not what we’d call a long trip. To put it in some context, it’s like driving from London to Inverness, or from the bottom of Florida to the top. It’s just far enough that we’re really on holiday, the scenery’s different and yet, it’s not an arduous journey when we have to turn for home. (And despite a recent news story from the US that left Australians giggling, yes, all that is definitely just one country, and by the way, only a bit smaller than yours… 🙂 )

I’ll be photographing, blogging, tasting, sampling, buying, eating, stitching, oohing and aahing. You’re welcome along for the ride. As always with our trips, there’ll be pictures and descriptions. We’re looking forward to it a lot as we’re both a bit tired and ready for a break. It’s been a while since we had a decent chunk of time off – May last year to be exact, when we went down to Nambucca Heads in northern NSW.

And because each road trip needs a sound track, here’s Miz Lizzie’s theme song:

Dizzy Miz Lizzie

(There’s a version with John Lennon and Eric Clapton performing this too, but I prefer the 1958 original)

Miz Lizzie Adventures: Waterfalls, Weather and Walsh’s Pyramid

We knew we were in for some rain today.

We were right. It’s been soggy on and off all day. But it didn’t stop us, and indeed, we decided to add still more water to the equation by doing the Waterfall Circuit, a 15km loop drive which takes in three of the Tableland’s more notable falls. Without further ado, then, I bring you Millaa Millaa Falls, Zillie Falls and Ellinjaa Falls.

millaa-millaa-falls zillie-falls ellinjaa-falls

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, the cloud and downpour got too heavy for us to enjoy the scenery, and we descended from the plateau down to sea level and into sunshine.

En route, we saw some pretty amazing evidence of just how fast and how heavily rain in the tropics can develop, as a thick roll of dark cloud built up out of nowhere above Mount Bartle Frere, teetered briefly at the top and then tipped itself over the edge. You can’t even see the top of the mountain, and it’s the highest in Queensland!

weather-1

Rolling down over the mountain top, having appeared out of a clear, innocent blue sky….

weather-2

… and dropping its load in a sheer curtain of water.  Ten paces from the cloud’s edge, the ground was dry!

On our way into Cairns for a bit of shopping and a bloody fine curry at our favourite Indian restaurant, we passed the peak which is the ‘gateway to Cairns’, known as Walsh’s Pyramid. Well, you can see why, can’t you?

walshs-pyramidThis remarkable peak is the location of one of the most gruelling mountain runs in the southern Hemisphere. It’s 922 metres or 3,025 feet high, and the run consists of 6 km (3.7 miles) of road and 6km of sheer mountain; up, and then down again at headlong speed. If you’re interested, you can go here to read the history, stats and records for the race. And why do they do it? Because it’s there….

We did a fair bit more than I’ve documented here, but it’ll have to wait for another day.

 

 

On the road again, part 1

So, Day 1 was 410kms/255 miles of solid highway riding with a few breaks to unkink.

That night, we rolled into our campsite at 5pm and were set up by 6pm, just in time to sit down to a well-deserved drink.

townsville-camp

Next day, we’d arranged to meet up in the morning with another Kate, of Manic Mumdays blogging fame. I really enjoy meeting fellow bloggers, and Kate was no exception. She’s the 5th blogging friend I’ve met in person, and I find the experience is just as rewarding each time. Half the fun is in meeting people life would never turn up otherwise 🙂

with-manic-mum-kate

Townsville was scorching hot that day, as you can see from the photos below. The first is an image I’ve stitched together from two photos. Townsville is on Rose Bay, and the city is dominated by Castle Hill, a volcanic plug nearly 300m/984ft high. You reach it by a winding road which is bliss to all motorbike riders, and the view from the top is spectacular. Out there in the bay is Magnetic Island, so called because it sends all compasses wild; they point to it, instead of magnetic north.

magnetic-island-from-castle-hill

After Castle Hill, we headed out of town to Mt Stuart, another mini mountain 0f nearly 600m/1,960ft high, reached by a wonderful winding road. This one has TV and radio transmitters on the top, and provides very much the same view as Castle Hill, but higher, wilder and further inland. In the foreground, you see Laverack Barracks, then the Bruce Highway heading north, then the city, then Castle Hill and finally, Rose Bay and Magnetic Island.

rose-bay-from-mt-stuart

The next morning, we were up early, packed up and were away by 9am. But that’s a story for another day!

A mixed bag

Well, we’re home, in one piece and already planning the next trip.

The journey home was, um, interesting… We got soaked through to the skin in the early part of the journey, between Innisfail and Cardwell, when the heavens opened and the rain was so heavy we could scarcely see the road. Miss Scarlett didn’t let us down and carried us safely through. It was the only part of the trip where I was actually cold! We soon dried…

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 10.44.37 am

Hot, but safe…

The previous day was wonderful, but again underlined the lesson that riding at sea level between midday and 3pm is asking for sauna conditions inside ones’ bike gear. Up on the Atherton Tableland, where it’s a good 5ÂșC cooler than down on the coast, it was a little easier, but sadly we had to come down some time! We went back for another visit to an old favourite, Mt Uncle Distillery, where they make award winning rum and gin, and have a banana plantation producing organic green banana flour. I bought a kilo to give it a go, but it’s a bit too pricey to use often

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 11.36.31 amIn case you were wondering (and I think you probably weren’t), my hands were not idle during the evenings. I’ve finished all the fillers and flowers for the left hand middle section of Worldwide Friends, and now just have to sew them all together, attach the new bit to the bottom of the left side, and then all three large pieces are ready to join. After that I have the two long thin strips for the full width of the top and bottom, and then the front is finished apart from a bit of embroidery. And then, it’s onwards and upwards with the back, poetry and all!

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 11.36.10 amA spot of gentle fabric shopping this morning has scored me a bunch of fat quarters for the start of the queensize quilt I’m making my brother’s eldest daughter as a wedding present. She’s getting hitched in the summer, and knows this won’t be ready in time, but is happy to be getting it at all! I think it’s going to be lovely. More details once I’ve cleared the decks a bit and can start planning, cutting and laying out on the design wall.

And I think it only fair to blow the whistle on the Husband of Chiconia, who achieves his half century birthday tomorrow. He has no blog for me to hijack, but will be suitably sheepish if I announce it here!

Miss Scarlett Goes for a Ride

Something a bit different from my usual offering of sewing, gardening, cooking and photography. Well, ok, maybe a bit of photography.

Miss Scarlett Thunderbolt is on her shake-down trip.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 5.02.02 pmIt’s about 800km/500miles from home in Mackay to Cairns. We did that trip on Tuesday. It took 12 hours, a fair bit longer than we expected, but we underestimated how physically demanding such a long trip is, and we needed to take more breaks than we would in a car.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 5.03.41 pmYesterday, we did about 300km/186miles, part of which was the 19km/11miles of steep uphill climb up the very, very winding Gillies range, containing just over 360 bends. Motorbike heaven… Today, we’re taking the Captain Cook Highway north past Port Douglas, turning west inland and up the range on the Mulligan Highway, back south on the Atherton Tableland to Mareeba and Kuranda, and then back down the winding Kuranda range and into Cairns.

On Friday, we do the return journey to Mackay. This time, we’ll be starting really, really early so that we’re in the home stretch when the temperature is at its hottest in the early afternoon.

We’ve learned a few things along the way about the bike, and doing trips of this sort.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 5.04.09 pm Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 5.04.36 pmThe first thing is that Miss Scarlett can handle anything we throw at her. Fast, slow, steep or curly, she’s happy and tells us so, singing a growly song of joy along the highways and back roads. She looks after us very well.

The second thing is that we really shouldn’t be doing trips like this at the hottest time of the year. On the journey up here on Tuesday, the temperature reached 39ÂșC/102ÂșF. We were wearing jeans, boots, gloves, helmets and armoured jackets. Bonkers…

The third thing is that it’s perfectly possible to pack and carry everything we needed for 4 days away in her two panniers and one large top box, with a small shoulder bag each. And that included camera, laptop, phones, chargers, toolkit and spares, compressor and tyre repair kit.

Finally, although we have comfortable seats with air cushions on top, we need to get off and walk around every couple of hours just to let the blood return to our numb bums! It’s not backs or legs or hips that get sore, just our bottom bones…

We’re planning a longer and further trip in March, when we’re attending the national rally of the Australian ST Owner’s Club in Toowoomba. That’s about 1200km/750miles, plus we’ll be going down to visit my sister and friends in NSW first, so it’ll be even further!

Who knew it was all going to be so much fun…?