β€œIt always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent.” 
― Dave Barry

I opened my eyes, it was to early to begin my trip to Carnarvon Gorge, so why was I awake? At first, one then two in quick succession. Now it was a continuous melody of heavy splattering of giant rain drops on my tent, or it was a famed Drop Bear pissing on my fly. Either way I didn’t want to put my head out of the tent. It was day eight or at least it would be in about three hours when the sun started to come up. If you want to know how I got here, read my blog post https://digitalswaggie.com.au/?p=2134

On one side was a small rock face, on the other about a metre from the edge of the tent was a 300 metre drop off the side of a cliff. This was the beginning of my, now “Regional” motorcycle tour of Queensland.

I will ride around Carnarvon Gorge National Park and head to the centre of cattle grazing country, but not just yet. I close my eyes and listen to the rain and wind as it batters my tent. I’m grateful that I secured the tent and fly to all the available trees and rocks. There are seven stakes in the tent base, but all seemed to be holding nicely.

This is the first time I am grateful for picking a four season tent with a Nylon fly. When stretched tight the fly acts to strengthen the tent and I feel quite secure, all seemed well and I drifted back to sleep.

Carnarvon Gorge and Cattle Grazing Country. My tent looking out over 
Springsure.
Camping on a cliff overlooking the Central Queensland town of Springsure.

Stealth Camping

When I finally managed to get out of bed, I wondered half awake to the the edge of the cliff and looked down the shear 300 metre drop, for a second it didn’t register and then it hit me. You know how you get that feeling that runs like electricity up your back and out through your head, when your standing at a handrail on a veranda of a large building? It’s strange how it can wake you up from you leisurely slumber, instantly.

Shit I said to my self, well it was more like f&%k*ng holy duck s*it, that was close. I edged back from the cliff and sidled around my tent until I found my chair, table and cooking gear. Which luckily had be stowed in the back vestibule.

Carnarvon Gorge and overlooking Springsure. Day Seven motorcycle tour of Outback Queensland
Finding a camp site above Springsure Central Queensland

Finding a camp site

Yesterday, I decided to turn into the Minerva Hills National Park to see if I could find a suitable camp site. Unfortunately, the national park had no camping signs at the entrance. So this meant I needed to find a secluded place somewhere “else” to camp. Now I’m not saying I broke the law. Because ever since the death of that poor swaggie at the Combo Waterhole, I’ve been conscious to stay on the side of local law enforcement.

Anyway, there was nothing but rocky road, dirt tracks, dry grass and uneven surfaces, nowhere to really set up a tent. Then when I felt this was not going to happen I had found a flat surface hidden from view on the edge of a cliff. Which may or may not have been in the National Park?

It was too late to go somewhere else so I unpacked my gear, put the camo cover over Emu and set up my tent in the least conspicuous area. It just happened, the only place flat enough was on the edge of a cliff. It’s at these times I wish I had a small bike swag which has a low profile and can be easily rolled out under a table.

Carnarvon Gorge and stealth camping
This is a view of my camp site when stealth camping. At night time you wouldn’t see Emu under his cover.

Cattle Country

I was well and truely in cattle country now. Central Queensland has the perfect climate for grazing. As I travel south the more cattle trucks I encountered on the road. These trucks usually contain six decks, that’s an upper and lower deck attached to the prime mover and two double decker “dogs” or trailers. My trip today would be to Carnarvon gorge and a cattle grazing property that backs onto the gorge.

Carnarvon Gorge and Road Train
Four Deck Cattle truck/Road Train. This small truck moves cattle from properties around Carnarvon Gorge to abattoirs in Rockhampton or Roma. I have seen trucks like these with five dogs attached in the Gulf Country. But as this was “Regional” Queensland there are limits on their size.

Hitting the road again

The sun was well and truely up by the time I had packed and managed to get back on the road. I was amazed how rough the tracks in this area were and I had an interesting time manuring Emu out of his rock enclosed parking lot. As I rode back down the rough track, I encountered numerous Kangaroos and Wallabies.

A part from cattle, Central Queensland has lots of wild life from kangaroos to dingoes, foxes, pigs, snakes, brolgas, emus and lizards of all sorts. This is not to mention some of the other awesome bird life. Passing about 20 roos I made a mental note that I would have to be extra vigilant on my ride today.

The track to Springsure and Carnarvon Gorge
Back on the track out of my rocky camp site. Emu needs a good wash and some much anticipated maintenance.

A familiar ride

Once I got down the escarpment to Springsure I was in a very familiar area. I’m lucky enough to have a beautiful wife who grew up in this area and who’s parents and brother own and run a cattle property. I am heading there for the next couple of days to catch up with them and to have a small respite from travel.

I’ve been looking forward to this for a few days now, their cattle grazing property backs onto the Carnarvon Gorge national park and has a small creek that runs through the middle of the property. It will give me an opportunity to take Emu out on some single tracks and ride through a number of river crossings to see how he performs.

It had been over 300 kilometres from Tambo, up the Wilderness Way and into Springsure, so I had to find a petrol station. The BP on the way out of Springsure also offers hot coffee and nutritional highway food. So I grabbed a coffee, pie and chips. Yep, I can hear you now……meal of champions and adventure riders. What else would you eat when there’s no bakery in town.

Black soil roads

What makes this great cattle country, are the black soil plains, unfortunately it also makes the roads twist and buckle.

Springsure has an interesting early history. It was initially surveyed by Ludwig Leichhardt in 1845 who identified the rich black clay soil and abundant water from the Comet River. There was a rush to settle in 1859 and it was gazzetted as a town in 1863.

A sorry state of affairs

Springsure is noted for being the site of one of the biggest massacres of white people by an aboriginal group in Australian history. The aboriginal Kairi warriors attached and killed 19 settlers in a place called Cullin-la-ringo.

It’s not surprising conflict broke out in this area. In the first instance, there was a complete disregard for land rights on the part of early European settlement. Secondly, there was an equal disregard for the concept of property ownership on part of the aboriginal groups in the area, believing they could help themselves to stock.

We can’t condone either of these practices, but its hard to believe that the aboriginals just saw a sheep or a cow, which they hadn’t come across in 45,000 years and assumed it was just another native animal. This is a bit naive in any language.

If you got sent to a penal colony on the other side of the world for stealing a loaf of bread, what would happen if you stole 300 head of sheep?

Modern de-colonial discourse would have you believe that the conflict was all one way, to a large extent right was in the hands of those who had the guns. But there are many examples where aboriginal peoples stole cattle and sheep or killed small groups of settlers.

In this case it is reputed that aboriginal warriors stole 300 head of sheep. It was also believed that aboriginal “Native” police were committing rape and other atrocities on the aboriginal community as well and the settlers turned a blind eye. No side was innocent in this sorry state of affairs. It was a tough time for all, let’s move on.

Mount Carnarvon and Carnarvon Gorge
Mount Carnarvon looking East.

Going with the flow of the land

The ride out of Springsure is some of the best riding I’ve done so far. Riding out of town and up onto the ridge overlooking Springsure, it’s not long before you’re riding down the range and through a lush valley and sand stone escarpments. Once at the bottom, the land flattens out and turns to black clay soil and large lots of highly productive grazing land, it seems endless and goes on for as far as the eye can see.

About half way to the nearest town you ride across the Rolleston Mine rail bridge before going over the incredibly bumpy road that skirts the Comet River overflow. In a car this road is torturous as it is full of up jumps and bumps, but on a bike its actually quite a pleasant ride. The long travel springs and off road shocks taking the bumps in their stride.

Eventually you come to a tee intersection, turning left you drive into the small town of Rolleston, turning right you make your way towards Carnarvon Gorge and Injure. I take the right turn and drive for about 40 kilometres before turning right again to go down the dirt Rewan Road.

Riding through cattle stations

This is another familiar road, by the time I get here I know I’m not far from my destination. Instinctively, I relax and enjoy the ride, its a road I’ve driven thousands of times and I know every cattle grid and sweeping corner. Although I also know this is probably the worst time to relax on a bike.

The road is sandy and pitted with pot holes. Cattle are everywhere, and roos are thick and fast. I have hit a number of roos on this road in the past. Lucky for me I have a bull bar on my Ute, not so lucky for the roo of course. I’m feeling more vulnerable now as I take it slower than I usually would, my eyes are scanning like one of the Cylons from the movie Battle Star Galactica.

It’s not long before the towering sandstone monolith of Mount Carnarvon comes into view. This is the eastern boundary of my in-laws cattle property. I am especially vigilant on this section as I believe my father in law is secretly breading Kangaroos, there seems to be more in this area than any other part of the Carnarvon Gorge, coincidence. I think not.

Carnarvon Gorge house grid
The road up to the house with the bull dozer just before the last grid.

Working cattle property

This region is blessed with some of the most stunning scenery in Queensland, there is a massive amount of biodiversity in the area. I’ve talked to people who have never been this far out into the regions and I always get the same response. “Oh the farmers don’t care about the environment” “They just kill the land, knock down trees and cause global warming” but nothing I have seen can be further from the truth, sure land has been cleared in the past, but if it hadn’t many people would go hungry today.

Watering dam with a numerous different birds, some migratory, Ducks, Pelicans and Black Swans.

The biodiversity in the region puts the average suburban city to shame, not to mention the number of cars that spend most of their morning and afternoon pumping out carbon monoxide while waiting at traffic lights. Much of the commentary is misdirected. Graziers and land holders have a vested interest having a health property. it is an absolute must if you want to run a profitable business out here.

Biodiversity is everywhere in the bush

As I rode into my parents in law property I was greeted by numerous (pet) Kangaroos, a giant lizard and in the distance a dad Emu and five babies. As I got closer to the house there were about ten White Cockatoos in the grain feeding trough and another fifty in the nearby tree (Cockatoo Tree), and as I rode on a flock of green buggies wheeled around and settled on the side of one of the dams.

One of my father in laws pet wallabies and her joey.

It was the middle of winter and by the time I got to the creek that runs through the property the sun was starting to go down. I would have time to catch up with the family and put Emu to bed in one of the machinery sheds. It was a strange feeling riding past the cattle yards and into the main housing area. I hadn’t ridden my bike here before and very rarely was I here by myself.

Cockatoos feeding from the grain feeder in the bull paddock.

But for now it was time to break out another bottle of red wine and enjoy the company of family on the sweeping veranda looking out over the bull paddock. There is something sublime about the rural areas in Australia, the golden orange sunsets and the cry of Cockatoos.

Tomorrow I pull the gear off of Emu, wash him, change the oil filter and give the chain a good lubrication. Then I’ll go for a ride up the back of the property and explore some creek crossings.

I hope you enjoyed this story. Please leave a comments and safe travels…………….Digital Swaggie:)

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Gary is a travel writer, educator, training specialist and part time adventurer. When not paddling rivers, diving on the Great Barrier Reef or riding down some dusty outback track on his trusted KLR650 "Emu" he likes to explore historical areas and look for the back story.

6 comments

  1. I love your writing style, Gary – you are a great story teller. As an educator myself, I’m impressed with your punctuation too.

    1. Hi Nat

      Thanks for your comments, punctuation and grammar are not my strong points. I have to work hard in this area and sometimes things don’t exactly come out as intended. It’s great to be able to write stories that people like to read. I often say about adventure riding, it’s not the destination but the journey and writing stories is the same for me. I welcome as much feedback as I can get, it alway helps. Cheers Gary

  2. Great blog. I was planning a bike camp trip next week into Expedition NP from Taroom but with all the recent rain have postponed for a few months. CQSB awesome country. I could spend a month exploring in happy solitude.

    1. Thanks John, it is amazing country. I’m also trying to organise a small trip through Burdekin dam and up the coast. But the wet is causing some issues.Look forward to seeing some photos of the national park. Cheers

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