“Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass: it’s about learning how to ride in the rain!”
― Anonymous

Sitting looking out at the sun rising over the water at Clairview, I was contemplating today’s ride. At sometime I would be back on the dirt and riding through rural properties. There was something relaxing about riding on the dirt, it’s a different adventure to that of riding up the coast roads.

It’s five in the morning and not only am I wide wide awake but I’m waiting for the sun to rise. The coffee in my hand is starting to work it wonders and I feel alive and ready for the ride ahead. 

It had been windy all night and for the first time I had put all the guy ropes on my tent. The beauty of a Nylon overfly is that it stretches around the tent poles making a geometrically tough structure. This is why four season and adventure tents use Nylon flies. It didn’t move all night even though the wind was blowing hard. 

Early morning, time to get back on the dirt

It’s day 23 of my motorcycle tour of Queensland, yesterday I had made it to the Clairview Beach Caravan Park. If you want to know how I got here read my blog Day 22 of my motorcycle tour of Queensland

Plenty of different camping grounds to pitch your tent makes this one of the best paid camp sites I have been too. Not too many rules and camp where you like. I’m looking forward to getting back on the dirt tomorrow.

Where to camp?

There were plenty of camping sites to chose from at the Clairview Beach Caravan Park. Most people took advantage of the beach strip to get the best view of the ocean. I found a site next to a couple who were traveling in their van. We enjoyed a red wine together as they shared their pasta meal with me.

The benefits of riding solo is people seem to gravitate to the individual. It’s much easier to start and hold a conversation if you are by yourself. I have found the hospitality of fellow travellers blows me away, you could meet the same people in the middle of the city and not even share eye contact.

Back on the dirt camping at Clairview
There was plenty of room to chose a suitable camp site. Most people chose sites overlooking the beach.
Back on the dirt beach side camping
Late in the afternoon watching the water coming in. Awesome views but not so great for beach volleyball.

Sunrise

The sunrise provided a magnificent array of colours and textures as it slowly emerged over the clouds on the horizon. My camera batteries decided to fail at this exact point before the sun was fully visible. If you are camping here it is well worth getting up early to watch the sun come up.

Back on the dirt sunrise at Clairview
Mangroves and mud flats just after the sun came up. The site from my camp site at the Clairview Beach Caravan Park.

It wasn’t long before I was packed and ready for the next adventure. It had been my intention to explore the Bicentennial Trail and go inland at St Lawrence. Unfortunately, my tires were wearing quite badly and I decided it was safer to limit my dirt road adventures.

I said goodbye to my new friends and gunned the engine, Emu was happy to be purring again and I was ready for the next part of this adventure. However, before I could turn westward and head to the outback I had to refuel. I headed for Sarina which is a small sugar refining town about 40 kilometres south of Mackay. Once I fuelled up I turned inland towards Mirani, the entrance to the Pioneer Valley.

Heading inland

My journey today would take me inland from Sarina, through sugar cane fields, through the Pioneer Valley and up the winding road of the Clarke Range to Eungella. I would travel on my first dirt road until I get to the Eungella Dam, where I would hopefully camp for the night.

The road from Sarina to the Pioneer Valley took me though acres of towering cane plantations and over countless train tracks. It was “Crushing” season so you had to be careful of the trucks as they pulled out from cane fields without looking. They would then drop the occasional cane sugar cutting all over the road.

Riding through cane fields

I’m not sure if I’m imaging this or if it’s a real phenomena, but every time I ride through cane fields I get the most annoying cross winds. There seems to be no logic to the direction they they hit me from.

Is it me changing direction as I weaved through the fields or is the wind affected by the randomness of the cleared cane. Whatever, the reason, you can’t just sit back and enjoy the ride, you alway have to be aware of where the wind is coming from.

It was a relief to get to Mirani, a small support centre at the beginning of the Pioneer Valley. As I sat at the table opposite the Mirani Hotel, a Cane Train full of carriages crossed the road. It held up the traffic for about 10 minutes. I had a quick lunch before packing and hitting the road. The last thing I wanted to do was arrive at the dam as the sun was setting. In this area the wild life is prolific.

Pioneer Valley

The Pioneer Valley has an interesting history, it was first discovered by Europeans in 1860. A young 20 year old Scottish man, John Mackay led an expedition to find pastoral opportunities. The story goes that his party came over the ranges and discovered a valley leading to coastal flats. The river was named the Mackay River after John’s father.

However, Commodore Burnett on the HMAS Pioneer a little while later decided to renamed it the Pioneer River. John Mackay was so pissed with this decision that he lobbied Governor Bowen. Governor Bowen subsequently had the small town named after Mackay.

The area from which John Mackay would have dropped in the the valley is today know as the Clarkes Range. This area contains the Eungella National Park, which is recognised as the longest continuous sub tropical rain forest in Australia. For more information on the park check on the following links https://www.eungella.com.au or the Parks and Forests site of the Department of Environment and Science https://parks.des.qld.gov.au/parks/eungella.

Getting closer to being back on the dirt a cane train at Mirani
Sugar cane trains still hold up traffic when they cross the road during the “Crush” which is when sugar cane us crushed to get the sugar out of it.

Sugar Industry

It wasn’t long before the area came under the attention of the emerging sugar industry, with its ample water and flat fertile land. Combined with a world wide shortage of sugar due to a short civil war in North America.

On my way to being back on the dirt Mirani Hotel
Emu looking longingly at the Mirani Hotel.
Closer to being back on the dirt looking down the Pioneer Valley from Eungella lookout
Looking down the Pioneer Valley from the look out at Eungella.
Opps this is a foot path apparently, I didn’t see any signs.

Town of Eungella

At the top of the Pioneer Valley is the escarpment called Clarkes Range which is 690 metres above sea level. My journey up this escarpment went from absolute sea level at Clairview to the lookout overlooking the valley. Once you get to the top there is a small township called Eungella which is an aboriginal name for land of cloud.

The riding up the Clarkes Range road is a lot of fun with sharp cambered corners and rising hairpins. Once you get there you are rewarded by subtropical rain forest and a cool climate.

The town of Eungella is a very peaceful town that sits on a small creek that is part of the “Broken River”. There are plenty of park benches and tables to enjoy a coffee while looking out over the water, where if you’re quiet you might see a platypus.

Broken river bridge near to where I get back on the dirt
Eungella Bridge over the Broken River.

There are a number of camping sites in the area just beyond the national park head quarters. While I was tempted to stay in one of these small and secluded sites, my aim was to reach Eungella Dam.

Back on the dirt at Eungella Dam

Eungella Dam is controlled by Sun Water, but fish stocking is maintained by the Mackay Area Fish Stocking Association who stock the dam with both Sooty Grunter and Barramundi. It’s a great place to camp, but before you set up, check the wind direction and camp on the leeward side. It can get quite windy during the night. Just saying……:) The dam was built in 1969 to supply water to mining towns of Collinsville, Scottsville, Glendon and Moranbah.

Camping at Eungella

Camping at Eungella Dam is a lot of fun, its quiet and set in a bush setting with lots of wildlife around.

Back on the dirt at the Eungella Dam
Toilet facilities at Eungella.
Fellow campers in a nice new caravan.

Define “Terrain Vehicle”

The sign at the entrance to the dam camping area almost stopped me from camping. It said, I couldn’t go in if I was a motorbike, ATV or Terrain Vehicle. The definition of a “Terrain Vehicle” is any vehicle other than an “All Terrain Vehicle (ATV)”, motorbike, or snowmobile that is designed for and capable of travel over designated unpaved roads.

To get here you have to travel on a designated unpaved road. It basically means anybody who got here and is reading this sign, (except the idiots who drove out here in their road cars) is not actually allowed to camp here unless the “Terrain vehicle is stored on the trailer that the Terrain Vehicle towed out here.

As I was on a motorbike that is clearly identified as a prohibited vehicle, I can not confirm that I camped at this camp ground and that I may or may not have found a nice little bit of flat ground under the shade of a tree and overlooking the dam.

To camp or not to camp

But if I had it would have been a very enjoyable night. There were only two other travellers in the park one was staying in a tent with a four wheel drive non terrain vehicle and the other was in a beautiful caravan being towed by a Toyota Non Terrain Land Cruiser.

Emu reading the site, not motorbikes, ATV’s or Terrain Vehicles. I take it this doesn’t mean Adventure Touring Motorcycles??
One of the most confusing signs I have ever come across. Of course I blame it on the school system. We don’t seem to research much any more, least of all definitions.

I hope you enjoyed this story, tomorrow I make my way down the range and join up with the Bicentennial trail. This is the access road from Nebo to Collinsville. Then I’ll join the Bicentennial trail again for about 20 kilometres until I get to the Bowen River Hotel. Stay safe:)

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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.

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