I had an excellent sleep in my Black Wolf UL 1 tent beside the Booyal Roadhouse Fuel and Restaurant. I woke up warm and dry, to the sound of some horrendous sounding birds, at two in the fucking morning…
“This is Australia. Just get used to pretending you’re living in a zoo”, I said to myself, and rolled over on to my other side on my Klymit Ultralight V sleeping pad, and went back to sleep.
I woke up at 0615, to the sound of more pleasant birds this time. I packed up -didn’t take me very long, about 5 minutes and I was done!- brushed my teeth with water from the handily located tap five metres away, went through my five minute stretching routine, put my kit on, and was good to go.
It wasn’t long before I arrived at the Highway 12 turn off to the Boolboonda tunnel. The road was beautiful: gum and eucalyptus trees in the hills on either side. I’m still learning about local trees and plants on this journey, but I’m reasonably sure I’m correct in identifying those. A kangaroo jumped out, and hopped across the road about 50m in front of me, so obviously I questioned its intelligence in the form of helmet-confined abuse. Ten seconds later, its mate did the same thing, but I had learned to forgive by this point.
Boolboonda tunnel was long and dark, and smelled like stale bat droppings. One of them did a low pass that was a little too low and smacked me in the helmet; thankfully both of us were travelling no faster than 10km/h, and were both safe. I pulled over at the exit of the tunnel, and fired up my Wacacao Nanopresso, and made myself a beautiful caffeinated beverage using grounds selected by some Melbourne hipster I’m grateful to everyday.
Following that road would have taken me further inland, and resulted in a longer ride to Airlie Beach. I turned back to get back to the T intersection and carried on on A1, and headed northwards; so I’ve been through the Boolboonda tunnel twice.
It was a tiring ride. I pulled over at various ‘Driver Reviver’ stops, having a coffee and a nap at most, and a workout at one. Nothing serious, 4x supersets of 10x pull ups + 25x push ups. I didn’t want blood pooling in my feet or hands due to the riding position for extended periods of time, so I came up with a bit of a routine while riding, tensing certain muscles (glutes, calves, quads, lats, biceps) to fill them with blood, and keeping a bit of movement up as and when I could.
It was dusk by the time I pulled into MacKay for a fuel top up. As I left the servo, I realised I still had 2 hours to go before I got to my destination, so I’d be riding at night, which riders from online groups told me to avoid doing at all costs due to the risk of running into animals. Luckily I was able to get behind the back of a car hauler travelling north. I figured I’d keep a 2-3 second following distance, my gaze focused on the brake lights, and watch any vertical movement of the rear tyres; I’d have enough warning to react in case the truck hit an animal or something. I didn’t feel very comfortable riding at the front of a convoy at night.
I don’t know if this is the approach local riders take, and perhaps I should discuss it with them. I remember reading about one of the motorcycle record holders for a lap of Australia. The bloke rode around the country in a few days, with minimal rest, at all hours of the day and night. But the important takeaway from that old motorcycle magazine article was that he rode behind a safety car driven by a couple of his mates. The moment the safety vehicle’s brake lights came on, he’d grab a fistful of his own tyre stoppers. I felt safer than a joey in a pouch behind the hauler, because I decided that’s what I was going to do.
The hauler went north past the Airlie Beach turn off, so I had to ride by myself for about 12 km. Saw a few dazed kangaroos on either side of the road, and slowed down to 50km/h in an 80km/h zone. The road was relatively straight, and the hi-beam lit up quite a distance; but it still felt like a risky move.
I arrived at Northerlies Beach Bar and Grill at 2030hrs, and waited for Jared, my chef friend, to come out and get me. I was expecting him to take me inside, and treat me to a meal I’d been craving all day. I was imagining various quality cuts of meat, some seafood, a nice cold beer… But Jared came out in his
jandals thongs, from his residence up the road. He wasn’t working that day, the restaurant had closed, he’d had a couple of drinks so couldn’t drive. If I wanted food, it would have to be at the only fine dining establishment open at this ungodly hour of the weeknight -Mc Donald’s Airlie Beach- and I’d have to drive there myself.
So I did, laughing to myself like a madman about how expectations and reality absolutely did not converge. I savoured an entire family meal pack with 4 burgers, and a family sized fries, and 4 bottles of water (they’re worth more than the atrocious carbonated sweet stuff that pisses out the machines- at least make it taste like real coke)! “I can’t believe I rode 850kms for this shit”, I said to Jared while driving back, half a Big Mac still in my face.
14 hours after leaving Booyal, I was now in a comfortable bed in Airlie Beach. I had a great sleep that night.
PS: The DSLR I was planning to taking all my photos on decided to die on me. The photo above is the last one it took. It will have to be my Samsung Galaxy S8 for the rest of the trip, and I’ll mail the Nikon to my folks back in Brisbane to deal with later. Luckily, I’m not a good enough photographer to do either camera much justice anyway.