What great news, Brisbane managed to reel in the COVID outbreak and lock down ended at 4PM Sunday. That meant we could get on the road and catch up with Lachie and Sarah who were already in Far North Queensland waiting for us us. We decided to stay in motels for the run north, given that we had long driving days planned and there would be plenty of nights in the swags once we got closer to the Tip.
First leg of our trip took us west chasing the setting sun to the small town of Miles on intersection of the Warrego and Leichhardt Highways. Miles has recently benefitted from gas production in the surrounding region and looked to be busy for a Sunday night – the Western Downs Motor Inn that we stayed in was great value, fairly new and very well maintained.
A 5am start saw us back on the road, tracking northward on the Leichhardt Highway toward Queensland’s Central Highlands. Soon after sunrise we took a break at a sobering memorial near Taroom – in 1972 a truck carrying ammonium nitrate caught fire, the driver and two brothers who came to help were killed by a huge explosion that was felt in towns 50km away, leaving a 2m crater and very little of the truck behind.
To save a little time we got our first taste of gravel road by shortcutting via Bauhinia Downs to meet the Dawson Highway, and from there continued to Springsure and Emerald where we paused for lunch, coffee and fuel. We’re in the habit of refuelling at fuel depots and unmanned truck stops, where the diesel price is lower than roadhouses on the main highway – you can save up to 10 cents per litre so its worth doing when refilling up to 200 litres. From Emerald we continued to Clermont, or stop for the night and a chance to take on some supplies from the local IGA.
Today was a big push, another predawn start but luckily the local cafe opened at 5am so we could grab a hot breakfast to enjoy under the stars after driving a little out of town. We travelled easily up the Gregory Highway and were very glad we chose the inland option rather than the stilted driving through towns and roadworks that is feature of the coastal Bruce Highway.
After checking out the colonial architecture of Charters Towers we continued north to our lunch stop under a shady tree at the Forty Mile National Park, with hot chicken drumsticks thanks to the Travel Buddy oven. We had now passed from Central to North Queensland and could start to feel the increased humidity and warmth of the tropics.
Final push for today was a run on to the Atherton tablelands, where we found fog and rain and the beautiful greenery that the area is well known for.
The LandCruiser gave us a small scare during the day, when it lost power and dropped into limp mode while we were passing a road train up a hill, forcing us to quickly cut back across to the road shoulder (which was almost non existent). Luckily we have an Ultraguage fitted so I could reset the error code and restart the engine, and reduce the power output from the Torqit Power Module that I suspect caused the fault. I’ll chase this up further with Torqit before we drop off grid.
So here we are, staying in the Cape Gateway Motel, literally at start of the Mulligan Highway and bottom of Cape York Peninsular. Tomorrow we’ll catch up with Lachie and Sarah and commence our Cape York adventure, a few days behind schedule but with plenty of scope to explore the Cape and navigate the Old Telegraph Track.