Panigale Around Australia 2016: Day 21 – Maxwelton to Cairns

Day 21: Live update – Odometer 58776km. Approaching the blue-tinged mountains of the Great Dividing Range, it is an indication that the familiarity of the east coast of Australia is nearby. This also means that some great quality, winding roads are in close proximity.


Waking up on the Flinders Highway, this day was my day to finally make the trip up to Cairns, my last major destination before heading back down south to Brisbane and Sydney. Start the morning with a litre of almond milk and a couple of muesli bars to help get me up and running for the day to come, I anticipated for yet another new day on the open road.

All was going well for the morning; balmy conditions and still much more to explore for days to come. An open road, optimal weather, what could go wrong? The peace of a still morning was turned upside down soon after. Anticipation for a great day on the road was shot down to pieces when I spotted a police car incoming on the opposite lane, and realised that my speed was clearly over the zone limit. My heart skipped a beat before sinking when the patrol car sounded its sirens and switched on its rooftop disco lights. As the police car passed me, I glanced into my side mirror, and saw that the police car was turning back around. This trip is now over for me, I thought; I’m not gonna make it back home on the bike.

Pulled over by the police on the Flinders Highway near Hughenden, Queensland.

The police officer stepped out of his vehicle and demanded to hand over my licence immediately. Cautiously, I gave him my licence. A part of my soul was torn apart, realising that I was likely a step away to forfeiting my legal right to ride. Coincidentally, I was busting for a leak and abruptly requested the officer if I could relieve myself. With permission, I set off to a nearby patch of grass for the longest-ever release of bladder fluids that I’ve unleashed in many years, while the officer took his time over his equipment to subject my licence under a thorough background check.

That litre of almond milk from earlier in the morning was a massive luck charm that came to my rescue. After finishing off my business, I concisely but adamantly explained to the officer that I had to go to the toilet urgently, but that I could not find any toilet facilities on the outback highway. The next town was another 20km away at Hughenden, so I asserted that I was trying to arrive there safely but also as soon as I possibly could. Expressing my sorriest face, I sincerely apologised but humbly and helplessly left the outcome to the officer’s discretion.

The officer carefully considered my situation. I was given a lecture-long pep talk on the dangers of wildlife and various risks on the open road, and that I should be careful at all times. Conclusively, the officer decided on leniency for this matter, and I proceeded without a fine. Knowing that I had just dodged a bullet, I vowed to myself to stay below the speed limit at all times until I returned home to Sydney. I shall always refer to this event as the almond milk-induced high-pressure urinary bladder predicament.

Hughenden is located on the halfway point between the arid Mount Isa and tropical Townsville, its vast open fields symbolic of local cattle and sheep grazing that is vital to the local economy. Hughenden is one of Australia’s Dinosaur Trails in outback Queensland, and it is part of the region’s prominence of dinosaur fossils that form the basis of the town’s tourism. I hadn’t allowed myself any chance to look further into this, but I at least appreciated the presence of a life-sized dinosaur model in the middle of the town.

An old timber church building in Pentland, Queensland.

The more that I travelled across the outback, I felt that I was missing out on so much more than I probably realise. Because I was restricting my travels within just the main highway route, my overall scope of the outback is still limited. I shouldn’t be too dismayed, though, considering that I have treated the majority of my journey around Australia like one grand time trial.

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Charters Towers is the last major town before reaching Townsville on the Flinders Highway route. Old machinery and mining rigs litter the landscape of this town, those remnants symbolic of the town’s foundation as a highly profitable gold rush town in the 19th century. Its prominence as a mining town had a profound impact on developments at the time as a centre of business, as demonstrated by its numerous heritage-listed sites which houses significant examples of 19th century architecture. Unfortunately, I did not have time to look into these sites, but I urge all you aficionados of heritages sites to check them out if you do happen to come across this town.

You know that the coast of Queensland is not too far away when you begin to see the distinctive hills of the Great Dividing Range. A significant proportion of Australia’s gross domestic product is derived from the nation’s population who reside on the eastern side of this range that spans the length of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Even though I had never visited this part of Australia before, the familiarity of the ranges and the coast was less daunting than the sparse and isolated outback.

To be honest, between all these magnificent destinations, it’s been a nightmare of a trip since leaving Perth when I acquired a bad flu that had hampered the progress of my trip so far. It’s been absolute insanity in that I’ve been doing some of the stuff that’s happened over the past week. Refusing to succumb to the downfalls of a flu had allowed me to maintain a decent pace. Eye on the prize, destinations set as my successive goals as I travelled, I just had to keep riding on. There’s not a real logical reason as to why this is the case; these journeys just had to be done. Motorcycling is a drug, a merciless one that relentlessly leads you on to an overdose.

After all the riding that had been done so far, I needed to eat something hearty and nourishing to uplift my spirit and physical state. A brothy soup noodle at Townsville to alleviate my sickness was the best thing that I could have ever had. A huge change from all those sausage rolls and pies, and a well-deserved break from the constant journey on the road.

McLeod Street, Cairns, Queensland.

The trip from Townsville and Cairns was really a non-event at night. Just the usual ride through the dark of night that I’ve been doing for this entire trip, but it felt even longer than ever. Leaving Townsville past 6pm after dark, every hour of the 5-hour trip felt like a mammoth task fraught with the danger of fatigue. But I did eventually make it to the final destination of the day. Arriving late, but arrived anyway, to the hostel at Cairns past 11pm.

There’s not much that could be said about my arrival to Cairns. Once unpacked, I went for a midnight stroll around town. It could only have been described with this simple Facebook status that I had posted at the time: “My neck is so stuffed now, as with my back. I don’t know why I do such things to myself. What a trip!”

In the quest for a challenging adventure that goes beyond our comfort zone, we all bypass a few crossroads in our minds that otherwise would have redirected us back to our rational and sensible selves. When we do achieve our individual aims, and analyse the particular hurdles that we had to overcome to get to where we end up, there is both a sense of disbelief and prodigious amazement. That, for me, is the very essence of happiness and satisfaction within the context of a traveller. It’s a beautiful thing but, for normal people like me, this sort of life is accessible only once in a long while. Make it worth the time when you hit the open road.


Basic Statistics for the day:

  • Route: Maxwelton, Hughenden, Charters Towers, Townsville, Cairns
  • Total distance: 938km
  • Range of temperature: 20°C to 34°C

Expenses for the day:


General map route: