Panigale Around Australia 2016: Day 22 – Cairns to Ayr

Day 22: Live update – Odometer 59217km. It’s as though my back, arms, legs and everything else is permanently moulded on the Panigale for the purpose of highway endurance because it feels very odd to be taking tight corners like how a sport bike should ride. Looks like I’ll have to be learning my basics again! On another note, Cairns has one of the best roads I’ve seen for the purpose of both scenic cruises and corner tackling. It’s a shame that I’m spending less than a day here because there is so much to experience!

Riding on the Gillies Range Road, between Gordonvale and Atherton, QLD.

Arriving to Cairns at 11pm the night before, there wasn’t much time for me to explore Cairns for more than a few hours in the morning. I only had a few days left until I was scheduled to return home to Sydney so that I could return to work, so the remaining journey that I had from now was a conflicting balancing act between clocking up maximum distances and sightseeing the new places that I have yet to have visited between the Cairns and Brisbane route.

I explored a small part of Lake Morris, where the roads leading to it travels along the edge of the mountain backdrop of Cairns. I didn’t really have much time to spend on hiking for better sightseeing locations, but the roads, wherever you go, are fantastic.

Many locations are canopied under tall rainforests and roads are generally in excellent condition, save for bits of debris and mossy patches. The mountainous elevation of the hinterland provides substantial views of the whole urban area of Cairns.

If you are looking for dreamy white coastlines, the Cairns commercial district is not the place to be. Although the Cairns region is known for its natural beauty, the oceanic beauty of the Great Barrier Reef doesn’t necessarily extend all the way to the urban shore, which are more alike to mangrove marshes that have been wiped out to open up the foreshore for walkways. There are many city niceties such as cafes, a casino, urban parks and walkways, but those are not exactly a part of my travel repertoire.

Beaches and scenic water views are accessible out of town, which means that you need time, something that I lacked severely. It’s essential that you have plenty of time to explore when you’re at Cairns, or else you will end up disappointed like me with only 3 hours to try and see the whole city.

With a lacklustre experience to walk away from as the impression of my first but extremely brief visit to Cairns, the road out of town very much made up for it. Many people have constantly mentioned to me a particular road that just has to be done when in Cairns: the Gillies Range Road. This road is the route out of the Cairns region that starts from Gordonvale to the north, and meets at a major inland highway intersection to its south at Atherton.

The Great Dividing Range, viewed from Gillies Range Road.

The distinctive calming effect of the Great Dividing Range never fails to sooth any traveller when they take the time to stop and look. For the motorcyclists, it is the ultimate venue in which they can safely challenge and improve their riding line along corners and hairpins on billiard-smooth asphalt that continuously goes on for 50km. The vast hills and ridges that form the ranges mean that the roads are equally as enthralling and adventurous to ride on. If your muscles aren’t aching after this run, you probably haven’t done it right.

Motorists on this road also seem much more motorcycle-aware and attempt to provide clear overtaking opportunities when appropriate. If there’s just one road that you had to ride in the Cairns region, it’s precisely this one. You won’t regret it one bit, even though the majority of the road is limited to 60km/h.

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Heading towards Millaa Millaa and Innisfail after the glorious ride on the Gillies Range Road, the ruggedness of the ranges evolve into the pleasant rolling hills of the countryside. The hue of a fading sunset across the horizon softened the rural landscape. This part of Queensland is a major source of sugar canes, so it is a common sight for hills and fields to be brushed over with a homogeneous terrain of saturated greenery.

The temperature at night.

Temperatures remained close to 30°C in the evening, even as it passed 9pm. In such conditions, night time riding is accompanied by mass swarms of bugs that are incessantly drawn and dazzled by the headlights. Bugs splatter all all over the helmet and the front fairings like raindrops, as seen in the photos below taken at the next servo stop.

There was no indication that the humidity would cool out until midnight, but it did guarantee a pleasant camp night. Though, in saying that, the balminess presented favourable conditions for constant influxes of mozzies. When you’re the only fresh meat in town, you’re going to need more than a citronella candle to keep your bloodstream untouched.

I could never achieve an all-nighter on the bike, no matter how much I try. This night was one of those that I really did seek to achieve this goal, mainly because I would have had more time to spend elsewhere if I completed as much of the dreadfully long highway ride as I possible could. Of course, a long day equates to the need for proper rest, so any such ambition was thrown out of my intention. However, it was actually difficult to find any camp spots at all along the Bruce Highway, so I ended up stopping for the night under a bus shelter on a nondescript stretch of road in the country. A bus shelter, my rudimentary but functional abode for the night.

My home for the night.


Basic Statistics for the day:

  • Route: Cairns, Gordonvale, Atherton, Millaa Millaa, Innisfail, Townsville, Ayr
  • Total distance: 605km
  • Range of temperature: 25°C to 36°C

Expenses for the day:


General map route: