Imbil to Bargara, Australia

Distance: 170 miles
Time on bikes: 4 hours

We’re getting moving again today but start with breakfast next to the river before the heat of the sun makes its presence felt – it’s absolutely scorching today. We opt not to go for the early morning platypus spotting trip, slightly put off last night by the huge fish jumping around us and also because we’re a bit knackered from all the paddling.

As it’s a Sunday we get mostly packed away and then take a walk into town to see the market, which was a bit smaller than expected, so instead stroll back to the tent and get the last few things packed away before riding into town and parking the bikes in the shade under a tree.

The ‘rattler’ steam train is due at noon from Gympie, but arrives about fifteen minutes late and is absolutely fantastic to see. Just after it arrives the passengers have to disembark while the engine does the party piece we’ve really come to see – driving onto a spinning turntable to switch direction and attach itself to the other end of the carriages for the return journey to Gympie.

A torrential downpour occurs just as the turning around procedure gets underway, so we use the tarpaulin as a makeshift shelter and are able to sit on a bench next to where the turntable is and get a front row seat. The noise when the train hits the tracks of the turntable gave some appreciation for the huge weight of these machines; the turntable, probably weighing quite a few tons, was literally snapped into position with a thunderous bang when the front wheels first make contact.

Thankfully the rain stops and the sun comes out again just as the engine is getting into position on the turntable. The chaps have a bit of bother getting the steam driven engine of the turntable to move the structure around as the engine has to be bang in the centre for it to have any chance of being able to spin. A nice surprise is to see that the train is from Scotswood, Newcastle upon Tyne!

With the train turned around it then re-joins the carriages and we then decide to get on our way, grabbing a photo of the old Imbil Railway Station Hotel on the way out. We plot a route which takes us on a bit of a detour, and keeps us away from the main highway. This turned out to be a great route and took us through some really nice agricultural areas and on some really small roads, including about five miles of gravel, but still used by huge trucks. We pass through areas again which are having to have the roads rebuilt due to the floods, which have done some very peculiar things to the surface of the road.

There are a few groups of roaming cows on the road, but although they seem relaxed when cars drive past, when we ride the bikes along they stare at us and wait until we get near before bolting – thankfully always away from us. It’s not often we’ve seen a cow run, and they can be quite sprightly even considering their size.

We also come across an old bridge alongside the road, which was the only privately built road bridge constructed in Queensland as a war memorial. We have a wander over and it’s nice to see that as well as the soldiers that didn’t make it back, it also recognises the men from the region who fought and returned home safely.

We then continue the ride and manage to avoid the traffic and head for the town of Mon Repos where the beach plays host to nesting turtles and there’s a chance we’ll be able to see some of the little fellas making the evening run for the Ocean.

We have to stop about five miles short of the campsite as a huge storm looms and it’s better for us to get there fifteen minutes late rather than soaked. Thankfully the storm blows over, dumping a huge amount of water, and we manage to get to the campsite near the turtle beach at about 6 pm, but a bit annoyingly is says it’s closed and there are signs all over saying there’s strictly no camping allowed.

There’s a camper van and someone sleeping in a car in the car park; but we don’t have that option, so we ride into the nearby town of Bargara as there’s also a campsite there.

We manage to get there at sunset, which is 6.10 pm, and ask the manager what the score is with turtle spotting and he tells us there’s a path through to the Mon Repos beach about a fifteen minute walk away and there are loads of turtles. We manage to set up camp and are off in twenty five minutes in search of turtles. The guide book says that to see them, booking a tour is essential, but as usual we’ll just have to wing it.

The walk to the beach is an adventure in itself as it takes us along a coastal path which is alive with the non-indigenous cane toads. In the dark we also come across a huge kangaroo – bigger than anything we’ve seen before. He seems quite imposing, but we manage to walk past without inciting much of a reaction from him and he ends up hopping off into the dark.

We manage to find the beach and there’s a timber walkway with a fence stating the beach is closed to the public between 6 pm and 6 am. The gate however is open and unlocked, so we decide that if they really didn’t want people coming through they would close it.

A bit tentatively, we wander down to the beach and its pitch black. We try and use the torch light in front of us just enough to light the way, but not conspicuous so as to attract any attention. There are no signs of any turtles, but there is a torch light further up the beach, so maybe someone else has spotted something.

We walk up the beach and see some remains of old nests and although the torch we’d seen disappears, when we walk further we see another light and head towards this. It’s only when we get close we realise there are about fifty people being shown a nest by one of the guides. We opt to just join the group and are a bit surprised that the guide doesn’t mention anything as we would probably have been spotted walking along the beach. Each person has a sticker on their chest, but no one seems to say anything so we just go along with things.

We see a new hatching of baby turtles making the run for the sea, helped by a line of torches held by members of the group lining the way. We hear a few things about the loggerhead turtles and the guide then takes us to another nest where they’ve trapped twenty babies in a cage as part of a PHD experiment finding out how ‘strong’ the babies are. It looks a bit cruel, especially when two are selected for the whole group to take pictures. After the whole group has given them a tickle and a flash of the camera it’s amazing they’re still with it enough to make the journey down the beach.

We see the turtles again make the journey to the sea with a couple of turtles looking, not surprisingly, a bit disoriented. Apparently only one in a thousand survives to adulthood, and research shows that two in twenty are blind by the time they make it to the sea. Research is apparently continuing as to why this is the case, as it’s a phenomena that’s only come about since they started running tours of the beach.

When the group heads off, we need to make an exit in the opposite direction and walk back down the beach. It’s about 9 pm when we get back and after a shower retire for the evening. The heavens open and it looks like it could be a very wet night tonight.

Jour 329 – Dimanche 13 Mars 2011. D’Imbil à Bargara, Australie.

Distance: 272 km – Temps à moto: 4 heures

On pensait peut-être aller faire un autre tour en kayak ce matin, mais on a la flemme. Il fait très beau et chaud ce matin, on déjeune au bord de la rivière avant d’aller faire un tour au marché du village, mais il n’y a pas grand-chose, juste quelques légumes et marchands de babioles. Le train à vapeur arrive a midi, on décide donc de retourner au camping ranger nos affaires et on retourne a la garre avec nos motos. Il fait très lourd et on cherche de l’ombre en attendant le train, mais juste avant qu’il n’arrive, le temps semble changer et de gros nuages lourds arrivent. On a juste le temps de prendre quelques photos du train qui arrive  puis on va chercher la bâche pour essayer de rester au sec tout en regardant le train. C’est un déluge, les passagers du train sont déposés a la garre et la locomotive est détachée pour aller faire un demi-tour sur une platforme qui tourne grace a un système qui se branche sur la locomotive.

La locomotive qui s’appelle ’the rattler’ vient d’Angleterre, de Newcastle-upon-Tyne et elle tourne encore très bien, c’est un plaisir de la regarder, et il y a pas mal de spectateurs malgrès le mauvais temps.

Une fois que le train a fait son demi-tour, on reprend la route. On ne prend pas l’autoroute, on préfère prendre de plus petites routes, mais du coup on se retrouve sur une route en gravier pendant quelques kilomètres, mais elle est en très bon état, il y a a nouveau des endroits qui ont été endommagé par les innondations, mais il y a déjà des traveaux en place pour les réparer. On trouve surprenant que de gros camions utilisent cette route, mais ca ne semble pas les ralentir, ils foncent comme sur les autoroutes. Le coin est agréable et on traverse de grandes fermes  où  les vaches ne semblent pas sur par où aller quand on passe à coté.

On trouve aussi un pont qui a été reconstruit et transformé en mémorial à l’honeur des soldats qui sont partis a la guerre, et nous trouvons la liste des soldats qui y ont perri et la liste des soldats qui ont survécu, ce qui est moins habituel.

On continue ensuite vers le Nord, on décide d’aller camper a Mon Repos, où c’est la saison de la naissance de tortues de mer, il est possible d’aller les voir sur la plage tous les soirs en ce moment. Le temps n’est pas aussi beau aujourd’hui et le ciel semble bien sombre, on n’est pas surs d’éhapper a un gros orage. Heureusement, juste avant d’arriver a Mon Repos, Carl décide qu’on ferait mieux de nous arrêter pour nous mettre a l’abris juste alors qu’il commence a pleuvoir, c’est un bon gros orage, et on reste a l’abris une bonne demie-heure. Heureusement la pluie cesse et on peut aller nous installer au camping au sec. Pour protéger les tortues, le camping est fermé, on va donc planter la tente dans le village suivant, Bargara avant de revenir a pieds a la plage pour essayer de voir des tortues.

On a de la chance et on trouve un groupe de touristes avec un guide et on les suit sur la plage. Ils ont trouvé un premier nid d’où de petites tortues qui viennent d’éclore  et qui essayent de trouver la mer. Quand il n’y a personne autours elles voient le blanc de l’écume des vagues et trouvent toutes seules la direction de la mer, mais comme il y a du monde autours, ca les perturbe un peu, et la guide organise le groupe pour faire une ligne de torches en direction de la mer pour les aider. Les petites tortues sont adorables et il est important de les laisser faire toutes seules la partie sur la plage pour que les femelles puissent la retrouver quand elles voudront pondre.

La guide nous emmène ensuite voir un groupe de petites tortues qui sont dans un une cage et elle nous dit que ca fait partie d’une étude pour suivre le développement des tortues sur 3 jours et elle va les libérer ce soir. Elle prend deux des petites tortues qu’elle montre a tout les monde et tout le monde prend des photos avec le flash, pauvres petites tortues ! Enfon bon, peu après elle les libèe toutes et elles prennent toutes la direction de la mer. Apparement seulement une sur mille survit, mais Carl est presuadé que deux sur 20 sont aveugles suite aux photos des touristes… il a surement raison.

On retourne ensuite au camping a pieds, c’est une ballage agréable sur un petit sentier, mais on doit faire attention de ne pas marcher sur les nombreuses grenouilles qui sautent dans tous les sens.

Une fois de retours au camping il commence a pleuvoir a grosses gouttes, on a eu de la chance de rester au sec pendant notre tour sur la plage !