It was time to leave dry, flat Longreach and head across to the coastal metropolis of Townsville. With a long trip ahead of us – about 700km – we were up early and on our way. We stopped off at the Merino Bakery in town (they open at 5am), stocked up on coffee, breakfast and lunch – and hit the road. A few kms into the journey, we had a brief stop to drink our coffee and watch the sunrise.
Longreach to Townsville through the windscreen of a Mazda CX-3
Having decided to take the “direct” route to the A6 – the Flinders Highway – via Muttaburra-Hughenden, we turned off the A2. We were grateful to be heading north as with the low sun, visibility wasn’t great and being early, the kangaroos were out. The road was also only one lane – largely a road train route – so we had to move off to the side of the road when any traffic came towards us. At this point, we probably did see a handful of cars – more than we’d see the rest of the day. And at least the road was sealed.
With 204km to go to Hughenden, we realised that the unsealed road we’d been travelling on for at least 50km was likely to get worse rather than better, so we braced ourselves for the long haul. Moving between 20-70km an hour, we made our way down the middle of the road, trying to avoid rocks, manoeuvring out of the way of tumbleweed and attempting not to slide around too much. After all, as per the Flinders Shire Council Road Reports and Conditions, “the majority of the road is unsealed, recommended to 4wd or High Clearance vehicles only. Some corrugation”. Mazda classifies our little car an “all wheel drive” – not sure what the council would make of that.
The vastness continued all the way, but the vegetation changed as did the colour of the soil. Again, as per the council “some areas have black soil and when wet can become very dangerous, very quickly”. Good thing the weatherman was only predicting rain for the next day!
A couple of times we experienced some false hope that we’d reached the end of the unsealed section – but the bitumen was short-lived, only there because it was a floodway.
As we drove past entrance gates to the cattle stations, we saw fancy signs with their names alongside the road. Given it was so flat, we could see for miles – and even then, not a building in sight! No idea how long their driveways must be.
With some patience, good driving and by God’s grace, we made it to Hughenden!
Hughenden to Townsville on a sealed road
Our car had handled the drive really well, but she’d made her way through a lot of fuel, so we stopped in Hughenden to fill up the tank. It was really weird to get onto a sealed road and travel at 110km/h again. The intensity was so much lower and we could relax a little.
We stopped off in Charters Towers, about 130km out of Townsville. The town was founded in the 1870s when gold was discovered by chance on Christmas Eve 1871 by 12-year-old Aboriginal boy. Given the origins, it was probably fitting that we went to the Stock Exchange Café for a coffee.
Soon after we left Charters Towers, we passed two cyclists, loaded with panniers. The following day, walking along the Strand in Townsville, we bumped into them and found out that they’re from The Netherlands and are cycling around Australia for a year. They had planned to be in WA at the moment, but as they can’t enter the state, are enjoying the warm weather QLD has to offer.
After a long day, we were happy to settle into our apartment on the beach overlooking Magnetic Island.
A big day, a small taste of the harshness of the Australian Outback and an experience we won’t forget!!