Day 1 Mareeba to Almaden (135.7km)
The ride will leave from Mareeba at 7am, travelling south west, through back country roads past the Sugar Mill and to Springmount Station for morning tea at Collins Weir Road on Walsh Creek. The route travels along the increasingly famous rail trails, and we have special permission to ride along the irrigation channels as well. Riders will travel to Mutchilba before taking the Burke Development Road to Dimbulah for a well-earned lunch break. When rested, riders will head towards Petford and the "gentle" climb over Lappa Range and Top Cat Pass before riding down into Almaden for the first overnight stop at Tamarind Gardens.
Almaden is the first of four towns we are going to visit. It is a real Aussie outback town, where cattle roam the streets. The Railway Hotel is the centre of town and a top spot for a refreshing beverage, with the railway station nearby. This is where the Savannahlander arrives just two days a week. Tamarind Gardens is the former Almaden State School, which was closed a few years ago, just a couple of months short of its' 100th birthday. Tonight we camp at Tamarind Gardens, but there are cabins available at your own cost if you wish.
Day 2 Almaden - Fossilbrook Creek(89kms)
Day two will be one of riding through drought-parched savannah country (a traditional outback landscape) - a short ride to the outskirts of Almaden before hitting the dirt for the first time. After a short couple of kilometres, you will turn left onto Gingerella - Mt Surprise Road which is a wide open dirt road. Morning tea will be on the banks of the Sandy Tate River and the lunch stop ...... Enjoy the serenity of riding in the outback. Our overnight stop is at the privately-owned Burlington Station on the banks of Fossilbrook Creek. This is a very pretty bush camp spot. The location is about17km further than the 2017 ride and the decision for this was due to the location. Fossilbrook Creek is serene and a great location for an overnight stop.
Day 3 Fossilbrook Creek - Mt Surprise (56km)
Riders leave Fossilbrook Creek at a leisurely 8am and travel some stunning countryside before a regular morning riding. On reaching the Gulf Development Road, we cross to Rocky Springs Station. Lunch is on the banks of Elizabeth Creek, where we will be entertained by Doug's working dog trials. These Kelpies are a little like "Red Dog", very smart and entertaining. After lunch we have a short 14km through Rocky Spring Station on the old Highway, this was replaced by the current highway in the 60's. Check out the wildlife as you ride through this pristine part of the world. Tonight we camp at Bedrock Village, which also is supplying our dinner. After dinner, we take part in a locally organised campfire singalong. In the afternoon you have the optional extra of riding out to Radar Hill - about 2km east of Mt Surprise. Radar Hill is a heritage listed radar station on the Gulf Development road near Mt Surprise. It was built about August 1943 by the allied works council. It is also known as No53 RDF Station. It was listed on the Queensland Heritage Register in 2005.
Day 4 Mt Surprise - Einasleigh (77km)
Leave Mt Surprise, riders turn left at 15km and enter Mt Surprise Station. The thing you will have to watch on this road is the cows. They seem to get spooked by cyclists - can't imagine why. This is also a new addition to the ride. You will travel along this well-graded road and pass Brumby Dam and Telegraph Dam before arriving at Blacks Dam for lunch and possibly a show on how to muster cattle. We leave Blacks Dam and then ride into Clear Skin Dam for a drink stop before continuing on to join up with the Einasleigh Road. Afternoon tea will be set up at Jardine Lagoon. Your overnight stop is Einasleigh, which is a small rural town in the Etheridge shire, about 220km south-west of Innisfail. Startie, the owner of the Einasleigh Hotel, is our host tonight and we camp next door.
The town is on the Copperfield River and a must see is the Copperfield Gorge, just a short ride from the hotel. The railway line brings the Savannahlander tourist train twice weekly. Einasleigh has three sites listed on the Queensland Heritage Register - the copper mine smelter (1860-1920); the former station master's residence (1909) and the two-storey Queenslander Einasleigh Hotel (1909). Swimming is in the Copperfield Gorge.
Day 5 Einasleigh - Forsayth (68.7km)
When we leave Einasleigh, we willl ride out on bitumen. It is a slow and "gentle" climb to the top of the Newcastle Range. But once you reach the top, the view is definitely worth it. Riders then have 12km riding along the range ridge on dirt road. This is a beautiful ride. At the end of the dirt, you have a lovely descent into Forsayth. This is our final night stop. Forsayth is a town in Etheridge Shire, about 415km by road from Cairns. Forsayth was originally known as Finnigan's Camp after the prospector who discovered gold nearby in 1871. It was renamed Charleston in 1872 and renamed again to Forsayth in December 1910.
Forsayth is the terminus of the Savannahlander tourist railway and those who want to, have the opportunity to catch this back to Cairns at the special rate of $125. Forsayth has the Goldfields Hotel, a hospital, tourist park (where we camp) and a store. It also is the departure point for the famous Cobbold Gorge and unique fossicking locations.