IT was not a thunderstorm you heard early Monday morning, it was 400 motorbikes leaving town, starting on a 3500km charity trek.
The bike riders were gathered for the Southern Cross Association bike ride to raise money for spina bifida hydrocephalus.
The five day ride started in Emerald on Monday morning with overnight stops planned in Cloncurry, Croydon, Ravenshoe and Palmer River.
President John McCulkin said this year's turnout of riders was the biggest yet.
He said he would do a total of 5000km to be part of the ride.
"I've done about seven rides," he said.
"We put the disabled kids on the back for a ride.
"I have a tear in my eye to see them but they are always smiling.
"It's all about camaraderie, we have people (participating) from Darwin and people from Perth.
"We have had people come over from New Zealand and do the ride."
Southern Cross Association organises the ride every year in the first week of September, to coincide with Spina Bifida week.
"We visit schools and we give chats to children about spina bifida and take school kids for rides," he said.
The association hopes to raise $60,000 from the ride.
It raises money by charging participants a fee to take part in the ride and also gives school students a ride for a gold coin donation.
But they also give back to the communities they pass by donating gold coins for the morning tea and lunch put on by the towns.
"We try to use local organisations to do our catering and to put money back into the area," John said.
"It's a lot of fun with games nights and entertainment."
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