September 2008

Sept 1-2-Innisfail

Update on injuries—Greg’s purple/black bruises on his thigh now fading, also had pain in the cushion of his thumb which is receding, he is able to cycle.

Me—Doctor confirmed I have sprained knee & not to cycle for 2 weeks! 

Aren’t we lucky that we like Innisfail, can catch a bus at the door into town & really enjoy staying at The Mango Tree Caravan Park & chatting to Jill & Mike, very friendly owners.  Jill is constantly working on the marketing of their Van Park and she wanted to visit the recently opened Ma-Mu Rainforest Canopy Walkway, about 30 klms away, and invited us along too.  The drive there was stunning, we left the sugar cane/banana flats & drifted into green rolling hills towards Queensland’s highest peak.  The 2.5 km return elevated Walkway is in the heart of the Wet Tropics Heritage Area & is designed to have minimal impact on the rainforest.  There is a 10m cantilever & a 37m tower which gives spectacular rainforest views, Jill & I were very brave by looking over the edge!

 

We now feel like minor celebrities' in Innisfail. The bus driver, Wendy, has taken a shine to Greg after he dropped his daks to show her his bruise. She also makes the bus kneel so I can get on like the other old ladies on the bus. We’ve been stopped in the street by people we don’t know and asked after our condition. We get toots and waves from people in cars while we hobble down the main street. Back at our camp site, the owner Jill a trained nurse, has been helping with knee massages and compresses of apple cider. I’ve even had a prayer said for my knee by some God bothering bods in the camp site opposite. 

Sept 3-14-Innisfail

Google have changed their Photo page and stuffed something up, so our photos to date are coming, just not until the issue at Google is fixed. Stay tuned...

 

We took up permanent residential status at The Mango Tree waiting for my knee to heal.  It was an interesting time observing life at a Caravan Park & also Innisfail for a couple of weeks, some memories being:-

· Our considerate hosts Mike and Jill, whose company we enjoyed many times over dinner accompanied by Mike’s home brew and several bottle of wines.

· Having a well planned, spotless camp kitchen to whip up many meals.

· Being doused with 4 days of heavy rain exceeding 116 mm, good test for tent, it kept us dry!

· Seeing 3 sets of cyclists arrive in the park one afternoon, all  heading south in their different directions.

· When we’re having a bad cycling day think of 1 set of the cyclists + lively 2 year old daughter she being pulled along in a cart, I think we’ve got it easy.

· Accompanying Mike into Cairns one day, he on business, we armed with Good Food Guide in search of coffee & food, we found both & had a memorable Italian lunch at Piccolo Cucina of Papadelle pasta with prosciutto, sausage, peas, tomotoes & cream—we’ll be back!

· Greg’s dream coming true, meeting German girl at park, young, tall & slim, Greg is convinced  there is a Barbie Doll whose shorts are now missing, German girl was wearing them!

· Upsetting couple of travellers who presumed we’d be watching the football on the camp kitchen tele......we’d have been happy to change channels, it was just the way he went about it.  After checking with Mike “what the rules were regarding the tele” they listened to it on their radio yelling out many times “ if only we could watch it on the TV” and I think “bastards” was mentioned in there too! 

· Having coffee in Innisfail & Wendy driving her bus down the main street shouting out her coffee order to us, she’s a funny lady!

· Accepting an invitation from Wendy to attend the Cairns Obedience Agility/Jumping Trials with her kelpie dogs Holly & Cody.  It was the funniest day watching all sorts of dogs & their handlers tackle the course.  Holly has twice been the Australian Agility Champion & both dogs did well at the Trials, Holly 1st in Agility, 2nd in Jumping, Cody 1st & 2nd in Jumping & 2nd in Ability.  Holly & Greg both slept well going home in the back seat!

Sept 15 Innisfail to Cairns 7.0 klms, Avg speed 15.9 kph, Cycling time 0.5 hrs; Total kms 3959.46

The sun is shining, the skies are almost cloudless, but it’s time we moved on. After reluctantly saying goodbye to Jill & Mike, it was time for us to head to Cairns albeit by train.  My knee has not improved except for the swelling so it’s time to get more medical advice.  We had a productive day, I picked up a referral from the doctor to see an orthopaedic specialist (was lucky to get an appointment tomorrow), Greg posted a blown out tyre back to the distributor in Sydney for a warranty claim. Both Greg and I agreed that it was good to be on the bikes and on the move again even if the ride was only a few kilometres to Innisfail and from Cairns train station. My Thermarest mattress has now developed a bubble so a replacement is being sent to Cairns, & we had an easy train journey with the bikes which were rolled into the luggage carriage with panniers still attached & rolled off again.  We’re staying at The Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort about 7 klms south of Cairns, caters well for families, will be worse this Sat when the schools break up for 2 weeks. Worse still, there’s a BMX bike tournament in Cairns in the holidays which should ensure plague proportions of our country’s future are wondering around, clogging up pools, parks and fast food joints. At least we’ll know where not to go!

Sept 16—Cairns

Today we caught the local bus the 7 kilometres into to town and went straight to the cafe we had visited the previous Monday when we were in town. Innisfail is a beautiful place, but no one there knows anything about how to make a reasonable cup of coffee. Strange given its Italian ancestry. From there to the Bike Man to pick up some stuff including patches that would repair the damage Greg did to his panniers when he crashed, and a couple of bells to attached to the bikes. I think a small ring, letting someone know you’re approaching is so much nicer than Greg’s normal vocal warning to “piss off out of the way there’s a bike coming you idiot”. We then went to see the specialist and, after the obligatory 40 minute wait, he confirmed a ligament tear and could take up to 6 weeks to improve, so 3 more to go hopefully!  He’s given me anti inflammatory drugs and already the pain & stiffness has decreased.  He’s also advised to keep cycling (yeah!) but only relatively easy rides, not that it will do any further damage but to ease back into it.  So we’re staying here for another week or so to do just that.  So how are we feeling about this delay to our cycling trip?  A big plus is that we have time on our side for this trip (3-4 years) and have no pressure to be in a certain spot at a certain time.  We always said by end of Sept we need to head south again via the Cairns Highlands as it’s already 30 degrees and the humidity will start to increase.  So we’re both still in high spirits & will now enjoy our time in Cairns (pop 130,000), there’s an underlying pulse to the city that is slow & rhythmic, a tropical beat with warm days and balmy nights...we’ll try not to enjoy it too much!!!

Now, where’s lunch?

Sept 17—24 Cairns

What a great place to cycle around and we did to Rusty’s Fruit & Vegie Markets, the Flecker Botancial Gardens, Centenary Lakes attracting a diverse range of wildlife & cycling many times along The Esplanade located right in the heart of the city—a colourful place to watch the birdlife (feathered ) feeding on the tidal plains along the foreshore, the birdlife (human) in the swimming lagoon & generally watching people congregate to enjoy some of life’s simple pleasures—a BBQ.

We also discovered some culinary delights too, Perrotta’s At The Gallery for great coffee & Italian food, saltedVue for excellent food & value for a Sunday lunch overlooking The Esplanade & the highlight being catching a bus 25 klms north to a beautiful spot called Palm Cove to take Greg out for an early Oct birthday lunch to NuNu, its breezy idyllic setting, Asian influenced food & great service didn’t disappoint.  Palm Cove is the most northerly place that we’ll visit during 2008.  We also joined throngs of party goers at the closing night of an   institution, the Cairns Yacht Club. The Club is the last original building on the Cairns waterfront & after a long fight by the locals to keep it is to be torn down after the Environmental Minister, Peter Garrett, refused a last ditch plea to have the building heritage listed.  The Club was also a local jazz venue & the band that night changed its name to The Titanic's. We feasted on a spit roasted pig, veg and salad until all the food was gone, then finally the bar began to run out of wine, so we knew it was time to leave. I think the cab fare was $25, neither of us can remember...

We enjoyed our time in Cairns however we were glad to leave the Caravan Park which became inundated with feral children on school holidays who whisked relentlessly around on their razor scooters, woke at 5.30am, had a gloating Dad next to us speak to his small daughter all week in a wide ranging language  “Noooo Bubu, Yesss Bubu, Come here Bubu” (we dubbed the child Baba Ghanoush) & finally we had the louder SNORER opposite, obviously exhausted each night after  all his kiddies activities.  We also had the BBQ Cleaning Nazi who berated a Mum for not cleaning the BBQ after use, he did have a point but could have said it more nicely.

Sept 25 Cairns to Mareeba 49.29 klms, Avg speed 15.6 kph, Cycling time 3.09 hrs; Total kms 4508.48

After a 4 week lay off & my knee injury slowly improving we’re back on the bikes, thank goodness.  We’re heading to the Cairns Highlands (Atherton Tablelands) located between the Bellenden Ker Range & the Great Diving Range.  It’s a lush, green, fertile plateau 600—1000 metres above sea level with cool, clean, crisp air dotted with quaint townships, the rich volcanic soil & perfect climate aptly naming it the “food bowl of the north”.  To climb the first 300+ metres & avoid further knee damage we caught the Kuranda Scenic Railway, established in mid 1800s when logging & mining were large industries on the Atherton Tablelands.  The railway is an amazing journey travelling through 15 hand carved tunnels, around a 180 degrees bend, crossing Stoney Creek Bridge & stopping at Barron Gorge to view the magnificent falls.  We had an undulating ride to Mareeba where 75% of Australia’s coffee crop is grown .  We camped at the Riverside Caravan Park with a couple of crazy cats & on the banks of the Barron River.  Both of us were pleased to be back in the saddle and off both the Bruce Highway and the coast. We’ll still be travelling on Highway 1 for a while, but we expect it to be a little less busy from here. To celebrate our return to the road we had dinner at the local RSL with a free show. We duly signed into the club and walked past all the pre booked and reserved tables on our way to the bar. Greg doesn’t usually buy raffle tickets, but I’m pretty lucky so I bought  a couple of bucks worth and we got on with our evening. Later the numbers were being called out and one of them was mine. I’d won a $5 Keno voucher. For the uninitiated Keno is a bit like bingo. We’d never played before, so we read up on what to do and how to play on the information supplied on every table. Eventually we’d worked out what to do, it took about 15 minutes as neither of us are gamblers of any description. I took the ticket to the booth at the bar and the lass gave me another ticket and said our games ould be played soon. The walls of RSL’s are littered with televisions screens so we had no difficulty viewing the games as they were played. We couldn’t keep up, so after about 20 minutes I went back to the booth and the lass pressed my ticket into a machine and kindly informed me I’d won nothing. Maybe I’ve been hanging around Greg too long... Strange things happen in Far North Queensland, FNQ, but to sit down in the Mareeba RSL and be entertained by none other than......yep, Johnny Cash! In our ignorance we thought he had died, but no, just like Elvis, he has arisen from the dead for one last time. Clearly time in a small coffin shaped box has not helped Johnny’s voice and so we left about halfway through this world shattering performance only to be awoken later on that night, about 3.00am actually, by three pissed Koreans obviously discussing world politics, in Korean, at the top of their voices. On mentioning this to the proprietor of the caravan park the next morning, she took great delight at waking them up, dragging them out of bed and giving them an earful on caravan park etiquette. 

Sept 26 Mareeba to Atherton 36.25 klms, Avg speed 11.4 kph, Cycling time 3.10 hrs; Total kms 4544.73

After breakfast and another flat tyre for Greg (we think the valve in the inner tube is dickie) we cycled onto Atherton we heard a strong wind forecast from Cardwell right up to the Cape & they were right, it was the strongest head wind we’d cycled in so today wasn’t a pleasant riding day. Wind gusts in excess of 50 kilometres an hour reduced our speed considerably and ensured we didn’t venture past 1st gear all that often.  My left pedal has developed a creaking, clicking squeak, Greg’s left pedal was also making noises, but seems to have settled down. We stopped in Tolga for a rare takeaway lunch of hamburgers and chips, mmmm... Before heading back into an increasingly strong head wind. Then to top it off the replacement tyre that should have been at Atherton Post Office wasn’t there, the post office had turned the courier away the day before as there aren’t any arrangements for them to pay the holding fee to the courier!  Luckily there is a cycle shop in town.  We arranged with the local International Club to pick us up in their courtesy bus for dinner. Once again I bought raffle tickets, what looked like about 100 of them, for $10. Once again I won nothing, Greg’s negativity is really weighing me down! The highlight is staying at the Atherton Woodlands Tourist Park for the next 3 nights, very quiet and renowned for its birdlife.

Sept 27—Atherton

Life here is relaxed & because Atherton is know as the ‘hub’ of the Tablelands the Shire has grown over the past 6 years from 5700 to 11433.  Known for Chinatown, Bird-watching, Bushwalking, Facets & Fossils, the town once hosted a thriving Chinese community, gold attracting settlers in the late 1800s, the remains of Atherton’s Chinatown is now the Hou Wang Temple.  We’re still working on what to do about the pedals, but there’s not much we can do on a weekend. The local cycle shop is very helpful, but they don’t have our model of pedal. Greg is busy hammering away at emails, and will hammer away at the phone on Monday morning. He is understandably shitty as since we’ve started our journey we’ve had, the by now notorious spoke problem, now very satisfactorily resolved thanks Tim, two separate warranty claims with our sleeping mats, both replaced, a very unsatisfactory outcome with a Polar Cycle Computer (don’t buy one) replaced with a new one, a potential warranty claim for the tent floor, although this may have already been solved, a tyre that separated from itself at the bead, replaced with a new one but send by courier to a post office who wouldn’t accept it without further fee even though Greg had given a Poste Restante address in Atherton, and now the pedals.....He has no more hair to pull out (not that there was much).

Sept 28—2 Oct—Atherton

On top of the above issues Greg’s Telstra wireless modem curled up and died, I think Greg felt like doing the same after spending 4 hours speaking to Telstra!  This has now been sent away for repair so our use of internet cafes is currently the norm.  And the tyre.....as it was held for more than 4 days by the courier firm it’s gone back to Sydney, try as we might to get it delivered to us 30 klms away it seemed to make more sense to the courier company to ship it back to Sydney, more than 3,000 kilometres away, and await further delivery instructions.

There is some good news though —our new pedals are on their way to Atherton thanks to the efficient service of the Atherton Cycle Shop & Shimano so while we’re waiting for their arrival we got to know Atherton well.  We hopped on a bus to the heritage tin mining village of Herberton, 18 klms away, with its rustic old buildings, museums & streets overflowing with jacaranda trees in full bloom.  The Mining Museum occupies the site of the first big tin discovery & told a fascinating story of the area’s mining history.  We lunched at the historic Royal Hotel (good burgers) and Trevor, our very friendly bus driver, dropped us back into town.  Herberton is the 2nd highest town in Queensland hence the bus ride and not cycle ride!

During our 6 days in Atherton we had a drink at a beautiful old art deco pub, The Barron Valley.  Whilst there we watched some young kids play a machine called Big Buck Safari Game.  Armed with their rifles they had great delight in shooting zebras, cheetahs, elephants etc. This was easy for them as they were given tips—”aim for vital areas, the head or heart”- must have worked at there were plenty of dead animals with blood oozing from their wounds.  The Epilepsy Warning at the start of the game didn’t seem to detract their enthusiasm, was it the handling of the guns or the delight in the killing. In any event, we wondered if it was OK to show and encourage the albeit virtual killing of animals, if anyone would be offended if they perhaps installed a game called Classroom Slaughter where you arm yourself up and then go into your virtual school room and start shooting your fellow students with points awarded for head or heart shots. It could even catch on in real life! We did both agree though that it was good that there was none of that really offensive nudity, that would be too much.

Our brain power was also put to the test at a Trivia Night at the local International Club.  We hadn’t intended playing however the questions boomed around the dining area so we surprised ourselves how well we did in the Entertainment section but weren’t surprised in our poor attempts at the Sporting ones. Is the Olympics over yet?