Monday, March 10, 2008

DAY 136: Tin Can Bay to Maryborough

Sat 8th March 2008

77 km @ 19.1 km/hr

Distance to date 8107 km (5067 miles)

Sunny, cloudy later, warm (yet again!)

What a noisy night! A small girl screaming in temper regularly; campers sat around till late talking loudly, and a house up the road still spewing out a poor imitation of Jimi Hendrix at 4AM. Still, I managed to get enough hours not to feel tired next day. For this reason I’m moving on rather than spend another day here, as nice as it is in TCB. I have seen everything really and I’d like to get to Cairns by early April because I’d like to spend at least 2 weeks in the Cairns / Cooktown area.

After brekkie I rode down the road before packing up, to see the dolphins being fed. This has happened every morning for donkey’s years apparently. I am somewhat sceptical about feeding wild animals although not entirely innocent in that respect myself. There were about 40 people at the quayside listening to a man with a microphone giving his speil - I think he is associated with the boat trip company operating from this point. He asked anyone who wanted to feed the dolphins (in fact there was only one and the poor thing was tattered and scarred from countless fights in his 17-year life) should queue up for a small bucket with a fish in it. I don’t know if one has to pay for this. He said that the amount of fish fed is only 10% of the daily food requirement so (they) it would still have to hunt for the other 90%. He then invited 5 people with buckets at a time to step into the water and Dolph will take the fish from the feeders hand, which he duly did. It was fun, but a bit tacky for me, though I nevertheless tried to take a photo (in the interests of science of course). I did get this pic of the Pied Cormorant though, who was lurking close hoping to snatch a fish from an unwary feeder. I wished he had, that would have increased the excitement marginally.

After all this touristy stuff I was ready for the wide open road, and I wasn’t disappointed. It was a lovely warm and sunny start to the day and after retracing my 14km track back to the Maryborough junction the SW side wind turned to a pure tailwind, and as it was blowing around force 5 or 6 I was fairly bowling along at a heady 27 km/hr. In addition the Maryborough road was much quiter with only 1 vehicle every 2 or 3 minutes. And as it was Saturday there were practically no lorries. This road is bordered by forest for 50km and I had been warned about the number of logging trucks on weekdays. All these positives conspired to make for a very enjoyable day - warm, sunny, quiet, tail wind, and quite scenic even though the forestry was commercial. I got quite a few toots today too (hopefully not because my Assos shorts have gone a bit see-through where they’ve worn).

As if this wasn’t pleasure enough I had a thrilling experience when I came upon a herd of a dozen wild horses (Brumbies). I came over a rise and there they were grazing on the better grass near to the road. They were all chestnuts and fairly big in size, with a couple of foals in tow, keenly protected by one braver and more aggressive animal, who stood his ground facing me as the others took fright. I was momentarily concerned he might attack me, but he soon turned and ran after the others. I’m sure they were mystified as to what I was, and they didn’t stop running until nearly a km away. I managed to stop quickly and get the pic of them fleeing. It was a wonderful moment, as many of my many unexpected with animals and birds has been. Two days ago I spooked another horse I met on a narrow road - it almost threw the lady rider as it reared up, obviously very afraid. The lady said something about me being ‘silent’.

I stopped for half an hour at noon under a shady tree where I could lean the bike on an Armco barrier. There are no shops or rest areas, not even a single house, between TCB and Maryborough, nothing but trees. The road is of good quality with around 600 to 900mm of shoulder all the way - a recommended cycling route, at least at weekends with no trucks to speak of.

The wind persisted and blew me all the way to Maryborough in rapid style, and I checked into one of the 4 caravan parks in the town ($17). The site is very quiet and I have a secluded shady spot which should be quiter than last night hopefully.

I spent a good 2 or 3 hours exploring the town and Mary River. The town is one of the oldest in Queensland and ‘old’ buildings are much in evidence, but they have not been restored so sympathetically - all gaudy signs and billboards and false fronts, yet there is some charm in the place nevertheless and it is worth a visit. There are a few walks / cycle paths by the river but unfortunately you can’t see the river for the dense mangrove-type bank vegetation. I’m well into the tropical zone now, as evidenced by the ubiquitous sugar cane, banana and pineapple crops, although I haven’t quite reached the Tropic of Capricorn yet. Banana's can be bought for only 99 cents a kilo (20p / pound). I also had a look at the (now closed) railway station, where a graffiti-covered and forlorn-looking steam engine sat silently against the rusty buffers.

I tried to text Lyn, who had texted me from Singapore, but I was unable to fathom the way the phone keypad works, and unfortunately I’ve jettisoned the manual to save weight. Another job for a rainy day working out what the buttons do.

I haven’t seen many birds here to say there’s so much water around, although there are a few Red-tailed Black Cockatoos around, and loads of Magpie-Wrens and Masked Lapwings. And a few Brahmini Kites.

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