Monday, March 10, 2008

DAY 137: Maryborough to Apple Tree Creek

Sun 9th March 2008

66 km @ 19.0 km/hr

Distance to date 8173 km (5108 miles)

Sunny, cloudy, occasional shower

A very quiet night and sunny start to the day. I hit the road at 9 but hadn’t got out of town when I noticed the lake wildlife reserve in the park so went to have a look, and I’m glad I did because it was teeming with screaming and squaking birds of all kinds.

At the waters edge stood a dozen or so geese, a mixture of White and Magpie Geese having a blather, but easiest to notice were hundreds of Little Corellas who as usual were causing mayhem - squabbling and tearing the trees to shreds in search of seeds - they look like thugs with the blue rings around their eyes looking as if they’ve been thumped. Black Swan glided gracefully around in haughty contrast to their white cousins. Ibis were everywhere practicing taking off and landing on the water. I haven’t identified the large duck with the black head (pic) but recognised the Cattle (or Little?) Egret which were nesting in the trees all over the place. I could have spent longer watching all this going on but it started to rain heavily and I dashed for cover. The pic of the swing-type apparatus is exactly that - a swing for wheelerchair users - how cool is that? Never seen one of those before.

Most recent showers have been short-lived and this was no exception, and I left town to join good ‘ol (not!) Bruce Highway (Highway 1) which I must (unfortunately) use all the way to Childers. My destination is the town where a few years ago there was a contraversial fire in a backpacker hostel, unfortunately with loss of young life. The Highway wasn’t quite as busy as further south, but busy enough. Thankfully most of this lef features a decent-width shoulder, although this narrowed alarmingly on unimproved stretches of road. My mirror is starting to fall apart already, and the Duct Tape I ‘fixed’ it with prevents proper adjustment, so ,i need to sortg this out asap - I can’t do without the thing now, it certainly aids safety and makes me feel more in control of my actions.

I stopped briefly at Howard and had a cold drink from IGA, took a pic of the bus shelter, and continued to Childers. First stop VIC where the very helpful ladies discussed camping with me and even phoned one site up, but they were closed to tents for some reason, but they told me about a free site at Apple Tree Creek 6km up the road to Bundaberg (where I’m going next). So after a Subway 6” and a look around the pleasant town, off I went.

The site was OK but a bit close to the Highway (noisy) but hey, it’s free! I was slightly concerned that there was no-one else camping here, which makes me slightly less secure, but never mind. Just as I was making a cuppa 2 guys came over from the group of parents and kids playing at the other end of the recreation area, and said they were having a family day from a local church and would I join them for a barbie!? Why not? Better than same past dish and it’ll be nice to meet some new people. Later on once I’d set the tent up they came over for me and before long I was tucking into steak, sausage and salad and chatting over the table to my new acquantancies. I regret not remembering all their names but that’s par for the course with me. I did leave my website address so I hope they’ll be in touch. This isn’t the first Christian kindness that I’ve encountered on this trip, and I appreciate their warmth and kindness, and also their spoken prayers for my safe journey. I also got plied with food before I departed, and a little gift also - very heartwarming for me.

It was practically dark by the time I got back to the tent and the lorriews / traffic was still rolling in earnest. I wanted to phone Lyn on her first morning back in Caithness, but the phone box was quite a distance away and i didn’t want to leave the tent alone so texted her instead, and got a quick reply. She got home without drama and managed to take quite a bit of my stuff back too that i didn’t need, without incurring excess baggage charges.

Here’s hoping for a peaceful night.

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.

DAY 135: Jamie’s (N of Gympie) to Tin Can Bay

Fri 7th March 2008

45 km @ 15.5 km/hr

Distance to date 8030 km (5019 miles)

Sunny, cloudy later, warm

I had a perfect night’s sleep in this beautifully quiet setting, interrupted only by the Kookaburras at dawn, and I slept on until 8. Breakfast was out on the verandah with Jamie and Deb whilst admiring the gorgeous view to the north over the treetops. This place looks even better in the light - what a gem of a setting for a house! There’s a pool down below too, heated by solar collector panels on the roof of the pool’s covered area. There’s mains electric and a telephone line here but no mains water - that all comes from roof rainwater collection in large tanks.

Soon after 9 I was packed and reluctantly ready to roll, so having said goodbyes to my hospitable hosts off I went to immediately attack a 25% hill on a gravel track as part of the 3km gravel connection road to the Gympie - Tin Can Bay Road. I puffed and strained for 80m or so and actually made it without getting off, but my loud puffing and panting brought a lady out of a nearby house to see what was going on. 1km further on another similarly-sloped rise reared up before me, and this time I had to walk, which isn’t easy on loose gravel with a fully laden bike. Eventually the gravel turned to tar and a few metres later I was on the main road.

The Tin Can Bay road was pretty busy, but everyone was very well-behaved and anyway there was a decent verge.

I didn’t have far to go today so could afford to take my time, so after just 8km I stopped at the local General Store for a Dare Double Espresso iced coffee, which was slowly sipped as I read today’s paper, which was very relaxing after the last two days of concentrated effort. This coffee is actually preferable to Farmer's Union, I compared the two back to back the other day.One ‘dampener’ though is the fact that the saddle sore is definitely back. I could hardly believe it yesterday when that familiar soreness started to make itself felt - after 3 weeks completely off the bike it had apparently healed - but obviously there’s still something going on down there. I think possibly there was still a slight scar / bump there which is now again trapped between pelvic bone and saddle. I may be stuck with this for the forseeable future as there seems to be no solution short of wearing 2 pairs (of shorts).

The 45km ride was through pleasant forest, much of it commercial forestry, with the sun popping in and out for a few minutes at a time. I wore my Assos sleeveless top that I had posted on to Brisbane from Perth, and it really is nice and cool.

In the last 10km there is a large military camp, and the dummy soldier guarding the entrance seems to suggest there have been severe cuts in the Australian Army budget recently.

I arrived in Tin Can Bay around 1230 and checked in at one of the 3 caravan parks here ($16) in a nice shady position. I had a quick look around the adjacent mangrove coast and was pretty impressed - it is very beautiful and very well-kept. I decided to have a big breakfast at the cafe next to the CP whilst I typed yesterdays blog up.

There is a good concrete walking / cycling path which runs for some 4km. The manager of the CP told me that early morning (around 8) is the time to go and watch the dolphins coming into the coast just 2 or 300m from here, so I shall make a point of checking this out tomorrow. This place is so nice I’m already thinking of spending another night here, after just 3 days cycling after the break.

There’s free internet too (although on the slow side) so I uploaded just in time as the library closes at 5. After some more exploring the many types of tree alongside the water (many have name signs for identification), and watching the King Parrots and Lorikeets screaming around in the trees I did a little more shopping and went back to cook dinner in the rapidly-failing light (around 1800).

After dinner my evening in the tent was taken up with blog-typing, reading the paper, then pudding of grapes and yoghurt. I have plenty to do in the evenings and never feel bored.