Saturday, March 22, 2008

DAY 149: Cape Hillsborough to O'Connel River CP

84 km at 18.0 km/hr
Fri 21st March 2008
Distance to date 8957 km (5598 miles)
Very warm / sunny

The Kookaburras were very vociferous indeed at dawn this fine morning, and they made sure everyone was up early - thanks guys (but I forgive your enthusiasm)! One came and sat on a branch right over our heads as we had breakfast, hoping to share I expect. I went and sat on the beach and absorbed the idyllic tropical scene for a while as Norm finished packing - this is a beautiful place indeed, Lyn would have loved it. The tide goes out a long way here, and at some 7m these are some of the highest tides in Oz, but it happened to be high tide at this time, the gentle waves quietly lapping on the sand.
We rolled out of camp at around 9 and enjoyed quiet roads to Seaforth where we topped up our water bottles, before returning 2km back down the road to the right turn onto the Mount Ossa road. This runs for 15km to connect to the Bruce Highway for northbound travellers like us, and although the first 8km is gravel it’s in pretty good condition. The Highway itself was fairly busy but with tourists more predominant than lorries, which were few on this bank holiday of Good Friday.
We stopped for a break at noon at a roadhouse and my sausage roll was returned as it was utterly inedible - hard and dried-out; disgusting. A little further down the road Norm disappeared from my rear-view mirror and I went back to find him mending a puncture in his little Bob trailer wheel. The tube was repaired easily enough, but the little metal splinter we could feel sticking inwards took about 20 minutes to dig out as it was so tiny and well-embedded in the tyre. It may have been a piece of tyre steel core from the many pieces of shredded tyre found on the shoulder. While we were doing this a really nice young couple stopped to chat with us - they also have done some touring on bikes in Alaska and were interested in what we were doing.
Underway again, we slowed down somewhat as the road bent to the north and east and put the SE wind on our right side. It was pretty hot too, pushing 30 I’d say, and we were glad to top up water again at a filling station, not to mention some Rocky Road and ice-cold Gatorade reviver. We got a toot from a train driver hauling cattle (pic) and ploughed on towards Proserpine, starting to think about where to camp - neither of us was keen to pay big-town caravan park prices unless really necessary.
As it happened we soon came upon a CP in a very nice location by the O’Connel River, and we were only charged $6 each for the privilege! There was a pool here too so once the tent was up I cooled off for half an hour before dinner. A fellow camper gave us a fish he had caught and cooked (Bream) which was kind and which we added to the spag concoction. Afterwards Norm blagged or bought a couple of beers from someone so we had a wee drink and blather on the dark riverbank with unseen fish splashing around below us.
I think I will give the Whitsunday Islands a miss - it’s a 40km detour each way plus I would have to leave the bike somewhere if going over on the ferry for a day tour, which I’m not keen to do. If I don’t do the WI’s I will probably try and make Bowen tomorrow, which seems like a nice place from what I’ve been told.

DAY 148: Mackay to Cape Hillsborough

60 km at 15.8 km/hr
Thurs 20th March 2008
Distance to date 8873 km (5546 miles)
Rain, warm, sunny evening

I slept peacefully again, not waking until 0730 when the house started to come alive. After breakfast and having said our respective goodbyes to our host and hostess Peter and Jackie we hit the heavy early morning rush-hour traffic. The Mackay suburbs / industrial area goes on for some 5km of sometimes hilly terrain, but eventually the city slipped away and we were back in open country- mostlt grazing land and sugar cane. It was still fairly hilly but nothing too steep, and since we were heading NW the SE wind was on the left side. The traffic was pretty heavy with plenty of lorries and more than usual caravanners and campervans getting away for the forthcoming Easter weekend.
As we neared the right turn onto the Cape Hillsborough road it started to rain; heavily at times, but it was quite warm nevertheless so we shrugged it off. A few km along this road there is an organic shop selling fruit, veg, sauces etc., and I bought some (rather expensive) organic muesli and some bananas. Norm and I chatted to the owner for a while as we waited for the rain to subside - he is from California originally but has been here many years growing fruit and veg and building up this business. The rain had stopped as we set off again but started again almost immediately, and heavy again. I had expected this road to be quiet but it was fairly busy, made worse by having no shoulder at all, and there were plenty of lorries though God knows where they were going to. We had a very near miss indeed when a red cement lorry came within inches of knocking us both off - another cement lorry from the same company was coming the other way at the same time, and though the driver going our way had time to slow down until it was safe to pass us he chose to just push on and squeeze us off the road. Drivers like him eveidently have no regard for human life - he would rather kill us than have to lose a few seconds it seems. We both finished up on the rough verge which wasn’t fit for riding on, but we had no choice. The incident left me feeling very angry, and even more so when Norm told me that a few days ago a lorry had actually made contact with him in a similar incident, which had left a huge gash in his right arm which needed several stitches. Most lorry drivers are ok, and I always try to remember to wave in thanks when they give me a wide berth, but the bad ones I have to regard as very dangerous / unstable / drunk / half asleep or whatever and take my own responsibility to avoid them by using the mirror and constantly evaluating the situation on the road. This is by far the most important lesson I have learnt so far on this tour.
We got a good soaking over the following couple of hours but before we arrived at the Smalley’s Beach camping area it had ceased and we were able to set our tents up in the dry, and in my case, unknowingly at the time, on an ants nest. I made coffee for us and then we headed off to explore the delights of the Cape Hillsborough NP.
It was very nice indeed; we found an interesting rainforest walk (the Yuibera plant trail) which felt like a jungle at times with it’s dense tree cover and swampy mangrove-tangled floor, and there were plenty of informative signs related to the flora and fauna of this particular habitat. We also cycled slowly around the Diversity Boardwalk, the boardwalk set above the murky bog in which Mud Skippers were playfully skipping around in their chosen element. A few strange (to me) birds were spotted, and I will now have to get a ‘proper’ bird book as the number of species increases as I move north - there are some less common birds now that are a challenge to identify with the simple guides I have. We also tried another designated walk but it proved too sandy for the bikes.
Once back at camp I set to to prepare supper with ingredients from both Norm and myself, and I must say it turned out OK (spaghetti / tuna etc). Tomorrow we are going to head north west again, back onto the Bruce Highway towards Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands. Norm and I went for a walk on the (full) moonlit beach, and although he is great company I wished he could be Lyn for a while (;->). later on I got the binoculars and lay on my back on the coarse sand studying the moon (as you do!).
The fruits in the pic are wilod figs - actually covered in termites in this case!