Monday, April 07, 2008

DAY 165: Cairns - Kuranda - Cairns

60 km at 16.0 km/hr

Sun 6th April 2008

Distance to date 9918 km (6161 miles)

I lingered long and luxuriously in a ‘proper’ bed this morning with sun streaming in, though temporarily obliterated by my eye mask. Renee introduced me to Vitasoy with my muesli; delicious soya milk that to me tastes better than real full-cream milk, this stuff is even creamier.

Thus fortified I set about finishing the blog updating and replying to e-mails, the number of which is growing as more people make contact after reading the website. Two or three other people are planning or actually undertaking long trips around Oz and seemingly find the info useful.

Towards the end of the morning I set off for a ride up to Karumba, some 30km away. It is possible to get a train there and then cable car back but I quite fancied a big climb without all the heavy gear. I wasn’t sure how high up the town is but had thought it would be the same elevation as the Tablelands i.e. Around 750m, but I was wrong again.

The first 11km is dead flat along the busy Cook (the main north) Highway but then after turning left onto the Karumba / Mareeba road the climbing starts. Very nice climbing too after the Alpine style, with many switchbacks and occasional views down to the valley through gaps in the dense rainforest. The road was busy but being a Sunday virtually no lorries were on the go, and most of the cars gave a wide berth - there was a little shoulder for most of the way so I didn’t get anxious. There was plenty of shade too on the steady 6-8% incline. I found I could maintain 8 km/hr fairly easily as opposed to (probably) 5-6 km/hr fully laden under similar conditions. It was thoroughly enjoyable getting the old climbing rhythm back but rather than 750m the highest point on this leg proved to be only 450m (the steep bit started from sea level), but then it falls to 350m and then rises and falls to finish up at around 400m at Kuranda.

Kuranda is a somewhat Bohemian town, or village as it likes to be known, with trendy cafes and lots of craft stalls and shops. It proved impossible to get a decent photo of the place though due to the lines of trees in front of all the buildings, but the trees make it more comfortable to get around of course. It wouldn’t be an imposition to spend more time here. I had a good lunch in a pleasant terraced cafe (chicken and avacado sandwich decorated with various fruits, and a tall glass of freshly-crushed pineapple juice with mint if you must know). The lady owners were yet again very interested in my travels and gave me $10 for WaterAid - nice. For the next hour I had a wander around Birdworld - a huge enclosure containing scores of different kinds of bird (the largest in Oz) together with a leaflet showing what type of bird. The birds are ultra-tame after all the close contact with humans and actually got a bit too friendly at times - a parrot taking a keen interest in eating my rucsack and a dove performing a mating ritual on my hand (that’s the best offer I’ve had today lol).

It was nearing 4 so I set off back and after regaining 100m or so in height it was a 450m plunge at 45 km/hr, mostly keeping up with a line of cars, much to their chagrin possibly. Once down at sea level it was a hard slog against the strong SE wind back to Cairns via the western arterial road and a bottle shop for a 6-pack of XXXX Specials for me and mein hostesses.

As I came out of the shower Sarah, whom I hadn’t met yet, arrived home from her 60km mountain bike ride around the Atherton Tablelands, and I must say she looked pretty fresh for all that. I felt quite knackered after my efforts but perked up when the girls’ joint-effort delicious dinner was served. These two are really nice company and very friendly - as have been all of my Warmshowers hosts. I hope they all understand that it’s much appreciated and enjoyed - here’s nothing better than sharing time with like-minded people in this way - all my hosts have, perhaps unexpectedly, had very similar environmental and ethical principles as myself; it goes with the activity I guess? I hope to see some of them back in Scotland so I can return the favours.

As I type this the Curlews are are broadcasting their joint, mournful cries across Cairns; quite an eerie sound.