Wednesday, April 09, 2008

DAY 167: Cairns to Mossman

Tue 8th April 2008
98 km @ 17.0 km/hr
Distance to date 10016 km (6260 miles)

A poor night’s sleep last might due to things going around in my head, but up at 7-ish as usual and got packed up before breakfast. Hugs, photos and goodbyes abounded as I sadly took leave of Renee and Sarah, who are first-class hostesses, lovely people, and are highly recommended! I hope all goes well with the prospective house purchase they are into at the mo - please keep in touch guys...
Getting out of Cairns was easy and painless, quiet roads even in the rush hour, and I was soon onto the Captain Cook Highway. Things went OK for the first 23km i.e. while there was a good shoulder, but thereafter things became pretty pear-shaped.
I popped down to have a look at Palm Cove (only 1.5km off the highway) which is quite nice but a bit yuppified and lacking character I thought. There is a nice beach there but why 'Cove?' A cove is a short beach contained by cliffs, I think, but this beach is about 3km long and encompasses other resorts / villages too. OK, I’m in pedantic and none-too bright mood today for various reasons as you may have guessed.
And my demeanor plumetted once back on the highway with the disappearance of the shoulder for around 40km.

Health Warning: the Captain Cook Highway from Palm Cove to near Port Douglas is dangerous for cyclists.
Although this stretch is not excessively busy, because there are few sharp bends the traffic is going fast at around 100 km/hr, and many drivers don’t like slowing down before passing. I was buzzed closely many times, most significantly by one articulated lorry going like the clappers within a foot or so of me, which made me very angry. There was nothing coming the other way on a clear, straight road. I was so angry that if that lorry had stopped ahead of me I am sure I would have dragged him from his cab and beaten him to a pulp with the strength of 10 men. Yes, I was angry all right. Why don’t the transport authority put lorry drivers through a stringent psychological test before allowing them to drive a 25-ton killing machine? That might weed out the nutters like this one and make the roads a safer place for everyone, not just cyclists. Why don’t the Queensland Roads Department get their fingers out of their arse and add a shoulder to this long-known dangerous road? There are even signs saying it’s an accident blackspot - why don’t they address the issues causing that?
The scenery is very nice with the sea on the right and occasional sandy beaches fringed with palms, but it was totally lost on me due to the anxiety associated with the fast traffic. I can’t decide whether this road is more dangerous for cyclists than the North Road from Gawler to Adelaide or not - it’s a close-run thing. People are dying out there guys! There were no big hills though, just little rises of no more than 40m.
I snapped a few pics occasionally for posterity but was relieved to reach the Port Douglas turn and a 5km detour to have a look around. Although it’s not my kind of place - all marble ‘retreats’ and ‘country clubs’ with people being helicoptered in because they can’t bear the 30 minute drive from Cairns Airport - it has been built quite tastefully with lots of tree cover and smart buildings. I fancied a nice sandwich but the 3 cafes I checked out didn’t have much choice and didn’t look too clean either so I resorted to a ham and pineapple roll at Brumby’s Bakery which was fine, and a good bit cheaper than the ‘posher’ places. I was feeling somewhat tired by this time (1530) so planned to stay in a CP here, but at $25 and $24 respectively for unpowered tent sites for 1 person I decided to move on and try my luck in Mossman, only around 14 km north of here.
The road now had flattened out, was dead straight, and passed through wall to wall sugar cane fields. I still had a slight tailwind but all day it had not been that significant. Mossman is a pleasant little town, for me it has more character than Port Douglas, and the CP is quite good. It has a 50m swimming pool and a well-equipped campers kitchen, although at $20 it is still on the dear side. I treated myself to a decent bottle of wine - that’ll cheer me up lol! In fact there was a Canadian couple in the kitchen so we had a right old blather for a couple of hours, and this made me feel much better. I didn’t feel as hungry as usual so I just had cheese and tomato on some fresh crusty bread I bought today, and a couple of glasses of Cabernet.

DAY 166: Day 2 off in Cairns

Mon 7th April 2008
Distance to date 9918 km (6199 miles)

I slept very well again last night and was up in time to see Renee and Sarah go off to work as I slowly munched my muesli. I then uploaded to the blog and checked e-mails, of which two were of significant interest.
One was notification from that another donation had been made but the amount leapt out at me - £275!! This was from someone in Perth (WA) who has recently been e-mailing me about his proposed cycle trip around Oz - I was thrilled! That will pay for clean water and sanitation for some 18 people in developing countries. With other, offline, contributions the total is now well over £1000 - many thanks again to everyone so far.
The other e-mail was from Lyn, who I know isn’t too happy with me going away for a year - I can understand that - and the gist of it is that our relationship is probably over now for good. I have thought and hoped that we would ‘be OK’ after I returned but now I’m not so sure, in fact I think it’s very unlikely. I feel very sad and upset about that; we have had some very good times together over the past 5 years, and although I probably didn’t show it very well, I do love and admire her.
Life must go on, in somewhat mundane ways, so I busied myself with getting the chainring and rear sprocket turned around at a local bike shop (I don’t have the tools), and buying a spare chain. The mechanic also changed the rear brake cable, which was very sticky, so I’m glad that’s sorted too. Later on I had a look at the Botanic Gardens some 3km on the other side of the town, but to be honest my heart wasn’t in it and I didn’t stay long. I went to a barber to get both hair and beard cut and this was good fun with the conversation going to and fro around the salon. The owner has hundreds of bank notes from all over the world pasted on the wall that customers have given him, so I added a Hong Kong $20 note which he didn’t have (it’s worth about £1 lol).
Cairns is a very easy place to get around in; it’s easy with the help of a street map to get to where you want to go and I seemed to be able to get there using just 2 streets, which makes planning a journey simple. There are a lot of cyclists around too, suggesting that it feels safe for cyclists. I have felt very safe here, but Sarah says that is can be quite dangerous with some traffic having very little regard for cyclists. Sarah was telling me about her work as an environmental consultant and she says that there is a big need for experienced people here (wonder if they could use a 59-year-old lol). I know that the QEPA were recruiting managers lately....he he...
Renee and Sarah have made me sooo welcome here I shall be very sorry to leave tomorrow, they are great company, great cooks, interesting to talk to, ethically and environmentally supercharged and well, just thoroughly nice people. My kind of people. I shall always remember them, and maybe see them in Bonny Scotland one day - who knows?! I hope so. Sarah cooked a nice stir fry so I was well contented again.