Saturday, April 12, 2008

DAY 168: Mossman to Lync Haven (Daintree NP)

Weds 9th April 2008
56 km @ 14.6 km/hr
Distance to date 10072 km (6295 miles)

As well as another poor nights’ sleep I had backache this morning too - I was pretty stiff and had to shamble around like an old man for a while lol. It eased somewhat during the day though. First thing was a trip to Mossman Gorge, one of the most-visited sites in N.Queensland, however although very beautiful there are similar sites in Derbyshire and Scotland - rocky river running through picturesque valley - that attract little attention. Plus there was a 500m walk in up and down steps, so I had to leave the bike unattended for a while, which usually makes me anxious and today was no exception. I’m still in low spirits I have to say but I’m trying to climb out of it as best I can.
It’s a 12km round trip out to the gorge and back to Mossman, and when passing back through I dropped in at a cafe with internet, to upload. The internet connection was OK but the computer was old and slow, as I felt this morning. However the guy gave me 20 minutes free time to compensate so I got finished within that time.
I finally left Mossman at 1030 with the wind on the right side for a while, and the sun shining brightly, passing through alternating rain forest and then sugar cane fields where the land had been cleared. There wasn’t much traffic and just as well as there is no shoulder on this road.
I pedalled away for a couple of hours of this before arriving at Daintree Township junction, where there is a roadhouse, but a coachload of some 20 people beat me to the counter so I gave up on coffee and a muffin and had a banana instead as hordes of mostly fat tourists leered at me over their burgers. I wasn’t in sociable mode today unfortunately so it’s as much my fault that I didn’t engage with anyone.
I decided to give Daintree Township a miss (it’s a 20km round side trip) since there was nothing special there to do or see that I couldn’t see and do nearer to the highway. Just 1km north of the roadhouse was the mighty Daintree River, and there were 4 or 5 trip operators vying for river cruise "guaranteed to see a croc" business. I chose one and after a home-made cheese and tomato roll I boarded an electric-motored vessel for a cruise up the river (part of Daintree NP) for an hour. It was very nice too, and as you can see we say a few of the great beasts. The big one is some 60 years old it seems and he has a hareem of 5 or 6 ‘wives’ to keep him amused; however they are resident some way up river in their separate hideaways and he visits them in turn. Now there’s a thought! He takes no part in nest-building or baby croc aftercare; he just does the important bit lol. However, it seems he has a rival for the King Croc title, and his reign may be coming to a (violent) close. We saw a couple of smaller saltwater crocs and a Green Tree Snake (common and non-poisonous) too. The boat operator was very knowledgable and interested and answered all 50 or so questions that I threw at him very competently, including "what do I do if a croc gets me?" - "poke his eye or play dead" was the answer. Apparently if you lie doggo he thinks you’re dead and lies back for a rest, which is when you can slip away, presumably taking your severed arm and/or leg with you. For $22 (£9) it was good value.
From here it was a short ride to the Daintree ferry and a 4 minute, $1 punt over to the north bank, where the metalled road continues to wind through the rainforest.
Now it was like cycling through a deep green tunnel with lush rainforest close up to the road - this is all NP so no farmland at all now. After a few km of flat windy road it’s uphill for a short time - surely that isn’t the hill that everyone told me about? No it isn’t - 7km from the ferry the real climbing starts - 200m in under 2km at mostly 10 to 15% incline - killer! Speed was mostly under 5 and often under 4 km/hr and I was ‘on the limit’ at times.
There’s a nice (Alexandra Range) viewpoint to stop and admire and get your breath back at, and we (me and some 4WD'ers) were treated to a graceful, slow,' thermal rising' display by 4 gorgeous big (4" wingspan) colourful butterflies, a bit like the Ulysses but different colours - a fantastic show. From here I plunged downhill through the green tunnel and almost at the bottom there is a turn for the Discovery Centre, an interpretative walk / display, which is reckoned to be very good but which is $33 to get in! I’m camping a few km down the road so I may come back here tomorrow (it was closing in an hour and that’s not enough time to have a good look). 5 km on is an essential stop - the Daintree Ice Cream Company - where they do a 4-scoop medley of bush-plant flavours e.g. wattle seed, and very nice it was too. Although sunny all day it hasn’t been excessively hot at 29 deg C but quite pleasant, good ice cream weather.
The Lync Haven CP is just down the road from here, and at $9.50 with well-fitted campers kitchen it’s a bargain. There are a lot of mozzies though but a good spraying of repellent all over me keeps them away hopefully. The camping area is in dense rainforest and is actually quite dark for that.There’s a French guy staying here - Michel - and we cooked and ate together tonight, both of us testing our knowledge of French and English with the other. I was surprised what French I had remembered from school not having used it since. It was a very dark walk back to the tent as there was no moon.
I’m going to stay another night here before moving on. Although I’m a few days behind ‘schedule’ I’m sure I can make it up on the long outback road across the Top End, where tailwind easterlies should prevail. I have a hard task in a few days when I tackle the 79km Bloomfield 4WD gravel track through to Cooktown, which may be very rough and certainly features some very, very steep hills where I’ll have to get off and push, very slowly. It will be a major challenge, but should help me prepare for the 700km Gibb River Road in the Kimberleys later on.
I may need 2 or 3 days to do the Bloomfield; I’ll have to see how it goes. It is supposed to be very beautiful so 3 days would be worthwhile I expect, There are a few deep river crossings; rivers that are home to Saltwater Crocs waiting for something tasty for dinner, and at least one of these, the Bloomfield River causeway, has to be tackled at low tide, so I need to check tide tables too.