Tuesday, April 22, 2008

DAY 181: Granite Gorge to Herberton

Tues 22nd April 2008
53 km @ 11.6 km/hr
Sunny, 26 deg C
Elevation of destination 924m
Distance to date 10592 km (6620 miles)

Not a good night at all - the Rock Wallabies were roaming around my tent in droves, presumably having smelt food despite me trying to disguise it (waste of time this because animals can usually separate out different smells). I was worried in case they damaged the tent with their sharp claws, and when I tried to chase them off they just looked at me - no fear at all of man. Added to this was the discovery of a new boil, this time on the opposite side to the one just about healed from last October. I had felt more sore today and that’s why. I’ll have to go to see a doctor for some antibiotics. Around 4 I was still awake as the Wallabies finally disappeared, but then the Bush Stone Curlews played their mournful whistling in unison for at least an hour on and off. I think I maybe got an hours sleep before the sun was up and cooking me alive in the greenhouse-like tent. I love the little creatures though! (I think)
I wearily had breakfast and just as I was packing up the lady owner of the place came and asked me if I was going on the walk up river, as described in the single-sheet map I got yesterday. That was nice of her, but I questioned her gently as to why this sheet exhorts guests to ‘feed the Wallabies’ when current thinking is that feeding wild animals can make them aggressive, bold and less competent at living in the wild. I told her about my bad night. She said they’d always fed them and said something about an EPA licence to do that (QEPA also regulates wildlife and countryside issues as well as pollution), but said this was with special food, and contradicted herself then by saying she wouldn’t allow guests to feed them scraps. “But the sheet encourages them to do that” saith I, whereupon she got huffy and stormed off. Trouble is they are so used to being fed and being near humans they have lost their wild instincts like running away when chased, and are not afraid to steal from the tent (for example). The Possums were the same at Magnetic Island, too familiar, and aggressive in demanding and stealing food from humans.
So not a good start to the day then!
The small road to Walkamin was very quiet, hilly and pretty scenic, so despite the strong SE wind in my face it was quite enjoyable and lifted my spirits somewhat. However once on the main Mareeba to Atherton road there was a lot of traffic, plenty of lorries amongst them, and an inconsistent shoulder which scarily disappeared altogether for several km. Progress was slow against the strong headwind and steady drag upwards. Mind you if you have to gain height to get into the mountains a constant 1 or 2% climb with no descents is the way to go, rather than going up and down. This steady slope upwards was a feature of the whole ride except for the last 10km today. I got somewhat stressed at being buzzed by traffic close up on the shoulderless bits, but just had to keep pulling off onto the bumpy grass, full of hidden treats like broken glass and huge lumps of lorry tyre.
I stopped just before Tolga at one of several ‘peanut places’ in this area for an iced coffee, and as usual this made me kick harder for Atherton. This seemed a pleasant wee place as they go, but I saw the sign for the hospital and headed up a long 1km hill to get to it. Like last time at Esperance in WA, the nurses were on the ball (and dare I say on my balls too? No - better not....) examining the intimate site of interest and ooohing at details of the long ride extracted from me - at least I think that's what they were ooohing at.....
Within the hour I was leaving a-clutching prescription and heading for the pharmacy in town, where $20.50 was extracted from me for a 5-day antibiotic supply. Thankfully these were tabs rather than the horrible big capsules I got last time and that I nearly died choking on in the Nullabor all alone in my tent one fated night.
The ride on to Herberton was very nice, a steady shallow climb until 8 km to go, when there's a 3km hill climbing 180m, 10% in parts. Happily traffic was light though - there is a half-decent shoulder too. I checked in at the CP 2km from town ($12) - the place was empty. Hopefully a peaceful night!