Day 7. I’m in my tent in Giru, where I’ve swapped the steady hum of my bike engine for the steady hum of a sugar cane mill 100m away.
Woke up with a mouthful of Jagermeister after last night’s antics with the Whitsundays Cruise crew, but a shower, some rehydration, and a couple of hours fixed that. Felt like I could’ve packed my things a lot faster than I did. Jared was with the hippies, so I said bye to his flatmate and headed off northwards a little after noon, Cairns bound.
Today was a hot ride, and the 30 something degrees really sucked the water out of me and my 3L Camelbak Bladder. The smell of freshly hauled sugarcane was nice for the first couple of hours of the ride, but gave me a constant sugar craving after that. It was getting close to 1600hrs, and I felt it would be best to fire up WikiCamps and look for a place to call home for the night.
(I fell asleep at this point, and wrote the rest of this entry intermittently over the next 3 days)
Queensland State Government’s Department of Environment and Science considers everything north of the Boyne River to be croc country. That’s around Gladstone, which I’d passed on my way to Airlie Beach a few days ago. Most free campsites that showed up had a croc warning, so I was quite happy to find a safe grass patch just outside the Giru sugar mill.
I pulled up next to some ‘grey nomads’. These are older folk – Australian retirees mostly, from all over the country, exporing it out of a camper van in their golden years. I set up my bivvy bag (minimal set up on a dry night), and walked about the camp introducing myself to the ‘locals’. Our conversations mostly revolved around croc sightings at unexpected places this side of the dam when there’s a tide, and all the wildlife that is out to kill you in this country.
For dinner, I cooked myself a ‘daal’, with soup mix, red lentils, quinoa, brown rice, Moroccan spice, and tamarind I took from a tree nearby. I was nearly done when my neighbour’s friendly Filipino wife gave me a bowl of bangers and mash with some of her Fiipino flavours in the gravy. I walked up the road to relieve my bladder in the public toilets, and stumbled into a fireside conversation about childbirth on my way back. I had absolutely nothing to contribute while this older lady complained about how it ruined her vagina three times; her husband harped on about how beautiful his daughter’s birth was, how he missed the birth of his two sons born subsequently; a truckie and local dweller from the neighbouring street agreed with everything the husband said in between sipping his warm beer.
Luckily the conversation moved on to the All Blacks, sport culture in our two countries, and naturally, Australian wildlife. The truckie told me he’d seen a brown snake in the tree I had plucked my tamarind from, and I figured I’d best set up my tent instead of using just the bivvy.
I packed up early the next morning (Day 8), and rode through Townsville, stopping at Jourama falls for a run up the hill and a dip in the rockpools. I pulled up in Tully for a fuel top up and a picture with a giant gumboot.
Saw my first croc warning sign at a bogan-filled caravan park in Gordonvale, where I got catcalled – still unsure if I should feel happy about that. I arrived in Cairns just before dusk, and went straight to a picnic spot by the esplanade where I cooked the exact same meal as yesterday (minus the Filipino bangers and mash). I met a very friendly lady here who offered me her spare bed; thank you couchsurfer culture. She runs a local backpackers, and was extremely hospitable, hilarious, and German, now turned Australian.
Woke up in a stranger’s bed the next morning (Day 9), checked out Barron Falls, and made my way to Mareeba, where I had to pick up a fuel-bladder, before carrying on and doing a ride in the twisties around the area. Ryan was a very informative chap, being based on the Cape York peninsula for work. He told me about routes, wildlife, hunting, and riding. I was sweating in the heat, while his son played in the sand pit across the driveway. Ryan saw my rig and let me have his hunting tipped arrows, left over from when he snapped his 60lb bow -ouch! He had a couple hours to kill before heading off north for work, and offered to show me a dirt track around the Tinaroo dam.
I dropped my bike in fine sand around a closed gate; forgot to turn ABS off, and didn’t keep my momentum through the corner. The fully loaded bike was not easy to pick up: the weight felt rigid as a rock at first, and Ryan gave me a hand. The track was closed further up due to a recent rockslide, so we turned back. Ryan bolted forward and in trying to keep up, I went into a tightening right hander too hot and washed the rear out. Couldn’t blame the ABS this time. I washed out, slid on one side with my left leg still on the peg, my right on the road but on top of the brake lever protector (with my newfound gymnast-like flexibility), and somehow came to a rest while still upright because I was in a ditch at just the right angle. I rode out of that, no worries.
Then I stopped at a local winery. Don’t know why. I don’t even like wine, but I saw a billboard for mango wine and thought it was a brilliant idea. I sampled 7 quarter shots of tropical-fruit flavoured urine for $5, politely told the guy it tasted great, and then rode towards Atherton. From there I went to the Falls Circuit, stopping only at Zillie, through to Yungaburra, and swam at Lake Echam -inhabited by a freshwater croc, apparently. I love how casually Far-North-Queenslanders describe them as harmless.
From there, the Gillies Range rd back to Gordonvale on the way back to Cairns had some of the most fun twisties any motorcycle rider can dream of. Staying focused was challenging after a long day, for what seemed to go on forever.
I returned to Cairns, had a massive meal of pork ribs, potatoes and fries at The Cotton Club, and washed it down with a beer and an early night, physically shattered.
I’ve decided to rest today (Day 10). Spent my morning writing at Wharf One cafe, (excellent coffee and service), lunch next door at Hemingway’s (excellent beer, food, and waitresses), and caught up with a local rider who was nice enough to come by and chat about riding the Cape/ around the country.
I have been researching what’s involved in heading further north. The weight on my bike and relative inexperience riding in dirt might mean I might have to play it safe in certain sections, and avoid others altogether. I don’t want to be recklessly overconfident, but I don’t want to remain in my comfort zone either.
Port Douglas from here early tomorrow morning, so I can see the sun rise on my right as I ride up the coast. Should be well rested too for a long day as I head to Cape Tribulation.