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Flying Fish Point to Tinaroo Falls
When I rode into Flying Fish Point and Joan S. offered me a place in the taxi she’d arranged for the next day, Day 272, I said I’d think about it. She said she’d been studying the map and thought that the ride to Tinaroo Falls would be a lot of uphill because we had to cross the Atherton Tablelands. She had arranged that the taxi would take our bikes and us halfway to Tinaroo Falls, and then we would ride the rest of the way to camp. I didn’t jump at the chance for a place in the taxi because I hate to give up and especially when I haven’t even tried. But when I thought about it I remembered that I had recently decided to look for creative ways to conserve energy and have more fun. Here was just such an opportunity! All I had to do was pay my share of the fare, about $10 U.S. So I agreed to go. Before long there were 8 passengers and 8 bikes, full capacity for the taxi van.
The eight of us met at breakfast and afterward cycled the 10 or 12 km. into Innisfail to meet the taxi. With me were Joan I., Gudrun, Maryke, Inge, C.J., Beth and Joan S. We had to make our bikes airplane-ready which meant turning the handlebars and removing the pedals. The taxi driver removed a couple of seats from the van and then skillfully stacked the bikes inside. In no time we were on our way. When I saw the scenery I was missing and the photos I couldn’t take because I was in the taxi I began to regret my decision. But on the other hand it was wonderful to get a head start and that would mean more time and energy left to explore the rest of the day so my regret was short-lived. We passed True, our fastest cyclist, but when we reached the halfway point and stopped to unload the taxi he passed us. He really is an amazing rider. Of course he gets to camp first every day and is usually the only one there. He has to sit and wait for the gear trucks and TK&A staff to arrive!
When the gear trucks come he is always there waiting, and he unloads the tons of heavy baggage. He is the only rider to consistently do that; others who arrived in time to help might just sit and watch.
The ride was fun and that was partly because it wasn’t too long and partly because of the hills! Hills are much more fun to cycle than flat land (if they’re doable) because it’s not boring and because the scenery improves dramatically. Finally we had left the flat land and the millions of acres of sugarcane, bananas and eucalyptus forests that had become rather boring. We saw coconut palms, macadamia orchards and a tea plantation. Other fruit was raised there; I saw ‘For Sale’ signs for paw paws, avocados and pineapples. I saw a ‘Free Coconuts Help Yourself’ sign near someone’s home. At one location pineapples were $1 Aus. each and avocados were 3 for $1 Aus. In U.S. dollars the pineapple would be about 60 cents and each avocado about 20 cents! We were in a rainforest that was a Wet Tropics World Heritage Section and luck was with us, it didn’t rain. In the Wet Tropics there is a dense growth of several kinds of palm trees and vines, and giant tree ferns. I imagine there are crocodiles lurking in there, but I didn’t see any. For sure there would be snakes and Australia has some seriously poisonous snakes. It has amazed me how quickly we have moved from one climate to another, from grasslands, to rain forest, to wetlands. When our flight landed in Canberra it was spring, a day’s ride north and it was summer, one more day further north and we were in the tropics! It has been amazing.
Our destination was Camp Tinaroo, a Presbyterian Camp on Lake Tinaroo. When we rode down the dirt lane to the camp we came to a warning sign: SLOW DOWN! Children, Speed Bumps, Dogs, Kangaroos.
We had a choice of indoor or outdoor camping and I chose indoor thinking it would give me more free time to write for the web page. Indoor camping was in large dorms filled with rows of bunk beds with grey plastic covers on the mattresses. There was no bedding so we had to use our own. It was hot, there were insects, and in the night one rider made the rounds waking all the snorers, including me.
As soon as we had arrived I had inquired about a washing machine, feeling a bit foolish to even hope that there might be one out there in the sticks, but there was and not only could I use it but it was only $1! I was thrilled. I hung my clothes out in the sun but still there were things that didn’t dry, a nuisance when you have to keep moving on every day.
One of the men working there brought in a snake he had just caught, an Eastern Brown Tree Snake, which is poisonous but has a small mouth so it is not dangerous.
The cooks had worked hard to prepare a delicious dinner for literally hundreds of us, but unfortunately, more than half the riders had gone ahead to Cairns, anxious to go SCUBA diving and snorkeling. There had been only 85 riders on the road that day. We who stay on route always enjoy the absence of the others because we have more space and short lines or even no lines. But I felt badly that so much effort had been made to make twice as much food as we needed. This was the second night in a row that this had happened. Both times it was just ordinary local folks doing the cooking.
During dinner and later some riders watched the Olympics on television but after working on the web page awhile I went to bed.
Australia is awesome!
Tinaroo Falls to Wonga (Mossman)
We left the campsite earlier than we usually do, getting a head start because we hadn’t used our tents. We needed that head start because there were so many distractions on the route. We had a wonderful ride through gorgeous scenery and even a super descent. We were still in the Atherton Tablelands so there were still rolling hills and extinct volcanic cones covered with green trees. We rode through the Great Dividing Range where the ranches were far apart and the scenery was spectacular. When we came down to sea level we were back into sugarcane again, a major crop here. And we saw the sea for the first time in days. Somewhere out there in the Coral Sea lay the Great Barrier Reef which everyone was excited to experience.
Because it was a relatively short day (140 km.) and because we had an early start, we were more relaxed than usual and more distractible. We had learned of a place called The Coffee Works and decided to pay it a visit. It was time for a good cup of coffee anyway. (Every meal vendor in Australia has provided only instant coffee.) And we were curious because we hadn’t realized that coffee is grown in Australia. We took the full Coffee Works Tour, which included more information than I could absorb and all the coffee we could drink from about 9 varieties that had been brewing when we arrived. Mareeba, where The Coffee Works factory is, is the coffee capital of Australia. There are more than a dozen coffee plantations in tropical North Queensland. The coffee grown is arabica and arabica is of better quality than robusta, the other variety. We learned how the beans are washed and sorted and skinned and roasted and saw all the machinery that is used. We learned some practical things too like coffee should be stored in the freezer, not in the refrigerator. It was a very small factory and it was obvious that the people there loved their work. I loved their coffee and bought some to send to Mom.
It has been exciting to be cycling in Australia because there are so many birds and plants that are new to me. On my bike I get to listen to the birds and all are strange and wonderful to me. The only call I can recognize is the Kookaburra! There are lots of croaking frogs too and because some birdcalls are so unusual I sometimes wonder whether I am listening to birds or frogs. A few birds I know on sight. One that I saw and already knew was the Sacred Ibis. It is a tall bird and striking with its black and white plumage and long curved beak. I know the black and white magpies too. One day one of them dive-bombed me three times. Other riders had the same experience. Do magpies hate yellow? Our helmets are yellow. The magpie didn’t hurt me but I was surprised by the loud sound made by its beating wings.
Our destination was the Pinnacle Village Holiday Park, a luxury campground. This time I picked a place for my tent with no overhanging branches. I had to stay clear of the coconut palms too which are loaded with coconuts. When they turn brown they fall and fall hard.
We had a fabulous dinner under a big tent prepared by Party Hire from Cairns. It was a ‘barbie’ (barbecue). There were many grilled meats but I had the fish, which was wonderful. There were vegetable kabobs and a variety of wonderful salads. The desserts were scrumptious! I had the apricot crumble and tasted the strawberry cheesecake and sticky date cake that was served with caramel sauce and cream. Every dessert was served with a mound of very thick cream. This is the same cream that is eaten in England with scones. It is called double cream and it is heavenly.
I went to bed stuffed and happy and looking forward to more great meals by the same caterer because we will have a layover day here in this tropical paradise.
Layover Day in Wonga (Mossman)
Our campsite in Pinnacle Village on the beach was in an area called Wonga and not far from Port Douglas. Port Douglas has become quite a tourist center. Even President Clinton and Hillary stayed there when in Australia. The Pinnacle Village Campground was described as ‘luxurious’ by some and it was very nice. There were washers and dryers and hot water in the showers. There was a room where people relaxed and watched the Olympics on TV. There was the beach of course but stinging jellyfish were in the water. People who wanted to swim could use the campground’s pool which was in three parts and even had a waterfall. The campground was so nice that some riders decided to just stay there and rest. Others left on bicycle to pedal to Cairns a day early. I decided to visit the Rainforest Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary even though I had already been to the Toranga Zoo in Sydney and the Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary in Townsville. Joan I. hadn’t seen any Australian animals yet except for road kill and she wanted to go as well. We had made all the arrangements after arriving the day before so that this morning all we had to do was to wait for the bus. While waiting several others who had no plans for the day decided to go too. They scurried about rather frantically, paying their bus fares, finding their cameras, etc. The riders that went included Anthony, Inge, Dot, Krystal, Joan I. and me.
The Rainforest Habitat was a wondrous place. It had three separate areas each with its own climate and appropriate plants and wildlife. We walked on a boardwalk of varying elevations so that we could be high among the treetops to see the birds living there. There were no fences, just gigantic nets spread over the treetops to keep the birds from leaving. In the Wetlands area we saw the endangered cassowary, fruit bats, many birds and the koalas. Everyone had a turn stroking the koalas which was without a doubt a highlight of the day. One fantastic looking bird there that I hadn’t seen yet was the Black-necked Stork. There were two and they stayed high above us on the rooftop near their nest. Another was the Tawny Frogmouth who at first glance appeared to be an owl because of the face shape and eyes, and because they sat so still. They were perched on termite mounds right in front of us but they were so still and so well camouflaged by color that it took awhile to find each one. On close inspection we could see that they didn’t have beaks like an owl’s but a very wide mouth like a frog or a baby bird. Apparently they hunt by sitting still with their mouths open waiting for something to come near enough to nab. None had their mouths open and only one moved and that was just to open and close his big eyes.
While I waited there for everyone to finish with the koalas I leaned on a railing and searched for birds. I had purchased a Bird Spotter’s Guide and was having fun trying to spot and identify the many birds I saw. Suddenly a green parrot landed on the rail beside me. I told him he was a pretty boy and I think he liked that for he climbed onto my arm to hear more. Somehow he had lost one foot so he moved with care not to slip and fall. For a while he was happy to perch on my arm while I talked to him but eventually he climbed onto my shoulder. I thought he wanted to pick at my hat pins, but he ignored them. What he wanted was kisses! Lots and lots of kisses. He leaned against my cheek and just kissed and kissed, all the while making soft little sounds. I loved him too and wished I could take him home. Later I found him in my bird spotter’s guide. He was a Eclectus parrot, completely green all over except for his bright orange beak and a bit of red under his wings. Later I saw him in the tree tops with the female which is bigger and bright red all over except for the breast which is bright blue.
Another area was The Rainforest. I couldn’t decide what exactly the difference was between The Wetlands and The Rainforest so that is another thing I will have to learn next year when I am reviewing my trip and have access to books and the internet. To me at the time it seemed that the main difference was that the boardwalk was higher in the rainforest so that we were nearer the treetops where we could have a better look at the birds. It was really fun trying to spot and identify birds. I counted 35 birds that day that I could identify with certainty. There were at least that many more I couldn’t find on my Bird Spotter’s Guide or couldn’t identify for sure.
In The Grasslands area were the kangaroos and wallabies, the crocodiles and emus. We could hand feed them all except for the crocodiles which are very dangerous. There are both saltwater and freshwater crocs in Australia; the type called Estuarine can survive in both saltwater and freshwater. They have a special gland which removes the excess salt from their bodies. There are no alligators in Australia but with such fearsome crocodiles who needs them. Many riders went to a crocodile farm where the star attraction was an enormous crocodile weighing more than a ton, which was infamous for killing and eating 48 cattle before being captured.
Another animal I saw that amazed me was the White-lipped Tree Frog. In my experience tree frogs have been tiny things, no bigger than a fifty cent piece. But this tree frog was big, if I could have held it would have been bigger than my hand!
After several hours we had exhausted ourselves in the Sanctuary so we took a shuttle bus to Fort Douglas. It was late for lunch but we had some anyway, then walked to the Marina where we sat in the too hot sun because there was no shade and had cold drinks. Then it was time to catch the bus for the hour-long ride back to our campground. Another wonderful layover day was over.
Wonga to Cairns
By now our numbers had really dwindled; I think it was only 68 that rode to Cairns, surely the least yet. Everyone was in Australia but many had gone ahead to Cairns or other locales. There were a couple of good things about this ride, first it was short, just under 100 km. and second it was Sunday so the traffic was reduced. The notorious road trains were missing; no sugarcane was being transported. That was wonderful from our perspective. I had been forced off the road only once but others had had more incidents. These trucks can be unusually long because they have double-long trailers or more than two trailers. When they pull out a bit to pass us (if they in fact do pull out) they return or pull in too soon and we are in danger of being hit by the last trailer. Perhaps we are traveling faster than the drivers think we are, or maybe some have poor depth perception, and also oncoming traffic could cause them to swerve back into the lane suddenly. Whatever, it is a worry. There is usually no shoulder so we are forced to pedal on the white line which is too close for comfort to the traffic. Sometimes when they go past they create such a turbulent wind that we are given an enormous boost forward. That may be what happened to Jim S. way back in Sweden when he and his bicycle were run over by a truck. If one lost control of the handlebars I think one could be pulled under the trailer.
We rode most of the way to Cairns on the Captain Cook Highway which usually paralleled the beach and a gorgeous sandy beach it was. We didn’t stop to play on the beach though, we were on a mission. We wanted to find and have time to visit the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park that my Australia book had recommended. This was an award winning park we were to learn, and has toured many countries since opening in 1987.
First we were directed to the History Theatre where we learned what had happened to the native people and their 40,000 year-old traditional culture when the Europeans descended upon them 120 years ago. It is an ugly story with many similarities to what happened to the natives in America when the Europeans took that land for themselves. Then we went to the Creation Theatre where the spiritual and traditional beliefs of the Tjapukai people were portrayed by actors interacting with holographic and animated images. That was the first time I had ever seen such a production and I was fascinated. We had headphones that translated the dialogue into the language of choice, but the story was complicated. That’s something else I can read about next year.
Next we visited the Cultural Village where we learned about bush foods and how the people had prepared them to eat. They gathered a variety of nuts from the forest and dug roots which took a lot of work to prepare so that they wouldn’t be poisonous, they ate the blossoms of the bottlebrush tree, and they ate roasted ants and even the soil from termite mounds which was full of healthful minerals. They ate breadfruit too which smells delicious but I haven’t tried it. And of course they ate any animals they could capture.
The delightful young Tjapukai man who had explained the bush foods and medicines also demonstrated how to play a didgeridoo. We thought he was wonderfully talented. He explained that one has to blow out constantly into the didgeridoo so that one must learn to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth simultaneously. That is hard! I tried and couldn’t do it. He suggested that a vacuum cleaner wand or a piece of PVC pipe could be used for learning how to play. When asked he said he had learned to play in two weeks which amazed me. There is much more to playing a didgeridoo than one would think.
We saw the spear throwing exhibition and then went to the boomerang throwing. First we watched the young men who made it look easy, then were given some instruction and an opportunity to throw two boomerangs. I was as hopeless at that as could be, but Joan was so successful that she bought a boomerang for herself from the gift shop and plans to teach her grandchildren how to throw it.
Finally we went to the Tjapukai Dance Theatre where young men in traditional dress and with painted body decorations, performed and sang ancient dances to the musical accompaniment of the didgeridoo. Then they demonstrated how to start a fire with two sticks, the first time I had ever seen that done, and I found it amazing.
When we were finished at the Cultural Park, we had to get back on our bikes and pedal with legs gone lazy the last 10 or 15 km. to Cairns. Our destination was the Rainbow Inn, described on the DRG as ‘modest but nice’. I think modest means old and nice means palm trees but never mind, it’s better’n a tent! Joan and I were given a room to ourselves which is a rare treat indeed and we appreciated the space and peace. The TV didn’t work but we didn’t want to watch it anyway, the reading lights on the wall over the bed had been broken by the last occupant or so we were told, but there was a fluorescent tube light on another wall, there was no hot water in the sink faucet, the plumber did fix it the next morning but inadvertently left the tap on so that when we returned the bathroom was full of hot water. Luckily the floor was ceramic tile and shaped like a bathtub so that it held the water at ankle depth and the shower drain could just cope with the excess water so that none ran into the bedroom. I had left a big new bar of soap on the sink which had melted to a nub by the time we found the flood.
Having fun down under!
Cairns Layover Day
Here we were at last in the famous resort town, Cairns, where everyone flocks to experience the Great Barrier Reef. Of course I wanted to do that too and so did my roommate, Joan, but we had only one layover day in Cairns with too much to do. We also needed to make a trip to the post office, and we had to have our bags packed and bikes ready to load on the trucks by 5 p.m. that day in preparation for the flight to Japan the next day. We decided that the only sensible thing to do was to go for just a half-day snorkeling trip rather than a full day. It was a struggle but we were able to arrange such a trip with the help of the staff in Reception.
So at 8 a.m. we were ready and waiting to be picked up and taken by bus to the harbor where our Green Island Reef Cruise would begin. Green Island is part of the Great Barrier Reef and is included in the National Park. We bought our tickets and boarded the Reef Rocket where we exchanged a coupon for snorkeling gear and were told what time our submarine ride would be. Our cruise included snorkeling and a semi-submersible coral viewing tour. Then the Reef Rocket was underway, arriving at Reef Island with only two hours remaining to do everything. We felt the need to rush so hastened to the Lockers on the island where we could, for $6.50, rent a locker in which to keep our valuables. Joan, Gudrun, Beth and I shared a locker. Then we hurried to the beach where we shucked our shoes and walked across the surprisingly coarse, white sand and into the water. That required a gasp or two on my part as I found the water colder than I had expected. Later we learned that the sand is coarse because Green Island is a coral cay which means it was not a part of the continent that broke off, but it was formed over the millions of years by the growth and death of coral so that eventually so much accumulated that it stuck out of the water forming an island.
Joan and I were in the water first so with fins on our feet and masks in place we swam out to see the beautiful coral and gorgeous fish. But where were they? No one had told us where to look and all we could see was sand and a green grass-like plant that grew in it. Finally after a 30 minute search we reached the coral and began to see fish. There were electric-blue starfish and big, fat, black sea cucumbers. There was stringy yellow coral that swayed with the movement of the water like grass in the wind, and brain coral and some lavender coral that looked like antlers or maybe branches. There was a variety of beautiful and colorful fish, both tiny and enormous, and I even saw a turtle swimming steadily along, gently flapping its front legs or flippers so that it appeared to be flying in slow motion. Moments later I saw a shark at the edge of the reef where there was a variety of enormous fish who apeared to be resting. They weren’t worried about the shark and neither was I for it just swam away. All too soon we were out of time and had to swim back to the beach.
We retrieved our things from the locker, quickly rinsed off the saltwater, changed clothes and hurried to the end of the dock for our submarine ride. I was grateful that the water was calm, apparently it is like that only a few days each year so I was lucky, for being in that submarine made me feel somewhat seasick. Luckily it was a short trip, only 30 minutes, so I was okay. The advantage to the sub over snorkeling was that the guide explained and named the animals that we saw. Just as when we snorkeled, we saw few fish, that is until our guide fed them and then they came in numbers. There were no brilliantly colored ones but it was nice to be eyeball to eyeball with the fish for a few minutes.
Back in the Reef Rocket once again we returned to Cairns. My companions seemed pleased with their snorkeling experience so I decided to keep my disappointment to myself. I had actually wondered whether I should snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef but in the end chose to do it because it seemed such a shame not too. But just as I feared, I have been spoiled by my previous snorkeling experiences in the Red Sea which were absolutely totally awesome. Now it isn’t fair to judge the Great Barrier Reef on only one hour of snorkeling in only one location of course. It may be and I hope it is, awesome in other locations. But I wonder. I compared notes with another rider, Priscilla, who is a SCUBA diver and has dived in the Red Sea and the Great Barrier Reef both. She is of the same opinion. She was on the Reef for three days of diving, going to a different location each day, and still found it couldn’t begin to compare with the Red Sea where the coral is far more colorful and varied and the fish about a thousand or maybe a million times more plentiful. Gudrun has dived in the Maldives and found that to be far better than here. Maybe the part of the Reef accessible from Cairns is not the best part, I don’t know. But if I wanted to go diving or snorkeling, I would not make a trip to Australia to do it. But of course if already here, don’t miss it!
In the evening after dinner, Tim of TK&A finally held the long-awaited meeting. He had returned several days earlier from Asia where he had been to finalize our routes, accommodations and meals. We were anxious to hear what he had to say. Of course he had waited until our last night in Australia for the meeting because he had wanted all the riders to be present. More than half had scattered, on their own agendas for our days here. There was good news and there was bad news. The good news was that everything was arranged, even the Mail Stops, and he thought the places we would see and the people we would meet were fantastic. The bad news was that we couldn’t fly to Kyoto in the morning as planned because the Japanese wouldn’t let our chartered Malaysian Air 747 land. Wow! How rotten is that! So we were told that we’d be staying over another night in Cairns, keeping the same rooms, and that we were free until 6 p.m. the next evening when there would be another meeting to let us know whether there had been a break in the deadlock over the landing problem. We were given a lot of details about the landing rights issue, but basically what it amounts to is that the Japanese government has rules to protect Japanese Airlines. Tim had tried to book our flight with JAL initially but in the end it couldn’t be because they couldn’t cope with so many of us and our bicycles.
There have been so many things on this trip that have gone awry that I suppose no one was really surprised and everyone appeared to accept the situation gracefully. Maybe at last we are growing up! Some folks have expected everything to be perfect all the time and they have been a noisy nuisance, constantly complaining and criticizing TK&A. I think they are off base, no one could reasonably expect this trip to be perfect, and anyone can see that TK&A are doing their best to make it a great trip. Even those negative people held their tongues at the bad news.
Many saw it as an opportunity and immediately after the meeting began planning what to do with the free day. To me the unexpected free day was like a gift of time even though I know I’ll have to give it back later. I’ll be giving up a layover day somewhere to make up for it - to make the itinerary work, but like a ‘snow day’ for school children it is wonderful to have at the moment.
Stuck in Cairns
This was an extra layover day created by the unfortunate decision of someone in Japan to deny our chartered plane permission to land. Some saw it as an opportunity to go on more tours or expeditions. Joan I. and Joan S. for example, went on an all day sea kayaking trip. Priscilla went diving again, this time on an inner reef. I chose to spend the day writing for the web page and (therefore) resting. The writing filled the day but I had a couple of expeditions of my own, one to a store for food, the other to a phone to send the web pages.
Last evening Tim of TK&A had felt there was a good chance that the Japanese would relent, but by 4 p.m. that had not happened. We were told we would fly somewhere in the morning (Day 278), to Japan if permission came through, or if not, to Malaysia. It was anyone’s guess as to what would happen next.
At 7 p.m. a state of indecision still existed, but we were told we would not be going to Malaysia after all. That, it turned out, had been a ploy to get us into Japan. It was thought that flights originating in Malaysia have automatic landing rights in Japan, but further investigation revealed that that rule applies only to commercial flights, not chartered flights like ours. We were told that a decision about Day 278 would be announced at 8 p.m. Everyone hung around waiting to hear the news and talked about how to spend another day in Cairns in case it came to that.
At 8 p.m. the news was that we would not go to Japan ever. Where we would spend the ten days that we were to have had in Japan had not been decided. We were told to look for a decision on that at 9 p.m. or failing that, at 6 a.m.
At 9 p.m. a surprising final decision was announced. We would leave Australia in the afternoon (of Day 278) on the chartered plane for Kuala Lumpur. In Kuala Lumpur we would be split into two groups and fly to Osaka on regular commercial flights. We had wanted to fly to Kyoto. I wish I had a map of Japan!
Hanging in there in Australia!
Botany Bay Link to Lyrics
Taronga Zoo (Day 266, Page 77)
Maryke’s brother’s restaurant, the De Klink
Link to Day 253-257
Maryke’s brother’s restaurant, the De Klink Day 253-257
Odyssey Riders and Staff
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