Australia is full

July 30th 2006
Published: August 21st 2006
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A sign of things to come? 18-21/08/06

So, we finally leave Bowen. It's a warm, sunny day and the riding would be perfect if it wasn't for the lump that has developed on my bum! It's right under the left sit bone and is making life very uncomfortable; when I get on the bike there's a few minutes of comedy "Oooh. Owwwww, oooh" accompanied by much hotching around until the damn thing gets squashed enough to ease the pain. I'm then able to ride for about 5 or 6 miles before the pain gets too much and we have to stop for a few minutes. So we progress, slowly, through the cane fields of northern Queensland, stopping at Gumlu to eat our lunch, then again at Inkerman as the tell-tale slewing around and rough ride indicates another puncture in my rear tyre, so who says Marathons are bomb proof huh????? The rapid pressure drop happens opposite a farm stall, so we use the shade of their trees while we change tubes, then buy way too much fruit and spend a good few minutes trying to get it all in the very limited available space in the panniers. We're becoming the travelling version of Steptoe's yard!
We resist the urge to take a detour to Groper Creek and reach Home Hill as darkness falls. It's been a painful day and I'm glad to get off the bike, Vern has been trying to work out a way to make things more comfortable, but there's not much either of us can do, we'll just have to hope it settles down.

We set off to Townsville in the morning, my bum is still very tender, but seems a bit less painful than yesterday. Once again we stop every few miles for a rest, which helps. We have flat roads and a tail wind but unfortunately the Bruce is getting nasty, very little shoulder and much heavier traffic, we are glad to turn off it into Townsville where we find a cycle path on the opposite side of the road, we ride along it enjoying the lack of trucks until it ends suddenly and we have to cross back to the town bound side of the road. Five minutes later we are still waiting for a gap in the traffic and cursing our decision to use the cycle path. When we finally get going again we reach Globetrotters' hostel without too much fuss and only have to ask for directions once. We book a room for two nights and ask about extending our stay further should we wish; no chance, the place is full on Friday and Saturday.

On Thursday morning we go to the Information Centre to ask about accommodation on Magnetic Island for the weekend, the assistant tells us we'll be lucky, but she thinks there might be one place with rooms, her colleague says "I booked those spaces a couple of minutes ago" so we won't be getting to Magnetic Island this weekend then. As we're walking back to the hostel we see a huge truck parked outside the Holiday Inn with the logo of the Brisbane Broncos on the front, so that's it then, it's the Broncos vs the Cowboys this weekend, the local rugby league derby. Think Pompey vs Saints but with the fighting on the pitch rather than in Goldsmith's Avenue. Every room in town is booked as are all those anywhere near town, to add to the melee there's a religious conference going on as well. We can't book any accommodation within a day's cycle of Townsville and as my lump is still making its presence known we decide to get on the train to Cairns.

So on Friday we sit in the sun eating breakfast with a view of Magnetic Island, which is a close as we're going to get to it, before cycling to the station and preparing the bikes for the journey (pedals off, bars turned). As we travel north the scenery changes from sugar cane to bananas and gaps where bananas used to be before cyclone Larry visited. We've been astounded by the price of bananas in Aus, 4 bananas for 10 dollars (that's a pound per banana!), it's interesting to see the cause of the high prices.
It's 220 miles from Townsville to Cairns and takes 7 hours on the train, yes, honestly, no kidding the train goes at about 31 miles per hour; we reach our destination at 7.30pm and try to find a room. We had this stupid notion that, as the big match is in Townsville, it will be easy to find a room in Cairns (where the Cowboys come from). Trouble is everybody who can't get accommodation in Townsville seems to have the same idea and Cairns is full as well. We eventually get a place and stagger out to a curry house for sustenance.

Meeting the (nearly) relatives 22-28/08/06

Saturday is spent in the fruitless hunt for a new bulb for our front lights, every bike shop we find is shut. Eventually we get the hint and give up, manage to get in touch with our sister-in-law's brother who lives near here and arrange to visit them tomorrow.
After a leisurely morning we ride up to Mark and Mina's place early on Sunday afternoon, Mark has had to go to work (he works on one of the dive boats which take tourists from Cairns out to the Great Barrier Reef) so we spend a pleasant afternoon with Mina and the two kids, walking down to (and paddling in) the creek and in Vernon's case playing hide and seek with Mili. Mina cooks a fantastic meal when Mark gets home and we earn our keep by doing the washing up before leaving the bikes under the house and getting driven back into Cairns.

On Monday we hire a car, then I visit the doctor about the bum lump, she thinks it is a cyst and will need surgery, we are advised to go back to Britain to get it treated - not good. I am sent for an ultrasound just to be sure.
We continue the search for a new light bulb "It's all LEDs now mate, that must be a really old light to need a bulb, try the battery place around the corner" "No we don't do anything like that try the bike shop round the corner" etc, etc.
We give up, collect two bike boxes, add them to our growing collection at Mark and Mina's place then head up to Port Douglas for the night.

The next morning we spend some time wandering around Port Douglas looking in the souvenir shops and galleries, then ooh and ahh at the birds and animals in the Rainforest Experience before heading back to Cairns for my scan.
It's good news (apparently), I have an abscess, not a cyst so it can be treated with antibiotics (oh good, more drugs) and we'll be on our way again, hurrah!

On Wednesday we're back at the doctor's, clutching copies of my scans and a letter describing the "mass" in fine, if rather gross detail (apparently it is 2.5cm by 3cm and it certainly feels that big). She prescribes Cephalexin to clear the bum lump and also a 3 month course of Doxycycline to get rid of the Stapphlococcus for good.
Having stocked up on pills we drive out to the Atherton Tablelands. We have previously been warned about this road "You'll never ride up that, it's really steep; I have difficulty getting my car up it." so it comes as no surprise to be driving up a very bendy and almost flat road for about 15 miles. We stop to look at the Cathedral Fig and the Curtain Fig, two massive strangler figs which have achieved spectacular shapes. We also stop at Lake Barrine, a beautiful and peaceful place where, sadly, the teashop is shut, so we move on to Anton's Swiss Italian Restaurant where we drink our tea to the sounds of an oompah band. At least they don't play the Dambusters' March (unlike the band hired to celebrate 25 years of a German firm operating in Plymouth). Our next stop is at Baron Falls which has impressive rocks, but the lack of rain here means the falls are not so good, we'll just have to come back in the rainy season.
We get back to Mark and Mina's in time for another excellent meal, chat the night away and sleep.

Who needs an alarm when you have a nine month old? We wake to the sounds of Matt the next morning, spend most of the day packing the bikes in boxes, as usual the first one takes about 5 hours and the second one about 30 minutes. We spend ages trying to book a room in Brisbane, everywhere is full, eventually we get a cancellation, later Mark checks the TV listings and we discover that the Wallabies and the All Blacks are contesting the Bledisloe Cup in Brisbane tomorrow night so that's another thing to do before starting your travels, check the sports calendar!

Back to Brisbane 28-30/07/06

We say our goodbyes, load the car up and head back to Cairns where Vern gets left at the airport with all the stuff while I return the car. Fly into Brisbane with a lot of rugby fans, then arrange a bus drop off at our motel. The driver quite possibly gets the miserable git of the month award, first he whinges that we haven't paid for the bikes (we did mention them, but the booking clerk forgot to charge us, then told us not to worry about it - we like the booking clerk), next we get a running commentary of how bad every other driver on the road is and finally when we get to our motel he drops us on the other side of the road. I get revenge by performing the comedy plank routine with both bike boxes and walloping the miserable sod firmly in the head, twice.
On Saturday we walk along by the river and get a boat to North Quay, then a short stroll to Epic Cycles to pick up some Ortlieb spares and new tyres. We walk back taking in the sights from the river bank.
The bus driver for the return journey to the airport on Sunday pulls into the motel car park and doesn't complain about the bikes at all, we are greeted by cries of "Hello" "Hello" as we get on the bus, Julia and Helene from Fraser Island are on their way back to Switzerland we exchange e-mail addresses and agree to meet up when we get back to Europe (Switzerland isn't far off the route, only a short detour).
We get everything checked in and fly to Singapore where we have a couple of hours to wait before our flight to Narita we would browse the duty free shops, but are too tired, it's all we can do to stay awake and not miss the flight.

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