After staying in far North Queensland for way too long the best plan of attack was to get back to Brisbane before my ship sailed.
But having cycled up the whole way I decided a different form of transport was to be taken back down.
Part of the way anyway.
This is where Adrian came in. Being a friend of a friend of a friend of mine he offered to take me down the coast to Bowen from where I would get back on my bicycle.
On the way up I’ve been taken the backtracks, so it was good to see what I missed out on from a different perspective. Not Much.
The Bruce highway is a narrow road, most of the way without shoulder and a massive amount of trucks.
From up high in the comfy and dry cabin I did actually feel sorry for the one cyclist we saw along the way. Although if it would’ve been me, I know that I usually feel sorry for all those people stuck behind their little windows.
So I guess I do well on both sides of the fence…
After a night at a ridiculously expensive backpackers in Bowen (44$ for a dorm bed..) I finally managed to get back on two wheels and started peddling up the road.
I knew I’m a bit out of shape, I hadn’t actually done much cycling at all for about 6 months!
But I didn’t remember it being this heavy.. until I realized I might help if I put some air in my tyres. It did
Next hurdle was the range, I came in from a different direction last time and kinda forgot about the great dividing range… And the narrow road crawling up with trucks and mining vehicles flying by. Oops.
But all went fine, until I found out there was no way I could take a break because the second I stopped riding the march flies came down to attack, they don’t just bite like a mosquito, no they just chew off half your arm.
Not that I’m complaining.
I would not do such a thing. But after 110km in 36 degrees, no wind and 60% humidity I was very pleased to find a little waterhole (crocodile free) where I could cool down a little before riding back through the gates of Strathmore Station.
The very place I spend a whole week on the way up when the Bowen River Rodeo was on.
As it happened Paul & Sally where just leaving for a few days, so I waited for their return before heading off. That wasn’t a problem since there is enough to explore around the historic homestead and surroundings.
This is the wet season but there hadn’t been too much rain yet. This all changed when I showed up and it started pissing down…
One other minor detail was that my knee had started making funny noises and wouldn’t bend for a day or three.
All these little things together made me decide to jump back into the truck with Adrian and head a little further south…
A little became 1000 km as I didn’t get out in Rockhampton, as planned. Or Maryborough, as back-up planned.
Instead I got all the way to Gympie where Adrian owns a property and lives, whenever he’s not on the road, with Leanne and his two daughters Kayleen and Daina.
They showed me around and took me to the local Barrel Races,
Across the road, in another one of those typical Queensland houses lives Mick.
Mick told me to crash at his place since there is more space. And he was heading off the next morning for a week run-around outback Queensland. Mick is a truck driver too.
He used to be a helicopter pilot up in the Territory and has many a story of remote area’s and outback adventures. A delight to listen too.
Mick also has a bunch of horses, cows, dogs and pigs who kept me company during the stay in his house.
As he left he showed me the fridge, “Help yourself to anything”, the car “Here’s the keys”, and the house “Make yourself at home, see you in a week!“
He left me slightly stunned. In most places it would be un imaginable your neighbour turns up with a stranger and you leave them after chatting for a couple of hours, in charge of everything you own…
It was very lucky. As the rain had set in and every exit road had flooded.
I wasn’t all alone as Leanne insisted I come across the road and have dinner with her and the family. And the other neighbour, Linda, would call around , feed the pigs and have a coffee and a chat. Nice to see neighbours helping each other out.
After a week I felt pretty much at home…
But it was time to move on.
No matter how much I enjoyed the house and the riding lessons Daina took it upon herself to give me…,
more rain had been predicted and I’d better get out before it flooded again if I wanted to get to Pomona.
Which I did.
I had signed up to go and sit on the floor for 10 days and not speak.
Which is an excellent passing of time when its raining all the time.
I’ve heard about ‘Vipassana meditation‘ from various people over the past 12-odd years.
It’s a meditation technic passed on from teacher to student over 2500 years since Buddha told people in India back in the day.
It wasn’t a run-around-naked, tree hugging, hippy-thing. (as some of my friends worried)
It’s actually a fairly simple technic you can use to … well eradicate suffering. So they say.
Interesting enough it wasn’t the not-talking that was the most difficult part.
It wasn’t the fact that you only got a breakfast and lunch at 11.00am and then nothing more but an apple for the rest of the day.
It wasn’t the fact that you get up at 4.00am every day either.
Or the fact you were not allowed your phone, computer or even a pen & paper or a book.
It was the sitting. 12 hours a day.
By day 4 I was so sore I couldn’t sleep. I tried laying on the floor, walking a while. It was just no good. The weird thing was, it was all gone after the first meditation session the next day.
When you see the old students in the front sitting as still as a statue for hours on end you wonder, while you twist and turn and can’t get comfortable in any way.
And because the first few days you don’t quiet know what you are actually doing (it all becomes clearer towards the end) you spend a fair bit of time ‘meditating’ on your bed, with your eyes closed, snoring… Well I’m not sure about the others but it happened to me a few times.
If you would’ve walked into the meditation hall towards the end of the course, and you saw 60 people sitting death still with their eyes closed you might’ve wondered about our sanity. I would’ve.
But while you sit there and learn to observe you notice ‘stuff’ happening.
I’m not going to get into any further detail now because I’ve already got 1464 words as it is.
It was great to be able to chat to the girl I spend sharing a room with for 10 days at the end. Aneita lives in Brisbane and we spend a day or two just talking when the course had finished.
One of the best things I found out when I got my phone back was the news of the birth of little Saar Esther, back in the Netherlands.
Before having to leave the country I caught up with some more relatives of mine who happened to be holidaying in Noosa.
I even got a ride out on the jet ski, but I never did anything like this;
I rather leave that to my cousins out here. I prefer to keep my feet on solid ground. So it might sound strange but with all my dislike of water I jumped straight back on a ship.
But not before catching up with some of the people who helped me see, and love this country,
like Frank who took me across the Simpson Desert in 2011.
Sally (& Paul) , Who is up at Strathmore and I will hopefully see again one day.
Paul, who managed to get my bike and all my gear in a little Hyundai Getz! (rather different from the F100 indeed…)
And my great Aunt & Uncle,