Rainforest & Reef

After two lazy weeks I was ready to leave Cairns,

as soon as the snake got off my bicycle.

This was not much of a problem since the friendly Python belonged to Pete,

Stuart’s friend, who let me stay at his place for a bit, as I tried sorting out my gear, my route, my plan and myself while waiting for some mail to arrive.

I wasn’t totally lazy, I managed to catch up with some friends from way back, like Harry. Who’s still trying to get his Vegi Enfield around the globe, and Steve. Waiting in Cairns for work to come his way.

I rode up to Kuranda, a village in the rainforest. A wonderful ride up the range, with spectacular views back towards Cairns.

When I finally made it out of town the first thing I noticed was the amount of traffic. School holidays and coastal roads are not my favourite combination.

But the road was pretty,

Just north of Cairns I passed the last of the Cane fields and quint little towns like Mossman and Port Douglas.

It was here I spotted my first Crocodile this time around.

He was just having a yawn while relaxing next to a wheelie bin on the side of the river.

There are some nice beaches along this coast, a shame you can’t go into the water. Well, you can. But only once…

Not only is it a crocodiles playground. The deadly box jelly fish lives in these waters too, not to mention sharks.

So the closest I get is having lunch on a beach.

This is the place where world heritage listed tropical rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef.

The spot where James Cook nearly sank his ship, the Endeavour, by hitting the reef in 1770. He called this point Cape Tribulation because it’s where all his trouble began.

And so did mine. Not real trouble, I didn’t sink my bike.

I had heard of the Bloomfield track and the website I checked told me;

Total length <5% incline/grade 5-10% incline/grade 10-15% incline/grade >15% incline/grade
30.3 km 20.2 km 220 m 1.3 km 1.9 km

It didn’t sound all too bad.

The same site had told me the track starts in Wujal Wujal. A little community where Gus has made up home. (Gus is another mate of Stuart and Pete)

When I checked my map I figured I’d easily ride the 30km into Wujal Wujal and then I was prepared for a heavy day on the track.

About 15km in, as I was dragging my bike up a hill that was so steep I had to tie myself to the bike with my sarong to stop it from sliding back, I was wondering what the ‘track’ was going to be like if this was the road….

Untill I checked my map a little closer and indeed it starts in Wujal Wujal…. if you are heading south!

I was halfway up the track without realising 🙂 Silly me.

In this part of the world the signs along the way warn you for yet another odd Australian animal, the Cassowary.

A big flightless bird that seems innocent enough but is actually capable of killing a human. How very lovely. There were three of them drinking water at a little creek crossing.

When I finally did make it to Wujal Wujal, where the sign said it is “so nice, you say it twice”,

I found Gus in his shack on a hill out of town.

In this part of the world there is no need to have a house as I know them. The temperature is always good, but sometimes it rains.

All you need is a roof. No need for walls, windows or doors out here. I love it!

Gus introduced me to some other friends and I had a few relaxing days before I figured it might be a good idea to keep cruising North.

“make sure to call in at Iva!” Gus mentioned as I slowly maneuvered down his -very steep- driveway.

13km down the road, I found an even steeper driveway, pushed my bike halfway up and called in for a coffee and a yarn with Iva, who build his own house on a hill overlooking the river, and JD, a French stonemason out here to give Iva a hand.

We had a coffee.

Then we had lunch.

Then I pushed my bicycle all the way up the driveway and stayed for a few more days… And made a drawing.

A party that evening across the river was mentioned.

Katie was about to leave town, I met her some days earlier.

Going across a croc infested river in a little dinghy was slightly worrying.

Not to mention the way back after one too many beers.

Lucky the crocs didn’t get a hold on Iva as he stumbled and fell in the water, or me on the other side in the dark, slipping on the rocks. We all made it back alive. Although I didn’t feel all too alive the next day.

I chose a perfect day to finally leave.

It rained.

I’ve been told this is the dry season. But I guess you can expect anything in a rainforest.

At least it was warm.

I stopped to dry a little at the Iconic  ‘Lions Den Hotel’. Famous for its quirky decorations and walls adorned with visitors signatures.

-Picture by Ken Duncan

Built in 1875 out of timber and Iron. They do a pretty nice burger too.

I directed my bike towards Cooktown. The place where James Cook beached the Endeavour for repairs back in 1770.

As I wandered up the main street I got two people come up inviting me to stay over. How very friendly! I must’ve looked a little drowned.

I ended up staying with the ‘Wogs’.

‘Wog’,  in Australian is the name used for people coming from the Balkans, Italy (in this case) Greece or Spain. In the same way the English are ‘Poms’, Americans are ‘Yanks’, and New Zealanders ‘Kiwis’.

John who, conveniently, owns the local Italian restaurant told me he had two spare rooms in his apartment.

It was dry!

Not just that, a shower, toilet, tv and a wonderful view over the bay.

I could’ve easily spent a bit more time in the area. But I was afraid I wouldn’t leave at all if I was not going to move on soon.

So after the last great meal, comfy night sleep and good coffee I got back on the bike and cycled out of town. The last town for quiet a while.

I found my way into Lakefield National Park, with it’s 5,370 km2 almost as big a Brunei. It also has the largest concentration of crocodiles in Queensland. Which makes particularly the river crossings very exciting.

When I was wading through one of the rivers, carrying my bags and keeping an eye on the water  around me I jumped when a big golden coloured snake leisurely swam between my legs and slithered up the other side…

At least it wasn’t a crocodile.

Just then a group of 4WD’s showed up. So instead of having to carry all my gear across one nice guy let me chuck it in his vehicle and got it through a lot faster than I would’ve.

There is a few designated camp areas in the park, I usually ignore them. But I happen to stumble upon one this evening. It was right along the river and no one was camped there. I didn’t feel like getting visitors from the river at night so I moved up and found the Old Laura Homestead.

Where I pitched my tent in the old meat house for the night.

Later I noticed that most, if not all, designated camp areas are right next to rivers. There have been attacks in the area, but none in the past week or so.  I got a little more relaxed about setting up camp near water.

A small drawback of camping near water is mozzies. A major plus, obviously, there is water.

And often some other campers. Like the group of 4WD’s and motorbikes, camped on the side of the Hahn river. They had two big camp ovens going. A big cast iron pot that no self-respecting Australian camper would do without. You can cook/bake/make just about anything in those camp ovens. This evening it happened to be a lamb roast that beat my instant noodles 100-0.

Packing up my tent in the morning I discovered another Australian animal, a massive spider crawled over my tent.

A very unusual looking one. I don’t like spiders but this one intrigued me. It was white. Do you have any idea what it is?

I had a great time cruising along the good quality dirt road through forest, past swamps and open land full of big termite mounts scattered all around.

I wanted to stop for a coffee. But the minute I slowed down clouds of mosquito’s came out of nowhere attacking me. So after trying to boil water while jumping up and down and running around I figured the best plan of attack might be to keep riding to a drier place where they hopefully wouldn’t be able to find me so fast.

So on I went untill, not far down the track, I blew a tyre!

So, even though it was over 30 degrees and rather humid I put on my long sleeves and jeans (I knew they’d come in handy 😉 And started to make a coffee when a car pulled over.

This is a great custom in remote places in Australia. When you are on dirt roads, if you stand still people will stop and check if you’re ok.

I was ok, and after leaving me with a bottle of mozzie-spray, (bless them!) they were on their way.

It didn’t take me long to fix the tyre although I had hoped I wouldn’t need my spare for a while yet.

Musgrave is an old Telegraph station along the track up the cape.

Now it’s a restaurant, shop and camp ground.

And the spot where the nice road through the national park meets up with the main developmental road up to Cape York..

That means more traffic.

More Dust.

And a few more stories coming up soon.

9 thoughts on “Rainforest & Reef

  1. Great post and as always, photos. I especially like the one of the bike by the signposts and you by the termite hill. They give a great sense of place and adventure. Good luck for the days ahead and post again soon. Norman

  2. Hoi Mirjam!

    Leuk om weer wat te lezen over je avonturen, én om de bijbehorende plaatjes te zien. Ze zijn weer mooi. Krokodillen, levensgevaarlijke vogels…je maakt wat mee. 🙂
    Binnenkort gaan we weer bellen, en tot die tijd: geniet er van!

    Liefs,

    pap & mam

  3. Hallo Mirjam,
    Wat leuk om weer mee te kunnen leven met je avonturen. Ik was samen met Berthus ook in Kuranda. Je hebt weer prachtige foto’s gemaakt.
    Berthus ploetert momenteel door Mongolië. Hij heeft veel pech met de motor en het is verder een monstertocht langs onbegaanbare wegen i.v.m. de regenval. Hij heeft nu besloten alleen de hoofdwegen te berijden en zijn motor na afloop op te laten sturen naar Duitsland, zodat hij dat hele stuk niet meer terug hoeft te rijden.
    Ik wens je verder weer veel plezier en kijk uit naar je volgende verhaal met foto’s.
    Groet van Heleen Smit.

  4. Hi Mirjam!
    Just read your interesting blog…..intriguing as ever.
    The three grannies plus granny Val have just returned from a 7 day Villa Carlotta Tour to Geraldton, Kalbarri and Monkey Mia.
    We travel a tad different to you though….but we had a fabulous time.
    When we stopped at Billabong for lunch we sighted a cyclist in the car park across the road and your name was mentioned so I hiked across the road to find out.
    It was Lizzie a Perth Grandmother (riding in similar fashion to you) from Darwin back to Perth. She said she does a three month cycling stint each year and she knows of no other female who rides like her and that’s when I told her I know of another one ….of course that is you.
    It seems she sticks to the main roads as she said all the truckies know her. I told her you go for all the back roads away from all the trucks etc.
    We are all in good spirits and already planning some overnight jaunts around the place apart from organised tours while we are still agile.
    We still fondly remember the time you stayed with us and also the time your parents came to meet us as well.
    By September 2013 our town will have the flashest sheep yard selling complex ….probably in Australia. So you will need to come back for another breakfast there with us
    Here’s wishing God speed as you push on around oz. You sure never have a dull moment.
    Hello to Jan Cees and Inge!
    Cheers…..Granny Shirley, Granny Isabel, Granny Gerry and fellow Granny Val
    Ps I had my birthday while on tour and got very spoilt but the best part about it I still remain the youngest of our granny foursome! 🙂

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