My last day in Townsville was spent having a shuffty around town. I cycled up to the top of Castle Hill right in the centre and at 248m it was the toughest climb I have had so far in Oz. Took another ride along the lovely Strand area then payed a visit to the Reef HQ. It´s the largest area of coral on land in the world, probably about 50m long with plenty of viewing windows and seats. You could just sit around and watch fish doing fishy things, then after a while something would come into view that you hadn´t seen before, all the fun of diving without getting wet or drowning! Well, some of the fun of diving anyway.
The following morning it was time to leave, I said my farewells to Sue and Tom, there were hugs all round, I had been blessed with more wonderful hosts. So the legs were turning again as I headed south along the coast road to Ayr, not that I could ever see the coast mind. The scenery was very different though, mountains on either side and it wasn´t long before I was heading through sugar cane fields (photo). I was passing over lots of creeks, some with wonderful names. A few days ago I passed over Sausage Creek, today I passed over Breakfast Creek, it makes me feel hungry. Still no sign of Shit Creek though, but I keep looking. The roads was much busier than I have become accustomed to, but the road trains have gone, now the biggest vehicles only have 2 trailers, they seem happier to slow down and give me enough space. But dangers are never far away and now I get a daily threat from another source, which just goes to prove that I am a Whinging Pom. This is a threat from the air in the shape of magpies that are constantly attacking me. They swoop down from behind and aim fo my head, then fly ahead and land in a tree, then once I pass the repeat the process. Thankfully it is only the wings that hit me and not the rather hefty beaks that they have, though some make a loud cracking noise like a whip that really makes me jump. It´s obviously the nesting season and they are doing their protecting bit. Ayr was much bigger than I expected, I was expecting an outback size town, but this was a proper town. I found a camping ground, overpriced, and found a suitable stop and put the tent up only to be moaned at for not camping where they had directed my to, despite the fact it was flooded by their over watering.
A slightly longer stretch followed to Bowen, more nice scenery and sugar cane fields, then back into the bush. In the town I was approached by a man I had seen twice earlier in the day, he was amazed that I was already in Bowen, but I can assure you I am still not moving very fast. I decided to carry on a bit, then I checked out a couple of campsites and was amazed at the prices they were charging so having picked up from fresh fruit from a roadside stall I carried on a camped in the bush, though it took me an age to find a suitable site to camp. The rain that had threatened and that everybody had told me would be around for 4 days never arrived. Queenslanders have adapted a very useful word, ¨ay¨. It gets thrown on the end of a sentence and is short for ¨isn´t it¨, ¨doesn´t it¨ or any other type of question, for example ¨It looks as though it might rain today ay?¨. It sometimes just gets added to the end of a sentence for the hell of it and keeps me entertained with counting the number of ¨ays¨ used in a conversation, normally I loose count.
More sugar fields were in store for the following day, but I had a bit of a tailwind and progress was pretty good to the town of Proserpine were I stopped for a break in the beautifully maintained park. I filled up with water, piling another 10kg on the bike makes a real difference to my speed, just when I think I cant go any slower, I prove I can! I was passing through a lovely valley through mountains, it was getting hot so I decided to call it a day and found a good little area to camp straight away, there was even a good bit of shade provided by a little roof over a contraption thing. I chilled out for the afternoon but was somewhat surprised when the farmer turned up. He was happy for me to stay there and told me he had only cut the grass the previous day, but he was there to start up the contraption, a water pump that would irrigate his crop and be running all night. It was getting late, I couldn´t be bothered to move. After he had gone I move my bike, just as I did so the pump lost power, oh poo. I rode down to the farm to let them know and soon enough it was up and running again, though he had stopped it from the fields as there had been a blockage. Funnily enough I had the best nights sleep I had had in a long time.
The following day was even a better tail wind, I was pushed along to Mackay, a town with a bit of art deco on the buildings. The afternoon looked as though it would be a stormy one as I was pushed along even faster. I stopped in the small town of Sarina where the 2 little campsites had big prices. I was tired though, I paid the price. Not far from where I was camped I could see a house that was lit up with Christmas lights, it is summer for goodness sake, it´s just not right. The only similarity is that the lights come on when it is dark. Now I am no expert on the biblical stories, but I can not recall ever hearing that there was a flock of white kangaroos around the crib.
I seemed to struggle a bit for the whole of the following day. When I got up the clouds were pretty heavy, it looked as I was in for a cool day, but by early afternoon there was not a cloud in the sky and it was baking hot. My new cycle computer really doesn´t like the sun, it only need to get a glimpse of it these days and it turns totally black, I have to keep it covered, but I will be surprised if it makes it as far as Brisbane. It strikes me as odd that you can buy products in Australia that don´t work in the sun. The landscape has continued to be attractive, only ruined by the constant and huge advertising boards that are at the roadside. I have also passed lots of interesting road signs such as ¨No banana plants to be transported beyond this point¨, well that should lighten my load. One of my favourites is ¨Ambulance 12km¨, I always thought the purpose of an ambulance was that they would come out to you, not that you have to go to them, but even better is the one that says ¨Ambulance 12km back¨. The bastards, not only do they expect you to go to the ambulance, but once you have missed it they don´t tell you until you are 12km past. The local ambulance drivers must have a good bunch of DVDs and don´t want to be called out ,¨Yeah, if you could just stem the heavy blood loss and give a call back in say 2 or 3 hours if they are still alive, it´s just that it´s Christmas and we have just put on The Sound of Music. Oh, and a cold beer should help no end ay, I will just go and have one¨, ¨Oh, terribly sorry to have troubled you, I have a couple of sticky plasters¨, ¨No worries mate¨. I stopped the night at a little campsite right beside the sea and listened to the locals talking about golf, rocks seem to be the biggest hazard on the local course. There were animals squabling in a nearby tree, they were possums, the first I have seen. I saw a few mossies too as it got dark, as quick as I could brush them off one leg, 2 or 3 had settled on the other one.
As I head down the coast it is noticable that there are less kangaroo, they have probably all gone looking for a crib. But there are also sparrows about now which just goes to strengthen my theory that kangaroos eat sparrows. I now had a headwind, the wind seem to vary in direction along the coast, but it´s better than a headwind the whole time. I passed a sign ¨Koalas for next 30km¨, I kept my eyes on the tree tops but saw nothing. I stopped at a rest area where the local birds were obviously well fed, they flocked down and all but took the food from in front of me. One even landed on my camera, but I couldn´t work out how to take a photo of that. Once on the move I searched the rooftops, nothing. I dialed up God for a bit of help, ¨Ok God, I need a bit of a hand to see a Koala. I guess you have helped already, you have given me a headwind to slow me down, there are roadsigns telling me they are in the area, I passed a roadkill that showed me the colour and size of the things, but there are so many trees, I have little chance. I guess they wont be this close the road anyway¨. I kid you not, but no more than 60 seconds later I saw a shape on a tree, was it a knobbly bit or a Koala. I chucked a U-ie and was amazed to find it was a Koala, much lower down than I had been looking and just 15m from the roadside. It was just hanging from a branch, but slowing climbed the tree after I had disturbed it, stopping on its way to eye me up, what a result! A little further on a motorist stopped me for a chat, he too was a cyclist from Mackay, he gave me a couple of oranges and a contact of somebody further down the coast.
The last day into Rockhampton was pretty easy going, the road rolled along nicely, though it was still a bit too hot to be cycling. And whoever said that putting drawings of eyes on your head to scare off the magpie attacks just haven´t tried it. As I stopped for a pee one swooped down in front of me heading straight for my face, veering off at the last second as I ducked and kept repeating the process. Strangely I lost the urge. I stopped at another rest area, another popular location for th exotic birds. I joined a couple who had travelled from Perth, the offer of cold water was irestistable. And so into Rocky, where I am couch surfing with Samuel and Monika. Once again I am made very welcome, living in luxury for couple of days and eating a lovely pasta dish, far better than the stuff I cook for myself on the road. Monika is a Pathologist, ooh eck, I hope she doesn´t go into much detail. Whilst on subject of cooking, you may recall that God broke my stove for a second time just to show off, but I have to tell you he knows his stoves. He took me to a shop in Townsville that sold the pump I needed to replace, but he got me a complete different model and it is so much better. It starts better, burns cleaner, is much more fuel efficient and has a fantastic flame control, so now I don´t have to burn everything. The other day I even had a steak, even beats meatballs any day. Well, I say God got it for me, but he mysteriously disappeared when it came to paying for it.
So after just one day in Rocky I am on the move again tomorrow, in another 4 days I will be in Maryborough. I have been looking forward to Maryborough even before I arrived in Australia. There is nothing much of touristic interest, but there is something I have been looking forward to doing there. I wont tell you what it is just yet, but don´t get too excited, it will only go to show you just how dull I am.