I am the original 'Uneasy Rider' .. not especially blessed with much natural motorcycling talent, nor am I a particularly courageous motorcycle rider.
Nevertheless I went 'Right Way Round' New Zealand (at least twice) followed by a wonderful ride around Australia.

Then it was up to southeast Asia, around Indo-China, across southern Central Asia to the Middle East, Asia Minor .. and finally into Europe.

Right Way Round - all the way home .. from New Zealand to England, 2-up on a Honda Transalp.

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PROGRESS SO FAR - Distance covered across Western Europe: 6,411 km [3,984 miles] - as at Thursday, October-22nd, 2015

Monday, 2 May 2011

Where the Coral Sea Meets the Rainforest

Monday, 25th April 2011

ANZAC Day - A national day of remembrance for both Aussies and Kiwis, which honours the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all those who died and served in military operations for their countries.

It was warm and sunny when we left Townsville on this very important day in the Australian and New Zealand calendar.

As the city commemorated its war heroes, we made our way back onto the Bruce Highway – and continue ever northwards; the same broad direction we've travelled since seeing Port Arthur, Tasmania, in our rear-view mirrors some 50 days ago.

About 160 km [100 mi] up the coastline, just south of Cardwell, we started noticing that the trees and palms were missing their normal lush foliage? Many were toppled.

Then damage to property became evident.

OF COURSE! ..

.. It was around this region of northern Queensland that Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi made landfall in the early hours of the 3rd of February this year [2011].

We rode on through the townships of Euramo and Tully .. both displaying evidence of mass devastation from the Category 5 system.

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We turned off the Bruce Hwy .. and headed for Mission Beach

My rough itinerary, planned months ago back in England, was always going to involve an overnight excursion to Mission Beach; a small Coral Coast resort where two World Heritage sites meet, about 50 km [30 mi] south of the town of Innisfail.

But it was here at Mission Beach, where the eye of Yasi crossed the coast. Right here. Winds of 300 km/h [186 mph] ripped through this sleepy little community creating tremendous havoc.

Most of the overhead power lines were brought down. These in the above picture are clearly replacement lines, as are the poles that support them.

Once beautiful homes, someones' pride and joy .. are now complete basket cases, fit only for demolition

There's still much to be done in and around Mission Beach.

A closer look.

Waves more than 8m [25+ ft] high surged across this very recently re-surfaced road ..

.. and through this now boarded-up beach front hotel.

I hope the insurers are 'playing ball' with all this .. although I have no doubt some will have squirmed and wriggled .. and declined to pay restitution. That's the nature of insurance; when it works it's great .. BUT when it doesn't, peoples' lives and futures are smashed, just like their homes and businesses.

Well, it's not a pretty sight in and around Mission Beach, this late April, 2011 .. nearly three months since Yasi's blow.

We made some enquiries here and there around the township for suitable overnight accommodation, but unbelievably – despite the war zone character and appearance of the place – we were still quoted a nightly tariff of $205 from an unmemorable hotel! .. “but we're prepared to reduce to $195 on this occasion sir.” Gee, thanks for that [5% discount] .. not!

Even a basic cabin at one of the camp sites would have set us back a still quite unreasonable (for our budget) nightly rate of $120. The decision to move on came easily. So we did move on! 'Sorry Mission Beach. We know you've been badly beaten up - and are probably still dazed and in a state of shock. Nevertheless, and much as we would have liked to .. we really can't afford to play. Your complete loss.'

Besides, getting up to Cairns a day earlier than planned, meant we could have an extra morning's lie-in, because we wouldn't need to be packed and gone by the check out deadline of 10:00am the following morning, as we would already be settled at our intended destination. Our total gain.

We arrived in Cairns, after another unexpected 140 km [87 mi] of riding, just before 5:00pm. Too many hotels and motels displaying 'VACANCY' signs in and around Cairns, that's for sure. They clearly all want to do business with us.

We were parked-up and unpacked by 5:30pm .. :-)

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Tuesday 26th

Although not in the City Centre, luckily we secured our lodgings on a part of the inbound 'main drag' where there's a bus stop nearly right outside the motel's entrance gate.

We were in the heart of town, courtesy of a bus ride, by 12:30pm ..

.. and strolled down to the marina ..

.. straight into, The Salt House. A yuppie-type hang out, where it's trendy to be seen.

We almost immediately struck-up a conversation and made some new friends.

One of whom is a dead ringer for Tom Cruise. I definitely see a new future as a 'star lookalike' for young Nathan, who currently is a ballistics trainer in the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force).

Watching a small squadron of private helicopters intermitently fly-in new customers; and/or perhaps taking others out to The Great Barrier Reef. This is the life .. or is it?

There's a point I'm making here: which is there are 'no rules' when we go travelling. We adopt no protocol or purest lifestyle; no place is too good, nor any backpackers' hostel too sucky for us to patronise and rest our heads. We participate in .. and enjoy the complete spectrum of whatever comes our way. We take the highbrow with the lowbrow and let the Chi flow freely .. because there is a ying, and a yang.

Every day is a fresh start .. and everyone you meet can become your friend; like the fine folks who we met by chance and with whom we spent a very pleasant afternoon at The Salt House .. and who we'll probably never meet again. You see, when you’re travelling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. There are no yesterdays on the road.

And no age limits have barred us either, so far, from pursuing whatever activity takes our fancy. [Now just where did I put my jetski?!]

.. except

.. 'party' night life?! - is not for us

Thirty years ago I would have been at the head of the queue into this night club. Wild horses couldn't drag me into such places now. A sure sign of growing old (.. disgracefully!)

So we catch the bus back to our motel instead.

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Wednesday 27th

Despite nursing a self-inflicted headache from the day/night before (I know .. no sympathy, right?!), at 08:30 in the morning we made the short 15 km northbound journey out of town ..

to the Caravornica Skyrail Terminal that ..

.. sweeps you up over the dynamic tropical environment to Kuranda, the 'Village in the Rainforest.'

The panoramic view looking back over our shoulders (eastwards) to the Pacific Coral Coast is quite impressive.

The 7.5 km [4.7 mi] gondola ride stops at a couple of supporting stations where Park Rangers are ready and willing to guide you around boardwalks on the forest floor to take a closer look and explain the diverse array of plant species ..

.. including this towering 400 year-old Kauri Pine, which brought a smile to my face. Kauri trees, you see - to my mind - are sooooo reminiscent of New Zealand's far north, where the Kauri is revered by the Maori People in particular, and protected by NZ law.

The second gondola stop at Barron Falls Station is one of the most visited places in the Wet Tropics Heritage area. I have to say that we were mighty impressed with the majesty of the Barron Falls ..

.. so much so that a picture alone can never do justice .. hence the video footage.

The Cableway sweeps right over the Barron Gorge (and River) before terminating at Kuranda. By the way, crocs do live down there!

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We felt that Kuranda Village was almost too picturesque .. and appeared to be 'preserved in aspic' just for the tourist trade.

So rather than wander aimlessly around the various craft and souvenir markets, we instead strolled through the Jumrum Creek, Jungle and River rainforest walk.

This gentle 3 km circuit took us about an hour to complete ..

.. tons of widlife around, if you look for it. Here's a Golden Orb Spider patiently waiting for his lunch to fly in; he's the size of a tea plate. I seen quite a few of these during our travels around Oz. I think my arachnophobia is now almost cured!

Our one-hour long walk finished at Kuranda Railway Station ..

.. which is probably the tidiest and most beautifully maintained train station I've ever seen.

Rather than hop on one of the Skyrail gondolas back to basecamp at Caravornica (and the bike), we combined our day out with a return ride back on the train ..

.. which winds its way to Cairns for around 90 minutes spectacularly through the mountains ..

.. on the other side of the Barron Gorge.

More breathtaking views along the way.

SUMMARY: What a crackingly good day out! Thanks for this must go to my mate David (in Newcastle, NSW) for giving us 'the nod'.
;-)

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Thursday 28th

We just hung around in Cairns, often referred to as the heart of FNQ (Far North Queensland), until 11:30am just waiting for the rain clouds to pass over. Not that we necessarily mind riding in the wet, but in these tropical temperatures, steaming away inside PVC-coated waterproof gear should be avoided, if at all possible. Phew!

On the road: Past Buchan Point, the well-surveyed Captain Cook Highway begins to hug the coastline, and continues that way for around 40 km [25 mi] right by the waters edge of Trinity Bay. The road surface is generally in quite good condition .. and I would imagine that it's a terrific ride on a bright clear day.

Looking south from Rex Lookout.

We still enjoyed the hour or so along the twisties, despite the overcast conditions .. and were thankful that it stayed dry and even improved a little all the way up to Mossman and up through Daintree National Park ..

.. ever flanked by endless sugar cane fields, interspersed by the occasional fruit (mainly banana) and coffee plantation. We even saw rows of tea plants growing in a couple of fields.

After 110 km [68 mi], we reach the Daintree Ferry - the gateway to the Wet Tropics World Heritage area of Cape Tribulation.

Waiting for the ferry .. and get that 'Uh-oh' feeling!

'Over the river' as the locals call it .. just a short carferry ride away, and it felt like we were entering into a completely different world of rainforest magic.

And here's my point: Since Yasi, tourism has dropped away in this part of the Tropical North too, but the locals here are clearly doing something to help themselves. For instance, by waiving the ferry charges across the river to the Daintree Rainforest and the Cape beyond. Everyone up here is smiling – and seem genuinely pleased to see us. As a result, the ferry is busy and the roads are full with visiting vehicles. I say, 'Good onya' .. to the local businessmen up here, for adopting this well thought-through and pragmatic approach to the vexed tourism issue (the lack thereof). Mission Beach Council, look on - and learn.

[Rant Over]

The short trip across the Daintree River is very reminiscent of the King Harry Ferry ride back home in Cornwall.

We got the message!

Cape Tribulation Beach, just before dusk. The Great Barrier Reef is just 19 km (12 mi) due east from here ..

.. and if I'm really honest, I think I was all 'beached out' at this point, as apart from the odd diversion into the hinterlands, it's been more-or-less nothing but beaches ever since leaving Batemans Bay down in NSW six weeks ago.

You can sometimes have too much of a good thing, including some of the finest beaches anywhere in the world.

It's definitely time to head west; the vast Australian Outback beckons!

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Friday 29th

09:00am

A last look at the Coral Sea, along the beach at Cape Tribulation, before setting off back for the ferry .. and the start of the long inland ride that will follow.

That early in the morning the sun shines through the overhanging canopy of trees at an angle that casts a myriad of shadows across the road. It's a great ride over the Mount Sorrow ridge nevertheless, but demands full-on concentration. Here's some video footage:

Notice all the visiting cars coming from the direction of the Daintree Ferry? The strategy of providing free passage across to the Cape was clearly an economically astute one [.. someone please tell the locals at Mission Beach!]

First vehicle on the ferry. The queue on the other side is already growing.

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34 km [21 mi] from disembarking the ferry, on the southern outskirts of Mossman, you need to turn right onto the Mossman-Mount Malloy road in order to get up to the Atherton Tableland.



As you climb up to the edge of Tableland there's an absolutely intense little section of road – of about 7 km [4½ mi] in length – loaded with fabulous corners .. all on a tarmac surface as smooth as a billiard board, which I can summarise in two words: Simply Wonderful. The best 'fun' I've had on two wheels since leaving the Victoria High Country back in mid-March. Here's some more video footage:

An abrupt finish because the camera's battery ran out of juice at that point! .. which was a pity

.. which coincided at this lookout point; so we pulled in and captured our very very last look at the Pacific Ocean.

And what a view to take away in our memories. Australia really is .. simply sensational.

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Friday and Saturday, 29th & 30th


There's a rumour going around that some sort of posh wedding is happening this weekend back home in London Town. Thinking ahead, we book two nights' accommodation at the very picturesque village of Yungaburra, in the heart of the Atherton Tableland. Just in case we [eh-hem] 'over-celebrate' the occasion on Friday .. then we won't have to go very far the following morning!

Yungaburra Village - home of The Curtain Fig Tree. It's worth a look.
[ht again: to Dave down in Newcastle NSW]

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Sunday, 1st May

The roads leading south from Yungaburra - through the Atherton Tableland - essentially follow the Great Divide, so it is reasonable to say that you're riding along the top of Australia here. At an elevation of 750 - 1,000 metres (2,500 - 3,280 ft), the temperature and humidity in the region is certainly far more comfortable for a couple of pommie baast@rds like us (that's a term of endearment by the way!) Quite perfect in fact, at a mean max temp of 25.6°C [78°F].

We were advised not to miss the "Waterfall Circuit" on our way down and away from the Tablelands. With this in mind, just outside the the rural farming community of Millaa Millaa township, we turned off onto the Theresa Creek Rd, which brought us firstly to:

The Millaa Millaa Falls; probably the prettiest of the four falls we encountered this day;

Next the Zillie Falls ..

.. and thirdly, the Ellinjaa Falls.

Finally, some 40 km [25 mi] to the southwest – and along our intended route for the day in any case – we turned off the Kennedy Hwy and negotiated a short section (1-2 km] of lightweight gravel & dirt that brought us to the Millstream Falls ..

.. the biggest, most powerful and therefore perhaps the most dramatic waterfall of the day.

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Scooting another 140 km [88 mi] further west .. having left the cool and fertile Atherton Tablelands well behind us, we pulled into the bushlands of Undara [Volcanic] National Park.

On this western side of the Great Divide, it is unlikely that we'll see too much rain again, if any, throughout the remainder of our time in Australia. We're back in the fabulous Outback – and glad to be here .. pesky flies an'all!

More to follow in around a weeks' time.

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