AROUND AUSTRALIA stage 5 (Cape York to Wilsons Promontory)

I had just completed 8020 kilometres paddling, walking and cycling now I was on the next section of my journey cycling with a bit of paddling 5460 kilometres from Cape York the most northerly part of mainland Australia to Wilson’s Promontory the most southerly part of mainland Australia.

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Already completed….

·         Kayak 800kms from Augusta to Geraldton
·         Cycle 820kms from Geraldton to Wiluna

·         Walk 1600kms from Wiluna to the Tanami Track. The Canning Stock Route

·         Mountain Bike 1350kms along the Tanami Track to Dalhousie Springs
·         Walk 450kms across the Simpson Desert to Birdsville
·         Cycle 2200kms from Birdsville to Cooktown

·         Kayak 800kms from Cooktown to Cape York

Rounding Cape York (A paddle from Cooktown to Cape York)

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 Chapter Five

Cycle 5460kms from Cape York to Wilson’s Promontory including some kayaking

It was good to have finished another leg of my journey and although I had only completed a third of it I had a sense that I was heading home.

October 16th 1990. Cape York.

After breakfast, I visited a tour group and sold 9 magazines. I then cleaned my bike, tightened the crank, adjusted the brakes, packed and started eating lunch. As we relaxed, an Oz tour bus pulled up. We looked on in amazement as the tourists dived out, hurried to The Cape with an ABC crew running after them, returned and were back in the bus and away in a flash. They were tourists seeing the country the quick way.

When lunch was over, I started my big cycle trip from Cape York heading south through the rainforest, where I met five motor cyclists, one with a broken ankle. The palms in the rainforest towered over all the other trees and the bird calls filled the area with beautiful song. Incredibly, within minutes, the greenery and moist air came to an abrupt halt, the dry bush appeared and the track became corrugated. I passed the Somerset Beach turn off and cycled further on to the Croc Shop, an isolated tourist shop advertising souvenirs and cold drinks. There were no decent post cards or cool drinks available as it was the end of the tourist season; however, it did have a large stuffed crocodile standing guard outside. The crew continued on to Bamaga, where I met them later.

Shopping for fruit and vegies was high priority and we managed to get apples for 40 cents each which was quite cheap considering our location. That evening we camped under a palm-leaf shelter on the coast at Seisia, near Red Island. Luckily a phone box was close by so I was able to call Adrian at Snowgum and have a live interview with Gerry Gannon of ABC Perth. It was also great to have my first shower for twenty two days, having bathed in salt water all that time. That evening we walked over to the kiosk and had chicken, chips, salad and a Mars Bar. I managed to phone Jenny later that evening to tell her that I was safe and sound. Our phone calls were absolutely essential. Jenny was back there in Perth facing the rigours of work, and living alone, waiting for the day I would return so some normality would return to her life. A cuddle from me now and then would have been sufficient, but I wasn’t even able to do that. For me, I was enjoying every minute of my trip. I suppose I am a selfish bugger. Who would go off and leave his wife for eight months? Probably a lot of husbands would love to. I was following my dreams and had to balance my needs and marriage so that my life was full and meaningful.

October 17th. Seisia.

Soon after we left camp, the vehicle got a flat tyre. Whilst the crew changed it I cycled back into Bamaga, picked up my post and raided the bakery for fresh buns and pies. By 9.45 am my trip south had begun in earnest. The gravel track was corrugated with patches of sand. I stopped briefly to look at a crashed DC3 plane, just before reaching the Jardine River. There, a tour group consisting of five girls and two blokes watched as John pumped up their vehicle tyres. We carried a very good pump. We had lunch with the group and before they went on their merry way I sold them two magazines. The Jardine River was quite wide at this point, 100 metres or more. Reports say there are numerous crocodiles living in it. I shouldered my bike and walked across knee-deep water. The bottom was sandy, the current swift and the water clear. I saw no crocodile lurking, but some months later I heard that an Aborigine had been taken by a croc further downstream where the ferry crossed. Once I’d carried my bike over, I returned for my pack and met a couple in a vehicle crossing the river from the south. They seemed to have little problem crossing. Tim and John, meanwhile, had opted to go for the safer option on the well-formed Department of Community Services (DCS) track which crossed the river at the ferry point some kilometres downstream. The DCS track was built in the mid 80’s to provide access for Telecom when they were building the microwave link through to the Cape. It offered a much faster and safer route than the old Telegraph Line that I was taking, but is not as scenic and challenging.

After wading across the Jardine River carrying my bike.

After changing clothes, I followed the narrow sandy 4 x 4 track southwards crossing several small creeks; Nolans Brook, Logan, Cypress, Cannibal, Mistake, Sam, and Canal Creek. They all fed into Elliot Creek which fed into the Jardine River. I paused before a small bridge across Nolan’s Brook. The bush-constructed bridge was made from tree timbers that had gaps in between. Most were wider than my bike tyres so I took great care in crossing. At Cannibal Creek the descent was fairly steep. I rode on a rock shelf before being forced to take to the sandy bottom where the water flowed above my chain sprockets. The creek was magical, and was lined with lush vegetation with a steep, rough ascent, which eventually forced me to walk. A little further, Mistake Creek was rather rocky but I threaded my way across. Sam Creek was even rougher.

Crossing Nolan’s Brook.

Cooling down at one of the clear creeks.

Crossing a sandy creek.

The difficult terrain made cycling a lot more demanding and enjoyable. Minutes later I paused at a small waterfall and knelt down to drink the refreshing water; it tasted sweet and pure. The approach to Canal Creek, my last creek before turning left along the sandy track into Elliot Falls, was full of potholes.

Having a drink.

Termite hills were dominant near the Eliot Falls campsite which I reached at 6pm. It had been such a beautiful and relaxing day’s cycle, with all the challenges that a mountain biker could wish for, so when John told me that he had backed into a tree, denting and smashing the right rear of the vehicle, I felt very calm and made nothing of it.

Eliot Falls.

October 18th. Eliot Falls.

Drizzle fell for a few minutes during the night. However, it was a grand morning to have a relaxing breakfast and attempt some washing. I walked to the falls to get a better view of and feel for the area. It would have been a perfect spot to relax for a few days but I had to keep moving. Linda was standing some 20 metres from the falls, positioned with canvas on easel and pastels in hand. With her imagination and drawing skills, Linda soon captured the beauty of scene; the tree-lined river and the water falling steeply over the edge of a 2 metre high rock platform into a gorge below. I stood behind her for a while, in awe at the ease with which the painting came to life. She made it look so simple that I wanted to create something myself, but I knew I didn’t have the skill to accomplish such a feat. I decided to stick to what I was good at, and continued cycling.

Linda capturing the beauty of the falls.

I left the falls at 10.00am and met two English tourists on mountain bikes, David Wood and Eddie Page. They had started from Cairns on a short trip to Cooktown, then they heard about an Aboriginal festival at Laura, 120 km west of Cooktown. After they had visited Laura, they decided to keep cycling north and were in the fifth week of cycling. The day before, they had ridden 50 kms in 12 hours. Another two adventurers, Brian John and Peter Jess, then pulled up on motor bikes. They looked the worse for wear and more exhausted than the guys on the push bikes. We all had a story to tell, so ended up having a great chat in the middle of nowhere.

Meeting other adventures.

Eventually I caught up with my ground crew at the Fruit Bat Falls turn off, where a detour was made to the falls. From there the crew followed the Department of Community Services (DCS) track, whilst I kept going on the Old Telegraph track towards Sailor Creek, which had several wash-aways, a tilted track and a steep-sided northern exit.

Fruit Bat Falls.

I forged ahead over several dry creek beds that cut across the track, before reaching Cockatoo Creek which was littered with rubbish, and contained the grave of a PMG worker. There were only 7 kms and one creek between Cockatoo and Gunshot but it was a four-wheel driver’s nightmare. The track at one point dropped, vertically, 2 metres. There were three different routes that could be taken to get through; two were sheer-vertical, the third and main one was near-vertical. At the bottom of all three were deep pools of water and mud. Not the place to drive a new vehicle! I was quite amazed that people would even attempt the drops in vehicles. Not wanting to miss the fun, I rigged my camera up and pushed my bike to the top of the easiest of the three routes. After engaging the camera’s self-timer, I ran to the bike, mounted it and started riding down the steep drop. With the first attempt I wasn’t quick enough and the camera clicked as I was still mounting, but with the next attempt, I was caught perfectly on camera.

Gunshot Creek.

Although I was cycling the other way I just had to set my camera up for a self-timed shot of me coming down the track.

I moved on, wondering whether the track could get much worse. About 1 km from Gunshot creek I met up with four Japanese motor cyclists, two men and two women. I had met other Japanese motor cyclists near The Top, one with several injuries as he had fallen off his bike twenty-two times. Apparently many Japanese dream of motor-cycling to Cape York.

The track was sandy and the country-side had a dry heath look about it with several Grass-trees, much like parts of Western Australia. I hit high speeds as I descended into Cholmondeley Creek avoiding ruts and rocks. It was great fun. Further along at a track junction, a note had been left by my crew informing me that they would meet me at Bertie Creek. Although it was only 4.50pm we decided to camp at Bertie Creek next to a beautiful shallow river, with the crystal clear water flowing over a rock bottom. For dinner that night we had fried rice, potato, pumpkin and popcorn in honey.

Bertie Creek Camp. Clothes washing.

October 19th. Bertie Creek.

Light rain forced me to erect my tent in the night, and the sound of the stream running over the rocks became louder between sections of sleep. Once across the Dulhunty River 2 kms from our camp, the track became better just before reaching the dry North and South Alligator River crossings. When I joined the main track, just after the river, it was wider and more corrugated. At the 58 km mark from the start of the day, I heard a shout from the bottom of a creek bed. I turned, to find a cyclist resting in the shade attempting to get his stove working. He said he was a little unsure whether his food supplies were going to last his journey. When my team arrived, we gave him water and powdered milk but he rejected the rice or any dried food. He apparently couldn’t be bothered lighting a fire and only wanted food he could eat directly from the tin. Although he was on a strenuous cycle trip, he seemed pretty lazy and I didn’t take to him at all. I left him and cycled across several soft, sandy patches to the Wedlock River.

The heat was becoming extremely unbearable, 38 degrees; the hot and dusty sand infiltrated my mouth and nose and smothered my breathing. I felt as if I was on fire, my body was burning up and there was little oxygen left in the air. The awful thirst was continual but my water was so hot that it gave no relief. I struggled across the sand patches, quite exhausted and faint. A huge five metre termite mound on the side of the road stopped me in my tracks. I felt happy that I had an excuse to stop. I just had to have a photo and admire the incredibly unique structure.

What a termite nest!

One of the many river crossing.

By the time I reached the Wedlock, I had cycled 71 kilometres, and Tim was making lunch under the shade of a big tree next to a telephone box that looked well out of place. The food and drink that he served, which was welcoming, soon brought me back to life.

A home-made-ferry was tied up at the side of the river, immobile till the rainy season necessitated its use for vehicles wishing to cross it. On leaving our picnic spot, I gathered speed down towards the river crossing in the hope of crossing it without getting off my bike. As the front wheel hit the water it sprayed out in a big V and slowed my progress considerably. I pedalled like fury for a few moments but the water became too deep, so rather than fall off I dismounted.

The track continued to be rough and sandy and my wet socks and runners were extremely filthy from the dust that had collected. I’d covered 115 kms by nightfall, feeling fairly tired, but I perked up considerably after eating tea, and finished the day off with a late night and a deep discussion with Linda.

October 20th. Near the Weipa Turn-Off.

The track started off in good condition for a few kilometres but as I passed the main Weipa turn off it deteriorated again. By 12.30pm, after cycling 70 kilometres, I reached Arthur River and promptly devoured a coke and an ice cream after which I attempted to ring Jenny. We made friends with Gary Cotter, who worked with the Lands Department, and I downed another ice lolly before departing. The weather was extremely hot and the track became sandier and more corrugated. By the time I reached the Coen airport, 20 kilometres out of town, the crew had brewed Milo. They then motored ahead and left me to cycle in. When I reached the river on the town’s outskirts, a bitumen road eased the pain. The town centre was dark, but I soon found the crew camped on a lovely green grassed area near the pub, and 30 metres from a telephone box. Having not being able to ring Jenny for twenty-two days when on my sea journey, I felt it important to get back in touch again.

I showered, washed my clothes, had tea and visited the pub where I talked to Gary Cotter whom we had met earlier, had two beers and returned to camp for bread and golden syrup.

October 21st Sunday. Coen.

As it was Sunday (and being in close proximity to a phone box) I decided to ring ‘Australia All Over’ but they weren’t interested in a chat. I moved off at 8.00am through hilly country, my speed severely slowed by the rough corrugated track that was intersected with deep gullies. The hot weather didn’t lessen the discomfort of the ride, but fortunately the scenery compensated a little. A Milo and biscuit stop soon lifted my energy levels.

Back on the track, I had a good ride down the Great Divide mountains, reaching the Musgrave Roadhouse just before dark. A tour crowd from Melbourne welcomed me and a South African treated me to a beer. I left in the dark to find my ground crew who had driven off to find a quieter camp spot. The track was somewhat difficult to see in the dark, but I managed to find the camp without falling off my bike. I had completed 112 kms for the day. It was a great campsite right next to several high, very narrow termite hills that looked like mountain peaks and gave our campsite a unique atmosphere.


Camped among the termite mounds.

Among the termite mounds.

Under the night sky. Backed by a termite mound like a mountain range.

Further down the track, we could hear noises coming from another camp. The occupants sounded rowdy and a loud bang later left us hoping that it was an exploding can of food that had been thrown into the fire and not a gun shot. It was a reminder that we were getting closer to civilisation.

That night, around our unique campsite I told the guys a story–
It was in the winter of 1980  near Dwellingup
in Western Australia as Jenny and I were camped next to the Murray River at a picnic spot.

At about 7.00pm the roar of cars came flying along the track and halted next to our camp spot. Two girls and a number of drunk men jumped out of the cars started swearing and yelling abuse at us.

As we huddled helplessly together in our sleeping bags we kept wondering when the mob, who had taken over the isolated picnic area, would have a go at us.  However, for the time being they were content to throw bottles at our tent and smash the rubbish bins . Then Max the mad axeman started chopping. At first he was content with chopping down three or four small trees, but he soon turned to some tougher stuff. To the steady beat of the axe, his friends started singing, ‘Row, Row, Row your Boat’, to keep him going. After several minutes there was complete silence. Then suddenly a tree creaked and then whistled as it began to fall. Penned in our small tent, we could hear the frightening whistle coming down towards us. My heart jumped into my mouth and cold shivers ran down my spine, as I imagined the tree was about to land on top of us. As the tree crashed to the ground, the earth trembled from the impact. We later discovered the 26 metre tree had landed just metres away from our tent – luckily!

The rampage continued but we were reluctant to attempt escape, as we had no car. Next, another tree was chopped down after which the ladies toilet was sacrificed. They doused the tree with petrol, and whoosh! The flames took hold and reached for the sky, as they followed the petrol trail. A scream then echoed around the valley. Rocky had set fire to himself. He screamed, moaned and rolled around in the gravel as he desperately took his jeans off. His burnt legs were red raw. The pain made him squirm helplessly. It was at this point I felt I had the upper hand. His brother and mates wouldn’t help and his two friends were too drunk, so I vacated the tent and took him down to the river. I made him cool off for a while, wrapped wet towels around his legs and told him to drive to hospital straight away. With his car battery flat and still no help from the rest of the gang, the wet towels starting to dry, he then started to scream again. Thirty minutes later the gang decided to help. They push-started his car and finally the mob left us in peace at 5.30 am. The picnic area was a disaster zone but at least Jenny and I could sleep

October 22nd. Near Musgrave Roadhouse.

A few minutes after leaving camp I heard a chanting noise with a high-pitched tone sounding every 25 seconds or so. I stopped, walked down the embankment and stumbled through the bush, passing several termite mounds. A gully roughly 20 metres wide was lined with trees and grass trees. I felt like a little boy searching through a haunted forest. The noise grew louder, sounding like a ritualistic chanting. Maybe someone was being sacrificed, I thought. I moved on and disturbed several kookaburras near one of the hundred or more termite mounds. The noise stopped. I froze next to a mound, waiting and watching but saw nothing. It felt weird, slightly frightening – was someone or something out there? I moved on, trying not to make any noise. A lone shape appeared through a gap in the trees. On closer inspection, it turned out to be a cow. As I moved closer, it bolted. Was the cow making the noise I asked myself? If it had been, it was certainly a weird cow. I turned and headed back up the rise through the termite mounds and forest, still baffled by the noise.

I found my bike and headed off along the rough road. At Hann River Roadhouse lunch was served under a shady tree and I also devoured two cold drinks and an icy pole that did nothing to quench my thirst.

The afternoon ride brought some improvement in the road conditions but I struggled against a head wind and dust from passing cars. Above storm clouds were ever present but no rain had fallen before I finished my 121 km ride at Little Laura River. That night we had a curry dish for dinner and Linda made apple turnovers.

October 23rd. Little Laura River.

It didn’t take me long to cycle the 13 kms to Laura. As I crossed the river I noticed a dingo stalking a herd of cattle. I shouted, but it made little difference. I shouted again, this time the cattle bolted and the dingo headed for cover. I stopped at Laura shop before venturing further along a very corrugated, dusty gravel road to the Laura Split Rock Aboriginal open air art galleries. This was not your usual art gallery. From the car-park we climbed around the rock outcrops. Ascending the hill there was a great view surrounding area. Hidden among the rock overhangs and walls we soon found lots of Aboriginal paintings, many superimposed one over each other and probably dating back hundreds of years. In one gallery much of the art were tall sacred ancestral figures but further and throughout the extensive rock overhangs/galleries, there were many other forms of paintings and hand stencils. Kangaroo, catfish, crocodile, tortoises, emu, bush turkey and many human figures were all there, scattered in shady areas among the rock. I enjoyed looking at the paintings but I felt disappointed in myself that I wasn’t a lot more interested in them and hadn’t studied them more closely. I suppose I’m not a person that dwells on art. Even in museums I enjoy looking at things but never at great detail. I often wondered how some people have the patience to study one thing all the lives. Having seen enough paintings and feeling a little restless I wanted some action, so I returned to cycle, while the others explored further.

The road was still dusty, rough and in places fairly steep. A cyclist heading my way was as surprised as I was when we met. He was from Perth on a journey up to Cape York, and carried a backpack on his shoulders instead of using the traditional panniers that fasten to the bike.

I went berserk at the Lakeland roadhouse buying a drink, 2 icy poles, a Mars bar, a chocolate and a bag of chips. Since I’d been back in civilisation my craving for junk food had increased. The area around Lakeland contained several peanut farms and planting was about to get under-way. The farms also stocked some very healthy Brahman cattle.

Outside Lakeland, the dusty, corrugated road started to climb to the top of Byerstown Range. I strained as I cycled the long hill and winding road, but when I reached the top the view was worth all the hard work.

A Kanga tour bus stopped; the driver had bet his passengers that I would be foreigner, probably French. He was right about me being a foreigner, although I classed myself as an Aussie with an English accent, but I definitely had no French origins. His passengers were Belgians on a hunting trip. I reached the Palmer River Roadhouse and tried to call Jenny but she wasn’t in, so we moved off and camped 6 kms further along, on a deserted forest track. We talked that night about the civilisation that was creeping into our lives. I wasn’t the only one being affected by it, the others had also lived the bush life for quite some time and were feeling sad and unsettled about leaving it.

October 24th. Near Palmer River Roadhouse.

I heard Linda chattering just after 4.00am so I decided to have an earlier start. After eating left over rice for breakfast in the dark, I moved out at first light and cycled down the narrow track that was sandwiched between trees. It was calm, fresh, and a little nippy. I joined the main road and soon met several trucks that left lingering dust. The country was hilly and a new road was being built slicing off the many gullies and ups and downs of the old road. The old road that we still travelled was just a mess; rough and corrugated, even the cars were having to go slow. A lady and her husband stopped, gave me a cool drink and were interested in finding out about my trip. They were from USA.

By the time I had reached the start of the bitumen road, the crew arrived so I had a second breakfast and cleaned the chain. What a difference the clean chain made, even though my speed was slowed by the wind and the road condition. I climbed higher and higher until finally, I reached the top of a range to view the surrounding countryside. Descending the hill at great speeds I reached Bob’s Lookout which gave me a better view of the hills. The road descended further giving me a breezy, easy and enjoyable ride to a much flatter plain. It was a disappointment to have to pedal against the headwind but the crew cheered me up by telling me I had only 3 kms to the roadhouse. My enthusiasm waned as the promised 3 kms turned out to be 20 kms. Over to the east were beautiful views of the Daintree National Park’s mountains surrounded by clouds.

I pulled into Mt Carbine Roadhouse with a giant thirst. Once again at lunch, under a shady pergola, I made a pig of myself by eating chips, a pie, bread, salad, cold drink and an icy pole. I left the rich mining area and headed the last 30 kms to Mt Molloy which consisted of running creeks, a hill climb and some outstanding scenery. Mt Molloy was a shock; with shops, houses, parks, people, pubs and a bitumen road. Even more sobering was the fact that there was even more of this to come as I moved down the coast.

Rain clouds gathered over the hill tops. The descent down to the coast started near a lookout. This was the easy section I’d looked forward to and I wasn’t disappointed as I hurled down the road at high speed, with the cold wind chilling my bones. Reality set in at the road junction at sea level when I was forced to cycle 13 kms against the wind to Port Douglas where the support crew and Jean and Alan were waiting.

Prior to my arrival, Jean and Alan had spotted two canoeists on the Four Mile Beach. Once they discovered the canoeists were heading to Cape York, they invited them to wait until I arrived. Stuart and Daniel joined us for tea.

October 25th. Port Douglas.

After breakfast we walked down to the beach to see the boys off. It was interesting to see the type of equipment they had. Their paddles were cheap, split blockey paddles, one of which had already broken. Their rudder systems were also pretty shoddy; Lendal foot pumps that would be useless in a swamped situation. With their limited kayaking skills, I was concerned that they wouldn’t make it, (but a letter some months later confirmed that they had). Good luck guys! We waved them off, watching them paddle awkwardly across a stunning flat blue sea, chasing their own adventure.

After lunch, Jean and Alan drove us into Port Douglas, passing the up-market resorts such as the Mirage. Big names from all over the world stay here. Mike (from the local paper) was at home when we returned. He said, the other local paper hadn’t believed my story about the sighting of a crocodile off the Four Mile beach and had ridiculed his newspaper. Although he came to check how I got on, he was mainly interested to find out whether I had told the truth about the croc. I assured him I had seen it and he soon left.

October 27th. Port Douglas.

A special muesli with paw-paw and soya milk, followed by eggs on toast started the morning rolling. We washed the vehicle and packed the roof before having sandwiches and cake at 11.00am just prior to leaving Jean and Alan.

I changed to my much quicker road bike but the south-east winds and the gearing made cycling a strain. The pedals also cut off the circulation in my feet – they were really too small for my big feet. For much of the way the road followed the coast, giving me some grand views. At a lookout, I stopped next to a hand glider and had words with the American pilot who was about to take off from the cliff. His girlfriend assured me it was safer than bike riding and, after having been run off the road by a sugar truck previously, I felt inclined to agree with her.

After shopping and having an interview with the paper in Cairns, we moved to Gary Cotter’s house, as he had offered to put us up for a couple of nights.

October 27th. Cairns.

Changing the oil in the vehicle was my main goal for the day but it was Jenny’s arrival later that night that I had been longing for. At 10.00pm I motored to the airport to pick her up. Jenny was going to stay with me for four weeks. We hadn’t seen each other for over four months so I thought it only fitting for us to have our first night in a motel.

We had both been longing for this moment, alone and together, but it was hard to find the most important words to say first. With it being late evening we retired to bed, cuddled and cherished the first evening together.

October 28th Sunday. Cairns.

We left our motel and picked up the crew, then drove to the station for a scenic rail journey up to Kuranda on the plateau. Linda, John, Jenny and I travelled on the journey while Tim drove the vehicle around by road. It was a pleasant way to start our holiday together. The railway was built between 1882-1891 to service tin miners on the Wild River near Herberton. The boggy road leading down to Port Douglas at that time was impassible for most of the year. Thousands of tons of earth had been removed from hillside by hand. Teams of men used only picks and shovels to plough through kilometres of dense rainforest. Workers had to endure poor working conditions and low wages of 8/6d per day. At one stage 1500 men, mainly Irish and Italian, were involved in the project. In the main steep section between Redlynch and Kuranda, fifteen tunnels, ninety-three curves and dozens of bridges were mounted hundreds of feet above ravines and waterfalls.

It was my second time on the railway; nevertheless, the beauty of the scenery was just as impressive the second time as it was the first. It was even more rewarding because I could share the experience with Jenny. The train shunted slowly up the steep rail line, moving through tunnels and crossing bridges that were built precariously across ravines. Looking down towards the Barren Gorge, we could see kayakers attempting the rapids. At Barren Falls the train stopped, and we were able to watch abseilers repelling down the cliffs.

Tim was waiting at the beautiful Kuranda station which was brimming over with the most colourful plants imaginable. We took a short walk to the markets, and then drove to the Kuranda Rainforest Resort where Jenny and I, and John and Linda had booked into chalets. Tim booked in to the cheaper but comfortable backpacker’s accommodation. Jenny and I settled into our beautiful rainforest surroundings immediately.

Jenny & I at Kuranda Rainforest Resort.

October 29th. Kuranda.

It was our wedding anniversary. This was our first experience of luxury-type accommodation since our honeymoon in 1977, when we stayed in Russian hotels as we made our way across Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway in mid-winter heading towards to Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Bali and final destination Australia.

Tim came around and we had a champagne and fruit breakfast on our balcony. Our chalet was perched on stilts, surrounded by rain forest vegetation. It felt quite posh as we had always camped up until this point. It was disappointing to leave; we were just getting used to the comfort. Now we had been spoiled, our camping future might be in jeopardy.

The rest of the day was quite leisurely as we made way to the peaceful Tinaroo Lake and camped there for the night. I wrote on 18 postcards.

October 30th. Tinaroo Lake.

It was a cool and damp night and I had to visit the toilet twice. I was up first, checked the oil in the vehicle and started packing. Our tents took some drying. We left our camp and drove around the lake through the pine and rain forest stopping at the famous Curtain Fig Tree, with its amazing root and branch formations. They were just huge. Finally we descended the tablelands and made our way back to Cairns via Gordonvale.

What a tree.

That afternoon it was Linda and John’s turn to feel sad. At 4.00pm Linda said goodbye; she was leaving to go back to W.A.

October 31st. Cairns.

Unlike on the tablelands, the nights in Cairns were warm. After breakfast we drove John to the main road out of town and dropped him at the side of the road. He was about to hitch-hike south and then back to W.A. It was a sad moment as we had developed a close relationship and now he was leaving us. We had spent over 5 months together and hardly a wrong word had come between us. He stood there with his gear by his feet and waved as we moved off. When he faded from my sight, I couldn’t help thinking what a good bloke he was, a great handyman, an understanding person, with a placid nature. I will miss you, John.

The afternoon was spent at the Barron Gorge watching rappellers and kayakers, followed by a visit to the bungy tower to watch the mad antics of the jumpers.

At 5.00pm we said goodbye to our hosts Gary and Peter and moved out of town; Jenny and Tim in the vehicle, me on my bike. That night we camped at Gordonvale picnic site next to several tethered horses. The nearby trees were home for hundreds of fruit bats that squabbled and took off throughout the night.

November 1st. Gordonvale.

It took 2 hours 30 minutes to cycle the 50 kms to Bartle Frere, the highest mountain in Queensland. The day was virtually cloudless and every peak was showing along the range. Nearing Bartle Frere, a man stopped, jumped out of his car and joyfully flagged me down. “Please will you sign my Kimberley Challenge book,” he said. He had already persuaded Jenny to sign it.

Arriving at the picnic site at Josephine Falls, I walked to the ranger’s house. He wasn’t in but his friendly wife gave me the information I required; it was 15 kms return, steep terrain and would take roughly 10-12 hours to walk the return trip to the summit.

One of my goals for this trip was to climb the three highest mountains in three states, Queensland, NSW and Victoria; this was my first peak. We started our ascent at 11.25am, immediately moving into the rainforest. The track sidled up and down as we crossed a few small creeks and then rested near a water-course with large boulders. Here Jenny looked down at her shoes and noticed several leeches creeping over them. They wriggled as I flicked them off. We moved on, climbing a ridge with a steep drop either side. Around us was nothing but rainforest. Tree roots acted as ladders as we scaled higher. Eventually we reached the Broken Nose turn-off and small campsite with a stream flowing by. At this point our tents were erected. After lunch, we left Jenny to keep guard at base camp while Tim and I climbed higher. The climb was steep and occasionally we got glimpses of views between the trees. As we reached the ridge, a cool mist started flowing across the mountain. The 2000ft and 4000ft markers were soon passed. Tim was keeping up without any problem; he was pretty fit for his age.

The rainforest faded to be replaced by scrubby vegetation. This enabled us to get better views of the tablelands and the coast until the clouds moved in.  Our steady climb, following arrows marked on boulders, ended abruptly with a sign that said, ‘The Highest Mountain in Queensland’, and a dead tree with several metal plaques attached. Unfortunately, because of the cloud there was no opportunity to admire the view.

Highest Peak in Queensland.

Our task complete, we descended at a fast pace. It was 5.30pm by the time we reached our camp, Tim with blood streaking from both socks, the leaches having had a leisurely feast of him. Jenny was pleased to see us as it was getting dark under the thick canopy. I washed while Jenny cooked tea. As darkness drifted in, fire flies flew around our camp, keeping us amused. It was a great sight. A native rat also made an appearance and got into the rubbish bag we’d placed on top of a large boulder. By the time we were about to retire, the moon shone through the thick rainforest. It was great to share the experience with Jenny.

November 2nd. Mt Bartle Frere.

The native rat had dragged our rubbish bag under a low canopy of stinging nettles. Tim tried to lift the nettles up while I slid underneath to retrieve the rubbish and in the process was stung on my back. The sting was quite painful for two days. Tim was a little angry with himself for erecting his new Eureka Timberline tent on a sharp tree root that made a hole in the tent floor. I’ve had mine for four years and it is still going strong. I had two tents with me – a Macpac Eclipse and a Eureka Timberline. The Eureka I spent most nights in. It was free standing, had ventilation at both ends and was easy to erect. Having good ventilation in the tropics was essential. I used the Macpac tent in more extreme conditions.

Returning to the car park at the base of the mountain at a fairly fast pace, we met up with a Carnarvon family (including three kids) tripping around Australia in a big bus. It was always interesting to meet people from our own state.

I continued cycling and reached Innisfail by midday in search of Alby Mangles, but he wasn’t there so I kept cycling to Cardwell.

November 3rd. Cardwell.

At the Cardwell jetty, my kayak was removed from the vehicle and I started preparing it for my next leg; across to Hinchinbrook, Australia’s largest National Park Island. I talked to Fay from the National Parks office. She was very helpful with information about Hinchinbrook Island and a very pleasant person too, I liked her. It makes me wonder why all people can’t be as friendly. Her off-sider in the office had been really official, quite abrupt and impossible to get any information out of.

I was loaded and away by 9.00am waving to Tim and Jenny as I left. Soon after, the boat carrying them across to the island passed me by. It created a good wake so I paddled on it and got a good ride for a time, until it headed in a northerly direction. Looking over to my right, down the Hinchinbrook Channel I could see the seepy, brown-coloured water filtered between forests and forests of mangroves that lined the foreshore and choked the southern end of the channel. A strong tidal current ripped through the deep passage.

I soon passed the mangrove headland of Hecate Point and entered Missionary Bay where I met an old fishing boat, ‘True Blu’. The skipper asked me if I needed anything, or a tow. I declined both offers, thanked him and headed against the wind and tide towards a huge bay, blocked for several kilometres by mangroves. My thirst was continual but the view was spectacular; mangroves in the foreground with Nina Peak and Mt Bowen plus other jagged mountains in the background. I could see a diverse array of trees and dense rainforest on the island.

Several channels forged deep into the mangroves so it was difficult to make a decision which way to go. One wrong turn would have meant several extra kilometres paddled – something I didn’t want. Checking my map, and the instructions that I was given, I entered a mangrove creek. There was nothing to indicate that I was in the correct channel and I became a little concerned, but further down the creek I noticed a marker ahead that reassured me. The creek started to narrow and meander, and again I enjoyed stunning views of the super lush mangroves and the mountains. I was now a lot more confident that I was on the right track and gave little thought to the crocodiles that may habitat the area.  A ferry that had passed me earlier came into view from around a bend in the mangroves, trailing white waves from the bow. It closed in, forging forward until it passed. The skipper shouted, “Only two kilometres to go.”

The channel narrowed perceptibly as it turned south, until it was barely wider than the boat that had just passed. With the low tide, the mangroves were now left growing in the mud. Their roots poked through the mud like stubbed antlers. The creek was quiet, apart from the popping and clicks made by shrimps, crabs and mud skippers, and my wake lapping up the mud. Mangrove leaves littered the waterway, floating like tiny boats and pushed along by the breeze.

Jenny and Tim cooeed and shattered my peace but I was happy to hear their greeting as my body was tired. They were standing on a timber walkway, which was at least three metres higher than the water level and surrounded by thick mangroves. A ladder led down to the mud. I landed in the mud, dragged the bow to the ladder where as a collective team, we attempted to lift the kayak directly up the ladder, but it was too long and an impossible task. We paused to get our breath while Jenny passed me down a drink which was warm, but it didn’t matter. I was longing for liquid.

We were beaten by the ladder, so we reassessed the situation and decided on a route through the mangroves. It was quite steep and slippery, with mangrove roots making it difficult to step, let alone drag the kayak up. We struggled, yet managed to get the kayak to the walkway before resting again. The toil continued with a 250-metre-long walk along a walkway carrying the kayak, followed by a battle up a high sand dune. The struggle was worth it. The beach on the seaward side was absolutely magnificent, with the white sands stretching for kilometres to the north and several hundred metres to the south. Beyond the southern beach, Nina Peak and the distant mountains created a backdrop that was world class.

Sitting aloft the sand dune, we ate lunch and watched over the magnificent island. We talked about the beauty around us before Jenny and Tim departed, walking along the beach with packs strapped to their backs. Our aim was to meet up at a camping spot further south. They would walk; I would kayak. I moved on down the coast, watching the clouds clear around the mountain range, but lightly hover around Mt Bowen. The peaks looked very rugged with deeply intersecting craggy slopes and I began to wonder what we had let ourselves in for, as Tim and I were going to climb Mt Bowen the following day.

Hinchinbrook Island.

I arrived at Little Ramsay Bay at 4.30pm. Only one tent was erected in the trees. I dragged my kayak up the beach and was surprised to see Peter Jess and his girl-friend under the bushes. I’d met Peter on his motor bike near Elliot Falls, Cape York. Soon after, Dennis, (another English tourist) arrived looking absolutely shattered. He had accidentally climbed Nina Peak carrying his full pack, mistaking it for the main track along the island. When he’d met two other English people on the top with day packs on, he couldn’t believe what he had done. An hour later, Jenny and Tim arrived.

Hinchinbrook Island.

We camped in the trees, had a swim in the ocean, being careful not to get tangled in stingers, and then had tea. Later that night we sat out on the beach, staring into the full moon and being annoyed by mosquitos.

November 4th Sunday. Hinchinbrook Island.

Tim and I were up at 6am, and packed a rucksack with food, 5 litres of water and emergency gear, which included a long rope, knife, and First Aid Kit. Our walk started at 7.00am taking us past the lagoon and along the creek bed, rock hopping upwards across sloping rock slabs and large boulders. Birds were chattering away among the trees in our stream bed and far up into the mountain scrub. A list of birds given to us by the rangers named 150 different species that had been recorded on the island. Most were resident to the island, while several were migrants and some were occasional visitors. For the keen birdwatcher, the list invites people to register any birds that are not on the list. By 8.45am we were close to and below a vertical slab hill. We kept following the creek finally reaching a fork where we left the left hand narrow stream to follow a dry, wider creek bed to the right, at which point our route became steeper. At 10.00am we came to another fork. The left led up to a small waterfall but we followed the main waterless creek to the right.

The climb to Mount Bowen.

The climb became steeper and once the trees closed in, the climb became harder. We struggled on, reaching a saddle between two mountains at 11.00am. There we rested for 15 minutes in a small clearing with a towering rock close by.

Heading south, we skirted several rocky outcrops before following the ridge through burnt banksia. Our clothes, hands and face became black and the sweat ran down our faces, leaving grey streaks. By noon we reached a peak with several boulders that we incorrectly estimated to be the summit but it turned out to be a false summit. With the cloud surrounding us, visibility was down to the minimum but at times it cleared enough to get glimpses of the Hinchinbrook Channel and the mangroves. We moved on a little further and found the summit nearby where we had lunch next to a cairn. The spectacular north face of Mt Bowen drops 1121 metres, featuring cliffs and then forested scree slopes which run almost to sea level. We rested for a while, took our shirts off to dry, found the plastic tube containing a visitor’s book, and signed our names. Just before our departure at 2.10pm, the clouds separated for a short while, this time giving us views of the east side of the mountain towards the ocean.

On top of Mount Bowen.

Our return to the camp was swift. We were greeted by Jenny at 5.40pm. She’d had a pleasant day relaxing, swimming, keeping away from biting March flies, and had moved our tent to a place with a view of the ocean and one which would be cooler in the night. English Dennis had returned earlier from a walk that he’d attempted to Zoe Bay. He hadn’t been able to find the track after a creek crossing so returned without seeing it. It wasn’t his day again.

Tim and I looked a picture. We were blackened with charcoal, our clothes stunk with sweat and dirt and Tim’s face looked extremely haggard. Hell knows what I looked like. I had a swim to freshen up. After tea, the huge red moon lifted from the water like an enormous hot air balloon on fire. Within moments the grey clouds on the horizon began to bleed, the redness absorbing the lower parts of the clouds and setting them ablaze. Jenny and I watched in amazement as darkness turned into fire and then faded into a dull light, as the full moon gained height. We both knew that we were witnessing nature at its best and we were at the pinnacle of our time together. We longed for the night to go on but the mosquitoes and sandflies prevented the evening from being just ‘absolutely perfect.’

November 5th. Hinchinbrook Island.

Rain had fallen in the night but it was the sticky heat that caused Jenny to have a broken night’s sleep. The peaceful lagoon invited us to have a morning swim. Although Hinchinbrook Island is further south than most crocodiles live, they are spotted here occasionally, so I still felt a little uneasy, swimming in a pool with mangroves surrounding it. We returned and started preparing breakfast; oats with fresh orange, mango, dried fruits, raisins and nuts.

Camp on Hinchinbrook Island.

Jenny and Tim had to return to the ferry, so I decided to walk them back and climb Nina Peak on the way. We left at high tide and started our walk through the bush, then over rocks, across Nina Creek, along a beach lined with coconut palms and back through the bush before crossing another flooded creek which we had to wade through. Back under the canopy of trees, we reached a saddle down from Nina Peak. Jenny was left to relax while Tim and I climbed to the summit. The view was sensational, with sweeping views of the mangroves, flooded creeks and the long sweeping beach. Behind us, most of the mountains were clear with the exception of Mt Bowen whose summit was surrounded with a thin cloud ring. There was something about the island that seemed so much more special than other beautiful places. It was isolated, and had a variety of stunning scenery. Apart from the mosquitoes, sandflies and March flies, this island national park would be an ideal setting to become stranded, or to live as a beachcomber.

Jenny crossing a creek.

Meeting up with Jenny again I said my goodbyes, and they made their way to the boat while I returned to my kayak. I cooled down by having a dip in the ocean, had lunch and took another dip before taking off across Little Ramsay bay at 1.30pm. I searched the mountain tops as I paddled, and the thought of being up there among the lush vegetation and coolness of the clouds was inviting. I had to reconcile myself to the fact that I couldn’t do everything and be everywhere. Arriving at Agnes Island, I beached. I couldn’t help but stop to take a photo of the beautiful, clear mountain before crossing the equally beautiful Zoe Bay.

The view from Nina Peak.

Rounding the vertical cliffs of Hillock Point I glided south, checking the unique colours that embedded the rock. Leaving the point, I could see a strange island several kilometres ahead which later turned out to be Lucinda Jetty. I crossed Mulligan Bay with its long beautiful beach and skirted surf at George Point that looked huge at a distance but was quite small when I passed.

Crossing the bay, I paddled to the jetty but found no place to get out so I moved past it and under a long sugar jetty, to a beach backed with rocks and stairways. I had landed in a park close to a shop and caravan park where Tim and Jenny were waiting.

November 6th. Lucinda.

It turned hot and humid during the night and I was troubled by a fungi patch on my neck which itched and itched. Consequently I slept fitfully. An early morning cold shower eased the itch.

For breakfast I ate plenty of fruit, there being an abundance in Queensland. Mangroves and cane fields lined the roads as I cycled out of town. It was a different kind of scenery to the island but very interesting; the long stems and roots of mangroves on one side of the road and tall slim cane on the other.

When I arrived in Townsville, Tim had arranged an interview with the ABC, so I proceeded to the studio. Straight after the interview, a man called Kelly rang the studio. I took the call and he immediately went into attack, accusing me of putting ‘Aussies down’. Then said, he had given me $20 and helped me out with car parts when I had broken down just across the W.A./S.A. border a few months before. According to him, I’d been driving a Ford and had a young woman with me who had reddish hair. He accused me of being a bludger, bringing my wife out from England using sponsors’ money. I told him he had mistaken me for someone else but he said I was a bloody liar and he would call all the radio stations and tell them what a fake I was. I tried telling him that it couldn’t have been me because I was walking across the Great Sandy Desert at the time but he continued abusing me over and over again. I tried reasoning with him but it was no good as he was really fired up and I could hardly get a word in edge ways. I tried to finish the conversation several times but it was difficult to do so without putting the phone down. After several minutes, I finally managed to end the conversation without cutting him off.

I felt relieved, really relieved but a little shaken, I hadn’t talked to a crank before and I couldn’t get him out of my mind all day.

November 7th. Townsville.

Noisy cockatoos flying around the caravan park awoke me early. We had a leisurely breakfast of fresh fruit and oats before shopping for bike parts and films. The rest of the morning was taken up with an interview with the Townsville Bulletin and Queensland TV, (who filmed me cycling and running around the streets).

I left town in the early afternoon and cycled 53 kms before Jenny and Tim caught up; they had been grocery shopping. Irrigated cane and mango fields began to appear. Entering and leaving the town of Ayre, I noticed that fires were burning in several cane fields surrounding my path south. Burnt particles from the cane fields showered me, like black snowflakes. A large lump of ash drifted into my eye. I rubbed it but then it itched. Smaller particles spiralled around my face. As I crossed the long bridge across the Burdekin River I could see that several cane fields in the district were ablaze. The river was wide, and care had to taken to avoid the bike wheels from falling in the dangerous bridge drains which had bars running the same direction as I was cycling. As darkness drifted in, the ash that was falling from the sky, and the fiery scene of the cane field was spectacular. Cane fields are burnt to make harvesting easier; with the dead leaves burnt away, the harvester is able to work more quickly and efficiently. However, this is not usually the practise in Cairns as there is more rain and the cane fields are greener and have less chance to dry.

November 8th. Near Inkerman.

It was still dark when I rose. The mornings were now turning cooler so a jumper was very necessary. South-easterly winds aggravated my progress to Bowen, where we had lunch on a bench overlooking the sea front. The wind continued in the afternoon and as I neared Airlie Beach, steeper hills developed. Airlie Beach was bustling with tourists. Young people clad in the skimpiest clothes made up the majority of people. It is the stepping off point for visiting the Whitsunday Islands and some of Australia’s most popular resorts. We found a caravan park that charged us only $3 to camp (one of the cheapest camps in Australia), and then searched the town for a cheap meal.

November 9th. Airlie Beach.

At 6am I made a special mix of muesli, packed hurriedly and started cycling to Shute Harbour. I climbed three big hills before reaching the jetties and boat ramp. The area around Shute Harbour was quite compressed, closed in by some hills. The shores were fronted by mangroves although there was a small beach to the left of the main car park. Tim backed the vehicle down the boat ramp where we unloaded the kayak. Jenny tried helping but slipped on the green slime that was struck to the ramp. She landed smack on her bum and lower back. It hurt but she braved the pain. With care, I finished loading the kayak while Jenny and Tim parked the car and boarded a charter boat, ‘Nari’.

We departed the harbour about the same time as each other. There were numerous boats and yachts anchored in the bay, and several well-forested islands guarded the harbour. Beyond the lee of these islands, the sea became choppy. Nari, with full sail caught by the wind, sailed south of me. I headed due east, skirting the southern end of South Molle Island which was heavily wooded with Norfolk Pines. I could still see the yacht ‘Nari’ as I forged forward to Joe’s beach on Whitsunday Island. On either side of the passage between Whitsunday and Cid island, the shores were fronted by rock and the hilly landscape was thick with pine forest. I arrived at the secluded Joe’s beach about 12.15pm on low tide. The bay was busy with snorkel divers, duck-diving to check out the coral and fish.

Tim and Jenny were already there. Jenny had made good friends with Jackie and Warren from England. Jackie looked English, sounded English, was very polite, and definitely English! We had lunch under the canopy of trees, overlooking Cid Island. Soon after, Jenny attempted her first snorkel dive without the assistance of fins, which made her attempts all the more difficult. She found it hard at first to clear her mask and blow and breathe through the snorkel but became more familiar as she had more practice. However, by the time she began to feel a little confident, the tide had risen which made it difficult for her to see the coral without diving deep. Her confidence began to subside when she became tired and cold. Pleased with her first attempt, we returned to the safety of the beach to relax.

Our beach stretched for about 100 metres. We started to fry so we moved under the shady trees of our camp. Behind us stood a mountain range thickly wooded with Norfolk Pine and dense undergrowth. As we rested in the shade, a huge goanna lizard (roughly one metre long) investigated every metre of our camp site. Three other lizards also showed up, turning our cove into a reptile park. They plodded around being inquisitive, looking, searching, foraging; their long tongues flicking. They had little fear of people. While they were invading our area, I caught up with my diary.

Goanna lizard around camp on a Whitsunday Island.

As the sun set over the mainland, several little native rats came out of hiding and cruised in and out of the vegetation looking for any morsel of food littering the ground. They would also raid any food stuff that wasn’t hidden or enclosed in tin.  After tea, which consisted of tuna, rice, beans, soup, followed by rice pudding and biscuits, we relaxed in the muggy heat and watched the twinkle of the lights on the mainland. To prevent our stores being raided by animals in the night, I hid our food in my kayak hatches.

November 10th. Whitsunday Island.

At 11.00am Jenny tried her hand at snorkelling again. With no fins she had to work hard and still had problems clearing her snorkel, coming up gasping and struggling for air. In the end the stress became too much and she retired to the beach for lunch. She returned later and improved; this time when she felt insecure, she used me and my kayak as a life raft.

All too soon it was time to leave our idyllic island. Jenny and Tim took the boat back to the mainland while I headed north around Whitsunday Island against the wind and tide. I moved on and past Sawmill Beach, another camping spot, but it didn’t look too special. A few yachts were anchored behind a headland nearby. Eventually I made it to the southern end of Hook island and soon after, spotted a resort on a island opposite the top end of Whitsunday Island. There were yachts, a jetty and three people paddling wave skiers and a fisherman who shouted, “You’re keen”. I struggled through the gap between the two islands and paddled over to the east side of Whitsunday Island, where the wind and tide were now in my favour. My pace quickened as I moved along the island in a southerly direction, surfing waves at every opportunity. The island was still heavily wooded with Norfolk Pine. A tourist boat darted in and out bays, showing tourists the spectacular scenery.

Just before I reached the world-famous Whitehaven Beach, I noticed a yacht sheltering behind a sand bar at the entrance of an inlet. The sea became very rough as I followed the beautiful white beach for several kilometres. I continually checked for a good camping site but the area was very exposed to the wind so I kept moving. Passing through the gap between Haslewood and Whitsunday Islands, I was bounced along like a cork as the sea became highly volatile. Noticing a very steep dead coral beach just around the corner, I decided to call it a day and dragged my kayak three metres above high water mark before making camp. Despite a strong wind blowing, mosquitoes and sand flies pestered me. I slept in my swag, among the dead coral and bleached clam shells, next to my kayak. It was hot a night.

November 11th Sunday. Whitsunday Island.

I spent a miserable, restless night with the heat and mosquitoes, and as soon as I struggled out of my swag, they were swarming and attacking me again, as if mine was the last drop of blood available. I covered up whilst eating breakfast but was severely attacked going to the toilet and when I changed into my canoeing clothes. With great pleasure, I placed the kayak on the coral a metre from the water’s edge, jumped in and, with the aid of the steep slope and slippery coral, slid quickly into the water.

It was a delight to paddle out of the channel, away from the mosquitoes and head west along the southern end of Whitsunday Island. In the distance, on the Cumberland group of islands, a towering peak looked very impressive and inviting. Closer by, a few kilometres in the same direction as I was headed, a huge rock hill loaded with lichen dominated the scene. In the bay below, 16 yachts lay at anchor, like a small floating village. There was little movement. As I took a photo of the scene, tuna fish were going berserk, leaping out of the water all around me.

Around the next point I spotted Hamilton Island with its four big sky scrapers, holiday villas and units. A reminder that I definitely wasn’t too far from people. A tall rock hill featured impressively on the eastern side. A number of people were surf-catting and wind surfing in the bay. Several kilometres from the rest, a windsurfer looked dangerously lost – probably the easterly wind had made it difficult for him to return to the bay. The main resort looked almost deserted at that time of the morning. Most of the villas had fantastic views of the bay and I wondered how relaxing it would be living on an island, being waited on, and all you had to do was go sailing, swimming, sun bathing, eating and partying. I must try it one day.

Moving between the main two islands where the gap narrowed, the current accelerated at great speeds and became very confused. Although the sea was terribly bouncy, I was lucky in that the current was moving my way. It took little time to reach the more exposed waters of Whitsunday Passage, where power boats and yachts were zooming around in all directions.

The crossing to Long Island was pleasant and, on reaching it, I stopped nearby to have a talk to a group of people who were on a stranded yacht. Their rudder had broken and a mechanic from the mainland was there fixing it. I neared the islands of Shute Harbour. The scenic view of the islands, wooded mainland, beaches, boats and yachts was quite magnificent. I landed at 11.45am on the beach to the right of the car park. Within 15 minutes, Jenny and Tim arrived and they took great pleasure in tipping my unused fresh water bottles over my head to rid me of the salt and grime. But the day was nowhere near over. By the end of that day I had kayaked for 5 hours 30 minutes, run another 10.5 kms to Airlie Beach, then cycled 100 kms, finishing up at Kuttabul at 8.00pm that evening.

November 12th-15th Kuttabul to the Mary River.

I cycled the distance of 800 kilometres between the small town of Kattabul, near Mackay and Hervey Bay in four days. It was uneventful but hard work with strong headwinds persistently blowing most of the way. On the night of the 15th we camped just outside Hervey Bay; near the Mary River, next to trees full of bats and insects.

November 16th. Mary River.

It was 7.00am in the morning and already hundreds of sand flies were swarming outside the tent; some had also entered the tent when Jenny went outside to the toilet. I mixed muesli with juicy pineapple for breakfast but they didn’t complement each other. Sandflies in their hoards attacked through my socks and pants. The sun was hot and I was even hotter, fully-dressed. Boats and people started arriving at the ferry point.

I dressed for the paddle to Fraser Island. The tide was ripping through the channel at a great rate of knots. The wind and tide made the kayak crab across the bay to the ferry landing on the other side, which took me only 1 hour 15 mins. A shed, surrounded by mangroves running along the coast, marked the ferry landing. Jenny and Tim had boarded the car ferry with the vehicle for the quiet journey over whilst I took the more arduous route by kayak. We met at the ferry landing and loaded the kayak on the vehicle and started running. Our first camp site was at the end of a sandy track about 10 kms away. Jenny walked part of the way with me, whilst Tim drove.

We arrived at camp, (central station) at 12.15pm and after lunch we headed for Lake McKenzie, via Basin Lake, a round trip of about 7 kilometres. We walked along a boardwalk. Our route had beautiful palms, rainforest and a crystal clear stream. Further on, Basin Lake was small with a thick forest surrounding it. We arrived at Lake McKenzie consisting of beautiful sandy beaches and clear water, at 4.00pm. Tim and Jenny jumped into the cold lake first. I followed.

Fraser Island, called “K’gari” (meaning paradise) by its Aboriginal inhabitants, is the largest sand island in the world. Carbon dating suggests that there were Aborigines on the island as long as 30,000 years ago. The first European to sight the island was Captain James Cook in 1770. He named both Indian Head (where he saw ‘Indians’) and Sandy Cape (because of the two very large white patches of sand on it. The Aborigines on Fraser Island did not come face to face with white men until 1802 when Lt. Mathew Flinders came ashore from his ship, Investigator. Fraser Island got its name from Captain James Fraser, after his brig ‘Stirling Castle’ was shipwrecked in 1836.

A Fraser Island Lake

Fraser Island was declared a Forestry Reserve in 1908. The first logging started on the west coast around Wanggoolba Creek. The first logging camp was established at Bogimbah Creek in 1913 but was shifted to the mouth of Wanggoolba Creek, where a nursery was also established in 1916. However, because of mosquitoes, sandflies and poor soil it moved again ten kilometres up stream to the present Central Station site. Eventually, logging spread over the islands rain forest pockets. Hoop pine, kauri pine and white beech were the most sought-after timbers. About 1925, the tree satinay (or turpentine) which had been previously ignored, began to win world acclaim for its straight cylindrical trunks, over 30 metres long and its resistance to marine borer attacks. Some of Frazer’s satinay timber was used for sidings in the Suez Canal.

November 17th. Fraser Island.

There were no birds or traffic to awaken us early so we slept in until 7.15am. I served eggs, beans on toast and finished with muesli. Jenny and I walked along the stream towards Pile valley palms which was lush and very tropical. A large elkhorn had planted itself halfway up a huge palm tree. We stopped and watched an azure kingfisher flit from bow to bow above the creek bed.

Leaving Central Station campsite at 11.00am, I followed forest tracks towards Lake Birrabeen, keeping to a small track on the eastern side. I met five walkers from Brisbane, one lady had a very small baby possum cupped in her hand. Apparently she rears them for the National Parks. Skirting a small lake, I continued to Lake Benaroon. It was sandy on the western side and littered with beautiful paperbark and banksia trees. I took a photo and then moved in a southerly then easterly direction following a less defined and, at times, overgrown track. I left the lake heading south, up across a track and onto a ridge where I caught glimpses of the forest below. The walk down to the north side of Lake Boomanjin was easy. I continued north-west over a large sandy area with several sand spits that intersected pools of rusty-coloured water. Sand particles whipped up by the strong wind blasted my legs and face.

After three and half hours, I arrived at Jenny and Tim’s camp on the south west side of the lake. Lake Boomanjin is a perched lake. A perched lake occurs where a saucer-shaped “hard pan” forms in a depression between sand dunes. These hard pans are formed as decaying vegetation, and iron particles cement the grains together. Water collects in these depressions and escapes very slowly. Lakes form, “perched” well above the true water table. Lake Boomanjin, is the largest perched lake in the world, covering 190 hectares.

November 18th Sunday. Fraser Island.

At 5.45am, after a quick breakfast, I started running along a track to the Dilli Village. The village was once a sand mining field camp before being shut down and becoming a National Fitness Camp. Sand mining on the island ceased in 1976 after much controversy accompanied the excavation of black mineral sands.

From the top of the first ridge, I could see Lake Boomanjin, a large sand blow and the ocean over to the east. There were some high sand dunes en-route that decreased my speedy climb. I slowed down even more after tripping over a tree root and doing a somersault. At Dilli Village, Tim and Jenny arrived in the vehicle.

I jumped in and we cruised north along the beach heading for Eurong village and then Lake Wabby. Two creeks full of water made us reluctant to risk crossing until another 4 x 4 coming from the other direction crossed easily. We stopped at Eurong where the National Park HQ is situated and watched a brilliant informative video, about the island before heading up to Lake Wabby. Along the beach, we came across a small herd of brumbies, cantering and kicking up the white sand. It was the first herd that we had seen. Apparently horses were introduced to the island in 1879 when Harry Aldridge, son of Maryborough’s first resident, sent a herd of Arab greys over to the island to breed horses for the Indian Army. He was also in partnership with George Dicken who ran a Clydesdale horse and cattle concern, near Eurong, on the eastern side of the island. When they decided to close down their business some years later, they noticed that some of their Clydesdale stock had escaped and inbred with the Arab horses. Hence their legs and hooves had changed to cope with the sandy environment.

We arrived at the walk trail that led across the dunes to Lake Wabby. Lake Wabby is one of the many window lakes that are on the island. Window lakes occur where the water-table rises above ground level. The level of these lakes changes as the water-table rises and falls.

We reached the lake to find a group of backpackers running down a high sand dune at great speeds and then diving into the water. The sand dune has been moving over the years and taking over the lake. Eventually, one day, but not in my life time, the lake will be completely covered by sand. We had a swim, a cold one at that, and then returned to our vehicle.

Jenny taking a dip.

My next objective was to run from Dilli Village along the beach south to Hook Point, where the ferry left for the mainland. The beach, squeaky clean and rock hard, was ideal for running. Huge jellyfish, some at least one metre in diameter, floated in the waves, many becoming stranded on the beach. Swirls of colour were ingrained in their transparent, globular bodies. Their long tentacles washed back and forth with the waves. We stared at them in amazement, they were such fine creatures and didn’t deserve to become stranded and dehydrated.

Running the Fraser Island Beach.

I took time to eat a bowl of rice pudding to lift my energy reserves. As I ran past Hook Point, waves were breaking on a sand bar. A dingo strolled along the beach, ignoring me and the vehicles speeding by. It was free to roam the island. I was grateful that I was able to watch it wander among the dunes and explore the undergrowth in search for food.

At the ferry landing, I quickly unloaded the kayak off the vehicle so that Tim and Jenny could catch the next one. Two dingoes, one small, one fully grown, gathered around the cars, watching and waiting for any food that came their way. They were thin, but healthy, quite tame, but still wild. We departed the island, leaving behind a variety of natural wonders. It was quite sad.

When the ferry hoisted its vehicle ramp, I entered the kayak’s cockpit and headed towards Tin Can Bay. The wind was severe, making the kayak crab past the sand spit before the river entrance. Fishing boats were anchored in the river. I followed the main stream, passing tidal flats, yachts and wading birds. When Tin Can Bay came into my sights, I followed markers to the boat ramp adjacent to the coastguard building where Jenny and Tim were parked. A party was in full swing when we arrived and the party-goers suggested that we use the facilities of the coastguard building for the night. Blue Bellis gave me a beer and then gave us a tour of the base. It was great to have the hospitality of the local people and have plenty of space and a roof over our heads. From the top floor of the building we watched a beautiful sunset.

November 19th. Tin Can Bay.

It was windy and cloudy and rain fell intermittently as I cycled along a good road, with rolling hills and pine plantations that reminded me of Bridgetown in Western Australia. I cycled until I reached Nambour where we tried to track down Kerry Richards who had made my kayak, the ‘Mermaid’. Kerry lived out of Nambour so I cycled slightly north, out to Outlook Drive. His road was very steep and his drive much steeper. It seemed a long way out of town for a kayak manufacturer to do business. Kerry and his wife greeted us. Although Kerry hadn’t known me before, I asked him to make a sea kayak. He very generously built it free of charge, with materials I supplied. I picked his kayak, the ‘Mermaid’ because I wanted a stable and high-carrying capacity kayak. Although it was slower than many other sea kayaks on the market, it had been a great friend and served me well. We stayed the night.

November 20th. Nambour.

Prior to setting off from WA, I had sent my marathon kayak to Kerry so that I could use it when I paddled the length of the Murray River. It was a much lighter and faster craft than the sea kayak. Before I left that day, Kerry made me a rack for it so it would be more secure on the vehicle. Now I had two kayaks on the roof.

I felt overwhelmed and grateful for Kerry’s generosity and friendliness. We left, and headed towards Brisbane and arrived at a park just outside of the main centre to meet Mike, a friend of a friend. A photographer was also there to record my visit to Brisbane. After that, I cycled to Mike’s mother’s house and settled in for a couple of days.

November 21st. Brisbane.

We had a slack day. Jenny and I took the bus into Brisbane to have a look around.

November 22nd. Brisbane.

The roads were busy when I left for the Gold Coast. I took Highway One to Southport and found myself caught up in a tourist rat-race. New developments were under construction everywhere. The waterways and coastal waters were busy with aquatic activity; paragliding, water-skiing, windsurfing, canoeing, surfing, sun bathing, you name it, it was going on. I found the atmosphere quite exciting and interesting as I cycled the centre of Surfers Paradise observing the people and their activities, but I just couldn’t see myself living there. I caught up with Jenny and Tim at a park near the water front. As it was Jenny’s last night with me, before heading back to WA, we decided to rent a room at a motel. Tim took the vehicle and found a camp-site a few hundred metres up the road.

November 23rd. Miami.

After leaving our Miami motel, I headed towards the Queensland/NSW border town of Coolangatta and Tweed Heads. We paused for a while to check out the National Park information centre before heading along the back roads to Byron Bay. Once in Byron, my aim was to paddle around Cape Byron, the most eastern point of Australia. The beaches around Byron were glorious. No wonder the young surfers and older alternative people flock to the area. We found a car park north of the Cape and unloaded the kayak onto the beach. The surf breaks were pounding the beach, but the waves looked manageable. Once I’d placed my boat in the slop, Jenny gave me a shove towards the first wave. I soon sliced through it and mounted another two waves before being free of the surf and out in the magnificent blue ocean. Tim and Jenny left quickly and drove to the lighthouse to make sure that they could see me round the Cape.

With an average swell running, the seas were not difficult, but observing how the waves pounded the rocky shoreline I made sure I concentrated to avoid capsizing. The brilliant white lighthouse high on the hill looked like a huge monument. People looking like ants, gathered around it. Somewhere, Jenny and Tim were amongst them. It wasn’t long before I reached the beach on the southern side of the lighthouse. This time the waves were much larger and it looked fairly difficult to get in. Waiting for a lull, I then took off, chasing the back of a wave as far towards shore as possible, but I couldn’t keep up and another wave caught up. I broached sideways and rode the wave towards the beach. When the wave dissipated, I disembarked and dragged my kayak up the beach, looking back at the many lines of surf break spanning along the coast.

I packed my gear, we all had coffee and something to eat, and it was time to take Jenny to Ballina for her trip home. It had been an enjoyable four weeks having Jenny with me to share my aches, pains, experiences, and the beauty of Queensland but all that was about to end. Her bus was 1 hour 10 minutes late, prolonging the pain of her imminent departure. Finally the bus arrived. She boarded after several hugs and kisses; but there didn’t seem nearly enough of them to last us until our next meeting in six months time. The bus departed, we waved and as it pulled away I could see her figure through the tinted window. Then she was gone.

November 24th. Ballina.

We broke camp at 7.00am and headed back to the beach at Byron Bay. A new chapter was about to start; Jenny was gone, leaving Tim and me to face the testing and wonderful times ahead. I cycled up to the lighthouse, which was built in 1901, dismounted and walked to the most easterly point of Australia. The sea was calm, an ideal day for kayaking. On our return, goats were chewing grass near the white lighthouse cottages.  My cycle ride continued as I left the town to back track north towards the Lamington National Park. The scenery between Byron Bay and Lismore was stunning; green fields and houses dotted around the beautiful valleys.

The most easterly point of Australia.

The road to Kyogle wasn’t so hilly. Close to town, before I met up with Tim again, a big king brown snake slithered across the road. After two jam sandwiches and a cup of milo, I left the town heading towards Queensland. When the track steepened and became gravel, I changed to my mountain bike. The road to the border gate was very steep, edged by rainforest and the air was full with noise of chattering birds. At the border gate of Queensland/NSW cattle trucks are checked for ticks. Beyond the gate, the area was completely cleared, with kilometres of grassland. It was very disappointing after being surrounded by rainforest in NSW. A steep downhill run chilled me but I soon warmed up cycling the next hill. The road to the camp spot at a river picnic area continued to be hilly.

November 25th Sunday. Near the Border.

At 6.50am after a weetbix, oats, apple and banana breakfast, I cycled through very pleasant scenery cooled by the early morning fresh air. The morning was near perfect, the sun seeping through the trees, the sparrow hawks gliding the skies and the barley fields and farms reminding me of England and of the time I cycled through Finland. Cattle dung splattered on the road by loose roaming cattle, gave the morning an extra aroma. After passing Rathdowney turn-off, at the top of a hill and close to a large horse stud, (complete with white fences) I could see Mt Lindsay and Mt Barney, the highest mountains in south Queensland. I turned right at the two house location of Innisplain and joined another road heading south, following Christmas Creek. Here I met Tim Frier from Tamrookum, who had cycled to a fitness camp at 5.00am in the morning. He was a motorcross fan and wanted to visit Manjimup in W.A. to watch the motorcross. I turned at Hillview and struggled up a very steep hill before flying down it at great speeds. The track to O’Reileys in the Lamington National Park soon turned into gravel and became steeper and steeper. The day was quite hot and the climb certainly helped my blood boil. As I neared the top, the dry woodland suddenly changed to rainforest. I had arrived in the national park. The change was quite remarkable. I arrived at the location of O’Reileys at 11.20am. The place was packed. Lamington National Park is the largest area of undisturbed sub-tropical rainforest in south-east Queensland. It covers 20,200ha and is renowned for its magnificent views, waterfalls and colourful wildlife. Most of its rain falls between November and March but storms and torrential downpours can occur at any time.

Later that afternoon, we started our walk at a walkway that is positioned high in the tree tops. It was a novel way to see the forest. We then continued past Elabana Falls, Bunyip Falls, Wongaree Falls, to the Blue Pool, a distance of 14.3 kms. Back at O’Reileys, Crimson rosellas in their hundreds and several wallabies flocked around the settlement. Tourists were queuing to buy food to feed to them. Many tourists had four of more parrots landing on their shoulders, arms and heads as the birds scrambled for the food. I hadn’t seen so many parrots for a long time but I wondered how many would be in the forest naturally if it weren’t for people feeding them.

November 26th. Lamington National Park.

At 5.50am, rosellas flew in for breakfast. They were not afraid to walk around our camp to scavenge whatever they could. We refused to give them food so they walked on to the next campers.

At 8am we started our walk along the Border track which led to the cliffs overlooking NSW. The track meandered through thick rainforest with huge trees and a multitude of birds. We soon turned off onto the Albert River Circuit track towards Lightning Falls, zig-zagging down and past stands of Antarctic Beech trees. As we crossed Lighting Falls, Black Canyon was evident below. We had a rest at Echo Falls where Tim nearly stood on a 1 metre long snake. He jumped back in surprise. It was black with a whitish head and I expect highly venomous. It was then on to Mirror Falls, Bithongabel Falls and  Echoes Lookout, with great views of the farms and fields below. We continued around the escarpment, going from one lookout to another. Tall trees, with huge girths covered in moss, lined our route to Mt Toolona. We ate our lunch, surrounded by insects, at Toolana lookout. After making  a visit to the Wanungara lookout where we could see Mt Merino, we returned to O’Reileys, passing several spectacular waterfalls by the Toolona circuit track.

Lamington National Park.

Arriving back at O’Reileys, we had ice cream and Coke before departing at 5.00pm heading down Duck Creek Road through the rainforest. After a few kilometres, the rainforest abruptly ceased. I stopped in the middle of the track at the point where the huge trees and rainforest halted. It was so disheartening. All the beautiful rainforest that had once grown on the mountain had disappeared sharply and with no gradual fading out to soften the blow to the senses. I was in two worlds. My new world before me was farmland while my world behind me was beautiful, stunning rainforest. I looked over my shoulder and had my last look at the rainforest. I just had to get a photo.

I let the bike freewheel down the long, steep, gravel track at great speeds, slicing corners and jumping potholes. I rode aggressively; the felling of the forest had upset me and I just needed to work it out of my system. When the down hill section finished, I powered on, perspiring from the huge effort that I was putting in. I caught up with Tim, who was camped at a picnic area next to the Albert River. I cooled off by braving the cold water and taking a swim. By nightfall I was feeling calmer.

November 27th. Albert River.

The day was cloudy as I zig-zagged my way to Rathdowney. I stopped at the tiny post office and the manager was really proud that it had been computerised for two years, long before Brisbane got their computer. I took $150 out of the bank, serviced my bike bearings and rang Jenny, who was feeling a bit down now she was back in Perth without me.

I departed for Mt Barney on a partly bitumised, gravel road that climbed and descended frequently. When I arrived at Yellow Pinch campsite at the base of Mt Barney, there were several large tents already erected. We wasted no time; at noon we started our walk towards the summit of south Queensland’s most popular high mountain, following an old logging track, before heading through a eucalypt forest. Within 50 minutes we came to a gully full of palms. It was a beautiful sight – stacks of palms and one red tree. We just had to have lunch in the palm creek so we laid our gear out on the ground. To our astonishment, a snake slithered over our gear and so close I could reach out and touch it. For a few tense moments we were still. After lunch we moved on, climbing strenuously through a steep woodland and rock slabs which were fairly difficult to climb. As we pushed to the top, another rock slab blocked our way so we skirted west of it, dipped down into a saddle and clambered more rocks before pushing through bushes to the western peak. From the summit the view was stunning, several hills spreading to the west with Maroon Lake featuring beyond our ridge.

 

Mt Barney.

 

With little warning, the sky turned black as a huge mass of clouds moved in. With the clouds came thunder and lightning, which, in spectacular fashion, surrounded our position on the peak. Trying to keep to the faint track, we descended with speed. By the time we reached the tricky rocky area, just below the peak, it started to rain. Further along in the saddle, the thunder clapped with great vibrations and streaks of lightning shot across the sky like a firework display. The rain subsided for moments and then the sky opened, dropping huge hail stones. The track and rocks became slippery as we descended the steeper parts. The clouds closed in, cutting down our visibility to a few metres. The hail continued and cut into our exposed bodies. Although we had light rain jackets with us we hadn’t expected such violent weather. The hail finally stopped and turned back into a rain storm, making the track a continuous water slide. Our hasty descent had to be cautious; everything was so slippery. At last the rain storm passed over and the clouds dissipated, allowing us to gain views of waterfalls cascading off the eastern peak. The air felt rich and fresh, and wonderfully perfumed. We moved on to the palm valley, dodging water droplets falling from the huge leaves on the trees. Here, the walking became easier as we came close to the base of the mountain.

We stumbled across a school group about to camp. The lady in charge had read an article about me in a gold coast paper and seemed excited to meet me. With all the rain and mud on the ground, I didn’t envy their camping spot. We reached the car about 6.15pm and I wasted no time changing from my walking gear to my bike.

The track out from the camp had been severely eroded by the storm and the local creek had risen at least a metre. As I rode, I watched the spectacular sun set over Mt Barney. The sun’s rays streamed red through a cloud hovering near its summit. Kangaroos were present in high numbers along the route. The light soon faded and darkness drifted in. With the darkness came the moon that tried very hard to filter through the clouds. It was a perfect evening. My lasting memories of the area were of the majestic sunset scene over the mountains, the moon rising through the clouds, and the lights and silhouette of houses in the darkened shadows of the valleys. Only two cars passed me in the two hours it took me to reach a picnic area camp site where Tim was waiting.

November 28th. Maroon Dam.

The clouds obscured my view of Mt Barney as I left the camp site at 6.40am to make my way to the highest mountain in south Queensland, Mt Superbus. The scenery along the road was quite stunning, with houses dotted along the way, but there was no sign of human life. Eventually I spotted a farmer and asked him the whereabouts of Mt Superbus. He didn’t know. What he did know however, was that the road further up was going to be steep. The road soon turned to gravel and after a while it started to climb. It twisted and turned through a forest as it became steeper until finally I reached the top of the pass where Tim was having a strip wash in a bowl, near Tiviot Falls. It looked quite amusing; Tim’s skinny, naked frame standing in a small bowl beside the road, flannel in hand. He had nothing to worry about though as there was no traffic or person around to disturb him.

Although Mt Superbus is the highest mountain in South Queensland it is not the most picturesque or the most regularly climbed, so we were quite alone. We followed a track, crossing wooden bridges and steel gates and then a fence line. At that point, the track was overgrown and ascending into a forest. Then we came to another fence which headed straight up the mountain. The track followed it and was steep and slippery, ascending and descending several times. Closer to the top we could see the valley below and the hills to the east. The summit was marked by a large pile of rocks with a well-made stainless steel box to house the visitors book. It was just after midday so we had lunch at the top, surrounded by close-growing trees. Before descending, we managed to find a small clearing which gave us a view of Wilson’s Peak. The return route was by the same steep, slippery one we’d taken up the mountain. A snake crossed my path and I very nearly trod on it. By 2.15pm we reached the vehicle.

Mt Superbus.

 

The road down the valley was dreadful with very sharp rocks which made it impossible for me to let the bike go and gather downhill speed. The scenery, however, was magnificent with Wilson’s Peak being the dominant feature. At a turn off near ‘The Head’, I turned left and started climbing very steeply. The road turned into bitumen as it twisted up and up through a forest. I stopped at a sign saying ‘lookout’ and walked 250 metres along a fence that marked the NSW boundary. A little further across I could hear the rev of chain saws and the creak of trees as they fell to the ground. More beautiful forests being cleared. I continued my way, again steeply heading higher until I cycled out of the forest into a clearing and across to an old stock yard which had plenty of character. The view down the valley from where I had come was really stunning. In the far distance were Mt Superbus and Wilson’s Peak. I was now crossing the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range where rivers such as the Condamine eventually fed into the Murray River and reached the sea near Goolwa, South Australia. This is the start of one of the longest river systems in Australia.

Leaving Queensland.

I descended the road to Queen Mary Falls, a 40m cascade from Spring Creek through rich rainforest into a gorge feeding the Condamine River. According to the information sheet, the sheltered gorge receives continual mist and spray from the falls, enabling the area of rainforest timbers, hoop pine, silky oaks, forest red gums, staghorn, lush vines and orchids to survive. The creek is also home for platypus and red spiny crayfish and animals inhabiting the tree tops include possums and gliders, while marsupial mice, native rats, wallabies, bandicoots and pademelons are to be seen on the forest floor. There are also approximately 100 bird species in the area.

At the kiosk I treated myself to a pie, a Mars bar and an ice cream before Tim and I walked the 2 kms circuit around the falls area. The cliffs at the falls were very high, with numerous lizards scampering across the rocks in the gorge.

The road from the falls descended steeply, reducing my energy output and giving me a free ride, until I turned off to Legume, where the hills started again. I crossed a tick border gate and stopped briefly at Legume before meeting up with another gravel road. As I cycled, the sound of thunder came closer but rain kept away at least until I met up with Tim who had found a camp at a strange square clearing about 25m x 25m, complete with steps and a septic tank. It was most likely a site of an old house.

November 29th. Lower Acacia Creek.

We didn’t have the rain we had expected after all the thunder and lightning in the night, although mist was rising from the fields opposite, giving us a cool, crisp and beautiful morning. The track was of a limestone type base, hilly which eventually dived down to the Maryland River, a home of several kangaroos. By midday I’d cycled as far as Stanthorpe where I found Tim parked at the Woolies car park. After an interview with a local reporter, I changed from mountain bike to my road bike, and was ready for the next stage of the trip when a loud crack of thunder, followed by a lightning bolt, sounded closely overhead, which gave me cause for concern so I decided to return to the vehicle. I felt it was too dangerous to carry on through the storm. On my return, hailstones nearly as big as golf balls started to fall. I sheltered until the storm eased and then moved off again. Within 10 minutes, the sky opened up again, flooding the road verges and all other low areas. I sheltered under a shop veranda for 20 minutes and then moved on fighting with trucks for my share of the road. I moved through the wet streets of the historic town of Tenderfield at 5.00pm. It was quite dark, owing to the dark clouds, and the wind had strengthened making it difficult to climb the steep hill out of town. Lightning over to the south-east looked pretty severe and I could see that rain was closing in, so I decided to stop at Deepwater, 51 kilometres from Tenderfield. We erected our tents on a picnic area in the middle of the town. It was dark and miserable, very blustery and the continuous lightning illuminated the sky. After a quick wash in the toilet block, we decided to head to the pub for comfortable shelter and a meal of crumbed veal and chips. The cricket was on the TV, Australia versus New Zealand. I forget who won.

November 30th. Deepwater.

Although the night was hostile it didn’t rain. It was a hilly ride to Glen Innes, 40 kilometres away. I called Jenny and she told me that the ‘People Magazine’ was after me for an interview. At lunch time we met up with a couple who were having trouble with their radiator. We gave them a water container and asked them to leave it at the next road house. They gave me a $20 donation so I gave them a Kimberley magazine. Tim made a great lunch as usual, chopped fresh vegies and fresh chopped fruit. Tim always placed the raw vegies on one side of my plate and the fruit on the other. With all the rice pudding that I was eating and the vegetable stews, I really felt that my diet was absolutely healthy.

I passed through Uyea, which claims it has the highest caravan park in Australia. That was hard to believe though as I thought there would be a higher one in the Snowy Mountains. On arriving in Armidale I visited the information centre and then headed to the bank. I left Armidale at 4.50pm and visited Captain Thunderbolt’s grave as I passed through Uralla. Captain Thunderbolt was a ‘Gentleman’ bushranger. He was shot dead by a local policeman in 1820, after a furious battle in the swampy country south-east of New England town. That night we camped at Thunderbird Park in Tamworth. Tamworth is the country capital of Australasia. Thousands of fans flock here in January for the ten day music festival and the Australasia Country Music Awards.

December 1st. Tamworth.

I wasn’t happy with my night’s sleep, mainly because I had to get up in the middle of the night to take a bag off my bike when it started raining. I cycled around Tamworth and then on through Murrurundi, stopping at the Burning Mountain picnic area for lunch.

The Liverpool Range was crossed in 36 degree heat. I continued to feel hot as I pedalled closer to Scone, at times nearly falling to sleep as I rode. At my next stop after Scone, Tim accidentally left his chair and paper on the side of the road. Near Muswellbrook the thunder, lightning, rain and hail started again. I had a light rain coat with me, which offered some protection but the wind was extremely strong virtually blowing me off my bike. Tim had found a picnic area and shelter for the next stop; however the area beneath the table was flooded. It continued to hail and thunder.

Coalmines and power stations lined the road out to Singleton. At Braxston a little further on, I met Tim outside a fish shop. I went inside to buy some fish where a customer inside remembered seeing me cycle into the Bungle Bungle range in 1988. I continued my journey to Maitland in the rain where we found a caravan park at 9pm. It was a noisy park.

December 2nd Sunday.

Maitland. I didn’t sleep too badly considering the noise. The day was cloudy with a sprinkle of rain. Industry was getting heavier, probably the heaviest that I had seen it since leaving Perth. I met the mighty Hunter River at Hexham, where several fishermen were casting their lines on the high, incoming tide.

Cycling into the industrial city of Newcastle, I passed many grubby buildings that were either abandoned or needed a coat of paint. Old posters were pasted on bus shelter walls. It reminded me of the English coal mining towns. I moved into the city, the port lying on my left. The city centre, which had a much newer, cleaner face, was quite welcoming. It was Sunday so there was little movement around the shopping mall apart from several bread shops being open. I moved out of town heading down the coast via Gosford, towards the small community Patonga. The real activity started when I crossed the entrance to Port Macquarie, a very busy water playground. At Swansea we stopped for an ice cream, donut, and apple pie. After climbing a long steep hill through the Brisbane Water National Park, just south of Gosford, I caught my breath and paused to cherish the beautiful views of Brisbane Water and Broken Bay waterways, which were full of sailing craft and other water sport activities. Cooling my body briefly, I clocked high speeds on my way down to the Patonga settlement, where we camped early and joined the hundreds of people on the beach. It felt quite strange sitting there on a beach, relaxing, after doing so much physical activity for so long.

December 3rd. Patonga.

Clouds were still hanging low after it had rained in the night. I boarded the kayak and paddled out into a flat ocean with mist hovering around the nearby peaks. Three fishing boats were trawling around Walker’s Point, which was surrounded by mist. Some boat traffic cruised up and down the Hawkesbury River as I moved across it to a sheltered creek leading into the Ku Ring Gai National Park. It was a beautiful place with cliffs and forests lining both sides of Cowan Creek. In some ways the sandstone cliffs reminded me of the Kimberley region. I was so close to Sydney but I felt so far away and so remote. Several yachts and boats were anchored in America and Refuge Bays. With the mist still lingering, the park was a sight to see. I left Cowan Creek and moved up the narrower Coal and Candle Creeks, passing Cottage Point. A few kilometres further on a huge yacht left Akuna Bay. If only I had as much money as that. Many more expensive yachts were moored at Akuna Bay when I arrived. With all the rich boat owners using the yacht club, I felt out of place disembarking at their concrete boat ramp and waiting there for 35 minutes for Tim to arrive.

A quiet corner of Ku Ring Gai National Park.

Once the boat was loaded onto the vehicle, I started my run to the Roseville Bridge where I would kayak again. I didn’t want to fight the Sydney traffic on my bike, so I opted for a safer way into the city centre. My run took me through some amazing scenery. The road in the Ku Ring Gai National Park soon steepened, pulling on muscles that I hadn’t use for a long time. Although I was almost in the heart of the biggest city in Australia I was quite alone, running a deserted road. The road steepened further making me wonder if I had done the right thing, but when it levelled I was able to view the scene in a more relaxed manner. Finally I moved out of the park and joined the busy Mona Vale road where I started inhaling the awful car fumes.

I had been sponsored by Australian Geographic to the amount of $1000. Australian Geographic sponsors many adventurers and research projects. I felt it was fitting that I should visit their headquarters in Terrey Hills, just outside of the national park on Mona Vale road, and thank them personally. When I arrived I talked to Dick Smith, the director, and Howard Whelan, the editor. Dick Smith is a well-known millionaire and adventurer. Some of his adventures include flying around the world, and flying to the north-pole in a helicopter. After our meeting I was away, running out of the Australian Geographic HQ with Dick jogging with me to the gate. I thanked him for his support, shook hands and carried on running along a heavily-used highway towards the Roseville Bridge.

Meeting Dick Smith.

Tim was in the bridge picnic area car park when I arrived with sore muscles and a head full of fumes. We ate banana sandwiches, unloaded the kayak and I left at 1.00pm heading down the narrow Middle Harbour waterway. The river was boarded by forest and bushland and gradually, large houses hidden amongst the greenery appeared in little pockets. Eventually I could see an increasing number of houses perched on the hillsides closer to the Spit Bridge.  Many of the houses were engineering marvels as they clung to the steeper parts of the hills. One house high above a cliff had its own lift to the beach several metres below. Most had amazing views of the waterway. I was intrigued and studied them carefully, taking more interest in the ones that I would love to own.

I dreamed on and moved under the Spit Road Bridge. The bridge lifts at certain times of the day to allow yachts to pass through into the Inner Middle Harbour. Where Middle Harbour met Port Jackson near Grotto Point the waterway opened up. South Head, North Head, Dobroyd Head, Middle Head were all spectacular cliffs that make up this fine harbour. Once heading south and passing Bradleys Head, I caught my first glimpses of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. It was quite exciting heading for the Opera House and crossing the harbour with other large ships, ferries and yachts scuttling for positions. I arrived at the Opera House without colliding with other boats and pulled up at the steps on the north side. The step was a metre above water level, and the water slop and swell made it extremely difficult for me to get out. Tim helped then gave me a lift with the kayak up the steps and onto the concrete pad on the western side of the Opera House. Behind Tim, a reporter from a newspaper and a Channel 7 film crew were waiting to take a few shots of our struggle.

Arriving at the Opera House where Tim was waiting.

Tim had been given special permission to drive along the Opera House pavement to the steps so we could put the boat straight on the roof. I felt privileged. A few tourists gathered around to ask us questions. When everyone had left we motored to Manly to stay with John Zemeck, Mike’s brother.

Tim got permission to pick me up from the Opera House.

December 4th. Manly.

We stayed at John’s for the next two nights. Sydney, Australia’s largest capital has nearly four million people and didn’t we know it when we drove around. It was here in 1770 that Captain Cook noted the entrance to Sydney Harbour when navigating the east coast of Australia. He called it Post Jackson in honour of the then Secretary of the British Admiralty, Sir George Jackson. The British Government some time after, decided to establish a penal colony around Sydney.

We had plenty to do in Sydney; more organising, more shopping, media interviews, visiting sponsors, letters to write. The ‘People’ magazine contacted me. They wanted a story so I gave them a few slides and an overall report, and they gave me $900.

December 5th. Manly.

We continued our organisation, preparation and shopping. That evening Peter Tresader, a local adventurer who tackles everything at speed, came to see me for a chat. It was great to talk to someone who understands the reason why I’m doing the trip. He has many credits to his name. We could have talked for hours. He is even madder that I am!

A day in Sydney.

December 6th. Manly.

We drove across the Harbour Bridge for the last time and headed for Mrs Macquarie’s Point overlooking the Opera House, and the place where I would launch my kayak. Scott Pollard from Macpac, one of my sponsors, arrived soon after. A bus load of Japanese tourists thought it was great fun taking pictures of me, with the Opera House and Harbour Bridge in the background. I paddled over to the Opera House and then made my way across Port Jackson Harbour towards South Head. The Harbour wasn’t as busy as it had been when I’d arrived. I stopped just before South Head to eat a salad sandwich. My sheltered bay was calm but I could see the swell rising beyond the protection of the coastline. I braced myself for the rounding of the Head. The sea started to ruffle in the main channel, and near the heads fairly large waves started coming through. At first the sea didn’t look too bad but as I moved from the protection of South Head, the ocean changed.

Leaving Sydney.

Looking east across the Pacific ocean I could see only water, white caps and a large swells. For as far as the eye could see south, there were cliffs. I moved along the coast, keeping 400 metres or so away from the cliffs. They were a spectacular sight but caused problems as the waves hit the cliffs and rebounded back out to sea. When these rebounding waves met waves heading towards the cliff, the waves would slap together and create standing waves. This confused water and the huge swells that rolled in, lifting and dropping my boat, made my stomach feel queasy. I hadn’t experienced such a large swell for a long time and the sandwich that I had eaten before paddling out of the heads contributed to my sickness.

Paddling out of Sydney Heads heading south to Botany Bay.

The swell eased slightly as I passed the famous surfing beach of Bondi, but my stomach was at exploding point. That feeling of helplessness came as my stomach churned and my body lacked that fighting spirit. I wanted to rest but the shores were too dangerous for landing, I just had to keep going to my rendezvous point at Captain Cook’s landing place. Finally I vomited. I leaned away from the boat, making sure it would clear the deck and hoping I wouldn’t capsize. I vomited again but this time I was too slow and unbalanced and it splattered on the deck. I quickly washed it off – the smell was awful! There was no-where to hide, I couldn’t rest my head or even stop so there was nothing for me to do but to keep going. I had about 25 kilometres to paddle before I could stop, about five hours paddling. Somehow I struggled to my rendezvous point, landed on a calm beach near Captain Cook’s plaque and lay out on the grass with my head underneath my jacket. I felt terrible. I rested  for two hours feeling half dead before deciding to push on, as I needed to paddle the 14 kilometres to Bundeena by nightfall.

Part of Sydney Coastline.

I was not in the best of health when I rounded Sutherland Point and Cape Solander, where the swell began to form. There was 5kms of coastal hugging before moving across Bate Bay and into Port Hacking near Bundeena. To my surprise, my stomach, despite the choppy ocean and rising swell, managed to hold out. Close to the Bonnie Vale campsite, the waters shallowed considerably. Tim and Scott were waiting for me to land. Scott was quite amused that a veteran of the sea had been sea sick, but it was only the second time it had happened in ten years. At my landing spot, Scott started pulling a load of gear from his Macpac bag. “Do you have any of these?” he said, holding up a pair of thermals. “What about a rain jacket, or two fleece jackets, one fleece hat, one fleece trousers, one 75 litre pack, or one pair of goretex gloves. Would you like these?” With the Eclipse tent and a daypack that he had already given me, I had just about all the camping gear that I needed. It was like Christmas; in fact, better than Christmas, I had never received so many gifts at one time before and I couldn’t hide my excitement. Thanks Scott, thanks Macpac.

We were now at the bottom end of Sydney and couldn’t get any further south. Ahead of me was the Royal National Park. From here on, the area was just bush land and coastal cliffs. The park is 36 kilometres south of Sydney and was established in 1879, being the second declared National Park in the world; America’s Yellowstone Park was the first. The Royal National Park has 15015 hectares of heath-covered sandstone plateau country. High vertical cliffs run nearly it’s whole length, only to be broken at times by beautiful beaches.

December 6th. Bundeena.

I was awake at 5.30am but decided to lie in until 7.00am. During breakfast, and as I tried packing all my gear into any vacant space in the vehicle, several people came to talk. Most had either seen me on TV or in the paper. Some bought my Kimberley magazine and one man gave me powdered milk, Staminade and muesli. By the time I started walking, it was 10.30am but I didn’t get far before people in a car towing a boat, stopped after recognising me from the telly. One guy was really chuffed to have met me and was really excited when I signed his Kimberley magazine. I continued walking through Bundeena, before heading into the national park. There I was greeted near the gate by a ‘No Dumping’ sign, with a load of rubbish dumped only metres away from it.

An eroded sandy track led me to the cliff tops. It was such a stunning sight. A little further along the track down in a gully, I came to a waterfall. At that moment a man arrived, stripped off and had a shower beneath it. I walked on, stopping several times at the high lookouts. The  man who had showered at the waterfall overtook me again and I later found him nude bathing at Marley beach, a little further on. I left him there to swim and came across Little Marley beach cove where a school group of about 10 were camping.

I moved up onto the plateau again, following a track that led inland for a while, before returning to the coast, where I found Tim sitting under the shade of a tree near a beautiful sheltered cove featuring a 15 – 20 metre waterfall. People were jumping off it into the pool below but it looked too high for me to risk. The cove was crowded with swimmers. No wonder. It was a stunning spot.

Royal National Park.

At the vehicle, I ate a couple of soggy sandwiches that Tim had made the day before and drank plenty of fluid to counteract the hot day and my physical exertion. Tim walked the next 3 km with me, but the cliffs were smaller and less impressive so he soon returned to the vehicle. I then found a small creek and waterfall dropping into the ocean. The wind was gusting and pushing the water back up towards the falls. A little further south, on top of the cliff, I spotted Garie Surf Beach. I made my way down the hill onto the beach where I came across an aged couple, wading in the water up to their shins, the lady drinking wine and the gent drinking beer. The sun was scorching and the surf dumped but that didn’t deter several surfers from having a go. I wanted to stop; instead I kept going, pushing against a head wind and the stinging sand particles that whipped up from the beach.

Royal National Park.

At the car park I had a shower, changed clothing and had three jam sandwiches before leaving Garie Beach at 3.45pm by cycle. I struggled up a hill that led onto the plateau but my breathing was soon restored as I free-wheeled down the hill on the other side. The scenery heading towards Wollongong on the coastal route was beautiful. The vegetation was lush, high and teeming with birds. Finally, leaving the forest, I stopped on the brow of a hill overlooking the ocean and villages that dotted the coastline.

At Wollongong I had a walk through the mall and then cycled a lap around the harbour before heading out along the Princess Highway to the Illawarra Highway, where I turned inland and found Tim camped a further 15 kms on at a picnic area. That evening I washed in a creek. The grass was full of leeches which latched onto my legs. Despite my continually checking and pulling them off, one managed to climb into my shoe and suck my blood through my socks without my realising. Throughout the evening we also fought to keep the insects at bay.

December 8th. Macquarie Pass.

I made breakfast as another leech latched onto my leg. A motorbike pulled into the picnic area, one of twenty that arrived over the next 15 minutes. I was only a few kilometres from Macquarie Pass and a very steep hill that climbed onto the plateau. I decided to run the hill. Red parrots joined me, flying from tree to tree. The hill was steep and the scenery striking. To the east, the ocean was flat and sparkling. Above me were cliffs and the road winding its way up. At a small creek running from the cliffs I talked to a man who was filling bottles from the trickle of water. He said it was beautiful, sweet water, much better than the water from the city so he always came here to get his water supply.

At the top of the hill, and after an hour walking and running, I met Tim parked on the grass verge.  He gave me a quick massage to ease my aching muscles before I cycled off.  Thirty-three kilometres later I joined up with the busy Hume Highway, the main road link from Sydney to Melbourne. The road was pretty good, with a metre shoulder and room enough for me to keep well away from the cars, but it was hard work against the strong head winds. Throughout the day, the wind continued to be strong and, with the heat, I was feeling a little drained. A Milo stop and a few spoons of rice in Goulburn picked me up, and by the time I reached a caravan park on the northern outskirts of Canberra, I was feeling pretty good again.

December 9th Sunday. Canberra.

I awoke early thanks to a chorus of magpies. Later, at the Australian Institute of Sport, Tim and I had a look around the facilities and spotted Olympian Jane Flemming scurrying from one building to another. Parliament House on Capital Hill also seemed a fitting place to call in.

Unfortunately there wasn’t much action going on that day in Australia’s capital city – the Prime Minister wasn’t around to welcome me and there were no ‘Canberra Times’ journalists eager to cover my story, so we headed out of town towards Cooma.

Tim took off before me in the wrong direction and when he eventually caught up, he drove ahead and hung out the washing. Several kilometres later I was greeted by the sight of metres of washing, flapping in the wind, hung between a telegraph pole and the vehicle. Our other method of drying clothes, if we were in a hurry, was to hang them from the side mirrors of the vehicle and let the wind dry them as the vehicle moved.

I arrived in Cooma by 6pm and rang Jenny before continuing my wind-assisted journey to the next small town of Nimmitabel. At 8.00pm and the earliest that I had stopped for a while we found a very small caravan park. I wrote on postcards, rang Jenny at 11.35pm and wrote in my diary until 12.10am. It was cold.

December 10th. Nimmitabel.

Although it was cold, as low as 7 degrees at night I slept well, and woke to clouds and rain showers. I left the sleepy village of Nimmitabel at 7.00am, moving through rolling hills and arriving in Bombala at 9.30am. About 30 kms down the track, I caught up with Tim at the start of a gravel road. I put the bike in the back of the vehicle and started running. The rain increased and conditions became quite miserable. I was forced to run in a rain coat but fortunately the heavy rain kept me cool.

Crossing the border.

At the NSW/VIC border, Tim was sitting in the vehicle out of the rain on my arrival. I made some jam sandwiches and ate more rice pudding before changing into dry clothes and extra thermals. It was a cold and wet arrival in the state renowned for its severe and unpredictable weather. Further down the track, at Cann River, a portion of chips helped me forget my cold, wet body. I had 75 kms to go to Orbost, my last destination of the day. The road carving through the hills and forest seemed to go on forever, and the rain was unrelenting. Forty kilometres from Orbost, I found one tyre had started to deflate slowly, so I was forced to pump it up four times before reaching town, just before dark. It was the coldest and wettest that I had been for several months and I longed for a hot shower. Tim had the kettle boiling, followed by supper and a slice of a Lyons Christmas cake. Eventually I crept into the tent at midnight, warm, content and ready to face another day.

December 11th. Orbost.

Breakfast was eaten in a brick BBQ shed and my bike tyres were changed out of the rain. I crossed the flat Snowy River at 7.55am, but rained poured at frequent intervals making it difficult to control my body temperature as my coat was put on, then taken off to suit the weather. The wind gusted and the hills overheated me as I climbed them, and made my way to the scenic town of Lakes Entrance where I tried to buy some maps. The female assistant at the map shop bought four Kimberley magazines.

I pushed on to Bairnsdale and then to Stratford, an irrigation area. It was still cold and windy, and I arrived in Sale at 8.35pm.

December 12th. Sale.

Cold, rain showers and a strong head-side wind confronted me when I left the park at 6.40am for Yarram. At Yarram, feeling wet and cold, I changed footwear, had some left over breakfast and a Mars bar. Only a few days earlier, 3500 cyclists had cycled through Yarram taking part in the Great Victorian Bike Ride. Near the turn-off to Port Welshpool, the coast was visible as well as the land area of Wilson’s Promontory, the most southerly point on mainland Australia. Beautiful rolling hills shaped up around the vicinity of Foster. There had once been lush rainforest on the hills but now there were no trees, just lush green fields and dairy farms, with rainforest dotted along the gullies. My buttocks were extremely sore as I battled against the rain and wind. It had now been raining for three days. After the first really wet day from Bombala to Orbost, I changed from my sponsored rain jacket that wasn’t breathable and prevented my perspiration from escaping, to a Gortex breathable rain jacket. The Gortex jacket was really effective in reducing my perspiration, which meant that I didn’t become wet from the inside, and therefore felt warmer. I had been selling Goretex at Snowgum for some time prior to my trip, but the testing weather over the last few days had proven to me that it was a lot more efficient than other non-breathable materials. Fortunately, apart from a few days in NSW, this was the worst weather I had experienced since leaving Perth in May so I had nothing to complain about. Arriving in Foster at 1.35pm, I had a bite to eat before packing the bike in the vehicle.

It was at this point that we decided on a change in plans. Tim wanted to buy a mobile phone and I wanted to visit Sue and Mike Cusack, so we made a detour to the south of Melbourne. Instead of cycling to Wilson’s Promontory we drove to Frankston, via the beautiful country of Leongatha. I dozed off along the way. At Frankston, after Tim had bought a mobile phone, we drove to Mike and Sue’s at the Nepean National Park, Portsea, Mike being a ranger there at the time. They lived in a house inside the grounds. It was very quiet and peaceful.

Mike, Sue and Liam Cusak.

It was great to see them again and to see Liam, their new baby for the first time. I’d first met Mike and Sue in the Kimberley in 1988 when they had been selected and sponsored by Australian Geographic to live one year in a wilderness area. I was on a three-month walking and kayaking expedition at the time. After their year of living in a self-built shack in the remote, dry, fly-ridden Kimberley they returned to Melbourne and, soon after Liam arrived.

December 13th. Portsea.

It was great to have toast and marmalade for breakfast. I sorted out the vehicle – a task which seemed to go on for hours, while Tim did the washing. At 1.30pm I drove to the works depot to change the oil in the vehicle, top up the fluids, the batteries, and tighten the nuts on the prop shaft. It was reassuring to know that the vehicle was sound once again.

December 14th. Portsea.

The phone woke me at 7.30am after I’d enjoyed a great sleep. It was time to leave. Mike gave me $100. I didn’t want to take it, but he insisted.

We arrived back at Foster, after shopping in Frankston, at 4.00pm. By the time we had lunch it was 4.45pm but there was still plenty of time to cycle the 61 kms to Wilson’s Promontory. The National Park was founded in 1905. The Park has an area of 490 square kilometres; over 700 species of plants, numerous birds and animals which include emus, kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, wombats and possums. It’s also famous for granite peaks, forests, fern gullies, stunted coastal shrubs, salt marshes and beautiful beaches. In summer, at the height of the season when it is so busy, there is a ballot to allocate campsite spots.

Once in the park, I spotted a dead wombat on the gravel verge and a little further on a live one walked happily along the side of the road, chewing on the grass. I reached the Tidal River campsite. It was huge. We had custard and cake and watched the wombats nibbling the green grasses around the park. They had not a worry in the world. I was in bed at midnight.

December 15th. Wilson’s Promontory.

I awoke at 6.40am on the southern promontory of mainland Australia to the sound of rain. I lifted my head, listened, then promptly fell asleep again. Later, when I managed to tear myself from the warm sleeping bag, it seemed that everyone in the campsite wanted to talk to us, which delayed our departure time to 10.30am. We had a long return 40 km walk to the most southern promontory of the Australia mainland ahead of us before starting the next stage of my journey a 900km walk/backpack from Wilson’s Promontory (the most southerly point of mainland Australia) to the Mount Kosciusko (the highest point).

Go to the next Chapter for the continuation of this story.

Still to come:

·         Walk 900kms from Wilson’s Promontory to Mount Kosciusko

·         Kayak 2500kms down the Murray River

·         Cycle 1000kms from Goolwa to Melbourne

·         Walk and cycle 1300kms around Tasmania

·         Cycle 4300kms from Melbourne to Perth