Day-trip

A mental health day(-trip) was in order, and so it was that I set out in a rental car for parts further north.

I discovered that either Australians are the slowest drivers in the world,or that Mr. Google thinks they are. Or that the Aussie govt wants us to think they are.

When I told her I was bound for Cape Tribulation, 140 km north of Cairns, the rental car company rep hemmed and hawed. Google predicts a 2h37m drive. I nodded appropriately as she advised a more sedate approach.

But the roads are ( mostly ) flat and straight, and there are no trucker convoys and suchlike.

Palm Cove - beware beasties
Palm Cove – beware beasties

I also discovered that some Far North Queenslanders – myself among them – enjoy a dip without becoming crocodile lunch.

Palm Cove, about 40 km north of cairns, warns swimmers about jellyfish. But no mention of crocs.

With lifeguards on duty, and swimming flags, and three people in the water at 11 a.m, the temptation was too much, and I hove in.

“Crocodiles? – they’re like mermaids. They don’t really exist,” said one swimmer.

Rex Lookout

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Port Douglas

Is a small beach ( and tourist ) community. Wikipedia gives its population at 3,500 . but that has to be wildly off the mark.

It’s pretty much self-contained, with a main centre not much smaller than Whangarei. Lots of cafes, a car rental , tourist shops, and accommodation aplenty. With a patrolled and flagged beach, it’s ideal for swimming. Accommodation prices permitting, I’d stay here in future.

Daintree

Is little more than a couple of shops, some camping grounds, and river ferries for tourists. I resisted the temptation. Apparently the local delicacy is …. crocodile.

I ventured a little further North, but the roads were starting to look too much like tracks, and with time and rental car bonds in mind, I headed back south.

I got as far south-west as Mareeba. At more than 400 metres above sea level, this area is desert-like, with cooler temperatures.

Then due East, back toward Cairns, around the edges of the Karunda State Forest, where the roads are winding, and it is almost cold. Almost.

I arrived home in one piece, congratulating myself on avoiding the tourist traps, choosing instead to spend the day driving when and where I wanted. Volume up, windows down.

Having travelled 285 km over six hours, it served as a good dress-rehearsal for the bigger road-trip ahead.

Roadtrip!

“Buy the ticket, take the ride”, someone once said.

I’ve now done the first bit, with the second act to follow when I leave Cairns September 30 bound for Brisbane. I’m due there October 4th.

1681 km says Google

I’ll be glamping, doing it in a Jucy crib van . More expensive than flying, but I’ll see the coastline, meet some people, and perhaps even get into the briny. I can also take my bike hassle-free.

The brochure view

I’m justifying the extra expense with reminders of a mistake I made in South-East Asia – not seeing the countryside.

So there you have it . Alea jacta est.

Out and About

The boss – a champion of a man – gave me yesterday off to recover from  a sleepless night and the stress of moving.

So I grabbed the opportunity to hire a scooter, and head to the hills. In them thar hills be freshwater pools, devoid of “salties” ( crocodiles ),and no doubt clean enough to drink from.

Stony Creek , about 15km Northwest of Cairns, is ‘fresh’ – cool, but not cold enough to cause your gonads to escape upwards to safer and warmer parts.

It’s on the edge of Barron Gorge National Park, and brings to mind Whangarei Falls.

The next mission was buying some cheap curtains to shield myself from the interrogating street lights just outside. Ten dollars lighter of pocket, and I have some portable curtains as insurance against future cheap dives.

With the help of a flatmate, Roger the Aussie, I cleaned the filters in the old air-conditioning unit, and so got some blessed sleep last night.

Machen’s Beach

This morning I headed about 15 km north to Machen’s Beach, which is indeed – as a flatmate had said – an excellent swimming spot.

But like a tramp ogling jewels through a store window, I dared not partake. Salties. Not past my ankles anyway. When I told this to Roger, he glares at me – “are you insane“?

machens beach sign
“Swimming not advised”

‘Twas good to get back on a bike, the first time since Vietnam. These scooters are slower ( top speed around 55 km / h ), but the 30 km round-trip to Machen’s cost 0.50 cents. On the other hand, scooter hire is $50 /day, as opposed to $120 NZD / month in Thailand.

I took it back today.

Out of the Frying pan ….

Cairns police are on the lookout for a middle-aged hobo after the man was seen barefoot , dragging his belongings behind him in sweltering 30 ° C  afternoon heat.

Police say they have made enquiries with local mental health facilities, but no leads were forthcoming.

The man was described by passersby as European, of slight build, and dressed in grey shorts and a white t-shirt.   Witnesses say the man was hauling a large suitcase, and was later seen carrying boxes. He appeared  to be disorientated.

However, police say he does not present any threat to the public.

Update 6 pm

The man has since been located in an inner-city bed and breakfast.  Others at the location said he was cheerful, well-fed , and quiet.

They include

  • a Russian man, who gave his name as Anton, and has been stranded in Australia after leaving Auckland for a holiday in Sydney.
  • a Frenchwoman, Camille, known as a sailing enthusiast, formerly of Whangarei.
  • a young German, Peter.
  • an Australian in his late 30s, who spent some years in South-East Asia as a teacher, and who is in Cairns after some months in Weipa.
  • An Asian man named ‘Ben’.

The residence is known as a popular budget stop for visitors to Cairns, and is located about 1.5 km from the city centre and waterfront.

“Maate!”

As you might know, I’m sometimes prone to recklessness on  two wheels.

Being a slow learner, I continue to take the occasional ‘shortcut’ in the quest to get from A to B pronto.

In that spirit, yesterday I found myself using the U-turn lane for , er, purposes not recommended. And found myself facing an oncoming ute, travelling slowly, driver with his right arm resting outside the door.

We were both travelling slowly, so there was no near-accident.

But I did get a smile out of the driver’s reaction – “maaate”, he says quietly, holding my gaze, and  without  even a hint of rancour. And he was on his way.

What a difference from back home, where I’ve been yelled at, sworn at, and  honked at by motorists who think they’re cops.  Affronted at having to share the road.

Here they call you “maate”,  watch for cyclists, and often  stop at intersections to let us second-class “motorists” cross.

 

Shot

In a bald attempt to spawn a decent headline, I went and got my first jab today.

I’m wary of adding more unnatural and untested stuff to my juices, but in this case, I’m making an exception for practical reasons.

Those are that it looks unlikely that Aotearoa will let me back in quarantine-free without a couple of doses. There’s a three-month delay between AstraZeneca shots, so I’ll be ready for NZ’s possible re-opening early next year.

It’s a few hours later, and so far my carcass hasn’t complained any more than usual.

Beware Angry Men

Meanwhile, I’ll soon be I’m on the move again – first houses, and then cities.

Houses because Hamish, the Aussie flatmate, is a Pain in the Tender Bits. He is a very angry man, and with it, an Old Woman. He’d rather worry about other people’s business than his own, and bleats about unbelievably tiny details.

The warning signs were there – during conversations he’ll repeat “yeh, yeh, yeh” staccato-style when someone else is talking. He’s not listening, and / or doesn’t care what’s being said.

So not even trivial issues can be solved, because it’s a one-way conversation. He just raises his voice until it stops being a conversation.

His ex-wife, and kids, don’t talk to him. The other flatmate, Peter the German, turns out to be a lovely guy, and is so laid back that Hamish doesn’t bug him.

Not so for yours truly, a high achiever on the Neuroticism factor in the “Ocean” five-factor personality scale.

I don’t deal with conflict well, and I didn’t come here to live with screw-ups, so I’m off to an AirBnB house in Cairns for two weeks, until September 28th. That gives me a chance to explore Cairns a little more….

Probably no swimming , though

South

After that, I’ll head south, where the nights are cooler, and sleep is possible – in early spring, without the aid of air-conditioners.

I’m going to stay in Queensland for a bit longer, but not sure where yet. Any of the top cities in this list is possible, except Brisbane itself.

A(nother) long haul ?

It looks like I may again be abroad for a longer haul than expected.

At the prompting of an earnest friend, a check on the MIQ berths this morning showed full houses right through to December.

Which is hardly a surprise, but it means that there may be more “working” than “holiday” going on.

Of course, the travel bubble may get re-inflated in September, which would mean no MIQ on return. But right now, that seems less likely with a cluster of covid cases in parts of Queensland, including one yesterday in Cairns.

So there’s a bit of “head down, arse up” going on.

Alongside the morning bike rides around the beautiful Cairns waterfront, and generally enjoying being thawed out.

The territory issues in the flat have worked themselves out, thanks to the generosity of Hamish, and all is dull and plain sailing.

Ho hum.

Liebensraum

OK, forget what I said , let’s talk about the war.

I moved into new digs Tuesday, as you know. It’s as good as can be expected, in many ways;

  • It’s 5 minutes on a bike to the Esplanade
  • It’s good temperature-wise. It’s got good aircon, and the bedroom ceiling fan is effective, even if sounds like a blender on slow. The patio is under a shelter, out of the direct sunlight, and gets a cool afternoon breeze
  • It’s secure.
  • One of the other flatmates, Hamish, is an escapee from Gore. But he’s overcome that, and he’s been friendly , generous, and accommodating. He’s been in Aussie for many years, and works night-shifts on the Stop / Go roadsigns for $30 / hour.

Liebensraum

It’s very early days, but the other guy, by contrast, is a humorless German, Peter.

He’s having trouble adjusting to a third flatmate, and every time we’ve talked directly, he’s complained or given orders about something or other.

For example, there are two shared fridges in the flat. In his universe, three into two works like this – one for you two, and one for me. It sounds petty, but without fridge-space I’ll be eating junkier food. So sooner or later, there will need to be compromise.

Right now, though, I’m the New Guy – Poland if you will – to his Germany. If it comes to a scrap, I’m guessing the Landlord would give me the marching orders, so I’m being diplomatic.

Gated

Most residences here are behind at least one high locked gate, as if there’s a low-level siege mentality.

Not nearly at the same level as Vietnam, but it’s noticeable for a small-town lad.

Along with a wide range of foreigners, there also seems to be noticeably more Lost Souls here than back in Whangarei . People shouting at windmills and sucking on bags of dubious liquid, or just making the place look untidy.

I guess the Haves are barricading themselves against the Have-Nots.

When In Rome

The weather is even better than expected. It’s not rained once, during daylight, since I’ve been here.

Like most of the natives, I gad about in shorts and a t-shirt, and haven’t yet worn shoes.

All of that seems to be agreeing with me, and if this continues, I may be some time.

New bikes and …

While New Zealand is – again – pulling up the drawbridge, I’m cycling off in the other direction.


This morning, with news that the travel bubble with Australia has burst, I registered my tiny wee gesture of defiance by buying a bike. That above, $60 AUD with lock included.

It’s a commitment to cheap travel here for the next few weeks while the bubble is inspected, pending its possible re-inflation in September.

I’d planned to stay at least two months anyway, and I just couldn’t face myself in the morning if I crawled home now after arriving on July 14.

Of course I risk paying for the hubris. Either by having to cough up for quarantine if NZ stays closed, or by working long hours. Or by finding a real job here to support my feckless self.

So, what’ll it be, then? – chill-blains, rain for days on end, grey skies, freezing cold, or….

“I’ll take the bag, thanks.”