out of the outback and into Cairns

The final track into Cairns
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The forest starts suddenly. It’s dry though. It’s been 8 months seen the last rainy season. We haven’t seen a drop in 3
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Water still flowing from somewhere. We wonder how this is possible
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We’d taken a detour off our route out to see the waterfall followed by a short walk. On our way back to the bike the forest had filled with a mist of sweet-smelling smoke
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No more than 5 minutes down the road we came to the problem
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It looked like it had just started. Fire’s always mesmerizing so we stopped to look before it got going
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Then it exploded around us. Really bad timing. Spectacular though
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This is the 4th fire of the trip. Here was the 1st: picking up the bike in Kelowna before our starting point in Vancouver. In the hills above Summerland September 2012
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We gassed it before being any more stupid than we had been stopping for pics. The next day we read it had unfortunately burned into a town
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We were headed for the Gillies Road, were the sportbikes from Cairns come to ride the twists. Windmills on our way. They were old and relatively small
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We got excited when we saw an old but immaculate Bimmer parked in front of a bike shop
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It was a restorer
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Seating valves
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Later we stopped in Yungabarra. There’s an animal here we want to see. I’d got all the beta for finding it. The best time is at dawn
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A short walk out-of-town to cross a small bridge
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To a creek. Nothing like any of the creeks we’d seen so far. Almost still, muddy and buzzing with insects
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And this is what we’d been told to look out for. Bubbles and concentric circles on the surface. We were pretty excited at this point because we’d been walking the creek for an hour looking for this
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Then, bingo! A platypus! He floated around, dove to the bottom where he’s dig for bugs in the muddy bottom (hence the bubbles) and would come up for air after about 5 minutes. Lousy photo, but the rest are worse
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Then back on the road to see another giant strangler fig we’d heard about
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This one was about 100 feet and imposing. I heard a story about how the hippies  (the Aussies call them ferals) like to fire up a bowl and climb them, falling out once in a while hopefully
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Onto the Gillies Road. the most twisties we’ve done since NZ. Good but not great. The guard rails were everywhere and obscured the view of the road ahead
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This looks great on the GPS track
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Then down to a new world. The green was shocking. We’ve seen nothing like it in many months: it was winter in NZ and South America was, well, South America
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We couldn’t believe our eyes
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Beautiful
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Then down into Cairns
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The Google map tells the story. And also that about 40% of the rain forest has been logged out
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Vancouver’s weather stats off Wiki. Look at the precipitation total: about 1200mm’s
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Here’s Cairns: about 2000mm’s. In fact it rains as much January through March as it does in a year back home so no more complaining
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Which is why this downtown street has mangrove trees in it
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The waterfront is immaculate. The Australian flags are strong and beautiful
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Many WW2 stories from Cairns. Elite commandos were trained here. Aussies are proud of their role in the Pacific
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This cannon was a work of art. I wanted it
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The esplanade separates the sea (crocs, sharks, box jellyfish, etc) from a huge public pool
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The left hand side had a sand beach and BBQ’s, which were free, gas-powered and cleaned each morning by the town
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And bats at night, like Darwin
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The bats in town are Spectacled Flying Foxes.

They live downtown here. This tree below has been hacked back by the town which is why it looks ugly. They’re trying to get the colony of 15,000 bats to move elsewhere. They’re worried about the negative effect on tourism. We thought it would be the opposite.
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Up close they’re all hanging like this
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They look like foxes, and not much smaller. In fact they’re huge. They make a screeching sound all day and only go quiet when they fly at dusk
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A German girl I met recommends a guide to take us into a locked reserve in the rain forest
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We climbed through a rocky forest to a place he thought we’d find the next thing I wanted to see
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He it is. An amethystine python
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Up close
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This was bizarre. It’s the world’s biggest bird’s nest. The strangely named orange-footed scrubfowl, about the size of a chicken, and not very exciting looking, builds this mound about 20′ across and 5′ high. She lays the eggs in a circle in the walls and the male uncovers them or digs them deeper them according to their temperature
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Time for a swim
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Not cold enough. In fact lukewarm
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So we look for fish. Here are a few
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And in case that wasn’t proof enough, a better one
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We hiked up to a peak called God’s Rock for the view of the rain forest
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Then back to Cairns
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Now we have a route problem. The bulk of Australia’s population lies immediately below us. We have a commitment for Lucinda in Melbourne, we ‘have’ to see Sydney and there are some good short routes mixed in there somewhere. But despite asking around there doesn’t seem to be an elegant way through without either following the coast or taking a long straight inland route. We’ll see.

Comments

One Comment so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Hugh Thomas,

    Hi Jeremy, Thanks for going back to the public format on the blog. I was wondering how you were doing. Australia is really interesting and you have only just begun. I hope you get to do some diving in the Coral sea. Have fun, keep the reports coming. Ride safe and good luck. Hugh Oh yeah, Hello to Lucinda too.

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