Monday, October 31, 2005

while we were in Cairns, we met this crazy dude. after a while we asked him how ended up bein there. he told us he'd been heading to Darwin.

he started from Sydney, armed with the money he'd been paid recently, and was working his way along via Cairns. his hilux shit itself, and needed a new head for the engine. so he kinda got stuck for a while, living off the money of his recent work, and trying to organise to fix his vehicle.

then the bank, being the arseholes that only banks can be, pulled the rug out from under him. he said that they had cleared the cheques and put the money in his account, then after he spent a fair bit of it, they told him the cheques had been bounced and left him in the red.

mother fucking losers. (however he did end up recouping the money from the people who wrote the cheques, eventually at some stupid minimal monthly repayment)

so anyway, he told a few of his mates back down in Sydney that he was stranded and one mate told him he'd recently blown up a hilux motor, but it was the bottom end that had gone, so the head should still be good.

"can ya send it up to me?" he asked

"sure, no worries". only they were renting a house at the time, when they blew up the motor, and when they left, they buried the engine in the backyard.

so they did a moonlight raid, dug it up, removed the head, and sent it to Cairns.

dunno about you, but i thought that was funny as...

a day out on passions of paradise. my two mates are leaving today, but i chose to stay a little longer and go diving off this boat i saw launched down my way.

an early start and a few hours cruising to get to the reef where they have their mooring. day boats can be very squeezy, and this one was no exception. it's not a small boat, but once you put 90 people on it, it's a full boat. still, the talent is very nice. lots and lots of backpackers and other tourists. (like i'm any different). predominantely french tourists, with a few germans, poms, japanese and a young couple from norway.

our Kiwi divemaster was pretty good, relaxed the other two "certified divers" very well and they both had a nice dive. i'm not trying to be pompous or anything, but they were beginner level, and unfortunately i think that none of the dive accreditation organisations really drum in that, although they are certified to dive, they still are underwater babies and will need some help.

i'm meant to be buddied with this french dude, while the divemaster is buddied with this pommy girl who is showing obvious signs of stress. however, as often happens, people who know they are stressed, often are the least of your worries, it's those that don't think they are that can be a worry. in any case, french dude got the nursemaid treatment, whilst the pommy girl relaxed considerably as soon as she entered the water and used less air than the rest of us. she certainly used less than me, but i don't stress over that anyway, girls use less air than boys, that's normal, although i probably should feel a little guilty as she was swimming with her arms most of the time, then again, she wasn't stressed. relaxed = use less air.

anyway. after the divemaster worked out my experience he thought i wouldn't need a divemaster. rubbish i say. first dive here, diving here twice, i'd rather tag along with the experienced guide and take advantage of his local knowledge. anyway, i enjoyed myself and so did the others.

they did want us to put all our kit on and walk down the stairs at the back of the boat with our fins on. i begged them to let me put my fins on at the bottom. if it annoys you and gives a bad example then sure i'll change, but i really hate walking with fins on. we jump in to the lovely clear water, and straight away a big fat batfish is all around us. he's used to being fed, but you're not allowed to anymore, and he hasn't been told. some other fish i haven't seen before as well. then we swim through a gap in the reef, and swim around to the left, back to the boat. anemones with associated clown fish, some mackerel, nothing out in the deeper water but when i'm hanging back with pommy chick, our DM is trying to get us to catch up, he's found us a little black tipped reef shark. but typically it doesn't hang around, i see it as it buggers off, but don't get a chance for a photo.

big fat nudibranchs (i didn't realise it was a nudi, thought it was a coral of some sort!) coral trout, little nudis, clown fish, i missed seeing a hump headed maori wrasse (typical, drat!) but did see some big spanish mackerel.

our french mate needed to ascend first, then our dm came back, i went up next, needed to go to the toilet. pommy chick and dm last. he dehydrates on the way out he confided later (that's cheating!)

the second dive was the same as the first. Simon (DM) said when we get back to the boat we can stay under if we like, but i'm getting cold and needing a potty break so i go up first.

next we go to another reef. but i've had my two dives, found the bar, and i'm filling up on surprisingly cheap (for up here) beers. some of the others go for instructor led dives, including one dude with no legs. his instructor/guide was really good and looked after him very well. i watched and cringed as the rest of the loonies snorkelled around. some of these dudes have no idea. one dude nearly had a heart attack trying to swim/snorkel to the sandy reef about 200m away, others needed to hang onto a lifering. even in fresh water i (with no buoyancy) can snorkel face down and not sink if i keep moving, and in salt water, i can lie face down unmoving. but with no french skills, and not wanting to tread on any toes, plus had enough of the water this day, i just enjoyed the atmosphere at the back of the boat and dangled my feet.

unfortunately the snorkelling floats they had put all the floatation on your back, which lets you lie face forward, not so good for unrelaxed tourists. for a minute i thought i'd never seen anyone make snorkelling look so hard, but then i remembered a previous experience, and just thanked my lucky stars there weren't any more wierd people like that day.

the staff and crew of the boat were all friendly and helpful. if i was running their company, i'd be happy with this lot. they all went out of their way to help people, approaching them to make sure all was good and they were getting the most out of their day out. and these people will get almost no repeat business i reckon, how many of these people are going to come back? i reckon there's a lot of once only tourists here. sure word of mouth is good, but the tourist market up there is saturated. these people like to look after people. staff like this prevent problems and create goodwill.

we did a brief spinnaker run on the way back, but not enough wind, so they gave up and motored the rest of the way. i had a bit of a yack with the skipper. i thought it was a nice boat when they launched it, but it turns out that my local boatmaker hasn't given them the best support. if they'd paid more and shopped local, it would have cost them a lot less. they had a couple of issues and this local boatmaker just told them to bring the boat down and he'd fix it. HELLO, this boat is working every day except new years, when can they take a few weeks off to motor a few thousand km down for that?

but the day out was fantastic, i really enjoyed it. i'd travel with them again.

Friday, October 28, 2005

some photos

the fireplace at kalpowar crossing, same again trying to be arty and failing.

zooming through a very shallow crossing, but i feel good cause it's all hard for me :-)

another crossing, i know it looks like i'm about to fall over, but i didn't.

campsite at kalpowar crossing

day 8

last day. it's over 200km, but mostly dirt road except for the creb track.

i draw the short straw and get a ktm425. it's great for the track, but a little hard on your butt on the highway...

oh and i just remembered what other mischief i got upto. they had a jukebox in this pub. i put some really bad stuff on, including but not limited to songs by wa wa nee, prince, and best of all, liberty valance by gene pitney.

our poor tour guide had liberty valance running through his head all night. and made the mistake of telling us the next morning. so anytime he was putting in his earplugs and getting ready to ride out from any place where we were stopped someone would say "wait, wait!", "what?" he'd say, and someone would yell "when liberty valance came to town....!" and he'd swear and curse and ride off hehehe

we headed south from the lion's den, through a couple of aboriginal communities to get to the creb track. there was so much dust on the roads getting there you had to be very careful about oncoming traffic and not even attempt to overtake anyone. plus leave gates as you found them etc... which is all par for the course anyway.

the track itself was awesome. the most fun track of the trip. climbing up steep bits, sliding down steep bits, jumping over stuff, little creek crossings. i'm beginning to think i've got the hang of these little creeks. i just stop and have a look at where everyone else went through, and follow their wheel tracks into the water. but at one crossing i see a different set of tracks going through and figure it's Scottie (guide) who is just ahead of me, so i follow his tracks and hit a deep bit. woops. but i make it through ok.

some of the climbs were just great. and they've graded these humps to avoid erosion, so if you're climbing up at any speed, you're gonna get airborne. the main thing coming back down was making sure you didn't get airborne coming back down, over blind bits and finding that the track was no longer underneath you. it was like a huge rollercoaster ride. but as there was the possibility of oncoming traffic, bikes and 4wd's we had to be a bit careful. didn't encounter any fortunately.

at one creek crossing everyone is waiting on the other side. because of the bigger rocks on the creek bottom we have to push the bikes through to avoid falling over. one of the crazy kiwis comes over to guide me across and has me halfway upstream before i realise he's pulling my leg and i shoulda gone straight across. then it's up a little climb, well climb for me, walk in the park for the others, and off we go again.

at the last creek crossing everyone is again waiting on the other side. no tricks this time, although i was a bit nervous, a couple of these creek crossings get deep just before you climb out. but no problems and we're out.

bitumen now to mossman for lunch. winding in between cane farms and kooky cane trains. then winding along the captain cook highway into cairns and we're there.

day 7

about 250km to ride today. kalpowar crossing to the lion's den hotel at helenvale.

it's been my mate's turn to get infested with ants. we're all being careful to avoid the ants, but they must have liked something in his gear as they are all through his riding gear. turns out they're in my backpack too. i clean most of them out but am still finding them in there two days later.

i'm on the drz400 again. it's similar to the xr650 now i find, but not as stable over the corrugations.

there is an amazing amount of birdlife here. some mornings on the trip we are woken up by the early morning noise of the birds, but usually they settle into a rhythm, and you can get back to sleep. but here, as soon as i'm just about nodding off again, another stupid bird with a different noise starts up. rotten little pricks.

yet again, the highway was mostly corrugations and some sandy bits. over the past few days we've seen a few fires, and this morning the air was very still and there was some blue smoke just sitting on the ground. it looked really cool as we cruised through it, surrounded by the termite mounds.

the tour guide led us off the highway on a detour to see if we could see some crocodiles. he said that even though there was some sand, we should try and go slow and steady and not make a lot of noise, otherwise we'll scare them off. he got there first and was watching two, then one of the crazy kiwis turned up next, nice and noisy, and did a few donuts around where the guide had parked. crocodiles exit stage left. some of us are quiet, and a few are loud, but the crocs are gone and we don't find any others. another mate finds heaps of pig tracks, dog tracks and others. he's dreaming of moving up here and going pig shooting for the rest of his life.

i'm struggling in the sand again. i thought i had it wired on the way in, but on the way back out from our little detour i screw up again and dunno where i'm going wrong. later the head dude watches me come around a sandy corner to where he is stopped and he tells me i'm looking too close to the front of the bike, i need to be looking where i want to go.

back on the tarmac for a while, some aboriginals try to bail us up, but being naturally suspicious people and having previously had some bad experiences, we don't stop. they successfully stop some cars and a truck going the other way. about 10 minutes later (riding at over 100kph) we come across an ef model ford or something like that, in the middle of the field about 50 metres from the road and about 100 metres from some black skid marks in the road. the windscreen is smashed in as well. looks like they had a crash. i feel a bit bad about not stopping to help but at least someone going the other way stopped, and realistically there's not much we could do for them on bikes anyway.

we stop at a place called black mountain (the pictures don't do it justice, it really dominates the landscape), then some more interesting little side tracks and lots of boring corrugated road.

we visit cooktown, and ride up grassy hill where captain cook climbed up after pranging his boat into a reef (he was a yorkshireman you know says ex-pat pom turned crazy kiwi). we also visited a museum which used to be a convent and are bored after about 30 minutes. lots of religious and historical stuff. the only bit i really liked was the missing anchor from the endeavor.

as we get further south it's been getting a little cooler, which is really helping me sleep. that and the many drinks we had while playing pool at the lion's den hotel ;-) some backpackers working behind the bar, our ex-pat pom finds that one comes from yorkshire, not far from where he used to live. so he goes on and on about yorkshiremen (and women) a bit. we also run into another group of motorcyclists heading north. doing the same trip as us only going north and with another company. they are on their first day and less than impressed when they find we have a support vehicle and have been fishing and stuff, while they were promised all that stuff but aren't getting it. really, i'd hate to be living out of a backpack, that you carry on the bike, for the week going north. especially when you get wet a few times going through crossings. i liked having the support vehicle (with cook) carrying all our stuff, spares, tools and a spare bike.

it's fairly intensive on the bikes too. they are checked everyday and as we go south some have sprockets and chains replaced, air filters recovered with some air filter cover thingy, leaking seals and stuff like that fixed. it's a fairly hard trip on machinery. and apparently most motocross bikes do less than 2000km in a year. these do over 15000.

day 6

today is about 300km. from the archer river roadhouse to kalpowar crossing.

on the xr650 again and i'm lovin it. this thing cruises along effortlessly.

the instructions as we leave the roadhouse, and spread ourselves out, are quite simple, go out to the right, do not turn left, do not head back the way you came, do not go back over the little concrete bridge. obviously the head tour guide has never heard of negative reinforcement. after he leaves, my mate is next. he heads up to the intersection, turns left, and heads back the way we came. the guides look at each other in disbelief, “surely not”, they say. one jumps on his bike and heads off after him, about 10 mins later they are back.

later i asked my mate if he did that just to take the pressure off me for my screwups, but no, he just stuffed up. later he trys to change his story, but it’s too late hehehehe

we go through about 50km of what can only loosely be described as a highway, dips and corrugations, all on dirt. i slow down for the first, it’s quite easy, take the second a bit quicker, no worries, bottom out on the third which isn’t even signposted and decide to treat them all as potential nuisances and slow down for each one.

at a place called coen, with some bitumen, we take a little side excursion, which i quite enjoyed, more like the limited bit of riding i’ve previously done. then some bitumen and another 70km of dirt to musgrove station for a quick breather and fuel stop.

a little further south to the lotus bird lodge for lunch. here the owner tells us of a big salt water crocodile that lives in the lagoon here, it’s been here since the last wet season. he tells us how he saw it catch a wild pig and then destroy it as it thrashed around, half out of the water, breaking up the pig into bite sized chunks.

i mention while talking to the head guide, that i had trouble pulling up in time for the turn into the lodge, he says i'm probably going too fast. i have a bit of a think. i'm not going too fast for the bike or the conditions, but too fast for my skill level. i can confidently go a lot quicker than day 1, but i'm probably not able to pull myself up quick enough to avoid any changes in the road or oncoming traffic if it's on my side of the road. (which happens a fair bit) so now i slow down a bit. the others seem to have got the hang of "backing it in" to a turn, but i can't get myself around it yet. i'm just gonna plod along and avoid killing myself.

then it’s more dirt road south, army trucks, other trucks, road trains and some 4wd’s, deep bulldust bits and some roadworks. ironically the 10km of roadworks, which was signposted 40kph, was the best bit of dirt road we came across. i’d like to say we were all good citizens and slowed down to 40kph for the whole bit, but at least we slowed down whenever we saw anyone working. i thought it was like at home, they never bother putting up the end of roadworks signs half the time, so you never know when to speed up, so after going past a road crew you kinda just speed up whenever you feel like it, but you get caught out occasionally.

then finally we come to a sign which says “end roadworks”, now you can speed up again, and it’s back onto the big fucking corrugations, big sandy corrugations, and other wierd stuff. so i slow down.

we turn off onto a track which will lead us into kalpowar crossing. and enter some really wierd and cool country. some grass, but sometimes just rock hard dried mud, with thousands and thousands of termite mounds. Steve says it reminds him of a moonscape, we stop for a photo.

the xr650 is definitely the coolest so far, i’m still struggling in sand, but i slowed down a bit and tried to relax. lots and lots of fun dips in and out of creeks.

a full moon and a clear night at kalpower crossing. after dinner we go for a walk to see if we can find some crocodiles but we only find some cane toads.

day 5

motogp day. today is not a very hard decision for me. follow the others on a harder track, or scream down the highway to the archer river roadhouse to watch the motogp.

one of the guides is driving the support vehicle as the cook is riding again, so the guide follows me down the highway in the support vehicle. dunno what the track was like, they were in a hurry as well to get there to see the race. they give me the honda xr650. might as well try it out and see what the difference is. the others call it the starship enterprise. goddamn. this thing is so much easier to ride on the shitty highway, and in sand as well i'm getting better, fortunately i don't have to play in any twisty bits and i have a relaxing day. the guides tell me to mostly cruise in 4th, at around 80-90kph, and only worry about 5th if i start cruising over 110kph.

caught up to a truck which stopped to let me past, then i caught up to another one, i could see a long straight and though i had a chance of getting past, then all i could see was white as the truck had hit bulldust. so i slowed down for a bit. later as we were gathering firewood for the campfire, the guide tole me that it's easiest just to pull up and stop, rather than trailing along behind them.

we got to the roadhouse in time for the last couple of laps of the 125's, then watched the 250's, the others arrived part way through. then we watched the main race, had a few more drinks, and passed out early.

the nights are getting cooler now, so i'm sleeping a lot better. the swags we're sleeping in hold a bit of heat, even though you can take off the waterproof top and just sleep under the mesh. i actually sleep in the sleeping bag for a little while before getting too hot and having to get out again.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

day 4

punsand bay to moreton telegraph station. today we cover about 320 km, including two sections of the northern telegraph track.

first stop the jardine ferry. then hanging around in the sun as everyone leaves at 2 minute intervals. as today is a big day and the first section has lots of painful sand, even worse they say than i've already done, i'm taking the easy way around, with one of the guides as a nursemaid.

i end up riding his ktm435, '04 model, while he rides an xr650. he figured that seeing i was comfortable on the ktm, i might as well stay on it. the reason no-one but him usually uses it, is because it's his own bike, and it has a tendency for the front wheel to turn in. it did that to me too, but he wasn't confident in my ability to ride the xr650.

i survived the road section ok. if you could call it a road that is. the others turned off after 20km to do the first section of the track. by the time i went past, they were already gone. the road was easier than deep twisty sand, but i still had my fair share of sand, corrugations, and big fucking corrugations, then big sandy corrugations, and occasional bulldust.

the speedo on this ktm didn't work, and i ended up cruising at about 110kph the guide later said. any slower and the bumps were attrocious. he reckoned at around 140 it was even better. i waited for the others at fruitbat falls. a very cool little spot. the water apparently comes from somewhere in papua new guinea, wells up from the ground, then flows to the sea. you can swim here so we did. then lunch under the shade of the trees before setting off for the second section of the northern telegraph line.

i went with the others for the next section, i was going ok for a while, but went bush and did an endo over the bars. the guide following me was most amused. i was getting very tired after that and had to stop a few times for a rest, including one crash/stop where i simply fell over in the sand. into gunshot creek then we climbed out a way that the 4wd's can't follow and subsequently wreck, which was quite fun.

then some more sand, and some easier tracks, before getting back onto the road to moreton telegraph station.

day 3

rest day

today is our last day at the campsite before we leave for our trek.

we weren't on the bikes today, a day off for us and our guides.

two of the guides go off to a tour to Thursday Island and Horn Island. the rest of us decided to go fishing, but if they were relying on us to catch dinner, then everyone was gonna go hungry.

the fishing boat charter operator took us to Rex Hunt's famous wharf and chucked in a net a few times to get bait to catch some bigger fish, and put them in a little live bait tank. then we trolled for a bit looking for another fish that was, yet again, gonna be used to catch another bigger fish.

a wierd boat though. no matter where you were on the boat, once you started pounding a bit in the waves, everyone got wet. usually i reckon the rule of thumb on a boat is stand behind the driver and you'll stay dry, not this time though. it was hopeless. we cruised around possession island, had a look at the monument put up to commemorate captain Cook sticking a flag in the ground, and generally didn't catch a damned thing. which is pretty normal for me, but the operator wasn't too happy. oh well. i was getting bored anyway.

back to the camp and it's drinking and bludging by the pool again.

the guys hand me a motocross magazine and show me an article containing the 7 steps to riding in sand. step 1, gas it up, followed by a description, step 2, gas it up, step 3, gas it up... you get the picture

tomorrow starts our trek south

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

day 2

and what do you know, it was a big day...

the first 300-400 metres from our camp is the deepest, softest sand i've ever ridden..

i'm doing better than yesterday morning, but i'm still stressing and struggling. i make it out ok, but i'm stressing again.

then follow some easier sections to a souvenir shop called the "croc tent". but after getting all wound up, it takes me some time to wind down again.

among other things, i'm feeling that i'm holding the guys up, wasting the tour guides time, and if the whole trip is gonna be like this, that i'll get there late december.

today's steed is a yamaha wr450. it's easier than yesterday's drz400 through the sand. one of the guides has a drz650, the other guides call it a DogRooter650, but as he glides through the sand with the greatest of ease, i refrain from offering any dumb comments. i think i'm gonna be known as the sand-dredge.

standing up on the wr is a lot easier than on the drz, the 'bars' are at a much more comfortable level for a tall person. my knees feel like i've been skiing for a week (they're a bit wobbly), but standing up is the only way i can get through the toxic sands, plus it's heaps easier when negiotating the corrugations. especially with the red gravelly stuff, it's like riding over little red marbles.

i'm in a whole other world on this shit

so we buy some tourist stuff at the croc tent for kids and nieces and take off.

the stay upright crew want us to keep a minimum of 2 mins gap between us, but typically, anyone behind me catches up quickly, so i slow to let them pass.

the two kiwi lads are pretty good, when they go past, they go past fast, especially when i'm struggling in the sand, as you have no idea which way i'm gonna go next, then they look over their shoulders, give me a little wave, and scream off into the bulldust.

anyway, we're heading to a beach to go riding, cut loose, and generally have some fun. the cook is let loose to have a go as well. he's as happy as a pig in shit. and we have to go through toxic sands part two. i survive most of it, i'm improving, but not quick enough. speed only works some of the time. here is tight twisty deep fine sand.

i finally take my first fall.

my mate reckon's the bike is standing upright when i fall off. but he's a naturally born bullshitter, stories only get longer when he tells them.

when i get in the sand, the edges of the sandy rut seem to drag at the bike, and i'm telling myself out aloud, stay in the rut, stay in the rug, stay in the rut, breathe! sometimes i kinda bounce to the other rut (2 ruts for 4wd wheel tracks), and sometimes i feel like i'm heading bush. i know all about target fixation and not looking where you don't wanna go, but every now and then, i'm climbing the ruts and heading bush.

typically this time the left rut has a really big sandy edge, stabilised by some green growth, so when i prang into it, i get dumped on my arse and bike is only laid over about 45 degrees.

i carry on, struggle, peak out a bit, and finally arrive at the beach to the encouragement of the others. they then cut loose and have a wonderful time trying to wheelstand in all gears and stuff like that. the cook earns my award for sick prick of the day by lowsiding, then highsiding, and later lowsiding. his highside bent a bar over the handlebar that's used to strengthen it or something. he bent it with his head. and he kept on going. he's a machine, he had a bit of a bloody nose, but it didn't slow him down in the slightest.

i did a lap of the beach, but spent most of my time sitting down relaxing, trying to de-stress a bit. it would have been more fun if i wasn't stressing about the ride back out.

the lap of the beach was interesting though, you cover ground really quickly on these bikes.

the kiwis are the most entertaining, they roost each other in sand at every opportunity. i pass them at one stage, one of them is on the sand, the other is up on the high bit above the sand, in the grass, bouncing all over the place.

two of the guides are vying for wheelstand champion, both get to at least 4th or 5th before the wind starts screwing them up and pushing them around. by the time they drop the front wheel it's stopped spinning and they have a moment's kooky-ness keeping balance.

i watched the others ride out, no worries, i'm last, i'll give it a go. i'm not dead yet. looks like they are all hitting second, then hitting the hill. 5 metres from the start of the hill i've ducked under a tree, hit second to grunt up, and stalled. shit.

damned bike won't turn over. i double check i'm in neutral, clutch in, try again, won't turn. one of the guides rocks up and checks that i'm in neutral etc... wait for a sec, try again, it kicks. musta been getting hot was the diagnosis later.

i'm getting good at restarting in the sand. hit first, rev, spin, feet paddling the ground, finally get momentum, jump up onto the pegs. get to the top, weaving and freaking. i'm trying to keep the front wheel light and keep the power on, but usually i end up heading towards the trees on either side., a few hundred metres of twisty shit to go before a long straight sandy bit out, i bounce out off the track to the left. i'm not panicking (much), cause there's no trees, and then i realise, it's easier up here, i try and re-enter the sand and bounce out again. fuck it, lets see how long i can stay out of the sand. the next 300-400 metres i take it easy before rejoining the sand for a fast straight (deep) bit out.

this confirms my notions of the universe. when all else fails, cheat.

then we're off to the tip of cape york. they should call it the top. every time they talked about the "tip" i was imagining the rubbish dump.

we ride to a camping area then walk about 1 km over rocks and hills to the northern most point. the view was pretty spectacular i though, and it was really windy, which helped to keep us cool. lots of little rock piles everywhere, probably from bored tourists.

there's a little island opposite with a lighthouse on it. also this point is one of the places where the coral sea and arafura sea meet. as it's quite narrow here between the "tip" and two islands, the waters swirl and rush through from both directions. the guides say sometimes you can see a noticeable difference in the sea heights and the water rushes from one side to the other to make up the difference. dunno about that but it sounded good.

a couple of turtles swim away as we approach the sign telling us where we are and we take a break, take some photos, and look around at all the graffiti some losers have left here in the past.

on our way back to the campsite we have a choice. about 7km of toxic sand, or the easy way. i take the easy way. i'm getting more confident and this time i have no freaked out panic stops or near misses.

so we relax near the pool with a few beers, then a few more around the campsite waiting for dinner. some of the tour guides are fishing, but not too near the water's edge. the cook is busy over the campfire.

they have this bird here called a bush turkey. only the guides call it a scrub fuckwit. they have an annoying habit of running through the camp in the early hours of the morning squawking and carrying on, and anything left out they will grab and disappear into the bush with. fortunately once we leave the campsite in a few days we also leave these stupid birds behind.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

day one cont...

so i'm feeling totally dominated by this freaking sand, thinking about giving up on the whole damned trip.

there's these two kiwi lads. the other two customers besides me and my two mates. they race motorcross in kiwi land. one is an ex-pat pom, from yorkshire as he became fond of telling us. he's as lean as, kinda reminds me of my uncle, only he's even paler skin than me. he's got a constant supply of roll-yer-owns going. and this other dude, big, red hair and big red moustache.

they come across my two mates who are similarly struggling through the sand. stand up and gas it up they say. my mates take to this like a duck to water, and they pass it on to me. i'm less than an impressive pupil. but it works a lot better. standing up i have better balance. and the only way to survive in this deep fine sand, is to float over the top. you have to keep moving.

but i'm still struggling.

we cruise around some easier tracks, see some wrecks of b2 bombers from world war two, and the wreck of a dc3. all within a few kilometres of the airstrip. then we stop at a wharf at Seisha. Rex Hunt reckons this is the best fishing wharf in Oz apparently. the next few tracks relax me a bit.

then we go back to the camp, and i'm freaked by the sand again. via loyalty beach, and you guessed it, more sand. i'm freaking again and then i come to a water crossing. no-one is in sight and i dunno if i'm meant to go through it, or it's going to be as hard as the sand and i'm gonna disappear forever. so i sit there and get my breath back. fortunately one of the kiwi lads turns up and takes my bike through for me. first he took his bike through then came back. it looked really cool, the water coming off the front wheel was like an upside-down waterfall going up over his head, and he was grinning like a cheshire cat.

back through the last section of sand to the camp and i'm going better than before but i'm tired and struggling. you can't go slow, you've got to go fast, and i screw up a few times and peak out totally. i have to stop and get my pulse rate down, and un-fuck my vision which has turned into complete tunnel vision, focussed a point about 5 feet in front of my front wheel. peripheral vision about 5 inches either side.

and when i say peaking, i don't mean peak performance either. like peak pulse rate. i'm bouncing off my internal rev-limiter, fortunately there's some kind of internal self control that tells me to stop and breathe. this trend fortunately continues. i really do have lucky timing. not to spoil the story though. it's happened to me in the past. when i stop worrying about getting places on time, i kinda am always late, but always arrive just in time, or else i miss the bits i didn't want to do anyway. likewise some little internal control organism has told me to stop (unfortunately not with style) and breathe. so i do.

one of the extremely helpful guides, Jason, stops by me and checks to see if i'm alright. he gives me some pointers and rides away and back to show me how it's done. i get to the end of the sand section in one piece.

a little later and i'm feeling better. but beer does that for you. tomorrow is gonna be a big day...

home safe and sound, the trip was a blast.

if i knew then what i know now, i probably wouldn't have gone, but all the same, i'm glad i did.

after flying to cairns we had dinner at a bar/restaurant called rattle'n'hum to meet the other guys going on the tour. as far as we could see the bar must have been owned by richard branson, as they seem to have a similar hiring policy. the tour guides make this their regular haunt when they are in cairns i think so they can check out the talent.

and backpackers everywhere!

the next morning we are up bright and early (well early anyway) for the flight to bamaga, which is the northern most airport in australia. we meet the tour guides who pick us up from the airport and take us to punsand bay, where we'll be staying for a few days before we begin the trip southward.

we pick our bikes for the day, i get a suzuki drz400, and still feeling enthusiastic, we're told to head up this little bit, around to the left, then there'll be someone there telling you which direction to go. i jump on the bike, head up the little track, nearly fall off about 5 times in 20 metres in the sand, turn right instead of left, and wobble my way down the wrong track. after a little bit i stop, thinking to myself that i haven't seen this bit before, and someone comes and rescues me and i turn around and go out the way i'm meant to.

the next 20 minutes are the hardest i've ever spent on a motorcycle. deep fine sand.

at this stage i'm stressing to the max, thinking that i've made the biggest mistake and no way should i be here.

time for work, i'll finish day 1 later...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

no stuff about new girlfriend. we are still going out, and i'm still in three minds about whether or not i even want a girlfriend. so the more easier and laid back it stays, the more chance there is i'll put up with the situation. if we see each other too often or it gets too intense, i'll run away.

for the next two weeks though, that shouldn't be a problem. my holiday is nearly here! 2.5 more working days to go, unless i get called in again on the damned weekend. fly out next tuesday for a motorbike trip from cape york to cairns. every time i go on a motorcross bike i usually end up having at least a few stacks. so the chances of that over the next week are quite good.

at the end of the trip i'm gonna go out on a day diveboat called "passions of paradise". i watched this boat get launched down here, and after sending some photos of the launch, with a 100 ton crane, to them they said if i was ever up their way i could go for a free trip with them. count me in ;-)

that is assuming i haven't screwed up my days...

my last weekend on the boat was quite fun. didn't get up to too much mischief, managed to finally take my new gear for a dive, and got an ice-cream headache from the cold water. partly because it was only 14 degrees, but mostly cause i haven't gotten around to trimming my hood so that it fits over my drysuit.

i managed to take some pics too. they are crap, but you get that. you'll have to use your back button to get back here, cause i don't like opening new windows, they irritate me. alternatively you can right click the links and "open in new tab" if you use firefox.

the moorings that we sometimes use are held in place by long chains which end in these little shovels. the chains are almost all submerged, but you can see where they are from the growth that seems to be attracted to them through the sand, and also on one mooring, but all the little octopusses (spelling?) that seem to like to live next to the links. maybe they think it's a golf club.

in the bottom left of the shovel picture you can just see the shape of a bottle sticking out. turned out another occy was in there with it. musta been a vb bottle or something.

this is a little jelly bean anemone all curled up in a ball. about an inch across. it's a crap picture, but the least blurry of the pics i took of it, and i liked it.

finally this little cuttlefish was having a standoff with an occy in among the weeds. it's about 20cm long, finally they stared each other down and took off.

the long weekend (a weekend later) was a lot more relaxing. went out friday night, drank too much, slept in until the nasty sun woke me up. i took the kids to see an old lighthouse on sunday and ran into some friends who said that while i was out there, i should get some prawns, and feed the prawn shells to the moray eels at the entrance to a little creek. sounded like fun

so we got out there and dragged the esky with lunch making stuff down to the rocks, opened the prawns, to find they were still frozen. doh! open them up to let them thaw about and go exploring with the kids. little crabs in the rocks and the kids got splashed by the sea, so they were happy.

so them i start peeling the prawns, and the flies come. bleah! so while i peel the prawns, i get my daughter to shoo the flies while my son butters the bread. shove all the prawn shells in a plastic bag that keeps blowing away in the wind, and run away from the flies to eat somewhere else.

then we chuck all the prawn bits in the water, but it's too rough to see the morays, and all the prawn bits all disappear so we watch the crabs instead.

next time, eat and peel prawns somewhere else, preferably at home. avoid dragging stupid esky all round the place, and avoid rotten flies. bring prawn shells to the same place (cause it was quite nice) but on the other side of the creek where it wasn't so rough, so we can feed the morays and then go for a snorkel.

anyway, back to mum's for a swim cause after walking back to the car we're all hot and bothered again. it was a pretty spot though...

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