We then headed north to Mission Beach. I hadn’t seen a cassowary bird but by the time we got there I was sick to death of the bastards. There must be at least forty bird warning signs on the road in. Not that we saw any actual birds. We were hoping to stay at a little place called Bingil Bay but it was full. So we ended up in the second worst camping spot in Mission Beach. We were right under the rainforest canopy and the dew was unreal.
Mission Beach itself was great. Coconut palms overhanging the beach.
We even ate a couple as they had this coconut peeling machine on the
beach to use. We watched the full moon come up over the ocean (how
romantic). Really enjoyed Mission Beach apart from packing up a wet
We then headed up through Innisfaill then hung a left onto the
Palmerston Hwy. Good to get off the busy Bruce Hwy. The Palmerston Hwy
is a slice of motorcyle heaven and finally the still new looking outer
edges of my bikes tyres were getting a good scrubbing. Finally I was
getting my money’s worth out of the tyres. We called in to say g’day to
Trish, a mate of Dave Ward’s, who worked at the Mungali Dairy. So of
course we had to sample the scones, jam and cream. Trish was a nice
lady and like us one of the rare breed who know Dave and liked him
The country we rode through was spectacular green hills and winding roads on through Millaa Millaa, Milanda, Kiari and on to our plush new digs in the Lake Timmaroo Resort courtesy of Kate’s mates Kerry and Ron at Point Samson. It was nice to spread out and watch a bit of telly as a novelty.
The next day we did the awesome loop through Yungaburra, stopped at
Lake Barrine (one of the crater lakes) where we saw thousand year old
twin Kauri pines and sampled their famous since 1928 Devonshire Tea, it
was then a frantic blast down the spectacular Gilles Range road.
Yeehaa. Scrub those sidewalls, punish those tyres (well, as best you
can on a criuser. Damn I missed my Z900). Down through Gordonvale and
back on to the Bruce Hwy (sucks arse) and into Cairns. There we booked
into Gilligan’s because we’ll be in later on. Then it was up the
Kuranda Road. What a blast. We stopped at the Coffee Works at Mareeba
for a cuppa. Not bad. Then back to our little villa on the lake.
The next day was the waterfall run down through Millaa Millaa Falls,
spectacular, Mungali Falls, throw in some great twisty roads and you
get a hoot of a day. I took a wrong turn on one of the small back roads
then had to drop the hammer to catch Kate at Ravenshoe. We called down
to Innot Hot Springs for a theraputic soak then headed for home. On the
way we called in to the Millaa Millaa lookout that has an incredible
view of the tablelands. Between Millaa Millaa and Milanda is a tiny
settlement called Tarzali and I’d noticed a little bike shop that
looked like it specialised in vintage bikes and we called in for a
look. The owner, Gary, restored old British bikes and we got chatting.
I needed to repair a broken windscreen strut on Kate’s bike that I’d
bodgied in Ingham. He said no worries. His wife owned the same model
bike as Kate and he had a workshop manual. He said it was OK me working
on Kate’s bike the next day so we left it there so I could check her
valve clearances with a cold engine. Top Bloke.
Next day Gary and I yacked as we worked, me on Kate’s W650 him on a
very nice ‘53 Triumph Tiger. Kate’s valve clearances were okay none too
tight but number 2 exhaust was a little loose but useable. Replaced her
broken strut with a stainless steel one, inspected her sprockets okay
as well. Got a call from Kate while I was working saying she was
watching a platypus in a waterhole nearby. She’s one up on me there.
Put in new spark plugs and the whole thing cost me ten bucks, bargain.
Said seeya to Gary and told him to call in if he was ever over our way.
We did do a bit of relaxing but come the day before we were supposed
to leave I had the pannier off my bike inspecting the diff when I
noticed one of the brackets the tow bar connected to had broken a weld
(Kwaka bracket not the Classic bracket). Not happy.
The next day I ended up going to the wrong shed up the road to get it welded but met the right bloke, Doug the shed builder, who wouldn’t take even a few bob for a couple of beers after he welded that bracket and strengthened the one from the other side. Another top bloke. Re-assembled the back end and headed out today for Cooktown. We’ve stopped in Mareeba because we’re going hot air ballooning tomorrow morning early.
We were up at 4.00am to meet the blokes from Raging Thunder Hotair Balloons at the Mareeba Info centre. Brass monkey weather and pitch black. The head honcho commented that in the 15 years they’d been operating they had never seen frost like we had that morning. Is anybody else out there thinking that maybe Kate and I are to blame because this freaky weather is starting to seem more than coincidental with our presence.
Anyway, the balloon lifted off before sunrise and we couldn’t even feel it lift as we just floated up and headed for the trees at the edge of the paddock. Dave the pilot had the gondola just skimming the treetops and out across a river. They do it around Mareeba because they can fly 90 out of a 100 days the conditions are some of the best in the world. The sunrise over the mountains and tablelands was something special. We flew south east and were picked up in a paddock by the crew. They then put on brekky for us and off we went to pack up the camper.
I’d also managed to book a flight in a Warbird at the local aircraft museum at the airstrip 4km south of Mareeba. I ended up opting for the aerobatic flight and it wasn’t cheap at $340 but you’re a long time dead and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Boy am I ticking a lot of things of my ‘To Do In This Lifetime’ list. The plane I was going up in was an Australian built fighter trainer called a Winjeel. It was a two seater, side by side with dual controls, powered by a radial piston engine. At the museum they were rebuilding a Kittyhawk fighter as a two seater. They were using a brand new remanufactured fuselage and wing assembly. A beautiful looking aircraft.
I strapped in and the pilot, a young bloke called Michael Grieg who flew for QUANTAS and flew competition aerobatics, gave me a big grin and told me how much he loved doing these flights especially the aerobatics. Ohhhh shiiiit! We used stuff all runway to get airborn and then he pull it hard vertical then tipped over hard right as I yelled Hoooleee Sheeeyite and he said, ‘That’s just to get your heart going.’ Yep, that worked well.
From there we gained altitude and asked me if I wanted to fly it. Is a frog’s arse watertight? I’d always wanted to do this and it was a buzz. He called out headings on the land marks and I used the stick to get us there. I even got to throw it on its side so we could check out the dam wall at Lake Tinaroo. Wicked. After he got me to fly along the mountains, across the lake, back towards Atherton then up over the local prison he took the controls again and that was the end of the sedate part of the flight. I stuck a puke bag in my harness
in case I didn’t hold my bacon and eggs down. He told he’d had to pull peoples T-shirts over their heads to stop them puking all over the cockpit because they couldn’t get to their sick bags, nice. He then let the traffic controller know we were going into the aerobatics. He told me if I came up for the airshow on the 19th of August this is what I’d see.
He dropped the nose and we headed straight down then pulled into a loop just to warm it up. From there we were barrel rolling looping harder and harder, sometimes it felt the plane was completely out of control. I was starting to sweat but brekky was still on the inside. At the max of the loops we were pulling four and a half Gs.
Half a Ton
That meant I weighed nearly half a Ton. I can only describe it like your face feels like it wants to slide off the front of your skull, brilliant. Then it was over and I asked him, ‘What, aren’t you going to let me land it.’ That cracked him up. I must admit I was pretty green when I climbed out of the cockpit, but I was as high as a kite on adrenalin. The guys inside were a bit surprised he’d taken me to four and a half Gs. Everyone should experience that at least once.
From there it was back to pick up Kate and the camper and we headed up to Cooktown. We’d been told it was a boring drive up there. Bullshit. It was bloody beautiful. Mountains and bush and a newly finished two lane bitumen road. Top stuff. Had to watch out for the local cattle as they seemed to like hanging out on the roadside and wandering unexpectedly across. The local rule is if their heads are down and they’re eating you’re reasonably safe. Cooktown was great and the old buildings and history was nice to take in. We camped at the Orchid Park right in town so we were walking distance to everything. We even stood on the spot where Capt. Cook beached the Endeavour to make repairs after he ran aground on the Barrier Reef in 1770.
Friday night was live music in the pub across the road, ‘The Top Pub’, where we had a top night night dancing to the local black fella band. Speaking of which Kate and I were adopted by the local black fellas and we danced into the night. Kate charged up on her whiskey me on the tequila. I was very ashamed in the morning when I looked in the esky and saw the empty tequila bottle that had been full yesterday arvo and I definitely didn’t deserve to feel as good as I did. We packed up and headed south again through the cattle that lined the roadside. We stopped at the bottom of a particularly windy moutain track so I could blast up and down on Kate’s bike with the suspension cranked up. What a hoot.
We cruised down to Port Douglas where we spent a couple of relaxing days. I even had a crack at windsurfing again. I was a bit rusty and sconned myself a beauty with the boom but it all came together after that.
We rode up to Cape Tribulation across the Daintree River on a ferry which cost $16 return for both bikes. There was a fair bit of traffic on the road but we got around it fairly smartly on the bikes. Cape Tribulation was like an ant’s nest with all the sightseers and backpackers. We had lunch on the beach and planted a few coconuts. Some of the rainforest walks were good fun too.
Later I had to go into Atherton to get a new tyre for the the Nomad. The head mechanic used to work at Hartley’s in Vic Park. Another top bloke who gave me the run of the workshop and lift bench so I could remove the wheel. It’s a bit of a job. I ended up doing an engine/diff oil and filter change while I was at it. 3000km comes around too quickly.
The weather was a bit crap but we still went exploring and we got to see platypuses in the rain. Then we headed to Cairns. I got some dental work done while we were there to fix a filling that had fallen out. Just my luck it happened to be a big bastard. We had the best breakfast of the whole trip across from our accommodation, at this hippy vegetarian cafe that I was a bit dubious about but Kate insisted on. Good call, Kate. It was eggs benedict with bacon and eggs on muffins covered with hollondaise sauce and fried baby potatos with challottes.
We left Cairns and headed south through Innisfail then along the old Bruce Hwy to a place called Mena Creek. We had come to see this Spanish castle that was built back in 1929 by a Spanish bloke called Jose’ Paronella. He’d worked his ring off on cane farms then bought run down farms and sold them when he’d brought them back up to spec. With that money he bought 13 acres off land next to a waterfall to build his castle. After 8 years without a letter home he went back to get his promised bride to find she was already married thinking he was dead.
No worries says Jose’, and grabbed the younger sister, Margareta. He brought her back and proceeded to build the castle of his dreams since his Grandma used to tell him stories about them when he was an ankle biter. He built it out of the local clay, concrete and cane train rail line for re-enforcing bar. He even used to pinch the weatherboard off deserted farm houses for his concrete form work. In 1933 he put in a hydro-electric power plant harnessing the waterfall for power. The rest of the area didn’t get power until the 1950’s. He used to run picture theatres in his ballroom. He had a disco mirror ball 40 years before disco. The gardens are incredible. The bloke was amazing. Have a look on the internet if he sounds interesting.
We stayed there a couple of days and copped more bloody rain. Is this drought for real or is someone messing with us? I thought drought would be dustier than this. Then we headed down to Mission Beach again.
This time we got a spot in the council park where it’s first in first served. We are right on the beach for $12 a night, as opposed to $27 across the road, so we’ve ended up staying a few nights. We watched an incredible full moon rise up over a clear Pacific horizon. We’ve had some beaut weather here and enjoyed a lot of beach walking. We did a trip to Dunk Island and had the most expensive coffee of our trip. $4.20. We’ve decided to stay a few more days before our push south.
We’d decided to leave on the Monday morning, so we were up early and packed up the camper trailer. We’d put our riding gear on and I was hooking up the trailer as Kate with a puzzled look on her face asked if I’d seen her helmet. I was thinking, ‘Bloody hell, Kate, how do you missplace something like a helmet.’ and was about to give her a serve as I reached for my helmet. OH BULLSHIT! Some lowlife had stolen our helmets and our gloves from our bikes during the night. That meant we weren’t going anywhere in a hurry.
We called the cops who were as good as they could be. A few of the long termers in the park checked a few suspicions to no avail. Robin, the park manager was good about and didn’t charge us for staying as we couldn’t go anywhere without our lids. Kate was particularly pissed of because she’d had her gloves since 1995 and they were flash. On the way back from the cop shop we did get to see a big male cassowary which I was starting to think had become extinct and they hadn’t got round to taking down the warning signs yet.
We ended up having to buy new helmets and had them sent to Mission Beach but we had to go to Tully to pick up Kate’s after borrowing some helmets from a nice couple in the park. Couldn’t get gloves though. Nugget, one of the locals found one of my gloves that suggested someone had dropped it heading out of the park.
We headed out and down through Townsville through all the roadworks, trucks and cane train crossings. The rainforest was making way for more Eucalypts down past Bowen.