Australian’s don’t like their “R’s”

Maccas sunrise. A freezing cold morning but I have never been happier to be at McDonalds!

Maccas sunrise. A freezing cold morning but I have never been happier to be at McDonalds!

“Hello, can you tell me how to get to Forster”? ” You mean Foster“? “Uhhh, is that the city that is next to Taree”? “You mean Tahee” “Ahhhhhhhh”!?…..

Just so you know; It’s Cans not Carns (Cairns), Foster not Forster, Melbin not Melbourne. Australian’s don’t like pronouncing “R”s and substitute a “uh” whenever they come up. Weekend hours also took me a while to get used to, and I sometimes wonder how anyone who works a 9-5 week can get anything done on their two days off. Saturdays in Australia are the equivalent of American Sundays, shops close at noon, “Mom and Pop” will be closed all day. Sundays however, are like national holidays where you will be lucky to find anything open. I remember on one mid Saturday morning walking into a supermarket, only to find myself being the customer before closing time.

The never ending variety of commercially available Aussie Iced Coffee's. Most of them are too milky and sweet with little taste of coffee.

The never-ending variety of commercially available Aussie Iced Coffee’s. Most of them are too milky and sweet with little taste of coffee. A typical Aussie breakfast, savory pie and an ice coffee. Lunch another iced coffee.

Quintessential Aussie foods: Vegemite (A salty Brewers yeast spread), Ice Coffee (Sold in milk cartons and sometimes plastic bottles that look like energy drinks, sometimes stores will have entire refrigerators dedicated to this stuff), Pies (Don’t inquire about what type of fruit or if it can be served A la mode Australian pies are Savory and filled with cheese, cream, and meat bits)

Savory Australian meat pies, these should still be served A la Mode

Savory Australian meat pies, these should still be served A la Mode

I will bring a large jar of this stuff back with me to the states. If it does not get confiscated at customs you are welcome to try some! It is supposed to be super good on pizza!! I can't wait

I will bring a large jar of this stuff back with me to the states. If it does not get confiscated at customs you are welcome to try some! It is supposed to be super good on pizza!! I can’t wait

I clinch my teeth as another huge Australian Road train passes me on a steep climb. I am on the busy national highway, heading south to the nation’s capital, and I have spent the last three days cycling in a recent cold snap. Throughout the night I am woken by strong winds battering the tent and numb fingers and toes. The temperature is really not that cold, minus 1 or 2 C at its coldest however the wind chill goes right through my clothes, straight to the bone.

Unlike the US, Australia lacks a central railway system, making the interconnected highways the major network for transport. Enter the Australian road train, the scariest thing I have encountered on the roads. If gazing into your rear view mirror, or looking ahead to pass, a road train would look exactly like a standard semi truck, but as it got closer to pass you would notice that it is at least twice as long.

Road train drivers, stop for no one. They even take short cuts on the back roads, sometimes on single lane hwys.

Road train pulling thousands of liters of petrol. Can you imagine what it feels like to be passed head on with this thing going over 100 km an hour? Hokusai’s Great Wave

Think of yourself pedaling along a nice, smooth asphalt shoulder, it’s a quiet main road, you can hear birds in the distance, the wind is in the trees and leaves dance on the speckled road as you pass. Then, you hear what sounds like a train. You look to the left and to the right but notice that there are no tracks nearby and then… “Whoa Si Mama” a huge road train passes you going over a 100 km/hr. The first thing that happens is that you are pulled into the passing monstrosity like the drowning passengers on the Titanic, some sort of vacuum like force, then as you start getting closer you are expelled with a huge tidal wave-like wind.

I think of this painting every time I see a road train

The Great Wave. I think of this painting every time I am passed by an Australian road train. Btw that’s Mt Fuji in the background.

Yesterday was officially my last day on the Australian road, and was by far one the most difficult! I pushed, and struggled all day turning the cranks into the cold wind only to find my afternoon plans changed after my ferry was canceled. I then pedal all over the city trying to find the main office, hopelessly waiting at the wharf for more canceled ferries.

A clear but super windy day on the ferry from Tea Gardens to Nelson Bay

A clear but super windy day on the ferry from Tea Gardens to Nelson Bay

 

I rolled up to this house and asked if I could camp in the yard and was given a place to sleep in the pool house. For some reason the glass walls were less insulated than the fabric of my tent. It was freezing!

I rolled up to this house and asked if I could camp in the yard and was given a place to sleep in the pool house. For some reason the glass walls were less insulated than the fabric of my tent. It was freezing!

Chili coastal waters of Forster, NSW

Chili coastal waters of Forster, NSW

Australian’s are extremely opinionated people and when they are not drinking large cartons of Iced Coffee and or eating fatty, savory, meat pie they want to argue about everything. Most of the time these arguments spur from asking distances between towns and whether or not I can find drinking water in certain locations. One thing leads to the next and pretty soon I am being told how “I am not supposed to pedal in sandals and that I am not wearing the appropriate cycling hat”. Most of the time I can’t be bothered to argue other times I look to my feet and walk away. Australian’s are not racist per se but are to often very politically incorrect. I constantly hear locals spouting off about “Colored fellers, Japs and blacks” I have even been called an “Injun giver” once or twice after letting people look at my collection of maps, then asking for them back. In the supermarkets there are even huge sign’s advertising “Jap pumpkins” or “Jap food”, I also sometimes hear black beans referred to as “n*gger beans”

The sign say's it all!

The sign say’s it all!

It was at least an hour after dark when I arrived in Nelson bay, the northern suburb of Newcastle. From the turbulence of the ferry I had watched the sun fall behind the clouds and a few bright stars appear in the darker regions of the sky. Since arriving in Australia I have been watching the two planets Jupiter and Venus slowly move closer toward each other in the night sky. The air in the Nelson Bay harbor felt colder than when I had departed and the wind seemed to have picked up a few knots. The captain of the ferry had given me the local during passage on where to camp outside of Nelson bay; Marsh Rd. Marsh road, was a remote dirt road about 16 km outside of town. The area was supposed to have several turn offs where one could easily set up a tent and be undisturbed till morning. I set off, cold, tired and hungry hoping to be sleeping under the stars in no less than an hour. After a few kilometers my headlight dimmed, batteries drained and eventually died, but I pedaled on thinking of a warm sleeping bag, hot meal and windproof shelter.

Newcastle, New South Wales

Newcastle, New South Wales

Marsh road turned out to be one of the muddiest, roads I had yet encountered in Australia and was literally a causeway over a large swamp. To the left and right I could see the reflection of the night sky, and began to wonder where I was going to pitch my tent for the night. For another 15 km the road never deviated from the soggy, cold marsh, and in some areas I could see ice crystals forming on the puddles. The cold and wind was beginning to break my spirits and I reflected on the potential long night ahead of me. Finally I saw bright lights ahead and as I get closer I saw big sign brightly illuminating the words “Jehovah’s Witness Church of God” into the dark cold wilderness. “Great” I think to myself I had high school friends who were JW’s, I know a few things about their religion, they will probably let me camp here, maybe they will even offer me some hot tea or coffee!
I entered a packed parking lot and looked through the windows to see a large church procession giving way. A late comer drove into the parking lot, wearing a suit and tie and I politely asked him if I could camp in the back yard of the church. His demeanor was so familiar in many ways, and quickly reminded me of my high school friends. He told me to wait and 5 minutes later the JW head honcho comes out and tells me that I can not camp on the church property and that I had “better find a place to sleep soon because it was cold”. Tell me something I don’t know I thought, I have been pedaling in this for close to two hours now.

I pedal back out onto Marsh road, and soon the road joined again with the main highway. The dark road was illuminated every 100 meters by a tall fluorescent street lamp and I was glad to be done with pedaling on a pitch dark road with a drained headlamp. My happiness quickly changed though as the wind returned and the large road once again left the safety of the street lamps. I pedal on looking for any place to put a tent, there are barbed wire fences on both sides of the road and dogs from nearby houses begin to bark as I pass. It is not long before my rear tire become flat and in the cold darkness I mess around with the pump trying to put a few pounds of air to get me to safety. An angry dog sees me helplessly pumping up my tire and jumps at me from behind a fence, the dog is tied to a collar but is viciously barking and snarling at me.

“Why did I pass on eating that dog meat with my father so many years ago in rural China” I think to myself?

I push my bike a few hundred meters and set up camp in the front of someone’s house. Too exhausted to cook, I set up the tent and pass out. All night the wind blows and I shiver in my sleeping bag till dawn.
5:30 am, there is just enough light to make out the shape of my tent in the yard, I shift in my sleep trying to keep warm and suddenly dogs start barking.They continue and seem to only get louder, soon it sounds as if there is a huge pack of them outside my tent. I don’t recall camping next to a dog kennel but there were definitely a few angry dogs outside my tent. I unzip and lookout in time to see a man shining a flashlight in my face.

“What the fuck are you doing here”

“This is private land, get the fuck out of here”.

“I apologize, I am leaving” I say still half asleep. It is freezing but at least the sun will be up soon! I pack up to the sound of angry dogs barking their heads off. My rear tire is flat but I put a few pounds of pressure so I can depart my recently turned hostile camping environment. I sign, breathe in the cold morning air and pedal on.
A few km down the road there is a warm McDonald’s. I buy a $4 coffee and write this post.
I only have another 25 km to my hosts place in Newcastle, the wind continues to blow but the sun is out. Will be in Sydney by Friday! Home in Murrieta, California by Tuesday! See you all very soon!!

Australia’s Rivendell

Lonely beaches north of Cape Tribulation. This is where the road officially ends for vehicles.

Lonely beaches north of Cape Tribulation. This is where the road officially ends for vehicles.

australia-travel-map

Think of Australia as a camel, cut into 6 states. The Daintree forest is located in and around Cape Tribulation. I began my Australian adventures in Darwin right near the Kakadu National Park.

Daintree National forest is in the North East tip of Australia's state Queensland (QLD). Think of Australia like a camel, cut into 7 states

There are only 60 people living North of the Daintree river. After crossing the crocodile infested waters I found myself pedaling through a dense rainforest. The soil in some areas was so poor that trees adapted large “Buttress” roots for stabilization and nutrient accumulation.

"Curtain fig". This towering fig tree was once two living organisms.

“Curtain fig”. This towering fig tree was once two living organisms.

I have arrived in Australia’s Rivendell and am surrounded by a rainforest that stretches from the inland mountainside all the way to sea. In the last ten days I have followed an ancient lava canal from the central Tablelands to rich fertile cane fields, eventually giving way to acres and acres of luscious rainforest; the Daintree National Forest.

Emmagen beach, 7 km down a steep muddy dirt road. Well worth the ride I had the whole beach to myself but spent a long windy night in the tent. This is the morning after a storm an hour after sunrise

Emmagen beach, 7 km down a steep muddy dirt road. Well worth the ride I had the whole beach to myself but spent a long windy night in the tent. This is the morning after a storm an hour after sunrise.

Emmagen beach sunrise. Each morning while camping in Daintree I would wake up an hour before sunrise to the sound of strange  birds.

Emmagen beach sunrise. Each morning while camping in Daintree I would wake up an hour before sunrise to the sound of strange birds.

Roads north of Cape Tribulation

Roads north of Cape Tribulation

Rocky beaches

Rocky beaches

One of the many secluded estuaries

One of the many secluded estuaries

Miles of cane fields eventually gave way to the forest.

Miles of cane fields eventually gave way to the forest.

Sugar cane production process

Sugar cane production process

Debris left on the beaches from Bubbler sand crabs

Debris left on the beaches from Bubbler sand crabs

The last week has been spent hiking through the Aboriginal lands of Mossman gorge, pedaling remote coastal roads and camping on deserted beaches. The weather has taken a turn for the worse and has been windy and extremely rainy, leaving most of the  park lands vacant. Due to its remote location, there are only 60 people living in the territory north of the Daintree river. Most of these individuals are old hippies in their late 60’s living off the grid on small farms with solar panels, rain catchment and growing exotic fruits such as durian and marijuana.

Lookout from the Alexander mountain range. Below is where the infamous Steve Erwin was killed by a sting ray

Lookout from the Alexander mountain range. Below is where the infamous Steve Erwin was killed by a sting ray

DCIM101GOPRO

The only way to describe the feeling of this place would be to call it a mix of Northern California’s Lost Coast and Hawaii’s Napali coast. The entire Daintree rainforest was at one time only accessible by a muddy dirt track that took a high clearance 4w drive vehicle to traverse. In recent years the rough road was paved giving rise to a large increase in tourism and a world heritage status. This is the only place in the world where one world heritage site literally meets another; The Great Barrier Reef begins where the forest ends and extends 15 km from the beach.

DCIM101GOPRO

Farm land south of Daintree river

Farm land south of Daintree river

The debris collected at the bottom of the canopy. Mossman Gorge

The debris collected at the bottom of the canopy. Mossman Gorge

Venturing across a jungle causeway

Venturing across a jungle causeway

I had one day of sunshine and spent in on this beach in Cow Bay

I had one day of sunshine and spent in on this beach in Cow Bay

To me the most beautiful thing are the silent and untouched estuaries, which pass as rivers in the valleys, streams and creeks near the roads and mangroves before touching the Coral Pacific sea. I am sad to reflect on such a beautiful place as this Thursday I fly from Cairns to Brisbane and begin my southern tour of Australia’s coast. J.R Tolkien’s Rivendell may only exist for the reader in New Zealand but there are many other places which share its mystic beauty.

Mossman creek

Mossman creek

More of Emmagen beach

More of Emmagen beach

Hard days and Customers only (Cycling Australia’s Northern Territory)

The size of Australia is quite shocking. Even the distances between supermarkets, gas stations and rest areas can be hundreds of kilometers. I am greeted each evening with the sight of kangaroos and owls along the roadside and awaken each morning by wandering hawks.

DCIM100GOPRO

Buely falls. A few days of easy cycling and swimming in Darwin’s nearby Litchfield National Park. The park has the only safe swimming pools devoid of Crocodiles.

I the hospitality and generous nature of people has quickly vanished. On a daily basis I am kicked out (and into the hot sun) from road houses, gas stations and shady overhangs. I am constantly reminded “Customers only”. This even applies to the shade of a tree in front of a restaurant! Yesterday evening I stopped outside of a restaurant to rest in the shade, after a few minutes the chief walked out and cussed me out for using the veranda and not being a customer. I would be a customer but Australia is just too expensive.

DCIM100GOPRO

Late afternoon sun at Wangi falls. Crocs are often pulled out of these pools but that doesn’t stop the locals as wells as myself from going in for a dip!

Last night while camping in the desert I was awoken at midnight by a caravan of drunk aboriginals. My tent was literally right next to their car shielded by a manzanita bush. They soon became quite belligerent breaking bottles and yelling. So I quickly packed up my gear and pedaled away into the night. There is a huge separation between the aboriginals and whites here. And both races seem to completely ignore the other. All the supermarkets and restaurants are filled with whites and the streets and parks are littered with aboriginals asking for money and cigarettes. Police guard the bottle shops and all cities in the Northern Territory have a strict enforcement against public drinking.

DCIM100GOPRO

Don’t even think about going in for a swim or getting within a few meters of the local rivers! Crocodile heaven

I feel as if publicly I am seen as somewhere between the gentile whites and aboriginals. But at least people make eye contact with me, most the aboriginals can’t even get that.

The road to Cairns (Cans) is going to be rough!! Long sections of dirt roads with distances between water stops sometimes over 200 km. In two days my route diverts from the main road and it may be sometime before I post again. Wish me luck!!