COAST - Byron Bay to Cooktown
-- Story by Erin --
Finally, after almost a
month without the laptop we are back to writing and updating the journal! I hope I can
remember most of the details! Well continuing on from the last chapter, we arrived in
Byron Bay on the 15th of October with Jon Murphy and his friend Stewart. We had a nice
leisurely drive of some 500 kilometers or so through lush farmland and green dairy country
as we neared the coast.
Byron Bay is the easterly
most point in Australia and is sign-posted as such at the very scenic lighthouse on the
point. BB has a real bohemian feel about the town. Many people walk around in sarongs and
no shoes, lots of body piercing and dreadlocks. Jon and Stu spent the evening there with
us, then after an early morning drive out to the lighthouse and a relaxing breakfast they
drove home again back to Boomi (no doubt enjoying the fun twisty roads on the way!)
After relaxing the day
away in BB, on Tuesday morning we ventured north aways to the famous Gold Coast area.
There we wanted to meet Dan Dwyer, a fellow BMW rider we met on the Internet. Dan met us
for lunch in a place called Surfers Paradise. I had heard people say this before, but it
could pass for Miami Beach any day! The predominant color is pink and many of the street
signs are names of cities in Florida. Its chock full of big holiday
hotels and apartments, palm trees and older tourists. Anyway, Dan was very helpful in
guiding us to the local department of motor vehicle registration and government insurance
agency. Both of these things we had been lacking since we exhumed our bikes from Customs
and the port in Sydney. We knew we needed these things but found out we could pay 1/5 the
price if we waited until we got into the state of Queensland. It worked out to a
difference of about $500 savings. That evening Dan invited us to stay at his house and
cooked a great meal for us. The next day, he and his adorable cat bid us farewell as we
drove just a little further north to the city of Brisbane.
Brisbane marked 35,000 riding miles on our journey, so far.
We arrived on October 17th
in Brisbane. This was not to be a sightseeing stay for us here as we needed to do some
work on both Chris bike and the computer. But, we did get a chance to meet up with
another RTW biker we met on the Internet, Ron Grant. Ron is originally from Quebec
Province in Canada but now calls Australia home. Ron spends the six months he doesnt
ride around the world each year teaching children through a distance learning program.
Many children in Australia participate in this kind of schooling
because they either live on a cattle station too far from a town; are sick at home; are on
an extended holiday trip with their parents somewhere in the world; or are children with
other types of problems that keep them out of traditional schools. Ron has the ideal job!
Anyway, he let us stay at his place just outside of Brisbane while we took care of our
While in Brisbane we
finally got Chris stator rewound so that he could run is headlights and heated grips
while still charging his battery. We also replaced the Hard-Drive in the laptop because it
was making some scratchy/whirring noises that were new. We had a Sharp dealer look at it
and diagnose the problem. After 3 days we were heading north again.
Its about 1,700
kilometers from Brisbane to Cairns. As it rained most of the way to Cairns we didnt
stop too much to go sightseeing, and made it in 4 days. Its a shame because this
area would obviously be a pleasant place to linger if the weather were sunny. We did stop
briefly along the way to see the towns of Bundaberg and 1770. This area is known for is
sugar cane production and there is a famous rum factory producing very tasty Bundaberg
Rum. The town of 1770 is where Captain Cook landed in (you guessed it!) the year 1770.
On October 24th
we arrived in Cairns. We were happy to be there for a couple of reasons: One, we were
meeting up with our friends Anke and Jan (who we met the first time at the Bangkok biker
gathering). Second, it was finally sunny here. And, thirdly, we were going to see our
other friends John and Kim, who we met in Sydney, at the Walkamin Country Music Festival
in the Atherton Tablelands. We spent the first few days in Cairns checking out the town,
catching up with Anke and Jan over long dinners, and trying to figure out what dive
company to go diving with. Cairns is the main base from which to go diving or snorkeling
off the Great Barrier Reef.
From October 27-29th
we attended the Walkamin Country Music festival in the Atherton Tablelands. We camped with
all of the other fans and enjoyed watching our friend John play with his band the
Wolverines. The Wolverines were one of the favorites there and the band was very busy most
of the time off stage signing autographs on everything from T-shirts to bare chests! It
was good fun and we met some great people. In particular we met a wonderful couple, Steve
and Sandi. These two each ride their own Harley Davidson motorbike. Early on the Saturday
morning of the festival, John and Kim, Steve and Sandy and Chris and I all drove to a
small town called Yungaburra for a local market. Its a quaint town with some
historical old buildings. After poking around the market for awhile we detoured for some
coffee and snacks at the local café. On the way back to the festival grounds Steve and
Sandi took us to see one of the local attractions, the Curtain Fig tree. The tree has
aerial roots that extend some 15 meters high. The Tablelands area has pockets of wonderful
dense rainforest still in tact. That night Steve and Sandi brought their Harleys on stage
during one of the Wolverines and revved the engines while the band played and the
crowd went wild!
L to R: Sandi, Chris, Darcy, John, and Steve
After the music festival
weekend we returned to Cairns again for a few days. Then we were off again on November 4th
up the Cape York Peninsula to see how far we could get. As the rainy season had begun we
were unsure how many of the unsealed roads (if any) would still be open. We drove as far
as Port Douglas the first day, and found a nice little campground right on the beach. We
spent the afternoon lazing on the beach and swimming. That night however we were attacked
mercilessly by mosquitoes so we decided to hit the road early the next day!
We had intended to stop in
Cape Tribulation because we had heard from many people that the road further north, the
famous Bloomfield Track, was very rough, extremely steep in several places and had several
creek/river crossings. We decided to go as far as the first creek and then turn around
head back to Cape Tribulation. However, we found that the first creek crossing was fairly
small and easily forded. We decided to push on further and boy are we glad we did. It was
a fabulous trip through dense rainforest, narrow passages, past a few aboriginal
communities and old towns reminiscent of what early settler life must have been like. We
were lucky that the area had not had much rain in the previous weeks so that the creek
crossings were small (about a foot high) and the steep passages were not muddy and
Chris plowing through the rocky creek
At the end of the day we
found ourselves in historic Cooktown. This is one of the first places in Australia that
Captain Cook and his ship the Endeavor set anchor. Here, the botanists and naturalists on
the boat documented many of the first flora and fauna. About 100 years ago, there was a
booming gold rush and the town had a population of about 30,000. Today, Cooktown is
a quiet little community of approximately 600, with a pleasant fishing harbor and some
nice old buildings. Since the roads to Cooktown are still mostly dirt track, only off-road
adventure tourists venture up this far.
We made it!!!
from Cooktown on 8th of November we decided to take the inland road back to
Cairns. Although there is only about 50 or so kilometers of dirt road until it becomes
sealed, it is rough going. The roads are so heavily traveled by big trucks that it creates
a corrugation effect. It shakes you and the bike to pieces while driving over it. The
roads to the north of Cooktown are largely made up of this corrugation type roads and
its for this reason (and the threat of rain) that we decided not to push on further.
We returned to Cairns
again, and this time ready to do some diving. After checking out all of the local
companies, we decided to go with the CDC (Cairns Dive Center). They were among the best
priced, and the friendliest. November is going into their low season so we were luck the
day we went out that there was only 15 or so other divers on the boat. We had heard
stories from other people about having 50 to 80 other divers on a boat! The day we went
out was nice but got a bit cloudy in the afternoon. Unfortunately, Chris could not scuba
dive that day since he checked the box on the health form that says he has asthma. Without
a medical clearance from a local doctor they would not let him go diving. As it turned out
however, the reef was so close to the surface of the water that snorkeling was almost as
good as diving. I was able to dive and enjoyed two dives that day accompanied by a guide.
After diving we had one
more thing to do -- fix the laptop. After several attempts by the local Sharp
Representative, the laptop was recalled to the states for Rapid Repair (free), and they
offered to reimburse us for all repair expenses to-date.
On November 9th
we stopped off for a quick visit with Steve and Sandi at their Atherton home in the
Tablelands. We spent 2 days with them and explored more of the surrounding area, visiting
two crater lakes, and doing a little bush walking and wandering around town.
On the morning of November
12th, we started our trek to the West. The coming weeks would be long, hot days of
driving into the real outback country of Australia!
Along the Bloomfield