Tonight I don’t want to write the “notes”. That is what we, Michelle and I, call my diary entries. Most of the time, I don’t want to write them because I don’t know where to start. I’m just too tired and confused to find the first sentence. After the first sentence, even the first word, I’m unstoppable. You can ask my former classmates. They would give me all their dissertations to write in exchange or them doing my mathematics assignment (and other things I sucked at). They would also get me to do the PowerPoint and talk through them. They would just have to say a few more things just so that it didn’t look like I was the only one to talk.
Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked.. I found the courage to write down those notes thanks to a trick. I started by complaining and saying that I didn’t want to write, now that I’ve said that, the words will flow naturally.
I still don’t really know why I’m doing this diary. One might say that it’s a great thing to show my grandchildren, who will probably be bored to death and not understand why what I did was important or difficult. They would probably be texting on their phone while I talk to them. Although I’m not sure phones will exist in the same way we know them nowadays. Maybe they will be thinking and sending text messages telepathically, which will make it harder for me to see that they are not listening. I think I will tell them about the blog, and they can just take a look if they want. If not, who cares. Not me.
I think this is going to be a long chapter as I haven’t even started to talk about my day on the trail.
Back to our business. The real reason I started this blog was because I was inspired by the work of Michael R. He created the template with the daily entries, the elevation graphs and distances. I would have not started the National Trail without his blog. Thanks to his blog I knew how bad it was going to be so that I was prepared. I was going to shit myself, and I did just that (sometimes literally). Writing has helped me to stay sane at the start when I would not see anyone for days and not have any access to the internet. It’s a good way of externalising what I went through, so that it does not stay inside me and rot there forever. Writing in the evening is like saying goodbye to the day that has been and acknowledging what happened. The good, the bad, the ugly.
I’m conscious of the reader’s patience at this stage. Don’t worry I will actually talk about how my day went. This could be the second last post on this blog, so let me be selfish and write about whatever the fuck I want. When I started to write I had no readers, so I didn’t care about what I was writing. I thought that once my friends would start reading it, it would be harder to remain so open and vulnerable. But it didn’t happen that way. I’ve learnt to care less about what people think. Actually, let me rephrase that; I think what people care about is that I’m just a human being doing stupid things at times, and they want to see how I still manage to get by and finish this adventure.
Back to this morning, finally.
As I wake up, I know I have a massive chore ahead of me. I’m not leaving until my bike is fixed. It started to make awful noises yesterday. This is a bike rider’s nightmare. A pushbike must be silent, any noise is an indication that something is wrong. You can almost feel the parts wearing down as you hear the cracks, clicks and other sounds. Being 100 km north of the last bike shop, it is a major concern. I have a 106km to go and I’ve been announcing my soon to come success to many people. I bet the universe will be there to push me down, through a last minute mechanical failure. Just to remind me to stay humble and punish my ego.
It has been raining during the night and it keeps on raining at times. I’m struggling to deal with the people here, the tourists. I don’t mind locals, but tourists are something else. I’m a tourist too, but I don’t bow my inflatable mattress with a hand pump for 10 minutes in the middle of the night, next to the tent of a very tired cyclist. I decided this Spanish tourist was even more annoying tonight than the kids making unbearable noises with the pool table. Endlessly moving the balls into the holes over and over again.
This morning, another random person, approaches me to tell me that the track ahead is very hilly, I just want to ask them what they are trying to get out of me by saying that. First of all he has no idea where I come from and what I consider easy or difficult. Second of all, I find it unnecessary that he projects his own fear of climbing hills on a push bike on to me. It’s really not a good conversation starter early in the morning when I’m dealing with mechanical issues. At least he could have the decency to encourage me instead of just making a statement and wait for my reaction. What am I supposed to answer? He leaves me with the hard job of finding an impossible answer. My answer was “Well, you know, I’ve done all this off road riding, I’m used to it, I’ll be alright”. When instead I really wanted to say “What on earth do you know about me and how much I can handle?”. I think though next time I’ll remain silent and wait for him to continue his monologue. Ok maybe he was a nice dude and he just wanted to chat. He just happened to choose the wrong way to start. In general, I think that people are capable of a lot more than they think. If only they would get off their ass and just try to climb a big hill. Let’s make it the biggest and toughest climb they can physically handle. That way, after that effort they would think that the tiny hills are a piece of cake. That is called getting out of your comfort zone and pushing your boundaries in order to grow.
Anyway I just needed to vent because I have this situation every time I camp with tourists. Every single time. Actually sometimes three times in a span of 20 minutes. Usually at breakfast time when I need my space. The other thing that annoys me is how many people everyday ask me where I’ve come from. I sometimes don’t even have an answer as I’ve just come from the bush. I can probably name the closest creek I camped at but I’m almost sure they won’t have a clue where it is. Before I manage to explain that I rarely ride on the bitumen road, I’ve lost hope or made a friend.
After two hours of messing with my front wheel, listening, tweaking, listening again, loosening up a spoke, oiling them, I finally find the issue. A bolt on the hub was loose. Too easy. I put everything back together and take the opportunity to true the wheels again and inflate my tires. I’m now ready to go.
It’s 11am, sunny and humid. I’ve sweat as much doing this repair as if I was actually riding my bike. So I have a quick shower, a second breakfast, and I’m off.
The first hills are ok. I walk on one of them and think to myself, “That idiot didn’t know what he was talking about”. At the 10 km mark, I start going over the range. That is serious business. Pushing the bike for 20 minutes straight up, gaining 200m elevation. One ute even stops to ask if I want a lift. I decline politely. Very nice of him to stop and offer. After the third big nasty hill, I must admit this is hard work and the small talk man was quite right about the hills. Still, sometimes I prefer not to know.
I’m busy riding and pushing and getting covered in dust every time a car drives past. Everytime I imagine that they are thinking “Who is that idiot on a pushy!” or maybe some words of admiration.
There is no good spot for lunch. I delay stopping until 3pm, at this point I feel like the worst is behind me.
The Bloomfield track is entertaining to drive on a 4wd as a tourist, but being on a bike, I’m having second thoughts. Really it’s a lot of dust and pollution, cutting the rainforest in two, damaging it forever. There is not much wildlife to see on the road, and nobody would stop anyway, because there is nowhere to stop and a continuous flow of cars. I think going through the rainforest on a boardwalk would be an excellent idea. How great could it be to extend that for bicycles. A low impact ride, giving you the feeling to fly through and above the rainforest.
Back to reality, I have arrived at Wujal Wujal, an indigenous community. When I came to visit it years ago, it looked pretty desolate. But today I’m thinking it’s really pretty. Everything looks looked after and the houses are now colourful. Even better, there is an actual bridge to cross the river. Last time we had to drive through it on a concrete causeway. I remember that we gave a lift to an indigenous man and drove him to his home. He could barely speak English. I now believe that he could speak English but was a little too drunk.
Today I’m getting a lot of greetings from everybody and the kids are asking myriad of questions even though I’m not stopping.
There is a very nice campground and it’s advertised that caravans are welcome to stay for a night. But it is empty. I imagine that this place might have a bad reputation. It looks like such a great spot though.
As I leave town, I observe the presence of an empty bottle of alcohol on the side of the road. Not sure the alcohol ban is respected by everyone. I find myself uneasy with this rule. I understand that authorities are trying to deal with the alcohol issues in indigenous communities, but banning it feels like depriving adults of their right to buy and consume alcohol. Feels to me like there was a subclass of people who don’t get the same rights. Maybe that is because of my French background. In France, equality means what it means, and the law is the same for everybody.
By 5pm I arrive in Ayton, a tiny town. There is a sign for a caravan park. I think I know this place so I was looking forward to arriving. It is the one I had in mind. It has a great camp kitchen, lot of trees and the new owners are nice.
I enquire about beers which I’ve been craving for, but I can only buy one if I buy some food. The $25 set dinner is looking too pricey, but I get an ok deal with $10 sandwich and a beer. A reasonable compromise.
It’s only 7pm when I enter my tent but I’m already exhausted. I love being in this tent, it feels like I’m sleeping under the stars, but away from the sand flies and mosquitoes and with the comfort of my bedding. That is one thing I will miss after this adventure.
Tomorrow I should arrive in Cooktown. One big hill and 65km to go. I’m already thinking about how to get back to Cairns. I’d love to spend more time in the Daintree national park. There are many things I wanted to do but didn’t, but I’m not sure if I’m willing to ride those hills again. I think my priority should be to get on time back to Cairns and start packing up. Having the chance to go for a swim in the ocean or at the Great Barrier Reef would be a nice reward after all of this.