Day 34: Port Douglas to Townsville
An appropriate plan of action post-holiday-within-a-trip would be to take a relatively light riding day to the nearest major town after Cairns. The main reason was to pull myself back into sprinting around the 6th largest country in the world. My Asian soul felt a little bit more deprived as I left Port Douglas, a sleepy seaside town boasting a generous offering of not one, but two Thai restaurants. Port Douglas was a lovely place to spend a birthday. I had the opportunity to visit the Great Barrier Reef and see a shark with my own eyes. Luckily, this shark was only pescatarian.
I had a quick cuppa in Port Douglas before leaving because breakfast didn't start until 730am. Perhaps brekky in Cairns would be ideal so I could at least get some mileage under my belt. The sun was rising to my left as I made my way down south toward Cairns. There was a mild breeze causing a shimmering reflection of the sun against the Pacific. There was a feeling of accomplishment as I reflected on getting into the water at Opal Reef knowing full well I can't swim. It's one of those times when adventure trumps fear, and while it doesn't feel good at the time (it's downright scary), you get to smile to yourself afterward knowing you conquered something. The riding during this trip is the easy part. It's the challenges of deep ocean, spiders, vast open spaces, and heat that make me uncomfortable.
Cairns becomes a ghost town on a Sunday. Not much was open as I cruised past previously lively cafes, and I couldn't be bothered with eating overpriced rolls in the CBD. Hopefully there's a roadhouse or something along the way and I can grab breakfast there.
The highway runs on the eastern edge of the Gadgarra National Park and I was treated to some very green, mountainous scenery that took my mind off of how humid it was. The drivers were a lot better than those north of Cairns, though I reckon some are driving back to their homes after seeking respite from Cyclone Debbie down south. Many of the vehicles were loaded with an assortment of homewares and bedding. They had a different, careful aura about them. As a rider, I could predict which vehicles are likely to be difficult to share the road with. It was as though they were afraid of seeing the damage with their own eyes.
But riding this highway was therapeutic. My arms were out airplaning and I was jamming to my favourite songs that were playing on my headset. The footpeg seemed to work well and it wasn't jiggling one bit. For some reason, I was in a really good mood, which was surprising seeing as though my next destination was Townsville. According to many Australians (from outside of Queensland), there are better places to spend the night. I had planned to stay there because I thought the name was amusing.
By noon I was in Ingham for a quick fuel and snack. I still hadn't eaten breakfast or lunch so I splurged on a very overpriced pancake, and didn't actually end up eating the pancake. So it was overpriced toppings of a pancake, aka fruit. Since the start of the trip, I've lost 6-7kg off my 60kg frame. It's not that I'm trying to make the cover of Cosmopolitan, it's just that it's been so hot for the last 3 weeks that I have no appetite whatsoever. It doesn't take long to get bored of outback food for a Vancouverite-Melbournian who is used to having the flavours of the world at her doorstep. But even without being picky, isn't exactly a plethora of food that wouldn't disintegrate in the desert heat. And there's only so many bananas and Clif Bars one can consume before going a bit mental. I have taken a whole roast chicken on my handlebars but that was only for a couple of kilometres.
I touched down into Townsville around 2pm and decided to go for a quick scoot around town to see the sights. It's actually not as bad as people have made it out to be, but it's a very quiet town indeed. I stopped at the base of Castle Hill for a photo so that I have at least one memory of the ride today. We parked, I got off Sheba, and... oh no. The right-side saddlebag was hanging softly and sagging lower than the left. It had opened in the wind and I was missing a petrol can. The bags didn't touch my tyre, thank goodness, but it must have looked concerning to all the people I overtook. Somewhere out there, a petrol can that has made 13,000km from Melbourne, is sitting on the Bruce Highway between Cairns and Townsville. At least this is the start of the East Coast leg. I'm just thankful I didn't lose it when I needed it.
The first meal of the day was at 230pm at an Aussie burger chain called Grill'd. Not much else was open and I didn't feel like doing a big search for food. I was famished. I don't even remember destroying the burger when it arrived but I do remember making conversation with a rather voluptuous lady who had nothing but a hot-pink bra and a pair of shredded jeans on. She was actually lovely and wished me well on my trip. Never judge a book by its cover.
When I finally made it to my Airbnb, I walked in on 3 people sharing a hot pot together. It was my host, Wei, and his two friends, who turned out to be very friendly though not very talkative. I finally showered and passed out in the bed for a bit before enjoying some late night burritos with Wei once I woke up.
It's the quieter ride days that can be the most enjoyable, and you remember the little things more vividly. It's good to cherish them now, because the next two days are going to be long.