Splash, splosh, splish
That was the terrifying sound I awoke to that morning. Luckily, far from the flood I had feared, it was just aqua-Maizey spashing around in the nearby creek in some doomed attempt to get clean.
We hit the road about 7.45am and it took a while to shake off the cobwebs – I could have sworn my bike wasn’t as heavy as it felt and it was really kicking my ass on the climbs. I guess that’s what you get for taking enough clothes to survive an ice age into a place that is hotter than the inside of a slow cooker.
Still, despite the struggle, we were wheeling through some cracking, moist, tropical surroundings, and every now and again I was catching soul-cleansing wafts of raw vegetation.
After an hour or so, we hit up a driver reviver run by a couple of chatty volunteer OAPs. Driver revivers, for those of you who don’t know, are roadside stops offering free tea, coffee and biscuits to prevent truck drivers getting cranky (or, you know, falling asleep and dying in a ball of fire) on their epic journeys up and down the east coast. That particular driver reviver had run out of tea and coffee, but we managed to get a couple of biscuits in. It wasn’t enough, but it had to do.
A few kilometres further on, we were pulled over for riding 2 abreast on a hard shoulder wide enough to park several of the giant trucks that had been abusing us all day. I intelligently concluded that policemen in Australia are, in fact, the breasts.
Still not having eaten properly, we pushed through to Innisfail and stopped to pick up some delicious fresh mangoes (a ploy of ours for the trip). During the stop, we got talking to an avid cyclist named Mick who quickly invited us to lunch at his place down the road. We accepted his kind offer, and were soon looking over/in his amazing hammock-tent and playing with a camping stove he had made himself from a coke can.
All the while we were enjoying the company of Mick’s grandkids. Leo, the youngest of them played a fun game with us called “Threaten the visitors with physical violence and then act on it”. Never before had my bladder been used as a punch bag, and let me tell you, it was delightful. For the next several hours, it totally didn’t hurt to pee.
Mick, very kindly, offered to take us to the nearby beach, and we spent a couple of hours playing in the sea and sitting on the sand. However, the absolute highlight of the excursion was getting to see a cassowary.
Allegedly the most aggressive bird on the planet, cassowaries are not to be messed with, and if Alan and I were under any illusions about that, we had Leo to remind us several times that if we got too close, “his claws would be the laaast thing we’d seeeeeeee!!!!!!”. Seriously though, it had big-ass talons.
Leo was also apparently right. Male cassowaries stand roughly the height of a person (maybe a tad shorter) and they have a gruesome reputation of tearing out the innards of their victims. The reason is that young cassowaries are looked after by their fathers, and their fathers are dreadfully protective. If you go near the little ones, the father goes bananas. Think of it like this: you, a 37 year old man, goes to your 16 year old girlfriend’s house to pick her up for a date. The girl has told her father that her boyfriend is coming to collect her, and he is unhappy to say the least. Just before you arrive, she tells her father that she lost her virginity to you. He then opens the door and finds out that you are older than him. He also happens to be the Incredible Hulk.
The point is, these birds are capable of unleashing something monstrous.
Lastly, they also resemble dinosaurs. Their faces are red and blue, and for some bizarre reason they have a horn. Presumably to sift through your guts after it has spilled them all over the floor. In any case, anything that can both fly and has a sharp object attached to its head makes me uneasy. Take Nazgul-birds, Pteradactyls and Unicorns for example. Mean, extinct and smarmy. Shouldn’t trust ‘em.
I now realise that cassowaries can’t fly, but I am too lazy to remove the last paragraph.
We thanked Mick for his incredible hospitality, said goodbye to the grandkids, and hit the road again. It was late afternoon and we had some wonderfully atmospheric cycling alongside the purpling mountains. The sun nestled in amongst them as if they were a crumpled blanket being pulled up higher and higher to its golden ears.
My hypnosis was broken by a rustling in a roadside bush. In a split second, a creature emerged and bounded into the open plain. It was my first kangaroo. “ooooOOOOOOOO” I squealed. Alan chuckled.
Arriving in Tully, we stealthily set up camp and got our heads down. Great day. Not huge distance, but a riot nonetheless.