Riding local, riding abroad. Doesn't matter. "One less car" bike commuting and "Bikes Belong" advocacy, plus "I ride solo" bicycle travel. Racing is fun, but there are so many equally great reasons to ride.
My recent headlamp failure gave me an important "lessons learned" experience. I don't presently have a flashlight app on my smartphone. No reason, really, apart from procrastination. I used to have one, but I must have erased it sometime. Or perhaps I never had it. I get forgetful at times, which is irritating but usually not fatal. To hike out on the Border Track in the pitch black I used the "settings" screen, because it has the whitest background. I keep refreshing the screen by tapping it, because it's on a screen saving timer. In the pitch black I wasn't about to dig through my backpack to find my glasses and change the timeout settings on my phone, I can imagine there are some nerdy types who are so familiar with their phone that they would do this. That's not me. I was stressed out, being alone on an unfamiliar trail. I kept telling myself to stop panicking. There was nothing in the bush to hurt me. In August it's too cold for any snakes or large lizards to be out. The only thing observing me in the dark were the local birds, or a wallaby or two, which tend to be nocturnal. That, paradoxically, was reassuring. My being caught by darkness was a good lesson. The flashlight app will be downloaded, and I'll update my standard packing list to include spare batteries and a 2nd light. When you backpack, you have to minimise weight. But some things give you a kick in the pants, and you learn. In 2012 I had a serious accident in New Zealand, which involved a broken ankle and a very exciting helicopter airlift off the Cape Brett Peninsula. That event impacted my life ever since in many unexpected, often unwelcome ways. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger I suppose.
This bee eater wanted to be part of the action, fluttering at my shoulder and hoping for a handout. Signs everywhere ask people not to feed the wildlife, a request routinely ignored by the look of things. Day trippers have associated OReillys with bird feeding since it first opened, so old habits die hard.
These guys are half the size of the satin bower birds, so they make up for size deficiency with extravagant electric yellow wing and head patches. Take that, you Satins! This male was sitting in a tree near the picnic table watching me photograph his blue/black rainforest rival.
This bower belongs to the bird I saw. It's decorated with blue plastic straws and blue pieces of soft drink bottle caps. It's downhill of a picnic table, maybe 10 m from the entrance to OReillys Guesthouse.
So, did I hike 22+km for nothing?!
During my hike yesterday, I'd hoped to catch one of these fat pigeon-sized guys doing their thing in a bower, a patch of forest floor with dried grass formed into a basket shaped display pad, lined with more grass, pieces of stone and chunks of blue plastic. Not one sighted, although I could hear them scuffling in the forest duff.
The O'Reillys were homesteaders from the early C20th, who grubbed out a living as dairy farmers hereabouts. It's only fitting that I have a pancake slathered in homemade strawberry jam and real whipped cream as part of my well earned "brekkie"
Monday at 6:30am. I finished the hike in the dark, stumbling out using my cell phone as emergency flashlight. My headlamp went out due to faulty battery. Funny how that works. You test it at home and it's as bright as a car headlight... By the time I reached the guest house I'd done about 25km, which is more than I usually do as a backpack. I was exhausted, lost, anxious, unable to even see the campground, and in tears, limping due to blister on left pinkie toe and my screaming right knee with its meniscus tear. Yeah, big fun. Too tired to eat or take a shower, I walked to some kids in a group of tents, and 2 guys walked me over to #5 with their flashlights. Overhead was a spectacular view of the Milky Way, but I was too exhausted to care. Bless Ben, one of the guys from #10. He loaned me his flashlight for the evening. I set up camp, got into my sleeping bag, depressed, sweaty and dehydrated, with what felt like a throbbing 2-inch blister on one side, and my swollen knee shooting pain in all directions. But that's the magic of 10 hours sleep. I woke to the spectacular rainforest bird chorus, took a hot shower, changed clothes, returned the flashlight to campsite 10, then walked up to O'Reillys at 7:30 for their $35 breakfast buffet. Hadn't eaten since noon the previous day, so I tried everything they offered.
What an anniversary!
Some of the wonderful names are Hobwee Creek, Bower Bird Creek, and red stone filled Dragoon Bird Creek. The rocks in the creeks are also slippery with moss or mud. I'm trying to avoid all the ankle twisters that lie in wait.
The track is warm or chilly, depending on its geographic orientation to the winter sun here. It is full of palms, creepers, vines with hooks that would work well as fishing nets, mosses, ferns, tree ferns and aerial plants, called staghorns. It's nice to walk through occasional patches of sun.
August 27 is an important date for me. I've decided to honor it by doing a special hike. So, for 2016, I've chosen to hike the Border Track, 21.4 km from Binna Burra to O'Reillys Guest House, both within Lamington National Park, SE Queensland.
I walked over to the beach after having a late afternoon latte. It takes me a few days to get comfortable driving on the left, so I've learned to take it easy, Yesterday, the weather was grey with heavy rain. However, the famed Gold Coast weather is back today. Very mellow, sunny, warm with no humidity, compared with December. Everyone's wearing wetsuits so I guess the water temperature is a bit cool. Pretty nice though.
Decided it was time for me to buy a new bathing suit. I've had great luck with this brand, which fits as well as it looks. I've been neither blonde nor a swimsuit model in my life, but the beach lifestyle is my cultural heritage, and I know it's possible to look good no matter what size, shape or age you happen to be.
My trip from Sydney to the Gold Coast was a less standard route, given limitations of time and price. So I flew to Ballina in northern NSW and took a mini bus to Byron Bay and thence to Surfer's Paradise. Had a 4 hour wait in Byron so had time to try something creative in Australia's health food Mecca. This is cold brew coffee with coconut milk and served with toasted coconut shreds and dried rose petals. An unusual riff on the iced coffee idea. I needed to cut the acidity of the brew with local molasses. Ahh I'm in trendy Byron for sure.
Another of Sydney's iconic images. Sadly, I just missed the last performance of the local opera season by a couple of days. This crazy scenic confection makes McCaw Hall in Seattle look like a Lego construction.
The guests at this Chinese couple's future wedding are going to be wowed by this backdrop. It's a shame that they'll only have their poster sized wedding shot up for an hour or so at the reception back in China. I saw many couples staging their promo shots when I was teaching in Tongling back in 2014. Seems a lifetime ago.
One of the most extraordinary locations (above a C18th to early c20th former slum now major archaeological site) for a youth hostel. Perfect for some serious pub crawling through Australia's oldest pubs, if I'm so inclined tonight.
I'm visiting family for 2 weeks. Sydney's late winter weather is hotter than Seattle's! What you see when you take the train from the airport to Circular Quay. It seems that all Sydneysiders do is stroll around and stop to eat at sidewalk cafes. Ha