After sending the bubs on the horse truck for a six-week holiday, the next piece in the logistical jigsaw puzzle was getting us and our new ‘steed’ up to Cooktown, in far north Queensland. This is the northern terminus of the Bicentennial National Trail, where we would begin our long bike ride south to Biggenden.
Our bike was being freighted up from a warehouse in Melbourne, and after making arrangements for the guesthouse to sign for it and store it until our arrival, it was time to get ourselves up there. This involved:
-A lift to the Biggenden bus stop, followed by:
– A 3 hour bus ride to Bundaberg, followed by:
– AN 18 hour train ride to Cairns, followed by:
– A 5 hour bus trip to Cooktown, followed by :
I was starting to wonder it might be easier, or at least more pleasant to get there by foot. No matter, the next day we were off to Bundaberg, and with a day-long wait before we boarded the train that evening, we hit the shops, hoping to grab a few much-needed supplies.
Z managed to score a huge bag of Saddle Club books for a few dollars in the Op shop. This girl goes through books like water, so it would keep her going at least for the train trip.
Shopping for bike bits…
Next stop was the Bike shop. This would be my last and only chance to stock up on tools and spare parts before we began riding. Unfortunately, the owners were in the process of moving, but still super helpul and supportive and just got on with the job off getting me what I needed. I had done a bit of research, so had a list in hand, nevermind the fact that I had no idea what any of it was or what it looked like. Had I been handed a spoke key instead of a chain tool, I would have been none the wiser!
Unfortunately, the bloke in the next bike shop we visited seemed to be all too aware of this. While he tried his best to help us out with a few parts the other shop didn’t have, he had the unnerving habit of giggling away at basically anything I said. For example:
Bike dude: ”How far are you planning on riding?”
Me: ” around 2000kms”
Bike dude: ”Giggle, giggle”.
Me: ”Do you think I need to carry a chain whip?”
Bike Dude: ”Giggle, giggle”
Bike Dude: ”So who’s gunna put the bike together for you in Cooktown?”
Bike Dude: ” Big giggle, giggle.”
I found it quite unsettling and had to turn around a couple of times to see if there was something humorous going on over by the helmet rack. But no, I fear it was the idea of this mad woman and her young daughter attempting to ride a bike 2000km when they quite obviously knew nothing about it that was giving him the laughs. But there were two things HE didn’t know about us: that my daughter is as tough as they come, and that when we set my minds to something, we WILL do it. So I made hasty exit in the end, only to find said bike dude running down the footpath in pursuit, armed with a free bottle of tyre-puncture-prevention-liquid-stuff for us. Perhaps he had a little faith after all?
Off on the train…
We went to Sizzler for lunch at the salad bar for a special treat, which was like a trekkers’ paradise after eating mostly dehydrated specimens for months. In fact, since it was cheap Tuesday, we even went back for dinner before jumping on the train.
The Spirit of Queensland train runs from Brisbane to Cairns and back almost daily, so we hopped on at Bundaberg station that night and chiggedy-chugged our way north. Sizzler, shopping, buses, trains, stewards offering coffee- all so strange after being on foot in the bush for so long…
We arrived in Cairns late in the afternoon, and after lugging our candy-striped Chinese shopping bags full of camping gear across and down the street (our bike cargo trailer would also be arriving in Cooktown), we checked in to the Backpackers. We were getting softer by the minute, partaking in the pleasures of Cairns Central Shopping Centre and enjoying Sushi Train for dinner. After two weeks of stagnancy and living the good life, I was beginning to feel my hard-earned hiking muscles melting away!
Travelling the country, eating Sizzler and Sushi, using pricey horse transport, purchasing flashy tandem bicycles… People must be beginning to think I am rather cashed-up, but really I’m not. I try to live like a pauper most of the time, but spending on the BNT happens in bursts, which I’ll be writing about soon…
So anyway, up and away we were the next morning, taking the bus (which turned out to be rather more o a car) or the final leg to Cooktown. We shared the journey with some lovely Aboriginal folk who were off to visit family in Cooktown.
And at last, after days of journeying and weeks of preparation, here we were in Cooktown- about as far away from our bubs as we would ever be. We stayed at Hillcrest Guesthouse, where Laura was super helpful with picking stuff up from the post office and signing for the bike. Only it wasnt here yet. Eeek. Little did I know, we would in town for the next 10 days!