I last wrote from Queensland and had a couple of relaxed days north of Cairns with some scuba-diving on the Great Barrier Reef thrown in. This was very much one of my boxes to tick, or my bucket list as I regularly hear it termed here. As it turns out although an amazing place to dive, I went in a boat with 40 other divers, and although the safety and equipment were all very much of a high standard, one felt like a number and it was not the joy of diving with a small group that I had enjoyed before.
|On a Ferry crossing into the Daintree reserve north of Cairns that sees the Great Barrier Reef blend in with the Rainforest...a beautiful area|
|This is sugar cane area, And there are literally hundreds and hundreds of miles of sugarcane as one drives in Queensland. they use about 10% ethanol in petrol, so the migration to contemporary fuel is beginning.|
|Looking down on Port Douglas, where I went diving from|
|an amazingly beautiful road that hugs the ocean, rainforest one side, the Great Barrier Reef the other.|
Back in Cairns my ever enthusiastic and generous hosts Jack and Veronica, let me get started stripping down the engine, with the plan to rebuild it. This we did and before long I was putting it back together again having harnessed all of Jack's good friends and contacts to expedite the process. I don't cry very often, but when I broke the final cylinder head nut off I have to admit to some wailing and blubbing. Luckily my mechanical angels descended and what with Max's know-how and strength, followed by Steve's kit and his own formidable know-how the day was rescued.
|Jack and Dan|
| Steve, who had worked on the crank, turned up to see the bike, only to find the engine out and a broken head bolt.|
It always takes a few days to organise the bike's shipment but I was lucky to find a very good shipper called Ellen of TLC International, who not only $500 less than the nearest other quote, but were a joy to work with.
Australia has been a bit of a mix for me. On the one hand I have met and reacquainted with nothing but the finest examples of the human condition, and enjoyed hospitality and help beyond any dream of expectation. However Batty was not reliable and I am sure I limited my adventures by sticking to pretty populated areas and thus missing out on some of the famous outback and probably the true flavours of the country. I have been making up for it by reading any few Neville Shute stories which romanticized a time from the 1950s. The other lingering feeling I had was that it is much more of a nanny state than I would have ever imagined. It took a while to realise it, and I'm probably saying this from a narrow perspective that doesn't reflect the total. That said every few miles on the road there are huge signs, ordering you to do that or to do this or you will die, every bar has huge signs with the house rules, no one ever walks a cross an empty road if the signs telling you not to. There are probably many other examples, but I was rather surprised. Maybe right from the word go there were lots of rules being made to manage the convict population, and it became a very much accepted way of people management?
Vancouver turned out to be a 30 hour trip, not uncomfortable or particularly tiring, but when I was selected from the passport queue to be taken in for special questioning by the border police for 2 hours, it made to feel like a most unwelcome criminal as they delves through every element of my luggage and private life.
It was pouring with rain for the 5 days I was in Vancouver waiting for the bikes to clear. Most of that time I spent in bed suffering from a bug caught on the plane. Plans to visit friends of friends did not materialise and I wanted to head south as quickly as I could.
Kathryn Rathke lives in Seattle with her husband Barry, and is a staggeringly brilliant illustrator. Kathryn has been with the agency for some 5 or 6 years and has visited us in the UK, so meeting up with her was a joy. It coincided with a party they were throwing for their wedding anniversary and 4 July.
|Kathryn and Barry|
|Kathryn on Batty, outside her lovely home, where I stayed for one very comfortable and jolly evening|
|Part of the Rathke tour included the world class public library. Breath takinking architecture, both in and out|
Kathryn very sportingly came on the back of Batty for a local trip around where they live and introduced me to a Seattle that was unique in terms of any tourist guide.
|Brian and Shirley Hardy. www.aussiesoverland.com.au/, amazingly they were staying at the same motel as I in Seattle, they had just driven up from South America, and were a great source of information. Great company and far too fleeting a meeting.|
|I enjoyed half a day at the Boeing flight Museum. Here is a replica of the Wright Brother 1st powered plane|
|Kati and Jens, www.boomer.de, another around the world couple who turned up at the motel...what a meeting place|
|Oregon coastline from Route 101...stunning road, even if one is worried about oil leaks and the like|