Diving and Driving

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Standing on the balcony of an 8th floor apartment looking out over the
brightly lit night scene of Cairns, beer in hand, cool breeze blowing, we felt a huge relieve and sense of achievement to have made it this far north. We intended to only go as far as Hervey Bay from the Gold Coast, then that extended to the Whitsundays. The influence of Sir David Attenborough, however, changed our plans again. For me, one of the greatest people to have graced this beautiful planet, and certainly one of the greatest Britons; his documentaries always inspiring and showing just how breathtakingly wonderful this planet is. Australian TV was just showing the latest documentary about his visits to the Great Barrier Reef. We watched in awe and could not pass up the opportunity to dive on the famous reef. So the destination changed, we arrived in Cairns after cycling over 2,400km from the Gold Coast. The cold beer went down a treat.

We had booked our dives with Silver Swift and early in the morning, we excitedly walked…jogged…ran to the harbour. We boarded the boat that sped us out to one of nature’s wonders. Soon we were at Flynn Reef, checking our SCUBA gear, the pressure in the tanks and getting kitted up in our BCDs. Suddenly, splash, we dived into the water and immersed ourselves in the underwater beauty of the largest living structure in the world. Diving through narrow tunnels and past towering cliffs of coral, we knew why Sir David loved this place so much. We swam side by side with sea turtles, who curiously looked at us before heading to the next place to graze, we came face to face with white-tip reef sharks, and we cruised above rays hiding in the sand – all going about their daily lives among some of the most beautiful and diverse coral. Sadly, there were a few parts of coral that had suffered from bleaching, due to the high temperatures of the water over the summer. Only 20C higher than normal but a devastating effect on the reef. Still the government and big greedy energy companies want to dig more coal and send enormous oil tankers through parts of the reef, destroying the reef further and this planet. It’s a wonder why funding is being cut for renewable energy sources yet money is still being ploughed into the destructive, finite nature of coal and oil.

Watching the water and what lurks beneath in the beautiful Great Barrier Reef

After three dives, exploring the stunning underwater landscape, we cruised back to the harbour, exhausted and happy.

Now we had to figure out where we were going next…

maps, tea, planning, road trip

Luckily, we managed to stay with a wonderful family just outside of Cairns. We cycled up the Gillie, this time with no panniers to weigh us down, went mountain biking on local trails and through cane fields, cruised around the mazes of mangroves on the lookout for crocodiles, and went in search for fish and crab for dinner.

Crab for dinner!

Toying with the idea of cycling a loop inland, we finally decided how to make our way back south, and how to make our adventure more interesting (and pleasurable!)…we would cheat and get back to Brisbane in a campervan! A lazy few days off the saddle saw us pick up a campervan, with the bikes in the back, and deliver it back to the depot in Brisbane. We got a relocation deal through imoova which was $1 a day, so long as we got it back in 4 days – how could we not give our legs a well-deserved rest?!

Road trip

We used the opportunity to drive up to the Atherton Tablelands and go inland on the Great Inland Way. We became proper tourists, even taking a small detour to go and see a waterfall. And we know how much tourists love a good waterfall! On our first morning in the van, we drove through some wonderful fertile and hilly lands. The further we drove, the more inland we got, and the less of anything there was. We drove for hours and only saw 2 cars (and waved furiously when we did). We were feeling quite smug about not having to cycle in this desolate, hot, empty land where water didn’t exist – except in the ice-cold fridge we had in the campervan, and we of course made good use of the air-con, getting the van to a very chilled temperature to the point where we may have even felt cold. Bliss.

Long road ahead

Any stops out of the van, we soon warmed up in the sun, and flies from miles around sensed we were there and raced to the corner of our eyes and mouths where they desperately tried to suck any moisture away. This would have been painfully annoying if we were cycling. Instead, we hopped back into the cold comfort of the van. We drove for hundreds on kilometres past a countless number of creeks that were bone dry. Again, painfully annoying if we were cycling – it tends to be something we need a lot of, water. Now though, we jumped into the back and grabbed an ice-cold bottle from the fridge. Still feeling smug about our brilliant decision.

On our 4th day we sped into Brisbane and got the van back with only 10 minutes to spare. We loaded up our bikes, got on the saddle and pedalled towards our hosts for the night, the same family who hosted us our first time through Brisbane. 4 days was enough time away from the saddle, and it felt good to be pedalling again!

Brisbane to Narda Lagoon (Laidley)

The Gold Coast was now close, but we hadn’t done much cycling recently so we took a detour and headed out west towards Ipswich. Oh how we had missed cycling. The cycle lanes in Brisbane are brilliant and took us most of the way to Ipswich.

Brisbane cycle super highway

We pedalled along happily, waving and saying hello to all our fellow cyclists, something that is done by almost everyone in the UK. Maybe it was just today, but the Australian cyclists however, seemed miserable. Most don’t wave, some just look disgruntled, and others try their very hardest to ignore you. With that, our waves and hollers of “hello” just become even more exaggerated, and even a little flamboyant.

Brisbane to Laidley cycle route Strava
Brisbane to Laidley cycle route 91.2km

Laidley to Toowoomba

The morning started fresh and foggy – it was nice to be further south and have cooler weather, but the fog was hiding the climb up to Toowoomba. As we pedalled nearer and back onto the highway, the fog cleared and revealed to us where we were heading. Not quite as bad as our first day of climbing up Tamborine Mountain, but a climb to warm our legs nonetheless – 10% for 4km.

The Great Dividing Range

Laidley to Toowoomba cycle route Strava
Laidley to Toowoomba cycle route 63.1km

Toowoomba to Warwick

We were warned of a short, red-headed policeman named Guy in the small town of Clifton that we would be cycling through, who apparently hates cyclists, sadly we didn’t meet him; I can imagine the great conversation we would have had with him about our adventures. We gladly avoided the highway, cycling through what apparently is redneck country and the ‘Bible belt’ – and soon on to gravel roads, which Lindsay didn’t seem to enjoy – I suspect it was because it would have been harder to cycle away from rednecks.

We eventually found our way to the info centre in Warwick where the lady working there happily got us a kettle for us to make coffee and noodles. We then went to find our campsite, a small park near in town. When we arrived we were greeted with ‘NO CAMPING’ signs. We debated waiting til dark to pitch the tent but the park was next to a busy road, so we went to the local showgrounds where we had been told we may be able to camp. Looking around we couldn’t find anything, so we asked a lady who was sat outside her house in her car. Her name was Natalie, and she told us we were able to camp in the garden. She quickly detracted this offer, and upgraded to an offer of staying in a spare bedroom. This was the best unexpected stay we have had so far. Possibly because of the kindness of Natalie, the fact her husband was a butcher and brought home fresh steak for dinner, or the cupcakes we had for desert that her young boys had baked.

Toowoomba to Warwick cycle route Strava
Toowoomba to Warwick cycle route 92.7km

Warwick to Beaudesert

It was a very chilly start this morning, which was great, time for a jumper at last! We warmed ourselves up with the gentle climb to the top of the scenic rim where the highway then descended the other side. Climbs on touring bikes fully loaded are hard work, descents are an invigorating joy: blasted with fresh air, incredible views and the legs got a rest for over 8kms!

Another stop at a local tourist information centre, I walked in and asked the lady if we could get wifi and hot water. I left with neither but acquired the knowledge that 80% of Australia’s carrots are grown in the area near Boonah and was shown on a map where the major farms and processing factories are. Fascinating. I definitely need a coffee now.

During a conversation on the bikes, we had debated when we would need to use our sleeping bags – our guesses were well of – tonight would be the night when we crept into the warmth of our down sleeping bags…

Camping under the milky way

Warwick to Beaudesert cycle route Strava
Warwick to Beaudesert cycle route 119.6km

Beaudesert to Gold Coast

…and we were glad we had when we woke this morning with frost on the outside of the tent!

Over the past few days we had experienced full-on summer sun, the glorious feeling of autumnal freshness, and now this morning we awoke to full-on winter! It took a bit of warming up, but soon we were back in the Gold Coast with our friends enjoying more Persian delights. It felt like we were back home.

Beaudesert to Gold Coast cycle route Strava
Beaudesert to Gold Coast cycle route 76.6km

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