Australia LP: Track 1 (Queensland)

Last airports for the trip!

Darwin Airport was a slight shock to the system; the Australian-ness of it all truly whacks you sideways, knocks you for six, blows your socks off: the broad accents and shoulders, the twang of conversations peppered with 'yeah' and 'yeah-nah' with equal ferocity, the freckled skins, the crows feet wrinkled eyes from too much squinting and smiling, the collection of multicultural faces where no one is less 'ocker' than the bloke or sheila next to them. We don't use that word, by the way; women, even in the thickest Australian colloquialism are never sheilas but chicks, birds, babes or girls, unless perhaps you're over seventy or starring in a movie, otherwise it's a farce.

We sat at the sunny midpoint of our journey home, people watching, OUR OWN people, feeling familiarity and total alienation, they were somehow all instantly recognisable as Australian; we wondered if they recognised our nationality too. Within about ten minutes of putting through our luggage to the connecting flight to Cairns, we'd spent $20 on two soy cappuccinos and two “healthy” muffins. Australia, you expensive motherland of ours, we've missed you.

Cairns: family, boats and dogs

Alighting in Cairns airport was only a slight variation on a theme; more “ozzy” Aussies than you can shake a stick at: the more than occasional winning combination of stubby shorts and steel-capped work boots, the easy-going smiling faces and the slightly nasal greetings to all who've arrived on this, our vast shared red soil. Alee has an Uncle and Aunty in Cairns, and once we'd wheeled the box containing TanNayNay outside, a very tall, bald and moustachioed man began dragging it away. Luckily, this fellow wasn't dressed incognito in stubbies, and his lanky loftiness indicated some shared genes with Al – Alby smiled and hugged us both tight, as though we were one of his children – what a welcome. From there, we loaded up the rest of the stuff into the trailer and journeyed into the foothills behind Cairns, Alby's beautiful thoroughly louvred home.

Helen came to the door beaming and enveloped us in an embrace of her own, warm delicious cooking smells wafting out with her, we were in for some serious nurturing it was obvious. Almost immediately, one of Alby's sons Brad rocked up and invited Al out for a mountain bike ride and, despite having been awake for at least twenty four hours, and having travelled thousands of kilometres, Al joined him and lived up to his true nature schooling every other rider on the Cairns world championships mountain bike circuit.

That night showed us just how well cared for we would be; almost the whole family rocked up. Namely Helen and Alby's sons and their partners, Jacob & Chloe (with their golden retriever puppies Lola and Shae), Aaron & Claire (whose seven terrier cross puppies were living on the house's lower balcony) and Brad & Angie. Grant, the eldest lives in Sydney and works like a fiend so we didn't see him but perhaps would get to on our amble down the coast? As if those collection of happy hungry mouthes weren't enough, Helen's nephew Jason and his two mates from Ballarat, Rob and Kyle were up and in on the food fiesta that is Cairns for a week.

We stayed with Alby and Helen for the best part of a week, resting up, rebuilding and reworking our tandem bicycle, and generally getting a good feel for our Australian leg of the journey. Alby and Helen own a catamaran, a great white two-hulled beauty complete with multiple bedrooms, a kitchen and the most beautiful breakfast deck in the world. One full day was spent luxuriating on this luscious vessel on a casual float out to Green Island with Jacob, Jason, Rob and Kyle – luckily the land-based boys didn't object to lending many hands, we're not sure how anyone manages a boat with just two seafarers, there are about ten thousand ropes to be pulled and tied and unhooked and rebooked and watched and hoisted and secured… Not to mention steering and propelling the boat in the right direction!

The beginning of the end: free camping with Grey Nomads

It was time to go, time to set out on our last leg of the journey, what a strange feeling! TanNayNay looked shiny and new, this was the first time her wheels had spun on our home soil, she posed happily for the camera with us and Alby and Helen before hoisting us on her back and down the road. We hadn't got ten kilometres before Alby pulled up alongside us, waving Al's much-loved DGK singlet out the window, we'd left it behind on purpose, but sweet Alby was so generous to chase us down in case we'd forgotten it accidentally.

Wheeling lightly around the Carins town centre, we picked up supplies and some unwanted attention – making a completely legal, perfectly timely right hand turn, a fellow in a ute took issue with us and jammed his fist out of the window at us in a middle finger salute. Ah, Australians, can't live with them, can't live without them. Upon that less-than-desirable note, we cycled down the Bruce Hwy, eager to get away from bicycle-intolerant people. Twenty minutes along, a big white troopy pulled up in front of us and a diminutive woman hopped out, all smiles and hellos. She and her daughters had just returned from a bicycle tour of their own in South East Asia and were very jealous to see us still on ours; they were itching to get back to 'our' way of life. Waving manically, they drove off into the distance and we were buoyed to continue, relishing in the thought of only the occasional bicycle-allergic folks and the rest, bike-loving.

Kat detected some whirring of wheels, not TanNayNay's but another rider! A girl was tailing us, utilising our bulk to giver herself a little bit of a draught. She'd got so caught up in admiring us though that she'd forgotten to overtake! We chatted with Carlye for a while, discovering that of not only was she a roadie from Victoria but that of course she knew our bike people too – it's an inscestuous world, the biking one.

The great success story of Wikicamps

You've heard of Wikileaks, but have you heard of Wikicamps? Perhaps not quite the same, but in a similar vein: sharing of information that everyone should be privy to: this time, where in Australia are camping grounds where one can pop the tent for free? Camping in Australia, let it be said, is world class: toilet blocks and power outlets, wildlife galore, and a fairly easy-going attitude all round, however, you pay the price for these luxuries, often dolling out more than you'd pay for a fine dining experience in the same location. No, Australia is not known for its cheap camping; and yet, there we were, along with sixty or seventy other people, making the most of a free camping spot. Perfectly located next to a babbling brook and a quaint little sugar train river crossing, lorikeets chirping in every eucalypt, toilets so squeaky clean you could see your reflection in the floors, and all for free!

Babinda looked like an inviting if tiny little town, but we made an executive decision before we even knew the extent of the camping wonders that lay just around the bend. We parked ourselves next to the river, showered in hot water (!!) and felt pretty happy with this, our first day on the road in Australia.

Next day, Kat managed to get some lurgy or other, awake most of night not able to breathe for the snot; luckily we weren't in any real hurry so we decided to stay another day. Kat rested her aching body, feeling a bit frustrated to be already slowed by sickness and pain, but the Babinda camp ground treated us well and so too did the local supermarket: hummus! In the middle of nowhere, hummus was available in the supermarket, brilliant! Luckily we stayed, becuase we met a rather magical human whom we may have missed had we left early: Brutha Monkey emerged late morning from inside his enormous colourful bus of love. We'd been admiring the paintings and indeed the old bus herself before this creature unfolded himself from the narrow doorway.

Brutha Monkey was of indeterminate age: perhaps fifty, perhaps seventy; his spirit however, was youthful, brimming over with secrets and cheeky smiles. Every tale he told was laced with magic, sparkled with awe and whipped out of his motor mouth with great lashings of time; he rather enchanted us. Kat was warmed by his presence and even Al was tickled a certain shade of vermillion. He drove off in a purple-black plume of diesel, leaving behind a Facebook contact and a bit of confusion.

At 8am the next day we were ready to leave, having made some loose plans before even arriving in Australia. We'd solidified a stay with a friend of a friend's parents – more on that later – and so we had a few days up our sleeves to roll around the roads before we could impose ourselves on them. We decided to take the longer, windier, in-land route and make use again of the glorious Wikicamps. Get used to seeing that word, because it'll likely punctuate the rest of this Australian leg!

Rolling past the rather monotonous cane fields and turning off that highway named Bruce, we found ourselves winding up and down some hills, the trees becoming thicker and the hue turning green instead of platinum, blonde and tarmac. In this ripe green viridity, we passed a strange place called Paronella Park, a castle-like structure mossed over and dripping with ferns. Thicker still were the cars and caravans full of tourists, mostly people tracking up from the South we guessed because the popularity of the park in the middle of nowhere (there's a lot if that in Australia!) could only be attributed to some excellent marketing, and we'd seen nothing more than a small sign back at the Bruce Highway turnoff 40 kilometres back.

A young woman invited us in, offering an inedible package deal (two for the price of one plus a night's free camping!) however, being the frugal Alleykats we are, even the aggregated $52 was too much for one night. We rode on after crossing the Paronella Park swing bridge and marvelling at the strange collection of mossy buildings that made this place look like something out of the iron ages, definitely out of place on the coastal roads of Far North Queensland!

Liverpool Creek was our next destination, we arrived just before ‘The Rush’ – and only a few campervans, camper4x4s and campertroopies had set themselves up – taking the best 'possies' (that's Australian for positions, said pozzy) of course. We nabbed the best of the rest and set about making some late lunch, it was that early we'd decided to settle! Lucky thing too, becuase within the hour four or five monsters lumbered in, great white and grey bodies, some balanced on two wheels, some a plimmoth on four, large enough to block out the weak sunshine. They settled themselves, lots of toing and froing, parking just so; they rolled out their verandas, they plugged in their batteries, they angled their aerials and satellite dishes and were ready to stay. We'd run into one or two of them as they refilled their canteens or used the toilets like the rest of us plebs (instead of dirtying their own loos inside the vehicle, y'understand). What a life.

Baz came over early in the piece and invited us to warm up by his fire, we said we'd be around at dusk. It was easy to tell which caravan was theirs; great billows of thick white smoke pumped out of a blackened pot belly boiler, their lights were dim, but bright enough for us to see that Baz wasn't the doddery old fellow we'd originally had him pinned for, no, he had an accent as broad as a backstrap, and a wife around the same size. Their hearts were plants firmly in the right place, even if we were perhaps from as far on the end of the scale from them as was possible. Pam was inside and out, cooking up a roast dinner, Baz was stoking the fire and by stoking I mean glugging in a thick blue highly flammable liquid every time the fire looked to have quietened from roaring to smoking. They smoked thirty cigarettes between them in the hour we spent at their fire, their voices gravelly and kind, regaling us with tales of family who just wanted them to come home.

Baz and Pam had sold everything, home, cars, belongings: the lot, and had bought up a decent fourby (that is a four wheel drive, a four-by-four, said fourb-i for you non-Aussies out there) and a lovely little caravan. The insides were plastered with photos of children and grandchildren, knickknacks galore and the meagre belongings of two happily retired Aussies with a 15 year grand plan: drive Australia and spend their lives enjoying the “finer things” – no worries, no post, no responsibilities. They were the very definition of Grey Nomads: homeless but for their home on their back. They were incredibly kind, offering us food, cask wine and warm conversation. They'd seen and done it all, they felt and now it was time to retire from the weightiness of home and really treat themselves for their last years. Their family, despite missing them awfully, did see it as a great way to have a holiday: just go and visit Nanny and Pops! Perfect! They had it sorted all right.

Coincidental meetings

Friday was the day, we were ready to foist ourselves on Fred and Kathy: our good friend Paul's good friend Loretta's parents – what a mouthful! Now, you all remember Paul, world champion bike rider and world champion nice guy. He'd lucked into a great new friendship with Loretta while we'd been away and we'd known her by extension for a few months. She had offered her house to us, via her parents, via Paul, despite not knowing us personally. Paul is a wonderful judge of character; and it appears that so too is Loretta! We'd bought a ripe pineapple and a box of Roses as a gift for Kathy and Fred and then immediately realised they deserved so much more. What charmers; what generous, kind and open people – to offer their home to us with only a nod from a fairly anonymous friend of their daughter's (they'd not met Paul either!).

We met Kathy first, she was all smiles, kindness, and gentle motherly inquisition, and we loved her instantly. Then Fred rocked up, on a quadbike no less, deeply tanned and a smile so white and true that it shone in the slowly disappearing afternoon light. Seconds later they'd all but adopted us and we were chatting like we'd not seen each other for a lifetime, and had known each other longer. We learned about their lives: their kids, their families, their Australian Story. We learned a little of what it took to be cane farmers and saw for ourselves everything that it requires (sheds full of tractors, machines, motors and tools; the platinum swathes of their sugar plants abutting their property and a heck of a day job!) It was a charming, somehow warming thing to be cocooned by cane, Alleykat imagined at length what it was like for Loretta growing up here.

That night, Kat cooked a vegan Shepard’s Pie for us all, and just secretly, we think the omnivorous two were pleasantly surprised: vegan food can be very convincing, hearty and filling when treated with affection! We four stayed up rather late chatting and enjoyed collectively shouting at Q&A taped from the night before.

Quite suddenly that evening, something more serious happened; we'd met Fred and Kathy's two dogs that first afternoon, Opie and Macy, Opie was loving and really just a big puppy, Macy was rather standoffish but only because we were new and not 'her people' yet. Opie was quiet that evening which apparently is unusual for him, more unusual than that, he didn't finish his dinner – Fred decided to take him to the vet upon hearing a particularly loud doggy-cough and seeing bloody sputum dangling from Opie's doggy-chops: a bad sign. Macy tried her best to get in the car with them, clearly sensing something more profoundly wrong that was observable to the human eye – sadly, Opie died overnight, and Fred buried him in their beautiful Australian garden.

Although it wasn’t the happiest of beginnings to the day, the rest was much more enjoyable – Kathy took us out exploring the farm, we wandered down to the river at one edge of their property, guarded the whole way by steadfast cane soldiers. Their stoic heads pointed straight to the sky or bowed with weighty reverence to the life around them. Cane is a remarkable little plant – much like bamboo, it grows quickly and fiercely, rampant once it begins to climb with its brothers and sisters all around. We learned a little of its laborious upkeep, the planting, tending, harvesting and clearing. There were acres and acres upon acres and acres – Fred and Kathy are clearly doing something right, their farm continues to expand and produce. Some paddocks were bare, deep auburn soil churned thickly with the cane remnants of yesteryear – Kathy had taken her shoes and socks off to wander the whole way, and Kat was encouraged by the soft brown pillows of earth, how glorious to feel the Australian soil below your feet, between your toes, cushioning your weight.

At one stage, we attempted to take a short cut and became rather lost, looming cane plants leaning a little menacingly in towards us as we followed Macie’s nose out the other side. A single spider crossed our path – Al, who was leading the rescue team at that stage, held back the heavy bows of cane with the spindly creature dangling at a safe distance. Kathy wasn’t fazed in the slightest, however we did our best to keep out of the way! Twenty minutes later we’d pushed our slow way out the other side of the field, it felt a little like we’d been in there for hours, it was good to be able to wander freely again. An iconic Aussie lunch was had back at the Lizzio ranch – jaffles, made in a jaffle iron bulging hotly with baked beans, tomato and pickles, stuffed full of oozy goodness. Alee, the supposed Australian didn’t know what a jaffle iron was, but he sure did after he’d wrapped his eating gear around that delicious hot sandwich! More conversations wound their way around our lunch, words flew through the air, more friends joined the table

Fred and Kathy took us to the movies that night, driving for an hour or more back the way we’d been earlier, the wettest town in all of Australia, Babinda. We hammocked our bottoms in the deck chairs in the large home-made cinema, four in a row with popcorn and jelly snakes to boot as we watched Divergent and admired the beautiful people as they did brilliant things. After the movie, we met Fred Lizzio. We weren’t cracked in the head, no, Fred had a second cousin who just happened to live 150 kilometres down the road from him whom he’d met comepletely by accident a few years before. Alfino ‘Fred’ Lizzio not only was the second of his name we’d met in mere hours, but also had a daughter named Loretta. Coincidences are fun.

The bucolic life seemed pleasant in its hard work and hand-reaped pleasures, surely this tirelessly working simplicity was a positive backdrop for children growing up in Far North Queensland! With affection and a new home away from home, we left Kathy and Fred’s place after a hearty hot breakfast and road towards Ingham and a hill, deemed scary enough to warn us about in each of the towns we paused in on our way there.

Ingham allowed us to munch on some vegan pasties as we mulled over our options. It was clear that Kat’s back was going to be a problem, but just how much of a problem we couldn’t say. The hill “so steep you’ll have to hop off and push” turned out to be a 200m climb, a gentle little spin had us cresting and breezing down the other side, laughing at the Australian notion of a hill.

Cane farms: the palm tree plantations of Australia?

Riding through landscape, beautiful only in its platinum uniformity the cane fields stretched ever on around us. There were fleeting periods of excitement for Kat and her fellow trainspotters – when the seriously cute cane trains chuffed by, but beyond that, the roads were straight and achingly similar kilometre to kilometre. On this mostly straight ride, we’d ride past street names with a distinctly Italian flavour, realising that perhaps the Lizzios weren’t the only family with an Italian background in the area. As it turns out, cane farming in Queensland is an almost inherently Italian-Australian vocation: unofficially exchanging hands from hard-laboring Pacific Islander slaves in the early days of settlement, the mid-1900s brought a large Italian migration. These Italian men and women endured the back-breaking labour in the sugar fields and too, the insidious racism and fascism. Sickeningly, Italians (and other ethnic minorities working in the North of Australia) were stereotyped, institutionalised and scapegoated throughout most of the 20th Century, finally achieving relative equality and a sense of belonging after the 1960s and 1970s; truly a long time coming. The strongly tied communities and mostly Mediterranean social glue binding the tens of thousands of families together back then, does still today. Cane farming and indeed, much rural Queensland continues to be multicultural and inclusive in the face of odds too often stacked against them.

Kat's back is back to broke

Back on the cards was an action plan to deal with the continuing pain problems Kat was experiencing with her lumbar spine – somehow since we’d landed in Australia, it had regressed to the point of needing daily, two hourly pain medication to make it through our time on the bike. We tossed about ideas for our journey home, dropping no balls, but not getting anywhere either, just stuck in a rather repetitive cyclic motion. Neither of us were loving the riding, we somehow no longer felt settled with the idea of taking the planned three months to ride “the long way home”, down the coast, but what were our alternaives? We juggled ideas of part bus, part bike; part plane, part bike; part train, part bike; but needed something to help us make our minds up.

Casual Racism: Australia's dirty little secret

Back pain: the bane of Kat’s bike-riding existence and possibly now the dark cloud looming large over our trip. Riding into Cardwell, solutions to Kat's back was the first point of call to perhaps organise a bus for Kat. The information centre was typically Australian: accents so broad you could plonk them on your head and be shaded by the sun, the people behind the counter were helpful and kind hard-working public servants, formerly dressed, nametags buffed and pinned firmly in place. Unfortunately, the free roaming staff were another case entirely: an old bloke who seemed officially employed, with a firm sense of his own fashion, instead wore glasses far thicker than his whispy long hair, socks and sandals, long loose khaki shorts, a loud Hawaiian shirt and, in similar style, was partial to a noisy opinion. We're sure that a part of him meant well and was interested in helping and serving people visiting his town, but he ranted and raved at us for half an hour about conspiracy theories and his passion for bigoted Australian history.

During our trip, recent and historical conversations both have involved Alleykat in many discussions regarding how many rewarding and endearing habits there are about countries overseas. Occasionally these engagements extend to less-than-desirable elements or habitual behaviours that have turned us off instantly within certain cities and recently, have lead us to wondering what kind of stereotypical behaviours attract and repel visitors in Australia. This fellow embodied too many of these nasty stereotypes for us to deal with, we rode on – leaving behind this stereotypical bloke with his racism ripe and ready. Onwards to Townsville!

Townsville: warm showers indeed

It had been four nights and five days of riding since we'd bathed and admittedly I didn't smell us, Al didn't smell us; but I promise you, we smelt. Unfortunately, it's one of the less glamorous elements of long haul bicycle touring, showering is only really an option at infrequent rest stops and since leaving Kathy and Fred, we’d obviously not encountered one of those for a good while.

Upon meeting Jen at her house in Townsville, our lack of cleanliness became obvious: Jen's house is clean, fragrant and well organised: we could almost see our Hansel and Gretel crumb trail of dirty destruction. Jen gently suggested, (with a smirk we returned in kind), that we get in the shower (yes, the warm shower) and to please chuck all our stuff in the washing machine if we wanted; clearly a desirable outcome for all involved! Jen then took us to her and Mick's bicycle shop, The Bicycle Peddler, to say hi and get our recently broken dynamo hub looked at by the very skilled mechanic, Mick himself. Jen and Kat went shopping for the evening's meal and the boys googled how to dismantle said dynamo, but with limited success.

Dinner however, was a highly successful operation: Jen is a master in the kitchen, casually whipping up two vegetarian/vegan-friendly delights – a green curry with spice paste made from scratch using ingredients grown in her own garden and a glorious walnut and fig cake risen to water-bathed perfection in the couple's whiz-bang barbecue. For you non-Aussies out there, this is homage to the true versatility of the Australian barbecue, not a ‘shrimp’ to be seen! Al smashed a few servings of the curry and the cake, his second dinner in preparation for his epic ride the next day.

We’d rolled into Townsville on a bit of a mission: to get us both to Airlie Beach, where we planned a stop and rest before a slightly altered route in land and straight-lining it the 2,800 kilometres to Melbourne from there. We booked a bus the following afternoon for Kat and Al decided to travel light and challenge himself just a little, a mere preparatory 10-percenter, 280km in a day.

At 5:30am everyone was up and ready for a full day, Jen and Mick were riding to one of their weekly group runs up and down some mountains out the back of Townsville. Kat whipped up a stomach-stretching, belly-to-toe warming bowl of banana and nut porridge for Al and sent him on his way for the dawn ‘til dusk ride from Townsville to Airlie Beach.

Airlie Beach: nurtured and fed

The very kind Jen dropped Kat off at the bus stop, where immediately, having the open, please-talk-to-me face (impossible to change unfortunately), a man slung himself with wobbly imprecision, loosely on the expansive bench seat, right in Kat's personal space. The smell, Kat hoped in retrospect, wasn't even in the same realm as the sweaty whiff Alleykat had arrived in Townsville around their person. This man smelt like he hadn't seen water in years, bathing instead in a cocktail of cheap liquor and sadness. Still, one sometimes cannot help how one smells and surely, like the proverbial book cover, shouldn't be the sole port of judgment. After sharing Kat's orange, the loose-lipped man and she spoke a little incoherently about where we were from and where we were going, one of us giving vague answers and the other being perhaps a little too intrigued (no points for guessing the correct roles!). When he began insisting that we share a cab back to the centre to perhaps discuss life over a beverage or two, Kat somehow managed to bundle him into his own cab and kept her fingers crossed that he wouldn't return before her Airlie-bound bus arrived.

Making a new friend named Sharia Lina on the bus, Kat learned a little about the life of a German travel blogger and talked away the four hours on the bus to Airlie Beach, where the very gorgeous Jen McLean was waiting in the car on the pick-up run. We took the collection of very heavy bags inside the enormous McLean/Arnold house (aka The McArnolds) atop a very panoramic hill, in the aptly named Panoramic Court.

Promptly, upon discovering Al's proximity to us, Jen suggested we drive out and remove some of his burden. Night had fallen hard, the darkness eclipsing the last of the sun’s rays which, just moments before, were clinging to the glittering ocean surface on the horizon; not exactly desirable for those of us who'd ridden almost 280 kilometres and whose bicycle lights no longer worked due to a broken dynamo! Jen and Kat drove behind Al as his support vehicle after removing the few remaining kilograms on TanNayNay's already slim frame, trying to keep him in the light of the car’s headlights.

The homeward climb was truly impressive: for those of you who don't know Al personally, he is truly part-bike. Climbing a 30% kicker for almost an entire relentless kilometre isn't most people's idea of fun after riding 280 kilometres into a head wind all day but for Al, the journey wasn't complete until he'd stood up in the pedals and wrenched TanNayNay's bulk up that final flare.

From that moment on, we were truly treated like part of the family: with love and support, we were super lucky to have them as another home away from home. Jen is super cool and super caring, this extends to the kitchen where she prepared delicious vegan-friendly foods for us all around the clock: from morning soy coffees, lunchtime soups warming and perfectly flavoured, snacks like homemade hummus and free foraging in the plentiful pantry. Dinner was often a family affair, the definition of family extending every night a little further – to sons and daughters living with their mum and dad, an occasional guest appearance of further flung children, their friends and future housemates and, of course included us Alleykats.

Whenever available, Kat revels in a full kitchen: multiple stove-top burners, an oven, a blender and true luxuries like fridges and freezers, and drawers and cupboards full of cooking utensils and kitchenware. A few times during our stay, Kat got creative and cooked up a (vegan) storm large enough to moisten the mouthes of as many McLeans and their mates as were present.

Juddy runs away

There were family members of the animal kingdom too, residing at Chez McArnold: two cats Sunny and Joey, a velveteen rabbit, a few tortoises and a bundle of joy: Juddy the labradoodle. Juddy was everyone’s fan, dolling out licks left right and centre and playing endless games when not sleeping in a curly black heap. He dug himself deeply into Al’s bad books however when one afternoon he snuck by Al’s legs and lolloped out the door, crazy glinting in his eyes from miles away. The mail woman felt bad, apologising for delivering the parcel that let the dog out of the bag… but she had to continue her busy delivering day and Al had to give chase.

Thirty minutes later, the mailvan pulled up out the front of the house again, and out hopped a sweat-soaked Al, with a goofily grinning Juddy in his arms. Juddy had thoroughly enjoyed their ‘game’ of chasey all the way down the hill and around the suburbs with neither of the participants wearing shoes. Al popped a now slightly confused black dog outside, banished from cuddles and comfortable beds, floors and couches to rest on. It wasn’t until two days later that Al had forgiven; he will never forget though!

Daily yoga, resting and general enjoyable coastal wandering took up most of our days. A massage was man-handled in there along with constant heat packs and comfortable seating, nourishing foods and not a care in the world and yet, nothing seemed to work. Kat’s back remained painful to the touch, painful to the bike ride and painful to think about too deeply.

Homeward Bound

The night before we were due to ride out, the gentle rolling of midnight waves in the background, the decision to go home was made. Although Kat thought she could probably deal with the next thirty repeats of 100 kilometre days if it was life and death, the constant pain became a limiting factor. We decided then and there to go home, it was time. We did ride out the next day to Mackay, not Melbourne, the city that was in our sights down the road.

More Warm Showering with Peppe and Jeannie, who’d not only generously and at short notice allowed us to come and stay with them, but in typical Warm Shower fashion, had gone above and beyond – locating and lugging home two bike boxes for our impending departure. What total champions. We ate an Amaya (of World Biking!) special of homemade Mexican refried bean wraps, a lovely little bit of cross bike-travel pollination on our now official last night of the trip.

Peppe and Jeannie warmed our hearts and ears with stories of their own bike touring adventures and hosting experiences, it’s a rather incestuous platform we’ve all discovered! We slept well and were taken to the airport by Peppe in his ute: perfect for bike-hauling. And then suddenly we were home, and there was my Mum, resplendent in Melbourne black and cheeks rouged with happiness. We were home.

Don't forget to catch our film on the Australian leg!

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More of our diaries

This is the final diary from our trip from Europe to Australia!

⇒ Read all about our Asian experience HERE

⇒ Check out our Central Asian series HERE

⇒ Try out our European series HERE