Cairns, Sunday April 22.
Closing The Circle
We were met a few clicks outside of Cairns by Lenore Evans and friend Frank. Frank is 73, and at age 67, cycled around Australia. He is still strong. At a small park on the outskirts of town we were met by a few more cyclists, and a photographer from the Cairns Post. Then our little group rode to the esplanade in central Cairns where we were met by councilwoman, Deirdre Ford who made a nice speech welcoming us to the city, and gave us lapel pins and two very nice watches. We haven’t worn watches in years, but they might come in handy as we travel in Malaysia and Thailand for a few weeks after leaving Cairns. We visited with the group of cyclists for a couple of hours before heading home with Lenore.
Monday we rode downtown to take care of some business, and found we were local celebrities. Our picture and a story about our travels was the lead story, just under the masthead on the front page, of the Cairns Post.
I spent the day Tuesday dismantling and packing Zippy while Claire distracted Tyson and Oskar, the dogs. This was a much easier task than putting Zippy together while suffering severe jet lag when we arrived here last May. We’ve enjoyed visiting with Lenore and Stan, and staying in their home. They kept our bicycle box for a year so we wouldn’t have to go looking for another one (they don’t sell many tandems in Cairns, or Australia for that matter), and we mailed them our winter clothes so we wouldn’t have to carry them through summer in the south. They are both strong cycling advocates, and Lenore runs CBUG.
The Great Summing Up
After writing about this journey for eleven months, it seems I owe you some erudite conclusions. It’s not every day a couple rides a tandem bicycle “right the way ‘round” the continent of Australia. I suppose I ought to brag on us a bit, exaggerate the difficulties, discomforts, and dangers of our adventure. Do the Bill Bryson thing. Thing is, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal to us now. “No worries, mate.” See, it’s just what we do. Together.
Claire did a lot of planning, and it paid off at just the right times. We trained hard the season before, both training for and competing in a triathlon, and I cleaned up in Senior Olympics (old fart bicycle racing). The logistics were challenging, but not all that hard. Not rocket science.
But the real thing was the us in the whole thing. See, we are a team. Neither of us would have conceived of such an undertaking without knowing we could depend on the other completely. Sometimes there are raised voices, pouts, disagreements, and the decision process is complicated, just like any couple faces. Thing is; we always know we’re going to work it out to a place that makes us both happy. That’s the big deal. That’s what’s important. We’re lucky that way.
We pedaled nearly 20,000 kilometres over 11 months, wore out who knows how many tyres, a twice broken water trailer, ran over two big snakes, just avoided collision with an emu, rode in 42C heat, and wore out most of the parts on Zippy. So after all that, what did we learn?
Easy one that: Australians are the greatest people on earth, and their land is second to none. So what else do you need to know? Australia is the place to go to be challenged, while still feeling oddly at home. The language is (sort of ) the same as American. Just creative enough to make it fun.
I think I came away from Australia with a different way of looking at my world. Australia is special. It’s up to date is most of the good ways we take for granted in America, but it feels like the 1950’s, when America still had an certain innocence, hadn’t yet fully succumbed to the arrogance of power. Now I fear America too often plays the bully on the playground. Oh well, we can always travel back to Australia. If we’re welcome.
That yes I hear is music to my ears.
Good on ya mates!
We took one last walk along the Cairns esplanade, stopped for a drink at the yacht club, and finished our stay in Oz under the lorikeet trees downtown: Sailboats beat into the mouth of Trinity Inlet. Rose colored clouds kiss the green mountains opposite Cairns. Lorikeets by the thousands fly in to roost in the lighted trees in a riot of sound and color; a sliver of moon hangs over the Atherton tablelands and the silhouettes of fruit bats flutter against the fading light.
We don’t want to go. We will be back.
And we did go back, to crew on Songlines from Australia to Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanautu and back. Come along!