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Biking around Australia
Craig Update #4
(sent September 8th, 2003 from Katherine, Northen Territory )

hello again...

For those of you short on time, this email contains no stories about encounters with naked women, three legitimite contextual uses of the "f-word", and a crazy story about me working in a roadhouse, so read on...

The website is now nearly up to date again. Since I don't have decent net access anymore due to leaving the East Coast, I now have to package up my outgoing email and website updates into a file and burn them to CD, then mail the disc to Steve in Melbourne (everyone thank Steve!), then Steve uploads it to the server and the server does the rest. (this is what I set up during those 14 hour days when I was in Sydney). The travel site is still at:

http://www.lunky.com

Oh yeah, I'm going to extend the Vegemite Sandwich contest on the humanclock.com site. I didn't mention that last time, but I'm running a photo contest on the humanclock.com site, 1st prize is a Vegemite sandwich.

Well, now it has only been about 2.5 months since you all last heard from me, quite an improvement from the three month span between updates #2 and #3. In Katherine, Northern Territory right now and have biked about 6,000 miles since I started. For the last three weeks I've been in the middle of nowhere basically working my way across the top part of Australia, right under the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Gulf is basically that big inlet that sticks into the top of Australia. The road is pretty lonely, only a few tiny towns and a handful of roadhouses. About 500 miles of the road was dirt, some of it very rough at times...I even had to get off the bike and push for awhile. I went from seeing 15 cars a minute on the East coast to about 15 cars a day. These last three weeks have been a good experince though, ran out of food a couple times, the rough road rattled the bike apart, got really dirty, and drank beer with the Aboriginals sitting on the hood of their car in the middle of nowhere. Most of the Aboriginals started knowing me and I'd hear a "Craig!" as they'd go driving by.
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Since the last update I biked all the way up the East Coast to Cooktown, which is pretty far up the Cape York Penninsula. From there I started making my way west, leaving the East Coast behind. I'm kind of glad to be leaving the east coast since I was getting a bit burnt out on it. The East Coast of Australia is pretty much where most of the population is. The East Coast has a lot of cool things to see, but it also has tons of suburbs, K-Marts, McDonalds, etc. Some places I really liked, such as Bellingen. Other places, such as the Gold Coast, could be described as Henry Rollins once wrote, "where the people look like they all took the Pepsi Challenge seriously." Anyways, I'm glad to report that the outback part of Australia is exactly how I pictured it to be. Days riding a lonely highway in the bush, maybe coming to a roadhouse or small town once every day or two, nights camping off the road in the bush under the stars. It has taken me a little while to get used to the changes in the maps out here. On the east coast, if the town name was in boldface, it meant it the town was of decent size and you could get just about anything you need there. Out here, if the town/area is in boldface, it means you can get at least gas and a beer. I now have about 10,000 flies riding along with me now also. I bought a headnet in Normanton, best $4.71 I ever spent. The flies crawl everywhere, sometimes I can be riding along and watch them walk over the rim of my sunglasses even.

On a side note, despite the vast amount of food I've been eating, I'm in pretty good shape and could probably leave Kevin in the dust for the first time in my life. heh.

So much good stuff and bad stuff has happened that I can't really cram it all into one place (i.e. in this email)...so you are going to have to poke around the website a little. Been meeting a lot of good people that have invited me to stay with them. Met a guy named Duncan on the bike touring list and stayed with him and Alison and Claude (their kitty) for a weekend, we ate great Thai food...three times even. (Thanks again you two!). Stayed with Simona in Brisbane (hi!), she showed me around Brisbane...although I spent a lot of time on her Veranda...my favorite veranda in Australia I think, At Val and Mike's in Bowen (hi!) we watched the first episode of the Osbournes to see what all the fuss was about, plus Val told me about the time she went to use the toilet and there was a 10 foot python in it. Thanks again to Peter in Cairns who let me do fun things like sleep in his guest room for a week, play in his pool, drink his beer, and break his drill bits.

People down here know a lot about the US. A lot more than I thought at least. I've had conversations with people down here that I never expected. I feel like I could be in the middle of nowhere and ask the first person I see what room the outdoor books are in at Powells bookstore in Portland, OR, USA are and they would say "red". I was at a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere the other day and a guy told me he had a friend in Grant's Pass, Oregon.

Gooood stuff:

- I'm a certified open water scuba diver now. Went diving out on the reef and took a bunch of pictures. I gotta keep this email a little short so it doesn't turn into a book, but it is on the website between August 4th and August 9th. It was a lot of fun and a big highlight of the trip so far.

- one of the best things that has happened is the Palmer River Roadhouse. It is located on the inland highway on the way to Cooktown, in way NE Australia. I was out riding the highway and had gone about 60mi / 100k or so. It was 5pm and I was probably going to stop soon and camp in the bush. A car pulls up next to me while I'm riding and one of the guys says: "Hey, if ya make it up to the Palmer River Roadhouse tonight we'll have a beer waiting for ya". I asked how far it was and they said about 40mi /76k or so. I did some math in my head and said "hmmm, ok, I'll be there by 8:00pm". I got a huge burst of energy and really put the hammer down and pedaled like a madman. They didn't tell me about the two significan hills I had to climb on the way to the roadhouse, so that slowed me down a bit. It was great riding in the middle of the night on this lonely highway. Sometimes though I'd be riding with my headlamp and see a pair of blue eyes right in front of me. I'd slam on the brakes and hear a cow go running off. (this is unfenced grazing land). After doing 165k (about 100 miles) I rolled into the Roadhouse around 8:30pm. Had it not been for the hill I probably would have made it there on time. The two guys, Keith and Kevin were in the process of buying the roadhouse from this guy named Louie. Louie had built the place himself and ran it for the last 24 years. Kevin told me that they were having this big party on Saturday night and I should stick around. About 150 of the locals from the surrounding area were coming. Considering this was the middle of nowhere, that is saying a lot.

Keith told me he had a computer he needed to get set up. I drank some beer with them and excusing myself to the bar floor where I had laid out my thermarest...I had biked a good distance and was a bit tired. I ended up deciding to stay and for the next couple of days, helped them out with the computer and unpacking things. They started calling me septic or Monica due to my American-ness. Next thing I knew I was in the kitchen cranking out food for everyone. I hadn't worked in a restaurant kitchen since 1993 when I had an Unbridled Desire to Create Happy Guests at the Red Robin. It was amazing how fast a lot of it came back....I was going 100 miles an hour (well, 62.23 km/hr...this is Australia) around the kitchen. At one point Kevin found me and asked if I could make 10 teas for them. I got all the teapots and stuff ready, then asked him how he wanted them served. He said "no...T's...T-bone steaks! What do you call them in the States?" "Steaks", I replied. Ended up being hamburgers and I cranked everything out myself. After everyone was done they all thanked me and said "pretty good for a yank!". The next night was the party. I could go on and on but needless to say, it was a lot of fun. When we were filling the ice chest with 35 cases of beer, Louie turned to me and said "This is how we party in Austrlia". I ended up falling asleep around 1am, I was too tired to continue on. A lot of people were still up, (and stayed up all night too). I woke up about 4am when the jukebox was playing pretty loud. The song that was playing was pretty catchy and had the chorus of "Am I ever going to see your face again?" Everyone in the bar would scream a response that I couldn't make out. I left the roadhouse on a Sunday morning, went up to the small town named Cooktown, then road this very challenging road through the rainforest back to Cairns. (that is a whole other story itself to say the least). (this is around July 25-28th on the website)

(A couple weeks later I found out my answer from Karen in Cairns (hi Karen!). The song is by this group called The Angels and dates back to the 70's. After the chorus line of "Am I ever going to see your face again?", everyone yells: "no way! get fucked! fuck off!" really loud. The next day after I found this out I found myself climbing incredibly large hills and I found myself saying this over and over the whole way up the hill, proved to be very entertaining) Judging from recent news, this little potty mouthed phrase is basically the current attitude amoung Australians when asked about helping out the USA with invading Iraq.

- when I got to Noosa (north of Brisbane on the wast coast) I stopped at an ATM. A guy on a bike asked me where I was going and he suggested going up Rainbow Beach. He said that you take a quick one minute ferry ride across a river, then bike to the beach. 4x4's drive up the beach at low tide, so I wouldn't have any problem biking up the beach. A 35 mile bike ride up the beach sounded like a lot better route than on some boring busy highway. I got a tide chart and biked to the beach. High tide was around 8pm and low tide was around 2am. The moon was full that night so I thought it would be fun to bike up the beach at night under the full moon. It was everything I thought it would be. After about 10 miles up the beach, I was getting really sleepy. I figured I probalby wouldn't get this chance again so I ended up riding till about 2:30am. The moon was right above me so it was cool to look down and watch the moon's reflection change in the sand and water beneath me. The next day I took it easy and went swimming. Met a couple high school kids backpacking on the beach and walked with them for an hour. Right before the town of Rainbow Beach, there are these rocks that you have to go around. The only way around them is at low tide. I was hurrying up the beach around 4pm because the high tide was starting to come in. About 1k from the rocks my rear tire exploded. By the time I fixed it more of the tide came in and by the time I was at the rocks, I was biking though 6 inches of water. I lucked out though (hence this is why it is a good thing, otherwise I'd file it under "really bad") because there was a stairway up the rocks. I lugged my bike up a zillion stairs and ended up on the end of town. This kept me from having to wait a few hours for the tide to go back down, since the waves were already crashing against the rocks. In the pub and visitor center they have these huge walls of photos, the "wall of shame" as they are called. It is nothing but photos of cars, 4x4s, and buses(!) all pressed up against the rocks with water flowing out the windows. Some of the pictures were of cars on the backs of tow trucks. The cars were so destroyed it looked like something you would see at an Auto Wrecking yard. (June 25-27th on the website)

- I paid a visit to the Australia Zoo, located in the small town of Beerwah, Queensland. Some of the locals refer to it as "Steve's place"...Steve Irwin of Crocodile Hunter fame. I didn't meet Mr. Crocodile Hunter himself, but I did get a clock picture with a 20 foot hiigh picture of him and a croc out by the roadside. It is a pretty nice zoo. (granted, the only other one I've been too is the Woodland Park zoo in Seattle. Yes, this is the infamous zoo where back in the 80's a radio DJ wanted a Jimi Hendrix memorial in Seattle, but the lame Seattle City Council or whatever ended up putting it at the zoo at the African Savanah exhibit...I don't miss living in Seattle at all). Anyway, there are a few signs signed "Steve & Teri" all around the zoo, either telling you not to by kangaroo/croc/etc products, or who their favorite Toyota dealership is. I took a lot of photos that day, so many that I had to stop and copy them to the laptop from the camera. The funny thing was is that I did this in the middle of the kangaroo area, this is a huge field that you can walk around in and there are kangaroos and wallabies (like a kangaroo, but smaller) hopping around. I have some good pictures on the site of me running the laptop and a kangaroo right next to me. A couple tourists asked if I was doing research...uh no. There was a big room of snakes, with one whole side that pretty much had the 10 most poisonous snakes in the world. There were huge pythons too. I overheard one guy ask one of the zoo workers what they fed the pythons. Since there were children present, the zoo guy whispered "goats". Yup, finally saw koalas. They kind of tuck themselves into the branches and sleep. I didn't hear any of them make noise though. My friend Jeff said that when he was down here he was watching a couple koalas once and one of them turned to the other and made the most horrible noises. I can't really describe the noise over email. The alligators and crocs were pretty cool. They weren't really moving around a lot, except for one that kept slapping the water. The zoo guy said that when the big ones slap the water, you can hear it clear over by the highway. It has something to do with getting out agression or sexual tension or something. I'm not the best zoo person. (June 24th on the website)

- celebrated my 29th birthday in the very industrial town of Gladstone. Got a hotel room, ate at a Chinese restaurant, and went and saw Star Wars episode II. It was pretty uneventuful though, I wished I could have been out in the desert or something. Made me long for the time I was on the PCT on my birthday. Or the time when I turned 17 and was working the night shift with my Dad at Yakima Pallet and Bin. We drove down the road during lunch and got a big pizza and ate it in the car...didn't want to take it back to the lunchroom otherwise everyone would want some)

- Been finding some good booty out on the road. No, get your head out of the gutter, booty as in treasure. So I'm out riding in the middle of nowhere thinking, "man...I should have bought some more duct tape at the rate this bike is falling apart. About five minutes later I find a roll of duct tape in the gutter. Good thing I found the tape because I biked a pretty rough gravel road for about 400 miles. My rear rack broke three different times. Each time I used the tape to make things all good again. The last time I broke was pretty bad though, so I had to make a splint for it using parts of my fender. Richard Dean Anderson would have been proud. The next day I'm listening to Prince's "Gett Off". It is a really catchy song about well....let's just sayu the song is definetly not about getting off the train. A couple minutes later there is this Australian girle magazine sitting right near the shoulder of the road. I picked it up hoping there would be some good thought provoking articles to read. I was a little disappointed since there were hardly any articles and just a lot of pictures. I did learn a new word for the next time I play scrabble, "Norgs" A few days after that I'm in probably the most remote place I've been so far, out on the Gulf Track. A car pulls up next to me and slows down. The guy gets out, looks at me and says "Fucking bloody hell!" He asked if I wanted a beer and I declined since it was a bit hot. He said he never expected to see someone out here on a push bike. (I was on a segment that was about 180 miles between roadhouses). He said that although he didn't expect to see me again, he and two other guys would be camping up on the Robinson river about 50k/30 miles away. I told him I'd be there if the road got better. The road had been a mess of rocks and six inch deep bulldust. It was really hard to ride through and I had to stop a few times and push because I couldn't ride. The road got better eventually and I reached the river around sunset. I walked up to where they were camped and said "hey...I made it, ok, I'll take you up on that beer now". They ended up inviting me to join them for dinner and we spent the rest of the night drinking beer and talking.



Bad Stuff:
- my bike rim went bad in Cairns (after I fixed my front chainrings). So I got a new rear wheel built with a new hub. So a couple of days and 100k later I was out in the middle of nowhere on the Inland Highway up to Cooktown. All of the sudden the rear wheel freezes up and brings me to a halt. I had to tear the rear wheel apart right there. I was a bit perturbed since this was supposed to be a nice working hub. Right in the middle of working on the hub, four little old ladies pull up. They were out birdwatching. I had to go from extreme moody to happy Craig in about .5 seconds...then went back to moody after they left. The nuts/cones on the hub were 17mm and my wrench was only 15mm. Soo, I had to "convert" the bolts to 15mm by placing the wrench on the bold and hammer the wrench onto the bolt with my bike lock. This involved a lot of repeated hittings with the wrench and necessary use of foul language including the f,s, and d words. The hub was on one instance referred to another vulgar expression. This is the expression my Uncle from Pasco, Washington referrs to as "carnal knowledge of one's mother post-conception". Ended up having to fix it a couple more times before I got back to Cairns and had a new wheel built on a different hub.

- The bike has basically been falling apart for the last 1,500 miles or so. Seems like every day something new breaks or wears out. I've learn to just schedule my rest breaks around the time somehting breaks. Today it was a rear spoke breaking, yesterday it was two flat tires, day before it was the rear rack, etc. I've changed just about everything on the bike except for the seat and the frame. My shifter broke so I ended up going to a new sexier handlebar setup. (good thing I did two, because that 400 miles rough road would have been a lot worse with the other handlebars).

- I pulled into this caravan/rv park in the town of Sarina on the East Coast. All of the tent sites were full, but they did have a hostel room (where kitchen/bathroom/room are all shared) for a couple dollars more...so I took that. It seemed that I would have the whole place to myself which was nice. I was writing a website update around 8pm when two couples in their 60's show up. They looked around a bit and sighed, "well I guess this will do". Turns out every motel in town was booked up and this hostel room was the only thing left. They told me how they were just going to sleep in their car but decided to try the hostel. These people looked a little out of their element, much like someone who goes to McDonalds in a foreign country and stresses out that the McMenu isn't the McSame. I talked with them for awhile and then packed up the computer and went to bed. The next morning I got up early to do some more writing on the website and make breakfast. I'm typing away when I hear one of the women say "I can't find my watch....I had it yesterday and now I can't find it". They were looking around for awhile. Hostels are kinda known to be places where things can get stolen. (especially in the big cities). So, I'm sure when she couldn't find her watch that was one of the first things she started thinking. I could start to feel suspicion fall on me since of the five people in the hostel, I was the one that was the minority. They were all retired couples. I was the slightly unshaven one in wrinkled clothes. "You haven't seen a watch have you?" I said no and went back to typing away on the computer. The one couple and the husband were outside while the woman who lost her watch was inside the hostel with me. She did one last look around the hostel and right as she was leaving she walked past me and said to herself "well...I guess it is GONE then!". (gee, goodbye might have been nice). When I went to turn my key back in a half-hour later, the guy said.."you by chance didn't see a watch did you?" I said no. He paused a bit and just said "oh...no worries". It was pretty embarassing and really bent me out of shape, at least I don't have to go through it on a normal basis like some people.

- I didn't like the Sunshine Coast too much (beach area north of Brisbane)...everyone kept telling me how great it was, yet it was probably the worst experience of my trip down here. At times the mess of roads seemed like LA Lite. I got lost in a maze of housing developments and ended up having to bike for two hours at night on a crappy shoulderless road with a lot of traffic. I reached the tiny town of Bli Bli. To make a long story short, some jerk stole my AA battery charger. I couldn't find another one that was as good as the one I had (nicely designed, lightweight). Ended up getting another one shipped to my parents house and they mailed it to me in Cairns....that one worked for 30 minutes and quit working altogether. The one I have now literally cooks the batteries. Maybe Ms. "What comes around goes around" Karma will kick a dent in she shape of "CG" in the car door over whoever stole the charger.

- I was in a room with about 20 other people in it and they were all laughing at the TV. No, it wasn't The Simpsons, it was George Bush speaking about corporate responsiblity. You wouldn't believe how humiliating it is to be the only American in a room full of people laughing at your president.

Random stuff:
- days can start out pretty crappy and end up good, or vice versa. I was kind of having a slow day and then it started raining on me. Ended up at this noisy hostel in Tully. Next thing I knew I'm in the bar next to the hostel with some other people from my room, drinking beer and involved in probably the most analytical 30 minute discussion of Guns and Roses' "Appetite for Destruction" that has ever taken place. What an odd world we live in.

Will write and update the travel site more frequently...promise!

talk to you all up the line...
Craig

p.s. Hold onto 16 as long as you can, cause changes come around real soon make us women and men.




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Daniel Craig Giffen
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