We’re bumping along another lonely country road, calling to the cows as they chomp lazily. A family of sprightly kangaroos bounces past. The morning mist is heavy, but brilliant rays of sun peek through with the promise of another gorgeous Queensland day.
The Tropic of Capricorn’s not far now. A week’s ride perhaps. Less if we push it.
There’s a chill in the air when we launch into our day of pedaling. It’s not exactly Bondi Beach weather, but hints of hot weather ahead appear. A cactus begins popping up here and there, we spot our first bottle tree near Biloela, the air conditioning is cranked up full force when we slip into the local IGA supermarket in search of half-price vegetables. (The best deal is a pitiful cauliflower on the block for AUS $6.59. We leave empty handed and I’m subjected to Eric’s rants against price gouging for the next 20 kilometers.)
Days are dreadfully short now. Winter is clearly on its way. Darkness has crept up on us a few times and we’ve had to dig out the lights and reflectors. In these parts, it’s a long way between towns and starless nights are impenetrably black.
One night we were offered a bed. We’d pulled into the old timber town of Jimna late afternoon. The paved road stopped there. Just a narrow strip of gravel ahead, winding its way through the forest. The place looked deserted and kind of creepy. Scenes from the gloomy Lars Von Trier film Dogville flitted through my mind. Jimna felt like a place where one might get trapped, surrounded by locals with a touch of the sinister.
As we pondered a map of the area, an SUV pulled up. Eric sauntered over to see what was up. Probably the usual queries—How far have you come? Where are you riding to?
I was fatigued from all the ups and downs and couldn’t be bothered to drag out my friendly tourist persona. I jammed in my earbuds and listened to Jian Ghomeshi interview some woman about her ‘month of madness’ due to her brain ‘being on fire.’
The SUV sped off and Eric was back, grinning. “Alright, we’ve got a place to sleep.”
He was pleased, probably because he’d have a place to charge up all the electronic devices. I could feel a headache coming on (dehydration most likely—the water we’d topped up with at a farm tasted bad and I’d hardly drunk a drop all day) and the thought of a warm bed was enticing.
Ross and Robin (the couple in the SUV) had a place just down the road. We’d been instructed to make ourselves at home, they’d be back in a couple of hours.
I continue to be amazed at how trusting people can be. No one seems to worry that two innocent looking cyclists might turn out to be thieves, psychopaths or insufferable bores.
We ended up spending two nights in Jimna. It was a quiet community of loggers and urban transplants, people weary of the rat race in search of solitude and a simpler way of life.
The kind of place we might settle down in one day, when our wanderlust has run its course.
But for now, there’s still much more of the world to explore. We may be in Australia, but it’s really Japan that’s on my mind. After nearly nine months of the familiar Anglo-Saxon way of life, we’re hungry for a change of scenery. The bright lights of Tokyo beckon. Just a few more weeks of country roads and a steady stream of cows, horses and kangaroos. Soon we’ll be speeding down multi-lane highways, jostling with crowds, and slurping noodles in busy markets.
I can’t wait.