Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Reunion

August 22nd, 2011

For, whilst I’d decided Phillip Island would be a fitting formal end to my time riding down the east coast of Australia, there remained the small detail of fifty or so miles into Melbourne’s south eastern suburbs. Off to stay with Simon and Sue. We’d originally met by chance in the small town of Atherton, back in Far North Queensland. I’d joined them for dinner and we’d kept in touch.

The thirty minute ferry crossing from the island to the Mornington Peninsular had been largely uneventful, bar my efforts at head-butting the vessel as I’d boarded. And the requirement to keep my bicycle, and panniers, outside on the rear deck, exposed to the ravages of the inevitable salt spray. My protestations that the large cabin was empty, surely I could at least secure the bags inside, unsuccessful. Rules were rules.

Back on the road, the journey north towards the city was unremarkable. I’d a decent map and a good idea where I was going. Despite this, I’d still ended up finishing in the dark, made worse by rush hour traffic, steady drizzle and rain-soaked glasses.

There’d been a short detour on the way north from the Phillip Island ferry. Stopping off to pick up my second passport, safely delivered by hand from Sydney by friend of a friend. Essential piece of the jigsaw, for it contained my US visa. I’d really needed to press on sooner than I actually did, but it seemed rather rude to grab the document and go. Besides, a cup of tea and a chat was always welcome.

[With especial thanks to Simon and Sue for hosting me, and Chris and Jen for safe custody of my passport]

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Gone clubbing

April 6th, 2011

I’d seen a few of these clubs around Queensland. No. Not one of those. Well, perhaps in Cairns. This a very respectable establishment. Members affair, but suitably attired visitors could be admitted. On the outskirts of Atherton. Similar to the Royal British Legion back in Blighty. I’d been invited out by Sue, together with husband Simon and friends David and Heather. All from Melbourne, three hours flying, over three thousand kilometres to the south.

We’d finally met at a leisure park on the outskirts of the town. Quite unbeknown to me, they’d spotted me on the road several times earlier during the day. Simon a keen cyclist. And then I’d just missed them at the Tourist Information Centre in the centre of Atherton. Finally meeting up in the park’s reception.

I’d been given the steer that it’d be better to stop in the town, rather than push on to Herberton. Few more options. Backpackers hostel. Leisure park. And the usual expensive hotels. But the first was out. Workers only. Long-term residents. Farm workers. Fruit pickers. As was the latter. And something just wasn’t gelling with Atherton. Niggling. Security.

Opted to take a unit at the leisure park. Encouraged by sage advice from a very helpful woman in the information centre. "Bargain hard". Low season. Visitors deterred by the recent run of natural disasters. A small chalet secured for the night, it at least meant I’d be able to leave Emma, my trusty steed, and all the kit in safety and join Sue and her friends for a sociable evening out.

Found the club very convivial. Charming in a rather quaint sort of way. Neat lines of tables. Small queue to order. Shades of school dinners. But generous portions. Uncomplicated choices. Not cheap – perhaps double the cost of a similar meal in one of those family-friendly chain pubs in the UK – but still pretty good value. For Australia.

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