Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Left turn

April 5th, 2011

Beyond the crest of the Kuranda Range, an undulating descent onto the Atherton Tablelands plateaux. Wisps of cloud. Distant. Dense, lush rainforest fading away. Gradually. Giving way to more open woodland.

Civcoff - web

Coffee stop a little short of Mareeba, the first settlement. A small coffee plantation. Warm and humid, comfortably so now. Civilised affair. Sitting on the veranda. Mellow jazz playing gently in the background. Breeze barely perceptible.

Pondering the map. Far too early to finish the day at Mareeba, despite the advice of yet another dubious guidebook I’d picked up in Cairns. On to Atherton I decided. But left wondering if a brief foray into Mareeba would be worthwhile. Turn right at the next junction? Or left to Atherton?

I sought Joanne’s advice in the cafe. "What was there in Mareeba?" I enquired. "Subway, KFC, Red Rooster" she explained. Left turn.

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Waiting at the roadside

April 5th, 2011

Armybike - web

I’d Paul, fellow hosteller back in Cairns, to thank. Sharing the story of World War Two soldiers billeted in tents in fields and woods throughout the Atherton Tablelands. A little respite from the oppressive coastal heat and humidity. Thousands. Waiting to depart from Cairns. Across the Coral Sea. Many never to return. The occasional roadside sign the only reminder of innumeral troops based on the plateaux.

Armysign - web

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The Internationalist

April 4th, 2011

Legal advocate. Former journalist. Feisty. Passionate. Following a path shaped by circumstances. Adaptive. Sharp and intelligent. Focused. Careful in her choice of issues. Making a difference rather than pursuing lost causes. Resilient. A formidable ally. An unenviable opponent.

Karin - web

I’d met Karin quite by chance. A wrong turn. Sort of. Drawn away from the usual tourist tat on the main street. Down into a small alley. Craft shops mostly. Curious. She’d spoken first. Engaging. Conversation flowed. Drawn to a close only by my need to do a few jobs. Return to my campsite before dark. I’d suggested a sociable coffee the next day. She’d accepted.

Not afraid to challenge boundaries. Or be constrained by borders. Arbitrary divisions. Dual national. Two Western nations. Affinity rather than allegiance. Much of her life spent elsewhere. Europe. Asia. Amongst very differing societies. Australia now for a while. Contemplating her next move. Writing a book about some of her earlier experiences tackling a very personal injustice.

Conversation with breadth and depth. Refreshing. Politics. Sarah Palin. After Obama. Democratic models. Religious fundamentalists. Education of the masses. Ruling elites. Porous borders. Journalists. Writing for discrete, subscription only publications. Notions of Justice. Wikileaks release of diplomatic cables. Right to know or an inhibitor of frank exchange of views. Twists and turns. But always respecting the opinions of others. And not hopeless idealism. Rather, views shaped by a healthy cynicism. Reflecting a very international outlook.

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Rush hour in Kuranda

April 3rd, 2011

Rush hour in Kuranda from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Kuranda. Truly a tourist town. Once the last of the visitors has left on the late afternoon train back to the coast, the lights go out. Shops close. Streets deserted. A few drunks. And a police presence.

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Wallaby watching

April 2nd, 2011

Wallaby watching from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Ken tracks down Wallace the Wallaby. For those not familiar with marsupials, these critters are vertically challenged kangaroos. Indigenous. Which means that somewhere in the undergrowth lurks a whole army of well-intentioned, but wholly misguided, rights advocates.

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After the storm

March 31st, 2011

After the storm from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

Ken ventures into proper, wild rainforest. After a spot of rain the previous night. About six inches. Sadly, sweeping one local resident to her death.

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In flood

March 31st, 2011

In flood from Ken Roberts on Vimeo.

It’d take a brave soul to kayak over these falls. The river supposedly at its highest level for over three decades.

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Perilous precipitation

March 31st, 2011

Falls - web

Difficult to comprehend. Over half a metre – something like twenty inches – of rain in just a few days. Flash floods. Local woman swept to her death. To the south, Cardwell. Devastated recently by Cyclone Yasi. Now submerged by swollen rivers. The Barron reaching a thirty year high. Main highway south closed. Trains disrupted. Far north Queensland cut off. Yet more extreme weather. Another example to add to my ever growing list. Tick.

I’d headed out of Cairns. Up into the Atherton Tablelands. Cooler than the coast. But, being over a thousand feet above sea level, invariably wetter. Frequently lost in cloud. There’d been talk of a storm as I’d left. An emotional departure. Leaving friends behind at the hostel. Assuring them I’d keep in touch. Their concerns about the weather seemed unfounded. Until later. Lightening. Torrential rain. Fortunate to be staying under cover.

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