Sunday, 15 April 2012

Sarina to Mackay

Stayed in the motel room until 6.30 - to get my money's worth and also because it was only 20 or so miles to Mackay - while a cleaner shuffled back and forth outside, coughing her guts up. Read an article in the Big Rigs newspaper about my second favourite ranting topic : "Talk your issues out with a friend or professional - food won't give you any answers". Sarina is a dump that swims with blubber and reeks of shit (from an abatoir perhaps?) and just about everybody I had dealings with was unfriendly and unsmiling. In Subway, I enlisted the assistance of two young girls with wi fi (as the staff were hopeless) but still no joy. When they're grandmother came in (she wore dark glasses indoors like a lot of Austarlians - so as to avoid eye contact?) she asked the girls what I was doing, rather than ask me. Return to sultriness and sugar cane on the highway, where I passed an old cyclist battling with the wind, reminding me once again how my half hour research into weather conditions had paid off big time.

Mackay was bigger than its predecessor, but not much nicer, or at least from what I saw on the approach. Like most Australian cities, the main road was sandwiched by plasticky shops and service outlets, and there was no distinct feel or architecture going on.The Council tried their best with the odd attraction, parks and tropical floral displays, but it could be so much more inviting if the Gods of commerce and cars hadn't been allowed to run riot. At Macca's, where I finally found a wireless connection, a heavily-tattooed female sat opposite her grandmother and didn't take her sunglasses off for the duration. There was also a teenage Asian dipping fries in her ice cream!

Had time to kill, so had a look at the marina. On the way back, when taking a pee off the road, I noticed yellow ants with green heads and abdomens on a sapling. They had fused leaves together with something like spider web to make a nest and I watched them going about their business for an hour until the light failed. Two observations about this particular species : (a) One ant walked about the bundle of leaves with what seemed to be a piece of food, which other ants took turns in snacking from; (b) Many of them were motionless for long periods. Nearby a beautiful ant-size gold spider with silver stripes and emerald legs, crawled into a cavity in a semi-fused leaf and repeatedly twitched its behind. Was it about to give birth? Had the spider fused the leaves together? Was there a symbiotic relationship between spider and ants? I must do some research.

Stayed with Warmshowerer Peter and his wife Jackie, grown-up boys and dog, Cactus. They made me an extremely welcome cold, chocolate milkshake with cream on top. Then we all sat down to a roast dinner. Later on I must have consumed at least a bottle of wine, although as it was poured from a box it's difficult to tell. Peter had been put in jail for bicycle terrorism! He had campaigned for bikes to be allowed on trains and had also worked professionally as a cycling promoter for the council. Now he is into endurance rides; for example the 1800 km Paris to Brest (and back again) race, in which cyclists keep going until they fall asleep - sometimes while cycling and snatch a few winks at the side of the road. Locals line the route cheering, waving and give out homemade crepes, etc. I also learned tonight of a cyclone which passed through Townsville recently. One of the sons was there at the time and the house he was in was untouched, but a few streets away roofs were blown off.

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