A few days in the far north.

18 Jun

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to go to Cairns and Townsville to catch up with friends and family, and to spend my birthday at Mission Beach. We then headed to Townsville for my cousin Tessa and her fiance Lee’s wedding the next day. Here is a bit of what went on.
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First we flew to Cairns to catch up with Christoph (Tosh) and Tania. It was good to get away from Melbourne and my sister Fiona and I enjoyed the services provided at the Qantas lounge, free food and drink, showers and wifi. Carrying a suit for the wedding, a laptop computer and my skateboard and pads, I was saddled with the usual amount of stuff I carry travelling, but in this case nearly everything was useful.
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Tania and Tosh’s tropical abode, Cairns

My knee was still pretty sore from an injury a couple of weeks before, but I was determined to skate, and hit the park on the Esplanade soon after we landed and skated there til it got dark. I met some local rulers, fearless kids like Ricky and Reece, who had some mad local lines in the bowl.
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Cairns has a four-leaf clover bowl and a decent street section too, but it was the big bowl and cradle only that I was interested in. Lines for days.

Met a great guy called Martin Glastonbury up there, who was travelling to an Aboriginal arts festival with some kids he teaches in Brisbane, and he was pretty handy on the board even though it was a penny that he had chosen to take with him. I lent him my board and he surprised me with a pretty stylish frontside rock, and solid bowl skills. Martin is a keen photographer and took some great shots, some of which i poached for instagram and facebook posts…

barmaid Martin penny sam1 sam2

Shooting some photos on the high wall around the corner from the cradle, i came off the wall doing a big backside turn and fell 8ft onto my arse, then knocked my head. Lucky I had a helmet with me, actually one that Koston threw into the crowd at Bowlarama. Threw it straight to me and it sure came in handy. Its the small stuff that we usually injure ourselves on but the hefty falls on big walls that remind us of our mortality. Trying to skate on the edge of your ability often produces unexpected results, good and bad.

Anyway, no damage done there and we hit Rattle n Hum, a reasonably decent bar that’s been there forever on the Esplanade and enjoyed chatting to a few locals. Actually they were Canadian and European backpackers working there, but what else would u expect to find in Cairns really. Had a bit of a late night and a reasonably early start the next day for Mission Beach.

It really was nice to be able to go to FNQ in the middle of winter, and to celebrate my birthday there. Quite a long drive to Mission Beach as there was  a bit of roadwork, but the scenery was nice. Would have enjoyed a better look at Bartle Frere and Bellenden Ker, which are the highest mountains in Queensland and also the place with the highest rainfall, not too far from Tully.

Stopped in Innisfail for a bit of lunch and to buy some things to eat, but was unfortunately unable to see my friend Etsu who was working at a backpackers there. Tania and Tosh have a baby girl Mia, and her mother Marg also came along with us. We were lucky enough to have pretty good weather for the whole trip.

We turned off the Bruce Highway to Mission Beach and were pleasantly suprised to find that our campsite was right on the beach, just a ten metre strip of mangrove between us and the water. Croc territory, or so they tell me. After we set up camp I decided to walk to the next town, where there was a skatepark I was interested in exploring. Instead of taking the road, which I assumed would be rough and unskateable, I decided to set off along the beach. Surely it would be the most direct route and walking on the sand would be good for my knee, right?

Several people running up and down with their dogs, but mostly I walked the great expanse of beach for about 4km without seeing many people at all. I was quite surprised because the campsite was full, and there did seem to be alot of people in town. At one point i decided to cross a shallow inlet, holding my shoes and my board above my head and sinking unexpectedly down to my waist. That wouldn’t have been a great time to meet a crocodile I guess….

Mission Beach’s skatepark was worth going to, lots of tranny linked up in a pretty interesting way with bowl and spine and several other ramps connecting it. Unfortunately being in such a wet place, there had obviously been some rain damage and the surface was a bit rough. Still it was  a great little park, but unfortunately I didn’t end up with too many photos.

Kicked it with  a few of the locals at the Miller Bar, which was over the road from the park and had great ocean views, being almost right on the beach. These guys were picking and packing bananas and seemed to be having a great time. Promised some transport which didn’t eventuate, i found myself skating back along the road in the dark. Thankfully, most of the road was much smoother than I expected but it was a fair workout and probably took the better part of an hour to get back.
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The following day we climbed a peak near Bingil Bay, which is where some German friends and former neighbours of mine who had just arrived in town were staying. So I went and visited them and Niklas and Jonas and I made our way on the courtesy bus provided by the hostel back to the skatepark in South Mission.

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Checked out a local skateshop and loaded up with beers and snacks and with good company made  a much better fist of skating the park than I had the previous day. The other Germans Leonie, Joyce and Tabby came and met up with us, so we headed to the Miller bar for a few drinks and alot of laughs.
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It was fun to celebrate my birthday up north with these guys and after quite a few beers we headed back to meet up with my friends in the camp.  The next morning we had the long drive back to Cairns, then another flight to Townsville. Fiona and I were again able to take advantage of the Qantas Lounge hospitality, handy seeing the plane was delayed. We met a Judge and her assistant there and the Judge told me it was her birthday too. Cool! Anyway she said I would remember her because her name was Judge Dick. Pretty well known apparently. Fair enough!!

So we made it to Townsville in the mid afternoon on my birthday June 21, which is also Go Skateboarding Day around the world. Because the places I wanted to skate were quite a way away I decided instead just to skate around the city and soak up the memories from when I studied here years ago. Found a great bar with views actoss to Magnetic Island called Longboard which stocked a tasty brew from Wollongong that I did quite enjoy. That night my friend Dave Patton, my two uncles Simon and David, my sister Fiona and mum and her partner Dixon celebrated my birthday at the Maryam’s Thai Restaurant. Recommend the Hot Fish Curry.

Preparing for weddings can be a bit hectic, but we did enjoy a big brekky at the Marina and then it was just a case of a short walk into town to find the church, which was nestled in between Castle Hill and the water, next to the Catholic school Tessa teaches at.  She and Lee made a great couple, and there were some really entertaining speeches at the reception. I don’t think weddings need much explanation, lets just say it was  a beautiful day and great to meet all the important people in Tessa and Lee’s lives.  So here are some shots from the wedding…

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Thanks very much to David and Kym Sewell, to Lara and her partner Stuart and to Richard Sewell for making it such a success. The bridesmaids looked amazing and it was fantastic to gather the tribes and meet our extended families. To all the awesome people I met on the trip, lets keep in touch and I look forward to seeing many of you in Kingscliff at Lara’s wedding later this year.

*                 *                   *                           *

Lucky enough to find myself flying to Cairns and Townsville for a much needed escape from winter and into the sunny tropical north. Maybe an hour from Cairns and looking forward to catching up with Tania and Tosh.
Expecting a bit of resistance when it becomes clear just how much I wanna skate the hell out of every place we go to, but i promise to be a gracious passenger and enjoy whatever else comes along.
Years ago i lived in both Cairns and Townsville and still have a few friends and alot of family up here. As usual when I make the journey up here, there will be a wedding. That will be something to look forward to. I am sure Tessa will be a beautiful bride and i can’t wait for the reunion with the rest of the Sewell clan.
Before that happens, Fiona and I will have a quick look around Cairns and I will get a few orbits clocked up in the cradle on the skatepark on the esplanade. Perhaps we’ll check out some of the sights as well. Tjabukai is the Aboriginal culture centre, wouldn’t mind checking that out. Trinity beach would be nice to stop thru as well. Could see myself getting a sneaky roll in thre too if time permits.
Mission beach is about an hour and a half down the coast towards Townsville, reasonably near Cardwell too where I remember going years ago while at uni to protest a new development overlooking Hinchinbrook island. That would be a nice place to visit too. Untouched wilderness and high on the list for nature lovers from all over.
We’ll probably not make it to the Atherton tablelands this time, but i do remember a time coming down the range years ago while doing tourguide training. Just after dark, having shown a busload of tourists the platypus swimming in the river, qe were stopped by a big python basking on the hot road and the guide  i was training with decided to pick it up and show the passengers on the bus. A bit of a thrill, and a big laugh to see the expressions on their faces. Coming up close with wild animals was the attraction of that tour but few people would expect an encounter like that. Least of all me, because our friendly Host then passed the python over to me for a hold.
Wasn’t the first time i held a snake, but it was probably only the second time it had been handled and judging by the way it gripped my arm it was getting sick of it real quick.
The idea apparently was to get a good hold of it then release its throat, which i reluctantly did under instruction and after then awkwardly released it safely into the bushes on the side of the road.
Snakes piss or sweat on my arm would provide me a reminder of the encounter for the rest of the drive back to Cairns. The tour company was called doki doki and that moment captured it for me perfectly.

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