Cairns to Cape Tribulation - Larry and Barry go north

It was my five year wedding anniversary this year, so Phil and I decided to do what any normal couple would do to celebrate - go on a cycle touring holiday (totally normal right?) We’ve just bought our new touring bikes Larry and Barry and our anniversary was a great excuse to test them out.

We are heading down to Tasmania in November to tour on the bikes for two weeks, so we really wanted to make sure that we actually liked cycle touring before we ventured out into the Tassie wilderness.

When I told my dad that we had decided to travel from Cairns to Cape Tribulation in far north Queensland over the long weekend for our anniversary, he told us how lovely it would be. Then I mentioned that we were going to do the trip on touring bikes....aaaand he told us we were mad. Thanks Dad.

I guess it’s not such a strange sentiment. Far north Queensland is hot in October (actually I think it’s always hot), and very humid...and there are crocodiles...and jellyfish….and cassowaries wandering through the rainforest. But hey - adventure right? It has been quite cold in Sydney lately, so the thought of escaping winter & not having to wear arm warmers and jackets on the bikes really appeals.

So we packed our bikes up in cardboard boxes that we’d got from a local bike shop & headed north to Cairns. We would normally take an actual bike box, but we needed to ditch these at the airport & pick up new ones on the way back (as clearly we were not going to carry a bike box on our backs), so cardboard seemed the perfect option. Also, Larry and Barry are a lot sturdier than our road bikes, so we weren’t as nervous they would get damaged on the plane.

Walking out of Cairns airport must be one of the best feelings in the world. It has a warm tropical feel with the smell of frangipani in the air that makes you feel immediately relaxed.

We built up the bikes at the airport (much to the disdain of the cleaner who was vacuuming around Phil's feet looking disgruntled), organised our return bike-boxes (there were only two left in Qantas storage, so i’m glad we did), then headed off to find our hotel in Cairns for the night.

The plan was to ride from Cairns to Port Douglas (around 65kms), then from Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation (80kms) the following day, spend a couple of nights in Cape Trib, then head back the same way we came.

We headed off towards Port Douglas at around 7am the next morning. Already it was around 25 degrees Celsius. The first 25kms to Palm Cove were fairly cruisy, flat & not too much traffic that early in the morning. The bikes rode really well & I didn’t even notice the panniers on the back. Cairns seems like a bike friendly town - there is a cycle lane around the inner city and I was impressed to find that the lane stretched all the way to Palm Cove. Crazy! Sydney could learn a lot from Cairns.

Hot Hot Hot

I convinced Phil that we should stop for a coffee at Palm Cove as it is a lovely resort town on the coast, and there is nothing I like better than enjoying a coffee with a vista. The coffee was great, however after 30 minutes of chilling, we realised that the temperature had gone up another 5 degrees. So when we headed off at 8.30am it was hitting around 30 - 31 deg C.

Now is probably a good time to mention that i’m not that good in the heat. I can thank my English/Irish/Scottish ancestors for my pale skin that goes red at the first sight of sun. I really feel the heat when exercising - I don’t seem to sweat much and I tend to overheat. Who’s idea was it to come to tropical Queensland??

Another 20kms down the road I was on struggle street. The road became lumpier, and there was one particular climb up to a lovely lookout that almost did me in. It wasn't the gradient, just the heat. Have you ever had the feeling that your head is going to explode and your feet are on fire? If not just head to Cairns in Summer and you will experience it!

By this time it was around 36 deg C, seriously humid and I was so hot I had to stop and pour water over my head. I received sympathetic looks from a few motorists, but I must admit I was almost hallucinating by this stage so I don't think I even noticed them.

My lovely husband thought it was hilarious and was very helpful by taking photos of me in my distressed state.

Despite the heat, I did manage to take in my surroundings - it distracted me from thinking drinking an ice cold coke that never seemed to appear. The 30km stretch of road from Palm Cove to Port Douglas is just stunning. On one side you have tree covered hills rising high up above you, and on the other side is the coastline with white sandy beaches and crystal clear water (which looked very enticing - I was almost willing to take on the crocodiles!)

Just a word of warning if you decide to cycle this road - it is very busy. There is only one road between Cairns and Port Douglas, so we did have a lot of trucks and caravans overtaking us. There is a shoulder at times, but at other times it just the road so you do have to be very careful, particularly with the caravans and boats that swing in on you while passing.

We arrived at our hotel in Port Douglas unscathed by 10.30am. Check in wasn’t until 2pm, but the receptionist took one look at my red, sweaty face and found us a room. The rest of the day was spent lolling by the pool & rehydrating.

Check out Day 2, Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation here.

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