Like any addict once the lure of the silver spoon strikes it is virtually impossible to resist, similarly the kick of travel and adventure has one mighty compelling high.

At the peak of my travel addiction I would have donned flippers and mask in a heartbeat if somebody had asked me to swim to Tahiti. Life was a surging rush and I wanted to be soaked in every possible way.

In Cairns, after deciding to stay in Australia rather than head off to Papua New Guinea, we needed to perpetuate the dreamtime we had been living on Green Island, yet we had little money to support our fantasies. Our new found jobs were providing us with a little surplus, barely enough to plan a major adventure. Talented Leonie came up with a solution, wondering if we could create leather goods to sell at the Sunday market to boost the coffers for another travel fix. I had been mainlining on travel for so long that the withdrawals were like a gnawing ache, she didn’t have to ask me twice, I needed a fix.

We figured out a way of making bespoke sandals from hides, bought some cheap hides and a few handtools, traced around our feet to get the general shape and proceeded to cut out the soles from the thicker parts of the hide. Great ideas often come in tsunami format, so once the entrepreneurial lid was lifted we were ready to sell our leather goods internationally.

Of course that never happened, but we did benefit from several interesting days on the Cairns Sunday market selling our stuff. We managed to break even and met loads of other Bohemianesque bodies. However, the greatest discovery at the market was a stall selling secondhand household goods. One Sunday I wandered over while Leonie was selling ‘stamped’ purses and beaded leather bracelets. At the back were two butcher’s bikes, both dull and rusty but with tyres and a semblance of brakes. Instantly I fell in love, swirling dreams of leisurely cycling into the sunset or laughing like hyenas as the bike bobbled down a grassy slope, Leonie in the front carrier, until we fell off into the wavy grass. (Or was that a scene from Butch Cassidy?) I bought them both for a few dollars and proudly walked my new travel facilitators back to our stall.

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Bike bought on Cairns Sunday market for a few dollars.

We never went back to the market. When we managed to get a few days together we would pack up our gear, load it into the front baskets and set off from work, often pedalling up the coast from Cairns toward Port Douglas.

It didn’t matter how far we pedalled. What did matter was being able to get a dose of that travel  syrup. Our early journeys, until we could trust the old bikes, were gentle meanders around Cairns, we stopped frequently to investigate things. We rode slowly to absorb it all and let the immense variety and beauty seep into our souls.

Once we were riding with open fields to our left when I spotted a hedgehog in the grass. A hedgehog? Long slow squirl as the mouldy brakes nibbled a catchy tune on the wheel rims. Dropping the bike I loped back to the dark hedgehog like lump with a curious elongated nose.

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In the spotlight.

‘Leonie, come and have a squiz at this.’

Completing a 360 in around 5 minutes, one foot tapping the road, she wiggled her loaded butcher’s bike to a halt. Leonie’s bike had a narrower front wheel which looked a bit dodgy on the point of separation from the rest of the bike. In truth it barely functioned unless treated with extreme kindness.

‘What do you reckon to that? Is it an echidna?’

‘Well. I guess it is. Not sure, never seen one before.’

Leonie was full of hippie knowledge, a converted Bohemian, self-styled nouveau-Aussie-townie who knew everything about making dried potatoe into colourful jewellery. She had a penchant for extracting juice from dandelion stems and pressing fresh flowers. Her other mind juggling skill was creating  astrological charts crammed with mysterious witchlike signs. Indigenous flora and fauna were a shade alien to her nebulous thought pattern.

After scouting out the local terrain we began to hanker after a bigger challenge. We bought a road map and realised that a little further up Captain Cook Highway were long ribbons of palm fringed beaches. Ellis Beach became our prime target, a short journey from Palm Cove, practically a suburb of Cairns.

Ellis Beach was quite startling because we didn’t expect to find a mini tourist haven. We had set off early one Saturday morning, pedalling much harder than on previous trips. Our objective was to use the bikes purely for transport then spend time camping on the beach, lazy swim and wander around on foot before we had to head back to Cairns on Sunday. After leaving Palm Cove we pushed on steadily, enjoying the birdlife and smelling the ocean off to our right with a seemingly constant strip of inviting sand. It felt good to be extending ourselves.

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Saddle sore? You bet!

This was our longest ride to date and our backsides were feeling a little sore in the bucket like saddles, so we decided to stop at a slight rise on the highway with good views out to Double and Haycock Islands. Enticing places that appeared attainable by small boat.

‘Hey Leonie. Perhaps we should buy a rowing boat? It would be ace to go out to those islands and camp there.’

Leonie was used to this kind of speculation. ‘Dream on Johnny Boy. Are you going to tow the bloody boat at the back of your butcher’s bike?’

She was equally familiar with my responses. ‘Mebbe! Give me a little more time with this idea.’

‘Crazy Pommie bar steward!’

We slaked our thirst with some curious concoction Leonie made from pomegranates, lemons and purified water. What on earth is purified water? Water is water, it pours out of the sky by the lake load, surely that is as natural and purified as it needs to be.

Refreshed we mounted up again and pushed on. Very shortly, round a smooth curve in the road it rapidly became obvious we were coming to Ellis Beach. Actually there was a sign that said … Ellis Beach.

The map showed virgin beaches in this area, imagine our amazement as homes appeared amongst the trees. Many with corrugated tin rooves, verandahs and pretty gardens alongside burger bars and ice cream booths that wouldn’t have been out of place on a spaghetti Western set. The giveaway sign that we were in tourist town were the beach wear shops, selling the usual bucket and spade mish mash. Family groups laden with towels were skipping across the road, older folk carrying umbrellas and foldaway canvas chairs made their way to the beach. Teenagers with eskies and tanned surfer boys with packs of Fosters joked as they kicked up the sand. Music was already blarting out from a rudimentary beach bar.

We stopped in the midst of it all, legs straddling the bikes, nodded disapprovingly through stiff smiles then kept on riding. Ellis Beach was a long development with a lovely beach but wasn’t for our free radical, Bohemian sense of adventure.

Tired and disgruntled we needed to stop. Once out of the busy beach atmosphere we decided to find somewhere nearby to pitch up for the night. The silky beach had given way to a rougher aspect but we still found a place to pitch our tiny tent, stash the bikes and go for a swim to replenish our skittered spirits.

The following weekend we determined that finding utopia would require greater effort to bust past dystopia and find our Shangri La. Next target was a whopping 60 mile round trip by butcher’s bike – Turtle Cove.

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