I’m not a huge fan of selfies.
I have a contract with my five-year-old nephew, Tom (Hi, Tom!), to provide him with a selfie from every country (or major part of a country) that I go to on this trip. And that’s as far as I really want to go with them.
Except today. I wanted to explain the Queensland humidity in words. But I found that ‘damp’, ‘moist’, and even ‘swampy’, were not really cutting the mustard. None of them get close to the experience of sweating through your shirt while sitting immobile in a chair. At 7am. Hopefully, this might help:
Ignore the cheerful (if slightly awkward) grin. More accurately, ignore the forced and painful smile. It’s not my best picture, I know. That’s not what this is about, though.
I’d been riding for 50 minutes, on an outrageously flat road, with a gentle tailwind. In other words, I should hardly have broken sweat. And no, it hadn’t rained. Yet, as you may have noted, my top appears to have been doused by a particularly enthusiastic bunch of firefighters. The sunscreen, which was perfectly absorbed into my skin just a few minutes before, has made a disturbing reappearance. I’m not sure how much water there is in a human body, but pretty much all of mine had simply dived out through my pores, saturating everything in its path. Lovely.
This is one effect of Queensland’s Liquid Air. Another is that the air actually feels thicker than usual. It’s not that is doesn’t provide any oxygen, it just feels like harder work than normal to drag it in and out of your lungs. Combined with the inability to hold water inside the body, this makes the riding less than easy. And that’s before the third aspect of the humidity hits.
The air turns pretty readily (and very rapidly) into actual moisture. Lots and lots of actual moisture. The term in these parts is ‘showers’. I think of them more as full-on monsoons. They pop up at any time of day, leaving you (if you’re lucky) stranded under a tree or a petrol station canopy for a while, cutting your riding time. And they hunt in packs, with unfeasibly heavy downpour following unfeasibly heavy downpour. Sometimes for hours.
What I’m trying to say, with all this Liquid Air nonsense, is that progress has slowed alarmingly once again.
I had to have a couple of days’ rest at Mackay, partly due to a few beers with a Belgian card-sharp who I met in New Zealand, but mainly due to the humidity. The Liquid Air effect really took hold there, and with the addition of sunshine, significant distances would have been difficult, if not actually dangerous. I was better staying cool.
I’ve made it to Airlie Beach in two days from there, which is not terrible. But, sadly, I missed the guy who’s walking around Australia in a Star Wars Stormtrooper costume. If I’d been on the road a day earlier, I could have heard how his ‘armour’ saved him from a snakebite first-hand instead of on telly. Grr…
Airlie Beach is a tourist town, and, as the name may suggest, is on the coast. I figured that there would be cool sea breezes here to ease the heat a little. So far, I’ve been proved wrong, although it is (maybe) a degree or two cooler than inland, and a colossal black cloud floated over earlier, rather than discharging floods of rain on the town.
So maybe things are looking up. The worry is that, with conditions like this, I won’t be able to make the distances I need to get across the outback to Darwin before my visa expires. And these conditions are rolling straight out of the outback at present. It may be that I’ll have to content myself with Cairns instead. And maybe a day or two off to see the Great Barrier Reef.
Plan C, anyone?