Inspiration and Homecoming

Sometimes we are just incredibly lucky. I don’t even know how to begin putting our few days with the Canfields into words nor can I believe our luck of meeting people like that.

As soon as we arrive at their house in Cairns I feel welcome and very very comfortable. Les, Mandy and their two daughters Kady and Erin have been bicycle touring and backpacking themselves and thus just completely understand what touring cyclists need.


In the matter of a few minutes our immediate needs like shower, place to sleep and storage for our many things, food and drinks are sorted out. And on top of that Les already organized cardboard boxes to pack our bicycles for the flight which is a big load off our mind.


And over the next few days he generously offers to drive us around to get various things and even helps us clean and maintain the bikes. So our big to do list shrinks rapidly and we actually have some time to rest and prepare for the next leg of our trip.

But mostly we enjoy our time being home with family. Because that’s just what it feels like.Together with Pietr and Natalia (two more cyclists just starting their Australian leg) we take turns cooking meals…


we eat together, explore trails around Cairns…



and enjoy the views.


I feel comfortable to a degree that constitutes being home. There is something about being able to be myself entirely without having to go through a lengthy getting to know each other process that is quite rare during life on the road. I’m not even entirely conscious of how much it feels like home – it hits me only a few days later when I feel severe bouts of homesickness after getting to Indonesia. I miss that family and our time together. I miss the warmth, the generosity and being with the people I like.

And yet the gift of being home is not the only one we received in those few days. As mentioned before the Canfields backpacked and bike toured together as a family for several months each. Of course I knew that some families did that but it never really registered. So talking to Les, Mandy, Kady and Erin about their experiences was really fantastic. Mandy and Les shared their ideas and motivations behind their travels and also talked about home schooling their kids. And Kady and Erin told us how much they appreciated the family time. And that got me thinking about travelling and having kids and how all of that might work together. I started reading about home schooling and found out that it is not allowed in Germany but that some people still fight for it and do it anyway.

I know that having kids and having a family is something that can only be planned to a certain degree which probably means not much.  But I would like to question if having a family should be equivalent to settling down. And I would like to challenge the view that the existing school system in places like Germany should be seen as the only possibility of getting a good education.

One thing that gives our travels a direction is the “cycling home” part. As interesting our life is and as much as I like cycle touring, at some point in the future I want to be home again. I want to be with family and friends and I want to be in one place for a while.

And the other part consists of the “wandering thoughts”. That means new ideas, challenging old ideas and random reflections on happenings on life on the move. And of course the two are connected: We get ideas because of the way we travel and we might change our life and our way of seeing the concept of “home” because of inspirations we get along the road.


And sometimes, if we are lucky, we might find home on the road. In Cairns we did, for sure.



Rainforests and Roadrage

As we still had some time left before our Australian visa would run out we decided to explore a bit more of the area which is called the Wet Tropics of Queensland. People were telling us about the beauty of the Daintree National Park north of Cairns and our remaining time would allow for a little detour in that direction.


Coming down the tablelands we enjoyed beautiful views and most of all the downhill through lush green forest.


Next stop was the Mossman Gorge with a rather touristy set up. But it is possible to cycle (or walk) there instead of taking the costly shuttle bus and the swimming in the crocodile free river is just pure bliss in the rather hot climate.


On the following day we cycled further into the Daintree National Park. The small road was just beautiful although I did not appreciate the hills in the beginning to much. Once again I was surprised how much influence my mindset has on my motivation. After the exhausting cycling in the tablelands I was set on relaxing and not pushing myself too much. So there were a few silent and not so silent outbursts on my part until we conquered this not at all big hill.


We cycled along tea fields…


beautiful beaches…


and did another small hike in an all green forest.


And then, very unceremoniously, our last day of cycling in Australia was here. Cairns was less than 100km away and in a few days we were going to take a flight towards Bali, Indonesia. Only a bit more cycling, lots of stuff to organize and a few rest days separated us from the next leg of our trip.

We started the day with an awesome breakfast with the most beautiful scenery…


and then followed the road to Cairns along the beach:


Visually the road was absolutely stunning with the glittering ocean on the right hand side…


and the mountains on the left:


Sadly we got our fair share of the all to common road rage towards cyclists in Australia today. Since we started our trip in Sydney we’ve gotten yelled at at least once a day with very few exceptions. Mostly for nothing at all meaning us riding on the shoulder of the road and the driver in question not even having to slow down for a second. Sometimes because the driver had to use the breaks for two seconds because there was oncoming traffic and he/she couldn’t overtake us right away.

Today was worse than usual. The road was quite narrow and curvy and we encountered lots of speeding drivers overtaking us with little space between us and them. And we got quite a few curses I won’t repeat here. While it is true that most people are friendly and we usually get a lot of thumbs up and smiles on the bikes it still leaves me wondering why people here sometimes get so aggressive when they see cyclists on the road. I don’t think this is a phenomena exclusive to Australia but we sure faced it a lot here.

The slogan “We are traffic” of Critical Masses all over the world comes to mind. Cyclists should not be seen as an obstacle but rather as part of traffic. Lots of Australians we talked to actually prefer mountain biking instead of commuting or cycle touring in their own country for safety reasons. So reclaiming the roads and seeing bicycles as part of traffic is important and maybe travelling by bicycle is a small part helping that goal.

And so here we are, just before Cairns, as we find heaps of wild mangoes right next to the street – a wonderful gift I couldn’t appreciate more! And a little later we arrive tired but very happy at the Canfield’s house in Cairns. More on that later!

A break in Mareeba

A stint into the outback, much needed rest and the best company you could wish for – that pretty much sums up our stay with Dale and Jeffrey. But let me start from the beginning.

The tablelands have offered stunning scenery and beautiful cycling, but after 5 days I really needed not to be on my bicycle. My muscles were tired from the almost constant climbing and more so my mind. So we tried our luck with warmshowers and couchsurfing but everyone was busy or out of town. Luckily one host in Mareeba referred us to a friend of his who would be happy to host two cyclists. Sure, why not!


So we wrote to Dale and were soon on the phone with his nephew Jeffrey. Both of them invited us to come to Mareeba and we happily accepted. Over the next few days we could finally rest and enjoy the wonderful company. Dale is maybe one of the persons we wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for our mode of travel. He is retired, used to work with tobacco and knows the area around Mareeba really well. It was an absolute joy having him as a tour guide.


On the first day we all piled into his ute and took off towards Mt Mulligan. I was torn between really liking being in a car and not having to power it with my legs and on the other hand it was all too fast compared to a bicycle. But then again I was far too tired to cycle.


The scenery around us was amazing and completely different to the lush green fields from the last days.



Near Mt Mulligan we wandered through two cemeteries and the old Mt Mulligan mining settlement.


A very interesting detour that we wouldn’t have made on our bicycles – thank you Dale! And going back to Mareeba we even went to cool off in a creek. Since Rockhampton I liked having locals with me while going swimming as there are just a few too many crocodiles around for my taste ;).

During the next days we visited a local coffee roasting business, had lots of discussions and relaxed at home. We didn’t always share the same opinion but we had beautiful sincere talks. We exchanged opinions, we listened and everyone shared something from him- or herself. With Dale’s knowledge of the area and his many experiences and Jeffrey’s curiosity and will to understand everything I felt very comfortable. Dale even let us stay longer when he and Jeffrey went to Cairns as we still wanted to get a few things done.

And once again the faith in humanity is restored and I couldn’t be more grateful for our encounters with lovely and inspiring people.

The Atherton tablelands in pictures

After we recovered from our conversation early in the morning the tablelands were an amazing place to be. Of course you had to be willing do work for it. Instead of many words we’ll let the pictures speak for themselves this time!

Right after our not so pleasant encounter we had an inspiring talk with the owner of this castle and enjoyed some awesome coffee waiting out some rain.
As we didn’t buy fruit earlier we jumped at the chance of this little roadside stand selling papayas.
Naturally we had to compare if these were as delicious as the ones before… They were!
And if you ever wanted to know if not yet processed cocoa tastes good – we tried that as well and oh well, it kind of doesn’t. But still interesting!
So much green!
Clouds looming…
…but loving the roads…
…and the views.
Buying some tea directly off the fields.
A little hike in the woods…
…and another one with a nice waterfall at the end.
The next morning some more climbing rewards us with stunning views.
Yep, not a bad place for a second breakfast.
Just a bit hard to get moving again…
Good that we are on bicycles ;).
The kind owner of this house invited us in for some coffee to hide out from the rain. The company and the coffee was just what I needed when it turned out that the tablelands aren’t really flat after all.
Another hike in a beautiful national park. As we were a bit low on food three fellow travellers took pity on us and gave us hard boiled eggs – quite the luxury after a few days without real supermarkets!
Our new friend rain is finally catching up with us.
On the next day we took it easy and enjoyed this beautiful lake with lots of coffee and some reading / writing / picture taking.
The sun brings out the colours.
Like this one. Just because.
And after a quiet day we make our way towards Mareeba. Over some real backroads this time with the added bonus of dogs chasing us.


Looking back over these pictures the tablelands really offered some of the most stunning scenery. It didn’t come without effort though. It was a constant up and down and I’m really looking forward to some rest days now. And I’m curious to meet our next host, Dale – a recommendation from a warmshowers host who is currently out of town himself!

Refugees welcome: on racism and the usual challenges

While we had a wonderful few days with Kay and Mozzy in Townsville, the next few days would bring quite a few challenges – mentally and physically. As we still had some time left before flying out of Cairns we decided to do a little loop over the tablelands west of Cairns.

p1120144 So we cycled from dry dry Townsville into Tully, the wettest place in Queensland. And what do you know – it rained! A lot. But since it was still warm we didn’t mind too much. And we passed some seriously stunning scenery and  fell in love with all the green around us.p1120156p1120200Some time after Tully we turned inland and thus the climbing up to the tablelands began. The first day was gentle and we found a nice camping spot next to a river.

The second day would bring over 1200m of climbing which is the most I have ever done on a loaded bicycle. Somehow most of it wasn’t that bad though. It was only in the end when I suddenly got ravenously hungry (cycling uphill burns a lot more energy than cycling on flat terrain) that it got a bit exhausting. And we must have searched at least an hour for a place to camp. A farmer turned us down and all the land around us was fenced off. So we settled for this:

p1120328A tiny clearing in a dense forest but it was good enough for a night. And we really needed to rest after today. Not only did we climb a lot, we also had  a very memorable encounter that took me a long time to write about. When we stopped at a small store to buy some fruit, the clerk who attended to us asked us where we are from and upon hearing that we are from Germany started a conversation about the horrible refugee situation in Germany and Europe. Initially I agreed but it turned out that we had quite different things in mind. He was convinced that refugees are basically bad cowardly people and should not be allowed to entry Europe. Or Australia for that matter. Once again we tried to argue, tried telling him about (australian) refugee camps in Papua and how refugees are treated there. I tried talking about reasons that force people to leave their home country. But once again this was not a conversation. This was about him expressing his point of view and honestly, I just can’t listen to that any more.

My heart aches when I read about refugees seeking a place to survive, to live. And not being able to do something as the situation worsens in Germany is really hard. And I’m grateful that I have friends who are active in supporting refugees wherever they live.

So, forgive me when I say that I’m sick of listening to some arguments which I have heard a thousand times before. When someone says that criminality is higher now with all the refugees around, why not have a look at the statistics? The media raved so much about that argument that the German police felt compelled to publish a statement that crime rates have NOT gone up.

When people talk about muslims not respecting women why not criticize that in our own (western) society? And why don’t people think about the fact that refugees are trying to flee from some extremists (not respecting women)?

When people complain about the government providing for refugees and not doing enough for you I want to scream. Really? These refugees had to leave their homes because there is a WAR going on. Sometimes I really doubt that people get what that means. Bombs falling, guns firing, kids being left so traumatized that they start to cry when they see a glue gun.

In the end I think it’s a lot about the feeling of security and stability. Things in the West seem seasonably good as they are so why change them? But things aren’t good for a lot of people on this world. When you buy a cheap shirt from H&M you are supporting incredibly inhumane working conditions and climate change is starting to show its impact. And then there is war.

So I urge you to think about the privilege of being born in places like Germany and Australia, the privilege of being white. It’s nothing you did, it just happened. So don’t pretend you’ve earned it.

In the end, I sincerely believe, we all want similar things. Marshall B. Rosenberg even based his theory of Nonviolent Communication on that assumption. And when I asked refugees in Germany during the research for my thesis what they really wanted, most listed a job/occupation, being able to provide for their family and just living a happy life. So why not think about feelings and needs we have in common instead of things that draw us apart!

But as uncomfortable as that conversation made me once again, I was glad that it ended differently this time. I managed to speak up and we did not buy any fruit from him. A small thing maybe but important nonetheless.

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Martin Luther King Jr.