Cairns To Cape York

After we stored all our "excess" stuff in a rented locker, we took off for Cape York. We decided to take the coastal road up to Cooktown. Too bad the weather was not cooperating, overcast, cool and even some rain was the order of the day. North of Cairns we passed along one of the most scenic highways we have ever ridden, the Captain Cook Highway. This road passes through some dense rainforest coming all the way down to the coast. Plenty of curves which pass right next to some wonderful beaches. Stop anywhere and take a dip (watch out for the marine stingers). If you are lucky as we were you can have the road all to yourself which makes it even more spectacular. We were grinning like idiots under our helmets.

Further north we crossed the Daintree on a little ferry before reaching our destination for the day, Cape Kimberly. Between Cairns and the Daintree river there is a lot of sugarcane and the cutting season was in full swing so everywhere we looked little trains were carrying the cut cane to the sugar mills. Once across the Daintree the area is mostly national park and so is undisturbed. It is amazing to think that once upon a time all the area here looked like the dense rainforest one encounters north of the Daintree. In Cape Kimberly, which lies just north of the mouth of the Daintree river we camped on the beach. It was nice to have the sound of the ocean as background music for our dreams.

Continuing on the following morning we traveled through the forest passing a couple of resorts which specialize in giving tourist a feel for the rainforest. We then reached Cape Tribulation which is one of the places tourist take day trips to from Cairns. It is a wonderful long beach, with palm trees and clear warm water. Once we passed Cape Trib as it is called, we got into the 4wd portion of the road. Here the road becomes pretty bad, narrow, rocky and in places very, very steep. This along with some stream crossings keep the normal cars away. In their place 4x4 race back and forth. A couple of times we were almost run off the road by on coming traffic or even by jeeps trying to pass us. But the views from some of the hills on this road was worth every danger. Once we reached the t-junction where the road ran to Cooktown on one side and Lakeland Downs on the other the road turned into a nicely graded wide dirt road, which we then followed into Cooktown. Cooktown turned out to be a very quiet town. We got here on the weekend and everything was closed down, except the pub of course. Most people it seemed where out fishing or out at the pier. Capt. Cook put in there to repair his ship after having run onto a reef near here. He apparently climbed up on Grassy Hill and plotted his course through the reefs, we followed his lead and had a look ourselves, it was magnificent. With the sun shining brightly the view up and down the coast was magnificent.

On the other side of the hill we could also look over modern day Cooktown and imagine what Cook would have seen from here 226 years ago (nothing but coastline, river and rainforest). With his ship safe in the Endeavour river he had plenty of time to find a way through the reefs from up here. We then spend a day riding around to check out the various beaches and some of the sights of the town. All you really need is a few hours it isn't all that big. Some of the beaches were very nice, I even tried to do some fishing from Quarantine bay, no luck of course. On the way back the transmission on my bike died. We had to tow the bike 5km back to the campground. In the beginning I though that the whole transmission was shot, but once I got it apart it turned out to be the clutch splines. The clutch it self was fine plenty of material but the splines had stripped. Luckily for me I had a spare clutch plate so I popped it in, while Cecilia made supper.

The following day we packed and were about to head off when we noticed that Cecilias bike had a flat rear tire. No problem we quickly fixed that and got on our way, only to have another flat half an hour later. This time it was Cecilias front tire. The tire was fairly worn so we mounted a new tire we were carrying with us as a spare. Continuing on through Lakeland Downs towards Laura we stopped at Split Rock aboriginal art site to have a look. We climbed up on rocky plateau where in a couple of galleries under the over hanging rocks we viewed the aboriginal art. It was very interesting with some figures that we haven't seen anywhere else, like a dingo with 4 toes and something resembling a flat worm painted white? After having a look around we climbed down and lo and behold another flat tire. This time, Cecilias rear tire had gone flat again. We fixed it and continued on our way. We stopped in Laura for the night, where I spent a few hours fixing the tubes that had punctured today. The last puncture in Split Rock looked like it was my fault, the patch I had previously put on had come off. The road had been fairly tolerable, graded dirt road with the occasional bulldust hole or rock sticking out. One of our punctures had been from hitting one of these rocks, which caused the tube to pinch and put a couple of holes in it.

The next morning we continued on. Our goal today was Coen and for the most part it was a fairly uneventful ride. The bulldust holes and sand pits and especially the corrugations were getting worse and worse. By the end of the day we were beat, so after a quick supper we crashed and it was only 7:30pm. The next morning under bright sunny skies we continued on. The road actually improved a few kilometers after Coen (at least for a while) until we took the turn off to the Cape. The corrugations on this stretch were bad, and I mean bbbbbbaaaaaadddd. Unfortunately this was still the good part. Due to the heat and dust we took frequent breaks which were very welcomed. The real party started when we crossed the Wenlock river. Our first real river crossing and guess what, yep, I drowned the bike. My own fault of course, rule one is to always walk the river crossing. But because the water was so clear that the bottom was clearly visible and it didn't look all that deep, I decided to just go for it. Big mistake, half way across I fell into a hole a 4x4 had made. The bike actually made it to the other side of the hole but water had drowned the engine. I was afraid that water had gotten into my air filter and that could mess up my engine so we had to push it out. As luck would have it there were a group of bikers on the other side about to go across and they jumped in to help Cecilia and me push the bike across. In the end it took 5 of us. Fortunately there was little water in the air filter and the bike started up again after a little coaxing. Cecilia's bike made it across without any drama because she rode a few meters to the left where the water was only half as deep. If only I had walked the crossing first!

After the Wenlock the track really got bad. First deep, long bulldust holes and then patches of sand. For the most part we had little problems. In the sand we slowed down and just tried to balance through. If we went too fast we couldn't control the bike because we had to keep it in the wheel rut and as soon as the front tire tried going right or left we would loose our balance and end up on the ground. After we got through some of these we would be greeted with a nice little stretch of open road where the corrugations would have your fillings falling out. Then we reached the junction on the southern bypass. To the right was the bypass road on the left the dreaded Telegraph track. Our information had been that the bypass had more sand than the Telegraph track, but the Telegraph track was a much worse road. Depending on whom you talked to this would either be good or bad. Bikers don't like sand and anything that avoids can't be any worse. Cars on the other hand can't handle rocky washed out terrain as well as bikes, but sand generally doesn't bother them too much. We chose the Telegraph track and headed off in that direction. From the turnoff one can see that it will be a big change. There is no longer a road to speak off, just a track through the bush land. This track consists of in places, sand, mud, rocks, washed out areas and is just generally bad. Almost as soon as we started out we his some long extremely bad sand patches, 100-300 meters long and with no way around them. Needless to say we dropped the bikes quite a few times. But luckily no damage was caused. We also had to contend with crossing numerous river, streams and waterholes. Each one an adventure in itself. We camped at the Dulhunty river and had a great nights sleep. The last few hundred meters of track before the Dulhunty were the worst we had experienced so by the time we got there we were totally worn out.

The next morning though everything looked a lot better and we crossed the Dulhunty and continued on. The sand stretches didn't get any worse, the corrugation was still as bad as ever and the water crossings became in places almost unbelievable. In all cases we walked them first, and if there was a way to avoid them we would, this wasn't an exercise in machismo, this was a motorcycle tour. Around noon we reached the Northern bypass and here we again decided to stay on the Telegraph track, just north of the junction we stopped by Fruitbat falls to have a look. This is one of the few sightseeing possibility on this road. The falls were nice and totally empty (no people), we had a nice look, but since it was overcast we didn't really fancy a swim, so we continued. A bit further on Cecilia had a spectacular wipe out on her bike. Crossing a water hole, we had to go bush to get around a very deep and long hole, on the other side there was a steep bank. Cecilia started up and was going quite well when she her rear wheel lost traction, sliding the bike around so that it jumped the rut. She came off the back of the bike, the bike crossed the wheel rut and slammed into the embankment where the bike then flipped over backwards and laded on its side at the top of the hill. I was afraid the bike would actually land on her but it had enough momentum to take it to the top albeit via a few ricochets. Again no damage to Cecilia and the bike was fine, but it really looked scary.

After that we came to Eliot Falls which was also very nice. A little campground there but it was too early in the day to stop, so after a little sightseeing we continued on. Next time though I will definitely plan to stay a couple of days here. Continuing on there were more crossings but pretty tame in comparison to some we had just done, and after 20km or so we ran into detour sign which sent us back to the bypass. The bypass turned out to be bad, very bad at least for bikes. The corrugations shook us pretty badly but it was the stretches of sand that really annoyed us. But we did make good time and there were no mishaps. We then reached the ferry crossing where for 30A$ per bike we went across for the last little stretch to Bamaga. It was with great relief that we finally hit the paved road in Bamaga. We camped in Seisia which is just north of Bamaga on the ocean. The campground was very nice, unfortunately you can't go swimming. It seems that there is lots of Crocodiles around here. We even managed to see once swimming in the channel between Seisia and Red Island. At the campground there was a BMW with German plates, and we soon met the owner, Rainer. We quickly made friends with him and another camper who had bicycled up from Cairns, Clint from New Zealand. The following day we left everything in the campground and headed to the tip. It was nice with the best part going through some dense rainforest just before the tip. At the tip there is a resort and a campground. We parked our bikes and hiked to the very tip, where we took a few pictures. In the end it was pretty anti-climatic, all in all I would say that it wasn't worth the wear and tear you have to subject yourself and your vehicle to get here. If you are looking for an adventure keep in mind that 15,000 vehicles come up here so you won't be alone. After having shot some pictures at the tip we returned to Seisia where we decided to spend a few days relaxing and building our strength for the return trip. Together with our new found friends we decided to do a little fishing.

After two days I finally managed to hook something and bring it in. A 2.5kg Golden Trevalli was my reward. Fishing we found out that there were also sharks in the water here. On a couple of occasions watching other people pull in their catches we would see a shark following the fish being brought in, and even getting them in some cases. This fish was the first one that I have caught and eaten and it was fantastic. Our two companions caught Flathead and Mackerel so in the end we had a great feast. After a few days we headed south, our two friends were taking the ferry from Seisia to Cairns but it wasn't in our budget, so we made a date to meet in Cairns a few days time. The ride back to Cairns was uneventful. It was much quicker and we had no problems, besides the flat tire we had in Laura on the way back. Once in Cairns we camped in the same place we were before. A few days later we had lunch with Rainer and Clint, and had some good laughs about our time up on the cape.


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