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Old 11-10-2011, 11:44 PM   #2
The Bigfella OP
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Joined: Apr 2010
Location: Dooral Dooral, Eastern Oz
Oddometer: 2,245
We struck some problems on the CREB – Bern’s bike got drowned in another crossing and by the time we got it mobile, it was dark – so we camped on the track – and it rained on us overnight.

Including the drowning of the bike and our progress the next day, we did 7km (about 4 miles) in a 24 hour period. This was because the track is red clay and nigh on impossible when wet. 17 people were helicoptered out the next week in wet weather.

Here’s Bern contemplating the first descent the next day. I went first and pitchpoled my bike – with me doing a swan dive over the handlebars. It was incredibly steep just past where Bern is. I really need to get my bar risers sorted out... they turned up after I got back to Cairns... but I couldn't fit them without extended cables and lines.. and I'm still suffering when I try and ride this bike whilst standing.




All of us had at least one spill on the CREB in the wet. Some had a lot. Bern made it down that nasty decline but came to grief on the major uphill on the other side of the valley (Big Red) and had to withdraw with a hurt shoulder. We hid her bike and she recovered it a couple of days later. I had five offs on the CREB. One from a stupid touch on the front brake (silly prick Ian)... and a couple were after I'd stopped for someone else who'd had an off. Starting off again, ending up not being able to keep both wheels in the one rut, and that's that.

We continued and diverted off the main road again to go up Battlecamp Rd through Lakefield National Park. A lovely area.




We diverted again into an aboriginal community at Lockhart River, where this memorial to the US 5th Air Force is at the WW2 airfield




We stayed about 50km from there and struck some problems in the early hours of the morning with some drunk/drugged pig shooters who decided they wanted to kill people instead of pigs…. but everyone survived. Given the nature of the death threats being shouted out, I rang the cops in Cairns on the sat phone but they proved to be about as useful as second hand toilet paper. We suggested that if they sent the guys out from Lockhart River, they'd solve some problems. Nah.

Next day we headed back through the Iron Range National Park on the spectacular, but technically difficult, Frenchmans Track. This is me fording the Pascoe River on that track. The water got up onto my headlights in one of the holes.




Frenchman's is reasonably narrow and I found my HDB guards were working hard. Any tree up to about an inch and a half got brushed aside. I hit one a bit more solid than that and had ringing fingers for a while - not because the fingers got hit, just from the whack the bike took. The bauxite gravel on the track was like riding on marbles too.

My sixth, and hopefully last, off was painful. It happened on the first section of the Old Telegraph Track. Not on a difficult section... and it was one of those silly things. We'd agreed on a riding system that'd been working. We'd swap the lead every 10 km, leader to go to the rear and at intersections, everyone to group up. Pretty simple and that way, no-one gets lost, no-one ends up lying in a ditch for hours either.

Somehow it went astray at an intersection and three of us took a wrong fork. Coming back, I ended up in a dusthole on a steep section... stationary, with a spinning rear wheel.... and took a 5' cruncher at zero km/h. I ripped a groin muscle. Nothing too serious, but in the sand on these tracks, it became an issue for me. As we all know, the throttle is your best friend in sandy conditions. Trouble is, whenever the bike stepped out of line, it was like having a red hot poker stuffed into my groin. Every damn time the bike stepped out of line, I backed off. I couldn't do anything else... it took me a long time to get back into opening the throttle.

Peter showed maturity well beyond his years. He recognised my difficulties and made sure I got through. I owe him a beer or two.

Anyhow, back to the scenery. Here’s a historic boat we came across on the way up. Its at Coen.




While on the theme of old metal – here’s Peter playing in a crashed Beaufort bomber up near the tip. There was intense activity up there during WW2 – and the bush around there is littered with rusting fuel drums – many marked USN on the ends.





Here’s a couple of the lads improving the atmosphere around the camp by washing away some dust at Fruitbat Falls on the Old Telegraph Track (which has an amazing number of creek crossings). Thankfully they decided to wash their three day old underwear too...




…. and here’s four very satisfied and relieved lads who made it to the Tip




My bike disgraced itself that day... the fuel pump shit itself 20km short of the Tip. Peter, a mechanic, came to the rescue and re-plumbed the fuel lines. By gravity feeding the carbies, I was able to use the top 15 litres in the 30 litre Safari tank. Added to that, I was carrying an 8 litre fuel bladder, so I had enough range to get me back to Cairns without any problems... but it meant I wasn't going to do the Starke Track - although the reports we were getting on it suggested I wasn't missing much.

Heading back, we did the top section of the Old Telegraph Track the hard way – from the North. Peter drowned his Tenere at Nolans – and it took a few hours to get mobile again – and it took all our oil reserves too (he drained it, put one litre in to flush the water, then drained it again – and used the last of our pooled oil). We carried the rest of the bikes through. The issue was the soft bottom – all dug up by the 4WDs.



We carried the rest of the bikes through after that



That's Peter and I in front. I'm the greybeard.

I got a bit bogged at the next creek (as did the others) - again, it was like quicksand here. L-R Brett, Peter, Gordo.









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