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Old 11-11-2011, 03:33 AM   #5
The Bigfella OP
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Joined: Apr 2010
Location: One of the Burj's
Oddometer: 2,507
Just looking at that last photo again reminds me of what it was like up there.

When I cartwheeled down the hill on the CREB Track, I'd bashed the headlight... but it'd stood up to it. What didn't stand up to it was the screws holding the lights in. They simply vibrated out on all the corrugations... hence the tape holding the left hand light in. I eventually got some new screws in Cairns and they've been fine since.

So – the Cape York leg from Cairns to the Tip and back was just over 3,000km – the vast majority on dirt / sand roads and tracks. Its about 1,000km each way via the Development Road, but we'd done a lot of additional riding. The sand and the bauxite gravel were nasty and the corrugations were extreme in places.

Four people died on the roads while we were up there – two on bikes, which was a bit sobering given that there weren’t that many people there. We came across the leftover medical gear where they'd operated on one of the bike guys before airlifting him out. A silly accident from what we heard. We spoke to several people who'd been involved in the recovery ops. They went through the windscreen of their own support truck.

An extra comment re that photo of the Pascoe River in my last post. We had a swim there while a drowned bike got sorted out…. long enough to get sun burned enough to peel…. then found out later that a big salt-water croc had been seen around the corner the week before.

I’ll post some more Cape York pics here – these photos won’t be in order because I'm stuffed if I can remember the right order anyhow… but here’s some that will give you a bit of an idea about different conditions.

Here’s a typical major road shot. We avoided the “Development Road” as much as we could – by taking the old tracks – but at times it was the only option. At times it was firm – hard packed clay – then suddenly, sand…. which was often worse on the corners

It was always dusty. If a car with trailer went the other way, it was horrible - a truck meant panic braking and crossed fingers that no-one was too close behind - because visibility went down to about 2 metres for 20+ seconds

This was a reasonably good section of the corrugations. No-one took photos of the really bad stuff because it was too hard to slow down / stop on to take photos

Us with an old Blitz truck at Old Laura Station. L-R Bret, Peter, Ian and Gordo.

We had a good look around this billabong - one of the guys spotted a small crocodile (a couple of metres long).... but he went under and we couldn't find him again. Between us we only spotted 4 crocs in the 10 days on the Cape.

Water was an issue at times. We ran out of water on the CREB Track - having not planned on the need to camp overnight. This is the guys filling up out of a creek. When we'd filled up, I found a dead goanna (about 6' long) about 10' downstream of where we'd all just filled up.... but he'd been there a fair while.... just downstream of the road crossing.

This shot is towards the end of the CREB - not long after Bernadette had gone into the 4WD.

The view from where we had to camp on the CREB Track

Bern having a rest - she was by no means the only one. Laying in our tents, listening to the rain wasn't nice. We knew we'd be having fun when we got up.

This is one of the other guys (Peter) right about the spot where I pitch-poled my bike. The photo really doesn't show how steep it was. My rear wheel literally overtook the front one.... it just lifted off the ground and over the bars I went - I couldn't get my weight back in time. Ouch.

Bernadette is a nurse and she was watching me from the top when I crashed. She was expecting injuries because I was all over the place as I landed... but for an old bastard I jumped up reasonably well.

What doesn't show in the photos from the CREB Track is the layer of wet clay we had to deal with on and around Big Red..... which was starting to dry by the time we got out - a lightly loaded 250 would be a lot more appropriate in there - in the dry. Anything has trouble in the wet - hence the 17 evacuated by chopper the next week when it rained again.

This lot are further north - on or near the Frenchmans Track - in Iron Range NP - or at Lockhart River

Damned narrow track - it gave you virtually no wriggle room for most of the way.

The old FJ40 that some local guys had got stuck and then flattened a couple of batteries. We'd found the two guys 10 km down the road at the start of the Frenchman's Track. They were sitting there waiting for someone they knew to come along and help. We offered assistance, but they were OK and while we were crossing the river we heard them get started and go back the other way. It was funny being out in the middle of nowhere and seeing their bare footprints along that 10km of track.

Much of the track was like this, or worse

This is the fuel station in Lockhart River. No staff - you need a PIN-enabled credit card to get fuel. All locked up at night. There were plenty of kids running around near there that I'd have expected should have been at school.

Our campsite at Chilli Beach - where we encountered those drunk / drugged pig shooters at 1.30am.... and three more times up until about 3.30am. I don't mind admitting, I grabbed my machete and slept with it beside me. I had a couple of run-ins over the years with crazed druggies and having had one swinging a tomahawk at me last time is it as far as I'm concerned.

The druggies were on that road about 10 metres past our camp.

Chilli Beach itself

Local wildlife... a Dingo. One of these killed a 9 year old boy from my son's soccer team in 2001 (further south, on Fraser Island). RIP Clinton.

Somewhere on the Cape ....

It was nice to see the occasional warning sign..... but it was pretty damn rare. I hit one big dust hole - enough for me to worry about a bent rim - but I saw one as I went past it that would take down any bike that hit it - a vertical rear wall at least 18" high, with the hole filled with talc-like dust

When the creeks got to this size - and many got much bigger - we stopped and checked for holes and rocks - of which there were plenty. As a result of all the creeks, we had wet boots / feet continuously while on the Cape. Ten days of wet feet.

We saw lots and lots of hawks and eagles - and a vast number of bird species I'd never seen before. I subsequently had a few high speed, very close, encounters with hawks on the way to Darwin - I had to duck 3 at one spot - they were feeding on some of the plentiful roadkill - but in a shadow, so I didn't see them and ended up with one going over each shoulder and one over my head - at 130+kph. Think 80 mph turkey into the chest and you understand why you keep an eye open for them

One of my best sights on the Old Telegraph Track was a Red-winged Parrot that flew out of the low scrub and led me up the track for quite a ways. I'd only ever seen them in captivity before.

The slaughterhouse at Old Laura Station - now abandoned. Big verandah for shade, mesh to keep the flies out

Me, wandering over to the Old Laura Station house. Note the kidney belt - an essential item up there with all the corrugations.

The worst corrugations were the last little bit of road out to the Tip. It was horrendous. Vision blurring stuff. It was reasonable most of the time... the corrugations were pretty even, so you could get some speed up and skip over them. Get a couple of twisted ones involved though and suddenly you'd be all over the place.

I had one damn close call on a good section of corrugated road. I was doing 70kph and chuffing around a nice curve when suddenly I was in a tank slapper... with the front knobby scrubbing sideways one way then the other until I stopped. That of course ripped the damn groin muscle again and I was sorely tempted to put the bike on the boat back to Cairns for a while.

Me again.... getting wet feet (well, keeping them wet, actually)

So... there's hundreds more photos, but that gives a hint of what the Cape was like.

When I got back to Cairns, it cost a small fortune to get a fuel pump shipped in in a hurry ($550 in freight, on top of the pump cost) – in order for me to meet an agreed date getting to Mt Isa….. only to find that the person I was meeting had changed his mind and was now meeting me in Darwin at a later date.

K0diak had originally been going to do the Cape trip, as had some others, including a friend from Adelaide, Phil (Balia). As the trip got closer, their plans changed and Andras (K0diak) who was going to meet me in Mt Isa, decided he'd go to Darwin rather than Mt Isa. Bugger. I guess I learnt a lesson there... don't tell the Mrs "I need it here on Monday" without adding "as long as the cost is reasonable".

I didn't get the message about going direct to Darwin until too late.... which brings up another point... telecoms. My mobile is with Vodafone. Useless. I ended up buying a Telstra phone on the Cape... and even that was limited to the major settlements. Outside them, its sat phone or nothing. The sat phone wasn't that good either... just an item of last resort really. It cost me $27 of airtime sending my first SMS on it.

The bike shop in Cairns was short staffed, so I did the fuel pump and a few other things (air filter, etc) on the footpath.

Check out the 3,000km air filter next to a new one.

A man should only do the work that is required of him. To do more is a form of greed.

Ride through Oz and Asia
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