It has been just over 1 year since we finished our Bicentennial National Trail (BNT) and Cape York bike riding adventure. Though Cape York was amazing and highly recommended, it is the experiences and the tight knit community of the National Trail that has made such an impact on our hearts. We hope to always contribute back to the BNT in whatever way we can. Unfortunately we are living in Sweden until approximately March 2020 so we are limited in our contributions. However, the technological world we live in has made it possible for us to support a few people’s successful BNT adventures. Something we wish to always continue doing.
Some statistics from our trip that might surprise people’s views
on how achievable a BNT adventure could be if you put your mind to it.
Days Inc rest
Cooktown – Cape York
6 – QLD
7 – NSW
8 – NSW
9 – NSW
10 – NSW
11 – NSW
11 & 12 Vic
Melbourne – Healesville
BNT + Cape York 6200km
As you can see from our ratio of rest days to riding days we had a jolly good holiday! Averaging 32.14km per day including our rest days (7 months) or 56.25km per day not including our rest days (4 months).
So if you’re thinking of hitting the National Trail in 2019 or sometime in the future, join the BNT community by becoming a member. There are many people who are willing to share their experiences and guide you on your journey.
We woke up this morning thinking ‘this is it! Not only was it our last day of our journey but we were going to hit the Tip of Australia! Pajinka!’.
We had a glorious sleep in and a great cooked brekkie at the Punsand Bay campsite. The owners of Punsand Bay gave us 3 options to get to the Tip:
9km-ish on a low tide along the beach but we might find a croc in one of the creek crossings.
24km on the main road which meant heading back to the croc tent and over the corrigations and we would probably see more tourists racing each other to the Tip on the road.
17km along the 4wd track that connects Punsand bay to Pajinka.
Although the thought of riding on the hard sand at low tide sounded fantastic, coming face to face with a croc in the creek did not appeal, neither did riding with tourist traffic. We chose the 4wd track, which felt in the spirit of the BNT. The first 4km or so were a bit of a slow slog in soft sand and we had to get off and push. The last day of riding was also the last day for Tegan’s cycling shoes but they were determined to savour every last moment.
The surface eventually got firmer as we cruised along the track. But between slogging through the soft sand and the high humidity, sweating reaches a whole new level very quickly.
We rode until we came to the end of the road, ahead was a sandy beach and the Torres strait. Pajinka, The Tip is just a little further on. We dismounted and pushed our bikes over the rocky headland in search of the most northern point on the Australian Mainland.
The view from the headland is stunning. White sandy beaches, beautiful turquoise water and the tropical islands of the Torres Strait!
It was such an exciting moment when we made it to the Tip, Pajinka! We sat at the end of Australia for a good while, soaking in the sun, watching the swift current peel around the point and thinking back over our trip.
We had thought through and talked about this day for some time but the anticipation didn’t fit the reality. Instead of the overwhelming emotions that had arrived when we had pondered this moment along the way, the feeling at the end was a deep and comfortable feeling of satisfaction. No fist pumping or heroics, something much more subtle and untouchable. While riding to the end of the land has a dramatic ring to it, today was just another day of the ride. The events of the day fitted in nicely with the events of the trip. It was an excellent trip
Its funny that this last post has taken so long to write, it doesn’t seem right that it has come to an end. The concepts of the bucket list and the once in a lifetime adventure are inadequate, this adventure had turned into a way of being. Our bikes and tent had been our home, transport, adventure, exercise, therapy and solace for over 7 months. It was probably life changing (it might be too early to tell), but in an emergent way rather than a transformation. Important things were reinforced and irrelevant things gently left aside as we travelled the highs and lows.
The Telegraph Track has definitely been a highlight of Cape York and one of best sections of the entire pedal from Melbourne. Today though, we chose to leave the Tele track and head out to the main road as the track seemed to be getting softer and softer the further north we went and the final stretch up to the Jardine was looking like a sandy slog. We were also getting excited about hitting the tip!
So we crept around the camp so not to wake our mates, packed up and followed the dingo tracks in the soft sand from our campsite for the 7km out to the main road. About 3km along the track we heard a significant waterfall just off the northern side of the track and stopped to try and find it, to no avail.
We turned onto a the main road and were lulled into a false sense of comfort as the road started off hard and smooth then began to deteriorate into soft corrigations all the way to the Jardine River ferry crossing.
The guy at the ferry office had mixed feelings about the road up to the Cape steadily being bituminised in the next 3-5years.
It would bring many positives for the the locals including
Make travel and wear and tear on vehicles less
Cost less fuel
Freight of goods cheaper
Connection to services much easier
He then rolled his eyes and said ‘and then more people will visit’ and proceeded to recall some of the events during the peak tourist season and odd person who comes up the Cape with a few screws loose. He then explained how it will be a fine balance between keepin the tourists but not losing the wild beauty of the Cape.
Up until this point we have had tail winds but as we crossed the ferry the road headed east, directly into the most terrible headwinds! Combine this with soft corrigated sand and it was a character building ride until the road swung north again. At the northern side of the Jardine ferry crossing there was a sign for the Bamaga Bakery, which the vision of hoeing into a fresh pie was enough to keep us pushing through the headwinds. We just hoped that by the time we got there they would have some left!
Sure enough, the towns of the north delivered the sense of community, wildness and beauty as Tom had described and as Tegan had been hoping to see. As we entered Injinoo we spied a big pigging dog diving into a wheelie bin. As we continued further onto Bamaga the speed limit changed to 40km/hr throughout the whole town. We saw more locals on push bikes, mangy camp dogs and wild horses wandering up the main street or inside someone’s house yard eating their garden. We watched the traffic roll past the bakery as we ate a very good pie and a delicious apple turnover and vanilla slice! Many 4x4s we recognised from our ride up plus a decent collection of local cars drove by. Our favourites being the commodore and falcon sedans with windows down pumping beats as they drove by.
Our bakery stop was needed to get us to Punsand bay, where we had been informed the roads were in the worst condition of all the roads on the Cape. It lived up to the expectation and we took an obligatory breather at ‘The Croc Tent’, a shop which would fulfil every tourists hopes and dreams.
11km to Punsand bay! This destination put us within a short ride to the Tip the next day, meaning we could have a sleep in! We crested a hill and saw a glimpse of the Torres Strait! Stunning! A land cruiser ute pulled up “want a lift? We heard you guys were coming”. “No, it’s ok, we only have 11km to go” replied Tegan, not realising it was the owner of Punsand Bay resort, until she saw the massive sign on the door of the ute. “Ok, we’ll see you soon then!” Replied the owner.
As we approached the resort entrance we heard a huge applause. It was the owners and staff having a drink and chat after work awaiting our arrival. “We haven’t had crazy people like you stay here in years! Have a drink on us, well done!”.
We spent the evening chatting to a couple of staff and locals, but mainly chillin out, thinking about how far we had come, and reflecting on what has been an amazing journey.
Lessons Learned to the Tip!:
Pushbike ferry ticket $10 each one way!
The Seisa sign coming into town listed ‘fishing club’ twice. Not sure if it was a typo or if the fishing club is so good it gets its name twice (you know, like Wagga Wagga)
You can’t hide up here. Everyone recognises everyone’s cars and faces. Anything unusual and the bush telegraph will inform those who need to know.
Punsand bay is a great place to stay, run by a well organised friendly couple who seem to treat their staff like family. The location itself cannot be beaten. Just beautiful! https://www.capeyorkcamping.com.au/
Road conditions are determined by the availability and number of the graders.
It was another sandy start to the day, but after the Cockatoo Creek crossing the road got a bit better. The sand disappeared and we were left with a corrugated, undulating ride out to the main road.
We stopped for brekky at Sailor Creek, just before the main road intersection. It was another beautiful sandy creek through the heathlands lined with pitcher plants and ferns. We fed the rainbow fish with bits of museli which made for very good entertainment. It probably sounds like we have been in the bush too long when the height of entertainment is sharing breakfast with the fish, but it was pretty good.
It also seems that one thing you have to do as a traveller on Cape York is leave your mark for all the people that follow you. This can be as simple as “shazza and johnno cape trip 17” written on bits of your broken fourby and slung up a tree, or as premeditated as custom team stickers made in preparation for the bucketlist trip. They are then usually stuck on memorable roadsigns so you can get a mad selfie in front of it, and any sign marking the Old Telegraph Track seems a favourite victim.
We passed the sign marking the end of the southern section of the telegraph track, got our selfie with other people’s stickers, and headed up the main road to Fruitbat Falls. We had a swim in the lovely pool and had the place to ourselves. As we were leaving, 4 of the finest yobbos to grace the north rolled in, 2 rum tinnies in each hand at 10am. As we filled our water bottles at the carpark you could hear all the hollering and huge splashes coming up from the creek. It sounded like fun but we were happy to have had our swim when things were a bit more serene.
We pushed onto Elliot and Twin Falls. Where we found Dave, Shaun, Max and Bo again! Elliot Falls is more action packed than Twin and Fruitbat Falls. It is a narrow crevasse where you are surrounded by the waterfalls and pushed by its swift current. So the Falls coupled with some energetic mates made for a fun time all round.
We pushed on to camp at Mistake Creek. Tom reminisced getting bogged in a troopy with a trailer at this creek. Its name may seem like an omen but the creek is stunning.
After significant wallowing in the creek, we cooked up and washed up when we heard the hum of approaching 4bs. We weren’t that keen to share our campsite with loud 4wd-ing party goers such as the 4 blokes with rumbos at 10 this morning. But we didn’t have much choice but to wait and see who turned up. To our relief it was our new happy-go-lucky friends Dave, Shaun, Max and Bo! We watched them all skilfully travel down the Sandy hill and pass through the creek.
We had a great evening sharing adventure stories, chatting all things 4wd and laughing about how our bikes and their 4wds have been playing tag along the Telegraph Track over the past 3 days!
Cheers guys and gals! Thanks for the great night, the beer and the luxury of sitting in your spare camp chairs! Lessons Learned on TNTs Trip to the Tip:
The past 3 days is probably the cleanest we have been whilst on our entire bike trip!
The creeks are so beautiful, fresh and flowing. We Even need the filter.
We were quite impressed by our camp at Delhunty creek. Last night we spot lighted many frogs, fish, prawns and yabbies in the creek.
We travelled just a couple of minutes up the road to Bertie Creek. This Creek was so beautiful we just had to have a swim! It was also where our 4wd-ing mates had pulled up to camp for the night so we had a bit of a chat to them before heading off towards Gunshot Creek.
We had been going for a couple of hours in really soft sand, some bits so soft that there was no option but to get off and push. With our stomach’s rumbling we checked the map to see how far away we were. We were miles away!!! Actually about 10km in the wrong direction towards Skardon River & Port Musgrave!!! So we turned around and tried to pick up the pace but the soft sand was so tough going it felt like days before we came back to the right track. It was incredibly frustrating and exhausting!
We eventually made it to the Gunshot Creek, hot, tired, sweaty and covered in grit. We layed around wallowing in the crystal clear waters, looking up at the multiple hectic looking 4wd-ing lines! Our swim was perfectly timed, we managed to grab the break in the traffic before we spied our 4wd-ing friends, Max, Shaun, Dave and Bo line up to hit some runs.
We have encountered a bit of mixed bag with the 4×4 types up here, some nervous, some serious, some grumpy, but these guys were constantly laughing, smiling and were clearly just going to have a good time no matter what. As a bunch of travellers you couldn’t get a more desperate mob (us on our bikes, Max and Bo in a $1200 car they had driven from southern WA, and Shaun and Dave with the flashest 79 series landcruisers you could get) but there was a commonality, we were all out to find some adventures and have a great load of fun doing it that made hanging out together really easy.
Swim had, we moseyed along to cockatoo creek and camp for the night. We swam some more, but this time in the shallows. This crossing is not far from the coast and there were the ubiquitous warning Achtung!! signs about the salties so we didn’t push our luck. Tom spied a baby croc spotlighting after dark and we called it another successful day, even with the detour.
Lessons Learned to the Tip
Still check the gps
Shovel a bit of ‘fluffy dust into the big holes before hitting the track with a 4wd
When we were cycling on the National Trail there was a distinct change in the environment when we entered the outback. The terrain became flat, the roads straight and seemingly monotonous, but with this came solitude and an overwhelming feeling of contentment. The challenge for this type of riding becomes less physical and more about the mental game. At first your internal monologue is constantly craving stimulation, it’s used to seeing new things all the time, but eventually you manage to quieten the mind until there is nothing but the metronome of the pedals, the hiss of the tyres on the sandy gravel and the rhythm of your breath. There are few feelings as good as this. Once this happens your mind slows down enough to see the detail in the bush and watch the subtle changes unfold.
The riding up the Cape has been like this too. We have been travelling through country where, apart from a few cars, there are very few people. We have also started to do the longer days again. Today would be the longest ride either of us have ever done but 50km of sealed road to kick start the day definitely helps.
To make the most of the cool temperatures in the morning, we’ve just been getting up and going, munching a museli bar as we ride along until we find a good spot to pull up for breakfast. Today we pulled up after about 30 odd ks for our feed. We watched he moto riders we chatted to last night roll past, but even with our waving and cheering and Tegan’s hivis shirt, only the last chap in their tight formation saw us and gave us a wave. Its a pattern we have noticed a lot: people drive straight by without noticing us unless we are directly in their line of sight. Makes you wonder what they see, blasting past with the windows up, aircon blasting along with the radio.
The road eventually turned to dirt as we turned off the main road to Weipa and headed north. Now it really felt as though we were heading to the Tip of Cape York. The change to dirt made virtually no difference to our speed though. The road had recently been graded and we zoomed along.
We passed the road works. There was no traffic control and we threaded our way through the graders and trucks who all gave us a big wave. We had a drag race with two rollers who were rolling along only a couple of ks slower than us, and then sped off into the distance on the pristine road.
Weeventually came down to the Wenlock River which marks the Moreton Telegraph Station. We pulled in spent, but were revived by a good chat with the lovely lady running the place, an icy cold ginger beer and the promise of a sleep on the most luxuriant grass on the whole of the cape.
Lessons Learned on our Trip to the Tip!:
you might be in the middle of no where with nothing else around, but you can still be invisible to passers by.
Moreton Telegraph Station is only a camping ground. It is not a cattle station.
The Archer River Roadhouse is the place of legend; Tom’s last trip here resulted in a Collingwood loss in the grand final (much worse for Andy than anyone else), a last minute escape from some amourous locals, gummy bears and cornchips for dinner and a significant hangover. For us it was going to be a shorter days ride so we would have most of the arvo there, anything could happen!
The ride was on sealed road for the first 20ks or so then back into the corrugations. After some ghost shifts and a jammed chain it turned out Tegan’s jockey wheel on her derailer is completely worn out, resulting in the inability to change or even use her gears. It was now time for some bush mechanics. It seems that in north Queensland you have to drink either a XXXX Gold, great northern, redbull or icebreak while you drive along and it is mandatory to then hurl it out your car window when its finished. Lucky for us, 3 of the 4 come in aluminium cans, a material with which you can fix anything on a bike.
Fixed up, we rolled on. The last bit of the ride was pretty easy and we both had a really nice ride today. We pulled in to arher river in time for a late lunch where we encountered another legend of this place, The ‘Archer Burger’. It lived up to its reputation.
Inger and Willy had dropped off a food parcel for us on their way through a few days earlier and we spent the afternoon sorting it out, eating the tasty snacks and wandering around the riverbed.
While we were sorting the food a truck and a bunch of kitted out motos rolled in. Over a beer at the bar we discovered that the reason they all looked so flash was because it was a fully hooked up tour organised by Darryl beattie, former gp rider. We had a good chat with Darryl about the trips he runs and the ride we had been on then went off to cook up our dinner and hit bed.
We also had a quick yarn to our neighbours: 4 blokes from brisbane who had a decidedly more modest setup. Many more occy straps and mismatched pannier bags. They were heading north and would probably catch us up tomorrow.
This time around the trials and tribulations of the archer river roadhouse had not presented themselves and we were just fine with that.