28/09/20 “The Big Trip” Stage 3  - Cape York to Townsville - “Are we there yet?"

210318 Punsand Bay to Townsville

The run to the finish line for this trip - Townsville.

Though we don’t mind comparing horse power this cheeky horse created havoc each night around the camp ground at Loyalty Beach near Seisia.

200928 Day 20 Cape York Loyalty Beach Bamaga 5 Tyre Handover very thankful

Day 20: Monday 28th September. 

A rest day at Loyalty Beach Campground near Seisia.

Did we say rest day. Well that’s open to interpretation. 

Given the state of the back tyre Andrew had contacted friends in Cairns to see if it was possible to get the tyre awaiting our return to Cairns delivered instead to Bamaga. As luck would have it a plane was scheduled to deliver freight to the neighbouring island of Horn Island. To say we were grateful that the pilot detoured via Bamaga tyre in hand would be an understatement. 

The next challenge was to fit it. We located the local Tyre centre in Bamaga, a shed with a gravel floor and not much else. It defied the number of vehicles that were lining up to have wheels and rims fixed or replaced. Certainly a captive market which given it is most likely seasonal these guys weren’t overly fussed on ramping up their service for the busy season. One look at the 1260 and we were advised “Nope not touching that.” At which time Andrew just asked for the use of the tyre lever and off he went. With a little assistance and levering help from Lee the new tyre was fitted in no time. 

200928 Day 20 Cape York Loyalty Beach Bamaga 10 Do it yourself tyre change

On the tools in Bamaga 

200928 Day 20 Cape York Loyalty Beach Bamaga 8 DC 1945 Wreck

The wreck of a DC3 that crashed on the 5th May 1945 on route to New Guinea - mother nature slowly reclaiming the wreckage

200929 Day 21 Cape York Pennisular-3 Punsand Bay Bar6MILQ4Yw

Day 21: Tuesday 29th September

Loyalty Beach Caravan Park to Punsand Bay Resort.  35km / 21m

We decided to depart from Loyalty Beach where our neighbours seemed to be oblivious to the fact that other campers may not appreciate their music or conversation to three in the morning every night. Next stop Punsand Bay just a little further north, any further north and you would fall into the Arafura Sea. 

Punsand Bay camping ground was like a small oasis with a beautiful beach, a refreshing pool, a bar with character and a clean cabin. 

The sign to mark the Tip of Cape York was only a relatively short dirt ride away but having climbed that tip in 1987 and sailed passed it twice on route to Darwin we decided our time was better spent relaxing beach side.

To add to the enjoyment of our final evening we met up again with the Ingham crowd. Good company, good food and a good sleep perfect for our last night before tackling the road south that we hoped in our minds had improved. 

(Left: Turning back the clock to July 1987 when we were last standing at the Tip of Cape York)

200929 Day 21 Cape York Pennisular-6 Bike and view Punsand Bay

The view from our cabin Punsand Bay Campground

200930  Day 22 Punsand Bay To Elliot Falls Twin Falls-04 Back on the Ferry Jardine River

Time to meet the ferry man again as we crossed the Jardine River - just as well we brought that return ticket. 

200930  Day 22 Punsand Bay To Elliot Falls Twin Falls-08 Scrubby Creek Crossing

Day 22: Wednesday 30th September 

Punsand Bay to Elliot / Twin Falls 127km / 79 miles 

After a good breakfast cooked up by Andrew on the verandah of our cabin it was time to set off on the road south. 

The road was as it had been on the way up - rough, but the last seven kilometres off the main track into Elliot Falls was to prove the most challenging. Hindsight says we should have stopped at the first crossing from where the sand just deepened and continued for as far as the eye could see. But our thinking was its only 7kms/4.5mi.

The challenge was to keep the bike upright when the sand simply got too deep for a fully loaded bike two up to keep moving forward. A little walking by Lee, a lot of skill by Andrew and we managed to get to the campground in one piece. Once camp was set the hardest decision was deciding which beautiful swimming fall to swim in. We both agreed it was worth the effort if only we could have stayed a week. 

The swimming hole of The Saucepan

Elliot Falls

Day 23: Thursday 1st October 

Twin Falls Campground to Moreton Telegraph Station 168km /104m

Possibly our toughest day on the trip.

On the way out we dropped the bike in the sand. Not a problem, as it had happened a couple of times before in sand on the trip without incident. Though it does take some body gymnastics to manoeuvre oneself free of the bike the soft panniers had proven their worth of keeping the bike normally free of our boots. The challenge would then come to lift the bike that weighed in at around 250kg/550 pounds. Adrenalin definitely kicks in and helps, but the  squat and deadlift training came into its own. On this incident a tree root happen to be between Lee's ankle and the pannier so things weren’t looking good. Thankfully due to sturdy boots nothing was broken but definitely wasn’t normal. Getting on and off the bike was going to be a challenge going forward. Not to mention walking!

201001 Day 23 Elliot Falls to Moreton Telegraph Station -08 Refreshing swim Wenlock River

Not the way to start the day. But then it only got worse.

The section of road that we were so looking forward to that had been hard packed on the way up was in the process of being graded by roadworkers. Sand was piled up in ridges, holes were hidden under rubble and sections were so heavily wetted down that they became a slippery slide. It was a hang on and hold your breathe as a pillion rider. Lee was absolutely in awe of Andrews ability several times to keep the bike upright! 

So the original idea of making miles for the day was instantly abandoned the moment  we saw the inviting green grass of Moreton Telegraph Station. We turned off and unanimously decided this was where we were staying the night. The afternoon was spent soaking in the nearby Wenlock River the next best thing to a bag of ice when no ice is available. A pie for lunch from the canteen was a welcome treat. The simple things in life are sometimes the best.

The green grass of the camp area also attracted the station cattle at night whose horns weren’t too welcome near our tent. 

Musgrave Roadhouse Station 

201002 Day 24 Moreton Telegraph Station to Musgrave Roadhouse -3 Royal Flying Doctor

Day 24 Friday 2nd October Moreton Telegraph Station to Musgrave Roadhouse 250kms /155m

Musgrave Roadhouse was originally built as part of a series of 8 Telegraph Stations stretching from Laura in the south to Paterson (Cape York) in the north, Prior to the establishment of the overland telegraph line all mail and news came by pack horse to this remote area. In 1887 the Telegraph operated on just two lines sending morse code messages via repeater stations and homesteads. With the onset of WWII there was an urgent need for upgrade and the Telegraph was increased to four lines and radio communication. It continued in operation until 1987 when “modern” communications taken for granted so long in the south  finally came to this remote part of northern Australia. 

The Old Telegraph Line road used for essential maintainence was for many years also the only road north. Today this section of 350km between Bramwell Station and The Jardine Ferry has become a 4WD adventurers playground, Thankfully for us there is now a bypass road around this section which having experienced the road in 1987 we had opted this time wisely to avoid. 

201003 Day 25 Musgrave Roadhouse to Cooktown to Lions Den-04 Dust Storm

While at Musgrave Roadhouse the Royal Flying Doctors departed from the station airstrip. This non profit organisation has been providing critical medical support to remote communities in Australia since its inception in 1928 as an Aerial Medical Service experiment out of Cloncurry QLD. It is always nice to know when you are remote that they are around. 

Day 25: Musgrave Roadhouse , Lakefield National Park , Cooktown to Lions Den Hotel Campground 277km /172m

From Musgrave it was time to turn east and head for Cooktown riding through Lakefield National Park. Officially the Cape York Peninsula trip was now complete and we were on the homeward run. As always nature has something to say and as the road conditions improved the wind deteriorated and we found ourselves riding though a dust storm and getting seriously buffeted from all directions when crossing open plain areas. 

As we approached Cooktown it became apparent that bushfires were raging in the area. We later learned that at least one house was lost in the uncontrolled blaze but given the immensity and intensity it no doubt could have been far worse.

Intense fires burning as we approached Cooktown 

201003 Day 25 Musgrave Roadhouse to Cooktown to Lions Den-20 Ferrari Estate 1886

Cooktown is the largest town on the Cape York Peninsula with a population of around 3000 people. It is named after the explorer and navigator James Cook who in 1770 beached the ship Endeavour at the mouth of the river for repairs after suffering damage on the Great Barrier Reef. 

Like many remote Australian towns Cooktown was at its economic peak during the gold rush era of the late 1800’s. The main street is a time capsule of buildings built around the late 1800’s to early 1900s.  

With Lees ankle being rather adverse to getting on and off the bike and walking any distance out of the question it was a case of doing a ride by to capture photos of the buildings.

(Ferrari Estates Building built from 1890 - 1891 as the branch and managers residence of the Bank of North Queensland)

Westpac Bank Building built 1891

201003 Day 25 Musgrave Roadhouse to Cooktown to Lions Den-24 Black Mountain

From Cooktown it was just a short 28km run to our camp for the night at the historical Lions Den Hotel. Along the way we passed by Black Mountains that are as the name suggests very black. They loom out of the countryside, the blackness of the huge granite rocks in stark contrast to any greenery bordering the mountains or clinging to the sides. 

201003 Day 25 Musgrave Roadhouse to Cooktown to Lions Den-28 Lions Den

The Lions Den Hotel was established back in 1875 by a Welshman and his wife to service the miners at the near by tin mine of the same name. Today the Hotel continues to offer cold beer, good food, grassed camp area and accomodation along with one of the few safe swimming holes in the area. As we discovered having arrived on the Saturday of a long weekend it was a very popular place to be and we certainly felt like we had just been thrown unwillingly back onto the tourist trail. 

201003 Day 25 Musgrave Roadhouse to Cooktown to Lions Den-29

This can you believe was the uncrowded end of the camp ground furthest away from the Hotel. 

201004 Day 26 Lions Den Cooktown to Kuranda-01 Bloomfiled River

The Bloomfield River 

Day 26:  Sunday 4th October Lions Den Hotel to Kuranda via Cape Tribulation 

214km / 133m

Today with a new bitumen highway between Cooktown and Cairns tourism continues to grow as access has been made easier. Not for us though, we were sticking to the dirt and taking the Bloomfield Track or coastal road south. 

201004 Day 26 Lions Den Cooktown to Kuranda-16

The Bloomfield Track was controversially developed between 1983 and 1984. The development at the time was pushed through by the local council and state government keen to see development and the northern areas opened to tourism. Due to the conservation efforts of protestors at the time the area was eventually listed as a World Heritage site on the 9th December 1988 protecting the rainforest region from further development.

Today the road is still dirt and restricted to 4WD or in our case a motorbike. Due to the recent winds there were a lot of trees down on the track which in a way was a blessing as it limited the amount of vehicles that were coming north as we headed south. There are two ranges on the track that have particularly steep climbs and descents. On Donovans Range the ratio was 20% or 1:1.5 and on the Cowie Range 33% or 1:3. Going up was easier for Lee as a pillion as the top bag prevented sliding off but going down became a quad bracing hand holding exercise trying not to pin Andrew into the tank as we descended. The scenery was stunning from the lush rainforest to the first sighting of the ocean. As special as we remembered from our first trip through here in a 4WD. 

Back to civilisation - lots of people and bitumen roads

201004 Day 26 Lions Den Cooktown to Kuranda-14 Cape Tribulation ferry

After lunch in a very busy cafe at Cape Tribulation we continued onto the Daintree Car Ferry. Certainly a popular car ferry and a little less weather worn than the Jardine River Ferry.

So now it really did feel like a run for the finish line. By mid afternoon we were pulling into the drive of the Mooneys n Kuranda only seen weeks before in Karumba. But how many stories did we have to share since leaving them there. Apparently we looked a little "travel weary.” Exhausted may have been another term that came to mind. 

Showered, laundry sorted and no camp to set it didn’t take long to be feeling revitalised. Home made pizzas and good company finished the night off nicely.

201005 Day 27 Kuranda to Kewarra Beach arriving

Day 27 Monday 5th October Kuranda to Cairns 22km / 13m

Literally a scenic run down the hill from Kuranda to overnight with John and Marion Koerner in Kewarra Beach Cairns. Definitely the first time that John has seen us arrive on such a beast of a machine and still looking a little dusty.

201006 Day 28 Cairns to Townsville-01 Cairns Pub

This pub is in Cairns but the name made us smile

201006 Day 28 Cairns to Townsville-02 Gordonvale201006 Day 28 Cairns to Townsville-10 Sugar Cane train Gairloch

Day 28: Tuesday 6th October Cairns to Townsville 

367km / 228m

The final day of this trip we followed the Bruce Hwy along the coast through Cardwell with its view of Hinchenbrook Island and Ingham home of the intrepid travellers we had met on the Cape  York Peninsular. We passed endless cane fields busy with harvesters and cane trains. The Highway appeared to be under repair the whole way and the constant stopping or slowing for road repairs became a little frustrating.

But before we knew it we had arrived into Townsville. The end of the journey.

On arrival we had huge smiles on our faces at our achievement. The bike though not looking as shiny as it had when we left Darwin four weeks earlier and some 5883km / 3655m ago had handled amazingly. 

This will be a trip that we will remember for a long time. It challenged us both physically and mentally. There were a few moments of what were we thinking but the rewards for what we saw, the people we met, the challenges we accomplished and the steak sandwiches we compared  truely made it a trip of a lifetime. 

Time to clean up and ponder where next. 

201007 Townsville-1

(Click for more photos) 

The footprint of the Ducati since ownership in July to October 2020.

Making miles and memories.

© SV Katherine 2018      Cover Photo: Katherine on Anchor Isle Tabarca Spain