To the top of Australia
In August – September 2007, Ed and Gaye Bourke, and Mark Polley cycled from Cairns to Cape York and back.
This trip was planned as an independant trek using mountain bikes towing BOB trailers.
We saw many of the highlights of Cape York including the many varied National Parks, rivers, lagoons, wildlife, rain forest, tropical coastline, plus where possible following minor tracks and roads which were often only two wheel ruts. The tracks featured lots of creek crossings, eroded sections, sand and corrugations.
It was a 2400km round trip over sandy, corrugated and washed away roads. Great scenery, remote camping, swimming and interesting wildlife (including crocs).
Route and Planning
We left from Cairns and headed up the coast through the Daintree rainforest to Cooktown. From there we headed inland to explore the remote Cape Melville National Park followed by Lakefield NP with it’s wetlands, abundant birdlife and crocs.
Then up the wide and relatively busy Northern Development Road from Musgrave through Coen to Archer River. Featuring a ready supply of hamburgers and coke.
From here we headed out to the East coast to visit Portland Roads and Iron Range NP for a few days. We cut back west on the rugged Frenchmans Track…through remote and beautiful country and back onto the main Northern Development Road.
We were soon onto to the Old Telegraph Track (OTL) and enjoying the snug feeling of travelling along our own personal track through endless bushland, creeks, rivers and birdlife.
Then it was across the Jardine River on the ferry and we were on the final leg to the Cape.
The final few kilometers to Cape York took us through winding tracks and the lovely Lockerbie Rainforest. Then a short walk dragging our bikes over a rocky headland to the very tip of Cape York
Route: Cairns, Cooktown, Cape Melville NP, Lakefield NP, Musgrave, Coen, Archer River, Iron Ranges NP, The Old Telegraph Track, Bamaga, Seisia, Pajinka and the tip.
Bikes: Ed and Gaye (Mark’s was similar)
Hardtail mountain bikes: 9speed, disk brakes, XT level componentry, wide seat, soft grips, heavy duty rear rims.
Trailers: BOB YAK trailers. Single wheel, mounted on bike using special rear skewer. Waterproof rolldown bag contains most gear. Top mounted zip bag used for storage of frequent access stuff such as lunch, nibbles, camera etc.
Riding Gear: knicks, light shirt, spd sandals, mitts, helmet, camelbak, sunnies.
On Bike Tools: pump, multi-tool(with chain breaker), pocket knife(with screw drivers), puncture kit, spare tube, chain lube.
Tools and Spares in trailer: cassette remover, 6inch shifter, 6inch multi-grips. tubes, tyres, BOB trailer tubes and tyre, spokes, jockey wheels, brake cable (long), gear cable(long), grease, chain lube, spare skewer(BOB specific), puncture kit, cable ties, wire, tape, sewing kit, glue, asst nuts, bolts, washers, bearings.
Trangia stove (includes pots and pans), Lightweight 2 man Tent (for Ed and Gaye),
Minimum clothes (it’s very warm, even at night),
Self inflating matress, silk sheets, pillow(small piece of foam), NO sleeping bags.
Food parcels mailed ahead to ranger stations at Lakefield, Iron Ranges and Heathlands NPs. Also one to the Post Office at Coen.
We took advantage of roadhouse and pub meals whenever possible. This saved us carrying as much food and provided relief from the daily Trangia cooked meals.
Meals available at Mossman, Cooktown, Musgrave, Coen, Archer River, Moreton Telegraph Station, Bramwell Roadhouse, Bamaga, Seisia. Also at roadhouses south of Musgrave that we passed on the way home.
Repairs and Maintenance on this trip:
- 3 spokes broken(2 Ed, 1 Mark)
- 2 tyres destroyed (both Mark – split sidewalls, they were new Schwalbes!)
- Rear hub graunching (Ed – regreased rear wheel bearings – grease washed out due to water immersion)
- Lots of chain lubing due to water and dust ingress
- BOB trailer floor breakage (Gaye’s trailer. Due to poor repair previously) Fixed with cable ties.
Repair and Maintenance Tips:
This trip is very hard on equipment. Bikes and trailers need to be in good shape at the start. Maintenance can be high due to the water and sand ingress into moving parts plus the general pounding that the bikes and trailers take.
- You’ll probably get very few punctures as there are virtually no thorns.
- There are no bike shops on this trip. You can get tubes at Cooktown and thats about it.
- Tyres need to be run at low pressure for sand riding.
- Tyres need to be qood quality and near new to prevent/delay the sidewalls from failing (due to low pressure running)
- Use a heavy duty rear rim, preferably 36 spoke (or more)
- Good quality sealed hubs and bottom brackets are more likely to resist the water immersion in the frequent creek crossings. Pulling the hubs apart and regreasing them after a couple of weeks is probably a good idea.
- Old pedals may fail due to water and sand. I would suggest start with new.
- Running gear (cassette, chain rings and chain) should be new as significant wear will occur. And you dont want a jumping chain!
- SPD sandals(Shimano) are great for this trip. No problems getting feet wet and no dirty socks!