My alarm sounds again, this time not quite so early due to our close proximity to The Tip. Although it’s still dark, a distinctive lack of stars in the sky tells me it is once again overcast. Hope of a sunrise over The Tip fades as I nestle into the swag and fall back to sleep.
Not wanting to waste the morning Rah and I rise as soon as it is light enough to see where we’re walking, and head west along the empty beach toward a rocky point in the distance. The sunlight filtering through the gapless rain clouds casts a calming blue hue as far as the eye can see. We’re thankful for the beautifully rounded light, which relieves our senses from the otherwise vibrant and overstimulating landscape. With it comes cooler temperatures that seem to slow us down and really relax our nerves.
Just as we reach the rocky outcrop Rah doubles-over with a sharp, stabbing pain. She looks to be holding her belly, though assures me it is period pain as tears stream down her face and meet under her chin. The colour drains from her once-rosy face and she’s forced to the sand surface where she stays – breathing deeply and trying to mentally reassure herself that there are worse places to be struck-down with your period. The fact of the matter is, there aren’t many places that fall into that category. We’re horribly underprepared for such a situation, and without the necessary items are forced to make the call to ride back into Bamaga.
I take the last of the heavy bags off The DR, while Rah prepares our riding gear for what will undoubtedly be a swift ride in. I wheel the heavy beast out of ear-shot from where Brogan is still peacefully sleeping, and then I fire her up; the cool morning air noticeably affecting the note of exhaust as the engine roars to life and then settles into a strong, unwavering idle. I smile to myself as we mount the motorbike and ease away.
I wait until there is some heat in the engine – riding slowly and familiarising myself with the light, nimble setup – before unleashing all the fury in an exhilarating amalgamation of powerslides and feathered throttle. Rah hangs on for dear life and we make record time, reaching Bamaga just as the sky opens up and heavy rain falls around us. This only deepens the rich reds and brightens the vibrant greens, which in-turn heightens my senses and brings me back to reality.
We need to find some meds to put Rah at ease. The only place that is of any help to us at such an hour of the morning is the BP Service Station. She doses up on painkillers and we hang in town until we know they’re doing the trick. The rain ceases to fall for a brief moment, so we run the gauntlet and head for Punsand Bay once again.
When we arrive we find that Brogs is up trying to piece together clues to determine why we weren’t there, and indeed where we were. He’s relieved to know we didn’t make an early morning dash for The Tip, and then grateful when we inform him we bought bacon and eggs for breakfast.
We make short work of the oily goodness on fresh bread from Bamaga bakery and a healthy slathering of chilli jam, before filling our morning with writing, fishing, relaxing and then more food towards lunchtime. Whilst Rah and I are busy relaxing by the pool and sipping XXXX Gold, Brogan slips away unnoticed for a solo mission to explore the roads north of here!
Upon his return he gives us a run-down of the roads, which is enough to kick Rah and I into gear. We ready The DR and make a move; out along Bottom Crossing Road until we reach the main track north. We turn left and open up the throttle, utilising 2nd, 3rd and 4th gear to make short-work of the mild corrugations. I can feel my toe throbbing like crazy in my runners. I had to wear them as slipping a boot over my swollen toe was far too uncomfortable. The aching is making use of my rear brake a challenging lesson in pain management. The road kinks repeatedly and I use the engine to brake for each corner instead.
Without warning, the trees around us close in and meet above us. Palms, ferns and figs drown out the eucalypts in a dense tropical ground cover that contrasts heavily with the ever reddening soil we’re riding on. We enter an enclosed corridor with hanging vines and rays of light catching the settling dust in front of us. This is what dreams are made of!
Eventually the tropical tunnel opens out and exposes a sunny crossroad: Left will take us to The Tip (15km’s), and right to Somerset Bay (11 km’s). Our aim is to catch the setting sun over the northernmost tip of the continent, and with a couple of hours to burn we decide to check out Somerset Bay first. The road remains open and smooth, flowing, and free from the hindrance of sand or corrugations.
We reach yet another intersection and take the left, winding down a steep decline towards Somerset Bay. We reach sea level, pulling up in front of the ocean and killing the engines. The tide is obviously retreating and has exposed large spans of mangroves. A little further out is a body of crystal clear ocean water, and then further still is Albany Island, surrounded by rocky outcrops and shallow reef. It looks secluded and untainted, though entirely accessible by boat. I drift away for a moment making sure plans to visit Albany Island one day.
We take a look at an interesting shrine before leaving; perhaps the items found on the surrounding relentless roads. Everything from lonely shoes and hats, to radiators, air filters and even a car door. It seems to be the thing to do up here when you lose an integral part from your automobile – just hanging it on a tree for all to see!
We head back out the same way we came in – albeit via a slight sandy detour that was short-lived due to a fallen palm blocking our route. We arrive back at the three-way intersection, and turn north towards The Tip this time. The road tightens, slows and closes over in another impressive display of hanging vines and canopied snake-like twists and turns that lend themselves to smooth, flowing inputs.
I find myself basking in appreciation of the sheer magnificence of our surrounds, and deep in thought about the where this motorbike trip has taken me so far. I left Nambucca Heads with a goal in my head. The goal wasn’t as clear-cut as you might imagine. I had no plans to ride certain roads, or to visit particular places. Instead, my goal was to expand the way I perceived those roads and places that I have – and will continue to – ride and visit. I’ve spent my life fretting over my inability to focus on the finer details; a lack of attention to what is in front of my very eyes. Over the course of this motorcycle journey I’d like to change that.
I feel at this moment in time, riding through what is undoubtedly the most beautiful environment I’ve been exposed to, that I’m beginning to master the very technique that I have always longed to find within myself. I feel focused, determined and inspired when I reflect on the progression of my journey north; the small steps forward that build upon themselves and ultimately bring me closer to my destination both physically and mentally. My attitude has changed, emerging from it an appreciation for aspects of life I once didn’t know existed.
I find myself drinking in the finer details around me. I notice the soft sweetness of tropical scents whilst colourful plants pass-by, the feeling of heavy air as moisture builds well before the clouds are in sight, the slight shift in the sound of the motorcycle’s engine after removing the luggage and allowing it to really move, and the impossibly fine variations of soil colour as we near a body of water, or ride deeper into a desert; all without my mind wandering from the task at-hand. Since removing myself from the busy and monotonous lifestyle we all grow accustomed to in our modern society, I’ve found that my senses have been heightened in such a way that I feel is akin to a meditative state of mind. With less distractions I’ve more time to realise my goal, and focus my attention when my mind wanders.
Ten kilometres feels like an eternity as we ride towards the biggest checkpoint of the trip yet. As suddenly as it closed over, the canopy opens up and we’re spat out onto wide roads lined with dense wild grass. We pass a series of dilapidated structures to our right, and a very shady looking boardwalk that disappears into the dense forest to our left. We ride to the end of the road, kill the engines, and then I spend a few minutes trying to comprehend the grandness of it all. There are Pandanus palms and reaching trees that frame an enormous expanse of off-white sand, and the most brilliant patterns etched shallowly into it by the long dragging fingers of the draining tide. Then there’s the perfectly clear ocean waters that lap a scattering of rocky islands both near and far, and a single yacht bobbing ever-so-slightly with its sail-less mast reaching for the sky like a lone fresh cherry atop a smooth iced cake.
I snap-out of my daydream only to realise that Rah and Brogs are nowhere to be seen. I figure they’re exploring the abandoned resort or walking the boardwalk. I ignore signs telling me that it’s closed and deemed unsafe, and try my luck anyway. I find that every second or third board is missing, though continue deeper until I reach an unpassable section and am forced to turn around. Next I try the abandoned tourist resort. I find Brogan is wandering around in awe of the disarray and destruction caused by cyclones and vandals over the years.
The original settlement was built just 500 metres from The Tip by Bush Pilots, and then later renovated by Australian Airlines so it could be included in their portfolio of resorts. In ’92 this changed however, and with the help of a government loan-grant the Injinoo people concluded negotiations for the return of their land. In my opinion the erection of such a resort – although once providing refuge in an area so remote – has arguably destroyed a wonderfully untainted part of Australia.
Only a few short years after the Injinoo took ownership did a fire breakout in the generator which provided power to the entire establishment. This led to the closure, and ultimately the demise of the Pajinka Wilderness Lodge which has since been vandalised and stripped of all things valuable by thieving scum. Not a single glass pane is intact, all the doors have been ripped from their hinges, and the lack of yard upkeep has resulted in a somewhat Jumanji-esque look to the place; with vines bursting through the ceilings and draped across rooms, bamboo creaking in the faintest breeze, and palm trees literally growing up through the dusty, stained floors and decks.
We wander around all 24 cabins to inspect the irreversible damage, and spend a great deal of time trying to imagine what it might have been like in the late-80s whilst in full-swing and operating as a successful business. We pass through the reception which is completely bare, and out into what I can only imagine was once the communal pool area. I lift some iron sheeting to reveal a barely recognisable swimming pool filled to the brim with pitch black water.
Still, Rah is nowhere to be seen. With only one place left to look we begin the trek to the northernmost point of Australia. We follow a rocky goat’s trail which weaves up and over two massive peaks before winding back down to the water’s edge. We pass cairns made from the smoothest stones which have been arranged at the very top of each peak, and then at the very tip of Australia we find Rah sitting and gazing out into the ocean.
Straight out from the sign which informs us of our location, there looks to be two separate currents which converge in a swirling motion between where we stand and the island directly in front of us. It’s almost as if two oceans meet at this very location. With darkness approaching we scout out the best vantage point possible to experience the sunset.
We aren’t exactly blessed with clear blue skies, though as the sun is nearing the horizon the clouds do part to reveal the glorious, glowing sun. Its soft yellow light reflects off and melds with the deep, dark blues of the swirling ocean. The nearby coastal mountain ranges to our left are silhouetted by the setting sun, and that lone yacht sits peacefully without a worry in the world. I wonder if they can see us all the way up here, and whether they’re indeed doing the same thing as us; watching Mother Nature in all of her glory and magnificent colours!
Here's a quick time lapse that B-man put together for our cloudy sunset:
We walk back to the motorbikes in the paling evening light, and don’t waste any time in getting on the road in fear of riding the tight, technical track back to Punsand Bay in the dark of the night. Unfortunately our window of opportunity is not as wide as the ride is long, and we find ourselves struggling to make out the track let-alone any corners as we approach them at speed. Rah and I are both so sleepy, and I try hard to fight the heavy eyelids and concentrate on what is ahead of me. The DR hasn’t got the best of lights, and with the high-beam on I find the visibility directly in front of me isn’t good enough. So instead, I ride back with the dismal low-beam lighting up birds and enormous flying insects as they kamikaze toward it from the tall grass. We stop briefly and look on as Brogan peels a green tree frog from his headlight. He said it look to have dropped from a tree as he was riding-by.
Once back at Punsand Bay I cook a vegetable and noodle soup with a serious dose of chilli. As exhausted as we are, it doesn’t stop us from staying up a while to chat about one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places we’ve ever seen. It really sheds light on Australia’s immense environmental diversity, and gives us a newfound drive to explore the rest of what is on offer.