Week 7 | Day 46 – Wednesday 13th November 2013 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 di ...
Week 7 | Day 45 – Tuesday 12th November 2013 For the first time in as long as I can recall my alarm sounds; initially soft though working its way up to a volume unpleasant enough to wake me from my precious sleep. I look at the time and realise it’s an ungodly 3:00am. I’d hazard a guess to say I’m the only living thing awake at this moment in time. As I transition from a state of dysfunction – drunk off sleep and unaware of my surroundings – to a state of semi-consciousness I remember that late ...
Week 7 | Day 44 – Monday 11th November 2013 That beautifully refreshing, soft patter of rain falling from the night sky as we slipped into bed early last night has transformed into what feels like the onset of the tropical wet season. Gusts of wind carry the rain horizontally in waves of noise and excitement; perhaps nature’s idea of a friendly reminder for us to keep moving so as to not get caught out when all hell inevitably breaks loose! There is no doubt about it, we are tempting fate trav ...
Week 7 | Day 43 – Sunday 10th November 2013 Sometimes words simply aren’t enough to convey certain emotions and our environment. For this reason, I’ve put together a little video of today’s adventure. There are no special effects and it’s very basic, though I hope you find something in there that wasn’t conveyed in The Old Telegraph Track: Palm Creek to Fruit Bat Falls. If nothing else, you can laugh at my supreme ability to spend more time falling off the motorbike than actually riding it! &n ...
Week 7 | Day 43 – Sunday 10th November 2013 It’s 5.30AM and nature’s alarm clock is rising up and over the horizon in a beautiful, warming array of soft pinks and yellows. With an uneasy sensation resonating throughout my tired and restless being, I decide it’s best to get up and utilise the early start on tackling today’s adventure: the Old Telegraph Track. I slip out of the swag and spend some quality time pacing the first challenge on foot whilst the others sleep for a while longer. I absor ...
Unsurprisingly, I roll out of bed with a throbbing head and a mouth strongly resembling a desert. It is 7am by the time I’ve found my phone and managed to adjust my eyes to the extreme levels of light beaming through the surrounding windows.
By the time I make my way into the lounge room, the others are up, and at a glance are also, unsurprisingly, just as hung over and I. Not wanting to waste a beautiful morning, we climb up and into Dan’s Hilux – fitted with some of the stiffest springs known to man – and, sitting three across the front, make our way towards Mossman. We pass through the town centre and take a left leaving the main road. We follow it for a few minutes before we arrive at an absolute gem of a swimming hole – a regular weekend relaxation zone for Lil and Brenton.
Doing our best to cleanse ourselves of the night before, we swim for a while in the icy water that is running straight off the towering mountains above and then bask in the warming rays of the sun on the rocky banks. This is but a Band-Aid fix for what is inevitably going to be a hangover marathon.
Climbing into the bone-jarring Hilux, we brace ourselves for the short though extremely scenic drive back into town, picking up a few necessities on our way through so that we can treat ourselves to a cooked breakfast back at the homestead. Nothing but the finest fried egg and cheese rolls with a dash of BBQ sauce to help lubricate the sides on the way down.
I pack my bags and say goodbye to my beautiful friends whilst loading up The DR. The engine bursts into life, and then settles for a slightly high idle as the cylinder bore heats up. I throw a leg over The DR, grab first gear, and then navigate my way out of their unit complex. It doesn’t take long before I am out of town and back on the beautiful twisting oceanic stretch of road that will take me back to Cairns. Thankfully the black ribbon is basically empty, with the occasional hire car to sling-shot past! I twist in more throttle, giving The DR hell with the thought of this potentially being the last time I ride solo on such provoking roads for a while. The road straightens out and I slow down, eventually pulling over to soak up the views. I’m surrounded by an array of naturally beautiful elements that make for an easy appreciation of just how magical this stretch of tarmac really is – a riding and driving heaven!
I pull into Cairns with a bit of time up my sleeve, and decide to knock over a few errands before I’m due at the airport. First stop is Australia Post, packaging up and sending a few unnecessary items back to Nambucca to free up some luggage space. The next fifteen minutes is spent pulling all my gear off The DR, re-packing the luggage multiple times, and trying to find the most efficient way possible to carry the two of us and our luggage. Not quite satisfied with the way it turned out, I remind myself that it will require a re-pack once I know the exact size and weight of Rah’s bags. With that in mind, I make a quick trip to Suzuki to pick up the axle, air filters and spark plugs, before making my way to the airport – extremely excited, though equally as nervous, to see Rah once again!
I pull in early, and spend the next ten minutes playing the all-too-familiar game in the pickup/drop off zone with the parking officer on duty. Many laps of the car park later, I round the final bend before the long straight, and am greeted by Rah grinning ear-to-ear, with her helmet in one hand and a backpack in the other. Her long locks are blowing in the hot and humid Cairns breeze – and at this moment, I’m sure we are the only two people in the whole of FNQ wearing long pants in such a climate. I watch as the change in temperature hits her hard and fast. She strides across the pedestrian crossing and straight into my arms – embracing just long enough to attract some negative attention.
The parking officer, unable to feel emotion, doesn’t stand for the embrace. His face twitches and deforms, and almost as though he is hovering, he shuffles toward us. I try to explain that it will take some time to properly pack the bike so that it is safe enough to ride, though my reasoning is futile, and instead seems to only stoke the fire! Everyone has stopped what they are doing to watch from a distance as I strap Rah’s backpack on top of the right-hand pannier bag, all the while praying that my amateur knot it will hold.
Flustered by the heat of the day, though mostly the by heat of the parking officer breathing down my neck, I not only forget that my jacket and gloves are still hanging over the front fender, but I also overlook just how much lower the bike now sits with the extra weight (albeit not much) – forgetting to kick the side-stand up before we both jump on. Of course, the side-stand bottoms-out and forces us toward the passing traffic, as I scramble with every last ounce of energy to stop the fall, pushing the world beneath me away from the impossibly heavy bike with a single, rake-like leg.
The parking officer – satisfied that I’d already been humiliated enough – passes me my jacket and gloves, and tells me to move on with a victorious grin painted across his once emotionless face. I do just that – his beady eyes following our every move until we are out of sight. We leave, turning right and heading north. All the while, that same feeling I had after dropping the bike in the main street of Byron Bay comes flooding back – this time much stronger than before as the responsibility for the safety of two bodies lingers over my consciousness like a heavy storm cloud, rumbling and ready to burst at the seams.
It isn’t long before we pull up in the car park of Rah’s favourite waterfall, just north of Cairns; a place known by few as Fairy Falls. It is here – without the intense pressure of the parking officer – where we finally begin to relax and re-acquaint ourselves – and I honestly cannot think of a more fitting spot to do so.
It’s a short walk off the beaten track before we arrive at the foot of the falls; a small, crystal clear pool surrounded by mossy rock walls. There is not a single man-made material as far as the eye can see. We’re alone and spend the next half an hour swimming and sunning on the rocks. A school of tiny tadpoles darts by Rah’s belly, and as I look down towards the pebbly bottom I notice an inquisitive yabby rounding my feet. The tiny pool is bustling with life, and I lose myself in thoughts of just how beautiful and untainted this gem really is, and how lucky we are to be experiencing it; a great place and even better company.
It’s heavenly, and I really don’t want to leave, but we’ve made plans to head into the mountains to catch up with a couple of Rah’s mates; Ned, Arlene, and their beautiful 4 month old baby, Kashali – so we scale back down the slippery rock ledges and return to The DR. As I approach the bike, I notice the rear luggage is sitting at a slight angle – not at all consistent with the angle of the rear rack itself! A closer inspection uncovers signs of stress and failure as the plastic hard-case bolted the rack has warped and cracked under the shear load of the gear, and the forces of the rough terrain being absorbed by the bike. I knew I should have spent a few extra minutes revising the setup before I had left for the airport.
Feeling more inspired than ever, I use the motivation to get back behind the tools – something I have been beginning to really miss since being on the road. In my head I plan to over-engineer the setup so as to prevent further and future failures.
We both gear up, carefully mounting the bike, though still working out the best way to do so without any more drama. The road in and out of Fairy Falls is magical, too. Dense, dark forest fences the road in, so close you can reach out and skim the trunks with your fingertips as you pass-by. And because of their close proximity, the branches hang over the road and meet in the middle, cutting out all light and creating a breathtakingly beautiful tunnel – complete with vines hanging from the ceiling that brush the windscreen and our helmets as we make our way through the twists and turns. In a matter of minutes, we breach the tunnel and are met by soft warmth provided by the mid-afternoon sunlight over the mountain tops.
First stop is Smithfield. BCF and Bunnings are conveniently located next to each other, and we utilise both, grabbing a telescopic fishing rod, reel and tackle box, and enough metal to reinvent the entire rear rack on The DR if need be.
A Triumph Speed Triple has pulled up next to us in the car park. Major bike-envy hits me hard, so we decide it’s best to leave before I do anything I’ll later regret. The road from Smithfield to Kuranda blows my mind. It’s only now that I begin to dissect why this part of Australia really lends itself to riding. The backdrop at any given location is littered with towering mountain ranges. They’re impossibly steep – about as steep as they come before any effort to safely cross the range via a ribbon of carefully devised tarmac is rendered useless. In fact, some corners are so steep and are angled so acutely that, even in first gear, I find it extremely difficult to round them – balancing the weight of the bike and the throttle cautiously so as to keep the thing upright whilst staying within the confines of the tarmac.
Just over 11km’s of flowing twists and turns – the Kuranda Range Road is a must whether you’re driving a car or riding a motorcycle
Much to my surprise, I find a smooth, flowing and extremely reward rhythm riding up the range – and I put it down to just that; riding up the range. It feels natural leaning all that weight into a tight bend that then opens up and allows me to twist in a bit more throttle that I otherwise might have, were I carting a lesser load. Riding uphill is far more enjoyable that riding downhill, as the weight of the bike can be utilised to preserve the brakes. It is far easier to pick up speed through a corner if you’re not carrying enough, than it is to scrub it off if you’re carrying too much. I find that riding downhill is far less forgiving, and requires a lot more attention to be directed towards foot, hand and engine braking. It was here, too, that Rah really begins to grasp the concept of riding on the back of The DR. We have ample corners to practice the weight distribution and entry speeds, with very little traffic heading up the range interfering with our task at hand.
Rah snapped this photo whilst we were winding up Kuranda Range
We pass through the town of Kuranda, and then onto Speewah where Ned & Arlene reside. They have a nice big property up here in the tablelands – plenty of space for their three dogs and a few projects on the side, one of which is the restoration of an old 40 series Toyota Land Cruiser awaiting body repairs and a large capacity Chevrolet V8 diesel engine conversion.
Dusk is setting in, so after greeting everyone I get to work on the rear luggage rack modifications. I use 5mm angled plate to extend the rack 250mm further back toward the rear of the bike – which will help support the extra weight strapped down onto the hard case. I shift the case a little further back onto the rack extension, and add 2 extra bolts that run through the case and secure it to the extension on both sides. It certainly isn’t ideal having so much weight so far behind the rear axle, though there is no other way to carry our entire luggage and also comfortably fit two people on the seat in front. I’ve got enough metal leftover to add further bracing to the extension. I feel a lot more confident in the setup, though the trip northward will be a true testament to the modifications.
I put the bike back together and pack my tools away in the damp and dark of the night. By the time I’ve finished re-packing our gear, Rah has made a piping-hot cup of Chai tea, and we sit down on the front porch with Arlene, chatting away into the evening. It isn’t long before dinner is ready; a big bowl of soul-warming vegetable curry that sits hot, heavy and homely – like a big woollen knit encapsulating entire being.
With a full belly and a big bed to sleep in, Rah and I spend our first night on the road together in absolute comfort. Again, a level of comfort we mustn’t become accustomed to, taking into consideration the path ahead of us; riding head-strong into one of the most intense, isolated and unforgiving corners of Australia. We are both asleep within minutes of slipping into bed and pulling the covers up.