“Are you guys going across that on your bikes?”, the lady standing next to me by her car said before Ben bolted. Apparently he’d asked me to stay on the southern bank while he went across the river, and turned around so he could film my attempt. I didn’t hear any of this over the two Akrapovic exhausts between us. Seconds after he made it across, up the bank and disappeared around a corner, I looked at the lady, who said “Well, you’re up!”, and I let the clutch go and stayed steady on the throttle.
The front wobbled every which way, the rear jumped about, losing and regaining traction on the stones. I kept my weight on the pegs and got across the first crossing on the Bloomfield track, from Cape Tribulation to Wujal-wujal, soaked up to the knees, and wet everywhere else from the splashes. My first real river crossing.
I had caught up with Ben the day before. He responded to my broadcasting call on Facebook groups for advice about Cape York, and we got along quite well; a very down to earth chap, intelligently spoken. Having been around the country on motorbike, he’s quite an experienced and competent rider, and knows the area very well, so I had little to lose in going for a ride with him. Ben had the day off work and decided he’d accompany me up to Cape Tribulation, crossing the Daintree river by ferry, and then turn around to head back home to Cairns.
We departed Cairns at 0545, heading up the coast, catching the sunrise which was just as beautiful as I had anticipated. We pulled over for a photo on the beach where Ben got half his rear wheel buried in the sand. Quick coffee stop in Port Douglas. Followed by an impulsive decision to do a Daintree river cruise before getting on the ferry: No crocs seen due to the high tide (they bask on the banks at low tide) although they were lurking in the water below us. We saw a lot of fruit bats, various rainforest birds, and the guide explained the variations in different mangrove flora as we drifted silently in the solar powered vessel.
Ben took me to Wujal-wujal falls -the first place with phone reception since the ferry, and the last until Cooktown- and waited behind in the car park while I walked down to the falls. Maybe it was the right mixture of exhaustion, heat, the post-single-beer-feeling from the drink at Cape Tribulation… but standing in that place at the time, looking out to the waterfall, I ‘zenned out’, not a thought in my head. I got back to the carpark 20 minutes later, refreshed.
Ben headed back, and I went on to the Lion’s Den Hotel campground for the night. Made my daal for dinner, ate a fallen mango from the tree nearby, chatted with a Kiwi rider and his Canadian friend, both on 250cc dirt bikes, from Cairns, just here for the weekend. Over two hours and three beers, we had a great chat about bikes, life, travel, cultures, food, women, relationships, love. Then we forgot the excellent advice we gave each other and parted ways to get a deserved night’s sleep.
I woke up and headed to Cooktown; a nice cruisy ride. I get why people think long roads without any technical sections get boring, but I find these to be of immense therapeutic value. It’s meditation by any acceptable definition, and I’m sure every Harley rider busy not waving back at you will agree. You can think about everything or nothing; let your mind wander, or direct your thoughts specifically. I flick through all those states, and the more I do it, the more I love it.
I was there by 0800, and didn’t want to wait an hour for the museum to open, so I went to the lookout point, ate another roadside mango, and collected my thoughts. My kit had a number of items that I could do without. I decided to come back to Cairns to unpack, strip my kit, repack and mail back excess items to Brisbane. I did this at a backpackers, and shaved off 12 kg, and then kept a really good looking female tourist from Europe up all night…
…with my snoring from the bunk opposite hers.
Maybe it’s the lack of gym and running which has always regulated my diet, rest and recovery, but I didn’t feel up for an early start heading back up north this morning. Hydration may also have a part to play, so I’ll increase that from my current 3L/day. I decided to stay in Cairns today, write, digest the past few days, think and talk to people about heading up the Cape. The next few days will have a lot of seat time, or peg time, depending on the routes I take!
Early start tomorrow. No beer tonight.