About Traffic and TermitesSeptember 13, 2012
Where my road met the Peninsula developmental Road the track became a little less funny.
I found that a lot of people heading North on this large and long dirt track ride with a ‘highway mentality“, as I call it.
It means people are in a hurry to get somewhere, the top of Australia in this case, and don’t want to spent too long getting there.
For me this means dust. A lot of dust.
I did come up with a pretty good way of slowing vehicles down.
I ride in the middle of the road.
It confuses the drivers and they slow down wondering what’s going on.
Not everybody thinks it’s funny. The facial expressions ranged from shock to surprise, from horror to amazement and anger to total confusion.
But it did work.
Every single time
And so I made my way North of the old Telegraph Station of Musgrave towards the small town of Coen.
I passed some road works, friendly as ever the watertruck driver directed me to the homestead a little further up the road. “Make sure you call in and ask for Sue! “
As it happens a whole lot of people were around at Yarraden station, first I ran into two little kids on a quad who directed me to the main house,
where a warm welcome awaited with cold drinks, hot showers, a meal and even a proper bed on the upstairs verandah.
It was lovely!
It still seems odd to me how the people here seem to find it perfectly normal to be living in such a remote place with the next door neighbours 100km down the track.
For me those homesteads and stations have been a blessing in Australia. Always a friendly smile and a warm welcome. Like an oasis in the desert.
And not just the people living in those remote places.
Even though on this busy dirt road most people are in a mad hurry to get to the tip and back in as little time as possible, some still slow down.
A wave and a smile, sometimes a request to take a picture.
Once in a while they would pull up and have a chat and give me food!
Like two Swiss couples I met them on their way up. And when they passed me again on their way down we all set on the side of the road having lunch and a coffee. They left me with stacks of food and even cleaned my coffeepot. It has never been that shiny before!
The Telegraph Line, established back in 1885 was for a long time the only method of communication for those living on the Cape York peninsula.
Untill 1962 it operated with just two wires sending morse codes via repeater stations and homesteads along the way.
The line was upgraded to radio in WWII and was still used for telephone cable untill 1987 when it was finally dismantled.
But a lot of the original poles are still there.
And the original track it used to follow is now a paradise for 4WD enthusiasts and adventure cyclist alike.
Some of the stations are still around.
But now they’ve transformed into road houses and places where the weary dusty traveller can put their feet up and enjoy a cold beer and a burger. If you like.
Other places that made a good stop were along water crossings and rivers.
I pulled up at Archer river roadhouse one afternoon, not realizing I was still going to be around 3 days later.
With its shallow and cool water its a lovely spot to have a refreshing beer and a chat to people passing along.
So what was once known as the last frontier is now a not all too difficult, but very long and corrugated bike ride in the dust.
Untill you reach Bramwell Junction.
I was happy to turn off the dusty highway into the Bramwell station grounds and have, at least for the next 15km the track to myself.
And a few animals.
I enjoyed the scenery with massive termite mounts along the track. They are no ants, they’re closely related to the cockroach and they’re rather active in Northern Australia, building mounts as high as 5 meters!
All peace and quiet was gone as soon as I got to Bramwell. I had chosen the same night to camp there as 130 people on a charity run for children. All decked out 4WD vehicles and characters in funny dress. Ah well, if you can’t beat them…
Here you have got the choice of following the PDR or head up the much quieter, scenic but pretty rough OTT, or old Telegraph track.
It was lovely!
Although a little slower.
This is the track I’ve heard everybody talking about.
It started out wonderfully.
Because it’s a narrow single lane track vehicles have to slow right down and there’s no dust and gravel spitting in my face.
It also has a lot of river crossings that any sane person in a vehicle would not attempt. There’s few sane people up this far north…
The first one, still easy to reach and thus quiet busy, Palm Creek, is a steep muddy slope down a not so very deep creek.
But with so many people around everybody gave me a hand carrying some stuff across and by the time I reached the other side with my bicycle my gear was already neatly piled up on the side of the track.
I spend another hour or so watching the entertainment of vehicles and motorbikes getting themselves bogged and helping each other through.
Just when I was to set off I noticed Marty on the other side, I’d met him days earlier at Archer river where he and his uncle cooked up a storm and shared some alcoholic beverages. (one of the reasons I stayed there for three nights..) They were now on their way south again.
The next creek, only just down the track was a little harder. No people around this time so it took a fair while to get everything across. No crocodiles in sight. So that’s good news.
I pitched my tent at another lovely creek crossing together with some guys & girls who’d helped me across the first one.
It seems I’m not travelling much slower than any one else. So you keep meeting the same people over and over.
It’s also nice to have a chat with people along the way.
Most people would pull up and say something like; “You’re keen!” or, “You’re crazy!” One man though, pulled up and just informed me about the condition of the track ahead, and I did the same for him. Like I was just another driver. I thought that little exchange of information was the most surreal conversation I’ve had on that road.
As I set off the next morning I figured I’d see them all again that night a mere 46km up the track. Not knowing that day was going to be one of the hardest I’d done.
A lot of sand, and no way I could ride my bike through it. I would sink straight in so instead I pushed.
Pushed through the sand,
and up some hills,
through the creeks.
Untill I reached the main drag again. It was not far to my destination, but when a lady in a car pulled over and invited me to her camp I wasn’t going to say no.
The work on these roads is never done. So a bunch of workers live in the camp where Mary (on the right) happens to be the cook
Not far from their camp to the Twin Falls.
One of those glorious places along the way where you can have a dip without worrying a crocodile is going to chew your foot off.
Also the spot where I met a lovely couple from New Zealand who offered to carry some of my gear a little further North. This made the next few days a lot more enjoyable. I’ve never been an extreme lightweight freak, as you can tell from the amount of rubbish I drag around, and only in a place like this do I really notice the difference.
One big advantage of being on a pushbike, I don’t get bogged easily;
One of the most disastrous moments came up just as I crossed Nolans Creek.
The last Creek on this track and the reason why 62 cars this year didn’t make it home. It’s a little deep. Not a massive problem for me, and with some help of bystanders I got my gear across the other side dry in no time. Only then I realized there is actually a small bridge for motorbikes and bicycles. Oops.
But the disaster wasn’t in crossing this creek. It came with the realisation that I had run out of coffee, and still more than a day to go to Bamaga where I’d be able to stock up on supplies.
A few people were hanging around drying out their vehicles, most of them half drowned crossing this creek. I wandered up to Mark & Alex’s camp. And asked if they wouldn’t happen to have, by any chance. Some coffee. And imagine!
Not only did they indeed carry coffee, it was even proper real ground coffee.
Oh my luck…
The next day, when I tried to get to the Jardine river ferry before they shut down for lunch, will go down in history as the day I did not meet up with Greame.
I met him last year on the Great Central Road.
And we both knew we were on the Cape and most likely to run into each other at some stage. It was not to be. This is what he wrote about us not meeting a 2nd time….
It was not far after the Jardine river ferry when I hit the bitumen. There is just under 30km of bitumen on the top of Australia,
and from here it’s only a hop-skip-jump to the tip…