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The latest adventure starts in paradise

Simon Parker's picture
Cycling through the rainforest at Cape York on the GDR bicycle touring route. Cycle Traveller

It began with a simple conversation at a rest area just north of Elliot, in the Northern Territory. We were telling a Queensland couple about our plans to cycle and map the Great Dividing Range, starting in Cairns.

"Were you considering doing Cape York as well," came the reply. "My son lives up there and he says they've only just been grading the main road as the wet season finished later than usual this year. So the road is probably pretty good at the moment."

Pretty good is relative, but the seed was planted.

By the time we departed Katherine, just a week or so later, we had booked a flight from Cairns to Horn Island, the main airport that services the Torres Strait Islands. These islands, all 100 or so of them, sit in between Cape York and Papua New Guinea, around 150km to the north.

Thursday Island, Torres Straits. Cycle TravellerSince then it's been a particularly busy period for us. We still had plenty to do in relation to finishing the Red Centre Route, both in terms of cycling and collecting the necessary information for our maps. We also had to prepare to fly to Cairns, where we had a week's accommodation booked, originally with a view to putting our feet up. It ended up being quite the opposite, as we needed time to find various supplies for what is a very different type of touring trip to the remainder of the GDR route. This included the struggle to find the right sort of the tyres for what we were planning – the wider, the better for the rough, unsealed roads ahead! We ended up settling on a 42mm front, with a smooth centre and knobbies on the sides, and 'Mr Tuffie' puncture resistant liners, and a standard 35mm rear with robust puncture resistance built in.

We've stripped back in what we're carrying, to the point where we now just have the one sleeping bag between us that we can use as a blanket. That alone saves us 4kg compared to our other, much warmer sleeping bags. Not that we've even needed the new sleeping bag yet, with night-time temperatures rarely getting much below 20 degrees.

The red dust of Cape York, Queensland. Cycle TravellerMoreover, while in Cairns we had to complete a number of other Cycle 

Traveller-related tasks that needed urgent attention.

Any stresses we may have had though rapidly fell away as we soared into the pristine blue sky; our window gave us a panoramic view of the Great Barrier Reef as we edged northward, with its diverse coral cays of all shapes and sizes keeping us transfixed by the window. Horn Island, where we landed, and the adjacent Thursday Island, are destinations in their own right, both wrapped in a turquoise ocean that inspires tranquility. Nothing was rushed, the locals were extremely friendly, and we simply loved our (albeit short) time there. From Thursday Island it was a ferry trip across to the mainland, to the small town of Siesia.

So, what are we planning? Well, we'll be riding south along the main unsealed, and very, very dusty and corrugated (in parts) road that links 'The Tip' -- the most northern point of the Australian mainland in Cape York – to the rest of Queensland. Around 800km of unsealed road, along which there will be long stretches without services. This route will serve as an extra leg on the main GDR journey for those who want to cycle the entire Australian mainland Great Dividing Range and who like a bit of adventure.

We've already ridden to The Tip, otherwise referred to as Pajinka, from where we're currently staying in Seisia – an 80km return trip, around 66km of which was on unsealed road. Much of the road was excellent, having been recently graded (this is a lottery in these parts though – the roads can vary significantly based on when the last grade took place, the weather and how many 4WDs have been on it). And it took us through some of the most enchanting and pristine primary rainforest you'll find anywhere in the world. One section was a single lane road, tunnelling its ways through the overhanging trees, the odd bird call the only noise to punctuate the silence. Traffic was light, and the silence was golden.

At the northernmost tip of the Australian mailand. Cape York. Cycle TravellerStanding on the northern most point of Australia was a surreal experience, one matched by the stunning scenery that surrounds it. We know we have some tough kilometres ahead but the satisfaction of having made it to a part of Australia so few do should help us push through any harder days we may have.

We've also stayed in Seisia a bit longer than originally planned, soaking up the chilled atmosphere and getting in some R&R before starting our trek south. It's an exciting time for us, and we look forward to sharing the next 6,000km journey with you.

On a final note a big thanks to fellow cycle tourist and adventurer Ryan, in Port Douglas, who very kindly let us store some of the items we didn't need for this leg of the trip. His kindness is very much appreciated, and has helped us get our weight down for this trip.

Images fro top: 1. The rainforest on the way to the Tip of Cape York. 2. Thursday Island, Torres Straits. 3. The red dust of the peninsula. 4. Standing at the northernmost point of mainland Australia.

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