Over the weekend I stayed at Kathy and Steve’s place. Kathy and Steve have been following me on my trip for some time, and are passionate about mountain biking and bikepacking.They have done extremely remote travelling and have some amazing stories to tell.
During the weekend we share many stories and experiences about our bikepacking adventures. A major experience we share is the difficulty involved in explaining what we do to people, especially those travelling by caravan.They see us arrive on well formed bitumen roads and assume that’s how we spend all of our time, when in reality we could have spent weeks or even months in the bush in isolation with much more difficult terrain.
Although I had two good days of rest over the weekend, including an afternoon sailing on a lake, I was quite busy planning the last leg of my trip.
I have received one of my last remaining food parcels from a friend, so there is no need to spend too much time on grocery shopping. I might be able to find a supermarket by the coast in a few days, so I can travel lighter.
What kept me very busy was the navigation. Some sections of the BNT are being rewritten and the one coming up is pretty much a work in progress. At this stage around 80km are closed and there is a missing link. One of the alternative routes is to go bush bashing, the other one is to take a long detour by the highway. Kathy reckons the bush bashing option won’t be possible with the bike, she has done the hard-core stuff so I trust her judgement. This seems too challenging. On the other hand, the highway would be pretty boring and a bit disappointing for my last week on the National Trail.
Fortunately Kathy comes up with another detour on a 4WD road which could be pretty nice to travel on. I take the opportunity to send the suggestion to the trail spring committee who seem keen on the idea. Sometimes trekkers on the BNT have to work a little bit more to find the way and the good route. At other times it’s pretty straightforward.
On Monday Kathy drops me back at Gunnawarra road. This is further south than where she picked me up. Before picking me up I went along the bitumen road via Mt Garnet because it was late in the afternoon and I was exhausted. I felt disappointed I didn’t travel along that section, as it seems nice and more interesting than the usual wide gravel road I’ve been travelling on for the past few weeks.
After a cup of tea and some cake by the side of the road, I leave Kathy and her two friends who have come along.
The trail is very sandy on the first 3km and I have to be cautious to not tip over. After that I’m crossing cattle yards and a dry Creek.
As the day goes on, I go through a yard for a couple of kilometres where there is no track at all. Fortunately, using the old GPS data, I can keep the bearings and make it back to the gravel road after zigzagging to avoid logs and other obstacles hidden in the grass.
The trail goes along the highway for some time before offering to get back on a gravel road through a cattle station. I picnic at the first turn off and an older guy stops and ask me why I didn’t close the gate behind me. He must be the farmer. I inform that the gate was already open and offer to close it. He changes his tone and becomes nicer. Sometimes I get one of those people.
I do not continue on this turn off and get back on the highway for a few more kilometres. I’ve decided to take a different turn off that I’m more confident the trail will follow, instead of going through paddocks, fences and gates.
It is rather pleasant country, very green and pretty. I cross a sandy creek with running water and soon make my way back to the highway.
From this point the trail goes on the other side of the highway to finally leave it and continue towards Silver Valley, Mount Misery and Irvinebank. I take my chance to cross the highway and the river at an unmaintained section of the road, but soon realise that crossing the river here will be too difficult. I backtrack and take the recommended crossing via a bridge on the highway.
The road is bitumen for a while and becomes dirt road with a fair bit of corrugation.
I meet a group of cyclists who are doing a three day excursion with guides and a support vehicle. I stop and pose for some pictures and answer their questions. They are intrigued and seem happy to have seen me and my bike setup. Whilst talking to them I start to get tired. My stomach has been a bit noisy the past few hours and I’m not far from hitting the wall. I think I may have had too much milk over the past few days, and now I’m paying the price.
By 3:30pm when I’m further down the valley, I accept that I won’t make it to Irvinebank for a warm shower. I will have to stop here by the river. It’s not a bad place to camp and I have just enough energy left to pitch my tent and cook dinner. I’m definitely not feeling well, but I think I will be better tomorrow after some good sleep. It will be a cold night though.
The good news is that I’m still very excited about this last leg of the BNT. The idea to go on this wild adventure emerged exactly one year ago and since then I’ve been working hard everyday towards the goal: making it to Cooktown. I’ve now secured more than enough time to finish the last 400km before I head back south to Cairns and fly out to France for a month break. So it does feel very relaxing and exciting for me. Even if I am very slow I will still make it. As far as I remember there are a lot of things to see and explore in this region. In a few days I’ll be relaxing at the beach. The National Trail comes very close to Port Douglas.