A few years ago I cycled with five friends from Cairns to Cape York, the northern tip of Australia, a three-week journey of around 1200 kilometres across some of the roughest roads in the country. There were days we pushed our bikes as much as we pedalled them, grinding through sand and over corrugations that had ambitions to one day become the Grand Canyon.
After more than two weeks of cycling, we turned off the main track and onto the Old Telegraph Track, a brutal, unmaintained section of ‘road’ that also just happened to be the most beautiful stretch of the entire journey. Every metre on this track was hard earned – ploughing through sand, it took us an hour to cycle just the first six kilometres – and yet I’ve had few more rewarding days on a bike.
Nearing the northern end of the Old Telegraph Track, we came to Eliot Falls. We had no intention of staying more than a night, yet the falls compelled us to linger. Through the next day we lounged about camp, checking our bikes for inevitable damage, which ranged from broken spokes to a wheel rim worn down to almost nothing (more than a year later I’d still be finding bulldust inside parts of my bike).
But, whatever the damage, the tip of Cape York was now near – just three days of cycling and we’d be there – and right now there was the beauty and coolness of Eliot Falls to savour. Here, two creeks converge, flowing as a skin of water across the smooth rock, before tipping through a crevice into the most welcome of swim holes. If Cape York hadn’t been beckoning, we might still be camped beside Eliot Falls.