The variety of terrain on a trip to Cape York with Motorcycle Odyssey Australia is amazing, from rainforests to mountains and wild rivers. You need to do this ride!
For many, “The Cape” is a bucket list trip. It has been an Aussie iconic destination for generations due to its remoteness and rugged terrain. Literally getting there is a trip that spans many days or weeks depending on your method of travel. 4×4 magazines have hyped up tracks such as “the old Tele” and “the CREB” for good reason. They are both hard and challenging, particularly for the cars! So we thought we’d take a a trip to Cape York with Motorcycle Odyssey Australia last year.
Enter the motorcycles. There are several tour companies that do runs to the Tip, mostly on the infamous Suzuki DR-Z400s. But times are a changin’ though, the trip still remains the epic ride of a lifetime, but demands for getting there and the timeframe to do it in are getting tighter. Punters want the latest greatest equipment, to be treated like kings with food and drinks and shown the gnarliest, coolest tracks that are on offer. When ADB got the offer to part-take in a six day run to the Cape with Moto Odyssey Australia (MOA), we jumped at the chance.
Headed up by Charlie Bennison, this typical Aussie larrikin loves to punt his fleet of latest gen KTM 500s from Cairns to the Tip every two weeks. Not only does Charlie love to have a great time post ride each day, but he throws his orange steed down with authority and with a big grin on his face in the process. Couple this with not one but two sweep riders and this equates to a trip with your mates to last a lifetime. This is definitely up there with the best ride you will have ever experienced and you’re shown the best stuff on offer on top notch equipment.
Getting from Cairns to the Tip is not a five minute affair. There is no sugar coating the fact that it’s a damn long way! It’s just shy of 1500km hence the tour is generally broken up over five to seven days. MOA offers a six day tour that lets you ride the best tracks going north then jump on a plane at the Tip and cheat by flying back south and not having to transport it all the way back.
The first day is one of the biggest and most frantic. Heading out of Cairns and carving the local forests, single trail and cane fields. Weather permitting you smash the CREB or the Bloomfield loops, the CREB being our pick but with almost all clay twin track, it’s often closed off to the public after rain. We were lucky enough to hit it, with some big deep river crossings and some epic trail, it definitely was a personal highlight.
Each night you camp under the stars in swag tents, with a fancy feed always awaiting you, prepared by the travelling chef that drives the truck north, meeting the riders along the way. The food can only be described as superb. Some of the best meals I’ve eaten in fact! The riders are super pumped to get into the beers post ride, washing down the dust.
Averaging 250-300km for each day, it’s a mix between sandy twin tracks and remote fire roads. The variety of terrain is amazing, from rainforest, mountains and into remote desert-like terrain with termite mounds and extensive tree coverage. Changing from clay to sand to bulldust. Sections of tarmac are sought after and smooth by comparison, although rare.
As the convoy motors north the roads steadily deteriorate to stutters and never ending ripples caused by vehicles. Traversing over them slowly only serves to rattle out your teeth and carrying speed over them is the best way to float over. The KTM fleet is ideal for this ride, having proved reliable and covering the distances with ease.
The bikes themselves are relatively stockand MOA sets up each bike to suit the riders with heavier springs, higher or lower seat and bars at your request. The KTMs have proven super reliable, even after several hundreds of hours run time. Several bikes have been pulled down and inspected, showing minimal wear and no top end replacement was necessary.
The 500s need little introduction as they are the bike of choice for many desert racers including Finke winners. Throwing a leg over these awesome bikes and riding them for six days is unreal. It’s very encouraging seeing the MOA team give all the bikes a thorough going over after every day in the dust, cleaning air filters and lubing chains.
The trip involves crossing a few rivers, LOTS of rivers! From small streams to flowing rivers 300 metres wide. One thing that’s for sure, these northerners have the answer to riding in the heat, get wet!
While the bikes are certainly not aquatic, inevitably a few of them end up going for a swim. A slippery rock skips the front sideways, the rider in front decides to stop mid-way in front of you, or the crossing proves deeper than anticipated and it sucks in a gutful of water. This is where the sweep riders whip out the tools and flip off the tank and pull out the plug. Don’t run the bikes underwater, kill them ASAP.
With the plug out and airfilter out, the bikes can be stood up vertical to drain the exhaust and airbox, and a few cranks of the starter spits all the water out of the plug hole (surprising how much). Within minutes the bikes are back together and firing away happily and the entourage is back underway.
The tour continues its merry way up north through some iconic cattle stations, and the infamous Old Telegraph Track. Almost every Aussie has seen videos of a 4×4 hitting Gunshot Creek with its vertical sides and near vertical drop in. The waters here are crystal clear and breathtakingly beautiful. Right up until a dozen or more bikes come roaring through.
Some stoic courage and a bit of luck is required to get through some of the crossings unscathed, while the experienced lads hit them easy and the wary ones take more than a few dabs to rustle up the Dutch courage necessary.
Fast fire trails covered in what can only be described as ball bearings keep you honest and focussed on the task at hand, while big berms and white sandy tracks bring out huge grins and plenty of yahoo behaviour. Speed becomes the order of the day as you don’t want to ride slow in sand. You punch sixth gear and wind them on, and the bikes perform flawlessly as they float over the ruts and sandy tracks with ease. As a rider you’re basically hanging on and pointing this wild ride in the direction you want to go!
The crew attending this ride with us were epic and best described as “loose”. Plenty of turps having been sunk in Cairns before starting off, the beers were flowing every night and plenty of sore heads resulted the next day. Evening antics were wild. Some cans of shaving cream may have provided entertainment as did some erratic hair clippers and the “table surfing” concept did not end well. All in, the lads were super energised with plenty of laughs and a dramatic improvement in riding skills was evident from start to finish.
The final day lands the crew at the Tip in a campground on the beach. A bit more chillaxed after the days of crunching out the big kilometres, we smashed out some epic beach sand trails in the morning and hit the infamous walking track to the actual Tip. Probably a good thing that it’s not simply a case of parking your bike on a beach and saying “I’ve made it”. Everyone has to climb over some rocky hills to walk to the Tip sign and get the compulsory photo with the sign.
A 10 minute clamber in with our boots on, some of the riders thought it would be a cracking idea to pour their beers into the same boots they have worn all week and drink it at the sign! Mmm tasty. Suffice to say the aftermath to the short video clip was met with much laughter and not much enthusiasm for the beer!
The day was finished off with a loop of the “five beaches” an epic highlight to the trip as bikes circled wildly on the flat hard northern beach sand like Indians circling their target. Mock races and drags became the order of the day as the riders descended into wild chaos ripping about and letting those inner demons out. The KTMs were singing at top revs and sand was flying everywhere. High tide would come after and clear all evidence away.
The tracks leading from beach to beach were challenging, dry and deep sand. Churned up by the multitude of 4x4s that trek through the tourist region, the bikes needed a high gear and a fist full of revs to get over each summit.
Worn out, with sore butts and placated, the last day and flight out came as a welcome relief to all and sundry. Even the sweep riders jumped on the plane to take the easy way out while poor old Charlie loaded up a huge trailer with 18 bikes and truck to make the two day drive back to Cairns.
The trip itself was epic. The terrain simply otherworldly and a must do trip for any Aussie. Not only to say you have done it but to appreciate the amazing diversity and stunning scenery on offer. Charlie’s MOA crew made the journey painless (sore butts aside) and showcased some of the best trails in Oz. The KTM fleet was top notch and an absolute blast to ride.
The company you choose to undertake such a long adventure has a strong bearing on how much you will enjoy such a journey. For sure you should book a trip with your mates vs solo as sharing the adventure is half the fun. Riders of similar skill levels is ideal but MOA has a contingency if the pack needs to be split in two with two sweeps in attendance. ADB cannot speak more highly of the MOA gang and would have no hesitation in recommending you contact Charlie to book a future trip for a REAL Adventure!
For the full feature, check out issue #532 of ADB.
WORDS & PHOTOS BERNIE DEN HERTOG