Cooktown to the white sands

Fuelling up in Cooktown

Fuelling up in Cooktown



Heading out of Cooktown we stopped in at the lookout where Cook once stood, surveying his predicament. He had got his boat stuck in a small inlet in the far north of Australia. Cook’s problem was the winds that had blow him in were not going to take him out again and he could not seem to find a way out through the many reefs and sand bars.

June 19th 1770

COOK – “This afternoon I went upon one of the highest hills over the harbour from which I had a perfect view of the inlet or river and adjacent country which afforded a very indifferent prospect, the low lands near the river is all over run with mangroves among which the salt water flows every tide, and the high land appeared to be barren and stony”


June 30th 1770


COOK – “In the am I went myself upon the hill which is over the south point to take a view of the sea, at this time it was low water and I saw what gave me no small uneasiness which were a number of sand bank or shoals laying along the coast; the innermost lay about 3 or 4 miles from the shore and the outermost extended off to sea as far as I could see with my glass, some just appeared above water. The only hopes I have of getting clear of them is to the northward where there seems to be a passage for as the wind blows constantly from the south east we shall find it difficult if not impractical to return to the southward.”



BANKS – “The ship was now finished and tomorrow being highest spring tide it was intended to haul her off, so we began to think how we should get out of this place, where so lately to get only in was our utmost ambition. We had observed in coming in innumerable shoals and sands all round us, so we went upon a high hill to see what passage to the sea might be open. When we came there the Prospect was indeed melancholy; the sea every where full of innumerable shoals, some above and some under water, and no prospect of any straight passage out. To return as we came was impossible, the trade wind blew directly in our teeth,; most dangerous then our navigation must be among unknown dangers. How soon might we again be reduced to the misfortunate we had lately escaped ! Escaped indeed we had not until we were in an open sea.”

Cook's map of the inlet

Cook’s map of the inlet. The image below is from the bottom right hill looking West North West inland.

Small boats anchored in that inlet Cook once looked out apon

Small boats anchored in that inlet Cook once looked out upon



We topped up on fuel in Hope Vale and checked in with the local police. Our SPOT Connect is our emergency communications device should events turn bad. It is tested and working. We have a large amount of food that should keep us well fed for at least five days and keep us alive for two weeks or longer if needed. I am carrying 8L of water and Raman 6L. He has a water filter so we can drink basically any water we come across if necessary. We know there is water along the way from talking with the police. I have 46L of fuel and Raman has about 35L (he only has one fuel bladder, I have two).


Last little bit of bitumen

Last little bit of bitumen out of Cooktown.


The track toward Starke station isn’t too bad. A little muddy from the rain but ok.

The road to Starke

The road to Starke




Our first sand at the Starke River mouth

Our first sand at the Starke River mouth


The beach at the mouth of the Starke

The beach at the mouth of the Starke


Lunch in behind the dunes. Starke River Mouth

Lunch in behind the dunes. Starke River Mouth


North of the Starke the track gets smaller

North of the Starke the track gets smaller


And more rutted

And more rutted

Enjoyable riding.

TheTip (11 of 93)

Grass lands and white gums.


Raman tells me he is having a bad day. He doesn’t know why. He thinks everything is good but he is just feeling bad.

Getting to Wakooka in the mid to late avo feels exciting. We are close to Cape Melvile now and the tracks have been perfectly manageable. No sand to speak of yet.


Turning off the main track now and heading for Cape Melvile the track quickly becomes sandy and in places its hard to tell if its sand or bulldust. The latter is worse for two reasons, no matter how fast you go there is no skimming over the top and its powder fine dust that explodes everywhere as you sink into it. The absolute worst thing for my air filter. Fortunately there are only short sections like this, some of which can be avoided. The sand on the other hand isn’t so bad for the air filter as it doesn’t kick up as much unless you are falling off or trying to get started again. Once moving though the sand doesn’t get kicked up. The real challenge is staying upright. Getting moving in the deep loose sand is very hard going even with the tyres let down to 9psi (front) and 13psi (rear). The bikes get very hot.


The track to Cape Melvile is getting hard going but we are managing to ride in this stuff some how. I have no idea how I am doing it….

I stopped to check my air filter. My bike is really damn hot. I have to keep it running to keep the water circulating for a minute. The air filter does need changing.

In the heat of the hard work and challenge, Raman and I have an argument. Classic time to have short tethers I guess. And right when we need to be working as a team as best we can.

We are both stuffed. Picking my bike up when I drop it is only just possible for me if its up the right way. If its angling down hill I have to try to drag it around till it is facing up hill before I can lift it.  Even then its borderline manageable.


Raman heads off before me as I am still tinkering with my air filter.


I continue on my way, struggling in the deep sand. I dropped my bike upside down in a sand rut. Picking it up is a real effort. The track divides in many ways here as people attempted to go around the loose sand and in short order a new track has been formed with equally soft sand.

For those keen to get a feel for one of the most challenging rides on the Sunken Miles journey, the following video shows a little of the difficulty riding in deep sand.


Getting going again I happened to notice Raman by the side of the track that I happened to take with his tent set up.


I gladly stopped and set up my tent too.


Raman is not happy with me. I am not sure he really wanted to camp in the same place as me and I wonder what the hell would have happened if I hadn’t seen him. I get the distinct feeling he wouldn’t have stopped me if I had ridden past.


I find working as a team with Raman very challenging at times. When in these remote areas I have to admit I get a little shocked at time by his “autonomous” actions.


Basically our disagreements stem from a different way of going about life. I plan things, use reason and logic while he chooses his path with intuition, making choices from the heart in the moment.



Still, life has not separated us and all is well and I am grateful of that.

We are both quiet tonight and doing our own thing to a degree.


A hard day. I think I will take all my luggage off and leave it hear tomorrow for the rest of the way out to Cape Melvile as we must pass this way again on our way out to the main track at Wakooka.


Despite the challenges, my day has been great. I enjoyed the riding today and I am managing, amazingly, to ride this heavily laden beast in very deep and loose sand. Its hard, but I am managing. And the bike will be lighter every day as we use fuel and food.




Time to rest this weary body.

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