Escaping a Sydney winter in search of warmer weather, we headed for Far North Queensland, or, more specifically, the Daintree Rainforest, and 4 days of top-notch riding.
Heading to a top tourist destination can be both a blessing and a curse; on the one hand, you are guaranteed to see some eye-bleedingly beautiful sights (especially in that part of Australia). On the other hand you will not exactly be heading off the beaten track. At least, not without some extra effort.
In that spirit, we built our route around two major tracks between Cairns and Cooktown that were guaranteed to be tour bus-free – the CREB and Bloomfield Tracks.
Truthfully, we did allow ourselves a little glamorous pampering (when in Rome...) - spending our first night in the Del Boca Vista of Far North Queensland, Peppers of Palm Cove. It wasn’t particularly wild (at first), however we soon got into the swing of things - primarily at the pool bar.
The first day wasn’t particularly challenging, consisting of just over 100km from Palm Cove to the town of Daintree, along the bitumen of the coastal Captain Cook Highway. We’d chosen to do things this way in order to have a whole day to tackle the CREB (Cairns Regional Electricity Board) Track, a challenging and isolated, often impassable, track linking the town of Daintree to the Bloomfield track near Wujal Wujal.
One day in and already the temperature was nudging 30ºC – in the middle of winter! Before we saw the beach, we were on it and, with none of the usual pressure to keep moving, had a bit of fun trying to emulate Mountain Bike Magazine covers of the mid-90’s.
We always try to support the local economies of the places we visit – even if only by buying up all the tacky stickers, pins & patches – and plush crocodiles – we can find.
Coffee then CREB
Incredibly steep gradients, and a soft clay surface, make the CREB track impenetrable for much of the year. Rain quickly closes the track to all but the most serious of 4WDers, while the wet season shuts it down completely.
The track itself follows ancient Aboriginal foot trails, and was later cut as the service access track for the old powerline to Cooktown. In other words, this is about as rough as a trail gets.
We knew it was going to be a solid day, with 71 continuous kilometers of barely-rideable clay. Accordingly, we doubled-down on a solid breakfast and coffees before rolling out.
Could have been CLOSED
Up until only a few days before our arrival the CREB had been closed, on account of it being in (even by its own standards) poor condition. It was pure luck that the local council reopened the track just before we arrived, meaning we could, legally, pass through. Had we attempted to traverse the track while it was closed, we would have been up for a rather hefty bill, made even heftier in the (very probable) scenario that we required rescue.
Most climbs along the CREB offer up gradients of over 20%. Some even push up towards 30%. They are mostly short, around 400m, except for the one at the 27km mark. That little beauty punishes you for just over 2km with an average of 18-20%. Our trusty 4WD shadow even struggled with some of the savage gradients.
Regular readers will remember this all-too-familiar friend of the Over Yonder family, the Gympie Gympie. Known colloquially in these parts as the Suicide Plant, on account of the pain making you want to kill yourself, the sensation of touching one of the hairs that cover this ancient stinging tree has variously been described as ‘like being burnt with hot acid and electrocuted at the same time…’. Fun.
On another note, the fruit of the Gympie Gympie is edible, provided you clear off the neurotoxin-laden hairs that completely cover it. Surprisingly, none of us were feeling particularly hungry…
Ups and downs.
Innocuous undulation may seem an underwhelming narrative for this track with nary a flat kilometre, and the downright terrifying flora that adorn its sides. And yet our Strava graph looked positively sinusoidal. Of course, that hardly takes into account the joy of the descents, the gruelling nature of the climbs that inevitably followed – and the crocodiles. With eyes peeled, we charged across each river crossing, hoping to avoid the crocs lurking nearby. There would be no bathing here. Truly, if the Gympie Gympie doesn’t get you in these parts, a croc just might.
Nearing the end of the CREB track is the turn off to Roaring Meg Falls. Situated at the head of the Bloomfield River, the stunning falls cascade over large, smooth, white boulders into the river below - before flowing to the deep gorge further downstream. A sacred women's area, men are forbidden from visiting the top of the falls, and no photography is allowed. Out of respect to the Eastern Kuku Yalanji (Buru) people, the traditional landowners, we left only with memories.
Lions Den Hotel
To celebrate the end of our eventful day on the CREB Track, we made sure we wound up at the famous Northern Queensland pub, otherwise known as the Lions Den. A couple of stranded backpackers served up a round of frosty Milton Mangoes, as we settled in for a meal and some chit-chat with the locals – all offering similar horror stories of their adventures on the CREB track, and forewarning us of the similarly-nightmarish gradients we could expect the next day, along the Bloomfield Track.
More from The Daintree
Choose from any of the two parts in our Through The Daintree adventure, or the Road Book, for all the maps & information you need to get out and explore the area yourself.
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