Day 28: Normanton to Cairns - Flying Solo Gear Company

Day 28: Normanton to Cairns

Posted by Amanda Chan on

  • Dist: 708km
  • Dep: 630am
  • Arr: 7pm
  • Temp: 25-38°C

Not being able to sleep from the humidity, I sat on the little deck outside my hub and watched the sunrise. The sound of wildlife filled the morning air as dawn broke. I decided to start packing to get an early move into Cairns. I basically spent the night in a walk-in closet that looked like my gear exploded inside it. It was in fact a moldy tourist park shack in and at least 45 geckos were waiting for me outside. 

savannah way

After my ritual of packing my gear onto Sheba in a slippery mess, I slid myself onto the saddle and we made a break for it. The Savannah Way is the road connecting Broome to Cairns and is apparently a "popular tourist gateway". I'm not sure what Google was talking about but I saw more wallabies than people for the first 200km. That being said, it was during an hour when most people would still be tucked into bed. Not us though. Sadly.

I'm not sure what I was expecting in Croyden, but looking up "cafe", "restaurant", "petrol", and "groceries" all turned up with the same store. This was a place that sold sandwiches, duct tape, and dog leashes all in one. The sandwich tasted like duct tape and again I was filled with regret, yet I didn't have much time to regret because I ate it so fast. I needed to get into Cairns by sunset and it's literally across the biggest cape in the country. I felt ham and cheese in my nose from breathing the wrong way. It smelled as bad as it tasted.

100km out from Georgetown, the halfway point, I started feeling a clicking under my left footpeg. I pulled over, and saw a sagging ballsack that used to be Sheba's chain. The gravel from Day 5 had finally taken its toll on this beautiful gold chain and it now looks like a hammock that satan created. It has officially shit itself. I rode like a grandma to Georgetown and luckily I found a tyre shop. Unfortunately the store owner had absolutely no mechanical knowledge. But, under the guidance of my mate Win, I used the handle of his car jack to undo my rear axle and tighten the chain up at this tyre shop sans mechanic. Another couple of blokes watched in disbelief as the only female for 200km sat in 38°C heat doing the splits at the base of a severely overloaded sportbike. My hair looked like a nest and my hands and nails were not about to be in a women's magazine anytime soon. The split in my pants is now fist sized. I have no shame. Seeing a biker without black marks on the hands is the same as half the celebrity stories you see. Fucking posing.

chain adjustment

Random activity in a random place

I thanked him for the use of his car jack handle and was off my merry way. Lo and behold, "single lane highways" reappeared and continued all the way into Cairns! This chain made me nervous but we powered through, cautiously hugging the side of the lane when another vehicle had to pass. See the last post for what a single lane highway looks like.

 I tried to adjust the chain according to the tight spot, but 40km down the road, I've realized there's more than one tight spot. Grimacing, I rode at the speed of an out-of-shape cyclist and pulled into Mount Surprise 90km from Georgetown. Funny enough there were about 20 Harley riders there who detoured out of Townsville away from the cyclone. One offered to readjust my chain as he deemed it too loose. So, he tightened it and then we tilted Sheba onto her stand so we can spin the tyre freely. The tyre wouldn't budge at all. Bloody hell. So now we have a tyre that is extremely loose in 2 places and extremely tight in 2 other places. This is a disaster waiting to happen.

You can't ride with a tight chain so we went back to where I had it before and I also packed a 1.5ft iron bar with me just in case. As I rode, the chain sounded more and more absurd as it flapped in the wind. It felt like it could slide off and explode at the same time, and it is very difficult for a chain to be able to do both at the same time.

As I came closer to Cairns, the scenery became greener and the road started swooping around.  Ah, shit. Here we go.

square tyre

This tyre has edges

Full on twisties. 40km corners mixed with 90km curves for the last 200km leading into Cairns. My life was on the line, as was Sheba's. Every turn was a near death experience. There was an obvious lurching with every tight spot that went around the rear sprocket - Sheba's engine was trying to make a straight piece of metal go around a toothed disc. It was horrifying. The chain was decaying with every kilometre. I used the top gear the entire time. If you've ever gone to 6th gear in the twisties you know there isb hardly any tension or chance of making the turn. On top of that I observed that the proximity to a city is linear with the chance of encountering an asshole. Happy campervans driven by the elderly were quickly being replaced by young bogan couples with 5 children in the back, all under the age of 5, driving clumsy SUVs through the forest. It's been a while since they stepped foot out of the route from their house to footy practice so their cornering skills nearly killed me about 28 times as they straddled double lines and braked hard before/during/after every bend. The ones behind me were sniffing Sheba's tail with intent.

loose chain

*after* the chain was tightened according to tight spots (should be straight across)

On top of having square bald tyres and a chain that was looser than a bomber jacket on a koala... Every time we leaned, we would roll onto the edge of the corner of the tyre with the luggage, but the bike wants to stay upright. Until we go past that edge of course, then you have a brown pants moment. Make that 200 consecutive brown pants moments.

I rolled into my Airbnb with my eyes wide and my knuckles white. The chain was now finally looking saggier than the bags under my eyelids and that was an achievement in itself. It had upwards movement of about 5cm (supposed to be 2cm) and enough lateral movement to touch my tyre (should be next to none). This was a new task for tomorrow. 

I hadn't realised I didn't eat since the fake ham and cheese sandwich so I enjoyed a fabulous pizza to myself and a hot shower. Cyclone Debbie is now set to land at 2pm tomorrow and the treacherous rainstorm was already causing floods south of Townsville. The news is covered in footage of the harsh winds and rain, and the cyclone is still 100km from landfall. Suddenly, a loose chain didn't seem so bad compared to people having to flood-proof their homes and businesses in Airlie Beach. Had I stuck to my original plan, Sheba and I would be underwater. It's all about perspective, really. Sometimes we're too busy feeling sorry for ourselves that we forget the big picture.

improv tool kit

Stock toolkit came in handy! Plugged it into a car jack handle and it worked perfectly. 


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