Black Mountain Road
Black Mountain Road (BMR) is a great track about twenty clicks north of Cairns, QLD that I had the chance to explore on my last trip to Cape York. Running about forty kilometers between Kuranda and Julatten, it’s a chance to get off the pavement early if you’re heading up north… worth checking out especially when the Bloomfield and C.R.E.B. tracks are closed to the east.
It’s a windy single-laner with a hundred blind turns and kicker jumps the whole way. Yeah, that good.
By “jumps” I mean lips formed by rain runoff… uh, don’t mention that to the Ranger.
Despite being chock-full of whoops and hairpin turns just loose enough to step out the rear wheel, BMR is on National Park land and square in the middle of cassowary* country. So try and behave yourself.
*Cassowaries, for you non-Australian readers, are large (human-sized) land birds with blue feathers, a sharp blade on their head and a nasty attitude. They’re quite rare but extremely dangerous, having been known to slice people up and eat them for dinner. Forget drop-bears, these things are the meanest thing going most people have never seen. I was told they’re especially fond of Americans… better keep that engine running.
My first run up BMR was northbound around mid-morning. It was easy enough to find, with a big yellow sign delineating its location off the Kennedy Highway.
The southern half of the track is somewhat open, but after about ten kilometers the jungle puts the squeeze on and before you know it you’re blasting through a tunnel of trees, leaves and vines.
Some of those vines are as light as they look- others will clothesline you right off your saddle. Naturally, I learned this the hard way when I caught a big spiny fern with my right arm, adding a few more scars to my well-loved ballistic jacket. Other than that I managed to clear the track without incident. BMR is highly recommended if you’re in the Cairns area and need a quick blat down the dirt. I reckon it’s some of the best fun you can have in the jungle without a long-range fuel tank.
Ten days after my first ride up this road I was back at its northern juncture, this time southbound from the Cape. With about six hundred kilometers already on the clock that day and the sun getting low, I figured it would be pretty dangerous and irresponsible to have go in the dark.
Then again, it would also be badass.
By the time I got to the trailhead dusk was coming to an end, and the dirt lane disappeared quickly into blackness. It was so ominous and foreboding I was scared shitless already… and I hadn’t even heard the bats yet. But I knew I had to do it, otherwise I’d be gibing myself for being a pussy all the way back to Cairns.
So down the rabbit hole I went- high beam on, engine wailing and eyes unblinking. I had forgotten to check my odometer when I started… a mistake I sincerely regretted about ten minutes into the trip, when I really wanted to be on the other end of the road and had no clue how far I had left.
With no visibility whatsoever beyond what my headlight could hit, the day’s third Red Bull wearing off and a paralyzing fear of cassowaries in the back of my mind, the danger factor of this ride was increasing quickly.
I really didn’t want to stop, lest the cassowaries would come claw my eyes out, but I had to get some photos otherwise nobody would believe I did this run at night. So I grabbed the brakes and shut down the engine, fumbling for my camera with my clumsy gloves on.
I thought my exhaust was rude… but it didn’t hold a candle to the cacophony brough on by the bats, birds, bugs and whateverthehell else lives out there were making once my engine went quiet.
I snapped a couple pictures and powered back up… quickly. No chance for a shot off the bike, I was way too scared to leave the saddle.
Here’s a clip of the sounds and sights, or lack thereof the latter.