The plan had been to ride down to the beach, fit the new sprocket, make use of the free shower and then ride on into the unknown. So much for that! No parcel meant I was stuck waiting for it. But since it was only Friday and Saturday was still to come, there was every chance it could arrive tomorrow.
For just one night it wasn’t worth riding all the way back out to that idyllic beach so we found a cheap caravan park on WikiCamps. There heaps of them here as caravan tourism is booming. Everyone and anyone no longer willing to sleep in a cramped mini van or converted 4WD seems to upgrade to a big white box on wheels in these parts.
All the caravan parks were full. We followed the highway further and further out of Darwin and each time Aidan popped into the reception they had bad news for him. We pulled up next to a scruffy looking one with a promising pub at the entrance. Surely this one was it! But no, not the tiniest slither of grass free to perch our tent on. Disappointed we rolled on.
The park in Coolalinga, 30km or so out of Darwin, finally had a spot for us. In fact they had a whole field. And a pool! It was dry season and the supposedly tropical north of Australia was parched and roasting in 40 degree heat. A daily swim or at least a cold shower was no longer a luxury but a necessity for survival!
In the morning the parcel tracker still had no promising news so we treated ourselves to a leisurely breakfast slurping coffee after coffee. A guy in dreadlocks came cycling past spreading announcing that there was a wicked little market up the road so we had to check it out. It really was small. I got a little green monkey to shake me a bubble tea to slurp while bumbling between the veggie stalls, foodie places and craft stalls next to some cheap Chinese clothes.
I found a colourful little funfair cart too. Though there is something really disturbing about children putting balls into clowns mouths for a prize.
A couple of stalls were selling live birds, chicks, ducks and even rabbits and rats. They had a real cool black parrot too. She has a clipped wing and can’t fly off. But sometimes she hops down and goes for a wander round the market by herself.
I was still entertaining hopes of receiving my sprocket today and decided to ride into Darwin anyways. Lea was bucking the old chain rattling rather worryingly. So I rode real slow, angry UTEs overtaking dangerously. The postie still had no parcel for me and the tracker hadn’t shown any updates since Tuesday, I asked if they could chase it up for me. Of course not. I had to call the call centre in Sri Lanka for that. But they were closed till Monday. Shit. So we are definitely staying the weekend then.
We hadn’t explored Parap Village, a supposedly nice part of Darwin and today there was a market on so I popped by to have a look. This one was even more lively than the last and I was briefly tempted to spend a huge chunk of our budget on pretty things and colourful clothes to cheer myself up. But then I didn’t really need these things. So I bumbled about, soaking up the atmosphere and tucking into a yummy laksa soup for lunch.
On the way back I popped into the Yamaha/Harley place on a whim. Of course they didn’t have a sprocket for me. They rushed me to pop into the Kawasaki place round the corner before they close for the day. I arrived just as they were about to lock the door. The parts guy, lunch firmly on his mind, confirmed that they do JT sprockets. He could have the very one I needed specially delivered for Tuesday. Great! But what if the parcel arrived Monday? Then we’d have to hang around another day…. I decided to call them Monday morning if needed and left them to tuck into their sandwiches.
Sunday came and went. We killed time reading, writing diaries and chilling by the pool jumping in every now and again to escape the scorching heat. A sign sensibly forbade alcohol by the pool but we’d snuck some beer in disguised in an iced coffee bottle, much to Skunks delight.
I had to laugh! Most people dream of this kind of holiday. Yet we couldn’t wait to leave, getting more and more frustrated. Being stuck like this robbed us of our freedom. The travel spirit had left and we were grumpy with the world without proper cause or reason. We got snappy with each other without meaning to and met other people curious about our trip or just wanting to say hello with a severe lack of interest and enthusiasm.
We knew the only solution to this was to hit the road again. But on Sundays the working world comes to a standstill in Australia (with the exception of Sydney maybe). All we could do was wait and will the parcel to hurry up.
In the afternoon we walked to the pub at the other caravan park. They didn’t have wifi but that didn’t stop me from writing a new post offline, sipping and ice cold draft beer while Aidan leaned more about his camera from a Pdf he’d downloaded. Exiting stuff!
Returning to the camp kitchen that night we found a bunch of backpackers watching a documentary on the two fugitives. Remember how the police had knocked on our tent one night in New South Wales? These guys apparently went from station to station in the outback asking for work. They’d do their job exceedingly well and get quite close with the farmer’s family. Over time they’d overstep the line and do stuff they weren’t supposed to, like put up a cattle fence in a place that would hinder the station activities. Arguments would ensue and eventually they’d be kicked out.
That’s when real trouble began! They would sneak back at night and trash the place, slashing tires, smashing expensive machinery and burning down barns and sheds. Sometimes they would even return a second time ruining the place again, just after the rebuild had begun! And no one could find them for eight years. The police had been pretty ineffective till one assaulted farmer took investigations into his own hands, finding and contacting other stations that had been wrecked by the father and son duo.
As time went on the fugitives stole guns from one of the place they’d worked at and destroyed. Now they posed a serious threat and police became properly involved. A connection between the incidences spread across New South Wales and Victoria had finally been made. That’s when the cops came out to check on our tent. Soon after duo were caught. It reads like a proper cowboy thriller. Incredible that these things happen in real life! That just goes to show how disconnected and far out these outback places are.
Monday morning I was up early and on the phone slurping sips of coffee. It felt good to be taking our destiny into our own hands again! The postie people had no idea where the parcel could be and it certainly hadn’t reached Darwin yet. So I called Kawasaki who ordered the sprocket to be specially delivered as fast as possible.
Another issue that needed sorting was a new rear tire for Lea. The last one had used up super fast and wouldn’t make it to Perth. It’s super difficult to get Lea’s size: 120/90-16. Especially in a half off-road half on-road sort of style! I got the map out and called every single motorcycle shop along the road. None had anything of the sort but one promised to call around.
We poured over the maps and made plans to explore Western Australia. There were a few wicked things we’d heard about from other travelers and people we’d bumped into. We also needed to mark the petrol stations on the map to make sure we’d fill the canisters when needed.
In the afternoon he called back. He had sourced the only tire of the right type and size in Australia and could have it shipped to his shop in Kununurra. If I was lucky it would go on this week’s truck and we could have it by Monday. That would mean minimal waiting time. So we agreed to give it a shot and he put the order in. So that was sorted, too.
Tuesday morning I was raised from slumber by a text message announcing that a parcel was waiting for me at the postie in Darwin. Whoopie! (The parcel tracker still didn’t know anything about this.) I rode straight into town after breakfast. Or limped really, the chain rattling and jumping all over the place. The parcel was fetched no dramas and freedom was finally in sight.
While I was here I might as well find wifi and upload the posts I’d written in the pub. Remember we hadn’t liked Darwin much since it had seemed so lifeless? Well, today I saw it in a different light. All the shops and cafes were open and the pedestrian zone was bustling. Backpackers sat in cafes and on street corners exchanging stories, couples meandered along hand in hand, kids were chasing seagulls while mums popped from shop to shop. I found a table outside a cafe with a great view of it all, ordered a giant iced coffee and settled in, making use of the excellent free city wifi. Perfect 🙂
The coffee was finished all too soon and the blog was finished. It and finally caught up with us. Time to have more adventures before I could write about them! Careful what you wish for. Back at the caravan park the new sprocket went on like a dream and the old chain came off no fuss. But the new chain was several links too long! Now what? We don’t have a chain breaker….
I looked around. Who was the most likely person to carry a hacksaw? The UTE behind came into view. It’s owner was a pretty nice guy who spent his time radioing people all over Australia. And if someone in a far out place with no mobile reception needs help he organises it for them. In fact he could do one better.
Digging around his cluttered trailer he produced a little angle grinder. Sweet! With that we had the chain cut in no time. I prayed that I’d measured it right. There was no going back now.
Luckily I had and Lea was ready to hit the road in no time. A missed call and message informed me that my other sprocket had arrived at the Kawasaki place. Wow that was fast! By now I’d had a couple of beers though (beer and grease monkeying basically go hand in hand) so we’d just fetch the sprocket when we head out the next day.
While my hands were black with grease an older German guy came up to me did we want their food left overs. He’d seen the number plates and wanted to help a fellow traveler out. It was the end of their trip and they still had lots of tins and pasta they couldn’t finish. Awesome! Aidan went with him and returned with a giant box of tinned this and dried that. And a blue ratchet strap. I was going to say we didn’t need it and shouldn’t lug it about unnecessarily. Boy would I be glad later that I hadn’t actually said that out loud and we took it with.
Lea fixed and the food pannier full to the brim we were ready to set off tomorrow. Freedom here we come! Happiness and travel spirit were back. Nothing left to do but to celebrate in style.