Finally free and ready to go!
It was sooooooo good to be back on the road! I had a giant grin on my face and nothing could change that.
Not the strong headwind that was slowing Lea down to 80km/h. And not the lack of power due to the 14 tooth front sprocket.That is one tooth more than standard and should give a higher top end speed range. But the little engine was already struggling with all the luggage so instead she simply couldn’t muster up the power to go fast at all. Oh well, we’d popped by the Kawasaki place in the morning and picked up the 13 tooth sprocket they had specially ordered in for me. So I’d just swap them over one of these days.
Because of the shape of Australia we had to head south from Darwin before we could ride west. So it was back down the same highway to Katherine. Of course it was stinking hot so we went back to the wicked little wildcamping spot we knew to have crocodile-free water. Or at least none had eaten me last time.
Sam and Silvaner Skunk celebrated our newly found travel spirit by getting as drunk as fast as possible. Surely there is a drunk-as-a-skunk joke in there somewhere…
The crocodiles hadn’t eaten me this time either so in the morning we hit the new road. More highway, but this time one we hadn’t seen before. It was back to boring long tarmac and roadhouses and we were loving it.
Towards the afternoon the scenery began to change. Boring head-high brush that had been blocking our view all day gave way to rocky hills and plains of yellow dried grass with the odd tree here and there. Water made an appearance in little creeks and waterholes – a sensationally refreshing sight after the endless parched landscapes.
And then the first boab trees showed up. We hadn’t seen them anywhere else in Australia. Looking like a bulbous up-side-down tree they are ugly and fascinating at the same time. All other plants seem to reach towards the sky, rushing towards the sun. Yet the boabs seem reluctant, like someone was pushing them out of the ground against their will.
That night Aidan had to do some minor repairs on Pippa. The lower mudguard had broken off and he wanted to try his luck with some left-over RTV silicone and duck tape. These days something or other seemed to be breaking all the time. Both bikes and our equipment were starting to feel the wear and tear and we were just hoping they would make it to Perth.
Which is also why we were mostly staying on the highway these days. As much fun as unsealed tracks like the famous Gibb River Road through the Kimberley Mountains promised to be, the inevitable corrugations would probably rattle the bikes to bits for good. And our budget just didn’t allow for major repairs.
Talking of budget, dinner was some of that tinned food we’d been gifted. Being free it tastes amazingly all right.
The next day I was happily daydreaming when the Western Australian border popped up in front of us. Shit! This was supposed to be the one with the strict quarantine that required your vehicle to be spotlessly clean if the guy we met in the car park in Mount Gambier, South Australia, was to be believed. Our bikes hadn’t seen water in months and were red with dust and covered in dead insects!
We could only hope that the guy was as wrong as he was racist. Pulling up behind the caravans a guy came over, gave Pippa a where-do-I-start look and then resigned himself to asking Aidan whether he had any fresh fruit, vegetables or honey on him. Upon answering no to all three he was free to ride through. Then it was my turn. Was I with him? Ok, please follow him! And just like that we were through. Phew!
As soon as you cross into Western Australia, the landscape ahead promises to end boredom. There are mountains in the distance and bright orange soil is covered with yellow grass and green trees. It seems like we would be treated to a taste of the Kimberleys even if we stayed on the highway.
It was still early when we rolled into Kununurra. In fact it was a lot earlier than we had expected. With the border crossing we had also crossed into a new time zone. It was an entire one and a half hours earlier here!
So while we craved lunch, the cafes were still serving breakfast. Having lived off tinned food and dehydrated pasta the last few days we treated ourselves to a yummie second breakfast in a cafe that could be straight out of Shoreditch or Kreuzberg (a surprisingly rare find in Australia with the exceptions of Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle).
It was only Friday and AllGear Motorcycles had said the earliest they would have the tire was Monday. I decided to pop in and ask if the tire had made it onto this week’s truck. This was a pretty town but there would be no point waiting if the tire wasn’t on its way.
Just as well I did. A few phone calls revealed that the tire had missed the first truck and wouldn’t leave Melbourne till next Wednesday. It was going via Perth and would be passing us on the highway somewhere. But once on the truck it cannot be unloaded till it reaches Kununurra. This was frustrating, if understandable. We feared that it would be chasing us forever if the motorcycle shop then posted it after us. Now what?
Lea still desperately needed a new tire! The AllGear guy was super helpful. Rummaging around the workshop attic he produced a similar size road tire that could fit. I wasn’t keen. We had a couple more dirt tracks lined up and I wanted the grip and traction of a semi-off road tire. Aside from that a road tire would look awful on Lea.
But I had little choice. There was no way we would be hanging around waiting for another week and a half. We had only just got our freedom back! So we agreed that I take this road tire for the cost price of the other one, which AllGear had already paid for. That way they wouldn’t be out of pocket.
Budget or not, I decided to pay the $50 for them to fit the new tire. For one I wasn’t entirely sure whether it would fit and I rather we find out here than after leaving town. And why shouldn’t they earn a little bit off this deal. After all they had spent hours phoning around sourcing that other tire for me!
In the end the experience was well worthwhile. I had a wickid chat and banter about bikes with the workshop guy who did the fitting. He ended u re-threading the damaged rear brake rod while he was at it and threw in a free rim band as the old one was more holes than band. After all that they disposed of the old tire for us at no extra charge, too. They all popped out front to inspect the ugly but functional new tire and then waved us off. What awesomely nice and helpful guys!
This far east in this time zone the sun sets quite early, cutting our riding days shorter. We just had enough time to ride out of town to a free camping spot by the river among some boab trees. The water was really tempting. But it was full of crocodiles. We heard them splashing about as we pitched the tent at last light. We had bought some sausages in town and almost regretted it now. What if a hungry croc fancies human with a side of beef and garlic?