We had reached the west coast of Australia and from now on we would be going south. The landscape was still dry with red soil.
But more and more water puddles made an appearance as if it had rained recently.
The next couple of days were dominated by highway life and roadhouses. We attempted to get one of those typical Australian burgers with “the lot” which means bacon, fried egg, lettuce, tomato, pickles, beetroot and pineapple all piled onto your chicken or beef burger just for the hell of it. But this roadhouse omitted the pineapple and beetroot and I can’t say I was too disappointed.
The landscape around us started changing real fast. That morning the first truck loaded with big round straw bales had come towards us. We were nearing the famous wheat belt of south Western Australia and the dry brush gave way to bright green grass and young wheat fields. The rolling hills were a delightful lush young green like we hadn’t seen since Tasmania.
At one petrol station we stopped for a longer break and I messed about taking photos.
Then I saw it. Lea’s rear tire was worn down to the thread! That brand new street tire we had put on in Kununurra. This was crazy fast wear! And super dangerous. We weren’t far from Geraldton where we knew of a motorcycle shop. So I crawled along, worried the tire might pop if I ran over a sharp stone or pothole.
Luckily the shop had tire that would fit. It was slightly wider than the standard size and was a road tire again but by this time I wasn’t going to be fussy. We spent the last of our contingency budget on it. There was no spare cash to get them to fit it and nowhere on my luggage to carry it. So I stepped through it and sat on the bike with the spare tire round my waist as we rode back out of town.
With all the fenced off wheat fields (to keep the kangaroos from munching it) it was difficult to find a spot to camp. But we found a rest stop with pretty view 30 kilometres west of town. It was too late to start changing tires tonight. The weather forecast predicted rain from about lunchtime onward the day after tomorrow and we really wanted to see the Pinnacles Desert without getting soaked. But it was still more than a day’s ride away. We’d just have to get up real early.
And I did, taking Lea’s wheel off while slurping my morning coffee. All went well until we tried to take the old tire off. This tubeless type, oversized road tire was refusing to budge even with the help of smearing washing up liquid over the rim for lubrication. We tried everything. Levers, pulling it, kicking it, using the levers again, brutal force, pleading, gentle persuasion… Out of ideas we gave up. We’d have to ride it into town on Pippa and get the workshop to do it with their special machine after all. I was glad we hadn’t attempted this last night!
And by we I meant Aidan. I really, really didn’t fancy the trip on big Pips. Neither did Aidan. But the issue could wait as he was still busy fixing Pippa, too. He headlight had rattled itself lose and was retreating into the housing. So Aidan had taken it all apart and was scraping off layers of slimy dead flies to get to the headlight. Then he tightened the dangerously lose chain. It had been making a nasty knocking noise since Darwin which had gradually gotten worse.
Pippa all fixed and back together and faced with the prospect of having to ride into town Aidan launched another extra vigorous attack on Lea’s tire. And it came off. Whoopie! We expected the new tire to be as difficult to get on, seeing that it, too, was an oversized road tire, and braced ourselves for the worst. But it was surprisingly easy! Nothing left to do but for Aidan to heat up another tin for lunch while I put Lea back together.
We set off only to come to a halt right away. That nasty clunking noise that Pippa chain had been making had gotten lots worse rather than better! What the…? Aidan slowly rode up and down while I ran along keeping a close eye on the chain. It seemed to be jumping a tooth on the sprocket! The sprockets were used up and reduced to thin sharp points. Inspecting the chain we found ceased links that had bits chipped out of them.
This was dangerous! The chain could split any time hurting Aidan, smashing up the engine casing or even cause him to crash. And the sprockets looked like they might lose a tooth or two any time, making matters worse. Nothing we could do out here but to loosen the chain again. We had no phone reception out here so we rode back into Geraldton. We needed to bring the old tire to the rubbish tip anyways.
Aidan stocked up in the supermarket while I sat in the car park by the bike phoning around all the bike shops in Geraldton. But none had the chain and sprocket set we needed. In fact no one had along our route. The next place that did was in Perth! I had them put them aside for us and mentally prepared myself to have to go and fetch them if Aidan got stranded along the way.
From now on every kilometer we rode on was two less I’d have to detour. Somehow I just couldn’t enjoy good Lea’s brand new not-yet-squared-off tire felt knowing that Aidan might have a pretty painful crash any minute. There was nothing we could do except will the chain to hold out a little longer as it had done the last couple of hundred kilometers before we noticed the severity of the problem.
We left town once more, tentatively heading south. The chain held. We wouldn’t make it to the Pinnacles Desert tonight so we camped at Billygoat Bay about an hour’s ride away. There weren’t any goats and the wind was freezing cold. We crawled into our warm sleeping bags straight after dinner and fell asleep to the sound of the waves gently crashing onto the nearby shore.
Over morning coffee we contemplated exploring the beach and the snow white dunes. But the forecast wasn’t good and grey heavy clouds were already closing in from the horizon. So we gave it a miss and headed straight to the Pinnacles Desert.
Of course it was a busy tourist attraction. But this one was our kind of thing because you were allowed to drive in! Ok, ok, I understand why hoards of tourists shouldn’t be allowed to drive all over our natural wonders.
But for us that usually meant locking helmets to the bike, unstrapping all our valuables like laptops, tablet computers, a whole stash of paperwork, bike documents and passports, and lugging them about wearing heavy bike boots and jackets, scorching heat or otherwise. Like that a 500m hike to see a spectacular place quickly becomes exhausting and you don’t really feel like bumbling around and exploring it. It’s not like we have a car to lock it all up in to take only the camera and wallet, running about in shorts and flip flops.
So yes, driving in was perfect for us. A route was laid out in stones so the vehicles don’t do any damage to the place and there are bays to park up run around and take photos. But since all our stuff was in sight we could just leave it on the bike. Perfect!
And what a stunning place it was, the changeable clouds creating an interesting light and shadow play on the yellow sand.
A ranger caught up with us. A biker himself he’d been wondering what that clonking noise was and warned us that Aidan’s chain was lose. Yeah, we knew but nice of him anyways. He proceeded to tell us how this place came about.
Like the surrounding areas this place was covered in low bushes. Water running down the roots had combined with the powdery lime in the sand to form solid concrete formations – the pinnacles. Then six thousand or so years ago a bush fire presumably caused by lightening had burned the brush off that was holding the sand dunes together. The strong southwesterly winds this area is famous for had blown the lighter white sand into the brush in the northeast, revealing the pinnacles and the yellow sand.
We followed the path around soaking up the strangely wonderful atmosphere. The further we went the fewer tourists we met until we were all by ourselves. The strange light caused by the threatening clouds gave the place a mysteriously eerie feel. It seems we had come here at the perfect time.