Leaving the Pinnacles Desert we edged closer to Perth. Pippa’s chain was clonking away but continued to hold out. The rain held off too. After another tinned soup lunch in a roadside car park we found an old tennis ball and played motorcycle football till it escaped us into the bushes. The wind got stronger and the grey clouds began catching up. High time to get a move on.
It being Saturday the Motorcycle shop was closed and we wouldn’t get the new chain till Monday. They really love their weekend here in Western Australia so a lot of places are closed on Saturdays, even in a big city like Perth. We stocked up in the supermarket and headed back out into the beautiful Perth Hills.
Now the rain had caught up with us and it came gushing down. I pulled over to put my rain gear on but we were soaked through within minutes regardless. Muddy brown rivers were gushing across the road and down the mountainsides. At some point Lea turned 50 – she had officially done 50000 kilometres. But it was far too wet to dare get the camera out for this iconic milestone. I just took a photo much later. With all the speedo cable troubles I’d had back in NSW and in the outback she was more like 55 by now anyways.
Our chosen campsite in the forest was fully booked so we left the hills and rode on half blinded by the rain, our muscles aching from tensing up against the cold. We finally found a spot to pull off the road in a lighter forest somewhere. Everything was wet by the time we’d put the tent up and water had already started to seep in. Both our tarps had lots of holes so the one underneath didn’t make much difference while the top one kept most of the water away from the gaping hole in the roof but created a few water features in the entrance instead.
Shivering we swapped our dripping riding gear for the clothes that had remained dry in our drybags and curled up in our sleeping bags hoping to thaw out eventually. All the while puddles were forming on the tent floor around us and we sought refuge on our sleeping mats. Luckily we had anticipated this misery and stocked up for the weekend. We stayed inside the tent watching movies and writing diaries.
The weather cleared up somewhat the next day but we remained miserably wet. The whole world was horribly damp and intermittent showers prevented us from drying our stuff out in the sun. We only left the tent to cook food.
Sexy latest Irish fashion: woolly long johns, shorts and flipflops? Why Irish? Dunno, Aidan said so.
On Monday the sun was back out and we emerged from our sodden home and loaded it back onto the bikes. A clear little river had formed in the field behind the tent. It was tempting to have a sponge bath since we desperately needed a wash. But then it was really cold and we could just find a place with a hot shower tonight.
Our clothes were still wet but we couldn’t exactly ride in shorts and T-shirts. Nothing to it but to climb back into yucky sodden jeans, jackets, boots and helmets. That made for a cold ride as the airflow mercilessly blew through them.
At least Aidan was seated comfortably on his goon-pillow. A neat little trick we learned here in Aussieland. Two days of hoveling up had been more than enough to finish a box of cheap red wine and the bag inside could be blown up to form a pillow. You can even adjust the softness by letting some air back out.
By the time we arrived in Perth we were frozen to the bone and decided to thaw out in a wickid little cafe near the motorcycle shop as soon as we’d picked up the chain and sprockets.
The coffee was strong and did the trick. High on caffeine we left to find a camp site where we could change the chain and sprockets and dry out our things. There was one more thing we really wanted to see: Wave Rock. As the name suggests it’s a rock that looks like a wave. So we left Perth in that direction. WikiCamps had mentioned an affordable camp ground with laundry facilities and hot showers in Brookton, 100 or so kilometres away. Perfect! And if the chain gave out before then we had a new one to put on. We’d just ride slowly and take it easy enjoying our surroundings.
When we got there a little sign said: Back around 8pm. Just find a spot. So we settled in and Aidan began changing chain and sprockets while I set about drying our things out and getting our laundry and myself washed. Turns out a tooth had snapped off the font sprocket and we really wouldn’t have made it much further.
When I came out of the shower feeling human again Aidan was not a happy bunny. The chain was far too long! What is it with Aussie chains? Once again we needed an angle grinder or at least a hacksaw but the nearest hardware store was back in Perth! What now?
That minute the caretaker, George, came back and did the rounds to collect the camping fees. And he was more than happy to help! He had a whole shed full of tools. We only had to ask and he marched Aidan off to find the angle grinder.
George said he had stuff to do and would be driving off in a bit. But we were welcome to use his shed and anything in it even if he wasn’t here. How awesomely nice of him! Aidan counted out the links and set about cutting the chain. After that it was a race against the dark. Luckily the chain wasn’t too short now and went on just fine. Pippa had lost a few more bolts as well, but we would sort that out in the morning.
With dusk the damp had returned and there was no way our laundry would dry. We had no change for the dryer so I asked George for some. I looked mighty silly wearing the big bike jacket, tights and hot pants (the jeans were in the wash), with woolly ankle warmers sticking out of my bike boots and my fluffy hat wrapped around my head. But I didn’t care. It was freezing and this was vaguely keeping me warm. George took one look at me and promptly offered too heat us up some Thai stir-fry with homegrown chilies later to keep us warm. He’d just have to drive off for an hour or so first.
I wasn’t gonna say no to that! It was bloody cold and the temperatures were creeping close to zero at night. This far south it really was winter. All showered and the laundry done we curled up in our sleeping bags to try and warm up. Soon a voice outside said: Knock, knock! George stood outside with two massive steaming bowls of stir-fry. He’d even wrapped the cutlery in a napkin for us! Oh, and if we brought the bowls back tomorrow morning he would make us a hot coffee and some toast.
Wow! How could we possibly thank him? This was amazingly kind! The chilly was just the right amount and warmed us up nicely. It was still early but we slept really well. At about five am the morning cold woke us up. The hour before sunrise is always the worst. We huddled up as best we could, waiting it out. Later on George told us the dew on the grass had been frozen.
By the time we crawled out of the tent the sun had gathered strength. We finished fixing Pippa and then George made us breakfast as promised. He joined with a cup of coffee and got chatting.
Turns out his mate and wife are traveling the world on a BMW so he took heaps of photos of Pippa to show him. Those two had traveled South America, got the bug and have been on the road for five years now. He dug up some photos, too. They’d told George many amazing stories of friendly locals who’d invited them in for some food and now he was real happy at the chance to return the favour to some freezing bikers that came his way. How super nice of him!
Our tummies full and feeling all happy and warm we finally said our good byes and rode off towards Wave Rock. It was only that evening that it occurred to me we should have stayed another night and offered to help tidy the shed as a thank you. George’s wife was away for a while and he was trying to clean it out before she got back to surprise her. I have no idea if he would have wanted two strangers sort through his stuff but we could at least have offered. Now it was too late. I was kicking myself!