The next day we walked back into the jungle with a tow rope and a couple of strong young men. The sun was shining gaily and the sheeting rain of the previous day seemed like a bad dream.
The Thai guys were hiking in their gumboots and sockless rubber shoes, the long strides of people accustomed to this terrain. One guy brought a small bottle of water in his pocket; the others just seemed not to need it.
I hiked in my Sidi adventure boots and hydration pack, hoping that the KLX clutch might hook up a little now that it was completely cold. Unlike my MX boots from the previous day, the Sidis at least have hinged ankle support, allowing you to walk normally. Now that I was hydrated and fed, the previous day’s death march seemed only to take half an hour; a stroll in the forest.
When we came upon my KLX still sleeping the jungle – unfound, unmolested by any passers by – my relief was palpable. Just down the hill, the CRF also slumbered peacefully in its rapidly drying mud bath.
I hit the KLX starter and she fired up instantly; waves of gratitude rolled over me, only to recede rapidly as it became clear that there was going to be no drive to the rear wheel today. The clutch was well and truly toast.
I sighed a little and took off my knee guards again, and tied them to my back. Just down the hill, the CRF was already freed, and I watched my friend wheelie up the hill towards me. Alas, that would be the CRF’s last wheelie for the day: we got out the tow rope and the hard graft started.
First, we had to extract the KLX from the middle of the particularly steep slope which had become its overnight resting place. This had to be done by hand and elbow grease. Drag, breathe; drag, breathe; the bike inched its way up the hill. As I gasped for air, I reminded myself that we only had to do this for a little over four kilometres: we’d managed to drive the truck all the way to the start of the single track. Since we were averaging about a metre a minute, this would only take… I decided to abort the calculation in the interests of morale.
As the gradient evened out, though, we were able to hitch the tow rope to the CRF450 and put that horsepower to work. Now, we had machinery to exert the forward motion and four people to scramble at keeping both bikes upright as the narrow track traversed roots, fallen logs and unseen hazards. Sometimes it took three people to get the CRF through an obstacle, before we could even think of towing the KLX through it. But since I’d forgotten to bring my helicopter, there was nothing for it but to go forward.
I pitied the clutch on the CRF and marveled at the fact that this seemed to all be working.
* * *
Hours later we could sight the blue of the truck through the bushes. We had made it.
* * *
Back at the basecamp, I uncharacteristically washed the KLX. I soaped her up and thanked her for her service. The next day we put her on the back of the truck and took her to the KLX workshop, to find out what the hell was going on.