I pressed the ignition button and listened to the engine turn over sickly. I tried again, watching the readings on my voltmeter plummet from a healthy 12 volts down to 9 volts, 8.6 volts under load. She was turning over but not fast enough to start.

Sweat rolled down my face. I was all geared up, standing in the bed of the Gregory River in Australia’s remote far North, and I wasn’t going anywhere.

[googlemaps https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/embed?mid=1I0SXYOX10CvFtLv6Q_rmrFNbGuo&w=640&h=480]

I tried a couple more times, but always the same: the starter motor wasn’t turning the engine over fast enough to start the bike. With every attempt, the battery was getting flatter. 11.8 volts, 11.2, 10, 9.

I was pretty sure that the battery hadn’t been flat when I’d started, but now doubt started to creep into my mind: maybe the kids playing with my spotlights last night had drained the battery more than I’d thought? The battery was less than a year old so wasn’t due for replacement by any means.

I took off my helmet and jacket and pulled out my jump start pack, hooked it up, hit the ignition again. Same result as before: turning over sickly, not fast enough to start. My jump start pack is rated to jump start V8 cars and small trucks. I looked at it suspiciously: maybe it was a dud unit? I knew it had been fully charged when I left Navarra, and I hadn’t used it since.

I saw a bloke in four wheel drive churning past, so I flagged him down for a second opinion. A flat battery by the sound of it, he reckoned, but he didn’t have jumper leads. So I started walking down the river. Now, you’d be amazed how many people are out there with their kitted-out vehicles and caravans – literally, they have the kitchen sink! – but they don’t have jumper leads. I was thinking I might have to bludge a coathanger and make some (would that work?) when I finally came across a lovely retired couple with jumper leads. We took their Landcruiser up to Beastie, charged the battery for a few minutes and then jumped her off the Landcruiser’s main battery with the engine running. Beastie sprang into life.

I was so relieved. Maybe it was just the battery after all! I knew that if I could make it to Burketown I’d be among friends; no way was I turning off the bike until I got there. I had just enough fuel to make it.

I thanked old mate and frantically repacked my tools and gear as the engine temperature climbed in the still, hot air.

Then I was out of the river bed, and away. It was a bit over a hundred kilometres, across creeks, past wild horses and into greener and greener country. Eventually Burketown came into view: a pub, a shop, an information centre, a servo, and a few houses with disproportionate numbers of utes and boats parked out the front. Burketown is where you go for barra fishing.

I made it to the servo, filled up Beastie, drank some water and took a deep breath. Would she start again? And how would I find my fishing friends? That was the next thing to deal with, but I wasn’t ready to think about it just yet.

I was standing in the shade thinking nothing at all when they rolled into town.


0 thoughts on “Limping to Burketown

  1. Mike Steffan says:

    Hi Grace.
    Just caught up with a dozen or so of your blog entries – they’re hard to put down!
    Hope you’re still having the time of your life. You’re one brave lady.
    Safe travels,
    mike from ASIC

    1. Thanks Mike, I’m so glad you’re enjoying the adventure too. It’s still wonderful, even the difficult bits. It feels like i’m a long way from ASIC, but every now and then I look at my hair cut and think about ASIC, because when I started work for ASIC was the last time I got one! ???? Ah, I’m such a hobo. All the best, Grace

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