I’ve got a few more days before I have to return to reality and the sad business of earning money to pay for my trip – so I’m up in Queensland fanging around. The idea is to find warmer weather (tick) and find out which bits fall off the bike (tick) and hopefully chill the fuck out (tick).
So I finally got out of town on Thursday and headed North, before getting quickly distracted by a delightful little road with a sign saying, “Hazardous creek crossings: next 21km”. How could I pass that one up? So I spent the next couple of hours gleefully fanging through creeks until it got dark and the bike suddenly cut out just as I was about to enter swiftly flowing floodwaters… Visions of getting washed off the crossing flashed before me. What to do? It was dark and I was only a few kilometres out of a place marked as Rouchel on the map. I have no idea if there’s anything there; best case scenario would be a pub, worst case scenario would be a soggy roadside where I could put out my swag, which would also do just fine. Rouchel was certainly closer than turning around and back-tracking through the half dozen or so flooded creeks that I’d just crossed; but in the end prudence got the better of me. It was now properly dark and there were at least two more creek crossings in front of me. Unlike the ones behind me, they were unknown crossings and my ability to make out the detail of a road under flood water in the weak light of my stock headlights, with a fine misty rain coming down, was approximately fuck all. Add to that the engine cutting out just before I entered a creek, and I was properly spooked. I turned around and went all the way back through Singleton.
As I backtracked, it occurred to me that the problem that had caused the bike to cut out might well have just been fuel starvation. I hadn’t yet turned on the fuel line from the safari tank since last time I’d filled up, so the rear tank was probably around a third full. That should have been fine, and the thing that initially threw me was that that fuel light wasn’t on either. But then I thought about the moment the engine had cut out: I was heading down a steep slope into the creek, and then pulled up sharply to get a good look at the floodwater before I went in. In that moment, did the fuel simply slosh forward and away from the intake for a moment, causing a brief cut out? The bike started up again straight away and sputtered out; then again and sputtered out; then it was fine and has not played up since. I’m going to check my schematics when I get back and see if this little theory makes sense. Hopefully that’s all it is.
Anyway, by the time I got back to Singleton and began heading North again, it was late and I’d hardly covered any ground. I put on some music and took the highway, keeping my eyes peeled for kangaroos. By about 9.30pm I’d found a deserted rest area off the Kamilaroi Highway, just south of Quirindi. I pulled into the rest area and rode up into the scrub behind it, put the swag out behind some bushes beside the railway tracks. One doesn’t always want to advertise one’s solo presence beside roadsides.
It was cold enough to see my breath fogging the air and I could feel the damp air descending, but it wasn’t raining. A few b-doubles screamed past for the first hour or so and then it was just me, silence, stars.
Next day I woke to a beautiful foggy dawn, got my shit sorted, headed down the road to Quirindi for breakfast. Then some dirt roads up through Gunnedah, Barraba, Bundarra. Beautiful sunny weather; crops in fields all looking pretty green; other motorists flashing their lights at me to warn me about the Highway Patrol lurking up the road. No complaints.
Well, maybe one complaint: my left mirror on the KTM has a 100% fail rate whenever I ride around the back of Gunnedah on a Saturday morning. Last time I was up there on a Saturday morning, I was riding along a dirt road when the mirror just snapped off – right through the metal. Epic fail. This time, I looked to my left and the thing is just drooping flaccidly. I was able to fix it up by tightening a couple of screws at the next stop, but this still doesn’t fill me with confidence in the durability of the stock mirrors. I reckon I might be changing them out before I head off in Feb.
After Bundarra, I decided I’d better get a move on if I thought I was going to make it to a hot shower and a cold beer in Brisbane that night. Rtw Shane had promised me the inside track on finding hot springs in East Timor and other such things, so I was heading for the coast.
I’d left my run a bit late in the day and it was getting a bit cold and dark, but that was pretty much fine until I was 80km out of Brisbane and my phone stopped working. I had Shane’s address written on my hand, a paper map of NSW, and a paper map of outback Queensland. I’d never ridden or driven in Brisbane before and had been foolishly planning on getting Google maps to talk me through it. Now what? I had put the address in Google maps back in Tenterfield, and had a quick look at the blue line running sort of east then south east into Brisbane. I hadn’t paid much attention, but I remembered vaguely the direction of the line, and that part of the route had been labelled M2 at some point. Fuck, I thought, and kept riding towards Brisbane.
Eventually I found myself on the motorways, hooning past exit after exit labelled with the names of suburbs I’d never heard of. Some, I recognised from literature, comedy shows, and police reports, and accordingly avoided. It was a process of elimination, but I had no idea where I was actually going. I trusted my sense of direction and tried to keep heading in the direction that I thought was kind of east, kind of south-east. Eventually the motorway petered out into a large glorified road. I planned to filter up to some of the cars at the lights and ask directions, but it seems that there’s not enough traffic delay in Brisbane at 8pm on a Saturday night to do that. Or at least, not in that part of Brisbane, wherever that was. So after a while I spotted a servo on my side of the road and pulled in to ask directions.
The servo attendant had never heard of the suburb I was looking for. Fuck, I thought, I must be in completely the wrong part of town. I was tired, I was cold, I was hungry, and my new helmet was pressing in a particular spot on my forehead which, after twelve hours, was really starting to bother me. The prospect of hot shower and cold beer was seeming further and further away.
I took off my helmet and put my sore head in my hands for a minute while the servo attendant looked pessimistically at the index of a Gregory’s.
Then old mate who was paying for his fuel asked me if I was looking for a particular place? Why yes, I said, and told the sad story of my dead phone and my paper map of outback Queensland. No worries, he said, I’ll look it up and if we can’t find it then I’ll call my Dad – he used to be a taxi driver, he’ll know where it is.
So we Googled the address, and what do you know, it was only 7km away. My sense of direction (read: blind, dumb luck) seemed to be on the money. I got out a pen and copied out the directions onto my left hand; we fist bumped and I was on my way.
Back out on the motorway, riding along with one glove off so I could read the directions off the back of my hand. Every now and then I had to lean forward and put my hand in front of my headlight to read the next bit, and that seemed to work fine. Ten minutes later, I’d arrived. Beer, steak, hot shower, good company, the amazing hospitality of strangers. Winning all over the shop.