A few quick facts:
Distance travelled in total by me: 7535km from 30th Oct – 24th Nov
Total days driving: 18
2 days Dave and me, 2 days only me, then Anja and me for next 3 days, Harm and me 1/2 day, Robert and me 1/2 day, Willem then joined me for 4 days, 3 days back into Sydney on my own, then 2 days straight back home on my own as well, and to think I was worried that I would be spending all my trip on my own in the car.
So, why so much company? Anja was the first to fall victim to the perils of off-road Australia. While at Lorne Station in Lightning Ridge she ran over a small stick, that was attached to a much larger log which flicked up and speared through her panniers and brought the bike to a stand still, unfortunately flicking her off at the same time. A thorough check at the Lightning Ridge hospital (including x-rays once the radiologist was called in from his home) showed nothing broken, just badly bruised. Anja was told she probably would not be back on the bike at all and that she must ride in the car. She was pretty disappointed at being put in the car so soon on the trip and determined she would be back on the bike in record time.
I think that she was pretty pleased about being in the car the following day when, after a little rain, the others all rode out from Lorne Station along 1.5km of mud. And when I say mud, I mean red clay that within 10m had clogged all the nobbly bits on the bike tires so that they were effectively riding the bikes on slick tires with no grip. As we were tail-enders we missed the happenings at the front of the pack but Harm gave a perfect demonstration of how to slide a BMW 1200 onto its side in thick mud. Thankfully both he and the bike were unharmed but Anja and I certainly had a small chuckle as we watched. She seemed quite ok with being in the car after that.
The following day proved even more difficult for some of the group. The road travelling out of Bourke to Tibooburra for most of the group was fun and exciting. A true taste of off-road biking. First dust, then thick sand, then rutted and corrugated dirt, followed by a bit more sand, then some really sharp rocks, and on and on for 400km. Sadly it was not to be fun and exciting for all of our little group. Willem was about to come unstuck.
It turned out his total off-road experience was 4 km from where he bought the bike in Holland to the container for shipping (and that was on bitumen). He had done ok the day before getting out of Lorne Station but the Bourke – Tibooburra Rd proved a bit trickier. Anja and I were watching the disaster unfold in front of us and there was nothing we could do.
As soon as he hit the soft stuff Willem started to have problems. The bike was slaloming, fishtailing left and right and the harder he tried to make it go straight the worse it got. Apparently there is a point where going slower makes it worse not better and he unfortunately hit that point. Even without hearing his curses we could see from his body language that things were not going well. We watched helplessly as he took a moment to compose himself after the bike nearly got away from him. We could see him straighten his shoulders, and tell himself that he was not going to let the sand win, that he could master this off-road stuff. It didn’t help though as within 15m the bike had slewed uncontrollably across the sand and laid him down on the edge of the road.
It’s not often you witness an adult man lose it and throw a total tantrum but when he pushed the handlebars away and then kicked the bike with a venom reserved for something hated we could see that frustration was winning out. Thankfully though we had Robert with us.
Robert is an off-road motorcycle teacher (thank goodness) so he took a moment to have a word with Willem and before too long everyone was back up on the bikes and ticking off the kms. I don’t know what magic Robert wove but Willem made it to Tibooburra with his spirit and his bike unbroken, although only just. To say he was exhausted though was an understatement. He had literally fought his way along 400km of dirt road and was shattered. So much so that as he mounted the bike to take it across the road from our afternoon-shade-beer-drinking pub to our accommodation pub he lost his balance and dropped the bike. All the locals came racing over to help lift it back up. I think the last straw was when they handed him the mirror from the ground. He looked heart broken. As there was only Anja and I standing there I grabbed the mirror, jammed it back on the bike and we made a pact that it was our little secret, none of the others needed to know.
I only tell you now because in the end Willem admitted to all that he had dropped it outside the Toole Family Hotel in Tibooburra when we were tallying up how many tumbles had been taken.
I’ll fill in some more stories of madness and mayhem in the next installment 🙂