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February 2008 Club News

Paul and Kate's Around Oz Ride - continued from December

Paul gets his tyre warm in 2003 Hillclimb
We booked into the Ivanhoe Caravan Park, set up camp then called the man in the know, ‘Snowy’, at Albany Motorcycles. The guru. Snowy confirmed my suspicions but said to he speak to Wayne Atkins at Mach 1 Kawasaki - apparently he’s the guru’s guru. Which turned out to be so. He said it sounded like the bevel shaft bearing had failed and on removing the inspection housing proved to be so. Shit! He then said it was and engine out job! No, I was not happy, that meant big dollars.

I gingerly rode around to the bike shop and was told that they couldn’t even look at it for at least three weeks to a month and even then didn’t reckon they could do the job.

They said we could put it on a truck and send it to Katherine or Darwin. Things were looking bad and my mood wasn’t much better. John at the bike shop put me on to Bill Dempsey at Argyle Toyota who was a bike nut and may be able to help. Bill couldn’t offer any workshop space but would help if he could. Next I tried a few places around town. Forget it was the basic response. One of Kate’s mate’s sisters lived up here and they offered to let us use the carport to pull the motor out. Our first break.

Then I was back on the phone trying to organise parts. Yep, yep no worries three weeks from Japan. Give me a break. The guys at Mach 1 were fantastic and we managed to get the bearing number and I got one from CBC bearings. Jock and Mavis down home got my workshop manual and sent that up. I was now only missing the inspection cover. Now we wait three days and hope it all arrives.

Wednesday Kate booked us on to a boat tour up the Ord River Diversion Dam to Argyle Dam 55km. It was fantastic up through the dam water, the gorges and the fast flowing water up near the top.
That day we met Joe Urquart. He pulled in on his ‘91 Softail Custom that was on its third lap of Oz and camped near us. He is from down near home out near the Valley of the Giants and had left home just before us but was travelling anti-clockwise around the country.

Thursday, another break, the parts had arrived. I then had to run around buying the tools I’d need, oils, coolant, gasket stripper, and all the other crap for this operation. Another break came when Kate managed to sweet-talk the head gardner, Kev, into letting us do the job next to our camp as long as there were no spills. He’d seen we were pretty organised. Kev is a bike person who had got stuck years ago at Eucla when a snapped chain had holed the crankcase on his Honda 750 Four. He got going again with a beer can and araldite patch. That lasted for nine years!

Thusday night I had a hard time sleeping going over the job and all the things that could go wrong.
Next morning I got another break when Joe said he’d hang around and give me a hand. He said he wasn’t a mechanic, but I’d take him over some that I’d seen. We got cracking and had the engine out before 9.30am. Too many bloody hoses and wires on these new bikes. I pulled the bevel housing off and raced around to Bill’s shop. He said his gearbox bloke would pop the bearing and retorque the nut to its 195 ft lb setting and no, that’s not a misprint. Then it was time to sit back and wait. I got the call after lunch and I raced back to get the housing. Fixed up for the job, thanked Bill profusely gave him my number and promised a tour of Denmark’s bush.

Back at camp we flew back into it. The hardest part was lining up the spline on the motor to the drive shaft. A few other old boys came over and gave us a hand to wiggle it into place. Took a few goes but eventually we got it. Then it was remount, reassemble, refill and reconnect. Now the one part I couldn’t get I had to bodge. I used threebond to try to seal the inspection cover. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without Joe’s help and I’m in his debt, a fair dinkum top bloke.

Friday I finished the reassembly in the morning and took it for a spin. Felt good but the cover was weeping. Plan B, Araldite. Snowy confirmed this as the only viable option to waiting three weeks for the part that I’d ordered. So now we wait and see if it will hold. I’m about to test it shortly and am quietly confident.

The araldite held but I located another minor oil leak from the clutch pushrod seal that was damaged either by the heat from the stuffed bearing or from this ham-fisted bodge when I refitted the bevel drive housing to the motor. It was only a minor weep so I decided ‘stuff it’ we’re off and I zip-tied a piece of rag to a hydraulic line below it and it did the trick.

We loaded up and set off up the road hoping the whole repair wasn’t going to hand-grenade on a lonely stretch of road. I tell you it was bloody good being mobile again. Here is some advice from Mach 1 Kawasaki’s resident guru in relation to towing.
1. Use the clutch and brakes to slow the bike because using engine compression for braking puts too much strain on your drive train.
2. Change engine oil and gearbox/diff where appropriate at 3000km no ifs or buts - words I will now live by.

We stopped in at Timber Creek for a bloody nice toasted sanger then pushed on to Victoria River. It’s a magic run in with red cliffs towering over you coming in. While we were filling up Kate mentioned that she’d heard about these cheap helicopter flights available here. We asked about them inside and when they were available. She looked at us like we were a bit slow and said ‘Well now if you want, I’ll give the pilot a yell’. While we were waiting for him I saw this bloke getting some tucker he’d ordered. A bloody huge plate of mixed grill that had me salivating.

The helicopter we went up in was from 1968 the same as the ones in the TV series MASH. It was a great flight up the gorge dropping down to hover and check out some aboriginal art and spotting crocs in the river. We were hanging out of the sides of the little chopper with no doors. It was a hoot.

Poor old Kate was a bit woozy when we touched down so we decided to park up and settle in for a few coldies. Guess what I had for dinner. Mixed grill and it was better than anything we got in Kununurra. Kate had a bloody great salad and egg. Brilliant.

Next morning saw us heading for Katherine. After a short stop we decided to push on up to Douglas Daly Springs 150km north then about 30km west. We camped up right out the back of the Park along a river right above our own thermal hot spring. It was getting late but Kate insisted we go for a swim. We both stepped on the same snake in the dark on the way back up to the camp. Yep, those undies got chucked out. Near as we could find out it was a keelback, the only snake known to actually eat cane toads with no ill effects. We had a relaxing couple of days there swimming and giving the old jaffle iron a hiding.

We had a few days in Darwin and did the rubber-neck things; Mindil Beach Markets and sunset, the pictures, Berry Springs caught up with a couple of old mates, we even called in to the iconic old Humpty Doo pub. I also picked up the new seal for the bike and replaced the old one. The bloody caravan park was noisy and we were both ready to get going and find a quiet spot. Bloody bitey ants in Darwin. (Known affectionately as GTs - Green Tree Ants - leap out of trees onto you. Web Ed.)

We headed down to Edith Falls and what a great spot it is. We had a nice secluded little camp spot and there were no generators allowed. Swimming every day and relaxing. It was so nice we stayed longer than we planned. I can recommend the burgers too. A thousand tiny ants decided they liked the look of our camper and decided to move in. Needless to say I was a little lukewarm on the idea and yes there was a lot of colourful language.

We camped next out at Katherine Gorge did a trip out through it and even organised a scenic flight out over Kakadu’s Twin and Jim Jim Falls. While the falls were spectacular the scenic aspect was seriously lacking due to the smoke from bushfires. I’d asked the bloke before we left was it too smoky. He asssured us it was only local. Bullshit! These bloody companies are more interested in the $ than your experience. Next time I’ll pay more attention to that little voice in my head. 

We headed down to Mataranka Thermal Springs. We copped rain which was ironic because I had been talking to my mate Scooter the day before and told him we hadn’t seen rain since Shark Bay. We decided to stay a Mataranka and spent a lot of time in the thermal pool. I hadn’t been here since 1990 on my old Z900.

We then headed south for the Daly Waters pub. A must do. They cram caravaners and campers into a back paddock and the pub has crap stuck on any available surface; old thongs, money, undies, bras, drivers licences, flags, shirts and a million other things. The go is to get in early and order your ‘Beef and Barra’ for tea. There’s entertainment every night catering mostly for the grey nomads but we had a good laugh. There was Sax and the Single Girl, a bloke called Frank Turton who told stories, recited poetry and sang songs with two baby ‘wedge tailed eagles’ on his hat. A bloody good night.

Next morning we headed south again, it was bloody cold. We turned east at Three Ways and decided to push onto Barkly Homestead into a head wind and threatening rain which was about 195km east. My bike stuttered and died as we rolled in with an empty tank. Shit Shell fuel. All up a 600km run in near freezing temperatures. Kate did bloody well. It rained all night and we decided to pack up and push on, bad move.

The temperature didn’t get above 8 degrees and it rained the whole 470km to Mt Isa. I found it ironic that line from the ‘Diamantina Drover’-’For the rain never falls on the dusty Diamantina’. No it bloody well pours. 40km Before the Queensland border and the road was coming apart with no warning signs. We were riding with our left hands on the engines to warm them while the right ones froze. Every now and then we’d stop and hold the exhaust pipes to get feeling back into our hands. Kate forgot to turn her choke off when we left Barkly Homestead and had it on for 130km, I was worried we wouldn’t make it to Camooweal. But we did.

We pulled into Mt Isa on shift change so there we were frozen in pouring rain in the middle of rush hour trying to find a Caravan Park and a warm shower. We found a Top Ten park and they were great. Lent us a little heater and the owner Stuart even made us hot coffees. You have no idea how good that coffee tasted and felt. The camper was damp because we’d packed it up wet, we’ll try not to do that again. We managed a warm shower and a good night’s sleep so all is well with the world again.

The local Isa paper said that it was their coldest weather on record and that on the 20th of June they had had 102mm of rain that was 98mm more than their June average. Lucky us eh? On the Friday we went for a ‘Hard Times Mine Tour’ that was in mock-up underground working guided by a retired local miner named Eddie Macdonald and didn’t he have a few beaut stories to tell.

Saturday morning and the camper had dried out enough to pack up and move on. I adjusted Kate’s chain for only the third time of the trip before we set off. Heading out of Isa we had clear blue skies as we made our way through the rugged, red spinifex covered ranges that had been washed clean by the previous days of rain. The highway was in good shape all the way into Cloncurry.

From Cloncurry on the land changed to flat blacksoil plain. For those unfamiliar with blacksoil it is treacherous. We had a saying in the Kimberley ‘When it’s dry you can’t drive a star picket into it and when it’s wet you can damn near drink it’. After all the rain it meant don’t venture off the bitumen. We saw a few spots where trucks and cars had pulled off and gone straight down. The sky had turned dark again and the road had turned to shit.

We stopped for a cuppa and a feed in a little place called Richmond in dinosaur fossil country. We decided to push on through to Hughenden and pulled in there in the dark, something we try to avoid. Next morning we had brekky at the FJ Holden Cafe. A rockabilly themed joint with Elvis and Holden memorabelia all round. Then it was on to Charters Towers. Just past Hughenden the country changed from the blacksoil plains and trees started appearing then bends in the road.

We pulled in to Charters Towers and set up camp and it hasn’t stopped raining since Sunday night and it’s now Tuesday night. We’re waiting for it to clear so we can dry out the camper and avoid the dodgy conditions on the roads. I keep reading in the paper about all the accidents in these conditions. This morning an article mentioned a collision with a couple of grey nomads and a truck. The lady died and it took three hours to cut the bloke out. So we’ll just be patient. It can’t rain every day. Onto Townsville when it clears then we’re headed north.

We left Charters Towers in sunshine which was nice to see again and rode down through the lush green country with flowing rivers into Townsville. We stayed at a bloody noisy caravan park so we didn’t spend much time there. Speccy views from the top of Castle Hill and the Strand is looking good.

The next day we booked ourselves with both bikes onto a ferry to Magnetic Island. It only cost $61 for the return tickets for both of us. Kate had been there in ‘88 and was keen for me to check it out. Good call as it was definitely a highlight. Big granite boulders covered with what looked like Norfolk Island pines. The ferry pulled into Nelly Bay a spot that had been ruined with soulless towers of concrete and glass. Monuments to some developers greed. Over at Horseshoe Bay it was a different story. Magic. Had a good feed at a cafe called Wicked McNasty’s. Then we headed down a rough, narrow road to Radical Bay and this was even better. Picnic Bay was the old ferry landing spot and had a bit of a ghost town feel about it. We saw dugongs on the trip back to Townsville.

Next day we headed north checking out the little settlement of Paluma on Kate’s bike. The road was so windy and narrow we left my bike and the trailer at the bottom of the mountain range. What a ride! Got sick of the wankers who drove too fast coming around the hairpins on the wrong side. Bloody lucky we weren’t in a car.

We camped up in Ingham for the night and checked out the huge crypts and mausoleums of the local Italian community at the cemetery. Some would make the Cisterne Chapel look shabby. Kate had a few whiskeys and I got full of tequila and then we went out for tea. I made a few semi-comprehesible phone calls that night. Kate was asking me about the beautiful tower of Pisa-like structure near our camp and pissed herself laughing when I told her it was the town watertank. We stayed the night at the back of the old Noorla Resort. The place made you feel like you’d stepped back in time, or maybe it was the tequila.

Next morning we rode the winding semi-sealed rode up to Wallamun Falls. 263m straight down. By the time the water got to the bottom it looked like smoke hitting the water.

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