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.
PULL OUT THE MOTOR!
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.
BACK ON THE ROAD
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.
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
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
COLDEST ON RECORD
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
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.