A Traveller's Tale - part 5
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"I have some news which I thought I should share:
Yesterday I left Sydney on a motorbike. My destination is England.
Yup, she doesn't look much and neither do I, but with a few modifications and a squirt of chain lube she's ready to run the gauntlet all the way back to the Motherland. My first hurdle is Sydney to Darwin, a distance of 3,000 miles on a bike that even after it's had its breakfast can't top 55mph. Half that in a head wind. To add further spice it's raining up north, and not a drizzle, but a full on monsoon with the roads washed away and crocodiles waiting to swallow silly Englishman on motorbikes.
And if it all sounds a bit sudden that's because last Thursday immigration said I had to be out on January 28.
"There will be no more extensions Mr Millward, you're taking the piss," said the cheery Indian lady on the desk. So I sat and wondered; I could either fly home at the end of the month and be in the warm bosom of England within a day, or I could go the long way round and ride home; show that Jedi and his hairy Wookie how it should be done.
Of course, as you're now receiving this email, I chose the latter. And so, with the support of my marvellous other half we spent the next two days packing and planning, modifying and drilling until finally, on Sunday afternoon, I was ready to hightail it up to Darwin.
So with two weeks in which to do that I have no time to sight-see or dally, I just need to ride like the wind and try and make the boat that'll take me and Doris, as the bike has been affectionately named, from Darwin across the waters to East Timor. The big floater leaves on the 27. And if I make it that far only then I shall worry about Indonesia, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Iran and Europe.
And of course I'm already off to a bad start. Yesterday I had three punctures, the second and third caused by me not repairing the first properly.
I wasted five hours and managed only half the miles that I need to do a day. But all is not lost, for on the day I left Sydney I bumped into Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister of the convict nation, in a bookshop.
"Mr Rudd, would you mind signing my helmet?" I asked him. And, upside down, he did. I left later that day with government approval and a milk crate on the back to carry my gear. Perfect."
And he was off, us with the promise of sporadic updates of his epic journey across the globe. So on with the story……
So the news is out and now everyone knows, that includes the parents who were slightly flummoxed to receive an email saying their second son is astride a girl called Doris and chugging across the world at a snail's pace.
I know I should have told them but to be honest I was too chicken in case my mum demanded I came home this minute and I didn't have the balls to disobey. I'm normally good like that, that's why this time I kept it under my hat until I was already up the road and past the point of no return.
Today I hoped to make up for the puncture delays of yesterday, but to be honest the pace was no nippier. I got up at six, snoozed soundly for another half hour in a rented caravan before springing stiffly out of bed to sort out new inner tubes and repair kits that I used up yesterday. After that a trip to Mcdonalds to abuse their free wi-fi and sip milky tea before hitting the road at an incredible speed. At one point, when a lorry whipped past me and sucked me in to its slipstream, 90km'h became a real achievable dream. Then the lorry sped off into the distant and I was back down to 75km/h.. Boo.
But the bike's holding up nicely. Of course there's the mist of oil that blows from the engine, the lights that only occasionally work at night, not to mention the broken spoke and flapping exhaust that singes my leg hairs as I ride along unsure of where I am or what the hell I'm doing.
And to add to that it rained today, as hard as knuckles, and in my combat shorts, Converse high-tops and flimsy black rain mac I was soaked, but you know, also somewhat happy. Because I was on my adventure, making real progress.
By brunch I was in Balina, by lunch Byron Bay, and that, if you've never heard about it is a hippy beach town where everyone smokes weed in their snorkel and flippers. A great place, so I stayed for a while trying to get images and chatting to a chap named Muirat who promotes clubs for a living. Cool and urbane, he took one look at my bike and laughed.
"Is that it?" Yes indeed my friend, that is it.
Up the coast I tried to mend my exhaust guard with a plastic tie wrap that melted off the minute I pulled back on to the highway and later, just outside Brisbane, my bottom was so sore from all the riding I had to take a detour off the highway to buy some talcum powder to try and soothe the chaffing.
It didn't work so now I'm riding a bit queer as a bottle of Johnson and Johnson baby talc bounces around in my milk crate and I balance on one cheek to relieve the pressure until I hop on to the other.
Tonight I decided to stop short and stay in Brisbane. I found a hostel and wandered around the city thinking why do people flock to Sydney when this place is so much better. By midnight, after dinner, once again in McDonalds, I went back to my dorm to see which weirdos I'd be sleeping with before making a list and packing for tomorrow. The plan is to head first to Caboolture, a place not far north of Brisbane where a man specialising in the bike I'm riding hangs out. I'll fit a new rear tyre, ask him to bung up my leak and see if he can teach me how to wield a spanner before I try and make the 600kms trip to Rockhampton.
Just checked the transport report. Apparently the road to Darwin will be repaired by the 23. It's four days ride for where it's broken to the boat on the 27 so not sure if I'll make it or not. But here goes….