I spent some of the day going over every bolt on the bike .It’s just as well I did as a found some of the sump fasteners loose and the steering head bolt could be undone by hand. I couldn’t do the steering head as it needed a 37mm socket and a torque setting of 90 nm. The steering felt shaky and creaking occurred when breaking heavily.
Day 18 Monday 22nd September.
I was up early and shot down to the Greyhound depot just before the official opening time of 8 am. I had the tyre within minutes and took it the three doors down to Desert Edge Motorcycles. They told me to come back at 2 pm. I quizzed him about the steering head bolt and he told me they were too busy to do it that day. I said what if I do it? I just need to borrow the socket and the torque driver. He said that would be ok.
When I dropped the bike off at 2 pm I had to wait for two hours to get the tyre fitted. I was getting a bit frustrated at the amount of time that was being wasted sitting around. Finally the tyre was fitted and I talked to the head mechanic about the steering head bolt. I told him about the creaking and the movement in the forks, he was adamant that the steering head bolt was purely cosmetic. I disagreed and whipped the handle bars off and the chief mechanic torqued the steering head nut to 90 nm and hey presto all the issues had gone away.
I left that place very disappointed with the service an expertise. They are a Triumph agent so I expected better, Oh by the way they charged me AU$80 to fit the tyre.
As I wasn’t out of the shop until 4pm I had to stay another night in Alice Springs
Day 19 Tuesday 23rd September
I finally left Alice Springs and headed north. It was good to be on the move again. First stop, the Tropic of Capricorn, then Aileron, not much there except for a couple of impressive statues. Then to the UFO capital of Australia, Wycliffe Wells. I fueled up and the guy behind the counter said there had been lots of sightings of strange lights. I asked "what sort of light", he said "just lights", I said," what colour lights?" and he gave me a wry smile. There was lots of Alien stuff to buy.
More long straight roads heading for Daly Waters. This is an iconic Aussie pub with all sorts of interesting things on the wall from bras, knickers, undies, t shirts, labels and pictures. To get there I went through Elliot and Dunmarra. On the way I keep bumping into a group of Aussies in a bus. I got chatting to them in the pub and they all chipped in $2000 and fitted it out with a bar and table and are driving it from Melbourne to Darwin to watch the Australian rules grand Final on Saturday.
I pitched my tent near the pub and when I’d finished, I checked the temperature gauge on the bike and it read 38.9 Celsius. It was time to get a pint of ice-cold beer and a swim in the pool.
It was so hot during the night I couldn't sleep so I got up and had a cold shower. It was so refreshing. I was up at 6 to ensure I got the tent packed before the blistering temperatures returned.
I headed north to Mataranka. There was a huge termite mound and it was impressive. Termite mounds are all around this area. The didgeridoo is a hollowed branch and these are hollowed out by termites. It’s quite common to see hollow branches lying on the ground.
As I was packing the bike up one of them asked me for money. I said to him” sorry mate I’m unemployed too” and headed off to Pine Creek for the night. On the way to Pine Creek, I saw my first big red Kangaroo jumping across the road 20 metres ahead. He was a fine specimen.
Day 22 Friday 26th September
Today, a jaunt through the Kakadu National Park. This was the first time since the Flinders Ranges that the edges of my tyres have actually seen any action, it was a pleasant change and it was great to be flipping Winston from left to right.
I rode to Gunlom down a very corrugated gravel road. There is a plunge pool and magnificent views. Then off to Nourlangie to see the Aboriginal cave art. The trouble is I never actually got to see these places as there was a 1.5km walk up hill. The day had been so hot that I just couldn’t be bothered.
It was 44.2 degrees Celsius. All I could think about was ice cold drinks; air-conditioned rooms and a cold crisp dewy morning.
Standing in full bike gear and boots in this temperature is not good. Let’s just say they are no heat sinks.
To get out of this heat I headed to Jabiru. Civilisation at last and an air-conditioned mall. As I walked to the mall some school girls asked me if I was hot, I said “no, this is my everyday attire. Why are you?” they laughed and walked away.
I downed a litre of the Lipton lemon iced tea. I’ve got quite a taste for these and they are really refreshing on days like this.
I checked into Kakadu Resort. Sounds flash but an unpowered tent site with no grass cost AU$15 for the night. I decided to stay two nights. They have a fantastic pool and that’s where I spent the rest of the day.
Day 23 Saturday 27th September
Today I was up early and on my way to Nourlangie to see the Aboriginal cave art. It was 1.5km walk.
The art was in really good condition, you would have thought it had just been done, maybe it had? I continued on to the look out at the top. There was a lovely panoramic view of the tree laden vastness.
Another 40-degree day so guess where I am at the moment. Correct, next to the pool writing this blog. Must go, the cold water is beckoning. Bye for now.
I was up early again and left Jabiru before the heat came. I headed west to Mamukala Wetlands to see where all the good-looking Aussie birds hang out. This place was lush with plant life and water was in abundance. There were hundreds of birds having breakfast. It looked like there were relatives of the NZ Pukeko. A great sight to behold.
In the afternoon I had a couple of visitors, a 5-year-old called Kyle, we had a good chat about my motorbike and his trip. He was showing me some of the tricks on his BMX bike. He asked how bright my lights were on my bike I said “they’re as bright as the sun, when I turn them on, they start fires. That’s why you see the bush at the side of the road smouldering” He said “wow I wondered what started the fires” Just then his mother came over to take him back for dinner. He was a funny little fella and I enjoyed chatting away to him. He came to visit me a few more times while I was there and his mother kept dragging him back. I did hear him tell his mother about my lights and I did have a bit of a chuckle.
The next visitor was a Dutch Bio Chemist student and he had been travelling Australia for the last 5 months. He was into the great outdoors and spent many an hour just watching nature ago by.
This guy was really bright and he was doing well at university. This was remarkable as he had dyslexia. I have a lot of admiration for this guy as he was a real battler and never gave up no matter how he was treated by his peers at Uni.
As I sat in my chair in the dark, staring into the night sky. The last visitor for the evening appeared. It was a wallaby and her young one. I was only a couple of feet away as they both quietly glided past making not one sound.
Day 25 Monday 29th September
I was up early and walked down to Wangi Falls before the masses arrived. To my surprise I was the only one there. What a difference to the day before. No one in the plunge pool and not a ripple on the water to be seen.
I walked along the boardwalk to check out the Flying Fox bats and to see if they had returned from their night sortie. They had and they were all tucked up in bed snoozing, all but one who was keeping an eye on me.
Along the path I stumbled across a little black pig foraging and eating seeds from the trees. He was a wild one but was far too interested in breakfast to bother about me.
I went back to camp and packed up again and headed north to Darwin.
I looked for a Triumph dealer as my 10k service was due. I found one called NT Motorcycles so rode in and booked the bike in for a service at their earliest available time which was Friday 8am. The service would be AU$350.
As I was at a loose end, I rode around Darwin looking at the sights. The bike was covered in red dust from the many dirt roads I had ridden and so it was time to find a jet wash and give it a good seeing to. Arrh clean and new looking again.
As I rode around the coast the sea was a beautiful light blue colour. I headed for the Darwin Military Experience Museum. You could walk around the old gun emplacements and view the military vehicles and firearms. I was surprised how many times Darwin and the Northern Territory was bombed in the Second World War. Darwin 46 times and the NT over 80 and as far down as Katherine.
The B52 bomber filled the entire museum which was purpose built at AU$2 million to house this exhibit.
I returned to camp. Tonight is movie night and the film is Philamena. They have a big screen and surround sound and it is situated outside on the grass. I’d seen the film before but it's one of those films worth watching again.
A chores type of day today. Doing my washing, updating my blog. I decided to whip my helmet linings out and chuck them in with my washing, they were developing a beautiful fragrance which was only added to when the visor was down.
I purchased a Vodafone SIM card when I got to Australia. Unless you’re in a reasonable sized town you can’t get reception. I’m currently 50km outside Darwin and I have no reception. Telstra seems to be the best option.
Day 29 Friday 3rd October.
Today I went and got my bike serviced at NT Motorcycles. They have the dealership for Yamaha, Suzuki, Harley Davidson and Triumph.
I arrived just before 8am and the woman who looked after me was excellent. She was well organised and knew what customer service was. What a difference to my experience in Alice springs. They took two hours to do the bike. While I was waiting, I rang Toll Freight Forwarders to establish the shipping date for my bike. Receiving commences the 8th October, cut-off date 13th and sail date 18th. Looks like I’ll be hanging around hear longer than I thought.
Day 30 Saturday 4th October
Today I went to the Territory Wildlife Park with my neighbour, Mike.
Mike is 66 and lives in Melbourne, he’s been here for 4 months enjoying the warmer climate. He is your quintessential Aussie on the outside, long blond hair, vest and shorts.
He has had an interesting life. He was a Journalist for the Melbourne Age and finished his days there as a sports sub editor. He has learnt the art of relaxation.
The wildlife park has many bird varieties, some reptiles including a huge salt water crocodile.
For me the birds of prey show was the highlight, with owls, eagles and storks all doing fly byes. The owls are so smooth and quiet when they fly, they are almost mesmerising.
It’s been a month today that I began my journey, it seems much longer than that. I suppose the change in routine has a lot to do with that. I used to get up, go to work, go home, have dinner, go to bed, get up, go to work, go home, have dinner go to bed and so on. Ground hog day. Every day is different now, new place to stay, new things to see, new people to meet. The only down side is not being able to see my family. When I have WIFI we Skype, which is great. I’m certainly looking forward to meeting them in Thailand.
I strolled across to Mike’s place to watch the rugby league grand final between the Rabbitos and the Bulldogs. The Rabbitos were the favourites and in the end, they had a convincing win. Russell Crow owns the Rabittos.
Day 32 Monday 6th October
I was at a loose end so decided to give my bike a good clean before I go and drop it off at the freight forwarders. While I was in that frame of mind I gave the air filters, pre filter a clean. Considering all the dirt and gravel roads ridden I was surprised the filter was not worse than it was.
Day 33 Tuesday 7th October.
I rode into Darwin and dropped my carnet off at Toll Global Forwarding. Customs will need to stamp the carnet to say the bike has left Australia.
Day 34 Wednesday 8th October
Last night was my final night of camping in Australia. I got up and gave the tent a really good clean ensuring there were no bits of animal or plant matter attached, I don’t want my camping gear to be rejected at any of the customs stops I need to make in the future. The outside of the tent was filthy, covered in dust and dirt it took me a good hour to get it back to its former glory.
This will be my home for the next 10 days.
Day 35 Thursday 9th October
Today was a day of looking and pricing flights to Dili, Freight insurance quotes and watching the carry ons of some of the residents at the backpackers. There are many who just don’t give a dam about themselves they are constantly drunk or stoned and are trying to escape some past issue and are on a pathway to self-destruction. Each to their own I suppose.
Day 36 Friday 10th October
I dropped my bike off at PJ Logistics. These are the guys who will pack Winston into a 20-foot shipping container. While I was there, I met one German and two Brits who had just shipped their bikes fro Dili and were there to pick them up. They were pretty angry as their bikes had taken over a month to ship from Dili. Oh no, warning flags raised. There is not much I can do except air freight which is too expensive. Here's hoping it goes better from Darwin to Dili.
I disconnected the battery and took photos of the bike and then left.
As I left the warehouse to find a bus to Darwin my stomach rumbled. Food was needed so I headed across the road to a café. I treated myself to a full English breakfast. It took and while to come but was well worth the wait. After I'd finished, I asked the women behind the counter where the nearest bus stop to Darwin was? She said it was about 6km away. She said it was way too hot to walk that distance and offered me a lift. I gratefully excepted. Again, more kindness from strangers.
When i got off the bus in Darwin I headed straight to a scooter hire place and rented a 300cc Sym scooter for the week. Now I could explore Darwin.
Today I cruised on the scooter taking in the sights. I went to the World War 2 oil storage tunnels. Admission was AU$7. The tunnels never did get used to store oil. It was worth seeing
Spent most of the day cruising around the coast and finished up at the Mindil Beach night markets. They have a huge range of different ethnic foods along with different crafts and a couple of entertainers. It's a pretty big turnout.
I headed 50km south west of Darwin to Berry springs. These are natural springs and the water is a greeny blue due to the minerals. I arrived early and had the place to myself. There were numerous fish in the pools. If you stood still the fish would try to nibble your skin. Similar to the fish they have in tanks i Thailand to clean the dead skin of your feet. The rangers set traps to keep the crocs out but they clearly state on the signs the pools are not guaranteed to be croc free. There are three pools the first has a small waterfall.
I am really just killing time now and making sure I have everything sorted for my trip to Dili. I have the plane ticket, carnet stamped, bike insure, maps loaded onto my GPS.
Before i dropped the scooter back i came across an old Quantas hangar. Inside it had some unexpected gems.
I was up at 3am to catch the shuttle bus to the airport to catch my 6:30am flight to Dili. This is where the real adventure begins. A different language and culture to be experienced in East Timor.
Overall impressions of Australia.
I've really enjoyed my trip through Aussie. It is such a vast country with many different climates. South Australia was as low as 3 degrees Celsius and Northern Australia as hot as 44. From lush green countryside to red dust deserts. From twisty roads to long straight ones with no speed limits.
To the many, many grey-haired nomads who head to the northern regions to miss the cold weather. They all have four-wheel drives and all types of trailers and caravans. They are away for months at a time and are a fountain of knowledge. They have offered me plenty of advice and suggestions of places to go and see. They have been hospitable and friendly. They have learnt the art of relaxation and now, so have I.
Australia is an outdoors kind of place, there are camping grounds everywhere.
The wildlife is unique. A huge variety of bird life and those world-famous marsupials. The downside, you can't swim in the sea around Darwin, if the crocs and sharks don't get you the jellyfish will. The flies that go for your face and my biggest gripe the Marsh fly that literally bite you.
The biggest highlight was meeting the genuine people who helped me along the way. From my first day in Australia until my last I Experienced this.
Thanks Aussie you were great!!