Kununurra – Attempted Bike Repair
In the morning I got up early to take a quick look at the Idle Stepper Motor before setting off for Katherine on my way to Kakadu National Park. However, 4 hours later I was still there…
Unfortunately to get to the idle stepper motor to clean it you have to remove the fairing, fuel tank and air box, which takes a while, especially if you’re parked outside a backpackers (in a ‘no parking’ zone).
Once I’d got to the motor it was plain to see it was well clogged, which was a relief because now I knew what the problem was and how to fix it (in theory).
After giving it a blooming good clean I put her back together, reloaded the luggage and set off for Katherine. The only problem was she wouldn’t start! Somehow the battery had run flat (I knew I should have disconnected it! – laziness gets you nowhere). Too heavy to push start her myself, I walked across the road and enlisted the help of a small army of 12 year olds who were playing on the local skate-park. I don’t know if all youngsters are the same nowadays, but the first thing they said when I asked them for a push was “How much Mr?”
I don’t know about you, but in my day I would have been only too pleased to help push someone’s motorbike. Are they now just more economically aware, street savvy, or cheeky little buggers?!
Anyway, I gave their ‘charismatic leader’ $5 to share and soon I was on my way again. However, worryingly the idle problem was still there as before, and the bike still cut out whenever I slowed down and revs dropped below a certain amount. Luckily it was workable, and I soon got used to keeping a handful of revs on the clock whenever I slowed, although it must have annoyed the residents somewhat whenever I passed. Still, I was not too worried because I still thought it was nothing more than the clogged Idle Stepper Motor – perhaps I hadn’t cleaned all the gunk out of it (it’s fiddly to reach), or perhaps the Engine Control Unit needed resetting first (the engine management warning light was still on).
Anyway, I decided to take a risk and still try for Kakadu rather than head directly to Darwin.
Kununurra to Gregory National Park
By the time I’d finished putting my bike back together and push-starting her it was late, but I wanted to get out of Kununurra as the place had bad demons for my bike. So I rolled on the throttle and sped into Northern Territory and was welcomed by their sensible (in my opinion) 130 kmph speed limit.
I made it to Gregory National Park just as the sun set, which was good because I was pooped.
Ready for a good meal and an early night I pulled into the first campsite I found which was very conveniently placed right off highway 1. It was a basic site (no showers) but at only $5 per night you couldn’t argue at that! In fact I already love Northern Territory for their 130 kmph speed and number of sensibly priced campsites.
Gregory National Park to Kakadu National Park
In the morning the whole campsite seemed to get up really early and leave, leaving me practically on my own. Either they were all related (like in Cornwall) or I had done something to offend them (too many baked beans?). This was OK though, as it was still early and I could take my time getting to Kakadu.
Just after Katherine I pulled off to visit Edith Falls, a lovely swimming hole in Nitmiluk National Park (there are a lot of National Parks around here!). It was hot and it was the dry season, so goodness knows what it’s like in the wet, humid season – I hear it gets pretty hot and sticky.
I finally reached Kakadu around lunchtime and the local guy at the visitor centre recommended I stay at Gunlom campsite near the south entrance (which is where I was) – one of the best in the park, but with a bad access road. That was good enough for me Sir!
Kakadu National Park in Northern Territory is Australia’s biggest park and is only 170 km southeast of Darwin. Resource rich, it has one of the most productive uranium mines in the world, and is also a major draw for tourists seeking its natural beauty.
On the way to Gunlom there were several lookouts to stop at and savour the moment, like this one called Koymarrwa Lookout.
Upon reaching the access road to Gunlom I once again let the tyre pressures down and assumed ‘off-road’ mode and set off onto the corrugated dirt. The road was pretty good up until the final stretch, but still didn’t cause the Tiger any problems, despite the idle problem.
On the way I saw a great sign advising travellers to collect firewood before arriving at the camp, because there was countless dead wood lying around and probably none at the campsite. Very sensible and helpful – another reason why I’m beginning to like Northern Territory so much! My Tiger was also pleased because it gave her a chance to show off how much firewood she could pile on top of her already overloaded luggage; which was quite a lot.
When I arrived at the campsite I was glad I’d chosen it because it was everything I love in a camp – peace and quiet, not crowded, beautiful backdrop, fire pit, good showers & loos and great hiking with swimming holes on the doorstep.
I wasted no time changing into my board shorts and hiking to the top of Gunlom Lookout to jump in to plunge pools at the top.
After a refreshing swim & shower I was ready for dinner and started a cracking fire with the firewood I’d collected earlier. Then it was spicy beans (for a change) and steak with a side dish of fajitas. Delicious!
After dinner the camp warden came round and asked for the $10 camp fee. Again, I couldn’t believe it was so cheap, particularly as the facilities were so good.
In the morning on my way to Jabiru to see some rock paintings near calamity struck. I was riding along quite nicely when my bike slowly started dying and would not respond to any handfuls of revs. About to drift to a forced stop I knocked her down 2 gears and thrashed the revs in desperation, and luckily she responded and shot off.
I was worried as couldn’t think what had caused it – should I head for Darwin now or continue exploring? I thought I had chanced my luck too far already and opted to play it safe and altered course for Darwin. The rest of Kakadu would still be there to explore another day.
“Darwin, Darwin, oh beautiful Darwin!” sang someone, and if not, then someone ought to. But then again I was so happy my bike had made it, anything could have been the object of my tuneful praises of beauty that afternoon.
On the way there I had called Dave, a contact I had met from biker’s website ‘Horizons Unlimited’ who had kindly offered me a wooden crate to ship my Tiger to Dili in exchange for a crate of a different sort; one full of beer. This sounded more than fair to me, and I liked his reasoning, so I stopped off at the local bottle shop and squeezed a crate onto the back of the Tiger in the specially reserved ‘beer’ section she always keeps free, just in case.
When I arrived at Dave’s place – a wonderful secluded plot on the edge of Darwin – I immediately loved the place. I thought I was only stopping for an hour or so to have a chat and see what was what with the crate etc. However, 3 days later I was still there under strict insistence from Dave that I stay and help him drink all his beer and then help him erect some roof struts (which we finally got around to doing on the last day).
I am always very happy and proud to be a biker, not because I’m totally nuts on bikes, but because of the wonderful and interesting people I meet almost daily willing to lend a hand, help or give advice to other bikers in need. And of course I do the same, and the whole thing seems to be self-perpetuating. It’s true that most bikers do appear to be of ‘particular breed’, which is good because if we were all crazy then this Good Samaritan behaviour towards each other would surely cease pretty rapidly. Good job they don’t know I’m crazy then!
Over the next 3 days Dave kindly helped me sort out getting my bike serviced, idle stepper motor (properly) fixed, shipping to East Timor arranged (with TOLL Marine) and became my personal tour guide for this wonderful city.
It wasn’t long before I was dropping my bike off at TOLL Marine into the trusting hands of Amy and the office girls and looking forward to a new continent and the next leg of my Round the World Tour – East Timor!