Forests and fires

An uncomfortable night in my little ‘shelter’ complete, it was time to make it to Denmark. Big day, lots of Ks, lots of forest, and an interesting interaction with some locals…

Up early and camp cleared, as my last item went in the panniers a park ranger drove up and stopped to pass the time of day. I was quite pleased to have been cleared up in time, as I don’t know if he would have approved of my squatting in his information station. He asked if I was planning on going down the track to the coastline (and campsite), assuming I’d just arrived. I said I’d already tried but decided it might be a bit sandy, but did he think it would have been OK. He looked at me, and my bike, and just laughed at the idea that I thought I could have got down it, as apparently it got much much worse and sandier, and stayed that way for many kilometres. Decision to call it early the previous night well and truly vindicated.

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The beautiful Swiss design of the Sigg bottle fitting seamlessly into place in the Australian bush. Keeping my most important commodity safe.

Back on the main road and making good progress, the road suddenly became smokey and the smell of burning apparent in the air. My first taste of a bush fire. There were no spectacular flames reaching high into the sky, but huge swathes of trees and land were slowly smoking, the heat of fire deep ingrained within. A little exploration was definitely in order, so I set off on a small forest excursion on foot, leaving Dylan parked up down a dirt track.

A little deeper delved, the temperature increased, and the entire forest floor was blanketed in thick ash. The top side of the ash was only warm to touch, but as soon as you put your hand through the top surface it was far too hot to touch. Luckily my well worn and loved motorbike boots were keeping my feet well insulated, although a tad warm.

What were once large trees, standing tall amongst centuries of forest growth, were now lying broken and burnt on the ground, the entire trunks scorched black or turned to ash. Many were still glowing red deep into the wood, and it’s no small wonder that these sort of fires can return many days after they are first thought extinguished.

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Exploration over and back on the road going fast east towards Denmark and Albany. Having not learnt my lesson (I’ll never learn my lesson…), more ambiguous trails were chosen as my route, and the translation from map to road was a little vague at times.

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Left… Right… Maybe’s it’s left… But what if it’s right… Shit. Go left, I sailed with a skipper once who said “If in doubt, go left, always”. Can’t go wrong with that, and at least I can blame him if I get lost and eaten by snakes.

This trail also brought my first little river crossing, as well as much navigational confusion. Not an overly deep or fast flowing river, but lots of loose and smooth rocks underneath, so I decided to take the cautious approach, ditch most of my kit off the bike, ride it light as a tester, then come back and get it all if it was OK. First crossing was easy, and I felt a bit embarrassed that I didn’t just go for it. This of course meant that when riding over with all my stuff I nearly went head first off the bike into the drink, ended up with both wheels sliding in different directions, and finished with wet feet. Anyone watching would have found it hilarious.

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A good 50km of badly corrugated dirt track then ensued, with loose enough gravel that the front wheel kept threatening to veer off at an angle perpendicular to the rest of the motorbike. My big issue, however, came when approaching a junction in the track, and when I went for my front brake the lever came flush with the throttle grip, and not a lot else happened. Drifting to a standstill with my rear brake only carving a graceful curve through the dirt, I got off to have a look.

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The bottom bolt that held my front brake calliper in place over the disc was conspicuously absent. Long stints of riding with the constant vibration I’m only ever experienced in Australia and Mongolia so far had led the bolt to slowly work it’s way out, and fly off into oblivion. As I hadn’t touched the front brake in many kilometres, it was highly unlikely to be found anywhere nearby. Improvisation time. All I needed was to find another bolt on my bike that was exactly the same thread (M10 for the cool kids who care) and the precise length, as the distance between the lug end on the forks and the disc was marginal. There are three I could find; two of which hold the frame together, and one on the exhaust. I decided I needed the exhaust held together less than I did the frame.

Just as I got all the tools out and started to deconstruct by bike, a 4WD pulls up. Some welcome assistance I thought. Or not… Three Australians fell out of the cab (literally fell), and it was immediately obvious that they were all high as kites, and totally off their heads. Maybe this wasn’t going to be helpful. A rather tense 10 minutes followed while they paced around, poked about my bike, and generally gave me the impression that at any moment things were going to go rapidly downhill, and I would emerge from the bush two days later with no bike, no belongings, and no shoes. Luckily they decided there were better things to do in life than hang around anymore (crystal meth probably), and drove off in a cloud of dust, the dogs in the back still barking their lungs out. At this moment I decided that if this was going to be the sort of passing traffic I’d receive, my front brake really wasn’t that important. I mean, who uses that one anyway. Off I went, sliding my way through the dirt, until a suitable bolt at a local shop was forthcoming, and I’d made it to Denmark by nightfall.

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