April 22, 2005 GMT

It was a really weird feeling as I sat in the small twin engine plane on my way to DARWIN. With a few whiskey and sodas from the cheerful air hostess, the memories from the last 11 months came flooding back. Nine ASIAN countries and close to 40,000k’s, were has all the time gone? Shit, I could have ridden to Europe.
The highlights and lows? The costs? Would I do it again? What does the future hold? Have I changed? Probably more importantly, how will I finance the next adventure, and when and were will I go? All these questions were raging through my head.
Before I new it, the lights of DARWIN appeared below. The small airplane’s wheels slammed into the runway, and with a slight slew to the left, I was back in my home country. It was 6.30pm and dark, as usual getting through Customs and picking up my luggage was a breeze (unlike Sydney, were I seemed to get picked on by the dike, female Customs Officers). Finding a taxi, it was off to the Golf Course Motel, were I stayed on my way to Asia,11 months earlier, for $40A a night, surprise, inflation is alive and well in OZ, its now $110A. Taxi! Find me a cheap Motel! I ended up finding a motel in Mitchell Street, in the middle of town, for $60A.
The following morning, it was off to PERKINS Shipping to enquire about DORIS, God all mighty, I forgot about Easter! All these religious holidays! I guess I should have done my homework, so now I have to wait in DARWIN for the holiday to finish and organize the release of my bike.
Time goes slowly in a strange town, especially on a public holiday like Easter, Darwin was practically deserted, there were a few overseas tourists, but as the official dry season hadn’t begun, it was conspicuously devoid of Aussies.

Finally the Tuesday after the Easter holiday dawned, you beauty I can now get my bike out of customs. As usual the Aussy Customs and Quarantine Departments are pretty efficient; however I didn’t expect to pay the QD, a sum of $75A for the privilege to let me know my bike was clean! I met up with the Customs guys at 2.30pm; there was 2 officers, a young woman in her 20’s and her superior, whom I had met at the office earlier. We all jumped into the Customs car and headed off to where Doris was waiting. The first thing I noticed was a ring of white salt, about 25mm wide, surrounding her, asking the officer what it was for, he answered,” just in case you brought some Indonesian snails with you,” I replied, “ thank God for that, I thought it was another bloody religious ceremony.’
By this time the younger officer was diligently checking my Carnet off against the bikes frame and engine numbers, the trouble is she couldn’t find the engine number, I asked her would the rego papers do? Her immediate answer was, “No! I must check your engine number in case you got a new engine in Asia, therefore you would have to pay import tax.”
Not trying to offend the young lady, who was obviously very serious about her job, I replied, “why would I swap over a perfectly good engine, that’s still under BMW Warrantee, with a dodgy Asian copy? Even if I could find one!” Hearing this conversation, the older officer calmly looked under the motor and asked,” what was that number again?” “Oh, here it is right next to the sump plug, just sign the Carnet and we can go home.” He gives me a wink and off they went, and I was left with a signed Carnet and a bike ready to ride south. That guy must have good eyes, because there is a bash plate covering the sump plug.

It was now 3.30pm, I had arranged with the local Honda dealer to use some his equipment to change the oil in Doris, and obviously I bought the oil from them. This done it was back to the Motel, and begin packing for an early start in the morning.

Tuesday, 29th March.
It was an early rising at 6.00am, I started packing up Doris for the 4000k ride to Brisbane, the first thing I noticed was my bike cover was partially pulled away at the rear. A closer inspection of the bike revealed about half a dozen cuts diagonally across the tread and a puncture wound, like the point of a Stanley knife into the tread below the cuts. Luckily the tyre was still inflated. Next to the bike beside the wall was 3 empty beer cans and a couple of empty bourbon and cokes.
This is in a Secured car park, under lights and supposedly guarded! In almost 12 months of riding through Asia, I have never experienced any security problems with my bike. Welcome back to Australia!
I made an expedient ride out of Darwin and headed straight for DALEY WATERS, about 500k south. I had some pleasant memories from there on my ride up; I wonder if old Knocker is still living there in his old bus? Sure enough, no sooner had I pulled up and walked into the bar, a big hand grabbed me by the shoulder and said, “ Were ya been?” A few beers with my old mate, a good cold shower, and I was ready to reacquaint myself with this very unique pub, it still attracts a disproportionate amount of characters compared with other places I have been in OZ.
You don’t realize how big this bloody country is. How flat and how boring it is to ride from Darwin to the Queensland coast in the East. The side winds you encounter as you head East across the Barkly Highway has to be believed, I sat at around 120k/h with the bike at a constant 5 degree lean, (from the vertical, I am definitely not Rossi!) The resultant fatigue, combined with the heat and boredom really takes it toll, and with 6 to 7 hours in the saddle, I had enough so it was always a search for a reasonable caravan park around 2.00pm in the afternoons to rest my weary bones.
I have also noticed the definite rise in the cost of living in Aussy since I have left, $1.45 for a litre of Premier Fuel, come on! Also a year ago, I could get a good cabin in a caravan park for $40, now its $60, gee, I hope my real estate has gone up that much!
Because this years wet season was not as severe as the previous, the number of Kangaroo road kills are way down, but the cattle kills are way up. The smell of death invades your nostrils every couple of k’s, and as you approach the carcasses lying on the side of the road, an immediate waving of wings surprise you as you rapidly close in on the carrion gorging themselves on the raw meat, often than not you have to take evasion methods to miss running head on into a very large eagle or hawk, trying to gain altitude with a full belly.
The number of road trains are down too, perhaps because I am a month early and the cattle roundup hasn’t began. Mum and Dad of the SAD’s club (SEE AUSTRALIA and DIE) are in fewer numbers too, maybe they leave later, with their expensive 4WD’s and Caravans, in convoy, meandering north, just like the predictable migratory patterns of the Sperm Whales, who swim up the East coast around Easter, who knows.

I had to get to Brisbane in six days as I had an interview for a new job, doing around 700k a day from Darwin to Brisbane is not what I call fun. The old saying “it’s the journey, not the destination”, doesn’t ring true on this direct route, probably the most boring I have encountered in 12 months.
As I got closer to the Queensland border, the amount of SAD’s grew ever larger, it must be the start of the great immigration north, a lot of Victorian registered vehicles, probably getting out of the cold weather.
I finally got to Brisbane at lunch time and immediately rode to Morgan and Whackers, the local BMW franchise, to book Doris in for a service and a general health check up. The foreman immediately booked my bike in and nonchalantly told me, “mate, we are real busy, can’t fit you in for 3 weeks!” Shit I’m glad I’m not a world traveler!

Well it’s all over until next time, now were is that map of South America?
I took 6 days to get to Brisbane, nursing Doris all the way, total distance, 3437k, max speed 130k/h, moving average 100k/h. The tyres I replaced in Chaing Mai, 12,000k have seen better days as have the brake pads. Interestingly the chain and sprocket set I purchased from the Aussy company “Chain Gang”, and had installed at the same time, come through with flying colours, not needing any adjustment, despite the hammering Indonesia gave the bike.

Posted by Tom Forde at April 22, 2005 03:32 AM GMT
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