February 14, 2005 GMT
Zen and the Art of Tappet Adjustment

I've been learning lots of new vocabulary. Schooners, stubbies, pokies, all sorts of things. The only disappointment is that Sellotape is no longer called Durex but has been renamed Sellotape.

Road Hazards (the Quick and the Dead)
Skeletons (usually dead and never very quick)
Stubbies (ditto)

Road trains are reputed to be rather vicious but Ive had no trouble, really. Think of a British-standard artic but with three or four trailer units instead of only one (there's a max length of 53.5m). They tend to travel at around 110km/h so are easily overtakeable - you can see anything coming in the other direction at least five miles away.

The Stuart Highway runs for 2000 miles from Darwin south to Adelaide, bisecting the continent and going through the middle of the Outback. Most of it is comparable to the average British B-road in terms of width and surface (of which more later). Roadhouses dot its length, on average 100km apart, although there's a 250km gap between Coober Pedy and Woomera as the road goes through the Prohibited Area. A roadhouse usually consists of a petrol station with a cafe and bar attached, a campsite of sorts and some basic motel accommodation. In this territory it's wise to plan your stops carefully.

There's a great bike dealer in Alice (agents for BMW, KTM and the Japs) who fitted a new pair of Trail Wings. But, I hear you say, you had new tyres in Bangkok. So I did. But Aussie roads are topped by a particularly abrasive species of tarmac (so the bike people said) which not only wears your tyres square very quickly but causes them to disintegrate at an alarming rate. I was almost on canvas by the time I got to Alice. I also had a bit of welding done (the spotlight bracket which broke on my third day out and has been irritating the hell out of me for months), and they insisted I use their tools to do the bits of furtling I wanted. Jolly nice chaps.

Then I went out into the desert to see a big orange rock.

I've arrived in Adelaide, which I hadn't intended, but what the hell. Nice campsite, anyway. From here I plan to wander up the Barossa Valley and visit some of the wineries, so don't expect anything very coherent from me for the next week or so.

Oh, and Robert M Pirsig was quite right, really (although many of us slated him at the time). Which is why I just *knew* it was the left-hand exhaust valve, and only that one.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at February 14, 2005 08:53 PM GMT

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