Dirt Finally 🙂 Today we hit the first dirt road and I feel awesome. This is what I have been waiting for, anything off tarmac makes me happy, I just find it interesting and fun to ride bad dirt roads and feel that this is what adventure biking is about … to me anyway.
Day 1 on the dirt: 450kms, Gadget and I took off like the devil himself was behind us. Sand, ruts, corrugations and potholes we did this wonderful dirt dance around them and tried to miss (unsuccessfully) as many as possible. The only thing that wasn’t great were the trucks, they bulleted down these roads swerving to miss the big potholes and not giving a damn who or what was in the way, we had quite a few near misses. Riding behind them was impossible as the dust was so thick you were completely blinded. I have experienced a lot of dist riding / driving but this is crazy you literally cannot see a thing not the sky above or the road below. It is truly scary. The only option was to pass but that was a challenge in itself. I was at one point behind this truck racing at phenomenal speed (for a huge truck) causing masses of thick yellow dust to billow out behind it. I realised that I must pass this truck since even if I dropped back out of the dust I’d be stuck behind it all day. So I tried to go left to see if I could see past it. Next minute I heard him slam on breaks and skid along the gravel (no break lights) the next second there was a truck inches from gadgets front wheel, I swerved right slammed on breaks locked the back wheel and went sliding all the way along the whole length of the truck to end up millimetres from a bridge rail. My heart stooped, phew that was far far too close for comfort. Fortunately since the damn truck slammed on brakes for the bridge, my guess is the driver was sleeping and did not see it earlier, I could at least think quickly and get past him after the bridge before he sped up again.
One good thing is that there were very few trucks on the road. The other really cool thing is that I saw and otter. It was running along the side of the road and then crossed right in front of me but before I could get my camera out it was gone. We had seen 2 dead otters the day before which was very sad as they had been run over. The other sad thing is still no jungle. I enjoyed the day thoroughly though as gadget is an awesome off road little monster 🙂
dirt glorious dirt, this is what we came for, lovely brown and sticky stuff, what we we do without it. Oh dirt glorious dirt wonderful dirt magnificeeeeeent diiiiiiirt – sung to the tune of food glorious food 🙂
Day 2 on the dirt: 680kms, I have to say I do think this was bad planning as no one knew in advance what the road would-be like except that it is a dirt road. We were really lucky as it was in very good condition and most of it had been freshly graded, plus there seemed to be far fewer trucks. It there had been rain it would have been one big mud bath. I think planning a 680km day on dirt is not very good. As bad luck would have it this was the day we’d have multiple issues.
We got up at 5am and were on the road by 6am. I rolled in at 20:30 14.5 hrs later in the pitch dark, on a very very sick bike. Everyone arrive in the dark … as I said bad planning as it is not at all fun to ride these pitch black dirt roads in the dark and it was the last 50kms of the road which just happened to be really bad.
So what can I say, corrugations will test the hardiest of bikes, as will bad fuel. Gadget sounds like a popcorn machine, but the sound is quite metallic and coming from the engine. The last 100kms were a killer I had to keep the revs very high and he crawled along at 40 – 50km/h it was a tough ride, plus he is only getting 5kms to the litres so he is drinking petrol like it is cool aid. However no smoke and no leaking fuel. The prognosis from the support team is that it is valves, worst case scenario the top needs to be taken off and valves or valve spring or something like that replaced. Best case scenario older model KLRs get a carbon build up on the top of the piston and then can be blown off by running the engine very hot and spraying water into the air intake valve. We’re going to try that since if it does not work the top needs to be taken off anyway. If the water trick does not work and the top needs to come off for the valves this can only be done by a mechanic in a mechanic shop so only in Belem (if we find someone, during our rest day there)
Now the bad news, Mike basically just told me that if we can’t sort the bike out there he can’t keep it on the truck and me in the truck all the way back to Colombia as he may need the space for another rider/bike in an emergency. Frack ( I will cross that bridge when I come to it IF gadget cannot be fixed)
The very bad news was that Henry hit a bridge and ripped the skin right up his arm to the bone OMG it was unbelievable the skin was pushed up like a rolled up sleeve and you could see the bone. With a stroke of luck this was 20kms outside a fairly large village with a Dr, talk about luck. Mike and all of us were convinced he would need to be flown home. However the Dr stitched him up and gave him a ton of antibiotics. Said he needs to keep it clean and try and bandage to be changed every day. In 8 to 10 days if all is good he can ride again. Henry refuses to go home and will sit in the truck for 10 days and then ride the rest of the trip as long as his arm is okay. In 2 days we are in Belem and Mike will take him to a Dr there for a check-up and if all is not good (since infection could be fatal) he is sending him home.
The next bit of very bad news is that the truck is fried they only got in at 3am on the back of a flatbed truck. The team have been working on it all day, it is Sunday and no mechanic will work today. Tomorrow is a public holiday but they managed to find a mechanic to work tomorrow so they will meet him at am (since it is a very catholic area so the reason for not working is religious) The rest of the group went on to the next town and we, me, Henry, Pete (the driver) and Mike will stay over one more night and then catch up driving the truck and riding Mikes bike (mine will be on the truck) day and night between the 4 of us (Henry can drive a little but not ride) This way we hope to catch the group in 2 days, the day before Belem where we will have a rest day (and I will try find a Mechanic for gadget)
So gadget was one issue, plus Henry’s arm, plus the truck, then we had 1 flat (thank goodness no more or things could have got even worse, I’ve lost count as to how many flats we’ve had) but then the radiator on Mikes bike also got damaged but he managed to get it back and fixed it today.
So the good part, yup there is always a good part, is that this is what adventures are made of 🙂 I hate that my bike is stuffed ESPECIALLY on the ONLY part of the trip worth anything i.e. 4 days of dirt riding (and nothing as fun as the BAM, just dirt roads but I’ll take what I can get) in 45 days of highway … seriously this trip should be called the Trans Highway Challenge.
Okay back to the good stuff … I saw and Otter 🙂 the day before yesterday it was running along the side of the road and then crossed in front of me, sadly it was gone before I could get the camera out.
I also say a HUGH really pretty black and emerald green shiny snake lying across the road, I swerved and missed it and then stopped and ran back to take a pic and the rider behind me almost ran over it which then frightened it and it turned and slithered off DAMN another animal picture missed.
Also while I was stopped once again on the side of the road while Mike went to fetch more petrol, it was pitch dark I mean as black as anything no lights anywhere and just the sounds of the jungle (yes we finally found a little bit of jungle) I looked up and saw the most amazing stars WOW I was in awe and just sat and stared for ages. Then I turned the bike lights back on as it was pretty dangerous sitting on the side of the road not illuminated.
So I am fine healthy, almost happy, still seeing the bright side, but gutted about my bike and trying not to think about what may happen if we don’t get it fixed.