Sunday, December 8, 2019

Australia - Leaving Perth

We hadn't even properly started our Australian leg of the trip or we were pulled over by the Police already...
No we weren't rescued by the Royal Automobile Club... We simply
 Paul's hospitality, who just happened to work for the RAC
We'd had a good stay at Paul Tempest whom we'd met through Vince and Karen. The danger with hospitality like this is that you stay too long. It was tempting to stay another week as we'd had such a good time and I'm sure Paul wouldn't have minded either. But the road beckoned too. I was keen to go camping again, see Western Australia and enjoy the Great Outdoors. We rode to the Pinnacles with Paul, Simon and Vince and Karen, mucked around a bit in the soft sand of… and then headed south towards the Pemberton forest.

Mike doing the great Australian tradition: burning everything to a crisp
on the barbie!
We hadn't even left Perth or we were pulled over by a motorcycle cop. 'Hmmm, good start' I thought. He wanted to know where the license plates were from. 'New Zealand' I replied. We had re-registered the bikes in Kiwi-land as Australia has a registration system in which the bodily harm part of the insurance is also included. Keeping them registered in Oz would have set us back approx. A$2400 per bike for the 4 years we were on the trip, and you have to renew it every year as the registration document has a very clear expiry date on it (which wouldn't have worked well at the 73 border crossings we had done). In NZ your registration is a one time fee of (from memory) NZ$78.

Re-registering them wasn't a difficult choice :-) Anyway back to the motorcycle police. He looked at the bikes and then wanted to see our documents. 'Don't you need to have some form of permit to ride your bikes here?' he said. 'Yeah it's in there mate, I said, it's the Carnet de Passage'. Then a second motorcycle cop turned up… they both looked at the documents, figured they were in order but both also thought we needed some other document as well… although they couldn't figure out what and neither did we. One of them made a few phone calls but seemingly non knew what was missing or needed and they let us go on our way. 

Who could have known back in 2009 that this bike would not just 
pass the100.000 km mark without a single problem... but almost 
double it and take me literally around the world in the process!
The policeman was riding a Yamaha XT660Z, the Tenere version. Mike's XT660R engine had become a little noisier during the trip, to the point where we thought a rebuild was probably on the cards, but after hearing the almighty rattle coming out of the police bike, which was still running, we figured Mike's would probably last a while longer :-)

Riding towards the Pemberton forest it suddenly hit me… we were back in Australia!!!! The typical smell of gumtrees, posties on Honda CT110s (which are now fuel injected :-) and the unparalleled beauty of the Outback. I don't know what it is but there is something magical about the Outback.

They have some funny names in Oz...
I remember many years ago, when I started working at the Outback station, that I thought it was a barren god forsaken place. Hot, dusty and seemingly dead. It stayed that way for months… but then it suddenly started to grow on me. The longer I stayed, the more I loved it. I literally fell in love with the place. Maybe it's the extremity of it all, the incredible temperatures and the red dust, or maybe the beautiful way in which nature has adapted to this seemingly unliveable place. Even after all those years it's hard to put my finger on it but coming back to it after having been around the world, the feeling hit me again. The weird thing is that I love lush green forests too. The New Forest in Hampshire England is one of my favourite places on earth, but I couldn't live there. Too many people. Norway is probably the most beautiful country I've ever been to, but their winters are enough to keep me away. Yet here in this hot and dusty brown land I feel at home. Maybe it's the open spaces, the feeling of being really alone, the isolation… who knows what it is, I certainly don't :-)

Having been away it felt like we were re-discovering our own country. We didn't take the shortest route but followed more or less the coast line. The Western Australia beaches are the best we've seen anywhere. We camped in the forest, in between the Kangaroos and… huge Bull ants!
The Yamaha had other ideas... Being back in Oz it decided enough was enough. 120,000 Km has taken it's toll. It had been down on power a bit for a while but had seemed ok otherwise, now though things seemed a bit more serious than that...

We had a stopover at a Frisian couple and spend a day chasing a fuelling problem with the XT at their bike shop. Very friendly and helpful people at Albany Kawasaki who basically gave me free access to their workshop! For some reason the XT had started smoking black like a diesel when opening the throttle. In theory the electronics should prevent over-fuelling, but they clearly didn't. After a fruitless morning all we could find was a dirty oxygen sensor, covered in soot probably from the many dubious fuels we've had. Apart from that we couldn't find anything wrong. To sort the problem we needed specialised help, to read the computer and see what was going on.

So we went to a Yamaha dealer...
A quite large Yamaha dealer in fact, who wasn't very helpful as they had no diagnostic equipment to check the XT... and generally couldn't be bothered to have a look at it. It was the umpteenth reminder that Yamaha dealers in general just don't care. A local car mechanic was far more helpful as he at least took the trouble to do a general reading of the various sensors using all sorts of patch cables to extract info from them. The exhaust sensor, and various others we checked, seemed to work ok as they gave readings which were normal to him

It seems someone has shipped a complete Dutch windmill to the other side of the world and rebuild it brick by brick in the Australian Outback. It's in use as a restaurant now
We also did another oil change as the XT clearly wasn't happy with the oil we had put in it (can't remember the brand sorry) and thus put good old Castrol in it this time. The ridiculous oil consumption was gone instantly. But as I suspected an underlying problem, and as a precaution to help and reduce it, we drilled a few holes in the skid plate. This may seem a counter productive idea but as Yamaha had thought it a good idea to run the exhausts under the engine, the heat build-up in the skid plate was profound. As heat goes up, the exhausts have the same effect as cooking the engine on a two burner stove. The underlying problem of the oil consumption could be worn piston rings, which allow hot gases to burn the oil. Repairing the engine would require Yamaha parts, past experience and having just experienced another totally non-interested Yamaha dealer, in Albany this time, made me look for an alternative solution which would get us home. As I couldn't do much about the rings, which would most likely necessitate a new cylinder and piston too, I decided to lower the temperature in the engine and the engine oil as much as I could.

Most take extra fuel when they ride remote Australia, Mike needed a 5 litre oil can to cross the Nullarbor... the weirdest thing is that despite the ridiculous consumption and distinct smell it somehow didn't smoke!?!

Skippy and son...
We literally wandered through the Outback, vaguely going east, getting sidetracked often. The last 'green' stop we had was Esperance and from there it was north to Norseman and the, dreaded by many, Nullarbor plains.