Sunday, December 8, 2019

Australia - Limping home

Last night in Oz with a new shirt courtesy of KTM Australia!
We left Rosie’s place early, heading for the shipping company. Time was tight as there was barely time to strap the bikes into the container, get a taxi and be at the airport on time. I hate tightly planned situations as experience told me there are always complications, things you didn’t think about etc. Things have to run smoothly and faultlessly, which they never will when you need it too. The shipping company had told us it would be no issue, the container was already waiting for us on their wharf and all we had to do was strap them in (as I prefer to do that myself, again experience…) after which they would ensure we got to the airport… right… now what’s going to go wrong this time I wonder?

The XT pictured in Malaysia. Looks clean but
disastrous results...
We said goodbye to Rosie and her family and headed for the coast. It wasn’t long before the Yamaha started making some really loud and strange noises… but before Mike could stop so we could investigate, an almighty bang and a dust-cloud came out of the back wheel. The XT wobbled to a stop… The rear wheel bearing on the brake side had exploded, literally. Half its internals where on the road, it was only the rear disc holding the wheel somewhat in check. Now what? No time to try and locate a motorcycle dealer as that would mean we’d miss our flights (which we couldn’t postpone as we obviously had a cheap ticket). 

It probably had been the washing in Malaysia when water had entered the bearing as it was one big rusty mess inside. The strange thing is, until that moment it hadn’t made a single unhealthy noise. We removed several bits of mangled steel from the now exposed bearing and then pushed the seal back in. We had just over 60km to go to the harbour. Sixty kilometres on a loaded up bike with just a couple of balls in a rusted up bearing… With the Bonnie behind it with the blinkers on (glad I had wired in an emergency switch in the Bonnie!) we continued. The XTs wheel wobbled alarmingly and with my helmet and earplugs in I could hear the scraping noises in front of me. We had no option but to continue though or we’d miss our flights. We had plenty of nerve wracking moments in rush our traffic around Brisbane! Somehow, and as we later found out with serious damage to disc and hub in which the remains of the by now seized bearing had been spinning, we made it. Obviously a lot later that we had hoped for but at least we were there!

The shipping company was a bunch of non-interested sods though. We told them what had happened and that we were in a very tight spot but they just didn’t care. Instead of telling us where the container was so we could load up the bikes, they took forever finishing another job first, and then went for coffee! 
When they finally told us where the container was, which turned out to be barely 50 mtr from the office where we had been waiting!, we strapped them in a race against the clock. Took some photos, closed the seals on the door and rushed back to the office to sign off and get to the airport. Even the paperwork took forever… and then they flatly refused to take us to the airport, which they had promised… We asked for a taxi, upon which they said ‘Which company would you like us to call?’ How the $%#@% should I know, I’m not from around here remember! Just call a bloody cab who is local as we are already late for our flights!

We ran into the airport, frantically looking for the check-in desk and hoping it was still open… when we got there it turned out to be closed as our flight had been delayed! Maybe the plane had lost a wheel bearing too :-)
We found a bench and waited. Heart rates dropped back to normal as it slowly began to sink in that the trip was now really over. To make matters worse we found ourselves at an airport where everyone seemed to be going on holiday while we were going back… it was a sad feeling. 

Thoughts over the past 4 years flashed through my head. The beautiful things we had seen, the until then unknown cultures we had experienced and most of all the incredible beauty this planet has to offer if you want to step out of your comfort zone and want to take the time to look. I’m so glad we stretched our time doing this to the absolute limit! Yes I was now totally flat broke, in fact I was in debt! I was homeless too and would have to start all over again from the ground up… at the age of 52. It would be impossible for me to find a job now as employers don’t want people who have a 4 year gap in their cv (if ever I had one of those anyway). They don’t want people who have grey-ish hair either, so no hope in finding a job then. For Mike it would be impossible to find a job too. His schooling was in Australia. There he had an automotive degree, specialising in motorcycles, in The Netherlands that would be worth nothing. To top it all off Europe was still recovering from the 2008 financial crisis. Yet we both had no regrets whatsoever doing our trip around the world. In fact even after 4 years on the road, living as frugal as we could, not having any luxury like a chair to sit on or a stormproof roof over our heads and having lost 25kg each in weight(!), we both wanted to continue…
I know it sounds silly feeling sad after having had the luxury of travelling for 4 years around the world, but when you’re at the end of the trip, sitting at an airport and surrounded by people just starting their holiday, it doesn’t feel like that. 

But then it all started to sink in and the mood changed. We looked at each-other, tired, dirty and glad to have made it, glad to have been able to travel together. We had just spent 4 years together, every day and 24 hrs a day. There had been no arguments, no disagreements, no fights and no frustrations with each other. Far from it in fact. How many dads can say that with a 16- year old son? How many dads have had the opportunity to spend as much time with their son as I had? They only grow up once and I was there. From the moment we entered Australia, where we had lived in a converted bus and toured the country, to when we started working and living at an Outback cattle station. Mike had done Distance Education, which meant I was his teacher (they give you a book on how to be a teacher too) and when he enrolled in technical college for two days a week to get his Automotive certificate, I took him there with the same Bonneville that has just allowed me to go around the world with him.

‘What would you like to do now?’ I said to him, upon which he replied ‘Tell the shipping company to send the container to Santiago and ride home from there, slowly and with a couple of big detours’ he said with a smile. This trip may be over, and we’ll have to focus very much on work in the near future to fill that gaping hole which once was a savings account, but this won’t be the last trip we do together…!