Day 17, 18 and 19 (I think)

tim

We took our time a little packing up this morning. We needed fuel, and the local store (known as the “Take Away” though it’s doubles as a general store) that sells the fuel cards wouldn’t be open til around 9:30am, so we had some time. We’ve been granted permission from Bundi Bundi, the custodian of the land surroundingĀ  Numblwar, for the bikes to travel through the land south of the Central Arnhem Road toward Roper Bar, but they still were not entitled to ride the 30km from Gapuwiyak back to the Central Arnhem Road itself. We refuelled the bikes from the jerry cans, so that they wouldn’t need to join us in town to refuel. We’d been advised to keep as low a profile with the bikes as possible, out of respect to the locals.

We worked out how to reload everything into just two vehicles, and remarkably, everything fit. We moved the main food tubs to the floor of the bike trailer, as well as the jerry cans for diesel and unleaded. The luggage was packed onto the roof racks, and into the free space in the food trailer. Even my djembe (a space-wasting luxury, in hind-sight) managed to fit.

We headed to Daniel and Silke’s, posed for some photos in front of the much-loved troopie, and headed to the Take Away. The fuel station is unmanned, and fuel cards of different values are available for sale at the store. We refilled the cars and the jerry cans, and left the remaining fuel credit with Daniel, since we couldn’t use it anyway. From there we collected the bikes and the other travellers, said our sad goodbyes, and headed off on our way.

The road south from Gapuwiyak crosses the Central Arnhem Road, and that was our route. The road was OK, though progress was not all that fast. Once past the “Balma Turnoff” (cunningly signposted as the “Balma Turnoff”) the tracks thinned out, suggesting less traffic passed that way. Later in the day we worked out that we’d strayed from the GPS directions, afnd were headed east to Jalma Bay rather than south. Andy took one car on ahead to find the bikes, while we turned our car around and waited for him to return.

An hour later Andy returned on Marco’s bike, with his car not far behind. While riding back, Marco had collected a tree stump with his foot, and the pain was too much for him to continue. Jordy again administered excellent first aid, though the bruising in Marco’s foot was pretty severe. It’s still difficult to tell if anything is broken, but he could wiggle his toes and put a little weight on it.

It was getting late, so Andy rode on ahead to find a camp site, By the time we’d caught up, he had a fire going. We were still on the wrong road, but we were back-tracking OK. We made camp, Lyn baked bread in the camp oven (yum!), I cooked chops and sausages, and soon dinner was served. It was a long, hot day, and a warm night, and no one went to bed late that night. One highlight of an otherwise bleak, burnt-out camp site was the play of three kites in the sky overhead, floating and swooping in the light of the setting sun.

The next day we back-tracked to where the GPS said our track should be. It was faint, but it was there. For the next 2 days we followed the course the GPS plotted for us, and slowly realised that the route we were on was not a vehicular track at all, but a buffalo track, probably picked up in a satellite photograph and mistaken for a road. For two days the bikes scouted, while Jordy and Jane navigated the vehicles between and over termite mounds, trees, shrubs and river crossings. We camped in a beautiful stand of strangely deciduous eucalypts the first night, and eventually found the real track in the afternoon of the next day. In three days, we travelled around 300km, if that.

Once we found the track we made camp in another stand of trees, this time surrounded by a graveyard of termite mounds. We felt reassured to be on a clear track again, but again we were all very tired.

The following day we made our way past Numblwar and on to better roads, headed for Roper Bar crossing. The bikes enjoyed the firmer, wider roads, and we made good time for the first time all week.

When we finally reached Roper Bar, the first 4WD, the two bikes, then the vehicle I was driving made their way across. It’s a 50+m causeway with water flowing over it, and it’s slippery. The 4WDs made it with no trouble, and the riders made it look easy. By the time I crossed, the riders were queued up to do it again! When they returned, I donned the helmet and rode across in my t-shirt and board-shorts. It was so good to be back on the bike again, even for just that short stretch of concrete!

We lunched on the far side, refuelled at the Roper Store, and continued on. I little indecision saw us arrive at the Maria Lagoon at around 7:00pm, where we set up cam in the dark. It was only after we were set up that we started to see cows wandering past in the dark, at alarmingly close range. They seemed to take a liking to Marco’s bike, which unsurprisingly didn’t please Marco all that much!

The showers and toilets were rough to say the least, but they were showers and toilets, which gave them an edge over the accommodations of the past few nights. Some of us showered, and others waited til morning.

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