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Month September 2014

anniversary in Darwin

It’s Lucinda and my 2nd anniversary on the road. A year ago today we were in Peru. Now we’re in Australia. Somehow thinking about the two places at once makes me smile like an idiot. I’m happy and grateful that I can experience that. However, looking ahead is a big, confusing mess of questions, options, and unknown unknowns which also, somehow, feels as good as it did a year ago. I’m not at all sure who or what I should thank for this, but I have an idea, which brings me to the next point:

We keep a journal separate from this blog. When we want to look back at a time, place or experience I go to my journal. This isn’t how we want it to be. This blog should include things we can’t write about here, otherwise it’s a poor record. So in about 30 days I’ll be making this blog private. In my last public post, I’ll write about some of the things I’ve learned so far that normally I wouldn’t write about. I’ll also recommend some other ride reports to follow.

I’m sitting here wondering about which are the strongest memories from the last year and as I scroll through iPhoto I realize there are just too many choices.

People: The indigenous millions in the streets of La Paz, Bolivia, the ultra-sophisticated in Buenos Aires at night, the gorgeous semi-modern Latinas of Arequipa, Peru, the fans of River Plate and the people in the country you pass or talk to everyday.

Places: This is ‘people’ again, by coincidence. One day I was riding the indirect dirt road out of lonely Porvenir, along the south bank of the Strait of Magellan, a day or two from Ushuaia, in the middle of nowhere. I met a fisherman who lived alone here in one of a small group of metal homes. At the time it struck me as a kind of miracle or something because it felt like my best friend had been waiting to meet me in this incredible place at the end of the world. This was the strongest memory of the year. In the blog, I wrote about it in a very superficial way. This is one reason I’m going to start writing the blog just for family and my riding friends from home. Thanks to everyone who followed and left positive and supporting comments.
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anniversary gear review

There was a fair bit of gear replacement in the last year. Mostly just wear and tear. Only two equipment things have been an issue: a less-than-skilled BMW mechanic in Lima that cost us diversions and delays and the continuing saga of Garmin.

So, a gear review. As usual there’s not much to review as I continue to reduce the quantity of ‘things’ I have. One day I’ll get down to 112 litres, camping gear included (panniers 31 X 2, duffel 40, tank bag 10). So I have 15 litres to shed.

The Wolfman 40L duffel. I’m surprised: there were some creases showing a year ago that are no worse. Still dry and no hardware failures. I cut off the carry-straps and swopped the shoulder strap for one with better end-fittings and a small padded center section.

Giant Loop 10L tank bag. Finally failed. The #10 zip made it through. UV eventually caused the window to crack and then disintegrate at the seams. But a great bag and I replaced it in NZ (more accurately, my daughter did) with the same one.

Klim suit. A controversial subject with mnay different opinions so I’ll tread lightly. My Rev’it wore out in Peru. Zips, velcro and textile all succumbing to old age. No problem, it had been a soldier despite the old-school concept and construction. The replacement came down to either Klim or Rukka, although I saw a decent-looking Held jacket on a friend in Bariloche later. I went with Klim as the top Rukka was underventilated. First impressions were correct: no way could you construct an outer pocket that way and ensure waterproofness. The suit is very, very heavy. The pant fit didn’t work for me so I had it altered in Lima. I threw out the kidney belt and knifed out the inner cuffs. The whole D3O impact armour idea is the wrong solution in my opinion. The suit is over featured for us. The positive is durability. It’s showing little wear except at the pant cuff. There will be no great suit as long as they’re made as garments are.

Gloves. I continue to get through a pair of summer gloves every 4 or 5 months, which I suppose is fine. My new winter gloves from Held, marketed as warm and dry were very cold. I had to buy inner gloves in Argentina.

Boots. My Sidi’s wore out at the toe stitching and were replaced in Santiago. I love this boot and was happy to replace it with the same.

Technology. The Macbook Pro is maxed and we’re waiting for a terrabyte Air (soon I hope) at which point we’ll swop. I broke the iPad mini and replaced it 9 months ago. We lost the Lumix in southern Colombia and replaced it with the same model in Lima. So not great on my part. We added a Sony RX100 point-and-shoot and it’s fantastic, as the reviewers promised. Iridium sat phone remains unused.

Tools. I got fed up with the standard small torx wrench for the wheels and oil filler cap and bought a huge 12″ monster with a plastic handle.

Lucinda. I can imagine no other. She’s a better bike than I am a rider.

Now the bad bit:

In my opinion, Garmin continues to be the anti-Christ of navigation-assisted travel.

We replaced the Montana unit in NZ after Garmin support admitted (after almost year of denying) that it was possibly screwed. $899 NZ
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Plus the Garmin power mount on Lucinda wore out. This was a particular pain because re-wiring in the new unit required pulling the tank, etc. After labor around $200 NZ
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Plus we thought we’d give their expensive map another try in NZ/Australia. Mistake. After all they charge a huge $189 AU for the Aussie/NZ map saying:

This product provides detailed road maps and points of interest for your device, so you can navigate with exact, turn-by-turn directions to any address or intersection.

Nice pitch, but the reality is that trying to build a route with this map is a nightmare. I’m approaching Cairns and here’s what the map looks like
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If you look closely you’ll see that most yellow or orange road here has a twin with it. One of each of them is wrong and doesn’t exist. No idea which one. The whole country is a similar fiasco. So despite their promises of accuracy I’m now using (free) public OSM maps again.

So every part of the Garmin program, unit, mount and software has failed us. They deserve the bad press. I’m not alone. There’s a guy from L.A. who’s doing an RTW on a Ducati Panigale (!) and I saw his reply to a comment on his ride report the other day that made me laugh
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And because his crazy ride is otherwise so upbeat, we’ll end there
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to the ‘top end’

We’re on our way to Cairnes and behind so we’ll combine a biggish earlier route into one long post. Apologies.

The track, 1200 miles. (note: Australians use the word ‘track’ to mean a dirt road. Here on this blog it’s used in GPS language to mean a formalized route). The ‘top end’ is what Aussies call the top part of Australia, where Darwin is
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And, because we’re into maps this week, how that looks on Google Earth. I have a feeling this Earth shot was taken in the dry season
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And Australia so far
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First, to Fitzroy Crossing. Termite mounds all day. We’ve bought a light book on termites to find out more about their importance on the plains. More on this subject after I’ve visited a very special species in a couple of weeks
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Lots of boabs today
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And despite a warning back in Derby that snakes live in them we take the chance here to knock a fruit off one. You can rattle them
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After a long hot day we arrive at the Fitzroy River. This is the most important river in this huge area
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Lots of birds here
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We stayed at the roadside Fitzroy park. The biggest fanciest place we’ve ever seen on the road here. Not so fancy inside, but veryw welcome. It’s on stilts because the water level rises 30 feet, over the river banks and floods the countryside during the wet season. The wet season is far more dramatic and with much greater consequences than we had imagined. A complete transformation of the landscape with huge consequences for the wildlife. I’m going to get a chance to see it if I don’t speed up
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Wallabies hiding here. They’re a bit shy. With good reason as you’ll see below
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The next day’s ride to Halls Creek was maybe the hottest so far
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We took a detour out to see the Mimbi Caves. But when we arrived a sign said by appointment only. A locked gateDSC05749

Needing to get back on the dirt for a while, but uncorrugated only (reasons below) we continued out into the country a bit ending up in a small aboriginal town where photos looked unwelcome. A beautiful ride
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Later, back on route, today’s shade tree
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Then into Halls Creek
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The next day, more easting
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Over another river patiently waiting for the rains
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To the larger town of Kununurra where this bridge dams the Ord river. There’s a big agricultural story here. Also a dividing line here between fresh and saltwater crocodiles (freshies and salties, like sunnies)
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Looking downstream from the dam/bridge
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Massive white birds fishing. A bit like pelicans but with dagger-like beaks. And very large
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We walk down the bank looking for crocodiles
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An aboriginal family cooling off in the shade on the river bank
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There was more to see around Kununurra but we thought we’d keep going but the next day rode out to Lake Argyle. A great ride in. We haven’t ridden any twisties in weeks
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One arm of the lake, the largest artificial lake in the country. Although when dammed in 1971 it flooded some traditional aboriginal lands, it’s now home to 25,000 crocodiles, 26 species of native fish and 150,000 waterbirds (from wiki)
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The ride out. Lucinda rips through here, howling through the hills
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Over the original river Ord River
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Then back through the boabs. We park and go for a walk in the little valley for a while
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Later, onto a rise where we could see our next stop, Timber Creek
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Which looks like this, a typical northern town of 250 people, 200 aboriginals and 50 whites. It had a great bar and I like the choice of music the aboriginals picked on the jukebox and the way they danced. I also liked that they’re huge Aussie rules football fans and everything in town stopped and they crowded into the bar for an important game. I don’t understand the game yet except they send a massive army of players in tight outfits out onto the field which is oval shaped and they’re super hyper. Aussie rules football is absolutely huge here. Normal season play seems to have the audience equivalent of the play-offs at home. They call it ‘footy’

While we’re at it:

Servo = gas station

Traino = train station

Arvo = afternoon

Freo = Freemantle

I like these:

Q: Would you like ice cream? A: Heaps please!

Q: Would you like chocolate sauce on your ice cream? A: Lashings please!

Anyway
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We grabbed an air-conditioned (they all are) cabin in the RV park again as we have given up on camping in the heat for the time being. This is not me being a pussy: locals are staring at me in my black Klim suit and asking me in a seriously concerned voice “aren’t you too hot?” all day. The problem isn’t just that it’s hot: The main problem is outside of roadhouse zones there’s little or no shade. You get radiated on from roadhouse to roadhouse with maybe one or two shade trees in between.

I’m very lucky: outside my cabin this bird is busy building a house out of sticks. This is a big deal in Australia and they’re proud of this incredible animal. I’ve had the common nests pointed out to me every day this week
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It’s very precise in collecting the right sort of stick and placing it in the right alignment. If the stick isn’t quite right it pulls it and starts again
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This Bower bird’s courtship behaviour is unique (wiki). It’ll finish building an enclosed home like this then gather up shiny objects like shells, coins, anything it can steal that’s shiny and put them on the floor of the house. The female picks the male with the nicest house and best/most shiny things
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I hear that evening that the Victoria River that passes next to the town is stuffed with crocodiles and that someone got eaten close to here just the other day. As it happens the owner/manager of the campground/cabins has an aluminum boat parked right out front. So I ask him if he’ll take me out on the river. He doesn’t do boat trips for travellers so I suggest a fair price and he stuffs a cooler with beer and off we go. He tells me some incredible stories. For instance the one thing that creeps him out a bit is when he’s out fishing and a giant croc parks under his boat, waiting for him to make a mistake. He says the crocs are bigger than his boat and as he’s trolling for Barramundi fish (more on this later) the croc swims along underneath with its giant tail weaving out behind the boat. The guy who got eaten made just this mistake, reaching over the boat’s edge. He was taken in front of his wife and daughter. Yikes.
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Off we go. The crocs are mostly on the bottom, out of the sun at this time of day, so we head off to an area he knows where the wallabies come down to drink
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Fresh water jellyfish
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Cockatoos
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What a prime wallaby drinking spot looks like
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Later, down they come
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And here’s the story photo. A wallaby to the left and a croc to the right. Just a small one. If the wallaby gets too close the croc will launch explosively and with luck grab one
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Further down, on a shady bank, a big one. Not a monster but over 10 feet. They grow to 20 feet here. The record from Queensland down the road a bit is 8.63 metres, 28 feet (wiki)
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Cropped
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Mildly disappointed we didn’t see a monster we drink all the beer and head back
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Next day we head to Katherine alongside an escarpment
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Lunch at a roadhouse
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Into town. For some reason it doesn’t grab me after excellent Timber Creek, so we keep moving. I liked Timber Creek: an unadorned roadhouse, small mostly aboriginal population, a beautiful river, trees and birds, and an air-conditioned cabin.

Katherine
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Later, another roadhouse
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On the way to Darwin we see a water hole and stop, hoping for a swim, but instead watch some aboriginals swimming with the dog
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And swinging. The lady on shore in orange thinking the branch will break
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I ask them if there are any crocs here and they point down the road to this pretty river
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Later, into the big, hot, isolated Darwin everyone in the world has heard of. A town where the big fruit bats in the trees maybe outnumbering the people 1000 to 1, but who knows. The sound they make at dawn and dusk is incredible
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The first thing we do is drive through to the ocean, the Tasman Sea
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The waterfront looks like this. The water isn’t clear, it’s chalky
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There’s a new area with an enclosed swimming area in the plusher end of town
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At street level it looks like this. A procession for policemen with bagpipes. Wonderful sound
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It’s the uniform somehow
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On that subject, here’s a nice story about a footy fan I read over breakfast
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And another nice story below. We’ll write about Darwin after we’ve thought about it some more. It’s a great town and for once the bars don’t close at 10. On Tuesdays they don’t close until a more respectable 3
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We went for some road trips waiting for our bike service appointment
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First stop, the Adelaide River just out-of-town. The story here is that if you dive off the relatively short bridge in the middle you won’t make it the 100 feet to shore no matter how fast you swim. You will, with 100% certainty, be eaten by a crocodile. So we had to see this river. But unfortunately we couldn’t stop on the bridge – signs saying stopping is forbidden which we would have ignored but there was occasional traffic and no foot lane.

So to add to our frustration we couldn’t access the river well because of private land and a river tour facility that was closed
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But we could crawl through the bush under the bridge
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And there by good luck was a huge ‘slide’. A slide is what crocodiles make when they haul themselves up a mud bank to their favorite spot. This was a huge one and if you click on it you’ll see the claw marks are sharp and fresh. So we waited cautiously for a while for the croc to appear. But no
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So the next day we went off to a famous place called Crocodylus to see the breeding farm. I forgot to ask why this is necessary since the croc population is growing fast since they’ve become a protected species. And as someone said there are more wallabies to eat than the crocs will ever be able to deal with so the population is forecast to grow rapidly. Current research show the average size is going up too.. The breeding pens
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A male waits. The female will lay on average 30 eggs
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They have tanks of crocs in various stages of growth
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Then we wanted to see a big snake. And as much as we don’t like zoos or parks we head off to a large facility in the country where we can see things we might not see as we travel. The park is a long walkway in the forest and through a half-dozen pavilions
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This fellow dried out before making it across the path
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A pavilion
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I chatted with a nice zoologist lady and she walked me through what the various animals eat
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They raise baby chicks and baby mice for snake food. It’s all very professional
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And of course crickets
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And here’s a very bad boy, a King Brown, or Mulga, snake. There are at least ten species of snake that are very bad news as I suppose everyone knows, so we’ll stop there
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And in one pavilion they have a monster sized croc in a big billabong-modelled environment with a glass wall. Hopefully we’ll see one this size in the wild. He’s about 18 feet long and we had a staring contest like this. He looked murderous
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Our appointment time for Lucinda comes up. Normally long distance riders are shown straight to the bike-lift when they ride to a shop, but the only dealer who can work on Lucinda had all the staff away on training and we had to wait
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And here is one of the three things that concerned us on the Gibb corrugations. Lucinda developed a huge creaking sound that I couldn’t isolate. And the titanium pipe is parting up front. We incorrectly assumed they were related problems and the pounding of the corrugations had shifted something we couldn’t find. The third problem was that I wasn’t on top of the electrolyte story and hadn’t been feeling 110%, but that’s been resolved with little packets you stir into water that the road workers use.

We never determined why the pipe was parting but speculate the spring is strong enough to hold it there. The noise was because the rear Ohlins was dry and needed kindness. Even though I had it serviced in NZ. So we did a full service and fitted new tyres but left the big changes we need for Melbourne, where there’s a shop that does custom work
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At risk of making a political observation I think Australia is a great country for Canadians in particular to explore. More on this another time.

G’day!
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Galvans Gorge

The first day’s track of three
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Out of Windjana, we head northeast. Mostly the colours as we ride are unreal feeling. In one stretch there can be a bright orange road, the vast blue plains sky, clean white eucalyptus trunks, mid-green foliage and flashes of bright yellow from the tall shrub in bloom, all together.

But all is not completely well and we have a decision to make, as usual. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

The ride to Mount Barnett (the first gas stop at about 220 miles, after going into Windana Gorge) should be more than the rest of the tankful. We have two 5 liter gas containers, one in each pannier for reserve. Which took a bit of organizing a while back, moving light stuff up to make room for heavy gas lower down.

An average corrugated bit looks like this, but not as loose as this shot, and no matter how you’re riding it’s lousy
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Once in a while, maybe 10 or 15% of the time the dirt is nearly white. This felt less predictable
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We ride over a low range, but the only one we’ve seen so far
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The trees in the range
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Avoiding cattle, though not many
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And through a single craggy section
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Before Mount Barnett is Galvans Gorge which is not only supposed to be beautiful but also has crocodile-free swimming. We could use it. When I check this 60’s clunker (which I bought at a hardware store back in Broome) it’s 104F
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After parking only a K from the road, halfway between nowhere and nowhere, we walk through towards trees and are soon in a low gully. A little further and there’s a series of small ponds and a stream, barely moving
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Waterlilies blooming
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Close up
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To an oasis, hard to believe
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There’s a small waterfall at the back and steep walls.
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We strip and jump in and can’t ever ever remember being more refreshed. Cool and deep.
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Selfie. In an effort to fit in better with my long-distance-riding peer group, I’m trying to embrace narcissism
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View from the water
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We saw some small fish in the waterlily pond earlier and wonder if there are fish here. So we go to the edge, get still, and wait. Then
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and
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We crop our best shot to see what they look like
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Well you can imagine how surreal all this was, out in the Australian outback

Up in a wall in the shade, this. We checked the wiki and it’s aboriginal, dating back unspecified thousands of years
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After a too-short hour or so we head back. In the stream on the way I spot something moving in the water
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Then, after about 20 photos, out of the water
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It’s a huge lizard. The body is about 18 inches, the tail 2 feet. A monster, a monitor lizard/guanna. They grow to 5 feet and in places eat 90% of a crocodile area egg lay, or however you say that.

An hour later we were in Mount Barnett. As I mentioned earlier there’s a glitch in our program, heat and corrugation related. Ahead it’s hotter and maybe more corrugated. We have a very difficult time deciding what to do. Rule #3 of Lucinda’s Ride Rules states that in doubt, take the most conservative option.

So, and details will be made clear down the road a bit, we decide to reverse course, even though we’re 220 miles / 365K into a 700K ride, and race into Darwin via the long route.

We head back quickly the next morning. A short ride but the pool at Galvans Gorge keeps getting in the way
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After staying beside a river near the Imintji Roadhouse
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Then blast back to Derby the next day. Hot
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The view going the other way, er.
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Outside of Derby is a famous boab tree, called the Prisoner Tree. I’ve heard two stories but the official one is that aboriginals that had been kidnapped to work the pearling industry were kept here in transit
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The tree is alive and well, the fence is to stop the soil being compacted over the roots.

The doorway
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Today we’re working on Lucinda and writing these last two posts, then getting to Darwin as quickly as possible. There are many more beautiful Kimberley photos but this will have to do, and there’s more to come up here.

I just read about a German kid who came to Australia recently to ride for a year. My reaction was to think he was crazy – a year? Now I understand better, even though we have less than half of that.

Maybe the world’s most hard-core school bus, outside Imintji
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Windjana Gorge

The day’s track
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The Gibb River road starts out of Derby paved, then isn’t sure whether it wants to be paved or not for the first 30 miles.

A couple of flowering plants on our way out. This yellow beauty was common
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This little thing had a few Hibiscus and Calochortus characteristics but isn’t either although I’d love to be corrected
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The road changes to an inconsistent mostly rock-free surface, sometimes red, sometimes grey, sometimes solid, sometimes loose. But the big story with this road is whether its been graded or not recently. All the material clearly states that the road conditions can go from heaven to hell depending on when it was last graded. The issue is washboard. Or as they call it here, corrugation.

Anyway, the washboard isn’t the very difficult stuff that it can apparently be because it comes and goes and because the road is so wide there is usually a line somewhere. But it isn’t comfy. You might get a mile or it then nothing for the next mile. And the amount of sand on top can go from a few inches to nothing in a similar way. Rarely on the side roads the sand can pile up, but never more than 4 inches or so.

We are still experimenting and getting a feel for how fast and on what lines we should be going through it when we turn off to the Windjana Gorge. The road has a few inches of red sand (not white, later on this) over annoying washboard. This is the worst we see today because of the deeper sand covering, not so bad but requires concentration and a heavy throttle on a bike, easier in a truck. But even so we get overtaken once, which is embarrassing for Lucinda. For which I’m sorry, I tell her
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Then we arrive at this stunning Devonian limestone wall, miles long
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We park and start the short walk towards it. Really beautiful, out here in the middle of nothing
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Up close
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Then we get to the gorge. The water level is apparently at the seasonal low.

Here’s the really special thing about this place (one of the many I suppose): this gorge has the largest number of fresh water crocodiles in Australia.

This is the first one we see as we walk the river bank. Not easy to spot sometimes
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Then a little further and we’re at the main pool. wow
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It takes a few moments to see, but about 30 crocodiles are just below the surface. Here’s a crop of part of the gathering
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Here’s one, on this side of the pool. Fantastic animal
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This could be a very long post because we took tons of photos but we’ll get to the main event instead. We walk about 300 yards upstream to this location, looking across the stream to this wall, where as the sun lowers is shrieking with the sound of bats.

We wait
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Sunset is at 5:30 and the chirping shrieking noise intensifies. Then all of a sudden, at about 6:00 they take fast chaotic flight overhead, out of the gorge to the plains behind us. The numbers are so huge we imagine there must have been a huge cave in the wall behind the trees.

A screen grab photo from video. This fast running river of fruit bats continues for 20 minutes. Maybe millions, probably not, but it felt like it
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I let the little Sony grab some bat randomness, which works well
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And then the third part of this incredible story: many of the bats skim the surface of the pool for water as they fly over. The crocodiles have been waiting. Although the odds of a bat skimming in the location of a croc snout are tiny, the numbers are enough that at any given moment there’s a few surface snaps happening, as the occasional bat is snagged by bad luck.

The surface rings on the far side of the pool here are where bats and crocodile meet. There’s not much light so shutter speed is too long to catch anything in flight or similar detail. There are 2 people here with professional camera equipment and big flashes on tripods catching this amazing moment
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Here’s a Google Earth of the mouth of the gorge when the river is running seasonally perhaps a few months from now
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Not much to say after that. Australia continues to discourage description
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to Derby

The day’s track. A short ride but we have another job to do
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The new tire, or at least new back in Broome
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The low shrubs/trees landscape out of Broome was burned for miles, leaving the termite mounds more clearly visible
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Then, after a while, the mounds changed. Smaller, and much more frequent. We’re guessing a different species
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Today’s shade tree
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A Boab tree, native to Australia, with a relative in Africa
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And this beautiful giant
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Then, almost due S of Derby we started crossing large ponds and small rivers. The Google Earth of the exact bridge area in the photos below
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The first of the bodies of water. Cut off from the Fitzroy river during the dry season
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We looked over the edge and saw this
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Which if you look closely has a fish in it. Here’s a crop of the above shot
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It’s an Archer fish (wiki), which we all know about from Junior School.

Then there was this
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Closer up
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A crocodile. A small one, maybe 6 feet.

Crocodiles are the big thing in the Kimberley, and the whole way around the top of Australia. This is a fresh water crocodile. They are all man-eaters. The saltwater crocodiles grow to 15 feet/5 meters. The Aussies call them ‘salties’.

Here’s the shocker: You must not swim in the sea anywhere in all the thousands of miles of coastline from here east. Period. A fisherman was taken just two weeks ago in front of his wife. The rivers are the same. The saltwater crocodiles can live many miles upstream from the sea. And in water holes they call Billabongs.

Here’s a sign by the road
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From the left, the 1st sign talks about the fresh water sawfish here. Endangered. This is one of the world’s last strongholds for this fish. The 2nd sign talks about the fishing rules. The 3rd talks about botanical quarantine, a very big deal in Australia. The 4th is the big crocodile warning. They will attack. If you camp next to the water they will drag you and your tent into the river.If you fish to close to the edge they will charge you. Etc. The 5th, a flora chat. All very interesting as you can imagine. So no going in any water for the next couple of months.

The huge piece of water on the Google crop, from the bridge
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At the one-and-only roadhouse we meet a fellow on a Ural. He knew South America well. Amazingly he and his wife had taken the fancier second ship to the Amadeo, the Eden, that Lucinda, Claudia and I took, up the Chilean archipelago from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt. He called it the trip of a lifetime
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Then into Derby.

There are only 6 towns up here in an area of land the same size as California. Derby is tiny, remote and largely aboriginal
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The waterfront. Hot and tropical. And the biggest tidal range in the southern hemisphere. Crocodiles cruise the shoreline
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A few people fishing from crab off the long dock. I laugh there’s no guard rail, given falling in means being eaten, they assure me. I ask them if they’ve been in for a cool-off, since it’s a billion degrees out. Never, they say
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The catch
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And a prawn
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five days to Broome

The Mac power cable is up and running, so

To save time we’re going to combine the five days from Coral Bay to Broome, they look like this
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Total Oz ride so far, 400 miles more than total NZ
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So we left Coral Bay
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Lucinda’s new life for a while
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Immediately we’re in open grassland (not sure if it’s what they call spinifex yet) and huge termite mounds
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Surface detail
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As far as we can see. Hot
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A pretty plant in bloom in large patches
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Up close
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A good shrub
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Up close
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Lucinda isn’t sure what my bike friends make of the flower shots, but she doesn’t complain when we stop for pics. She doesn’t complain about anything really. Except when this happens, which she hates
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Then drama: ow! stop! Jeremy there’s something in my eye!

We decide not to go to Exmouth. More temptation to dive and best to be pressing on, so we head east and spend the night at Nanutarra roadhouse.

The next day we head to Tom Price, a mining town. Flat and hot
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A few features but not much in a couple of hundred miles
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We cross a dry riverbed
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And see this sign, Wyloo
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It looks interesting so we ride down the road. To this
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It looks like a village made up of ATCO trailers. Then we guess that it’s an aboriginal town and we shouldn’t be here by law. So back we go.

Shards
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A single-lane sunfried bridge
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A nice big shade tree and rest stop
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Then the landscape changes to rolling hills and finally we ride some corners. Not many
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Then into Tom Price. Made lush and tidy by the mining community we’re guessing, but not sure
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Outside of town there’s a golf course. Anyone who knows me and Lucinda knows that we think golf is an odd way to spend valuable time, but here they look like normal people
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It’s a dirt course. The ‘green’ below is raked dirt. Aussie golf. Not so bad then
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Then two things happen. Firstly, one of the reasons we came this way was to cross more outback and then ride a dirt road back from here to Karratha. We learn the night before we need a permit which we can get at the Tom Price information office. Which opens at 9:30, late. So we head off and not only find we need a permit, but the road is owned by a mining company and we have to watch a safety movie, about 20 minutes long, after the crowd of tourists in front of me have watched their tourist movie, which won’t leave us enough time for the route.

So we check the map and head off in a more N than NE direction to Port Hedland on the coast.

The second thing that happens is that we find out we’re passing the Karajini Gorges and we don’t stop. Aussies reading this are going to say what?! but anyway we zoom by motivated by things ahead and just wanting to ride. Hard to explain but it sometimes happens. Other long-distance riders have talked about this: for a successful long ride, recognizing the benefit to the ride of doing the things you want to do at any given moment, not should or must do. Not hard to figure out why this is. Sayonara Karajini
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On the next plain, more termite mounds. Lucinda went over and parked for scale
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Another excellent roadhouse for lunch and shade
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More of this
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Then we bump into a rider from Hobart. He’s on a DR 650. This is interesting because the two Aussies we met in South America were on DR’s. We get in a weird sync taking the customary photo
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He’s made a custom dash. Various light controls, a feed to a beautiful lithium ion cell in his tank bag for his laptop, cool switches just for cool switches sake. Lucinda wants a custom dash to relocate various things and to look cool too, so we will, and I know where and when. Melborne, 3 to 4 months
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He’s just done the big route that’s a bit ahead of us. He tells me some stories we’ll tell you when we get there.

Fire aheadDSC04904

Burning happily
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Birds overhead circling in the fire thermal
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They look like this. Hawks of some kind
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Into Port Hedland for the night.

Back on the road a road train is coming. This isn’t a nickname, it’s the official name of giant 4 box trucks. They’re the same as Canadian LCV’s but longer (no mountain corners here) and the Aussies are very proud of them and love to talk about them. Aussies are motorheads. It’s nice. I’m told the maximum truck length is 180 feet/55 meters. Anyway, here comes one
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Aussies favorite subject, after football, so far
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Much more of this. I’m pointed the wrong way because I’ve done a u-ey
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To look at this
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Incredible blooms. The most exotic-looking yet here. Once again, haven’t looked it up yet, but will. Maybe cousin Nicky in the UK can tell me
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Over a river. Looking at a detailed map there aren’t a lot of river systems draining off the NE corner of Australia. Because it’s a desert
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Looking downstream
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A huge flock of cockatoos follow the shoreline towards the sea
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They’re making a huge noise
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Later, a few of these. We remember the huge road cattle of El Salvador, massive and interesting, as much as cattle can be
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Stayed at 80 mile beach for the night. It’s actually 80 miles, not like the whopping exaggeration of 90 mile beach in NZ. The red dirt road in
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There were trucks along the beach and people fishing. But not swimming. I asked why not, keen to jump in the water. Sharks
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The next day was the most featureless and straightest road we’ve ridden in 2 years. But still a wonderful experience as it all is here. So Australian
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Lunch was like the event aberration of the day. Another terrific roadhouse
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Then into BroomeDSC05065

Which has a large aboriginal population and is the first time we can watch and think about this.

Broome is a pearling town. Also a tourist town for the hardier caravan travellers from the south. I read in the paper that for some city people ‘going to Broome’ is a retirement ambition.

And we have a small problem: this has happened again
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Down in tread by 60% in the center, again. No way will we make it to Darwin at this rate on this one week old tire. And we need all the tread we can get a few days out. Oh well.

It’s the road surface, the heat, knobbies on slab, and Lucinda’s torquey rubber greed. The surface has been super aggressive since Perth. Cut rock, like in southern Texas in stretches.

This isn’t loose gravel, it’s the tarred-in surface, and very sharp
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We order a new tire from Perth to Broome. Australians are the fast shipping masters, at no special cost, so just a few days, which means it’s travelling without a significant stop around the clock, by road, door-to-door. Impressive.

So we wait and explore around Broome
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update

* edit: bumped down until missing posts are filled in *

It’s blog writing day today, September 9, I’ve uploaded most of the photos. But for the second time in a week I can’t charge my Mac. The light doesn’t come on the magnetic plug, so it’s a cable problem. I’ve wiggled it and everything.

I need the power I have left for GPS Basecamp.

If it doesn’t fix itself then it’s going to be a while before I post anything: the nearest cable replacement is a long way away.

Cheers from the Kimberley
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