limping into Rockhampton

Track on previous post

It was the usual miserable highway south from Airlie Beach to the start of a better route we found, we hoped. The interesting section
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A fantastic ride inland from the coast to some hills in the distance
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We parked here to check out the tiny scale railroad lines
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And here’s the train. Looks normal enough
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Beautiful. There’s something really great about locomotives
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The rail width (haven’t looked up the official guage) is a ridiculous 2 feet. And a toy-like switch
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And you can see how small the locomotive is
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Two friendly girls are driving it. I ask for a ride.

These trains (and the entire network of lines) are set up for transporting sugar cane for the huge plantations along the coast. These girls work in the yard organizing the cars at this central yard. Karla is the engineer and she’s a gas
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Here are her controls. No steering wheel obviously. Nice sturdy parts from a wonderful manufacturing era
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Looking forward and we chuff along at about walking speed
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And the view back over the cars full of cane. We moved a load from one line to another then picked up a line of empty cars
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The cars looked bleak empty and terrific full, which is why as kids we had to load stuff onto our train sets
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Then later through the only town on this road
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A typical elevated Aussie house. There are good reasons for elevating them. Snakes, flooding, air currents for cooling, a place to park stuff, looks bigger
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At the end of the valley we rode up the best set of switchbacks we’ve ridden in a long time. So severe that coming into a corner you can see the road going the other way at your shoulder, and incredibly steep. You rounded an impossibly tight hairpin to see the road rising like a wall in front of you. You had to gas it because if you stalled you’d crash. Awesome. Only about 20 corners, rising maybe 1000 feet to a ridge
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At the top stop for a juice at this place decorated with plastic flowers
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Where there was the biggest, most perfect peacock ever
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Over the ridge headed west everything changed. Dry, thinning forest, dirt road, empty
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A lake at the top
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Cattle country again
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Almost perfect riding. In fact not almost, it was perfect. Open spaces, a distant horizon, not a sign of life, on fast gravel. Why we ride
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Through a perfect landscape for 100 miles
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These rider-designed fast sweepers on this narrow track went the whole way across the valley and through low hills. It was lightly corrugated so you skipped along the surface. If you click the pic you’ll see the first series. We laughed
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Eventually onto the paved road into Nebo.

I stopped at the side of the road back at the dirt/paved junction to look at the map and appreciated that in remote areas in Australia the cars stop and check you don’t have a problem. The extreme case of this was Texas. When we were riding the dirt roads in Texas hill country every car truck would stop. And chat. And ask you if wanted anything or if they could get you anything. You had to hide from Texan country generosity or surrender to it. We surrendered and stayed in Junction a week
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Tomorrow we decide to get a small road towards Rockhampton because we have a little problem.

Lucinda has been in need of a major overhaul since South America. We did some of the work in Tauranga, NZ, but the big work has been waiting for a well-known shop in Melbourne here in Australia. She’s not far off 100,000K’s into our trip. About 1/2 way. We don’t want an epic in Asia or further down the track so we’ve been anticipating this for while. We’ve already had parts shipped there and the shop’s waiting for us.

But it looks like we’re not going to make it. We have a problem. We’ve had 4 in two years, 2 here in Australia.

So we bee-line down a great road
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Over croc rivers
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But probably not in this one
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Back over the ridge we crossed a couple of days ago
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Down towards the coast again
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I know blog readers have been suffering termite mound photo deprivation, so here’s an unusual one. In a tree
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A close up of another. It looks like it’s dripping
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Into Rockhampton, busy preparing for Christmas
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We go over Lucinda, think we know what’s going on, and make some calls. It’s serious. No, I can’t happily do it myself: it’s more than parts replacement. We go to the major shop in town (who carries multiple brands) to talk about helping with the fix, and like the KTM dealer in Santiago, Chile, it has strong opinions about BMW’s, broken-down or not, and anyway are intimidated by the issue. So no-go.

We decide to take the highway to Brisbane. But it’s so bad we can’t get out of town. So after thinking through the options we decide on the least dignified: Lucinda’s getting her first ride on a truck.

This is no big deal. Nothing mechanical is. We just fix it, one way or another wherever, however. But the one thing we can’t fix is time. We spent too much time goofing off up north, burning into our contingency, not allowing for this. This is going to take a while, but we have a plan.

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