Up Shit Creek Without a Paddle (or a Ferry to Tasmania)

“She’s dead. Pixie is dead. We’re not going anywhere.”

I let that thought sink in for just a moment, before I throw myself on the ground, right there on the footpath, and proceed to have the mother of all hissy fits. There’s no 3-year-old on the planet who could out-fit me, right now.

I’m still holding my mobile phone. I stare down at the message that just a moment ago came through from our friends, Jonas and Ellen, of Intothefar fame.

6.58am “Morning! Hope you are good and almost here? We’ve accidently queued in…”

I envy them. They’re sitting in their perfectly working Landy, big smiles on their faces, queuing to board the ferry to Tasmania at the Station Pier in Melbourne. They’re blissfully unaware that, as far as we are concerned, the shit has just hit the fan. Quite possibly, literally.

We’re supposed to be there too, joining them on the 9 hour voyage across the Bass Strait on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry. We’d planned this trip for months. Except now, at 6.59am, we are 10kms away from the port, sitting in a gutter, staring incredulously at Pixie and her now dismantled oil pump.

Chris shakes his head

“There are bits of copper metal in the oil. That’s not a good sign. I think the engine is kaput.”

Oh fuck-a-duck.

I am not superstitious by any stretch of the imagination but this colossal stuff-up probably only happened because of something I said last night, to our friends Colin and Kaye. Over a sumptuous dinner of sauteed chicken and veggies, I was reiterating some of Pixie’s antics over the last couple of years.  And I specifically mentioned that although Pixie has had her fair share of breakdowns, she’d never actually forced us to miss anything. We’ve never missed a visa deadline, a meeting, a border crossing, a flight. Nothing. Amongst all the shit, we’ve always managed to make it on time, wherever we were meant to be, at any given time. Well yes, except for bloody right now, obviously.

We’ve just missed our ferry to Tasmania.

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Our Sydney sojourn

Our introduction to life in Australia has been exceptionally busy and immensely enjoyable. We landed in Sydney in late October and proceeded to spend the next 10 weeks catching up with friends, devouring insane amounts of excellent food (I had forgotten, really, all about Sydney’s gastronomic scene) and having a wonderful Christmas. Poor Chris coped incredibly well with meeting after meeting with all my dearest and nearest. I’m tickled pink that he’s finally met all my closest friends and all the wonderful people who were such a pivotal part of my life growing up.

Sydney is as resplendent as I’d always remembered.

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Crossing the Great Dividing Range

And then off we went, exploring the Snowy Mountains and the Alpine National Park bordering the states of NSW and Victoria. I had once driven to Melbourne in just a single day, and here we were taking two whole weeks to zigzag our way down south. Stunning scenery and our first wildlife encounters were food for the soul. We rode, we camped, he fished, I cooked…aaahhh…it was pure heaven.

(PS. I shall now include several gorgeous photos of our days’ explorations in wonderful landscapes. Because if I were lulled into a false sense of travel security…so should you)

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We're not quite sure if they stand at intervals of 7 and 25km, respectively. We'll see

We’re not quite sure if they stand at intervals of 7 and 25km, respectively. We’ll see

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Brumbies! Australia's wild horses, across the top of the Snowys

Brumbies! Australia’s wild horses, across the top of the Snowys

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Jonas helping Chris change Puck’s rear tyre

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The top of the Great Dividing Range is stunning

The top of the Great Dividing Range is stunning

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Oh finally, a jacuzzi! Bath time on day 7

Oh finally, a jacuzzi! Bath time on day 7

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We stalked Jonas and Ellen all week. Alright, yes, mostly because he bakes bread every day :)

We stalked Jonas and Ellen all week. Alright, yes, mostly because he bakes bread every day 🙂

Our first Kolly. Asleep, on the tree next to where we set up our tent

Our first Kolly. Asleep, on the tree next to where we set up our tent

We came across lovely little country towns every day. Easy stops for stocking up

We came across lovely little country towns every day. Easy stops for stocking up

Our first bush camp vino, cooled by the Snowy River

Our first bush camp vino, cooled by the Snowy River

And amongst all this beauty, Pixie happened, because heaven forbid she goes more than a whole month without ONE frigging mechanical problem.

Actually, make that 2 weeks.

Canberra’s (rather lovely) hiccup

We did have a colossal carburettor problem when we hit Canberra, one which was speedily solved by the genius hands of Mike, the guru-mechanic. At the ripe old age of 20-something, Mike is a passionate and gifted bike whiz, one who restores vintage Ducatis for a hobby. He and his German girlfriend, Angelika, were incredibly helpful and hospitable. One fixed the bike, one cooked us spaetzle. What a wondrous dream team! Our whole Canberra stay was actually divine, bike problem notwithstanding because in hindsight, when you know that bigger crap was to come, it’s all wonderful, isn’t it?

Now you do know I’m talking about Pixie here, right? Of course you do. Silly me.

In our nation’s capital, we stayed with John and Peggy Bright, a lovely couple we were introduced to by a mutual travel friend. Adventurous seasoned traveller, John and Peggy welcomed us with open arms as if were long lost friends. Any overlander will appreciate how special that is. We spent a few days together, chatting, sharing travel stories and delighting in Peggy’s incredible cooking (check out her unique cooking blog, right here) and enjoying furry cuddles in our spare time.

Chris and Mike working on Pixie

Chris and Mike working on Pixie

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Soon enough, however, Pixie was roaring to go again. She rode beautifully. Better than she had for years.

It lasted precisely 10 days and about 20 hours.

Hitch-hiking on a bike trailer, Pixie's newfound favorite past-time

Hitch-hiking on a bike trailer, Pixie’s newfound favorite past-time

Poor Pixie. I shouldn’t be so tough on her. I’ve verbalised my fantasy of blowing her up with TNT or shoving her off the edge of a 3,000m cliff many times. Oh, I salivate at the joy that would bring me.

For what it’s worth, however, I don’t think Pixie is a lemon, not really. She’s a single cylinder, 20yo bike with just about 100,000km under her belt or rather, her chain. She’s done everything she was built to do. I estimate that only a quarter of those kms were on nice, good-quality European roads. Pixie crossed Africa for a year with Biggie, her previous owner, and then had to endure me for the last 4.5 years, 40 countries and over 40,000km. Through outback Eastern Europe, those horrendous mud-ridden roads in the Stans, being towed through the Pamir Highway, zooming non-stop through 8,000km of China, aaaaallll of South East Asia for two years, plus that atrocious mountain crash in Sumatra and countless other drops. If all that wasn’t enough, she also had to endure a thorough clean before flying to Australia.

It was the cleaning that did her in, I’m convinced of that. I don’t think these Funduro bikes are meant to be cleaned. I always joked that it was the caked-on dried up mud that kept Pixie in one piece and perhaps I was more prophetic than I realised.

So now my Pixie is dead. AND we’re NOT going to Tasmania today.

A wonderful local biker hears our cries for help over FB. Raymond the legend picks us up in his trailer just as Jonas and Ellen celebrate their first hour onboard the Spirit. We hobble back to Colin and Kaye. “Come in, pet. I’ll put the kettle on” he says.

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Lovely Raymond manages to put a smile on my face, which is no mean feat given the circumstance…

After much deliberation, we’ve decided that a Pixie resurrection is a more viable option than a vehicle swap. With a heart + lung transplant, I’ll have myself a bike I know and can ride; one that is set-up for long-haul travels and – for lack of better terms – a devil with which I am familiar. Spending just a couple of grand on a different vehicle and I’ll be up for all sorts of unknowns.

The search for a Pixie engine replacement is on and we’re in the extremely lucky position of being in Melbourne, as opposed to bum-fuck-nowhere (as a fellow biker put it), we are being hosted by a gorgeous couple we met in China in 2014, have plenty of friends with which to catch up and a handful of helpful mechanics just a phone call away.

Life is still good then, it may not be life in Tasmania, right now, but we’ll get there. I’m sure of it.

With a new engine and lease of life, Pixie will spring back into action. As Chris said: “With a new engine…what else could possibly go wrong with her?”

I just wish he hadn’t said that…

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses to Up Shit Creek Without a Paddle (or a Ferry to Tasmania)

  1. Peggy Bright says:

    Ah Pixie, you little devil! When you two rode away from our house in Canberra, we were fairly confident she would get you to Tassie. At least you got you to another point of civilisation. Here’s hoping she comes good. And soon!

    • laurapattara says:

      Dear Peggy…I did share your enthusiasm. usually, 1 fix buys me a month of blissful travel with her. Alas, not to be!! But Australia is not Mongolia now, is it? All’s well, as we hope you are too. Tasmania will hopefully not float away into oblivion by the time we get this mess sorted. Hugs to you and John and nose rubs to missymoo xx

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