The 1-2-3’s of Handling a Motorcycle Accident in China: The story of how I got rammed by a scooter during Beijing rush hour

Broken turn signal

Broken turn signal

I recently just got into my very first accident (with another vehicle at least), not just in China but ever. I suppose it was a matter of time though given the negligence of Chinese drivers. This accident however, luckily, was not with a car but with an electric scooter, with two riders, going the wrong way down a 6-lane road outside of my office. I figured I would take the opportunity to not only relate my experience but also help people who may also find themselves in this unfortunate situation some day.

I was pulling out of the driveway that was the exit from my office, after a full day of work on a Friday evening. As I mentioned, this was a 6 lane, very busy road, so the traffic moves fast, often, and without hesitation. So I stayed cautious, looking left to make sure the coast was clear until the oncoming traffic had all moved by when I started to pull out into the bus lane before fully accelerating into the road. I started to look right just before fully turning the throttle and shifting up when I noticed out of the corner of my eye two Chinese men barreling full speed the wrong way down the bus-lane and before I knew it I was on the ground in the middle of this very busy road in the middle of rush hour.

Twisted Front Fork of motorcycle after accident

You can see that the handlebars are pointed straight but the wheel is pointing left

My engine was still accelerating for a bit before it finally ground to a halt. I looked left down the road about 10 or 20 feet and there was the scooter and the two passengers laying on the ground. As they were driving full speed, they had driven right through the front of my bike ending on the other side and partially into the next lane over. The passenger got up quickly enough but the driver was looking around blankly with his leg under the bike. Seeing as how we were in the middle of the street, the first thing I did was get up (noticing that I wasn’t hurt) picked up my bike and moved it out of the way, noticing that the front fork was turned left off its axis, the turn signal was in pieces and gas was coming out of the top of the tank from the gas cap (I later learned that moving the bike first thing was probably the wrong thing to do, but more on that later). I tried to yell in Chinese at the driver of the scooter to get up but he continued to stare blankly turning to look at his leg occasionally. So I ran over to his scooter and moved it out of the middle of the road as well, which finally prompted him to get out of the road. This is about when the arguing started.

Scene of the accident

You can see the shirtless victim of our accident with his pant leg conveniently rolled up

I was surveying my bike when he started gesturing to his leg. I looked at it and could see that it was sufficiently battered and bloodied. Nothing looked broken however but he was feigning a bit of a limp, making sure to keep his pant leg rolled up so everyone could see the blood. In Chinese he started yelling at me, “What are you going to do about my leg? What are you going to do about my vehicle?” to which I would reply that it wasn’t my problem because he was driving down the wrong side of the road. At this point a curious crowd of Chinese was forming, intent on watching a foreigner arguing with a Chinese. A couple of locals chimed in in my defense telling him that I was right, he shouldn’t have been driving that way. One lady then realized this guy was hopeless and told me to call my insurance and the police and let them deal with it. I agreed and started to ignore my instigators’ continued yells, and first called my friend, David, who was still in the office above and whose Chinese was much better than mine.

While we waited, the crowd started to thin out. When David arrived, most of the people were gone other than a couple curious workers. David started to quickly survey the situation, got our sides of the stories, realized the guys on the scooter were not going to give in and called the cops (1-1-0 in China instead of 9-1-1). Just as David was calling, the driver of the scooter suddenly came over and started saying not to worry about it, just forget it, there was no need for the police. Odd given how insistent he had been 5 minutes earlier. After about 20 or 30 minutes the police car finally arrived. He first asked the other guy what had happened, to which he started explaining how he was driving down the road from the wrong direction when the cop immediately stopped him to ask again which way he was coming from, and when he got the same answer the cop just said, “So you were going down the wrong side of the road.” When the “but”s started coming the cop kept on interrupting emphasizing the obviousness of who was at fault. Soon the driver’s passenger piped in and started explaining how I was stopped at the exit as they were coming down the road and the cop again interrupted him and asked, “If he was stopped, how did he hit you?” And so, as quickly as they had been obstinately insisting on their innocence, the two on the scooter were quiet, with the driver curiously rolling his pant leg back down over his leg wound and the limp strangely starting to disappear.

My friend David, then asked the policeman out of curiosity who would take care of the repairs for my bike if it was indeed the other driver’s fault. To this the policeman took David aside and rather forcefully explained to us what the situation was. If I wanted to “go down that path” we would have to call my insurance, and since I was a motorcycle, which qualified as a car, and his a scooter, which qualified as a bike, it would be my insurance who would be responsible for all repairs and medical expenses. And this is how I got my lesson on “accident justice” in China.

Rule One:
Basically, in China, the bigger vehicle is always at fault. Had the other driver also been a motorcycle, he would have been entirely responsible for all repairs. However the rules don’t really cover the large range of sizes of vehicles that actually are on the road in China and thus you’re either classified as a car or a bike… and the bike always wins. My friend David had been in a similar situation a few years back where a bike literally ran into him while he was stopped. David got out of the car, helped him up and thought that was the end of it and went on his way. Soon he had been tracked down, the bike rider in a neck brace and David being charged with a hit and run. That brings us to the next rule…

Rule Two:
Don’t leave the scene of the accident, even if it looks like everyone is ok and you were not at fault. There can be serious repercussions for leaving, namely jail time from which the only escape is paying off the victim (In David’s case, the rider of the bike wanted 20,000 RMB which is about $3,000 USD. They managed to bargain him down to 3,000 RMB). When you’ve been in an accident, make sure you stick around and call the cops, which in China is 1-1-0.

Rule Three:
Be prepared for your argument. The mistake I made was thinking about safety first and getting us all out of the street. What I should have done was taken pictures of the whole scene exactly as it happened. Many people won’t even move the vehicles until the cops have arrived (this, in my opinion, is a major cause of much of Beijing’s congestion: stopped cars in the middle of busy intersections waiting for the police to arrive on the scene). Second, I should have gotten the phone numbers of a couple of witnesses. I was hoping they would stick around long enough and felt bad asking them to stay any longer than they needed to, but what I should have done is made sure we could contact them if the cops needed witnesses if our stories didn’t corroborate.

In the end, I was very lucky. If the other driver had been even a little more informed he would’ve known about the “car v. bike” situation, and would have pushed harder for compensation. I was also lucky as not only did I not have insurance, which the cop hinted he assumed to be the case, but since my license plate had been previously stolen, I had no physical plate nor a proper driver’s license. None of these the police officer made any effort to investigate, probably because of the paper work it would entail for him. But all of the these things, had the other driver been observant enough to recognize could have meant trouble for me, including large payouts, a large amount of time spent at hospitals as I would have to personally escort him for his damages, and even the confiscation of my bike. But, I was lucky, so as soon as the case seemed closed, I got out of there as quickly as possible and pushed my crooked bike down to the office garage for it to be stored until I could manage to hobble over to my mechanic and have everything straightened out.

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What it means to get picked up by a “tow truck” in China

Red Chinese Mianbao Che

A Chinese "Mianbao Che" or "Bread Car"

In Chinese, you call a tow truck a 拖车, or “Tuo1 Che1” which literally translates to “dragging vehicle”. However, as I recently discovered when I found myself in need of a “dragging vehicle” for my JinCheng 250, a tow truck isn’t quite the same in China as I’m used to back home. Looking back on it, that probably makes sense given that I can’t remember ever seeing an actual tow truck on the road in Beijing.

After being relegated to a bus commuter for nearly a week after my throttle some how disconnected in the middle of an intersection, I decided to call up my mechanic. Unfortunately, anyone who knows anything about motorcycles with anything more than an electric motor, has to maintain operations far out near the 5th ring road (about at least 10km from the center of the city) due to the foggy legal status of motorcycles in Beijing. So pushing my bike was not an option, and when I took off the grip and tried to fix the throttle cable on my own, I noticed upon pulling it that there seemed to be nothing connecting it to the motor on the other side anymore.

So I texted my mechanic (easier than calling in Chinese) and told him my situation: “不能加油!不能骑车!” or “I can’t add gas! I can’t ride the bike!” to which he immediately responded that he’d send a drag vehicle (it was already about 8:30 at night and I wasn’t expecting to get such immediate service). Not too long after, I got a call from someone that said he was coming over immediately, quoted me a price and told me to send him my address. By 9:00 I got a call to come downstairs, which is when I saw that the tow truck was not actually a tow truck at all but really just a “面包车” which translates to “Bread Car” because, as you can kind of see in the picture above, it kind of looks like a loaf of bread. (These vehicles by the way are notoriously unreliable.) So the driver took down the back seat and told me to ask a security guard to help us lift the bike into the back. After two security guards had come over, we had removed both mirrors and the rear luggage case, and we performed some fancy wiggling with my bike to get her in properly, the tow truck was ready to go! I made sure to take a picture of the guy’s license plate (just in case) and paid the man RMB 150 (roughly $23)  for the tow.

So, as with so many other things with life in China, though it may have been done by questionable means, the kind that makes you lift an eyebrow and ask yourself “Seriously?”, the job got done nonetheless and for cheap. 300 Renminbi (150 for the tow and another RMB 150 for the actual repairs) and less than 24 hours later I was back on the road!

If any of our readers happen to be living in Beijing and either looking for a bike, bike parts, or bike repairs, leave a comment or send me an e-mail at buck@rubberonroad.com and I’ll get you in touch with my motorcycle mechanic. He’s been incredibly reliable, affordable, and he’s very friendly!

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Review of the First China Motorcycle and Parts Exhibition in Beijing

To be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed by the expo. All in all there were certainly some very “Chinese” aspects about it. For one, the people running the more major sections didn’t quite seem to get the idea that the idea of having models at car and motorcycle shows is to actually accentuate the vehicles themselves. Instead, at one, for example, they just sort of set up a modeling show (see the the pictures below) where there was not a single motorcycle in site of the stage. Another had flare bar-tending, because of course what goes better with motorcycles than than a martini from a bottle that’s been spun around a lot! (In all honesty though, I kind of enjoyed the bar-tending)

There were some interesting set ups though, with some motorcycles with engines as small as 125cc but dressed up with fearing fairing made for a super-bike. Another cool one was a new Chinese company that had these cool retro-style and almost miniature (but still rideable) bikes.

Despite the show being a result of a trade talks between China and Italy it wasn’t easy to find the Ducati stand, but we eventually found it! Tucked away in the back behind several of the Chinese companies’ stages were several beautiful performance bikes including a massive one, the Ducati Diavel going for about 350k (Renminbi of course!)

There was supposed to be a dirt bike show out back too, which would’ve been really fun to watch, but unfortunately there had been some rain and so the show got cancelled.

Overall though, as with most things in China, it was a fun and interesting experience if for nothing else than to look at a whole bunch of motorcycles and to have a laugh at the difference between China’s version of a motorcycle expo and one that I went to back in New York’s Javits Center in 2010 (apparently Beijing’s Car Expo is much more impressive). I was disappointed that there was no Harley stand as advertised .

Below are some of the pictures I took of the show. And check out my intro write up for the motorcycle expo. Enjoy!

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The 2011 China International Motorcycle and Parts Convention

Tomorrow, July 2nd (Beijing local time), I will be attending the 2011 China International Motorcycle and Motorcycle Parts Convention, which will be held in the largest exhibition center in China, The China National Exhibition Center (or 国家会议中心) from July 2nd-4th. This convention is one of the major results of the China-Italy trade talks held in 2009. One of the major sponsors of the event is the China Chamber of Commerce as well as the Italian Motorcycle association and it will be hosted by the China-Italy Motorcycle Exhibition (Beijing) Co., Ltd.

Since this will be in such a huge exhibition center (located right next to the “Bird’s Nest”- The Olympic Stadium from 2008), there’s going to be no shortage motorcycle and motorcycle parts companies on show here. Of course there will be plenty of Chinese companies including Jincheng, the makers of my very own Chinese motorcycle, but the major global players will also be present including Ducati and Harley Davidson.

I’ll be tweeting from the show and trying to post as many pictures as possible. So for live updates of the exhibition tomorrow, follow us @rubberonroad08 (you can also click on our twitter feed in our sidebar), and if you like what you’re seeing, don’t forget to share the love and retweet!

Circles always end up where they started (only in Australia they go reverse): Final days of the erotic tails (pun intended) of Karl and Yaegan’s motorcycle trip around Australia

Day Twelve.

We woke up to dark, gray storm clouds looming over us, and the sky hanging heavy with rain. We packed up as quickly as possible, said goodbye to the stream of much frolicking, and got a move on. According to the maps, we still had a little bit of gravel ahead of us, and we were pretty scared of the idea of that turning into mud, and us having to push some bloody heavy bikes through mud. Add to this our fear of running out of fuel, and we were moving pretty quick smart. Thankfully, we made it over the gravel section without incident, and into the nearest town about sixty ks away at about eight in the morning, just in time for the servo to open. We rode past dozens of “lakes” that had appeared where an entire paddock had been flooded.

We rode on, going straight into some black-as-night skies. Oddly enough, seeing this made me reflect on how perfect the weather had been for the whole trip so far, which made me feel quite happy. This feeling was to last about forty minutes, until the skies opened and it pissed down upon us. We stopped in at the nearest town, which was thankfully fully equipped with a wine bar. We were watching the weather radar maps on Yaegs’ non-branded-internet-capable telephone (it’s actually a HTC), and working out whether or not to stay and wait out the rain, or chance it. The maps said that we’d be missing the brunt of the downpour, so we put on our wet weather gear (not a euphemism for condoms) for the first time, and headed out. As predicted by the Gods of the Bureau of Meteorology (divinity yet to be ascertained), we only had gray skies, with no rain. The roads were pretty slick though, and we were back in caravan country, which led to some annoying patches of riding stuck behind a slow moving large vehicle.

We passed on to the Alpine Way, which was simply tremendous riding. We were a bit cautious with the wet roads, so we eased ourselves into things. A dickhead in a hotted-up ute (utility truck, which have somehow, inextricably, become a fashion statement in certain pools of Australian society) tried to race us by sitting tight on our tail for a few corners. This scared us, as we knew that if we came off, we’d have some bogan in a shrine to redneck society crushing us within milliseconds . We didn’t rate our chances of hopping off the bike, having a chinwag and explaining our position, and so we decided to speed up to get away from him.

On the Alpine Way, I saw my second kangaroo on the road of the trip. When I bought the bike, it came with a kangaroo whistle, which is essentially a hollowed out tube stuck on near the front of the bike, which claims to channel in air, at speed, and emit a super-sonic whistle that ‘roos don’t like. I was skeptical at first, but when I came out of the corner and saw the ‘roo on the road, it immediately snapped it’s head towards me, then bounded off into the shrub at the side of the road. Was it the whistle, or was it an inline three screaming at 8000 revs? Who knows. At least I didn’t crash into a metre and a half of a disemboweling maching.

We blitzed the road, had a little rest at Thredbo, then passed right through Jindabyne and had a stop at Cooma. After the afternoon tea of champions (meat-pie), we gave a mate in Canberra a quick call, checked that we were right to crash with him then smashed out the last bit of distance. We were now getting pretty close to home.

Day Thirteen.

We woke up and decided to try to leave Australia’s Most Boring City (not the official tourist slogan) quick smart. Canberra is the home to Australia’s federal parliament, where our not-rulers (the Queen is still the head of state) are located – as a trade off for having to host so many politicians, Canberra is the only place in Australia where the discerning consumer can buy both fireworks and XXX rated pornography. Fair trade? The entire city is built as a system of concentric circles, which means that it does look very nice from the air, but has the drawback of every single place being so far away from every other point of interest. Add to this the fact that the bus (singular) doesn’t run very regularly, and it doesn’t sum to much of a café culture. It was pissing down, so we decided to take the main road out of town – straight, wide, high-speed, but the safest road possible, given the appalling conditions. We had about an hour and a half ride to Goulburn, which wasn’t overly pleasant.

At Goulburn, Yaegs and I parted ways – he was off to see his dad, who lived south of Sydney near Wollongong, while I was going to meet up with my girlfriend and a few of her mates in the Blue Mountains out to the west of Sydney. Thankfully, about thirty ks out of Goulburn, the clouds disappeared away, to be replaced by a blazing hot sun, meaning that I had to stop by the side of the highway to take some clothes off (how the other half live!).

The roads for today were all pretty ordinary – big highways with not too many interesting features. I was hoping that the Blue Mountains might offer something up, but sadly there was roadwork all along the road, keeping the speed down.

I met up with Gel at a microbrewery in Leura, where we bought a few locally-made American Pale Ales, and assorted deli stuff. I had picked up some strawberries out near Camden, and we had a fantastically relaxing afternoon, comprised mainly of lying on a picnic rug eating strawberries and drinking nice beer. Bliss. I also finally had a chance to put my extensive speedo collection to work, and had a quick dip under the waterfall. Double bliss.

Day Fourteen.

Today was the shortest day of the trip, and the one that I came the nearest to a bad tumble. I was aware that I might get complacent, being so close to home and riding familiar roads, so I gave myself the little pep talk about every other driver being mad, etc. The roads were full of filthy feds, so I kept the speed legal. This meant that some wanker in an electric green ute (seriously? He must be able to see it, surely …) started getting closer and closer to my tail. I waved him past with one hand, not really sure why he was doing what he was doing. He didn’t move, just stayed right on me. I had had enough of his bullshit, so, with a quick twist of the throttle, jumped about 40 ks an hour or so, overtook a number of cars then moved back into the left lane, hoping that he wouldn’t try anything more. After about a minute, he overtook in the right lane, and just stared at me. Dickhead number one!

Dickhead number two came on the Anzac bridge, which links the inner-western suburbs of Sydney with the CBD. I was sitting about a metre in front of a van, who decided that it’d be a good reason to move into my lane, to hell with a bike already in it, in front of the van. I honked the horn and accelerated to get away from the wank.

Sooner than soon, I was back in the eastern suburbs, getting frustrated by the low speed, the constant traffic lights and the boring roads. Home sweet home.

All the Adrenaline of a Mr. T Public Service Announcement! Days 10 and 11 of Karl and Yaegan’s Manly Motorcycle Meandering through OZ!

Day Ten.

We woke up with the sun rising right behind the wind-farm. So much serenity. Things were going well – we were on the home straight, the weather had been fantastic, and we hadn’t even been getting on each other’s tits. Taking quick stock of the situation, we aimed to be in Milawa in the evening. We had some glorious riding in the morning through some lush grounds, with twisting, turning, ducking and weaving roads. We decided that after slumming it for a few days, we may as well spend a bit more and enjoy this tail end of the trip even more.

We had brekky at a lovely little café just near Ballarat, then pushed on to Seymour (SEYMOUR!). We drove past Puckapunyal, which led to an inordinate amount of us singing “I was only 19”. We got into Seymour (SEYMOUR!) about lunchtime, and headed straight to the RSL club, where we spent an enjoyable half-hour enjoying pub squashes and picking dragonflies, butterflies and flies out of our helmets, clothes and boots.

We thought that the sooner we were in Milawa (“The pearl of the gourmet region!”), the better. This meant a 200 click trip up a highway, in a heat of over 40 degrees C (which is quite hot). We knuckled down, hugged tight to the bikes, and blasted it up. Around 150 ks in, I had a lucky break – a filthy cop had been operating a speed camera, but thankfully caught someone driving about half a k in front of me. It did give me a start, and riding the last 50 ks at the legal limit made it that much more unpleasant. When we finally turned off the highway, the changes started slowly. The roads went from arrow-straight to slight curves, from exposed ovens to little country boulevards, with both sides of the road housing a number of gums. We soon got into Milawa, found a lovely B&B run by a denim-hotpant wearing German man (a never-nude, perhaps?). We spent about half an hour in the pool, just sitting and enjoying our good fortune. We would’ve happily paid the night’s rent just for the pool – I think that he would have actually offered us the pool for free, as we were quite smelly by this time. After showers and quick naps, we set off on foot to the nearest winery, then to another winery, then finally to a cheese factory. We spent the arvo lazing around, talking shit and eating a very nice brie.

Day Eleven.

Right from the outset, I knew that today would be good. We decided to take a longer route (there’s a first time for everything), add an extra four hundred kilometres onto the day, all in the name of good roads. We decided to go south through the Great Alpine Road down to Omeo, then take a back-road up to the base of Kosciuszko National Park.

Mount Buffalo

Mount Buffalo- Right before the ascent up the mountain

On a hot tip-off from my mum, we took a little detour in the morning to go up Mount BUFFalo (my emphasis). In the manner of responsible, respectable and above all, reasonable young adults, Yaegs and I had a little race up to the top. The path was fantastic – lots of sharp corners, hairpins and straights. The view was jaw-dropping – often, you’d be going up a road with a sheer rockface on one side, and a thirty metre drop on the other. There was thankfully very little traffic on the roads, as we would have been forced to overtake them in an entirely irresponsible manner had they been there. The only concern was the leaf-litter left on the road as a remnant of the recent rain (how’s that for alliteration!) – I had heard that if you rode over it, you’d slide everywhere (“Like a bitch”, as it was first explained to me), and my brain thankfully immediately constructed scenarios that led to me running the back over some debris, low-siding, then flying over the edge, to be crushed rather ingloriously by my own motorbike. About two-thirds of the way up, we saw two cyclists battling against the incline, so, in the spirit of camaraderie, we slowed to their speed (essentially have to grind the back anchor and ride the clutch), lifted the visors, then gave a spirited “Allons-y!”, before taking off at high speed – that definitely ought to have lifted their spirits. Sooner than soon, we made the summit (at least the summit that can be reached by motorbike), had a lovely picnic, then were off down again. Oddly enough, going down always seems so much faster (tee-hee) than going up (not sure how I can make that last one sexual). We stopped for some strawberries and cream by the side of the road, which did make me feel pretty tough.

The Great Alpine Road

The Great Alpine Road- Some say it's even better than the Great Ocean Road!

The Great Alpine Road was simply astounding. I’d rate it above the Great Ocean Road, for a number of reasons. First, there were fewer cars about (and hence, fewer dickheads taking up the road and driving far too slowly). Second, I preferred the scenery – giant ghost-gums loomed over the road, with their twisted, gnarled branches shaking like the fingers of an old crone. Third, you had more of a sense of altitude – instead of bobbing up and down, but ultimately staying within 50 metres of the sea, here, you just climbed, climbed and climbed. For me, there was an odd sense of accomplishment to that (imagine how much more accomplished I’d feel if I had actually cycled it). Fourth, there was a lot more variation in the road and the riding that it demanded – whilst the Great Ocean Road was all about tight corners and narrow hair-pins, the Great Alpine Road mixed things up – tight corners would be followed by long straights, which would be followed by long, sweeping corners. Fifth, it was a lot longer (har har har – and yes, that is what I look for in a ride) – whilst the GOR had about 40 ks of riding, the GAR was a good hundred ks.

We got into Omeo in the mid-afternoon, which allowed us to savour that sweetest of delights, that most delectable of treats, the double-pie-AND-sausage-roll lunch. I was struggling a little with the second pie, but again, thinking of my accomplishment in ascending the GAR earlier that day, I just knuckled down. Also, I finally got around to buying some earplugs for the rest of the ride – better late than never. Someday, they’ll invent a helmet that blocks out the wind, but not the important noises (traffic, horns, cars, etc.), and that doesn’t fog up, but until that day, I’ve got my earplugs. And only forty cents! Bargain! The plan from Omeo was to ride on up to somewhere near Kosciuszko, but we were a little uncertain – the maps we had brought indicated that there were some patches of unsealed road on the road, which wouldn’t be much fun. The only alternative, however, was to ride back up the GAR, which, although fun, we had just done. As Zappa once said, “Man was born to have adventures”, so we kept on trucking up the side-road.

Sadly, the road wasn’t quite as good as we’d hoped. It got skinnier, going down to a lane and a half (from two lanes earlier), the edges started to fall away, until, shock horror (!), we hit the gravel section. We had seen some big-arse storm clouds gathering, and were about halfway through our tank of fuel, and didn’t appreciate having to slow down and ride like muppets on gravel. I’ve heard a mate who said that he took his SV1000 up to 160 on dirt running Road Pilot 2s but I was too scared (/clever?) to risk that. Yaegs’ back was playing up a bit, so he needed to take some time off to stretch it out. This meant slow, tedious riding. We had about 5ks of gravel, then back onto sweet sweet blacktop. Sadly, this only lasted about 10 ks. We had another 20 k section of gravel, which was just painful. During our last break, Yaegs and I decided to re-evaluate our plan, and to stop at the next nice place and settle down for the evening. Sadly, nothing came up to break up the gravel. It was welcome relief to get back onto a proper sealed road and get some speed up. The road started to get interesting again, with some nice sharp corners. During one, I was lined up, leaning in, when I suddenly felt this mad crazy buzzing in my left breast. I first thought that it was a heart attack, which led to me panicking (some say like a little girl), and slowing right down after the corner. The buzzing stopped, but the started up again after a second. I realised that some insect had gotten inside my jacket, so I madly started smacking my chest with my left hand, which not only stopped the buzzing, but also probably made me look quite tough to anyone who was watching. About four in the arvo, we found a fantastic camp-spot – a beautiful open glade, next to a quick running stream. Despite our showering only yesterday, we took the arvo off to frolic in the stream and relax after a rough gravel section.

Two Men and Their Motorcycles, Stuck in a Heatwave with Nothing but their Speedos (and their Leather and Kevlar Body Armor): Day 8 + 9 of the Ride Through Australia!

Day Eight

We woke up with the sun and desperately in need of petrol (gas, for the trans-Pacific friends). We reckoned that stores wouldn’t open until around 9-ish, so we packed up the tent, lest any trigger-(or, as is the more likely case, ticket-) happy ranger rolled round, and wiled away the time reading – I love the smell (???) of popular econometrics in the morning – smells like victory (??? throughout). We wound our way back along KI, and bought some dreadfully expensive fuel that let us catch our 11 AM ferry back to the mainland.

Today marked the turn-around of the trip – from here on in, every day would bring us closer to Sydney. Given that neither of us had showered in several days, this didn’t seem like the worst thing in the world. Given that both Yaegs and myself are predisposed to the predilection of wearing speedos instead of undies, we were both fresh and tropical, though still seeing the need for a wash sometime soon.

We stopped in at a winery along the Flerurieu Way when going up to Wellington, and picked up a fucking piquant as shit (apologies to xkcd) Reisling, which we saw as a nice little way to celebrate the turning point of our trip. Sadly, we overestimated our ability to keep this cheeky number as cool as it deserved for the rest of the day, which unfortunately coincided with the start of the worst of the heatwave.

The riding along the Fleurieu Way was fantastic – nipping into corners and blasting over crests, with diverse and beautiful scenery. One minute we were ripping past paddocks, the next we were going through scrub, then even some rain-forest-esque scenes. We stopped in at Victor Harbor, where one scum-hole proprietor of a bakery (you know who you are) denied us a powerpoint to charge our phones. We played with the idea of taking our custom elsewhere, but settled for a pie and custard tart. After a lazy break, we went along our merry way – sadly, once we passed Wellington, things rapidly took a turn for the boring. We had heard from a useful tradie that the road we had planned to use was “bullshit” (I, too, have often doubted the veracity of inanimate objects), and so we were going along a semi-major highway. High-speed, low-interest.

We met up in the lovely town of Keith (from the name alone, we decided that we had to visit – it was a similar story with Seymour – read on), and went into the local to have some dinner and a beer or two. Calamity ensued when the television feed went down for two minutes, depriving the locals not only of cricket, but far more importantly, Keno (gambling on the flip on twenty simulated coins). Thankfully, the publican was able to restore the signal before anyone was able to develop a meaningful relationship or conversation with their co-drinkers. Crisis averted! Another exciting development was when a really fat lady swore her tits off at the members of the local lawn-bowls team. Keith had a lot going on, really.

Camping aside the A66 Highway

Sleeping aside the A66 Highway, how's the serenity? So much serenity

We headed back onto the A66 (Duke’s Highway!), looking for a side-road that we could sneak down to find a decent place to bunker down for the evening. We travelled about twenty k’s down the road, and still saw the same properties on either side of the road. I was reminded about the sheer size of Australia, with the length of these properties bringing to mind cattle stations that are bigger than France, or electorates bigger than all of Western Europe piled together. We soon decided that, with failing light, beggars couldn’t be choosers (a similar mindset for when we’re trying to pull girls), and so camped on the side of the highway. Oddly enough, it was one of the best nights of sleep I had on the trip.

We opened the Reisling, which was by now somewhere a few degrees on the wrong side of room temperature. See it as a testament to the willpower/poor taste of university students that the bottle was drunk. We stayed up a little past the sunset to watch more of the night-sky, spot satellites and talk shit.

Day Nine

We had planned this day as a fun way to break up the trip. We planned to ride up North through the Grampian National Park, then head a bit further East and kip down for the evening, with the goal of putting ourselves within striking distance of Milawa, the heart of the Victorian gourmet region for the next day.

We were now well and truly into the heat wave, and, given that we didn’t shower yesterday and were sweating like motherbitches all day, we decided to do our utmost to avoid the heat of the day. With best intentions, we set our alarms for before sunrise, which meant that we were well and truly able to wake up about an hour past sunrise. We quickly packed up, said goodbye to the rare and refined beauty that you can only perceive after sleeping on the side of a major highway, and rode along. We crossed over the border into Victoria about half eight or so, and celebrated by being served breakfast by quite possibly the grumpiest corner store lady known to mankind. Although we attempted to immolate her in a firewall of charm, as is our wont, she simply retarded the flames of charm with a blanket of asbestos-laded ill-humour. She also made rubbish hamburgers (we were both doing Samuel L. Jackson impressions à la Pulp Fiction, which I suppose was facetious, given just how un-tasty the burgers were).

We headed off, and stopped at the Southern tip of the Grampians around lunchtime. After the long stretch of highway riding, it was a beautiful relief to get back onto smaller, twistier roads. We were both amazed to see the extent of the flood damage that still existed, with portions of the road gone, branches and limbs of trees strewn to the side of the road, and large sections of pastures either ruined or still flooded. The morning’s ride had been good, and the Grampians were just beautiful. The road snaked and scythed through massive stretches and slabs of rock (possibly granite?), and we had the road to ourselves. However, the day was getting unbearable, so we stopped halfway up the Grampians in a campsite for a few hours to wait out the heat. We read, made some tea, attempted to flirt with a ranger (with limited success, which we put down to her professionalism, rather than our poor grooming and hygiene), and just generally lazed. We rolled out around four, and snuck through small back-country roads that were the most amazing mash of block-colours – the red of the earth was beautifully weighted against the most intense sky-blue, with the two separated by a golden band of wheat.

We peeled off the road a few hours before dark, and rode for about twenty k’s trying to find a quiet place to sleep, though farmhouses kept on popping up at all f the best locations. We eventually found a side dirt road, which led us just far enough off the road to feel comfortable enough to pitch a tent. This was another day without a shower, and instead of trying to write about the smell, I’ll just describe the inputs and let you do the rest. Several days of no showering? Check. A heat wave with temperatures easily above 40 degrees Celcius? Check and Check! Spending days in the sun wearing leathers and Kevlar jeans? Check. Yum yum!

Wheat field campsite

And what a campsite! Notice the wheat damaged by flooding on the right