After our foray on the sandy tracks yesterday, Day 8 started with a lengthy thorn removal and puncture repair session leaving us with a later start to the day. Just 9km into our day we had the tools out again before the bitumen started 1km further on. With the ‘shortest path’ option turning in to a dead-end yesterday, we had a lengthy discussion at the turn to Mileura station about our options – a more direct track on the maps with signage indicating it may not be passable, or a much longer detour, albeit on bitumen roads. Gun shy after having to lose time and backtrack yesterday we chose to knuckle down and crank out a heap if km’s over two days via the town of Cue and then the Great Northern Highway to Meekatharra. We rolled 80km before lunch keeping up a good pace. Passing through “The Gap” in the Weld Range, we zoomed past Glen Station with their airstrip alongside the road and on to an overnight camp at Afghan Rock after 133km of riding.
We woke on Day 9 to see yet another flat tyre, a big bowl of oats, a coffee (Café Craig) and then off for 42km to the little town of Cue. We had a brief chat to some travellers about our ride and raising funds for Cancer, found a real coffee (well Café Craig doesn’t froth the milk!! Haha!) and a muffin at the roadhouse before setting off to tackle the 115km to Meekatharra. Our UHF’s let us in on some funny conversations between truckers – like working out who owes what from last night’s drinks – but today we heard “watch out for a couple of muppets on bikes up ahead”. We replied that we thought muppets was an endearing term and thanked them for looking out for us … the radio went silent at that point! At the 100km mark we stopped for lunch and then it was 20km bursts counting down the k’s to Meeka. The long featureless flat roads, headwinds and fatigue can get you, so we have some little mental tricks to help us along. Breaking the distance into smaller pieces as the day wears on gives us little wins as we cross off each section and it seems to make things go quicker and easier.
With 60km to Meeka it started raining and the winds got stronger. The roads trains just keep coming and with just 7.5km to town we came across the 4WD stopped on the side of the road. It seems the fuel gremlins we had experienced earlier in the trip were back. After numerous phone calls with the RAC and trying several things it seems we were destined to spend the night in the car after Tony and Annie were able to catch a lift to town and some accommodation, when along came Tom the mechanic. Out on nightshift, he decided our predicament was more important than his next job and he worked quickly in the pouring rain to get us mobile and escorted us into town for a very late set-up in the caravan park. Caroline and I eventually getting to sleep after midnight after 152km riding day in the cold rain and a jam sandwich for dinner.
Day 10 was a scheduled rest day in Meekatharra – a small town supporting surrounding gold mines – which also has ELS mechanical services and a couple mechanics from Brisbane would you believe. They diagnosed our fuel issue and also the source of a squeal under the bonnet and some parts were ordered for overnight delivery. Rain continued throughout the day and Caroline managed to get laundry happening while Craig was off sorting out car issues. Dinner at the pub was great before crashing on the pillow.
Day 11 saw the car fixed, bikes cleaned and readied for the next stage of the trip and some other chores completed. Tony, Annie and Caroline went to scare the local Foodworks grocery store staff as we stocked up for the next couple weeks along the Gunbarrel highway. With excess packaging disposed of, we managed to fit everything in – our freezer packed to the brim and both fridges full too. 175L of diesel and 200L of water filled and we’re ready for an early start tomorrow heading east to Wiluna.