Day 12: Nullarbor Roadhouse – Esperance

Dawn on the Nullarbor is a special kind of quiet.

This morning is particularly eerie, as without a hint of wind about, stepping outside I become the only moving thing in sight. Of course you could find the same state of things anywhere you were (provided you got up at an unreasonable enough hour) but this is special, because I can stand in the middle of the Eyre Highway, look both ways along the straight, flat bitumen that runs to the East and West horizons, and see nothing. The piece of tar on which I’m standing is the only sealed road from East to West this side of the Tropic of Capricorn, and there’s nothing but a thousand miles of desert between here and the next way across, a long way North. And yet, not a sound.

Most truckers won’t drive between dusk and dawn across spots like this because of the kamikaze wildlife that like to cross the roads at all times of night. I have a play around with my camera while the others get loaded up and we wait for Surly to open the store so we can grab some supplies.

Pickings are slim when it comes to foods fit for human consumption, so I conscript a lamington and a can of Red Bull into something that can masquerade as breakfast, and we get on with the day’s work.

We cross back into Western Australia not long after setting off, and continue the Fuel-Ride-Fuel-Ride-Fuel-Ride cycle pulling in at familiar stops along the way, and spotting occasional signs of life.

The day is mostly uneventful until about 30km out of Norseman I attempt to kick down a gear to overtake an unremarkable sedan in front of me, however when I go to pull in the clutch, the lever swings back to the bar and makes a light tink, before it starts to rattle back and forth, seemingly having been released from its previous arrangement with the rest of the motorcycle, under which it served some mechanical function. I now have no clutch. Deciding that there’s little point stopping in the sun on the side of the road to try and fix it, I coast towards the Norseman roadhouse in 6th, then repeatedly give the throttle a little blip and put some pressure on the gear lever, managing to drop the bike down into neutral in time to roll to a stop under a nice, shady tree outside the BP.

After quickly establishing that the problem doesn’t lie at the lever end, both the bike and I start disrobing, as I ditch my jacket and start unbolting the fairings from the side of the bike so that I can get to the other end of the clutch cable. By now my friends have started arriving with concern on their faces, but there is much joy all ’round when I find that the bolt holding the clutch cable sleeve in place has rattled off, leaving the lever slack. A bit of fiddling later, and having transferred a large amount of interstate dirt and grime from the motor onto my hands, and we’re back in business. The whole mess has only taken 20 minutes or therabouts, so we decide to leg it to Esperance for the night where we book into a hotel and scoot up to a lookout in time to see the sun go down and the clouds roll in.

We grab some dinner around the corner from the hotel, agree on a time to set our alarms for in the morning, and quite happily pass out in our allotted quarters.

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