20 September 2015
The track to Fowlers Bay turns off from the Eyre Highway after 5 km. A dirt road. Now I am not sure what caused the fracture to Ziflex but I know it was not cushy asphalt. Fowlers Bay requires a commitment to nearly 60 km of gravel road. This is gonna be good.
15 or so kilometres from Nundro along the Fowlers Bay road lies Coorabie. Off on the right of the road lies an enormous spread of buildings. A house, massive sheds, cottage, with an impressive array of every conceivable machine useful to a farmer, a transport company, a family. The place looks well run and organised. Not only is it a farm and quite possibly a transport company, it offers farm-stay possibilities. It smells of tig welding capabilities. I pull in.
A guy was changing out of overalls in one of the sheds as I pulled up. Showing him my problem he looks earnest but regretful. “If it were steel I could weld it in a jiffy” he explains. “But aluminium? I don’t have the equipment”. Just then the Boss turns up on a quad. “He’s the boss” points the well sunglassed man in high-viz clothing to the older man on the quad. “Maybe the boss has some ideas”.
We run usual barrage of questions.
“Ya need one of these” as the Boss points to the motor on the quad.
Laughing I say “Yeah, maybe, but it wouldn’t have saved my trailer”. The Boss has to agree.
“Ya do know they make bikes with motors doncha?”
“Yeah yeah, I know”
Since they offer farm accommodation we are asked where we stayed and how much we paid.
“Ya got ripped off!” when we tell them we paid 4$ each to camp in Nundroo. We point out we had no idea this place existed otherwise we’d have seriously considered camping here since it’s a far nicer place.
Lots of discussion follows about what to do.
“Ants will fix the fucker!” declares the Boss.
“Yeah, we call ‘im that on account ‘e’s that tall” holding a hand a bit above waist height. “Ceduna Fabrication, in Ceduna. Ants Brooks.”
“Who do I say recommended him?” I ask.
“Poggy, tell ‘im Poggy sent ya”
Although Poggy and his team have no tig welder they offer to transport Ziflex the next day to Ceduna. The four of us discuss various options and I seriously contemplate the wisdom of a major re-pack and sending Ziflex with Poggy to Ceduna.
We discuss making a brace although that would mean drilling the already weakened aluminium stays to bolt on the brace. It’s doable but also clear that no-one’s really enthusiastic about the idea. Besides Poggy says “Sunday rates are pretty high” with a twinkle in his eye.
Ultimately there is consensus that the temporary fix Rob and I have already done should be strong enough to make it to Ceduna, regardless of the 50 km of gravel road I’ll need to ride. It seems the well sunglassed man in high-visibility clothing has just finished grading the road from Fowlers Bay east to the Eyre Highway.
“Ya won’t ava problem. She’ll hold” concludes Poggy. “Ga en see Ants. He’ll fix it”
Classic larconic Australians – Aussies.
We continue towards Fowlers Bay.
Fowlers Bay is a lovely place though it’s as windy as fuck at the moment.
Massive sand dunes dominate the place. They dominate the horizon long before the town.
They dominate the brutal ride across salt flats where the wind tears at me uninterrupted.
They dominate the town, looming above the houses with ominous intent.
The dunes are alive and moving steadily north. The town of Fowlers Bay lies in the way and already some historic buildings have been swallowed.
Southern Australia is in constant battle with the elements. Eucla had to move from its coastal setting to the Hampton Tableland as dunes began to eat the town. The entire Great Australian Bite, all 800 km of Bunda Cliffs result from the Southern Ocean remorselessly eating away at it. And Fowlers, soon to suffer the same fate as Eucla: consumption by dunes. Gruesome fate.
Ziflex survived the journey. So far.
Rob, who’s been down at the kiosk, returns and says “Grab your trailer, I think I’ve found someone who can fix it!”
Happily startled I swiftly remove the Big Black Bag from Ziflex unhitch it from the bike and quickly follow Rob.
Down a small lane next to the kiosk is an unassuming shed. As we approach the lane a Hilux cautiously and carefully exits pulling a very large, impressive and clearly function-specific trailer. The lane is barely wider than the trailer. Once free we approach the shed.
I show the problem. “No worries. I can weld it up.” Say the young man.
Turns out he’s a boat builder by trade. A boat builder. Boats are mostly made of aluminium in these parts. The trailer which just left was a product of his. As is the boat trailer awaiting his attention in the shed. Ziflex looks decidedly tiny and vulnerable compared to the scale of the stuff in and around the shed.
As I sit in the kiosk but 30 m from the shed enjoying an icecream I ponder the fickle Gods who decide my fate. First to give me a potential trip-ending failure to an essential piece of equipment. And then, in the middle of nowhere where no one ever imagined a tig-welder could be found I am presented a highly competent tig-welder in the form of a boat builder.
Ominous hammering sounds make me nervous. One of the guys from the shed walks by and I ask “How’s it going, or shouldn’t I ask?” thinking of the hammering.
“Going? It’s finished. Ready. Go pick it up”
Sure enough, not only is it all welded up, they have painted it. 50$ later I have, according to the boat-builder a trailer “You won’t have any more problems with it. That weld’s good to go.” Referring to the route I planned. And it looks fantastic. Hard to see the difference between the original welds of the other arms and the new weld of the repaired one.
“The problem” continues the boat-builder “is that the grade of aluminium is too low for the load. There’s a lot of torsion and strain where the arms join the downtube. Ideally you need 5356 marine grade aluminium. Then it’d be strong enough”
I dutifully note this down. Cyklorama may want to know this information.
And I wonder: if it was just repeated travel strain which caused the failure how and when will the next failure occur for it should occur given the nature of the tracks and trails I’ll be riding and how long I’ll be on them.
I hope Cyklorama will send me new arms. Regardless, I’ll really need to get the arms strengthened in Adelaide.
I explore the dunes which dominate the town.
They are impressive. In some places really soft, in other places hard enough to drive on. John, an ardent buggy-kiter takes a spin.
It looks like a lot of fun though I’m sure there’s quite a bit of technique involved.
Standing on the top looking down at Fowlers the town looks small and vulnerable.
And doomed to a slow death by smothering though it will take a good number of years. The house nearest the dunes if for sale.
We make wicked jokes about why and the diminishing price as the dunes approach. Already bits of the town have disappeared. Wait long enough, joke the locals, and they’ll be able to reoccupy the town as it re-emerges from the sand decades later, perhaps longer.