and  the


2 Brothers
 2 Motorcycles
  7 Months
   4 Continents
    30 Countries

a travel tail




May 2011

My last evening in Kupang I sat with a cold bintang looking out from the beach and tried to come to terms with the end of my adventure. This really was it. The last day of riding overseas on Betsy. Sure, I still had to get home from Darwin, and that would be an adventure in itself, but this was the last day ‘on the road’ so to speak. It was with a little sadness I must admit, that I went to sleep that evening.


I’m always saying, ‘bikes are people too’, and Betsy must have sensed my sadness, because the next morning, all loaded up in the carpark of the hotel, after I shook hands with the owners and hit the starter, she half turned over, made a metallic ‘crack’ and wouldn’t turn again.


Yes, with just 400km left to travel, after a 73,000km trip, my bike seized.  I tried the regular things, thinking it might have fried another starter relay, but no joy, even in top gear with 3 of us pulling at the rear wheel, it wouldn’t turn over.


I couldn’t believe it.


Amidst frustrating suggestions from the locals of how to get it running, I calmly took off my helmet and riding suit, and thought about the situation.


I already knew Betsy was tired. When Paul got his bike apart months earlier, the state of the engine was a real worry, and mine had now done another 20,000km since then!


I had a container booked for 3 days time, and a flight the following day to meet Lucie in Darwin.


I knew the timing chain would be badly stretched, so thought it might have broken or jammed, otherwise the pistons must have been badly worn too, so possibly a broken piston or piston ring had jammed things.


Either way, i thought it was terminal.  I called Paul to discuss the problem, and then reasoned that it was going to need parts that would take weeks to get there, so I arranged a truck to take me to Dili.


This being Indonesia, and me being a tourist, the locals saw dollar signs, and knowing I was in a bind the best they could offer me was a truck that night, at the grand price of $500! SHIT! But the was really no other choice, I could try shopping around for a better price, but the way of the world in these places is such that the local mafia organises things, and no one will undercut another local.


It was mid morning by then, so with the rest of the day to wait for a truck I set about dismantling the engine to try to diagnose the problem, that way I could order parts to be in Darwin for when I arrived, and at least ride the thing home to Adelaide.


I removed both engine side covers, the clutch assembly, the spark plugs (radiator etc out too), the cam covers and the cams from one cylinder… there were parts scattered over the carpark of the hotel. It was hot, I was in the full sun, I was not pleased.  Then it started to rain.


Not happy.


Towards the end of the day, having been pulling and pushing on the engine forwards and backwards for hours, it finally turned amidst a series of metallic clicks and clacks, which I thought sounded like a piston hitting valves.


Disgusted with this end to things and with a truck arriving in 2 hours I threw the mess back together, and stood looking at Betsy muttering profanities under my breath about how crap this was. 


She seemed to be teasing me, urging me to try the starter button, but I resisted for some time.  All those un natural noises coming from the engine might mean a real mess if I cranked it on the starter.


Eventually though the temptation got the better of me, and I tapped the starter to see if it might turn freely. Well… It not only turned but it fired and idled, (not very well as the airbox wasn’t on it), but it was there running in front of me, it felt like Betsy was mocking me.


Eventually I came to terms with what had happened.  Betsy didn’t want to go home, so she refused to budge.  Then realizing that I was going to put her on a truck for the run to Dili, she reasoned that if things had to end, then better to do it on her own steam than on a truck, and so she silently coaxed me into trying her one last time.


Bikes are people too you know.


I considered the possibility that she might seize again on the way there, and then I considered the $500 fingering I was going to get for the truck, and promptly cancelled the truck in the fading daylight hours, and went to bed for a sleepless night of wondering what the next day would bring.


So it was still dark when I roused and walked out to the carpark still in my underwear and put the key in and hit the starter.   Boom boom boom she idled happily right away as if nothing had ever happened.  I patted the tank and left it running while I went to pack and load up.


It was a repeat of the previous day as the hotel staff came out to see me off, and I rode out and along the esplanade talking to betsy…


“now girl, we have only 420km to go, I promise to be nice to you if you get me there, I won’t do a wheelie all day, I won’t turn you off so you don’t need to make that awful metallic noise you usually do when the oil pressure is building, and I’ll even put premium fuel in your tank. 


Now let’s finish this thing properly hey”


I patted the tank and gingerly rode out of Kupang. 


It felt brilliant, after the bitter disappointment of the previous day, the frantic disassembly and reassembly, the negotiation for a tow truck and finally having her start again, we were on the road again, under our own steam.


Never give up. 




The ride was like the rest of my Indonesian experience in that it rained on and off all morning, but in the afternoon the skies cleared and I was at the East Timor border 250km from where i'd started that morning, just in time for all the border officials to have gone to lunch for 2 hours - 5mins before i arrived.


I sat in a little warung in no-mans-land and ate some noodles chatting with locals and hoping betsy would start when the time came.  I needn’t have worried though as it all went to plan, I processed immigration in the tiny huts still being used while a massive new facility was in construction alongside, wondering who was going to be coming through here in the future.


The last 150km to Dili was fun, the road was gravel in some long sections, but I enjoyed all of it in the way you only can when you know it’s going to be the last time you get to do something for a long time.


I stopped on the outskirts of Dili choking back some silent tears and actually stood on the side of the road and hugged my motorcycle.  We’d been through a lot in that past year and I thought she deserved some love for getting me there intact.


The next few days was a bit of a blur, but essentially I spent a full day and half the next, pressure washing betsy in preparation for quarantine in Australia, then loaded her into a 20 foot container, before boarding a flight to Darwin.


Home sweet home...