Day Eight: We Survived
The pounding rain on the window was enough to indicate this would be a rough day of riding, but we had no idea what we were in for later on. We naively thought the rain might let up after our peanut butter toast and coffee. It was still hammering the pavement as we strapped our packs to the bikes (after having to run to the hardware store and buy an overpriced replacement bungee since someone stole ours ?).
Within twenty minutes out on the road, I was soaked through and through—my protective motorcycle jeans offering no protection from water. The rain isn’t so bad on the bikes since they handle well as long as you don’t go too fast but the visibility and the wind chill are the worst for me. You have to decide whether to keep the helmet visor up and keep blinking away the stinging rain, or keep it down and risk fogging up and using your hand as a windshield wiper every few minutes.
Byron Bay wasn’t too far away, and we couldn’t bear the thought of another bored day in Yamba, so we stuck to the local roads to avoid the highways. This was all fine and good (despite the being soaked and cold part), until a sign came into view that said GRAVEL ROAD AHEAD – ADJUST SPEED TO CONDITIONS.
My heart sped up and my hands gripped tighter and I cursed everything I could think of. I freaking HATE sand and gravel on the bikes and Byron would second that after having to wait for me every time we hit a small bit of it. So basically this was my worst fear. Sure enough, my nice solid pavement gave way to dirt, rocks, mud, puddles and sand. Byron zoomed ahead confidently while I putted along at 10kph with my legs extended on either side to brace for slips. Every time I rounded a bend at my snails pace, I groaned and cursed more as I saw more dirt.
Because it was raining, the dirt had turned into thick mud, maybe two inches thick or more. Our motorcycles are street bikes, with smooth tires, low fairings, and little shocks. These babies are not meant for off-roading, yet I applauded Berry every time I regained control after a slide.
After what seemed like ages (about 8km), I saw Byron ahead at an intersection and chugged along to meet him. Both roads had dirt as far as we could see and the signpost said 18km to Lawrence and 18km to the Pacific Highway. Surely it couldn’t go on that long as dirt, so we picked the highway route to get us to Byron. The thick mud through the bikes in all directions and it took every ounce of focus to regain control and keep moving forward. Byron went ahead faster and it wasn’t for a minute or two until I caught sight of him again. He was covered in mud on his right side, and my eyes went to Kiwi to see the damage. She was caked with mud and the backpacks were dangling off dragging in the sludge. I parked as best as I could in the unstable dirt and ran to Byron to make sure he was okay after his fall. He was fine and had lifted the bike up, so we did what was necessary and got the bags strapped back on, and carried on.
I had only gotten back on my bike for a second before I saw Byron go down again on the same side. I shut off my engine and ran again to help lift the bike up. Byron was okay and the bike wasn’t cracked, just absolutely caked in the thick mud, including the tires.
A couple drove by in a car and we asked how much further it went on like this. Sixteen kilometers in one direction and seventeen in the other. Our hearts sank as we realized the magnitude of the situation. Without any choice, we just strapped the bags on again and Byron told me to lead since clearly I was going an appropriate speed and hadn’t fallen.
I pressed on at 10kph, or even less in the thick parts, channeling all of my efforts into keeping the bike upright and checking my mirrors to make sure Byron was doing the same. You can do the math but I’ll tell you traversing 16km at 10kph is a very long and frustrating time—muscles tense, neck stiff, water dripping down your back, and mud covering your boots. The path took us past fields and farms, an entirely submerged bridge, and finally more mail boxes and driveways that have hope for the eventual pavement.
I shouted in praise for all paved roads of the world and carried on to the Pacific Highway. Our next challenge was figuring out how to keep up on the 110kph highway with bikes that were covered in slippery mud and visibility close to zero. After a brief powwow at a pull off, we decided to carry on as this was our only road to Byron, with our hazard lights on and focus on reading signs for Woodburn as both our phones stopped working in the rain. I thought to myself how easily I’d remember Woodburn as all I wanted was a warm fire with burning wood.
We probably pissed off all the cars traveling north that day as we were going forty below the speed limit, but the important thing is that we miraculously arrived safely in Byron Bay an hour later—shivering, soaking wet, mud bathed, and exhausted. We pulled into a car wash to help our poor bikes get mud-free again. Three cycles weren’t even enough to scrape it all off, but it was better.
We pulled into our hostel, the Byron Bay YHA, and checked in, looking like we had come from hell and back. The receptionists probably laughed when we said we came from Yamba—a mere hours drive on the highway.
After the most needed shower of my life, we warmed up with a hostel barbecue dinner, and some well deserved beers and cookies. I was happy falling asleep knowing the bikes were in the covered garage as I heard the rain drops fall.
April 24, 2018
Accommodation: Byron Bay YHA, $23
Food and Drink: $12
Distance Covered: 150km