The Australian Motorbike Adventure: Day Three – Port Stephens to Coffs Harbour
I woke up ten minutes before the alarm went off to the sound of chirping birds outside our window. Feeling refreshed, I jumped out of bed, slid into my running clothes and we went for an early morning jog along the sandy quad path down to Samurai Beach–clothing optional. The dunes spread out along the coast with little tufts of thick grass dotting the mounds. I could see a few jeeps way down at the other end of the beach and was satisfied with their distance as we wiggled out of our clothes and ran free right into the ocean in the nude. This had been on my bucket list for a while, so we basked in our glory and enjoyed the warm sun and cold waves for a bit and then ran back in our sandy clothes.
After breakfast and strapping our bags to the bikes, I turned the key, flipped the kill switch to ON, put the bike in neutral and hit the starter. Nothing happened but a horrible clicking buzzing noise. I checked everything over and tried again and still this noise that most definitely did not mean good things. We were in the jungle in a small seaside town and little to no mechanic skills. We figured it had something to do with the battery and quickly pulled open Youtube to save us. Luckily, we found a video about how to “push-start” your bike by rolling down a hill, or getting someone to push you from behind, then at a speed of 15km per hour, you have to “pop the clutch”, hit the starter, and roll on the throttle all at the exact same time. And, if it doesn’t roar to life, the bike stalls immediately and sends you into a skid. I did not like our odds, but it was our only option to try to get it going until we reached Coffs Harbour to have a mechanic look at it. Byron got onto the bike, I pushed from behind on the road outside our hostel. On “GO”, I ran and pushed as hard as I could while Byron kicked with his feet to get the bike up to speed. He tried the maneuver but stalled and he somehow maintained balance without skidding. We tried again and it stalled. Another time, now huffing and puffing and sweating all over and still the bike wouldn’t come back to life. Finally, one more go down a slight incline and pushing with all my might, Byron popped the clutch and the engine roared and I nearly had tears come to my eyes with joy. He zoomed off and I took a minute to catch my breath while a sweet old Aussie lady pulled over, very concerned with my well being as I “looked like I was going to pass out”.
With the bike running again, we refused to turn it off and headed out on both bikes–assuming the battery would recharge itself throughout the ride. We found out that the culprit of the dead battery was the stupid electric hand warmers that had been left on for two days. The ride was stunning and took us along vast fields, wooded forests, and quaint farmhouses. The roads were winding, but not hairpin turns, so I could actually enjoy leaning into them and rolling on the throttle. They were all small back roads too, so we had the space to ourselves as we zoomed past cows and lakes. However, after a few hours, the gas light went on and we had to pull off in the town of Bulahdelah (population 1200). We ate our leftovers while watching the school kids jump off the bridge into the river below, grandparents treating their grand-kids to ice cream cones and bikers looking out from the local hotel window over a pint. Since the bike had to be turned off in order to put in gas, we had no option but to hit the kill-switch, fill it with gas, and then try to push start again. This time there was a bit of a hill, so I pushed and Byron popped the clutch and had her up and running again in one go. I was praying this was the last time we’d have to do that.
We enjoyed more beautiful roads along the Lakes Way, which carried us past all the Great Lakes and the ocean coast. Soon we had to stop to stretch and take off the helmets at a rest stop. We kept the engine idling, but I pulled away, I shouted to Byron to put up the kick stand since I knew this would kill the engine immediately. Of course he couldn’t hear me with the ear plugs and helmet on and sure enough, he forgot the kick stand and the engine came to a halt. I groaned and dutifully got behind the bike and pushed the bike across the rest stop parking lot–looking foolish as ever. The first try almost put the bike into a full skid, but by the second go down the exit ramp, Byron managed to get it going. Another hundred kilometers of highway riding to make up for lost time and we were dying for a stretch. The highway is quick, but so windy and monotonous that it can be hard for bikes. We pulled off in the Port Macquarie rest stop–which made us think about the two months we spent working at the hostel here. Feeling no need to go into town, we grabbed some energy drinks and attempted to re-start the bike again by rolling it down the hill and into the roundabout. Sadly, the first two tries didn’t work and we were stuck at the bottom of a steep hill and the highway to our left. Our only option was to push the bike back up the incline, which was the wrong direction of the traffic. Amazingly, we hefted the weight of the massive bike up the steep hill without interrupting traffic too badly to line Byron up for another try. This time, it worked and I ran over to the other bike and we were on our way.
The highway kilometers were getting rough, so we went off on the scenic side roads past small farms and open fields. It was beautiful, but the sun was setting rapidly and I really had been hoping to avoid night riding. We still had over 100 kilometers until Coffs Harbour after all our setbacks with the bike but had to keep on pushing as the sun sank lower and lower. The side roads proved to be way too slow since we had to reduce speed for every dark turn and unseen pothole, so we got back on the highway for the last hour and a half of miserably cold, windy, and dark riding. We stopped once at a rest stop when the gas lights went on and prepared for the last half hour until arriving at our destination. There were no hills in sight, so I pushed the bike across the parking lot twice until Byron got it going just before the curb and I ran across to my bike, arms in the air and both of us shouting in victory. We drafted a giant tractor trailer on the highway to use it’s light and wind protection until Coffs Harbour, and we pulled into the hostel driveway—amazed and relieved to have finally made it. Luckily, we had booked a private room that night, so we threw our bags down, had some strong drinks with our rotisserie chicken dinner and waited for our friend Caitlyn to arrive. We walked through town together, down to the beach in search of some night life. The town was completely shut down, except for one man standing on the outdoor stage in the park with his own karaoke machine singing his heart out. Exhausted from the day, we called it a night and headed home. We vowed to never push ourselves on that kind of distance again for the rest of the trip.
April 19, 2018
Accommodation: Aussitel Backpackers, $32
Distance Covered: 438km