The sand starts to get softer and deeper the further I head south. I spend most of my time carefully following the narrow path of one or other side of the two wheel ruts that forms this road across the dunescape. Low bushes form an almost constant barrier either side of the track. They keep brushing against the tank panniers, knocking them backwards against my knees.
On softer sections, I chose a cautious path, standing on the footpegs, second gear, working the throttle to maintain a constant moderate pace. Firmer sections I rest by sitting. The tank panniers keep getting swiped backwards, banging against my knee and I'm forced to reach down and lift them forwards again. They're basically staying in place by the two rubber backed straps that cross over the tank under the tank bag. Running the left wheel rut, in a moment of lapsed concentration, I look down to lift the left bag forwards again and look up in time to find I've moved into a section where the sand's slightly deeper. The bike moves off balance slightly and I try correcting however the front wheel scrambles up against the steep edge of the rut and I can't correct. Down I go.
It looks a harder fall than it really was, except I get my right leg jammed under the hot muffler, my leg swept back about level with the peg as the bike capsized. Laying there, I struggle to drag it clear. I can smell the fuel running out of the carby overflows and feel the heat building against my calf. Worried I'm trapped, I drag my leg forcefully free while kicking the bike away with my left leg. Just a moment of mild panic, soon gone.
The bike won't come upright easily, so after a few attempts to drag it towards the centre of the track more and digging out sand beneath the wheels, I'm forced to unlash the load to right the beast. I can feel the clock ticking the whole time. I know this is going to put me later into Keith than is comfortable to make the appointed time. But there's nothing I can do. There's no help out here and none likely for weeks. It's not a popular place to visit.
I get the job done and lash everything back in place with the Andy Strapz tie downs. After about half an hour, I'm mobile again. Knowing I need to make up for lost time, I pick up the pace, standing on the pegs working between second and third gear. I'm loving the ride and this endless scenery. Just brilliant.
Cresting a slightly steeper dune, I suddenly find the track arcing to the right, with the sand softer and the front scrubbing against a deep rut wall again. Once more I crash but with enough speed to fly over the bars and screen. Landing with a bone grinding crunch hard on my left shoulder, I expect to find my collarbone or upper arm socket broken. It must be all the milk I used to steal as a kid but other than a general pain, everything works.
Great spot for it though. Gotta love a decent landing site.
I'm lucky enough that she comes upright again without unloading, simply because the wheels drop down into the ruts, helping with the dead lift angle. This time I check the radiator for damage as it's half full of sand. All good, I'm on the way again. This time a bit slower again. I can't afford to keep pushing as it's costing me valueable time with the falls.
I'm finally within sight of the southern entry information shelter and again the sand turns to soup, cut up by 4WDer's charging the first section. In this mess I spot a fist sized rock sitting in the middle of a wheel rut and with the best target fixation I can muster, I centre punch it hard with the rear tyre.
A hundred metres later, on firm ground, I can feel the rear give a wobble.
I take the chance to have a pee and take a decent draw on the camelbak while the little Slime pump comes out of the tank pannier to do it's job. Fifteen or so minutes later, I'm mobile again with a tube that seems to be holding okay.
To the end of the track for a couple of quick photos.
Then onwards the final 20 kilometres to Keith township.
To be continued....