Opportunity Knocks

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Zeballos to Sointula, Malcolm Island


I decided to pop into the local restaurant for some breakfast and was immediately greeted in Spanish by Rafael, the same Mexican who was working at the store the night before. $5.00 later and some free Internet time and I was on my way out of town. My heart almost stopped when the pavement turned to gravel. I have no problems with dirt roads but this was deep gravel and I was beginning to dread the 40 km's to the highway. Undaunted I motored into the gravel at 40km/h and my front wheel started wildly swinging in all directions. Everything now happened in slow motion to my accelerated panic thinking and I was slowly thinking about the upcoming crash as I kept going at the same speed and not reacting much to the situation. Not reacting was the best thing for me to do. The bike just powered through the gravel, no crash took place and the deep gravel ended about 300 metres down the road. It gave way to a nice gravel road suitable for novices like me. As usual, all the stories of the "horrible road" out of Zeballos were quite exagerated.

Emboldened by my first dicey offroad encounter and my ability to keep the rubber side down, I decided to follow the 100km's, or so, of logging roads through the backcountry to cut down into Port Alice. A black bear's comically waddling back end was disappearing up the road ahead of the clatter of the bike approaching. I made it as far as Atluck Lake, a few kilometres from the main Zeballos logging road, when opportunity came knocking. The handling of the bike simply didn't feel right and the back end felt like it was wobbling back and forth. A quick check confirmed my fears. My first ever flat tire on a motorbike. "Oh S...!" I thought. Then I immediately realized that this was a great opportunity to learn something new. I had never fixed a motorbike flat, let alone taken off a wheel. But I did have the tools and spare tube with me. With great enthusiasm I unloaded the bike and went to it.



Getting the wheel off was suprisingly easy.


It took me an hour to change the tube, including a little rest for lunch. I was somehow not feeling any rush to finish the job. It was mid day, the sun was out, there was no one else around and all I could hear was the wind and the flies buzzing by. Atluck lake shimmered a deep blue and amazingly steep mountains with snowfiels on top rose straight out of the lake. I was now without a spare tube and decided to head back to the main Zeballos road rather than take the risk of having another flat even further away from civilization. About 3 minutes down the road I had that sinking feeling that things weren't quite right. Yup! another flat. I had neglected to check the inside of the tire. There was a needle embedded inside and not visible from the outside. So I slowly limped into a wilderness campsite, set myself up at one of the tables and went back to work. Now I actually had to patch the two tubes but I could not for the life of me get the tire's bead to pop back in. Then the compressor decided to blow up on me. Now I had a tire with less than 30psi, no pump and a tire whose bead hadn't popped back onto the rim properly. There was no one around so I decided to ride very slowly back out onto the highway. Before the pavement started I checked the tire once more and was delighted to find that the bead had nicely popped into place while I was riding. Problem solved.



Lonely Beach on Malcolm Island


Once in Port McNeil I just acted on a whim and took the ferry across to Sointula on Malcolm Island. There is a 10km return hike on the Island which has a small chance of offering orca sightings. I took one of the last 2 available camping spots, polished down my two little bottles of cheap red wine and fell asleep after talking to my camp neighbours about their travels to Argentina.




Sailor's Delight

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