By Jove, aren’t those Enfields?

New South Wales No Comment

It was a bittersweet feeling, waking up these last few mornings of the adventure: on the one hand looking forward to going home, to sleeping in my own bed and having all the old familiar things around me, and knowing that, as always, I would miss getting up every morning, putting all my stuff on a motorbike and riding off down the open road in the early morning sun, not having a clue what the day would bring.

As this morning proved, for we had been on the road a mere half an hour when we spotted three Royal Enfields parked by the side of the road, as Enfields often are, since I knew only too well from having ridden one back to the UK from India, where they are still made, that the vagaries of old British bikes combined with Indian quality control created a machine on which even a trip to the shops was an adventure, although disturbing trends like electric start and a unit construction engine have more recently given them a disturbing reputation for reliability.

These ones turned out to be owned by Ian, Charles and Russell, who were making their way back from the Hutt River 40th anniversary, having ridden all the way across the Nullarbor to get there.

Naturally, since you can take the Enfield out of India but not India out of the Enfield, Charles had spent several days in Perth while most of his engine was rebuilt.

In a way, they were following in the honourable tradition of Winifred Wells, who in 1950 at the age of 22 rode an Enfield 350 all the way from Sydney to Perth and back on dirt roads at the height of summer, arrived back and announced that her machine hadn’t missed a beat, and was still alive and well at the age of 82.

How strange and wonderful it was, though, to watch them kick-start the bikes into life, to drink in the familiar heartbeat of the single cylinder engine, like the purr of a lion after eating a particularly satisfying wildebeest, and then to ride with them for the rest of the day, feeling for all the world as if I was back crossing the burning sands of Persia with Paddy Minne the world-famous Franco-Belgian motorcycle mechanic on two Enfields painted pillar box red and lemon yellow, on my first motorcycle adventure 12 years before.

At Nundroo, after a day of featureless plains, came the first signs of civilisation: wheat fields, little windmills pumping water from the soaks below, then farms and houses. Well, only one, to be honest, but you have to start somewhere.

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