I throw three gears at the bike in quick succession, 4 then 3 then 2… the motor makes that glorious sound that only a twin can make as it pops and growls under hard deceleration, with this much weight on the rear of the bike I can really use the gearbox to slow us down.
It’s making me smile, but this is another one of those uphill hairpins that Flores seems to have a monopoly on, so we get right back to first to make the turn, then it’s a short shift to second and we work back up through the gearbox again, not killing it, just riding the fat torque curve until it’s time to brake again for the next turn.
On a trip like this you cant ride like a lunatic, you can’t even ride moderately quickly, there’s always a goat, some roadwork, gravel or oncoming traffic just around the next blind corner so you have to be careful, so we always travel with plenty up my sleeve so to speak.
“chi va piano va lontano” is what an italian once told me in Africa, but then he quickly backed it up with “ma non andare troppo piano!”
(who goes slowly, goes a long way… but don’t go too slowly!)
That said – I’m having fun. Fun… tinged with guilt. For everyone of those hairpin turns that we roll into, I know that poor Sal on the back needs to hold on pretty hard not to fall into me, and given that we’ve been at this for about 5 hours now, I can sense that she’s getting tired…
Another turn, this one’s a little tighter than I expected so I need to brake right into the apex, which helps to turn the bike, but puts an awful lot of stress on the passenger… on the exit I tap Sal on the leg to say ‘sorry about that’, she take a deep breath and we continue.
Riding in Flores is about as good as motorcycling gets, particularly on a Sunday as everyone is at home, and the usual truck traffic is absent so we have the whole place to ourselves. I’m tired though, and my left foot is actually hurting from all the gearchanges, so when we flash past a little hut with satchels of coffee hanging from a piece of string out the front, I make the “shall we stop for a coffee?” sign, and Sal gives me the thumbs up.
“Oh my god, how much more of this have we got left?”
“I think the worst (best!) of it is over…” I reply.
About 4 hours later we roll into Labuan Bajo, find a place to stay and skull a couple of longnecks of Bintang watching the sunset over the bay.
We’ve come from Larantuka in three days, that’s only about 550km in three long riding days with no traffic at all.