Winton

Day 33: Friday August 12
I set the alarm for 3:55am, resisted the urge to be all passive-aggressive noisy as I hooked up the bike and trailer, instead taking pity on the boozy boys of last night, and was on the road at 4:45.

The wind was very slight until the middle of the day, when my average speed dropped from 15.5 to just 14. As it calmed down later in the afternoon, I brought that speed back up. What could've been a nightmare slog, turned out to be a relatively pleasant long ride of 165 kilometres.

First stop was 20 kilometres out of town at a truck stop to check all was ok, and then I began a 50 kilometre haul out to the first rest stop for lunch, although I needed a bit of food before then.

The good of the day was the excellent music of Gungor, but especially of Sinead O'Connor's Theology album; raw, honest, dripping pain. O'Connor may be a bit naive in her theology in places, but the depth of her feeling, and her honesty, is very moving. She also has some brilliant laugh out load lines:

I say of my lord
That he is my fortress
That he is my own love
In whom I trust
That he will save you
From the fowler's trap
And he will save you
From any Babylon crap...

I listened again to Leonard Cohen, who has some good lines of his own.  

You don't know me from the wind
you never will, you never did.
I'm the little Jew
who wrote the Bible.
I've seen the nations rise and fall.
I've heard their stories heard them all,
but love's the only engine of survival.
Your servant here, he has been told
to say it clear to say it cold:
It's over, it ain't going any further
And now the wheels of heaven stop,
and you feel the devil's riding crop--
Get ready for the future it is murder.

I had time to do a life survey, which is one of the joys of a long ride. There is time to talk through where you been in life; what it might mean; where you might go. Being on the road a few days clears out the ephemeral stuff; I've not read a paper for weeks, and barely looked at eMail and Facebook for days.

While having afternoon tea a vehicle slowed, turned around and came back. A young woman heading for Cloncurry was worried about having enough fuel, and very relieved to hear of Kynuna petrol station. She was heading from the coast to work on a station near Tennant Creek. She looks 21 so I guess she was probably 30, but seems very, very young to be going off on this adventure. I referred her to Peter if things get too lonely or tough.

I was fascinated by the low remnant hills the road passes. In the distance they look like slag heaps from a mine; they are nearly leveled to the plains.

This last little butte is barely 100 feet high.

The Sheep Country begins... this is the home of "Waltzing Matilda."

And was sad to see the evidence of feral goats in the fleeces left from roadkill, and one enormous dead Billy. He lost his battle with a car, which might be as well; he would have made a mess of me!

The hilarious of the day was to see cattle come over to a fence to get a look at me. I stopped to look at them, which started a rush of folk galloping up to the fence to see the new curiosity. If only I had so many people in church on Sunday mornings!

Anyway, we chatted for a while and then I began to ride off; this resulted in a long line of 30 or 40 head trotting alongside for a good 3 kilometre,s until they eventually spread out to graze again.

It reminded me of an event long ago, when I first went to university, and was miserable in the city. After a few weeks I decided I needed some country, took the train to Victor Harbor-- yes, that long ago! -- and followed the coastline out to a lonely beach which I loved. During the night, a hard and bitter squall blew in, flattened my tent, and defeated all my efforts to light a fire. I decided the best thing to do was to head inland across the paddocks, navigating by the stars when they were visible, until I hit the road to Victor. That way I'd keep warm (very important) and wouldn't fall off a cliff in the dark (even more important).

I had two interesting experiences that night. The first was the discovery that the landowner had installed electric fencing since my last visit.

The second occurred as I trudged, poncho'd up, across the hills in the half moonlight of scudding clouds and rain squalls. I suddenly realised I was no longer alone. I spun around in a panic, to discover a long line of fifty or so serious cows trudging single file behind me.

The ugly of today was the road train driver (RTA) who deliberately tried to run me off the road. I've seen this maneuver before. They start out wide, and then close in on you with the second and third trailer. They don't want to hit you, of course, just send you off the road. What they don't realise, is that if you hit the gravel, you are likely to bounce back under them or, that if the wind is in the wrong quarter, they could simply suck you under the last set of bogies.

It's obviously deliberate; they slow down and drift in carefully. He knew his stuff; the last trailer missed me by less than a foot. I hope by holding my line I gave him a small scare. The bastard.

I've made Winton just on time. My fresh food is done-- this is the daytime stuff -- and my dry food for morning and night is running low. Fortunately, Tammy from the caravan park, was able to wheedle my box of food out of the post office-- it's now late Friday, so tomorrow I unpack that, shop, blog, and rest.

The last treat for the day is the menagerie at the caravan park reception: Banjo the Alpaca; the dog who has half a basketball he brings you to throw or kick, and the bantams. I looked at these for a while, and then went back to the counter: "Is that really a chook out there, or have I just seen the world's largest pigeon?"
Rescued off the road after being hit by a car, he is like a little football on legs, proudly strutting around with the chooks. Although he can still fly for short distances, and comes into reception each morning for a Jatz biscuit.

I had planned to come via Boulia (and the Plenty Highway.) I'm not sure I'd be here, yet, if I had!

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