Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Murray Sunset - reflections on a future ride...

At first it was the name that drew me.

Just an hour west of Nyah (the town I considered another home), it seems in my imagination to be the place where the Mallee has its rising: the centre, from which swells the essence of that region, of the salt bush and sand - sand which emanates in furrows and waves that go deep or which sometimes barely hide the hard-packed earth beneath, spilling over to make the land which surrounds this place, all the way back to Nyah and beyond. It is the original cause of that cooked dirt – red dust which in summer burnt my childhood feet.

I have heard stories and had imaginings, some for as long as I can remember, others recent tales: three or four riders, sometimes more, out on the Murray–Sunset National Park, riding the tracks, sinking in the sand, breaking their bones. Always I imagine the light – the Mallee light – and the red - the dust of the earth. This is a place of myth – an old sea bed, hence the sand.  Fossils can be found. It is an empty space even on the map, populated only by the thin broken line of Pheenys Track and another path north from Koonda. My knowledge beyond that exists in the form of local warnings: you needed the right bike, the right skills, the right support…and even then....

I know enough for these warnings to be ominous. Elsewhere, south of Deniliquin, ignoring a sign which warned that the road ahead was treacherous even for four-wheeled vehicles, I had on a hot summer day continued on ahead arrogantly. The warning only referred to a 25km stretch. But a short distance can turn treacherous, and then it can turn into a Hell that doesn’t end, when you are unskilled on the dirt and your bike is a pure road bike, and you are completely alone, and your vintage motorcycle is ready to quit, and you have run out of water. I remember the bleached white bones of sheep at the road’s edge; and the dry harshness of the natural debris on the road side as I rode it at speed having lost control. Most of all I just remember the thick gravel passing endlessly under me, shaking my handlebars violently from side to side.

This time I will load myself with petrol, water, food, camping equipment, and a dependable friend with his own bike.

And so: it is there, this place, Murray-Sunset National Park, but it exists in my mind, in the stories I have heard, in the warnings, in the odd photo, in the - as I have said - reports of riders full of fun and foolery, of bogged motorcycles, roadside repairs, of coming off the bike in sand and breaking ankles or wrists. But there is something more behind what they say, I think.

I feel that there must be a change rendered in a person by being there and working hard to just to sustain that presence. A kind of baptism into that space, as though the activity of being there and journeying through, making my spirit and body vulnerable to the place, will leave something of me in it and something of it in me.  Perhaps it is that for a moment of time, a day, that place and I will share part our story, which will remain mostly unspoken even after I attempt to articulate it, but which will go deeper in both of us than words can articulate. Something which binds a part of me, something left behind in the sweat that has dried and breathe that has dissipated. I stand at the edge of what I see in my mind when I hear others speak of being there, and turn my face to the bright sun, to the bush flowers, to the Mallee sunset, to the space and light. There is something sacred in this, but it is the sort of thing you glance at only sideways, like the rainbow colours of Mallee sunlight breaking at the edge of your vision as it floods your sight.

No comments:

Post a Comment