Thursday, November 26, 2009

Riding North-East from Nhill

I left town about half an hour ago but am not sure of the time. With an easy grip on the handlebars humid air streams up my sleeves. The bike's 650 twin motor sings in the morning warmth. I've never been here before, and I ride with a mixture of anticipation and relaxation, wondering what's ahead of me in the next half hour, and in this day.

The air at 80kph is pure - no scent of machines, or animals; the paddocks are of wheat. I am in farmland north-east of Nhill, where grain silos impose themselves like abandoned castles. There are few creatures, just the occasional crow whose sound, whenever I stop, is part of the landscape. The road is narrow tar without markings. For a moment it becomes orange where the earth has spilled over during road works, then is black again.

Riding through this place makes me happy. There are no people in view but there are signs of local life - a combination offering comfort and solitude. Tensions disappear. The bike's suspension absorbs the bumps so that I float past the paddocks. A fence at right angles to me divides an expanse of thick yellow wheat from acres of thin moist grass - cattle feed. And there's a farmer's ute, white cab and stainless steel tray and nobody in sight. I sing out loud.

Inside the helmet it's easy to hear my own voice, so I close my mouth and return to letting the song play in my head. There it sounds rich and tuneful. A summer morning, riding my motorcycle through a new place. I have always said that travelling in a car is like watching TV; you are removed from everything and merely observe. To travel on a bike is to be a part of the scene. Everything is present, immediate, your body is in contact with it all. I slide my foot along the tar. I make a wing with my hand and it rises on the air current like a plane. It is as though the bike disappears, as though it is just me, my body, in flight.

I do not know where I will end up tonight. Probably Ouyen. It is only 200 kilometers away, but I have a map full of back roads to explore on the way. I will travel the whole day and at dusk find a caravan park in the closest town. Back-road riding is the way to tour. You see a lot of things that way. I like to take my imagination along with me, to stop at abandoned houses, historic markers, rusting harvesters, and dry lakes. To my right somebody has hung a big fish from a road sign. I stop and take a photo. It has been rotting a while and no longer smells. The sign points down an unsealed road with a good surface of yellow and orange. I am tempted - it heads into the National Park that has been playing on my mind. But I continue on the sealed road, pleased with the thought of pulling into towns to drink at the general store and breath in the life of the place.  To wonder about the people and stories enfolded in its past. And to be awakened to the present again by the sun and the sound of a dog, and a nod from a stranger.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a wonderful ride with ones thoughts!