Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Day of the Tumbleweeds

There were moments today when I had to snap down my helmet visor fast to avoid a face-full of locusts, the tired dregs of that plague bouncing with restless depression. Later, when the air formented with a meeting of the warm and cold front, thousands of baby tumbleweeds made their dash across the road before me. Everything was in motion. But despite the small pulses and darts, the effect was of lazy movement. Of warm rain and places never before seen and yet known.

I returned to Lake Eppalock, between Redesdale and Axedale. I followed each road until it ran out of tar, or until the gravel track came to an end. On the dirt and gravel at speed on a sports motorcycle you glide along, always ready to go down, but you are much more stable than you realise...if you keep your hand steady. You can feel the lack of grip, the slide across so many marbles. The right technique here is never to back down. If things start to go hay-wire, increase the power; power your way out of it. A certain faith is required, which becomes habitual confidence in time.

Later I was to race a semi-trailer truck on the dirt. We were on a long detour road, and he was approaching me from behind. I did not want to sit behind him in his dust. I did not want him to sit  right behind me in case I fell and was trampled. The road surface was good, so I looked into the distance and opened it up. It felt liberating: I am making friends with the dirt, that previous barrier to so many possible explorations.

But that was later, and back at Lake Eppalock, the water was not to be seen at first. I rode off the edge of the boat ramp and found an anchor.

The bush in this area is scraggy, sparse. It is Bendigo goldfield country. Like the anchor above, things weigh on the Earth's surface, they are planted, held. This feels good.

In places the landscape is lush. Fish brim in some of its waters.

The ground at the boat ramp was smooth white pebals and sand, and as I almost lost the front of the bike a number of times, I retreated to another entrance to the water, near a general store.

I feel some kind of deep endearment to general stores: standing on their own like that in the bush, old. Perhaps it is the effect of David Malouf's construction of the Keen's Crossing General Store and the lives held by it, but it is something more and I think some people will feel the same as me. There is a lot of life that has happened here, through passing by. Not big dramatic things. Just moments of happiness on a sun-filled day in 1983 as a girl enjoyed an ice-cream, and one overcast day years earlier, as somebody stopped to call the garage in Axedale to come tow their Morris Minor. I chatted with the patron as I ate and then made my way down a road which aimed at the water I couldn't yet see.

When I found the life of the lake down there, it was magnificent. I was riding the basin of what was the lake, which is now bare and treed. The drought has stripped the earth back to its essentials. The wind was blustery in a way which silences everything. And here, yellow sand, and sand-stone, and the lake in a crater, so that you are standing on cliffs over-looking an expanse.

In the water are dead gums - God knows how long they have sat there - and boats. There is an island, joined to the land, which you look at and decide you will ride to in a moment.

You can see the Hornet's top-box and handlebar poking above the cliff.

I decided against riding to the island when I met the slope I would have to descend. I promised to come back here on the SR500 and explore these many rough tracks, to see where they lead - some occasion waiting for me up ahead, that will not take place without me.

Returning in the direction, roughly, from which I'd come, and further along, I found a sign that I was meant to be submerged in a good swimming area:

With a promise to return, I headed north from Lake Eppalock to Gornong, then down Barnadown and east to Muskerry and again down. These towns typically consisted of a disused public hall. Sometimes they were a mere road-sign.

On the Barnadown-Knowesly Road I found a marker:

A track which was hidden from the eye of the road led from this marker and I followed it. It was a fairytale place - I travelled the track through a forest of green

to a billabong

The I made south.

No comments:

Post a Comment