Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Never a willing riser, I set my alarm for eight-thirty Saturday morning. When I woke it was raining so I lay my head back down. Half an hour later my eyes opened, and the day looked good.

I started by visiting my uncle and aunt in Koroleigh. I have always been fond of them and of their farm, but have not made many visits. That has changed with my uncle’s cancer. It saddens me to see that I could have had my own relationship with him outside of family gatherings, but that there is nothing left to do now but come and sit. I will not make the mistake twice: my aunt is equally as interesting a person – thoughtfully present in the world – and my visits will continue no matter what.

I stopped at Toolebuc to change into warmer clothes. Perhaps it was due to the above thoughts that, as I stood there, I felt sadness at the fact that all those I love are in a state of passing through my hands. The the seemingly endless plenitude of our lives is constantly emptying out, to reveal each moment as one of a finite few.

And so I decided to not ride all day. I would enjoy the red earth around Robinvale, but after two hundred kilometres I would return to spend time with my family.

Over these days I found that the bike is quite capable of travelling continuously at 100 or 90 kph, depending on the conditions. In the cool, especially in the earlier part of the day or the late afternoon, it can cruise easily for hour stretches at 100. During the middle of a hot day, on straight roads, the engine feels mildly thrashed at that speed but things are fine if I drop to 90. Straight roads bring this thrashed feeling out more quickly than twisty roads where I roll on and off the throttle. The stock gearing seems quite adequate on the SR and it is, I realise, quite suitable to light-weight highway touring.

I stopped by the banks of the Murray.

There was food at this place, but I imagined that Robinvale would be a quaint town with a bakery, so pushed on for lunch there.

I was wrong.

There were two food shops – offering deep-fried only – and out the front of each was a crowd of 'deroes'. Later it was explained to me that Robinvale is a violent town, a place of beer, misery and murders. There was certainly nothing beautiful in it. There was nothing to do in this town but get out of it. Which I did.

If the town was a blight, the country below was a beauty. I stopped. A truck loaded with scrap pulled up. The driver was excited by my SR500, a model he recognised: “Nice to see it on the road!”

South - the place east of Hattah - is land that I love. The road variously sweeps or rises and falls. The earth glows ochre, orange, red, pink, with a special sun – the Mallee light. The bush life changes as you ride, dividing itself abruptly: first low scrub. Then suddenly it is replaced by pines. Then gums. As though marking invisible borders (but of what?). And in every case the trees are spindly, sun-burnt, a mixture of off-green and kaki.

I pushed onwards, up and down, to Manangatang.

Manangatang is a small town, with aspects of interest

and of oddity, right there in the centre of the main street.

And still I pushed south. Then east.

Until I came to a place that has featured more than once in this blog: my beloved salt flats, west of Nyah West. This time they were different. Rain had changed them into choral pools. The colour of beautiful poison.

This place is magic. It is the landscape of evocation. Like the abandoned tennis courts at Chinkapook. Or the run-down community hall Hattah. There is an unspoken mysticism in these places: that enfolding of people and their time in space that I often allude to. There is an implication, a suggestion, something just outside the periphery of vision. The light of this place stirs my basic longing and imagination, but it refers to no particular object.

No comments:

Post a Comment