Sunday, September 18, 2011

Six Day Ride : Tuesday

I have wanted to visit Jeparit ever since two events: I missed going there during my last trip (even though I followed most of the outline of Lake Hindmarsh) and Jeparit appeared as a setting in Peter Carey’s wonderful novel Illywhacker.

Jeparit is the birthplace of Robert Menzies. It is the town closest to Lake Hindmarsh and is surrounded by snaking waterways that feed into the lake. The town was very quiet on a Tuesday morning.  The few residents seem to love my bike: an old man stopped his car in the empty main street to stare, and when I pulled up at the service station – the rusted fuel bowsers of which, it turned out, had not been in service for a long time – I got an ear-bashing from two enthusiastic mechanics. Nowhere was open for breakfast, so I headed out of town to visit the Wimmera–Mallee Pioneer Museum.

The museum is well worth visiting, and I spent an hour and a half there. Various buildings of historical value from the area have been moved onto the site and filled with appropriate items donated by local people.

It is a volunteer effort. You walk through a homestead, shops, a chemist, schools, gaols, a black smithery, and so forth. I was not so much interested in the farm machinery as in those exhibits that had human and homely interest, and the thing I loved about this museum was that everything is at hand. Nothing is behind a glass case. You can touch everything. You can run your fingers over garments and tools and for a moment you are holding hands, as it were, with people long dead.

A foot-pedalled dentist’s drill (a nightmare!)

Leaving Jeparit at midday, I rode as close to Wyperfield National Park as I could, on the roads that lead through Netherby, Yanac and Telopea Downs, then down to Serviceton to make for Bordertown. This road took me along the base of Lake Hindmarsh. Last time I was there it was the height of the drought, and it was empty. I had wanted to return and hike across its desert surface with provisions and a compass. But Jeparit was hit by the floods last summer and the lake is brimming.

Perhaps it was the weather on Monday, but the place had a kind of pre-historic feel. But it was a hindsight kind of pre-history, as though you could feel the lake coldly boiling with anticipation of the things that would evolve out of its waters.

It is Spring and my whole trip was a contrast of colours, of desert drabs against an explosion of flowers, fields of rich green wheat, and bright yellow canola.

At Bordertown I had crossed into South Australia. I was met with a flurry of highway patrol police pulling people over, but they ignored me. It is hard to speed on the SR500. It was now 3:30PM and I decided I would make it to Pinnaroo, once I passed through the national parks. So I made north from Bordertown, on the opposite side of Wyperfield to the side I visited last time on my second day. This ride strangely mirrored my last one, but there were less pine forests here and rather a forest of low scrubby natives. The landscape was generously green.

On my last trip I almost collided with a kangaroo on the other side of the park, as I pushed forward after dark on low fuel. I was reminded in places that none of these roads are safe for a motorcyclist from dusk onwards.

At Pinnaroo I made my camp with an Illywhacker on one side

and an all-night truck route on the other.

It had been a good day.

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