Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Broken Hill

"The secret is in the emptiness.
The message is the thing we have feared,
the thing we have avoided
that we have looked at and skirted."

"I think then that the golden age must have been before this, in the earliest days of the country [...] the only place I have known since I left the cradle.  There is no country where it is easier to imagine some lost pattern of life, a mythology of vanished gods, than this most ancient of lands, where the skeletons of tress extend their bleached arms in the sun, and giant lizards cling to their trunks."

I stretched my body over two thousand kilometers of this emptiness and mythology.  From Melbourne, though Nyah, to Broken Hill.  Days of coldness and gradual change.  A winter-coloured meditation.  

Friday I faced the rain that never came, and from Bendigo onwards made for Nyah under rainbows and chilled sunlight.


That was the first day.  On the second I had five hundred kilometers to cover.  After hugging the river for two hundred of these, I turned my face northwards into the desert.  

I've not been to Broken Hill before.  A thousand kilometers north of my home, I've often stared at the map, wanting to stand in that great stretch of desert and experience the nothingness.  Winter is an easy time to do so, for I remember the fear, travelling across the Hay Plains in high summer, of breaking down in that intense heat.  So when my motorcycle club - The Royal Enfield Club of Australia - decided to hold their winter rally in Broken Hill, it was an easy decision to go.  And so on the second day I rode through this desert.

Sometimes I stopped and just listened to the empty space.  

Sometimes I would stop by a lake.  

But mostly I just pushed on and on, as the day died around me.

Despite almost colliding with an emu I made it safely to Broken Hill and to the members of the club.

On the Sunday we rode out to Menindee.  We were led by a local club member, Gus, on his Triumph.

Gus led us to Menindee, over one hundred kilometers away, at 80kph.  I was riding my fast Kawasaki W650, so that was an exercise in patience.

We had lunch at the Menindee pub, where Burke and Wills once stayed, and where I photographed a man and his riding companion.

The group at the Menindee numbered five bikes.

This included an Australian-made Carberry Royal Enfield v-twin:

And Gus' Triumph, which was no model in particular, but something that he had built out of boxes of bits: "For example, I have a big box of gears so I just pulled out gears and mixed and matched them until a had a set.  I don't know their origins."  

I spent Sunday evening with a friend from work who was in Broken Hill on separate business.  We played pool at the Workingmen's Club.

On Monday I rode back to Nyah through the desert again.  Although I spoke above of emptiness, the lesson of this trip was that that claim is more fantasy than reality.  The desert road is three hundred kilometers of constant change and beauty.  The straights are no more than two kilometers long before there is a turn, but most of the time the road twists and turns and and rises and falls constantly, and around every corner is a different vista.  It was a fascinating ride. 

My return to Nyah was done under a sunlit sky.  I lay on the tank and sped, spreading my body again through time, space, and a cold, beautiful evening.  

Friday, July 13, 2012

Night ride to Yarra Glen

Marlon and I have been enjoying winter night rides of late.  Tonight we did a 120km loop out to Yarra Glen.  It was very dark and cold, it was raining heavily, and the fog was thick.  And we had a great time. After passing some particularly large (for this area) kangaroos I slowed down to 45kph in some stretches.  We arrived at Yarra Glen at 10PM and had coffee at the pub.

It was a lot of fun.  The twisting roads there and back had a romantic aura as our headlights beamed into the dense fog.  I was a little anxious at times due to the slippery road surface, the kangaroos, and the fact that my front tyre is balding, but I rode with all the caution and skill appropriate to the conditions.  Knowing that beyond this there was nothing more I could do to secure my fate, I engaged in my usual motorcycling 'spiritual practice' of:

(i) responding to any negative or challenging situation in a spirit of acceptance, while

(ii) giving attention - despite the awareness also of the negative - to what is good in the experience, to what is unique, wonderful, worthy of gratitude, pleasant.  Or, where it is hard to find these, to the gift simply of the opportunity to affirm in action and spirit that I am bigger than the fears or set-backs I encounter.

So while, because my bike felt slippery and I feared collision with a roo, I felt some anxiety about the present moment as I rode along, at the same time I chose to give attention to the beauty, the mystic romanticism, of this moment of being on my motorcycle in a quiet place in a a magic mist.  

Sunday, July 8, 2012

NSW for coffee

Today was a reminder of those old epic rides which I used to do - long distances and twelve hours on the bike.  Which is fitting, as this blog turned four years old last week and it deserved an apt celebration.  Marlon and I decided to ride to New South Wales for coffee.

It was a sunny winter's day, saturating the State, as we rode it's length, in soft water colours.

At Echuca a rider in alongside us.  "He's got an old Triumph", I thought.  When I walked up to it I saw that it was a W650!  That's a convincing trick that Kawasaki played, confusing even owners of the bike!

Marlon and I sat on the banks of the Murray River and watched the life go past:

We took some back roads down to Bendigo, via Mitiamo.  The light of the closing day was wonderful.

Another Sunday well-spent!