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.  

1 comment:

  1. Matt, what a nice 'winter' outing or whatever you call that season down under ;-) when it is not 40C...

    The great emptiness and stillness you're describing remind me much of how I felt in Death Valley (alas, I couldn't have said it as poetic as you do).

    The second picture looks almost otherworldly. Thanks so much for sharing the trip.