Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wimmera and Mallee 2013

Once again back into these sacred spaces, retracing the steps of a magic ride that I took four years ago this month.  Then the earth felt fresh, new, and so it did again this weekend past, over four days.  

Rising at dawn to a blue sky, and motoring along roads hedged by ochre, through pleasant currents of air, that was the path I found and retraced.  I might call it a promise: the original ride has taken on the value of legend within me, as something halcyon.  Some old men will sit in the over-crowded nursing home and remember copulation, but in the year 2063 as I sit, harassed by ridiculous functionalist neglect, I will remember the brilliant good earth north of Nhill.  Perhaps I will escape and return, to release my soul in that place.

Yes, the same route, to Ararat, then Halls Gap and those fantastic winding roads, then onto the canola-coloured plains, then from Horsham seeking out that road that cuts through the Little Desert National Park to Nhill.  I remember my bike running badly here last time, as it did for the whole trip - I could not go over 80kph.  I suffered anxiety as I headed into the desert and dusk on a faulty bike, but this time I suffered no such fears, and enjoyed the sense of confidence that I have developed over the years: a trust in myself, in chance or fortune (or rather a stoic forebearance of its fickleness), and in the kindness of most strangers.

Alone in the desert I sat and ate my evening meal.  Not a soul showed himself, no eye of the Other to reduce me to an object of their perception, and so the whole scene a play thing of my subjectivity, as well as something outside of me that inspired and drew me forth.  I loved the dying day and its beautiful colours.

This is true motorcycling.  A heart-warming desert, a brilliant world, a tent, and a plan to go wherever the road goes.

I spent the night in Nhill.

And then the next day, waking shivering at 5AM and waiting for the sun.  A big meaty breakfast at a service station, washed down with a deep mug of coffee, the smell of fresh petrol on my hands, morning sun warming my skin; and the roads north rising in my memory, in my anticipation, calling me forth.

The brilliant world!  Somehow out here it always feels like a beginning.  Like the turn of a new century, but an old one at the same time, as though it is 1913 and the world feels new and exciting, and I have my own motor to propel me forward.

Rainbow is covered in old murals, to complement the very old shops and the silent streets which yet feel occupied and loved.

I love the towns as much as the country.  A coffee and a feeling of people, a unique character that shifts with every dusty centre.

I visited Lake Albacutya again.  Still it is empty, so I suppose it is fed (or starved) by irrigation and they have not returned the water as they did in most other places after the drought.

The lake sits at the edge of Wyperfield National Park.  This park has always sat deep in my being like some profound unconscious, with a sense of the secret multitude of its life, the shifting currents of its sand, its waves of heat, an ocean that is spirit as much as trees, tracks and dirt.  I explored.

After Yapeet I entered the park to the camping grounds with the massive sand dunes and dry, green, hilly fields with their native pines, which had the feeling of a golfing range but which was wholly natural.

At the entrance I was greeted:

That was the second day.

On the third day I decided to explore some dirt roads between Nyah and Hatttah, and to sit in silence for a while at Hattah as I love the landscape there so much.  Last time I sat in this place a piano echoed in the old hall, playing an old-time song.  It sounds like I am making it up, but it is true.  And all the while the approaching, almost emotional storm sat high above on a sunlit day, with a sound like a massive didgeridoo that held all things in its being.

I love these roads:

At first the dirt was wonderful.

But then the sand became deeper and deeper, until my road bike felt exceedingly unstable at anything faster than walking pace.  It was a very hot day for this time of year.  I reassured myself that should I drop the bike and be unable to re-start it, I had water, and was only 15km walk back to the highway.  But when I stopped for a drink, parched as I was, I found I had left the water behind.

Never mind, I took it gently and eventually emerged from the sand on to clay roads and then to the highway, with the decision to ride tarred roads for the rest of the day, it being a very sandy region.

Outside of Nyah West I stopped again at that place that was the culmination, spiritually, of the original journey.  That place that is a physical unconsciousness brought to light, a placed drenched in a calm deep emotion just as it was drenched in a calm unrelenting sun.  The salt flats where time is absorbed into a centre, all the folds that take in each moment of a life that is otherwise obliterated by time, but which is somehow remembered by the land and held close.  A secret unknowable, and yet barely concealed.  A pattern for my experience of place everywhere else, and a teacher of my relationship with past, present, future and grief.

I took no photos on the final day although again I travelled many wonderful roads all the way back into Melbourne.  Motorcycling is the equivalent of a spiritual retreat.  A Nietzschean exertion of contact and physicality and silent contemplation.  A wonderful time was given to me by these places.

1 comment:

  1. Matt, this road-trip has all ingredients of a true walkabout, having to overcome the sandy sections, and than the beauty and stillness of the salt flats. I have seen similar places in other parts of the world and I am sure I can feel what you have been sensing in this magic place.