Meeting Tim in Esperance did not pan out, as he was working in the week between Christmas and New Year. I may have mentioned that already. By the time he was ready to go there, it was too late for me to join him, there was not enough time. The housework was progressing, but was still unfinished when I realised it was New Year’s Eve and I had only a couple of days before I return to work. If I wanted a good long ride I should get on my bike. This might be my last chance before I take it up to Perth to be shipped to Sydney. So I hastily packed my saddle bags, filled a Thermos with iced coffee, did a quick check of everything, left the radio playing and a hall light on, and hit the road.
I had to stop every now and then, to stretch my legs check out a hollow log, or admire a view. Near Cranbrook I found a bright pink lake. I assume from some algal bloom.
South to Cranbrook, on to Mount Barker, and down a back road to Denmark.
At this time, as I passed Mt Barker, the weather changed from blazing hot to overcast and drizzly. My lovely cool new jacket suddenly became a wet string vest which at 100kph had a chill factor in the double figures. And I realised I had not packed the snug and waterproof liner. Ooops #1.
I pressed on. From Denmark a side trip to Ocean Beach then on to Walpole via Peaceful Bay. A bit of a mistake because the rain was heavier, the wind colder, and it suddenly occurred to me that this was a holiday area. Every motel, cabin and campground had a big NO up in front of the word Vacancy. Ooops#2. I had not planned ahead. My new Swag has not yet arrived, and I had just been assuming I would easily find a bed. I started to spy out barns and hay ricks in locations away from nearby farmhouses, where I might possibly rock up later on, and sleep undetected until dawn. In Peaceful Bay where all the houses are what we would call a holiday bach, I spotted a house that appeared to be unoccupied, with a big sofa on the verandah. Maybe later, if necessary.
I spent some time at the waters edge, communing, and it really did recharge my batteries, The water clear and clean and quite warm despite the weather. I decided to take a dip. Ooops#3. Bugger. I had brought a towel, but forgot my shorts. If it had been warmer I would have gone in fully clothed and dried out in the wind, but not today. Going in wearing my underwear was out of the question. Either the police or the Dept of Environment and Conservation would be called. Although the police might have solved my accommodation problem, I did not fancy being arrested. Neither did I want to be gently shepherded out to sea by the DEC. So no swim. And a bitter disappointment it was. It was about this time I thought a cup of coffee would be nice. If I had realised when I left how the day would turn out, I would have packed hot coffee rather than iced. Still….
Where was my Thermos? I was sure I had strapped it onto the saddlebag with a bungy through the handle. The bungy was there. The Thermos was not. Ooops#4. Somewhere on the side of the road, is what remains of my Thermos. Bugger.
I found a gravel back road back towards the main road to Walpole, and followed. Mistake #5. It had the worst corrugations and skitteryest gravel drifts I have yet encountered in this country. Very slow riding. I pressed on. I did spot a perfect barn for my dormitory needs later on, but then realised I would not be riding back this way in the dark. No Way. Not on this road. So I either stay here now, and risk being seen, or press on. Cold, and wet, I pressed on. Once I reached the main road, I could not get going too fast because in the evening the chill factor was greater the faster I went. The drizzling rain continued. Anyone else would have been miserable by now, I suspect, but strangely enough I was rather having a good time. I am not a masochist, but the cold felt like something I should and must endure. I cheered myself up calculating all the calories I must be consuming to keep my core temperature up. I practised saying “I may be some time” in my best Captain Oates Voice. I passed the valley of the giants where long ago June, the girls and I along with my sister Trudi and niece Rachael had visited the fascinating tree top walk.
Honestly it was not my fault!
We had previously visited the fascinating maritime Museum in Fremantle, some considerable space of which is taken up with remnants and relics of the Batavia. The ship was Dutch. So was my first wife. June was my second wife. I never could figure the logic out any further than this, but that is what I gathered from the curt comments before the silence set in. After Fremantle she had not spoken to me for a whole week.
But I digress.
I was too cold to stop and do the walk again as I had planned, so I pressed on. It was not far into Walpole, and miraculously, the first thing I saw was a motel and restaurant with a Vacancy sign. I checked in.
At the office I met a young couple on tour with a brand new Honda Goldwing.
“So is yours, where did you get the cupholder?”
Nice to have something they didn’t. I can’t believe there is no cupholder on a Goldwing.
It was their second Goldwing. Their first had been written off at three months old when they hit a kangaroo at 100K. Were it not for the airbags, they would not have been there to tell me about it. Scary.
Some other bikers were there with trailbikes on a trailer.
A hot shower, change of clothes and a meal. An interesting incident in the restaurant. I was comfortable and sleepy and almost dozing while I sipped my tomato juice and waited for the fish to arrive. I was staring into nothingness with my eyes half closed, when the waitress came up and said “Excuse me, but that man over there wants you to stop staring at his wife”. I was surprised. Ooops. Where does one look when in a restaurant?
“Tell him I don’t have my glasses on, so I had no idea she wasn’t a pot plant”. I said, but the waitress just said “Look, I told them I would tell you off, so just look as if you have been told off!”
I was going to text everyone in NZ “Happy New year at exactly 7 PM Western Australia time, but I had left my cellphone at home. Ooops # whatever….
A warm bed and a surprisingly good night’s sleep. I NEVER sleep well the first night in a strange bed.
Did I mention that my GPS died on Christmas Eve on the way to Sue and Steve’s place? No? I thought not. Well, it did. It appears to have a corrupt memory. It runs from an SD card which appears to have fried. So I am waiting for advice from the suppliers about what happens next. Meantime I need my book of maps. Ooops#8. I left it in the car. I bought a nice roadmap of the Southwest. It should get me home. It showed a nice road up from Walpole, to mount Frankland and then back to the South Western Highway. It passes Fernhook Falls. I am a sucker for waterfalls, and the road looked to be sealed, so I headed off that way. The road WAS sealed, for the first score or so of kilometres. Then it turned to gravel. For a very long way. Fortunately it was not a bad road, and since I was sightseeing in the rain, with very little by way of insulation, I was quite happy to cruise along at low speed. It was lovely ride and despite the falls being a little disappointing, well worth the diversion from the main road, which when I reached it again, was also a lovely ride, though once back on the highway the chill factor kicked in again. I resolved to be better prepared in future. Then I stopped in a layby, and put all three of my tee shirts on, under the jacket. That helped a bit, though my arms seemed all the colder now. On to Manjimup along a lovely piece of highway for a motorcycle. I stupidly thought I might buy a jersey when I got to town. Of course it was Sunday, and New Years day to boot. I was lucky to find even a Deli open, as the petrol stations in Manjimup do not sell pies.
The deli must be why they don’t sell pies. I bought a Guinness steak pie there that was one of the best pies I have had as yet in Australia. It is odd because this country prides itself on its pies, yet most of the little Cambodian bakeries in New Zealand produce a far better product than the average Aussie pie, which frankly leave me unimpressed. The best on average is a Mrs Mac’s and compared to the best NZ pies they are strictly journeyman quality, not Gourmet.
But I digress.
Homeward stretch now along that lovely little forest road I travelled by car when I had visited Manjimup before, to check out their very well run landfill operation. Even wet and miserable in the rain it was great ride. I had the road all to myself all the way past Frankland River to the Albany Highway and on up through Cranbrook again. Now I was back on my outward route, I was keeping an eye out for a stainless steel Thermos which – hopefully – might be intact on the roadside, still filled with refreshing iced coffee. But no.
When I came to the pink lake, I found the roadside on fire. It had been burning for some time, I guessed, and was almost out except for a few patches. I wondered if I should stamp them out or call for help. Despite the rain it was obvious a fire could spread rapidly here. The wind was blowing the fire towards the lake edge and it was almost out, so perhaps it would die down. No cellphone to get help. I tried flagging down a passer by, but he just waved at me and drove on. He looked like a farmer, so if he wasn’t worried, why should I be? I rode on. I wondered how the fire had started on that drizzly day. I am guessing it was deliberate. Was it a controlled burn or some dickhead playing the fool? I doubt it was a controlled burn – no one was watching it and why there anyway?
Another 65K and I was home. Last and biggest OOOPS. My back door was open and the flyscreen was unlocked. I had gone away for two days and a night leaving my house completely open. Nothing was taken. My big camera was on the kitchen table with my mobile phones. The rest of the house was undisturbed, nothing gone except my Thermos. I HAD balanced it on the saddle bag under a bungy, but otherwise unfastened. What a pratt.
Still. No burglary, despite asking for it. I love Katanning. Beats Fiji any day.
Google maps refuse to accept there is a road between point M and O which is where I went, not between L and N as they insist.