Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Hamilton, New Zealand
Birtles vs Australia
In which Birtles traverses the DDR, Teddies fail to impress, we visit a House of Horror,
and small Creatures create a big annoyance.
After a disturbed night I wake feeling unrested. Outside the ambos are working
quickly and quietly to remove the bodies of three campers who fell to the Koalas
last night. Next to Birtles’ front wheel the lifeless body of a Koala looks as if it has
had a blow to the head - Grimpeur’s fists are bloody and his usually well groomed
fur is ruffled.
“Fought til die” Peggie proudly explains.
“… !!!!!! …” exclaims Ringie.
Grimpeur is deep in thought - a Koala, even a savage one, is a relation.
We make a quick exit from Springsure to avoid being delayed by police who are
arriving at the scene of the attacks.
The Dawson Development Road starts well enough but quickly degenerates to
a state that has me remembering the tank-cracker track out of Thargomindah
but the scenery more than compensates for the road.
There are bare grasslands and thick clumps of trees, dried riverbeds and flooded
paddocks, and always in the distance are the escarpments and cliffs that never
seem to get any closer. Cores of old volcanoes push up from the plains up like
pimples about to burst, pulling my eyes into the distance. Under our wheels, an
ever-changing surface pulls them back again. We are riding over rock and dirt
and sand and mud, sometimes singly, sometimes in combination, it is always
changing and always trying to deflect Birtles’ wheels from the straight and true.
Major Mitchell passed through here on one of his explorations in 1846. I know
this must be true because between the sign and the road you can see droppings
from his camel. I’ve spotted his camel's droppings all over the place and am
really impressed with how the Major and his camel got to all those places, especially
as there were no roads in those days.
We are riding over what once was the wagon route from Springsure to the
Barcoo, constructed in 1866. Since then (the billboard half way to Tambo
informs me) the road was upgraded in 1874, 1877, and lastly in 1879.
That could explain what we now encounter, the worst surface yet, one that
started its life as soft mud, was rutted by 4WDs while still wet, then dried out
and had the ruts filled by drifting sand - tricky.
Still, there’s nothing that a hearty meal can’t make right. The compacted
bread idea has been extended to raisin bread. Tasty, but goes a bit squishy
when it is being compressed and the slices don’t separate cleanly.
I’m pleased that Wills’ grave is far from the road so that the morbidly curious
will not disturb the peace and drop plastic bags from their raison bread all over
the place. I pass up the side trip and settle instead for imagining what could
be done if I had that ladder.
Whoo-hoo, halfway there!
More escarpments, still looking as if they are the same distance away from
me as they were a hundred kilometers ago.
Almost in Tambo and the road is getting better all the time.
Attached to the dingo fence ….
“Macropod Harvesting” / “Harvester” …. who are they kidding?
Nine and a half hours after leaving Springsure ….
… and we know what’s in Tambo, don’t we?
Here’s a clue …
A Teddy Bear factory anywhere seems the most unlikely of things. That there
is one in Tambo seems downright improbable, yet all the advertising says it is
there, right on the main street.
I’m looking forward to seeing a room full of clattering, industrial size sewing
machines with skilled operators bent over them, all concentrating on getting
each limb realistically curved, each stomach convincingly stuffed, every growler
securely installed, each pair of expressive eyes stitched on in the anatomically
Then there will be the shelves filled with finished bears, all unique, sitting attentively
in rows waiting for that special someone to walk into the factory.
The reality is a small shop with a workbench that doubles as sales counter, a couple
of household sewing machines, a handful of (understandably) un-adopted bears in
unnatural positions, and a distant and disinterested woman who seems to be the
only employee. The last time I felt so disappointed was when I was six and my parents
said I couldn’t have a saxophone for christmas.
To reward Grimpeur after his effort last night, I buy him a bumper sticker:
“When All Else Fails, Hug Your Teddy”.
Close by is Fanny’s Rest Stop, run, as often seems to be the case in country towns,
by a backpacker, and in this instance an Irish one. Coffee and various home-mades
are consumed to test Fanny’s advertised claim, but it is impossible to draw a conclusion
as the raisin bread from earlier may have been interfering with the experiment.
Scientific investigation over, we ride off into the sunset.
And spend the night at Tambo Caravan Park where we meet Lyall and Kaye,
caravanners from Forbes, at a campfire get-together organized by the park manager.
Not really my thing, discussing caravan hitching, annex erection, and reversing
techniques, but the manager was friendly and I go along for a few minutes just
to prove willing.
Birtles has fuel for about 400 kilometres, but we top up whenever we can. At Blackall,
home of that other black stump and just 100 km from Tambo, we meet Clive who is
heading west for a tour on his HD. His load of camping gear is mostly well aft of the
rear wheel, held on by some very small occy straps and some very big luck. Clive heads
off before me with that eardrum shattering thrumble beloved of HD riders and
despised by the rest of the planet.
Birtles putters out of the serviced area a few minutes later, after stopping for a
pigeon who didn’t hear us coming.
This guy, Larry I think, watches us go by from the top of his post, so we go
back and return the compliment.
Man-made sculpture : Eagle and nest / metal.
Nature-made sculpture : Dead tree / wood.
Isisford has turned its disused shops into displays.
The grocery is fine, no problem at all, nothing scary here.
But, avoid the bakery if you are of nervous disposition, it is definitely in the Twilight Zone.
Baskets of realistic loaves in the window invite you into a dim world where oven doors
hang hungrily open, old baking tools look like they intend a lot more mischief than
turning a loaf, and mannequins watch your every move, moving slightly in the corner
of the eye then freezing when you look directly at them. Dust on the mannequins would
show that they are just displays, but these guys are clean of anything that suggests immobility.
This place has me looking over my shoulder - it’s enough to make a screaming child quiet
and a quiet child scream.
Ma is sharpening something out the back, she’ll be back soon.
Meanwhile, meet the Baker Boys and their Sister …
Spot the odd-one-out ?
Isisford river-side camping area.
The number of people at free campsites always surprises. Would they be here,
spending money in town, if there were no campsite - I wouldn’t. A small town
without a free camping area is really loosing out. Free-campers are the scrooges
of the nomad world, but they still have to eat, drink, refuel, and buy the latest
Woman’s Weekly to catch up on what Camilla is up to.
Allen and Judy, Taswegians, doing the mainland.
They invite me to breakfast - two cups of coffee don’t bode well for mid-morning.
Not your typical country person … (most have their fridges inside)
PHONE IS BROKE
GOT NO TOOLS
ALL OUT OF FUEL
AM ALREADY SAVED
AND THE FRIDE (!) IS EMPTY
Crikey! What a hard luck story, this guy is really down on his luck, poor bugger.
I feel so sorry for him (especially the empty fride bit) that I go in to give him a
helping hand or at least a consoling word or two, and find that there is at least
one good thing left in his life - his dogs are alive and can run really, really fast.
At Ilfracombe the "mechanical mile" display of old machinery and farm implements
along the main road is not a mile long - “mechanical kilometer” just doesn’t have the
same ring to it - but it is well worth wandering along if you like heavy metal.
The head winds are at work, doing their best to slow Birtles. I worked out a way
to estimate frontal wind speed using ear sensitivity. My helmet needs me to put
in ear plugs at about 70kph in calm weather: today they were called for at about
45kph, so frontal wind = 25kph. (patent pending)
Burn-off crews are taking advantage of the wind, firing the strip between the road
and the railway line, using the road as a fire-break.
“Summer-time, when the livin’ is easy”
Kites, circling through the smoke and watching for anything escaping the flames.
Into Longreach from the east, the first things to come into sight are the town’s
two trademarks - the Stockman's Hall of Fame and the Qantas Museum.
Saw both from the outside only, but that was enough.
But I did look long and hard at the sculpture of the cowboy outside the Stockmans
Hall of Fame, especially at that arm holding the saddle over his shoulder.
It is 36 degrees, I’m down to the bare minimum of protective gear …. and …
my hair changed today. I started the trip with hair short enough that a haircut
on the road would not be needed so there has been a lot of head shaking and
twisting to stop hair bristling against the helmet. Today there was none of this.
Has there been a sudden spurt of hair growth - was it Allan's breakfast?
Has the heat made my hair limp and flexible - or expanded the helmet?
There was a down-side to this new found comfort - I now sport helmet hair,
long enough that, after a morning of manipulation by the helmet lining, it forms
eye-catching, though never appealing, shapes.
It was in the early stages and a quick trim would nip it in the bud, but that would
mean a return of the bristling. No, better to stay comfortable, let it grow and live with
the consequences - which really weren’t so bad. So what if people look you in the
hair and not the eye? So what if after looking you in the hair they smile to themselves,
turn to their friend, and then they both look you in the hair and laugh? Strange really -
if I were a punk rocker with a nose ring and “Johnny Dole and the Scabs” tattooed on
my forehead they wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
Reckon they must be envious of my carefree life on the road.
Further off road
Just how Mick the caravan park manager at Winton, who otherwise appears to be a
decent bloke, can say this is a full caravan site without laughing beats me but it is a
good learning experience - I discover the joys of pitching a tent over an ants’ nest.
Birtles gets new oil, chain adjusted, and a nuts and bolts inspection. Battery voltage
is next to zero under the lightest load, maybe charged to death by the long distance runs.
No wonder my 12V charging systems don't work. Nothing in Winton, ditto Boulia tomorrow
for sure. Birtles will have to wait until Mount Isa the day after tomorrow for a new battery.
The ants invade, the tent is covered. They are unable to get through the insect mesh -
unless I want to get in or out. They post guards at the zip so that every time I touch it
they signal the troops and hundreds dash in as I dash in. Sometimes, for a change,
hundreds dash in as I dash out, however, any combination of movements involving
ants dashing out seems to be against their philosophy.
As the light fades, Ringie and Peggie, convinced of Grimpeur’s power after the Koala
incident, and impressed by his still bloody fist, stay close to him for protection as ants
make their way over Birtles.
To be continued ……
BigZoner #096 (English Chapter)
"Keep brotherhood till die"
platypus121 screwed with this post 11-12-2012 at 10:01 PM