Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Hamilton, New Zealand
Birtles v Australia
Broken Hill to Melbourne
In which there are no Blue Frogs, the Wind changes, there are forty Candles and
thousands of Bats, Ghosts and Deja Vu … and … Birtles’ Wheels stop turning.
The sideshows were in BH last night, across the road from the campground.
Their fireworks display at about 11pm was just whizzes and bangs as I was
ensconced in the tent, resting up for the upcoming ride south. The entertainment
may have been missed at that time, but the showies were determined to give
me some fun … as they did at Coomba, halfway between BH and Wentworth.
Coomba Roadhouse is "June's Place" according to the sign, and June might at
first appear to have a dilemma when there is more than one customer - does
she go outside and unlock the petrol pump, or does she serve the customer in
the shop first? Birtles’ tanks are ready to be filled when four of the show folk
arrive for refreshments, and June’s dilemma turns out to be no dilemma at all -
coffee and a bar of chocolate are optional, but if you need fuel you are a
captive audience and can be relegated to the end of the queue without
endangering business turnover.
Which is fine as I’m not in a hurry and, as at the gallery,
people-watching can be interesting.
Showie #1 gets a can of drink and chips, then spots the loose sweets. “Jim,
Jim, they’ve got frogs!” She orders in the manner of a five-year-old: “I’ll
have ten frogs - five yellow ones and five green ones. How much is that?
Have you got blue frogs? Jim, there aren't any blue frogs, shall I get you
yellow ones instead? Ok, ten more yellow frogs - no, no, four yellow ones
and six green ones. You sure there aren’t any blue frogs? Ok, how much
is that? Jim, shall I get some frogs for Bill - what colour does he like - there
aren’t any blue ones. Green, ok, five more green ones, ta.”
Walking back to the lorry she shares her assortment with Jim who sympathises -
“It’s the same with M&M’s. Always hard to find the blue ones”. #3 comes
in for a can, and (good news spreads quickly out here) for frogs, which are
painstakingly ordered by number and colour. #4 is easy, he just wants a can
and some chips. “Anything else?” June asks, eyes swiveling hopefully towards
the sweet display. #4’s stands firm with just a can and chips - which when all
is said and done is fair enough, not everyone likes frogs. Or perhaps he only
likes blue ones.
The tanks are filled, I have one of June’s coffees and saddle up ready for the
next haul to Wentworth, all the time fighting an urge to ask June for five blue
amphibious sweets, and knowing that for ever after the Coomba Roadhouse
will remain in my memory as The Blue Frog Place.
As we howl south, the contrary wind howls north and 265 kilometers of frontal
buffeting makes Wentworth an inviting place to hole up. Shortly before the town
- just like that - the wind stops. There is a brief period of calm then it starts again,
this time from behind and just as forcefully. The rear wind is worth an extra three
or four horsepower, and the kilometers roll by easily, too easily to waste. Fuel at
Wentworth, then Yatpool, Carwarp, Nowingi, Hattah, Trinita and Kiamal all flash
by before I even have time to work out how to pronounce them. Birtles is on a
roll, stopping only as the light fades at Ouyen, tires hot, silencer ticking, and 404 km
older than he was this morning.
The Mallee Garden Sculptures in Manangatang are interesting and significant.
They are bizarre shapes with shells, keys, stones, mechanical parts and other
found items pressed into their surfaces to make mosaic-like finishes. They may
have some message, but just picking out all the bits is enough for me to appreciate
them. I’m sure Dahl could explain their symbolic meaning in detail.
Created by the Manangatang Improvement Group Inc, these sculptures are a
dynamic new variation of stane-stook. In designing them, the group has broken
away from traditions of verticality and uni-directionality. Freed from these restrictions
their works soar upwards and outwards into bi- and even tri-dimensionality,
something that would astonish and perhaps confuse some unidirectionalists.
Despite complaints from traditional stookers who say multi-dimensional stane-stook
devalues the art form, the Group plans to create further sculptures for the garden.
It is hoped they will result in Manangatang becoming the recognised leader of
twenty-first century stane-stooking.
Below: 2010 picture of stookers working on the sculpture shown above.
To balance yesterday’s hectic ride, today we aim for a place a little over
100 kms away, a place previously known as Wold Wold. A strange name
that makes it easy to see why back in the 1930s locals fought long and
hard to change the name to something so much more meaningful - Wood Wood.
Somewhere between Manangatang and Piangil Birtles reaches a certain age.
I had been watching the odo for a while to capture the exact moment, but a
corner and a roadtrain in quick succession distract me at the crucial point
and we run up an extra tenth before stopping. Birtles is duck-walked in
reverse to see if the odo runs backwards - and it does! Almost get back to
the rounded zeros before I decide near enough is good enough :
Now that he is officially middle-aged, there are changes in Birtles. His joints
are a little stiffer, his tyres a little balder, and the former rebellious scamp is
starting to show a little responsibility. Take this rest area, for example. Birtles
is distressed - who would do an oil change here? Now, a mere litre from his
tiny crankcase, nothing against that, but this sump must have held at least
ten litres to leave such blot on the landscape. Disgraceful!
The willow plantation extends for hundreds of metres -
there’s an awful lot of bats in there.
No caravans check into the WW Caravan Park while I am there. The business
focuses on renting cabins to seasonal orchard workers, permanent temporaries
as the manager calls them. It's a nice little park, but the reason for the lack of
caravans is plain to see.
Across the road is the Murray River. Along its switchback banks, tracks lead
to dozens of perfect overnight spots: your own curve of the river, your own
patch of gums, no noise, no cost. Whoever thought the park, currently for sale,
could prosper against such competition?
I chose a spot right at the back, away from the cabins and have a very peaceful
night, something hard to get in many parks with their overcrowding and proximity
to main roads. No trucks air-braking just meters away from the tent here.
Wood Wood Scout Camp, looking like it has not been used for years. Health and
Safety requirements must play havoc with organizations like the Scouts. I cannot
imagine that they get up to the traditional activities any more. Camping, canoeing,
climbing, lighting fires, wood carving, sharpening a pocket knife, tying your own
shoelaces … all too risky now. Not for the scouts, but for the poor sods who will
be held responsible if an accident does happen.
Love the placement of the taps at the wash stands.
Exactly how did those wash basins get filled?
The home based venture across the road is wisely following Rule 13c for small
business: Choose a niche in the market that has few other suppliers.
Even on the last days of a trip, we should not overlook how important it is to
maintain good nutritional practices. Watties baked beans are a fine source of
protein as well as tasting just dandy. Quick, cheap, and no washing up if you
lick the spoon clean. A preview of the fine cuisine that awaits me at home.
My only disappointment at Wood Wood is that those Health and Safety chaps
were not satisfied with just bringing the Scouts to a standstill, they have also
been at work in the camp and diving is now banned in the water sports area.
Against all logic, I like Euroa. The last night on the road is a replay of the last
night of the 2010 CT trip. Birtles parks outside Cabin No.1 exactly as Albert
did two years ago.
The manager of the park is also the same, and so is his approach to cabin
rental. When he offered No.1 back then, it was “$35 - but let’s call it $30”.
This time it is “$55 - but let’s call it $50”.
A tour of the town shows it has altered little, if at all. When the pace of change
becomes too much to keep up with, it’s reassuring to know that such places exist.
What does change is the temperature. The heat of Queensland fades to a distant,
implausible notion, and the chill that sets in when Big Yellow goes down numbs
my memories of short sleeves and perspiring brows.
After getting the cabin’s blown circuits sorted, there is a pleasant evening eating
Tim Tams in front of roaring gas rings, looking back on where we have been,
and forward to where we will be going tomorrow.
The Strathbogies - through beautiful countryside in beautiful riding weather.
Despite his age, and developing responsibility, Birtles can’t resist one last illegal
sortie along part of a rail trail.
Yarra Glen …
Then, we are back where we started.
How should I judge this trip?
… distance travelled?
… time on the road?
… activities done and the people met?
… comfort and discomfort?
… help received and help given?
… what was learned about the world?
… what I learned about myself?
… what others learned about me?
… changes in my attitudes and beliefs?
And, when does a trip end, anyway?
... does it ever end?
BigZoner #096 (English Chapter)
"Keep brotherhood till die"
platypus121 screwed with this post 11-26-2012 at 01:46 AM