Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Ooh, it's cold. It's a different kind of cold down here. They told me it would be cold, but nothing could have prepared me for this.

Well, i suppose looking at the weather report could have prepared me somewhat. Or bringing a warm jumper. But nonetheless i am here on the Southern Ocean, after a very, very cold 400km ride from Sculpture by the Sea. Including a godforsaken 250km stretch from nine to midnight on a highway from frozen hell where all the servo owners were safely tucked up in bed with a mug of cocoa and a hot woman by 6pm. Damn them. Damn them all, and damn their warm appendages. The bike usually runs out of fuel at around 200km on a full tank. But what do they care?

I get the news from a farmer as i fill the Yami at the Williams servo. He is staring at my motorbike. "An XS650," he says knowingly. "I crashed one of those once. Where are you headed?"

I point at the Southern Cross and inform him of my wooly-headed intentions.

"Nothing's open mate, not between here and Albany," he tells me, still looking at the motorbike. "Though i've got a spare can of diesel i could lend you." What a joker, i think. What laconic country humour. But he is serious. He comes back from rummaging in his rather agrarian ute with a brand new five litre Rheem plastic fuel drum, with yellow flexible spout, worth about twenty dollars on the open market.

"Just tip the diesel out the back somewhere mate and fill it up and tie it to your bike. Bob's your uncle."

I am overwhelmingly overwhelmed by his generosity, but there is nowhere i can attach the fuel drum without it becoming a hazard. I am already loaded down with a backpack, a front pack, a Cathay Pacific airline bag strapped to the seat and a leather pannier on the side. A supplementary drum of diesel - or whatever - is just not going to happen. Instead, i get the funny farmer to help me stand the bike perfectly upright while i squeeze another litre into the top of the fuel tank. I pull on my helmet and fingerless gloves, and make a dash for it. At a slow and steady 80kmh, hunched up, one small aerodynamic ball of Art Director.

It gets warmer as the bike climbs to the top of the hills, possibly even above freezing. But the valleys - oh, the valleys. Not even my desperate screams and shakes seem to have any effect on this blasphemous cold. My neck is a freezer block, my fingers popsicles. After the warm climes of the North West, i feel like i am heading towards Antarctica. Which, of course, i am.

The Gods of Premium Unleaded smile on me. I make it to Albany, having switched to reserve near Mount Romance, and trundle hollowly into town at midnight with about one shot of fuel left in my tank. Two dollars in my pocket and my fingers numb.

I ride to the storage unit on Vine Street, where i deposited my worldly possessions via a hired truck just one week previously. As i noisily pull up the roll-a-door, i think what am i doing here. I drive the motorbike into the 4x3 metre den. Piled high with tea chests and books and furniture, and, yes, a swag already rolled out on the floor. Nothing like a bit of forward thinking. I kill the headlight, roll down the door, and go into a kind of Self Storage hibernation. And defrost my sorry arse. For tomorrow i will become a Sub Editor.

The City of Albany is a scene torn straight from of the pages of Moby Dick. No doubt these waterfront hotels on Stirling Terrace serve a great Nantucket Clam Chowder. The cold grey streets wind their way precariously up and around the twin hills of Mount Clarence and Mount Melville, where there lie scattered huge dimension stones, boulders of cold granite, which adorn the hills and the shorelines and plunge like a broken string of pearls into the waters of Princess Royal Harbour.

The permanent rainclouds. Opshops full of coats and scarves. The stony hills, the sharp outlines of the ranges on the horizon. The harbour and the islands. There are no traffic lights, but roundabouts are strewn like some spastic game of quoits throughout the town. Where bogans in Holdens do their donuts. The bookshops on the main street, cafes, the nouveau antique shops. Emu Point. Frenchman's Bay. Everybody a stranger. Tanglehead Brewery - as if anybody could drink beer in this weather. What do they grow here? Trees. And real estate. The town is beseiged by tree corporations and real estate agents.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals opshop has two blown emu eggs for sale. How ironic. Isn't it cruelty to animals to steal their eggs? Imagine, if you will, that you are an emu coming home after a hard day's foraging to find somebody has stolen your fucking eggs. Alas, such a cruel yoke. The large green eggs are $10 each. A shop on York Street has carved emu eggs for sale at $120 each. Hmm, now there's a way to scratch out a living.

My grandfather had some carved emu eggs from Albany. And two large sperm whale teeth decorated the rough red bricks of his fireplace. Intricately carved with ancient scrimshaw. Delicate outlines rendering the gossamer web of the rigging of a clipper, or a schooner, or some seagoing instrument of whale nemesis. Two fine examples of scrimshaw, carefully etched out by some artistic old sea salt in his whaling downtime. For Albany, like Carnarvon, had at one time a bloody whaling operation.

History. That king wave which will ultimately envelop us all, consigning each one of us to its impenetrable depths. My great great grandmother, so i am reliably informed by my Mother (and yes, dear readers, i do have Parents), was Albany's first nurse back in the 1870s. Selena Griffiths no doubt tended to those intrepid seafarers accidentally harpooned or otherwise damaged in pursuit of their blubber and ambergris.

Selena's daughter Agnes married one of those Northeys, my mother's clan. Who, through a long and convoluted series of mishaps, produced the Art Director, who, over the next few months, will be your guide to the magical Rainbow Coast. So called because everybody here is either gay, or a raving hippy. Or perhaps "Rainbow Coast" is a nice way of saying it's always fucking raining?


Anonymous said...

Great blog as always.. If you think the ride was cold wait till you take a dip! Jumping off the rocks at Mutton Bird Island is a great way to start!

Hope you enjoy the South west, It's a great place to ride.


Mark Roy said...

Thanks Dewse! Mutton Bird Island - it's in Madfish Bay, isn't it? So called because you have to be either mad or a fish to swim there?

Anonymous said...

Narr mate you don't need to be mad, it's only a short swim. I found it's the place to be if and when the sun is shining..


Anonymous said...

Narr mate you don't need to be mad, it's only a short swim. I found it's the place to be if and when the sun is shining..