That’s no bloke! That’s a female!
June 19. Bush camp to Urandangi. “You blokes are keen,” said the man leaning on his arm out the window of the trayback ute, Aussie hat at a rakish angle. Then he looked again. “That’s no bloke! That a female!” He was impressed with the female. I’m the luckiest man in the world.
Snaggle toothed tattooed bloke in the Urandangi Hotel (pub) when I ordered beers said, “We don’t have no Duff beer here.” He and everybody laughed. I didn’t get it. “You’ll have to forgive me, I’m just an ignorant American. “You know!” laughed a woman at the bar, “The Simpsons!?” They all laughed again. “The Simpson Desert?” I suggested, we are on the edge of it. Then the whole place broke up. “The American cartoon, The Simpsons, you silly bloke!” I was dumbfounded. Here down a dirt track, in a place where the electricity goes off at 10pm when the generator shuts down, they know more about American pop culture than I do. I know of the Simpsons, but never watched a complete episode.
Just outside the pub while we wrote in our journals, a grizzled man, somewhere between 45 and 70 years of age began talking to us. He’d had some drink. Within minutes he’d told us the story of his life, the real story. “My wife died when the little one was six months old. I brought him here to raise.” He had been a station manager, but now, “Work, I avoid it much as I can. Love work. I can sleep beside it all day, long its not me a doin’ it.” It wasn’t laziness that brought him down, or the drink for that matter. Behind the yellow toothed grin was pure pain and abject disappointment.
An extended family of aboriginals lived in and beside a small van near the pub. Several of the children were of mixed blood, and I suspected the tattooed bloke in the pub. One of the children had very blond hair. All of them were very cute, full of life, unaware of what is to come.
Urandangi Cutoff, rutted doubletrack
June 20. We crossed into Northern Territory today. 96k of ruts, one of which took us down. Claire jammed her knee. I cussed a blue streak at myself for allowing it. I had been, we both had been, watching a large flock of bright green parrots decorating the cobalt sky, teasing us with flashes of color. The road improved at the NT border but later gave us some exciting bulldust (see definition later) It was nearly six hours into the day when we saw our first, and only, vehicle of the day. Remote country. At Tobermorey Station, we found only meat pies and lolly water (pop) to extend our supplies. A few adventurous tourists with 4wd’s camped with us. They are amazed to see us. They say they are beat up from riding over these tracks, and told stories of broken vehicles and shredded tyres. I don’t know whether to feel proud, or worry about being insane for being here on a push bike.
Charlie and Margaret Brown on the Plenty; best beer of me life mate!
June 21. Tobermorey to bush camp. Charlie Brown and his wife Margaret stopped us and offered a cold Victoria Bitter. We accepted gladly, since we were about to bush camp anyway. No beer ever tasted so good, or went to my legs so quickly. Wonderful relaxation from 81k of rocks, corrugations, and bull dust. I felt like I had spent the day running a jack hammer, without the big belly to soften the jarring. All the drivers we had met had told us we would have better road after Tobermorey, but they run 30 pounds in their tires, to our 65 pounds and they have suspension and we don’t. The flies flew in my ears and up my nose and two of them died in my teeth before I spit them out. Claire spits them out alive, I take revenge first. The road is so rough, Zippy and BOB so heavy,125 pounds to our usual 60, and the combined long wheelbase, makes the days particularly tough on me. My shoulders have to be constantly tensed to adjust for the ever changing road conditions.
I promised a definition of bull dust: Red, fine as talcum powder, good for seeing kangaroo and lizard tracks, impossible to steer the bike in over one inch of the stuff. It fills in potholes and ruts so you innocently steer into them and crash and go boom. No fun. It is also quite visible on your white t-shirt after a vehicle passes. It can get very, very deep and thus leads to us pushing the loaded tandem plus BOB.