The 24th day of the Around Australia Ride was destined to be another dull day on the road. Unlike yesterday’s destination of Esperance, Balladonia had nothing more than a roadhouse and a bar, so who wanted to be in a hurry to get there?
As I neared Norseman, the first fuel stop of the day, I saw a sign pointing to the right down a dirt road to Dundas Rocks. It was only 2km so I thought I would go exploring and check things out. Dundas Rocks was at the long ago settlement of Dundas, a gold mining town that died almost as soon as it was born back in 1894. Gold had been discovered at Dundas and a small township had started to spring up, but then even more gold was discovered at what became Norseman little more than 20km up the road. Subsequently Dundas died a little death. I spent a good hour exploring the rocks and the area that had been the settlement all the while listening to the thunder of a nearby storm, imagining the sound to be the blast of dynamite back in the day. But then I got myself into a bit of a predicament.
I had pulled off the track into what looked like hard packed dirt which was actually loose sand. The front wheel dug in and as I tried to accelerate the rear of the bike started to lower sharply as it got bogged. To make matters worse I wasn’t able to put the Road Star on the side stand as it would have sunk in and fallen over. Don’t panic. If I did put the bike over it would be at least a 20 minute walk back to the highway and hope that I can flag down a support vehicle. This is the last thing I wanted to do as the only thing worse than having your Road Star take a nap and have to get one of the support guys to get you out, is the fact that the Tutu of Shame would have been mine. Not going to happen. I started rocking the bike back and forth. At first it wouldn’t move, being around 370kg fully laden, and when I was just about to give up and accept my fate I felt it break loose and shift the tiniest bit. It took me a couple of minutes rocking the bike back and forth, like some child on a rocking horse, until finally I got up enough momentum to push the bike backwards out of the rut with one last heave. Ha, I avoid the Tutu of Shame for another day! Another reminder about the folly of going off on my own. Surely I couldn’t do any worse than that? Not on this day at least.
Back on the highway I made it to Norseman. Talk about a depressed town. A lot of the signage in the street is faded and flaky, there seems to be a distinct lack of colour everywhere and a lot of closed businesses and vacant storefronts where evident. It was also the town when I had my most touching donation. As I stood in the street, wearing all my leather clobber, this dear old duck comes shuffling up to me with her walker. In a soft quavery voice she asked if we were raising money for something and I told her about the Steven Walter Foundation and the Answers for Kids Cancer program. She said it all sounded wonderful and lifted the seat on her walker and from under the tin of Black and Gold baked beans and No Frills loaf of white bread she pulled out her purse. With a slightly shaky but ever so delicate hand she pulled out a $10 note and handed it to me. She gave me a lovely smile, said it was a good thing we were doing, softly patted my hand with her own which felt light as a feather, and then started to slowly shuffle down the street once again pushing her walker out in front of her. That moment really touched me and will remain with me forever.
I got going again and headed out for Balladonia. I figured if I got there early enough I could do a blog update or two as I am running quite a few days behind at the moment. Another sign pointing off the side of the road to Newmans Rocks diverted me once again. This wasn’t as interesting (or as exciting) as Dundas Rocks but it was good to see something different again. There was also a small pool of water which upon investigation was full of 100s if not 1,000s of what looked like tadpoles the size of my thumb! I tried to get a photo but the wind on the water made it impossible. They were something to see, all clustered together in bunches that would scatter as I approached the water’s edge. I also noticed around the water’s edge what appeared to be dog tracks. Dingo tracks maybe? And here I am on my own again without a baby in sight. Time to go.
I reached Balladonia mid afternoon and after checking out my rough and ready accommodation (we had been warned in advance) I settled down at the computer for some writing. Later in the afternoon the most amazing dust storm came whipping through, strong enough to push one of the motorcycle camper-trailers about a bit. We had the entire place booked, quickly drank the spply of beer dry and a utewas sent to Norseman for more supplies, STAT! It was a fun night with everyone in very high spirits and looking forward to getting the run across the Nullarbor over and done with. I had started the day thinking it was going to be very boring but due to a desire to not just run straight up the road and instead do a little exploring I now have more precious memories of this adventure.