Things lost since Cairns:
- Ray Bans
- Compression on my engine
- Clear direction and a decent plan of how to get to Darwin.
The bike was running so very well. That should have been the first sign that I was clearly
heading towards a major situation that would leave me stuck on the side of the road for five hours while my father went ahead to scare up some support. The day had started out fine. I was in Georgetown, a small town with a little pub, friendly locals and a British backpacker bartender who had taken a working contract. That’s the only way to get and keep staff for more than a couple of weeks, due to the dull nature of the work and the tiny towns the travellers would be stuck in. I couldn't help but giggle in the morning as I watched her run two laps of the city (and my campsite) kitted out in Lorna Jane and white headphones. It was a common sight in Sydney but in Georgetown, it was a sharp reminder of when I would ride my bike through the Sydney CBD dodging runners who looked like this.
I ran through my daily maintenance routine which that day included a tappets adjustment.
We needed to ride a little over 300kms that day. It was to be a pretty easy day of single lane bitumen road riding with the occasional excursion off the side of the road to dodge the 50m long road trains. Ninety kilometres into the ride, just as my second queued album was starting up (Black Keys’ Brothers) the bike died. I rolled onto the side of the road and started running the usual quick checks - fuel, spark, oil (it was low), and compression (equally low). Dad was looking on and as I had done this plenty of times before, he didn't look too concerned. However I couldn't help but think that the lack of oil and compression meant that I was in for some trouble. I noticed that the tappets I had adjusted this morning were very tight (to be expected given the natural heating and expansion of the bike when hot) so I told my Dad and myself that surely the bike will come good when it cools and I fix the tappets. That must be where I am losing compression.
It didn't and it wasn't.
Dad made the call to keep riding to a small town on our map (60kms away) to try and find a way to return the bike to somewhere that wasn’t the middle of nowhere. Some very helpful Croydon locals managed us get to somewhere that was slightly more than the middle of nowhere… but not by much. A two street gold mining town long since forgotten by most but a few friendly locals and people still making out a life from the surrounding cattle stations. During the Gold Rush, Croydon had 36 pubs but today there’s only one. To make this town all the more difficult to deal with I had lost my Ray Ban sunglasses in the bike moving process. My Ray Bans got more daily use than my Leatherman and were given to me by someone who was very dear to me when I was in Sydney. I felt lost without them.
The locals that had picked us up in exchange for fuel and a meal at the pub were friendly and we soon got talking about my trip and why I would choose to ride a motorcycle across the world. My old bike attracts friendly attention in the towns we pass through and it’s great to have a yarn at the end of the day.
I always knew that talking about depression and suicide would be difficult for some. What I never really took into consideration was just how much of an impact hearing about it and exploring these themes would have on me and how it would make me feel. It seems every town I go to is just recently mourning some young bloke or a farmer that had lost his battle with depression - as they tend to put it “offed-em-selves”.
Further than that, the guys who are willing to talk about their own battles with the frankness you expect from country people continue to blow me away with their honesty.
“Yeah, fuckin woke up in the hospital didn’t I - all day on the piss and thought I would show all of those cunts by downing a bottle of pills. Woke up in the hospital didn’t I!” He pauses, takes a swig from his tinnie of gold (chilled in a stubby cooler dispensed from a down pipe near the till)
“The nurse told me that she bet I felt a bit silly, but she was wrong. I was angry and fucking pissed off I didn’t do it right!”
He told me he “came good”. He didn't elaborate on what it was that turned him around. He then went on to talk about the issues he was having with his son. “Yeah, son is going through a bit, missus found him with a noose around his neck. She called me up saying he was drinking two and a half cartons a day. We told him that he needs to get some help.”
I wish I could say that these stories were a once off in a small town going through some tough times. The hardest part is that they are not. Far from it. In a motel West of Cairns I got talking with a bunch of drilling explorers who were setting out for a thirty day exploration trip. Thirty days of hard work, in the middle of nowhere with no real support - just a swag, supplies and a job to do in the North Queensland heat. I do not think they make people any tougher than these guys. Yet here they were, talking about the people they had lost, the bosses that belittled them when they admitted they had problems and the issues that they faced.
I thought my biggest issue would be finding people who were willing to talk about the problems they faced. Instead I find my biggest problem is knowing how to deal, on a personal level, with these stories of people who have struggled, and continue to struggle with no real understanding of when they might feel better or when they might find a solution. I don’t have an answer for any of it of course. I just hope that talking about it helps and that the money that I raise for beyondblue might be able to do some good and help the people who need it.
Meanwhile, I my Dad and I are stuck in Croydon with a very broken bike and a mail truck that arrives only once a week. My issues however, seem minor - apart from my sunglasses. The desert is way too fucking bright to not have sunglasses.