The Bone Collector

Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Day Twenty-three: - Border Village - Eucla - Mundrabilla - Madura - Cocklebiddy - Caiguna

'So how cold does it get out here?'
'Oh about minus five, minus seven..'
'Screw that, let's get a room..'

We had every intention of camping tonight under the stars. 'Last night on the Nullarbor' had a nice ring to it. But all that was before we met Maz the Maori with her buck teeth and 'pull on me' pig-tails. She works at the roadhouse there and was just the big bundle of personality we needed having not seen anyone for a while. It was she who explained why our idea of camping was such a stupid one. Sure we could have a patch of rocky sand if we liked - best of luck, but the nights have been shitful around here lately (temperatures minus 'god knows how much') and with the storms that are passing through and all that..

In the end Maz the Maori did us a good deal on a cabin. She's a fine woman, is Maz, a real mucker and a local legend to the truckies and roos that pass through. Everyone loves Maz. I'm not sure of the full story but it goes along the lines of her taking on part of the Nullarbor on foot and losing her dog, her 'best friend' right here in Caiguna. Understandably distraught and devastated, she refused to continue, burying the dog somewhere on the land out the back and choosing to lead a remote existence here at the Caiguna roadhouse. Maz the Maori is one of life's characters. She talks and she listens. And she gave us an onion to help our hopeless predicament. Maz the Maori is a lifesaver. Maz the Maori is a legend.

Today was hard work but the rewards came frequently with unpredicatable and unusual uplifting moments. Like the eagles. Plump, voluptuous eagles that sat at the roadside festively snacking on freshly obliterated roos before taking flight majestically with their hefty wingspan; the sudden 'emergency runways' that transform magically from out of the road itself and provide a short but lively surge of excitement; and the occasional fellow Nullarbor go-ers coming the other way. Two were bikers!

So far I've took a whole load of shit from the elements - mother nature has seen to it personally that I've winced through grit teeth for a few hours each day. Much of this punishment has been bitter cold temperatures and hailing rain, often leaking in through all that waterproof clothing just enough to generate an itching around my nuts that could very easily have sent me to the brink of insanity. But today she threw a different animal at me. Today was the day of the relentless wind. It was how I imagine taking random blasts from a riot control hose might be, my head lolling about uncontrollably like a plastic dog in the back window of a car for hours on end. And while the fatigue sunk in deep, the cold sunk in deeper. We stopped for lunch at a roadside pull-in a few k's west of Madura. It took almost twelve minutes to get the blood circulating through my hands again, and a further twenty to regain a human-looking colour. And it's a bitch not having a centre-stand, it really is. Try lubing a chain without a centre-stand and no feeling in your fingers.

Still, we made decent time and pulled in to Caiguna long before sunset. My eyes lit up when I saw it was a BP with 'Ultimate' on tap - the SV's been starved for far too long, she deserved a proper meal. Maz the Maori handed over the key and the onion and we got moved in. With a bit of time to kill we went out on the bike (Sarah's first ride) to check out the sunset over the plains. It was magnificent of course, and the pics once again will do very little justice to the remote featureless void that surrounds you here. Just as we were taking it all in Sarah spotted a roo carcass near to where we were stood - a whole spine, rib-cage, jaw and arm with a bit of fur and flesh still attached to it. I did a swift double take, looking back down in horror to find her on her hands and knees scooping up the bones for souvenirs. We had a talk. In the end I think we came away with a piece of jaw (teeth attached) 'just in case'.

I don't think we could have done this any other way. I'd have liked to have dragged it out a bit more, maybe doing 300k's or so a day, but when your stops are as limited and as lifeless as they are there isn't too much choice. Why stay at the Nullarbor Roadhouse when you can stay at 'The Border'? Why rip up three hours of mind-numbing nothingness when you can put away five and get closer to the finish line? Each stop serves nothing but the provision for rest, and charges you dearly for the privilege. Nailing over 500k's a day was the only sensible option, and it's hard when you're hunched over on a saddle taking on the elements for hours on end - that I can promise you. Petrol ($1.87/litre), food ($30 meals) and accommodation ($100 cabins) is more or less the same wherever you stop and stay. You pays your money, you make the choice. Two nights was plenty, and on both nights we made the most.

Back at the roadhouse we met some wholesome, lairy characters. A team of four railway engineers who travel around these lonesome outposts servicing the electrics of Australia's remotest railways. We ended up back at their cabin and got blind. They were proper strineys too and so the banter was booming. Bloody oath!

We rounded off the day with another long walk down the empty desolate highway at midnight. It was just as bizarre as it was at the border only this time the plains were illuminated dimly by the spread of stars overhead. The man-made light of the roadhouse lay just out of sight as we stood and marvelled. There was nothing. Absolutely nothing. We may as well have been standing on Mars - without doubt an experience neither of us will forget. You should try it one day. Really..

Kilometres eaten: 3251
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