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Old 10-08-2012, 10:17 PM   #4
platypus121 OP
CT.110 NZ
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Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Hamilton, New Zealand
Oddometer: 106
Birtles vs Australia



In which we muse on dangers, escape dangers, go thirsty,
learn to be safe in the kitchen, and meet a very nice horse.

Google Map - interactive

North of Corowa it is time to practise taking photographs of
converging lines as there will be a lot of them shortly.
It’s hard to do much photographically with a straight road - and
with 7hp the motorcycling options are also limited.

Caution … musings ahead …

No worries with limitations, though, for in Australia there is never a
dull moment. Bubbling away at the back of the mind are dozens of
fearful warnings about potential dangers lying in wait for any who
make a single false step. Dare to veer off the officially approved course
by just a few meters and you’re a gonna for sure. Yes, even on this
well engineered, straight, sealed road north of Corowa there is an
arsenal in readiness, waiting for the call-up.

Just some of what could happen out here …
1) get bored by the long road / fall asleep / roll into grass / bitten by snake
2) wombat wanders onto the road / hit wombat / fall off / bitten by snake
3) white line flashing by is hypnotic … fall asleep / hit wombat / etc.
4) two large Cokes from the last roadhouse want to abandon ship / stop /
walk a modest distance from the road / bitten by snake / fall asleep
5) stop at lay-by for a rest to avoid falling asleep / hitting wombat / etc, and …
(fill in your worst nightmare - someone at some time has been warned about it for sure).

My dread is of being abducted by Swedish hitch-hikers.

There is a bottomless well of advice and it’s bucketed out by anyone
who knows the country (and even by those that don’t) to warn of the
dangers of the land and of what to be wary. Warnings start with the
obvious and sensible - heat, distances, road trains, Barrow Creek,
Australians. Then they move on to a list of creatures whose names
are traditionally paired to the word “deadly”. It is a really long list, but
we must skip over it for there is something so much worse: the “Most-Deadly” list.

The M-D includes snakes, sharks, octopuses, crocodiles,
fish, and spiders, in fact, any living thing can qualify for M-D status
if it meets either of these criteria :
1) has the ability to kill, paralyse, and / or permanently disfigure
anything that makes physical contact
2) has received so much imaginatively bad press that just its
sighting sparks eradication campaigns.

M-Ds are hardly ever seen, but their mind-control control over visitor
and native alike dictates the what, where, how and when of all activities,
from using a toilet (Red-back!) to swimming (Stingers! Sharks! Rays!
Stonefish!) and everything in between.

And yet, despite all the fear and loathing, despite all the well-meant,
extravagant advice …. there was no warning about the real and
present threat on the horizon.

No-one. No individual, no club, no regional body, no travel agent,
no government service, no tourist organisation …..
Nobody warned me of the terrible dangers lurking in Urana … …

... the Giant Silo Spider !

… and the Carnivorous Power Line Pigeons !

Keeping a safe distance from both hazards and increasing our
speed a notch or two, we escaped to the flooded areas north of
Urana where spiders and pigeons were
unlikely to be living in great numbers.
Where are the sun bleached bones and dry riverbeds?

Not at Merriwagga, 70 km north of Griffith, that’s for sure.
The “Old School Caravan Park” is run by Mel whose sideline is
converting pushies to electric power.
Great facilities and friendly reception here.

Neither Mel’s pushies nor his park are what put Merriwagga on the map.
The pub does that with a bar so high that a mounted stockman may
collect his beer without leaving the saddle.

The tallest bar in Australia, they do say, though disbelievers from
Queensland question that claim and have been known to arrive with tape measures
to prove the matter one way or ‘tuther …. and then leave, disappointed.

All evening the struggle goes on to order an orange juice, but all is not
lost as there is a plethora of other things to do in Merriwagga.

Those who are too short to reach their drinks, or lack a horse, can feast
on Rosalie’s range of exceptionally good (check the label) pickles and jams ….

… or stand outside to watch the sun set over the silos, keeping a
watchful eye for spiders … and pigeons ...

… or, if there were still light enough, they could view the second of
Merriwagga’s contentious claims to fame. Forget Blackall as the home of
the Black Stump. What is Blackall’s stump anyway? Just a big lump of
wood the surveyors used for steadying their instruments.

Now, Merriwagga’s Black Stump is much, much more interesting,
being the remains of a woman whose clothes caught fire while she
was cooking Hubbie’s dinner over an open fire.
Hubbie returns home after a hard day’s graft, fully expecting to see a
tasty lamb roast and three veg on the table. Instead, he finds the Missus
reduced to “a black stump” by one of history’s more unusual cases of
spontaneous combustion. Her remains stand dutifully before the lamb
roast as if checking its progress, but by now the once juicy joint is little more
than a tragically overcooked crisp, well beyond salvation for the table
and hardly worth giving to the dog. Luckily, though, some of the vegetables
are still edible, if a little on the crunchy side, and serve as a light snack for
Hubbie as he contemplates the scene before him.

Throughout the inquest Hubbie stuck to his story and swore that if he
ever remarried the second Missus would have a proper stove to cook on.
It would be worth it, after all, no point in wasting a second perfectly good lamb roast.

The late Mrs Carbon is no longer on display, but her memorials - a steel
sculpture and a picnic area - are there outside the pub, reminders to us
all of the terrible dangers of failing to maintaining sound health and safety practices in the kitchen.

There is also a really efficient barbeque for those who just won’t be warned.

Didn’t we say there was never a dull moment in Australia?
Still, we are a bit peeved that this business of catching fire was
another danger that we were not warned about.

On a happier note and for animal lovers … this is a Merriwagga horse.
Name, age, and gender unknown, but it’s very friendly and Birtles
thinks the sun shines from his rear.

(Mentioning the horse in case anyone who is passing through
wants a drink at the pub but has forgotten to bring a step ladder).

Life on the road isn’t all beer and skittles, sometimes it’s just bread and water.
To pack down small, this bread has had its volume reduced: take a fresh
sliced loaf, divide it in two, rewrap the halves and compress them.
On the spot jogging with one half under each foot is the most efficient method.
The loaf reduces to about a fifth of purchased size and
with few air pockets left it stays fresh for ages. Individual slices can be
peeled off like pages of a book. Just add some warm water and there it is,
a quick lunch for the busy tourer.

A previous trip with AusTouring members brought home the importance
of food to the bike tourer, with meals being photographed as enthusiastically
as was any scene. In this report we will try to satisfy the food-lover with
photographs, such as this, of the trip comestibles.

Camera numbering puts this mine between Merriwagga and Cobar.
There are so many mines that memory fails as to exactly where it is, but it
did impress as being really rather large.

Cobar Information Center advises that, yes, there is plenty of
accommodation in the town, but, no, there’s no point trying any of them
as they will all be full. The logic is unassailable - they are full because
they are always full! Every cabin, room, hall, bus shelter, woodshed and
Wendy-house overflows with miners who in turn fill every
parking space with their Troopies and Cruisers. But, there is a huge
empty field of unpowered tent sites, each one up for grabs, so I hastily
hand over $27 and rush to peg a spot before the one other tenter claims it.

Memory is pin sharp on that Cobar tent site. Two thermals on top,
thermal leggings, sleeping bag with thermal liner, riding jacket over it
all … and still a wee bit nippy despite huddling around the LED tent
lights powered by Birtles battery. No, camping is definitely not popular
in Cobar - I’m guessing that if the price fails to deter campers, the weather
at this time of year certainly will.

To be continued ...

BigZoner #096 (English Chapter)
"Keep brotherhood till die"

platypus121 screwed with this post 10-08-2012 at 10:34 PM
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