Tag Archives: western australia

#29in29: If not you, then who?

Having missed out at Swings and Roundabouts, I made like a squashed grape on Facebook and let out a little whine. My friends delivered support, ego-rubs and arse-kickings in equal measure and it finally dawned on me that the only person who was going to make sure I had a good time was me: “If not you, then who?” as it’s written in that important book of moral reference, Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett.

So in the morning I implemented Plan Happy Traveller. That was the first important change, as recommended by Andy Myles. Being on holiday alone may feel sad and pointless. Travelling alone is exciting and challenging. I returned to the Augusta Bakery, purveyor of excellent pizza, and almost fell at the first hurdle. My accent was, apparently, impenetrable to the lady behind the counter. I tried a few times but got worse rather than better, because when I get stressed I start to stutter. After a bit of pointing I achieved my goal, which was a big black coffee with an extra shot and a vanilla slice, because what finer pastry could there be for a traveller’s breakfast?

Back at the Youth Hostel with my spoils, I found a the kitchen was full of interesting people, and best of all, for the cash-strapped lady biker, free bread. One of the girls staying in the hostel worked in the bakery and was allowed to bring home the unsold loaves in the evening. The tomato bread was particularly good. To maintain good karmic balance I put my bananas on the pile. I’d bought them in Collie and they had not travelled well. I am a banana fascist, there is a narrow window of opportunity when they are at their best but if they get brown and bruised I can’t bear them. But because we live in a universe of infinite diversity, my reject banana is another person’s bliss.

“Battered and free,” said Margaret, later. “The perfect banana!”

Margaret was travelling with her daughter Gill and was enjoying being the oldest backpacker in Western Australia. Her husband was at home with three weeks worth of meals in the freezer and a barn full of vintage bikes. I told her about riding with the Blue Knights and my RBR adventures. She laughed at my rubber scrambled eggs. We compared flight notes and I told her the story of my accidental oxygen tank. Sometimes I think I enjoy my disasters, because if my life went smoothly, what stories would I have to tell?


Filed under Australia

"Did you find her by the side of the road?"

Bec’s mesh jacket doesn’t fit. This doesn’t come as a surprise to me – she’s about 5 10 with a small waist, I’m 6 foot and go straight up and down, except on bad days when I go out in the middle – but men seem to see a smaller version of me than the one that exists in reality. I have a small pile of unworn t-shirts bought for me by the ex, who thought I was about a size 10. I think his subconscious was buying them for his lost love, who was tiny and half Chinese. But I digress.

My Triumph jacket with the liner out has been too hot on, I think, one day in 15 years of riding in Blighty. I though it would do fine for Australia. What it actually did was boil me in the bag like Batchelor’s Savoury Rice. On safety grounds alone I persuade myself that I ought to buy a new jacket and gloves, for dehydration and thermal overload proved just as distracting and unpleasant as being too cold. Adrian and Becs take me to their favourite gear shop on the way to Innaloo to collect the GS.

The Motorcycle Pit Stop is in North Perth. It looks reassuringly like a bike shop in Blighty, with the used bikes lined up in a row out front, the dayglo colours of dirtbike polyester to one side and the road-riding gear to the other. If this was a shop in England most of the gear would be about keeping warm. Here it’s the opposite problem – there’s perforated gear, thin gear and gear with integral Camelbaks. But wouldn’t that get really hot really quickly? Maybe you stick a teabag in there too and brew up on the move.

The girls’ gear is pink and has butterflies on it. The jacket I end up with, on the grounds that it fits and is affordable, is manly blue with white flashes. I remind myself that, if I want to wear a jacket that fits where it touches, then lurking in a cupboard at home I have a made-to measure jacket with a purple dragon on the back. And when I’ve lost the next 2 stone I’ll measure the same as I did when it was made and can start wearing it again. Though not in Australia. I think half-inch thick cowhide really wouldn’t be very practical in 42 degrees.

Adrian introduces me to Karen, who owns the Pit Stop and is struggling with a EPOS card reader which is dialling her fax machine in preference to the bank. This sounds like a good plan to me. I could fax her a picture of 200 dollars. How do I know Adrian and Becs, she wants to know. I am not sure where to start the story, and am distracted by the realisation that the shaggy cushion on the counter next to the card reader is in fact a small hairy dog. It sleeps peacefully until Adrian mentions that Becs, who has done her time on a 250, might be in the market for something bigger. The words “new bike?” wake it up in the same way that “brew?” galvanises a lethargic Yorkshireman. When it realises that a sale is not in prospect today it goes back to sleep in disgust.

I have a Dri Rider jacket and summer gloves. All I need now is a bike and I’m sorted.


Filed under Australia

30 Dec: Happy GS Day!

I fear I am never going to love sportsbikes. Especially not shiny ones covered in fragile carbon fibre bits that cut out if you let the revs fall below 5,000. In my normal life I rarely get above 4 and a half – I have been allowed to fall into bad habits by Ruby, who was willing to go up to at least 7 but would quite happily lump along at half that. This is my excuse for being unreasonably excited on 30th December, which is GS Day.

It starts poorly. I have arranged to get the bus into town to meet Adrian and his girlfriend Becs. Becs will lend me her mesh jacket, if it fits. We’ll get some lunch and then they’ll drop me at Wotan Street, where Big Boys Toyz are. @sharemyoyster, one of the lovely bikers I talk to on Twitter, is going to meet me there and take me up the Swan Valley. (NB This is a wine region, not a position in the Australian Kama Sutra).

As I’m about to leave, my brother offers to drive me over to collect the bike in the afternoon. I didn’t want to impose so I am already sorted. I wonder if this offends him. He doesn’t say.

I’m 30 minutes early at the bus stop, just to be sure. After 30 minutes there is no bus. I check the TransPerth website and the bus is definitely running. Once it is 10 minutes late I call and ask when the next bus is. In 50 minutes, they cheerfully advise. What happened to the one that was supposed to be here 10 minutes ago? It ran as normal, she says. This is why I do not like public transport. If they render the buses invisible, how am I supposed to put my hand out to get one to stop? Still, it was a lovely morning and I watched a postie doing the rounds on his postie bike. He knew I had designs on it, I think – he never got off it, instead giving a splendid demonstration of the art of drive-by delivery.

In the end Adrian and Becs pick me up in a low, loud green sedan. Wotan Street is a dead end and when we get there a very tall black GS Adventure is waiting, accompanied by a very tall Englishman and his wife.

It is just possible that collecting motorcycles from Brian is not normally a group activity.

“Are they making a film?” he asks, while photocopying my driving licence and levying an eye-watering security deposit on my credit card. We spend a few minutes being rude about Ewan and Charlie and their inability to leave home without SAS medics and a support truck. I don’t think I have met any SAS medics yet here in Australia but I am not short of support, which is lovely.

Brian backs the GS out into the road for me. It’s an 800 not the 1200 I booked because there was a screw-up over dates, but it’s tall and squinty-eyed and also rather battered. This is good for two reasons. Because it’s already battered, Brian is happy for me to take it off the tarmac. And because it’s an 800 not a 1200 I might have a fighting chance of picking it up when it falls over.

David and Lynn lead out into the traffic. I follow them. I am sitting upright, the engine sounds like a tractor and all is good.


Filed under Australia

Silhouetted by the sea

I have come to watch the sun go down. The glossy leaflet I picked up in Perth Tourist Information Centre tells me it’s one of the things I mustn’t miss while I’m in Geographe Bay. I have on my dinky vintage frock with the flippy skirt and flowers, and a pair of very cheap sandshoes from K-Mart. I am clutching my camera and look like a tourist. This is not a good thing. The sand is warm but the wind is cold. Later, walking down the street in search of something to eat, and in an ideal world, a beer to wash it down with, the wind will catch this skirt and flip it over my head, to the detriment of everyone in the thai restaurant whose view of the moonlit sea will be interrupted by a flash of my purple knickers. Sorry about that.

Further up the beach a gang of teenagers are having a laugh and shoving each other around, violence as a proxy for affection. If I climbed the rocks in front of me and shoved the bloke minding his own business with an esky and a fishing rod, I think he would not find it as funny as the lads by the waves do.

I love the sea. I love the white noise of the surf, and the way you can see to the edge of the world without obstacle. As the sun sinks lower the sky lights up crazy pink and gold. On the horizon there are three big ships: a couple of container ships and one that is all cranes and funnels. I wonder if the guys on them still find the sunset worth looking at. Maybe they have seen it so many times that it is just the way the world is painted.

I suffer a sudden attack of melancholy. The sky is Barbara Cartland pink, the sand is warm and I have a dress on. The sunset is genuinely extraordinary but I have no-one to share the moment with. Later in this trip I will realise that it is enough that I should be enjoying such experiences, but tonight I have yet to learn that lesson.

I dance with the waves for a little while, letting them wash up to my knees before jumping to safety. Maybe tomorrow I will swim, if I can work out what to do with the bike keys.

It is getting dark, and it is time for a beer. I scrunch my toes dry in the sand, put my shoes back on and go back to being a grownup. But walking through a party town where the glass-fronted restaurants are full of families does not lift my spirits.


Filed under Australia