Encounters with Australia
We ended Chapter 8 with our hero wafting into the beach town of Bundeena on the final fumes of heat exhaustion. Less than 24 hours later, the fighting spirit that has characterized many of the finest, but dead, spear-carrying Dowd’s saw our Canuck Schmuck saddled up again and headed the profoundly modest distance of 30 km through Royal National Park to the polyglot Kieran, a Warmshowers host in Stanwell Park.
[Let’s go first person personal – it’s so much more intimate.]
Because it was only 30 km, a mere warm-up for hardened road warriors, I spit at the idea that leaving at noon, the beginning of prime-time Aussie heat, might be a problem. That was the last time I spit for awhile. Maxine, my Bundeena hostess, told me “There’s a bit of a hill as you leave town, but that won’t be a problem for you.”
So wrong. So very wrong.
As a one off, the climb was successful, in the way that someone resistant to the physical arts can, maybe, with great effort, do a single push up. We all know push ups, and the attendant Quivering Arm Syndrome, that palsied, twitching, just-shoot-the-bastard condition poisonous to self-esteem. Well, Quivering Leg Syndrome is four times worse, purportedly responsible for climate change and an America Last foreign policy. By the 47th hill, I’m pretty sure I melted Antarctica. By the 68th, The Wall was built.
Up and down, around and around. Set in subtropical rainforest, the unshouldered road proved a favourite for motorcyclists testing their skills on the hairpin turns. Would the rider hear my last word “Sorrrryyyyyyyy!!!!!” as he plowed into me coming around a blind corner at 120 km? Not sure... “All right, Mate?” No.
Slow. Agonizingly slow. Humidex: 400 Celsius. The teeniest incline and I fumble into granny gear, a beached whale on a bike, turning the pedals in hazy fatalism. Aussie grannies were walking backwards alongside me “Alright then?” No.
At the first pullover, I pulled over with the purest intention of flinging myself to the ground, possibly forever. Couldn’t. Why? Snakes and spiders. Even Australians said “Ya gotta be careful, mate. The spider’s sit under leaves and if you disturb them, well… crikey…” The treatment for snakebite, if someone gets to you in time, is complete immobilization for three days, as the venom travels through your lymph nodes and any movement will only hasten the Grim Viper. They actually inject a drug to paralyze you. Then, if they can then figure out what kind of snake bit you, you might live. Such fun.
A pathetic snapshot: stopped, dying quietly at the side of the road, slumped over my handlebars in utter prostration. The sound of a vehicle… I struggle up, pretending to fiddle with something in my handlebar bag, pasting a ghastly expression of contentment and competence on my last-rites face. “Just looking for my nitroglycerin! G’day eh!” Ughhh… At one point, once again teetering down the road, a cicada zoomed by my ear, inducing a cataleptic seizure of what-the-hellness. Wild-eyed does not begin to capture it… Some people would embrace the experience. Some people get their eyeballs tattooed. Please. Make. It. Stop.
To be continued…