The countryside changed today from flat bush with a scattering of dwarf trees to hilly rainforest and curving roads. There were pretty wattle trees by the roadside covered in yellow blossoms. We were heading for the Newcastle Range of hills, staying at a camp site with normal campers. It was not a long ride to Innot Springs, 386 kms, the majority of it on bitumen. An easy day then, for most of us. However, Murray - who usually rides with Cam and Scotty-the-clown - told the story of Cam’s mishaps. It seemed Cam’s bikes were triple cursed. He’d had two, which had busted, and was on his third, which still wasn’t going well. The three of them stopped and Scotty checked the air filter and found ‘. . . enough dirt to fill a sandshoe’. After that Cam’s machine went along fine until, ‘. . . he blew the front tyre.’
So not all bikes were dream machines like my 21.
Today’s Running Sheet was very short. Only six entries from Croydon to Innot Springs village, going through Georgetown, Mount Surprise and Mount Garnet.
Out of Georgetown, Mount Garnet and Mount Surprise I was interested mainly in the last, which has a pub, two cafes and a petrol station. My sole interest being that I am a Yorkshireman and the town was founded by Ezra Firth, who was also from Yorkshire. All three towns have had minerals and metals in their veins, from gold, to copper, to tin. There’s also a few gemstones around. Gem fossicking is one of the local sports and enjoyed by residents and tourists alike.
The ride itself, for me, was fairly uneventful. I can’t remember much about it, except that we were travelling through different terrain and there was a good bit of wildlife about. When we arrived at Innot Springs we had a hot bath waiting. The camp site boasted natural hot-water baths which had their source in a spring that bubbled from the Nettle Creek. Pete and I plunged in, going from one bath to another, with rising heat, washing the dust of ages from our bones.
After dinner that night, I managed to phone Annette from a landline, and at last got through. We exchanged news. She had actually phoned Bev Kidby a couple of days earlier and been told I was fine. Annette had been having an exciting time in the Atherton Tablelands north of Innot Springs and wasn’t that far away. She’d seen much more wildlife than me, including tree kangaroos, and of course the platypus, plus a whole variety of birds. Part of her time had been spent on a horse ranch with some Quakers who refused to take any money for her keep.
It was good to hear her voice again. I once spent a whole year at the beginning of our marriage without doing so, having been posted to Aden by the R.A.F. in a time when telephoning from such an outpost was hardly possible. An emergency would have done it, but we went the whole year without the world collapsing around us. It seems quite incredible now that in those days we were only able to correspond by letter. Those letters were treasured of course and now, with cellphones, such times seem to belong to ancient history.
‘I’ve been leeched again,’ she told me. ‘Buggers!’
Annette is very attractive to leeches. They smell her from two miles away and head straight for her nice legs. Once in central Malaysia she had kindly fed a couple of leeches for an hour. Afterwards we couldn’t stop the bleeding, leeches having pumped her full of anti-coagulant. In the end she was slopping along with a shoe full of blood. We were due to fly home that day and she had to throw her trainers, socks and all, into a waste bin before boarding the aircraft barefoot. When we finally got home, almost a day later, she couldn’t wash the dried blood off her feet because our septic tank had backed up and the shower room was full of sewage. Happy days.
On my way back to my tent I heard something ominous. Four or five of the riders were outside their tents vomiting. I’ve had food poisoning once or twice before in my life and I knew the sound. Poor buggers, I thought, they’ve either drunk some bad water, or eaten some bad food, and now they’re feeling bad. I went to bed, the sound of rainbow yawns still disturbing the quiet of the evening.
An hour in bed and I was up again and, like a few others, was running for the toilets. I must have gone about a twenty times that night. Each time I got back into bed the churning in my stomach started and I would be up again and visiting the dunny. I took two imodium tablets and some salt water. At six-thirty, having had no sleep and with bowels that were spurting nothing but dirty water I went to see Dan.
‘I don’t think I can ride today,’ I said, miserably.
Dan rolled his eyes and sighed. ‘I’ll need to hire a coach,’ he said.
‘Is it that bad? That many?’
‘Well,’ and he stared me directly in the eyes, ‘up until now no one has actually said they’re notriding, except you.’
I got the look and I got the drift.
Get on your bike, you whinging Pom.
I walked away and for the first time began to throw up. I must have got rid of the lining of my stomach in that bout, but afterwards I felt a little better. I got some more rehydration salts, drank about a gallon of water, and took a handful of imodium pills. I stayed away from breakfast and stood there by my bike feeling exhausted and frail. The imodium worked now that I’d taken a healthy dose. Nevertheless I chucked a couple of toilet rolls into the milk crate on the back of the bike. When the call came I got on my machine and set off. I planned to stop every 50 kms to drink a half-litre of water.