“Goodness, you aren’t Charley Boorman, that motorcycling friend of Ewan McGregor are you?”
An old hippy lady, wiry and thin, wrapped in the compulsory multi-coloured sarong, with a yellow skin tone after decades of smoking heavily, looked at Big Bertha (my BMW motorcycle), “No you can’t be, you’re not blond and you have too little gear”. I just walked out a lovely little French coffee shop in Denman NSW, when I spotted the hippy lady and her slightly pokey husband, both in their mid sixties admiring the Big Bertha. She laughed hard and loud pointing to the caveman, walking man, BMW GS riding man evolution sticker on the top box. He greeted me by commenting on the motorcycle, and by shaking my hand, which I quite liked; it is a proper and appropriate manner of salutation in most civilised countries. “Living the dream mate, I always wanted a BM like this, boxer engine, thousand cc’s, drive shaft, real mean machine”. His wife chipped in “Those English boys, that sexy actor, what’s his name again? Ewan, yes, Ewan McGregor, that is it, and his fat friend, they really knew how to go for it. That trip through Russia and Mongolia; We watched every episode on DVD, didn’t we? Is it the same bike? We loved it, didn’t we?” Oh God I though, I am being referred to as the fat friend, quite a blow to my ego, but a quick look at my Xmas waistline made me think I do resemble Charley Boorman.
While families in fashionable European cars less frequent the secondary country roads Jan Cilliers suggested to me, it is heaven for motorcyclists and motorists with a slightly sadistic streak or an adventurist side. It is on these routes that you encounter people from another dimension, interesting, differently adjusted true people; not the vanilla political correct urbanites who drive around in a Toyota Prius, telling the rest how we should life out lives while they sip a soy latte. I was feeling slightly dehydrated, in the mood for a cup of International Roast or similar, a homemade pie and a Cherry Ripe; I pulled onto the grassed sidewalk in Bylong, opposite a small shop and filling station sporting inviting signs, “Happiness is not a destination, it is a journey”, “Handmade jams and preserves for sale” (‘Handmade’ always amazed me, would other people make it using their feet?). The owners, two ladies, quite observant and curious about me, my journey, where I am from, both stated that kangaroos is a menace on the road this time of year. The cash taking lady brewed what would soon be the second worst coffee I had in my life, military years included, her partner told me the handmade chicken and salad sandwiches is a must. Witnessing her slick and controlled hand movements with an enormous kitchen knife made me decide that the purchase of such a freshly (handmade) sandwich might be in order and the right thing to do if I want to leave this hamlet, thinking of “The secret is in the sauce” part in Fried Green Tomatoes.
A well-used Toyota Hilux UTE driven by a local farmer and his young son seated next to him pulled up, to fill their huge red quad bike on its tray with fuel. “Crash often?” he asked, pointing his head towards Big Bertha. Shooting a white lie to heaven I said “Never”, putting behind my recent muddy road experiences in Queensland. He pushed his huge white Akubra hat backwards, rubbed his forehead, nodded to his son, and said “Mate, on this road, with all them potholes, grey headed tourists and farkin’ ‘roos*, it will be sooner than later”. Such nice, charming people, the locals I thought.
Like, when you are invited for dinner by that cute girl you recently met, and she tells you this home cooked lasagne is her Sicilian grandmother’s secret recipe, but not only does it look like concrete and cardboard, it but tastes like it as well, I was trying to swallow the horrible coffee and handmade chicken and salad sandwich with dignity. It was difficult. Slowly, like a naked man out of his lover’s bedroom window when her husband walks in, I tried to slid away against the shop’s window and wall towards the council’s waste bins a few metres away, but I swear I could hear sandwich making lady sharpening her kitchen knife. I used all my mental energy on moving so quietly, swiftly and invisibly towards the bin; to not attracted attention and the revenge of the sharpened kitchen knife, I was nearly run over by a metallic gold Honda CRV, and then by a second, exact copy of the first CRV, both with heavily tinted windows and personalised number plates. The first car, stopping in a cloud of dust produced three elderly grey-headed gentlemen in light coloured attire, in wind-up doll fashion, walking with military purpose straight from their CRV to the second one, which produced three grey and purple haired ladies with enormous sunglasses, just like Dame Edna’s famous pieces. The three ladies, in synchronised rhythm stated “we needed to turn right Evan, right not left Evan, can’t you read your GPS Evan, we needed to turn right at the previous crossing, we need to go to Moree. We should have driven in front, and we will now be late and in danger on the awful road with all the potholes and kangaroos…” and all three ladies nodded in sync, like parrots on a stick. Moree is about three or four hundred kilometres to the north, they are well and truly of their track. The verbal exchange went on in a spectacular fashion, like a snippet from a Mr Bean or Peter Sellers comedy, I even glanced around for hidden TV cameras; and quickly seized the opportunity and deposited the coffee and chicken with salad sandwich in the bin.
The farmer and his son must have thought this is the Day of Reckoning, and it was not what they thought it would be, and with a great puff of diesel smoke and shaking heads they disappeared in the opposite direction. The male driver spotted me, must have seen the astonishment in my eyes, and waved to the three ladies with Dame Edna glasses inspecting the handmade jams and preserves, and said “My wife and her sisters, and their husbands” as he pointed to the two other blokes, both looking solemn. “Darn GPS, such a complicated piece of technology.” I was still scanning the periphery for hidden cameras, as this scene that played before my eyes was just too weird and make belief. I could see nothing, suspicious. The only rapid movement was the elderly gentleman walking with his TomTom GPS in his hands, showing the route to his wife. As I pulled the helmet over my head, the sandwich lady approached me from the back and said, “You didn’t like our sandwiches did you?”
* ‘roo is short for kangaroo in rural Australia