Monday, June 18, 2012

Gold Coast, Bike Gangs, Brisbane, Hitchhiking, and Cairns

Sarah and Chad
Sarah Beetson moved over here about 6 years ago, following her heart which had attached itself to Chad. They live on a farm near the Gold Coast and apart from being important friends to catch up with, they were also the keepers of my tent, which they had since I sent it to them from Greece nearly a year ago. We represent Sarah as a top illustrator, she also worked in the office for some time before she made it over to Australia. She still works for us beyond her amazing illustration work, by being our talent scout and managing the 5000+ applications to join the agency from artists that we get each year.
Sarah with her the family budgie perched on her hat
Where they live is an oasis surrounded by extraordinary development that they have been resistant to. The farm is in a valley and bordered by a sort of national park they can see very little of the new building work that is only minutes from their gate. David and Heather, Chad's father and mother, own the farm which is a mixture of beef, macadamia nuts, delicious custard apples, avocados, lemons and tangerines to mention just a few of the richness that the land provides them. They have been there since the mid-1800 when their forebear left Somerset. All around them their neighbouring farmers have sold out. By and large they ended up sad and in many cases grossly cheated by developers. To David the idea of selling equates to selling his mother and although multimillions probably could be theirs, it would not be worth the loss of a way of life and a land deeply loved.

David about to take Batty for a spin...he came back ashen and was shaking his head in disbelief and amusement that anyone would be mad enough to ride a bike like Batty anywhere, let a lone around the world... He is use to Harleys and Triumphs
David is a member of a local infamous biking club, who are rather like the Hells' Angels. Although he now has a lot less to do with it, the tales of parties and great extremes by him as a club member (and treasurer and chief party venue host) are enough for a book or 2. What I liked, apart from the entertainment and insight, was how all their 4 children are pretty straight-laced comparatively. I suppose if you've heard your father talking about antics and abuses of all shapes and sizes, any teenage rebellion and the like would never compete.

We went to the Brisbane and visited the GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art). Some amazing work and is Australia's most visited Gallery....That fact has to speak volumes to those that knock modern art.

David looking down over his valley
Chad walked over the whole farm bare-footed. David and he took me on a tour of the farm and all the work he was doing to clear the Lantana weed from the higher ground

Just over the hill and the Gold Coast creeping fast
I did fly down to Sydney to discuss possibly setting up the agency there with someone who would be great. That has yet to be formalised, but the economy is pretty brisk here and we seem to be doing more more work for Australia as well as representing a number of great artists from Australia and New Zealand, so it does make sense to look into.

If it is boring me, I hate to think what readers are thinking….bloody fool (batty), is my emotion half the time. Yet again I have gummed up the piston rings, and this time using just 10% veg oil. I am surprised as much as disappointed that I seem to be spending half my time in oily circumstances fixing the bike, but as I've mentioned before each time it happens I get to be the beneficiary of great kindnesses and experiences that just driving around would not ever produce. I broke down this time at a garage long way from a large town, but luckily the lady who owned the garage, Joyce, let me take the bike back to her hotel and use her shed, some 30 km away. Her boyfriend put Batty on his trailer and I booked in for a night or 2. Unfortunately I broke one of the piston rings, so I ended up hitchhiking 800 km to Cairns in a 60 ton truck, driven by the chatty and generous Kevin.
Kevin strapping down the curtains
  This was a novel and enjoyable experience. Truck drivers have been my constant road companions and to see the road from their perspective was illuminating to say the least. They have a very bad press, and they feel like victimised part of the community, of course there are 2 sides to this but they feel they are pressurized by the consumer ultimately, to keep long hours delivering our demands and of course when anything goes wrong the other vehicle nearly always comes off worse. They are heavily regulated now and the days of speed (as in the drug) and ridiculous hours behind them, there is still heavy police interference that they feel is over the top.

Jack in his workshop
24 hours later I was in Cairns and in the very good care of Jack Erskine. Jack has a worldwide reputation in the sports fishing world, having come to Cairns as a young man with a love of fishing and an engineering mindset had him making some of the world's finest fishing reels and other tackle. As well as this he also enjoys Royal Enfield motorcycles and was a contact and customer of Henry, and who built Batty. After a few days I had the parts from all of the Jack's great contacts in the city and started my return.

As luck would have it Kevin was driving south so for the 1st quarter of the journey I was with him. Then, much to my frustration and his delight, a girl in a passing car flashed her  apparently beautifully proportioned naked top half at him. Alas I was out of view….. that was the 3rd time it had ever happened to him in 30 years on the road.  Kevin had to drop me at Townsville as he had a collection to make  in a different direction, so I ended up trying to find a lift for a couple of hours. It is very disconcerting not known when one might find a lift, but at 9 o'clock at night salvation came in the form of the Devil. Devil, or Lloyd as his passport denotes, reminded me that 'devil' spelt backwards spells 'lived'. And this man certainly had including 7 years in prison for various acts as a gang member of the Bandidos, a worldwide biking gang. Although this gives an impression of a pretty outlaw type character, it is balance off against his wish to build a community for disadvantaged children, as he was, so that they could have opportunities that he did not.

I got back to Carmila at 4 o'clock in the morning to find a key in a room from me. The next day I got Batty going again with all the help and spare parts that Jack had provided.

A vague plan in New Zealand with Miriam, the, to try and meet in Australia was all of a sudden a reality, as a text message reported that she was only a day away, and roughly en route. She cycled 90 km to Ravenswood, and Batty drove about 500 km, both over 10 hours ...I was a lot more knackered than she. It was great catching up and hearing how her tales on the road that found her at rodeos one week, and helping out at a properly the next, all linked by her quest to find remote and wild trails through the Australian bush.

Our respective steads in front of the Imperial Hotel

This was the other option in Ravenswood.....
I loved this sort of sculpture park of rusting iron machinery from the gold mines over the years
 I am now in a place called Cape Tribulation, that was recommended to me by Lee in Melbourne it is a beautiful spot north of Cairns. It is where the Great Barrier Reef meets the rainforest and I look forward to some lazy days and a bit of a diving.

At the end of next week I need to get back to Cairns and spend a few days with Jack who has kindly offered to help me get some more engine work done. Although that is running okay, there have been some consequences of all the dismantling and troubles to the big end bearing and as he is so well-connected and happy to help, it makes sense to do that here rather than in places unknown. Not only will the company be great, it will give me hopefully some peace of mind for the next few countries, particularly as I will be running only on diesel and not any veg oil. This now inevitable situation is humbling to say the least, having started out with such intent, named this blog about it, have kind friends create a fitting logo, and a wish to carry a message about the use of near carbon neutral and sustainable contemporary fuels is all down the pan. If only I had carried on using the 1st engine…..