“Click. Clack.” I shut the motorbike’s top box. “Slap. Snap.” The tank bag’s strong magnets grip the bike’s fuel tank. “Thwish.” I pull the tie down straps around my rucksack and dry bag tight so they are secure on the pillion seat. I pull on my helmet and gloves, turn the key in the ignition, press the electric start button, click the bike into gear and roll off down my parents’ driveway. Yes, I’ll be back in a little over a week but that will just be a short visit in which I will change from my motorbike to my bicycle before setting off again. But, today, I just enjoy the growl of my motorbike’s engines as I cruise off up the highway.
I am headed to Central Queensland where I will visit friends I haven’t seen in years. It’s a trip I’ve taken many times before but today I’m taking a different road: I’ve got to go to Toowoomba to collect my wet weather pants so I’m taking a scenic tour. The road to Toowoomba is frustratingly slow so I try to settle in and enjoy the scenery. But it’s always difficult on the first day of a tour when all you want to do is get off familiar roads to explore new territory.
And then I break through. Pants collected from my friend in Toowoomba I turn north north-west and ride into the late afternoon sun. The country here feels more settled. This isn’t the band of ever encroaching industry or urban sprawl that is taking over the country between Brisbane and the range. Rather, I’m now in grazing country where Wrangler jeans and Akubra hats reign. I slip quietly through tiny towns that dot the plateau. In one of these towns a middle-aged man comes to talk with me. He asks me something about my top box but I know that’s not really what he wants. The bike is an excuse to chat to someone new who might listen to him. This is one of the things travellers bring with them: a fresh ear to hear stories long told to others in town. So I listen to his stories and accept the Christian blessing he bestows on my soul. It makes him feel good and I am sure that somewhere along the way, I will take something from this interaction.
As the sun sinks lower in the sky the temperature drops. The trees encroach on the road, creating a cold trap that doesn’t warm during the day. It’s refreshing and I feel alive. I pull into Maidenwell where the pub is famous for it’s Saturday afternoon pig on the spit. Across the road a small road leads down to Coomba Waterhole. I’m grateful to P for telling me it was there: it’s beautiful and I contemplate pitching my tent here instead of up in town. But I can feel that the cold air will be trapped here overnight and the pub is said to do a good steak.
So I ride back up the hill, pitch my tent in the park (it’s free to camp here) and wander across the road to the pub where I listen to the regulars’ voices floating through the bar and watch the pub cat meander around the bar. The steak is large ad absolutely perfectly cooked. For once my medium-rare is actually medium-rare instead of well done (which is how many steaks in Australia are served regardless of how you order it). It’s a fantastic way to end the day and a little later I will wander back across the road to snuggle up in my sleeping bag to dream happy dreams.