April 22, 2013 Leave a comment
I don’t know what else to do with this piece of writing – it’s from an aborted attempt at writing a story of my time as field assistant in the gold and diamond exploration industry back in the early nineties. So here it is. I’ll add a few more snippets from the unpublished ‘memoir’ as and when. But, for now – enjoy!
Trail-bikes and Flies
It was at Barnong Station that I was introduced to the wonders of trail bikes. Barnong is near the town of Yalgoo. This is at the edge of the wheat-belt some four hours drive north of Perth, and is part of the historic Gullewa gold fields. The bikes were perfect to get through the dense scrub. When I had lived in Bateman, then on the outskirts of Perth, I had often heard these bikes careering around the pine plantation over the road. I thought it looked quite exciting. My parents were not convinced, and neither were the authorities who I often saw in hot pursuit some 50 metres behind the bikes. I never saw them catch anyone. However, now being in my twenties and about to go driving on dirt tracks I had a sneaking suspicion that the pursuers never caught the trail bikers because they secretly enjoyed driving like maniacs on dirt tracks and didn’t want to end the fun. I would soon find out.
Harry, the geologist, and I trailered the bikes to out to our start point, and then it was time to mount up. I was looking forward to this. How hard could it be? I fell off twice in the first half-hour. It was not as easy as I had thought. They are heavy buggers, trail bikes, especially when they land on top of you. Anyhow, I was soon heading of through the scrub nursing bruises, taking samples, and trying to keep ahead of the flies.
How could I not have mentioned the flies?
These are trained bush flies. They are only small, but are the equivalent of the SAS when compared to other flies, who are merely highly trained soldiers. These crack assault flies (take that phrase as you will) follow you, wait for you to stop, and will then attempt to crawl into any orifice that they can find. The smart ones congregate on your back to catch a free ride to your next destination. This allows them to save energy for the next assault on your nasal passages. They would rather die than give up their quest for moisture. Many do die, and then have to be physically picked off your skin. The usual flap of the hand does not even distract them. Flying away when that happens is just for ‘pussies’. So, as I continue this story, take it as read that at all times I am covered in flies that are trying to crawl up my nose, into my eyes, and into my mouth. And remember, there are millions of the buggers queuing up to replace their fallen comrades. Back to the bikes.
As with many activities in the bush, there is a feeling of freedom that comes with riding a trail bike. I soon felt this freedom and perhaps became just a little over confident. Nobody had told me about the bull dust. These are the patches of extremely fine dust that sit in potholes and make such hazards look like a solid part of the road. Hitting them at speed causes one’s testicles to be crushed against the seat. I don’t recommend this! I hit a couple of these potholes and soon learned my lesson.
‘Slow down, son,’ Harry advised, or I think he did. I’m a bit hazy about what he said as my testicles were drowning him out with their complaints. I tried to slow down, I honestly did, but as soon as we were moving my speed increased once more. The dust derailed me again, this time in a different manner. When the dust is not very deep, but stretches for some metres, it acts like water. I hit a patch of this dust and, much to my surprise, my front wheel started turning of its own accord. There was no traction, no grip. Unfortunately this was only a temporary situation. In the true tradition of slapstick physical comedy, traction returned when my wheel was at about right angles to my direction of travel. This was a perfect opportunity to take flight over the handlebars. I gloried in that feeling of weightlessness, that fleeting moment of freedom, that impending impact with the rapidly approaching ground – oh shit!
As I lay staring up at the beautiful, but now spinning, blue sky, I realised how lucky I was to be having this stimulating experience. This was a boy’s own adventure and my-oh-my wasn’t I having fun!
By a stroke of fortune, I had not done any damage. I was soon off and riding again – but only after I was absolutely sure that I was not concussed. This time I was travelling at a much-reduced speed. I didn’t fall off again that day, but that was not for lack of trying. I did come close on a few occasions, and almost accelerated into a tree when I was about to leave a sample site. To this day I maintain that I was distracted by a passing kangaroo. Through all of this excitement, the flies did not fall off; they stayed with me for the whole day. And the next day. And the next.