That night, I lay in my tent in the blackness, listening to the winds howling through the deserted rodeo grounds. The rain came down like a solid wall as the remnants of Cyclone Debbie smacked southern Queensland, and I dozed with my vegetable knife in easy reach in case someone with bad intentions should find me there, camped alone behind the old shed. Every few minutes a particularly strong gust of wind would contort my flimsy tent, even though it was already tucked in between corrugated iron and the lee side of my motorbike.
It sounds terrible, doesn’t it? And for a few moments there was a little voice in my head said, ‘dear me, girlie, what have you gotten yourself into?’ But I was actually perfectly warm and dry in my fancy sleeping bag on my fancy sleeping pad in a perfectly nice part of southern Queensland, and before I knew it I was having a lovely night’s sleep.
In fact, the only thing I can really complain about is that when I went out to pee during the night, the rain was a bit cold on the backside.
When I woke the next morning, the rain had eased up and the wind was gone. I’d even slept in; it was at least an hour after day break and I was well rested. I put on my boots and inspected my camp, my motorbike; everything was intact and mostly dry. Nothing had blown away or blown over.
I looked around: yes, I had a motorbike, and I didn’t have to go to work, and I didn’t feel like the impossibility of daily life was crushing my soul. All pretty good, really. So I made coffee and got out my map.
Just like yesterday, I knew there was a massive low pressure system that was causing havoc and flooding nearby; just like yesterday, I had no phone reception so didn’t really know where the havoc and flooding actually was. My general plan was still to head West – to the desert, to the sunshine, to Birdsville – then North.
Andrea at the information centre had said that there was a roundabout dirt route to Mitchell that would take me through some beautiful country, but it would probably be impassable after heavy rain. No worries; I could see that there was another road that went directly through to Mitchell – not as exciting but mostly sealed, so probably a better choice given the weather conditions.
I loaded Beastie and ran through our bare bones morning routine: lube chain, check tyre pressures, check for loose spokes and missing bits. Sweet. I fuelled up, and headed out of town.
All around Injune, the countryside was waterlogged; the soil had reached saturation point and the water sat in depressions or flowed in rippling sheets towards the lowest point.
Often the lowest point was on the other side of the road I was riding.
Generally, the water wasn’t deep or flowing too quickly; the road was bitumen, and predictable, and the water hadn’t been lying on it long enough for slime.
I walked out each water crossing and rode on through; the weather seemed to be lightening as the morning went on, and I was optimistic.
Then I came to a proper creek, and it stopped me dead.
The depth indicators read 0.4m, so not too bad on a 690 Enduro – my Beastie stands pretty tall and the air intake is up high. As soon as set foot in the water, however, I knew it was a no-go: the current was strong, almost pulling my feet from under me.
Prudence is the better part of valour, right? I turned around and backtracked the way I’d come, all the way back into town. The only road left was the main road, almost a highway, taking me South to Roma to get onto the even bigger East-West highway that I’d been so keen to avoid. But, as my mother would say, beggars can’t be choosers, and neither can flooded-out motorcyclists. So South I went.
After the windy dirt roads I’d expected for today, this leg of the trip was deeply boring. Very nice bitumen; cruising in top gear with an eye on the speed limit; water up to the edges of the road, but not across it.
When I got to Roma, I was peeved and wet and a bit cold and incredibly hungry. I also didn’t know where I could go: I’d gotten mobile reception in Roma, and learned that even the main road West was cut. I couldn’t even take the highway to Mitchell.
I decided that this called for a coffee: a large, bourgeois, creamy, hot, jumbo-sized café fucking latte.
So, having been turned back by floodwaters and forced to travel in the exactly the wrong direction, I found a parking spot in Roma and peeled myself off the bike.
Gloves off, helmet off, valuables off the bike: I hadn’t quite finished the ritual when I heard a voice behind me – asking where I was going, did I need someone to stay? I turned around: maybe, I said. I’m heading West but apparently the road’s closed, so I don’t know what I’ll do.
Old mate’s name was Alan, and he told me that the Roma Gun Club was the place to camp, the place to drink well-priced beer, and the place I could get a barbeque dinner for $5 this evening. He also told me that I should go and say hello to Donna at the bakery, because Donna has been on a few motorcycling adventures herself.
The bakery was already my intended destination; my stomach was complaining and I was starting to feel a little faint. Walking out floodwaters and evaluating risks must have taken more energy than I’d thought.
I went off to find Donna, and found several. There appear to be two or three Donnas who work at the bakery in Roma. Only one of them rides motorcycles, however, and that Donna and I ended up having a great yarn about her past trips and future adventures.
Then she absolutely made my day: Donna shouted me breakfast. What a legend!
I was ludicrously excited and ordered the country breakfast, which comes with all the things plus steak. Steak! After a couple of days of almonds and tinned tuna, I was feeling a bit skinny and everything I wanted was, at that moment, a juicy salty steak.
I don’t normally take photos of my food, but here is a picture of happiness: