The sandy stretches eventually terminated in an expanse of water that completely covered the road. The water was a couple of metres across, and perfectly reflected the cloudy sky above.
Oh lovely, I thought: all that good work at not stacking it in the sand, only to be turned back by water.
Riding through water is fun, but I prefer to do it in the presence of some other person who can help me drag Beastie and all my gear out of the creek should things go wrong. It doesn’t take much – a slippery rock, a hidden stick – to go from hero to zero in the middle of a river, and I didn’t feel like cooking the water out of my oil tonight.
I eased forward to investigate my watery nemesis… and laughed in relief. It was just a pool. A beautiful, scenic pool in the middle of the road. The creek running in and out of it was barely a trickle, and the banks hardly muddy.
I saddled up and rode around, my tyres spitting chunks of mud past my visor.
The road went on. Eventually I hit bitumen again.
It was only about 4pm when I rode into Injune, but it felt late: the weather was closing in and I hadn’t had any lunch, so my view on the world was pretty dark. I pulled up in front of the town information centre and grabbed some water and almonds.
I was knackered.
I was also chilled. The sweat from the day’s exertions had gone cold against my skin and the wind was coming up. It was time to find somewhere I could put up my tent and hide my head.
I went inside to ask where, in town, a hobo like me could rest her head – preferably both free of charge and free of trespassing charges.
At the information desk was a wonderful woman by the name of Andrea who thought my trip was pretty cool, and this cheered me up a bit. Andrea gave me my options: the showgrounds had hot showers and charged a small fee, but I could camp at the rodeo grounds on the edge of town for free. There were no amenities out there – well, none that weren’t locked up – but it was free.
Now, I’m usually pretty gung-ho about camping in random places on my own, but on this day, for some reason, I was uneasy. Maybe it was just because I was hungry: I find that low blood sugar will make the world a miserable and scary place.
I asked Andrea if she thought there would be many people camped out there at the rodeo grounds. When I camp on my own, I like to either be near lots of people, or completely alone in a place where no-one can find me and no-one knows I’m there. Both of those options are fine; what you don’t want is to be the only person camped at a rest stop when the bloke from Wolf Creek pulls in.
There might be a few people up there, said Andrea, but she was doubtful. It wasn’t really a place frequented by grey nomads and such, and the weather was pretty bad and getting worse. I was also worried about shelter; I didn’t know how wild the weather was going to get overnight, but it wasn’t looking good.
I must have looked miserable and worried.
‘Look,’ said Andrea, ‘You’re very welcome to come out to my place and you can put your bike in the shed out there, but it’s 30km of dirt road and I don’t know what the road’s going to be like. It’s pretty muddy now but if there’s a lot of rain tonight it could get worse, and the creeks might come up. You could be stuck out there for a while.’
I immediately felt better. I wasn’t going to impose on Andrea by potentially getting myself stuck at her place for days in the rain, but she’d reminded me how good people are. I felt better about everything, and headed up to the rodeo grounds to have a look.
It was about a kilometre and a half out of town, and the first thing you saw was a big washdown tank – basically just a big public water supply so that transiting trucks can be washed down to prevent the spread of weeds and diseases. In behind the washdown area was the rodeo arena and cattle yards, backing down to the creek.
You could see the rodeo grounds from the highway and from the washdown area, so I rode around the back towards the creek, looking for a secluded spot where I could pretend to be invisible. After days of soaking rain, however, the ground was sopping and soft under my wheels. There was nowhere that my sidestand wouldn’t just sink into the bog, and I knew that there was no way the base of my tent would be up to keeping the swamp on the outside.
I turned back, and started looking for shelter. There was a rough grandstand above the arena, with big picnic tables under shelter. It had a pretty grand outlook, and I briefly considered parking Beastie up there and camping like the queen of the world, with a view over my dominion.
However, sense got the better of me: just as I could look out, everyone on the road could look in, and I didn’t really want to advertise our presence.
So I climbed down the hill again and found a sheltered spot behind a shed. I had a concrete floor, a roof over my head, and partial shelter from the wind. It was pretty ritzy really – for a hobo!
If I kept my lights down, I couldn’t be seen from the road; I knew I’d be totally exposed if anyone else actually drove into the grounds to camp, but it was getting darker and it was the best I was going to get.
I fanged back into town, bought some vegetables and sausages, and then headed back out to the rodeo grounds. As night fell, the rain started to thunder down, almost deafening on the tin roof. I set up my tent, tethered the edges to stop it from blowing away, and hunkered down behind the shed with the redbacks to wait out the night.