I’d made it to Darwin; Asia was just beyond the horizon. I could practically smell it. Seeing it was more difficult. Five times a day I put drops in my eyes to calm the inflammation of my corneas; every three or four days I drove sedately into Darwin to visit my optometrist in the hope of good news.

Come on, I said, I’ve got a boat to catch to Timor! I have to be able to wear contact lenses… I have to be able to ride.

The weeks ticked by; I went down to the Gold Coast to help out with a personal matter. It was all a bit of a disaster and I flew back to Darwin, still half-blind from anti-inflammatory ointments, filled with woe and playing Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler on repeat. (Don’t ask.)

I was a few days off my 30th birthday: homeless, unemployed, and now possibly too blind to even be a motorcycling hobo. I was ready to start feeling pretty sorry for myself; but sometimes life gives you what you need.

Brad’s dad, Colin, just happened to be home in Darwin for a few weeks, a relatively rare break between long months driving roadtrains in remote Australia. He isn’t a man used to sitting still; waiting around for a call about the next contract was driving him a little stir crazy, so we were well-matched to keep one another company in our waiting game: him for the next job, me for my eyes to improve.


Colin’s roadtrain. Only three side tippers today.

So there I was one day, moping about the tragedy and injustice of my eye problems, when I looked up and noticed that Colin was looking at me funny. Well of course he was looking at me funny, because he’s got a glass eye.

Twenty years ago, he’s lost the eye in a work accident in remote Australia. He woke up in a hospital in Adelaide, thousands of kilometres from home, a roadtrain driver with a young family to support and only one eye. So he checked himself out of hospital and went back to work.

‘Well,’ said Colin, ‘I can tell you that backing up a roadtrain with four trailers when you’ve suddenly only got one eye is not an easy thing to do. It’s bloody hard. But I learnt to do it, because I had to.’

That’s an impressive intellectual – and probably also neurological – adaptation. What a legend.

I stopped complaining and pulled up my socks. If Colin can put a 53m roadtrain exactly where it needs to be with one good eye, I’m pretty sure I can find a way to be a motorcycling hobo with two bad eyes.


This bloke is a legend! Also, he helped me out by cutting down this old Imperial alan key to fit Beastie’s timing cover; now with my customised piece of alan key and a small shifter, I can remove the timing cover and turn over the engine with a 13mm socket to get top dead centre when I’m doing my valve clearances. This is so much easier than the alternative method of taking out the spark plug and stuffing around with the back wheel while the bike’s in gear, trying to find top dead centre without dropping the bike on my head. How great is that.

* * *

Slowly my corneas improved and my optometrist ushered my poor eyeballs through test after test. Yes, my corneas sucked; no, under no circumstances was I allowed to wear the type of contact lenses I’d been using before; no, under no circumstances were my eyeballs to come into contact with the fearsome microbe-bearing waters of South-East Asia. No, I can’t have LASIK surgery because my cornea is only 498 microns thick (seriously guys, please stop telling me about how your nan had LASIK and it was great; I’m not your nan). No, there’s nothing much to be done about it now; maybe in 15 or 20 years I’ll be a candidate for a surgically inserted permanent contact lens, but it can’t be done now.

And then… NEW CONTACT LENSES. Yes! Supposedly the best contact lenses available, they’re daily disposables and they cost a small fortune. They’re also not exactly comfortable on my eyes, but I CAN SEE. I can judge distances! I can read road signs! I can use my peripheral vision without getting dizzy!

Oh hell yes.

I emailed the shipping company. I have a motorbike, I said, and it needs to be on the next boat to Dili.

It’s on.

0 thoughts on “Reality Check

  1. geoffkeys says:

    I enjoyed this story Grace, and even though I knew the outcome, I didn’t know how you got there. Speaking as someone else with bad eyes, you have all my sympathy.

    1. Thanks Geoff. The story continues…

  2. riel says:

    Glad to see you are improving Grace!

    May I suggest checking out the Horatio Bates Vision Method(s).
    Following the exercises I was able to eventually ditch my contacts for good.
    IMO it just takes tenacity, courage and desire for change in your life – which is you !


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *