Cycling through a Fred Williams inspired landscape, the blue-grey strip of highway slices through the clotted cream coloured singing grasses. Up ahead, reflected in the water that isn’t there, I can see trucks approaching: It’s a mirage, the heat haze shimmering into the hot afternoon.
A train loaded with sulphuric-acid for the mines, approaches parallel with the highway. We wave enthusiastically the driver responds with a series of supportive blasts of the horn.
Stopping to buy mandarins at a roadside fruit stall, I meet Joshua and Samuel, African men originally from Sudan who are now farm workers. Joshua had spent time in Footscray or as he called it “Africa Town” and wanted to by us a watermelon in solidarity with our journey, which I politely declined. “One day I wish to walk to Canberra in honour of the Sudanese men who died seeking refuge in Australia” he said.
We were looking forward to a coffee break at the little town of Homestead however the town was all closed up, apparently folks got tired of waiting for the muted ethanol plant, lead mine or any other rural renewal project. They left behind some public toilets, a historical mural and a shady park bench. It’s here we met Michael, a rotund elfin man child, who is driving to Perth to start afresh after things didn’t quite work out in Ayr. We brewed up and shared a coffee he provided fresh milk. Michael showed me his text book full of old “welcome to” tourist stickers.
“I have one from London, where I went over for the Royal Commission. I was sent out to Australia as a child after the War where I was terribly abused and ran away when I was 12, but things only got worse!”
Michael then stood up and proceeded to dance, Carmen Miranda style like whilst playing the spoons: “I just want to make people happy” he exclaimed. He topped up our water bottles and we said goodbye.
I was down to my last spare tube after Therese had an early morning puncture on the road between Hughenden and Richmond. Rolling into Julia Creek, I stopped at the local hardware store and they had just the tube I needed, “How much?” I asked.
“You can have that one for free” said Janine “Good luck with your Journey.”