Tuesday, 20 October 2009
Pilgrimage 09 - Phillip Island MotoGP Part 1
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The odyssey begins...
The Queensland contingent – Leon, Clem and gNat, arrive shivering in Canberra on Wednesday evening, and on Thursday morning the intrepid adventurers leave Chez Betty under gruesome grey skies. The forecast for the next few days is a bit grim. Meh.
At Yass I put on my wet weather gear 'just in case'. At the very least, it'll keep out the chill of the wind.
'Did you bring wet weather gear?' says I.
'No,' says Clem. 'We don't need that sort of thing in Queensland.' Uh-oh, think I, eyeing the evil dark clouds with a sense of impending disaster.
(on the Gocup Road just outside Gundagai - 'What wet weather gear?')
So – by Tumut it's raining properly, and the jeans of Clem & gNat are starting to look a bit soggy.
In Batlow it's raining. Clem keeps lagging behind, and thoughts of hypothermia loom large in my brain.
There's freezing rain in Tumbarumba, but there's a shop in the main street that sells waterproof pants. Poor gNat huddles by the heater, looking totally miserable. 'I want to go hoooooome!' she wails.
More suitably attired (and looking extremely stylish, heh heh) - and with bellies warmed by hot soup, we press on to Jingellic. It's raining there. We cross the Murray River into Victoria, and it's raining there too. There's rain as we head through Granya Gap, and on all the lovely sweeping roads along the Murray Valley Highway to Tallangatta. But it's not raining in Tallangatta!
Unfortunately, the brief spot of sunshine there is very fleeting. Some serious rain starts, and we head to Wodonga. We last saw Leon as he rode past us in Tumbarumba, where, by the way, did I mention it was raining?
Clem's XJ750 has started misbehaving. Uh-oh. Surprise surprise, it's raining in Wodonga. We pull over so Clem can drain the carbies, then head down the Hume Highway – we need to get to Warburton before dark, and with all this rain we seem to be taking a very long time.
Leon appears at the servo outside Wangaratta. This is fortuitous. The sun, incredibly, comes out. This is also fortuitous, because when Clem manages to get the XJ started, he daren't stop, and he roars off into the distance just as my gear shifter falls off at the servo exit. Yes, falls off. Completely.
Leon performs some quick roadside surgery as the next bank of black clouds approaches, and the rain holds off until we are back on the road. Clem & gNat are waiting for me at the Euroa servo, and we bid Leon farewell as he heads to his Thursday destination.
If you think things have been intense thus far, think again – the worst is yet to come!
The rain somehow gets worse, and colder. Clem has the bright idea of taking a shortcut through Marysville, which was almost wiped out in the bushfires last summer, and beyond that, the Reefton Spur.
Holy dooley – the devastation is terrifying. Dead trees and bare rock are all that's left, and the high narrow road that snakes along the Spur is littered with bark and twigs – and at one point, a fallen tree that has to be cleared from the road before we can continue. I'm so cold that I can't feel my hands, and my anti-fog visor insert has failed me completely. I ride with the visor up, frozen rain needling my face, and try to fight the rising tide of panic.
It's just another road, say I, over and over, which, coincidentally, is exactly the thought that Clem is apparently willing me to think. Spooky!
Leo & Di's place in Warburton, with its roaring fire, is a haven for we three Icicles. Clemsicle's clothes are still wet from earlier in the day, and gNatsicle looks like a tiny bedraggled pixie. Betsicle's circulation is finally restored by the warmth of our hosts and the glass of red that Di hands her (you know me so well, Di! (chortle)) and we call it a night, relatively early, and all crawl exhaustedly to our various beds.
Day One has taken us through about 750kms of cold and wet terrain. The Phillip Island Adventure has begun...