Steve was up and out of Cocklebiddy early as the winds are a little less intense early in the day and having turned to an ESE direction, they are hard work on the bike. As the caravan park was rather unprepossessing: no shade and bit of a dust bowl, I elected to drive around in front of the roadhouse and set up to paint the scene from the smoker’s tables and chairs outside the snack bar and bar bar.
We had got quite a bit of interest in the cause when we sat there yesterday with our little advertising set-up showing the merchandise we have for sale from the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation (basically purple caps and beanies) and my art postcards. We also have some freebies – wristbands, tattoos and ribbons to give away with donations. Several people made small donations and we sold a few caps and postcards as well – it seems that often people have a story to tell about their experiences of cancer, or they are just amazed at the madness of cycling 100km a day! It’s always lovely to chat to people.
So, thought I’d hang out their again and just paint what was in front of me – the vast expanse of grassy flatlands dotted with small bushes and trees that are bent over in gnarled shapes from the winds. This time I decide to include the road and road signs, showing the entry into the roadhouse stop. OK, decided that this landscape would work well in gouache – I’ve not done much painting with gouache so it was a bit of challenge, as was doing it in such a public way!
In places like this there are only a few ‘residents’, basically the staff needed to run the place, and several of those who were off duty hang out there having a coffee and smoko. Then there were the travellers heading across the country to see rellies for Christmas, and finally the truckies and maintenance crews that are the life-blood of such tiny places.
You know what though, sometimes making a task as challenging as possible has the effect of freeing you up and this turned out to be the case – I couldn’t really worry too much about what I was doing and get pernickety with the media, and I didn’t have endless time to work on it as I knew Steve was counting on me meeting up with him around halfway. Even with people peering over my shoulder, chatting and telling me about their aunt who could paint or child who loved to draw, I was able to pull off a half decent landscape of the day.
Two people who I spent time with ‘chewing the fat’ as they say, stand out – one of the reception and snack bar staff, a lovely woman who had quite a tough time of it losing her partner to brain cancer and nursing several other families through serious illness. She had quite a spiritual take on life. Then there was Johnny, chief weed sprayer for the Eyre Highway from Norseman to Border Village. What a character, larger than life, and pretty interested in what Steve and I were doing. I heard quite a bit of his life story in the 20 mins to half hour he was around.
I managed to time things well to meet up with Steve about 60 km into the 90 km ride to Madura. I saw that there was a rest stop just up ahead and pulled in. As you approach Madura you are in for quite a surprise – road signs warn that trucks should engage low gear and the speed limit goes down to 90 way out of ‘town’ – just another roadhouse of course. Seemingly out of nowhere the flatlands give way to steep drop with a wooded rocky escarpment on the north side and sweeping plains that are heavily treed at first but give way to grasslands dotted by tree bent northward. It is quite an amazing change of scene, and I knew Steve would enjoy a little downhill to end his ride.
Towards the bottom of the pass the turnoff to Madura appears, with a sign claiming it is an oasis – and I would have to agree. Nicely treed powered sites, pleasant amenities and surroundings, lovely place to end the day. When Steve arrived about an hour later and we had set up, we retired to the bar to avoid the heat for a couple of hours (and hoped we might have the same experience with interested people and donations as the day before…but no, just had a few drinks).
A yummy dinner of vegie sausages, fried mushies, onions rolled up in mountain bread with pesto and tomato sauce…mmm. There is no bread to be bought out here so we have done well to have any this far, but that is the end of our supplies. We have been trying to use up our fruit and vegies by the time we get to the border, so all those things are being run down. We head for bed in the pod before the sun is even set, we are certainly getting enough sleep on this trip!