Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Bowen to Ayr

Turquoise mountains melted into a twinkling, turquoise sea as I returned to the town centre. While Cleaning my chain and cogs, waiting for the library to open, two passers by asked if I was OK, and last night a man had stopped on the highway and shouted, "Do you need a lift?" Inside the building an Aboriginal woman was on the phone to someone about benefits, while her cute children were left to their own devices. It was "fucking this" and "fucking that" in earshot of the staff, who did nothing. An indigenous man, who, like her, displayed slow reactions and slurred speech, gave her $90 and said he was off to buy a cheap fishing rod. She completely ignored him throughout. Sometimes you can see how people form a negative opinion of a particular race. Upon leaving town, I noticed the 'Bowenwood' sign on an industrial cylinder - as this is where the film 'Australia', with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, was made.

The air smelt of peppery, fried tomatoes; but I was bored with the brilliant sky and bush today, and kept my head down. The roads are good here; flat, smooth and quiet; and all I have to do is hug the ever-present white line dividing shoulder and highway. The routine of it all is becoming repetitive now, which is only natural, as I'm nearing the end. Typically, I set out at 9, blog in the library, coffee and chocolate at 11, start at 11.30, lunch at 1.30, stop again for snacks every 15 miles from thereon. It would of course be much more sensible to embark at 6, ride until 9, blog, relax and swim while the sun is high, continue cycling at 4 or 5. The heat is such that I'm generally enveloped in a sheen of sweat between 9 and 4, when the humidity perceptibly drops. It's considerbly cooler at 5, and from then to 6 is the best time of day, with the slanting rays and strong contrast in light and dark. The sun goes down at 6 and the flying insects go mental until it's pitch black by 6.30. Discovered yet another ant species : brown 'robots' with black abdomen, who marched in staccato rhythm. As for my movements, I've developed a limp, but cycling is no problem. Across the wide Burdekin River, I noticed spiders had made their homes way up between the girders. Had they 'flown' there on the wind as babies? Had many others perished in the water? It was on this narrow strip of asphalt that I took Peter in Mackay's advice of cheerily waving when a car honked at me for the audacity of delaying them by one second of their precious time.

In Ayr, one motel charged $130; whereas The Shamrock opposite only charged $70, so of course I stayed there. Michael, an Israeli of German and Polish descent, took my money, told me Britin had "fucked up" the Middle East and proceeded to give me a history lesson for the next three hours. I wish Laura had been there to correct any mistakes he mde. It was my own stupid fault, for when he said I should cycle the length of Israel, I said, "I'd like to. I've been told Jordan is nice too." Big mistake. He did permit me go to McDonald's halfway through - where I had the largest burger, largest portion of fries, masses of salt and ketchup, and an ice cream - and enjoyed every mouthful. So, Michael then. He was lecturing, ranting, extremist, pro-Jew, anti-Arab, opinionated, boastful, didn't let me get a word in edgeways and probably didn't let the truth get in the way of a good story. However, with his emphatic gesticulations and staring, bloodshot eyes, he certainly held my attention. Here are a few of his 'true stories' :

1. He had saved the daughter of Saddam Hussen's personal doctor from having her throat cut. The doctor had fled the Iraqui dictator when some of his family members were slaughtered. No other Arab countries would let him in, so he came to Australia. His daughter wanted to practice medicine in her adopte country, but because this meant she would save Christians as well as Moslems when she qualified, extremists said they would cut her throat. Her father, with few friends in this new land, knew and respected Michael (even as a Jew) and phoned him for help. Michael met with the extremists and saved the day.

2. He respected the Asian prostitutes who used rooms in his motel to ply their trade, because they were honourable people. He couldn't stop them anyway, as anyone who violates another's employment rights is liable to a two year custodial sentence.

3. His father had been a soldier in the Third Reich and fought on the Russian Front. However, he was also Jewish (but didn't look it) and became a Soviet spy when escaping to Siberia. He returned to the siege of Stalingrad, where he joined the Nazis once more. Escaping from them and crossing the Volga with the temperature in the -40s, he and another spy risked being shelled when on Russian territory. To maximise their chances of survival, Michael's father told his comrade to head for cover on the left and he would go to the right. The other man was killed by an exploding mortar. Michael's father got away.

4. Michael himself served in the Israeli Air Force and shot down aircraft in the Yom Kippur War.

5. He talked of Jesus' teaching of loving they neighbour. Me : "What about the Arabs?" He : "No".

6. A Catholic priest had stayed in the motel (called The Shamrock after all) a few years back. When the Irishman noticed Michael's collection of Hebrew texts on a bookshelf, they proceeded to argue about religious matters for two hours. Michael said the man was rude, arrogant, looked down on him as a Jew and left in a rage. One year later the priest was on holiday in Australia again and came in to apologise to Michael, as he had since read Hebrew religious material and seen the error of his ways. It turned out he was the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Don't you hate it when someone brags about changing another person's viewpoint, who even says sorry for their behaviour? In my experience such an admissable U turn goes against the grain of human behaviour.

He did teach me the 'past present continuous' though. For example, "When he was walking along the beach, he saw her".

The weather report in the Townsville Bulletin :

Today 30/21 degrees, a shower or two
Tomorrow 30/21 degrees, a shower or two
Friday 30/21 degrees, a shower or two
Saturday 30/21 degrees, a shower or two
Sunday 30/21 degrees, a shower or two

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