Thursday, October 24th, 2019 – Penong, SA to Port Germein, SA

Distance travelled 632 km

It might appear a strange statement after what you may have read so far, but the trip from Penong to Port Germein was definitely the most challenging day of riding that we had on the whole trip. There was a very trying couple of hours to come a few days later – but more or less the whole of the trip between Penong and Port Germein was a nightmare.

We rose early as always, but even then the heat was already intense. The fact that it would get even hotter in the afternoon seemed implausible. But it did. It was the kind of heat that even motion does not alleviate. I believed I could have fried an egg in the breeze.

I still had my speeding ticket in my pocket. It had to be paid in a Post Office and the only one we knew of was in the town of Wirulla where we had stopped on the way west. We wended our way around Denial Bay towards Ceduna. I had half intended to have a breakfast of Denial Bay Oysters and the signs were out. In the heat, when it came to it, I simply could not be bothered and we rode on by. We stopped to stretch at a petrol station on the outskirts of Ceduna but did not go into the town. There we met a fellow HOG member, Fred, from the Gasoline Alley Chapter in Brisbane. He was on a Harley trike and headed west. I was beginning to wonder what it was about Queensland that made everybody leave it !

It seemed to take forever to get to Wirulla, it did not of course, but it seemed to. We easily located the Post Office, went in for some iced-coffee and asked if we could pay our speeding ticket. The usual mild expressions of mirth that a request of that nature engenders were suddenly interrupted by a gasp of surprise from the Post Mistress. My family name is Perry and that was her family name too ! I suppose the chances of this coincidence were fairly remote. The ticket had been issued almost 2,000 kilometres away and had been carried far more than twice that distance. If we had seen a Post Office anywhere else we might well have paid it there. We would probably have stopped in Wirrulla whatever, the spacing was right and we knew they did good muffins, but no ticket, no “Perry” coincidence. The Postmistress, whose name was Trish, was so excited that she ran next door and fetched her friend and we all spent half an hour trying and failing to establish a family connection. My Perrys are from Ireland and southern England and never went anywhere. Hers were from the north west of England and had come to Australia in the early 1800s. Trish’s friend was descended from a “First Fleeter”, that is the very first lot of convicts the British dumped in Botany Bay in January 1788. In Australian terms, that made her almost royalty. She was a lovely lady and she seemed inordinately proud that her five times great grandmother was listed on the shop’s manifest as “a notorious strumpet” and had been sent to the penal colony for stealing a length of lace. In the heat, we would happily have sat there all day, but we had to move on. We said goodbye to my new “cousin” and went back out into the inferno.

We crawled on. It really was not a lot of fun and we dithered over our stops. By the time we needed to fill the Harley again, in Wudinna, it was over 40 ° C. My casual dismissal of the two unfortunate dead camels on the road near Norseman was obviously an error. The lady in the petrol station mentioned them to us. I think that, if two dead camels 1,400 kilometres away is “News”, it is fair to say it is a bit quiet where you are living. The tv news was also buzzing with the fact that another accident, involving “several” camels, had taken place the day before on the Nullarbor Plain. So severe had the resulting carnage been, that the whole highway had been rendered impassable. The road had been closed for some hours, with traffic stationery for many kilometres in each direction. We had got away with it again. I cannot imagine sitting on a motorcycle, in that heat and without a shadow, waiting for the road to open.

Wudinna’s “claim to fame” on its town signs is not, surprisingly “The place where nothing interesting has ever happened” but is, instead, “Home of the Australian Farmer statue”. A granite representation did indeed exist in a rather “brutalist” style. We took a photograph and headed on our way.

I honestly do not think I was ever quite so hot on a moving motorcycle as I was that day. Every kilometre seemed like a punishment and not even our passage back past Iron Knob could raise a smile. We were moving steadily, the Harley was eating up the distance in its usual unassuming way, but it still seemed to take an eternity before we finally rolled into Port Augusta. We sat in a petrol station and drank a lot of liquid, most of it seemed to scarcely touch our throats. We only had about another 70 kilometres to go, not even stretching stop distance, but the concept was decidedly unappealing.

In the end we dragged ourselves back outside. Just pulling into the station were “our” three BACA friends and the backup vehicle. This would be the last time we would meet as they were now off to Adelaide. After a couple of photos and farewell handshakes all round, we headed off south.

It was a fairly easy ride, in the end, down the coast to Port Germein. We were still on the A1 which was there called the Prince’s Highway. The day was finally cooling and the road was fringed with vineyards.

We found the correct turnoff, thanks more to Lucie’s Czech map application than the signposts. Port Germain was small and quiet. We easily found our destination, the Vagabond B&B, in Ponape Street. Given our general dishevelment, the name seemed more than a little apposite. It was pleasant and a little idiosyncratic. The owners were two young Hungarians and just how it occurred to them to go and live there, we could not imagine. They also run a small transport business (the male half of the pair was off somewhere) and, of course, were aware of the “Two dead camels of Norseman”. By that time, the heat, the flies and the eagles had probably reduced that cameline pair to bones, but their fame lived on.

Our landlady also made us dinner, which given the out of season quietness of the town was just as well. After a nicely cooked meal of pasta we went for a walk to the sea. The lady told us that we might see dolphins, but it was low tide and the bay was so shallow that we could hardly see the sea.

There were interesting signs about the history of the town on the waterfront. It turned out that our road was named after a ship called the Ponape which, in 1929, loaded a record 40,150 bags of local wheat at the jetty.

You learn something new every day. Sadly, the flies were very troublesome, so we returned home to bed.

We had the internet so we tried to book a Melbourne to Tasmania Ferry. This was to be the big finish to our trip, Sadly, there is a monopoly carrier, Spirit of Tasmania and, in addition to crazily high fares, the website was rubbish and kept moving the booking. We were afraid to commit ourselves because, by the time we got to the part where you pay, the booked dates had invariably moved. In the end we decided to try to find their office in the port of Melbourne and do it in person. Either that would work, or it would not.

What we did finally find out about, was the blue trees. By then we had seen several more. It appears they are intended as memorials for people who have died of depression. Sadly, as depression is a common side-effect of the inability of a lot of First Nations people to cope with our “society”, there are all too many. I felt I had been correct in assuming it was some aboriginal thing.