Cheers, WA

Cheers, WA

From the bright sunlight of Beaufort Street I wander through a wooden door into the dimly lit restaurant. A familiar song plays as candles flicker and I’m greeted with a hug. Down the stairs to the long bar, a tall varnished bar that all the customers complain is too high, where the manager looks at me, sighs, and says “stay”. This is my ‘Cheers Bar’ of Perth where Sam is played by Lloyd, a version of Frasier crossed with Russell Brand by Jeff and a whole cast of friends and regulars play out the sitcom of my life here. Through tall, wide windows at the back of the bar I look into the intimate courtyard of small tables, murals and the tree under which I met my girlfriend six months ago. Bikini clad babes on perfect beaches and surf to die for have escaped my attention and a small bar called Clarences has become the hub of my life in Perth. I cut limes, stock up and quietly prepare for Friday night. I had run out of money in Singapore and a working holiday visa for Australia offered a chance to save some funds and get back on the road, yet on my last shift the lump in my throat reminds me that this was so much more than just a quick money maker.

I wake in my girlfriends arms as her tears run onto my chest. After an infinity of laying in intense silent sadness, she says “this is is, isn’t it”, “this is it”, I reply. It’s our last hour together in a house where for the last few days it has felt as though someone was dying, packing up belongings into boxes to be left or taken. We hold our last embrace, our last kiss in her kitchen. She turns. “Please stay in here”, she says as she opens the door and as she gets in the car she breaks down. I can do nothing, today I leave.

I cycle the route I used to cycle to work, I look through the door but it’s too dark and I see only the reflection of a solitary cyclist. Past the bars where we all drank, where we ruled our own world of drunken debauchery, where we knew everybody. Through the streets of the city, the boutique shops and lanes, the chrome skyscrapers of banks and mining offices and the rooftop bars that were my hangout through the swealtering Summer. Now it’s winter and I wear a fleece that’s blown around my body as I cross the bridge into South Perth for a last look across the familiar skyline and to pedal onwards for another year.

The bike has become a forgotten world of routine and knowledge that I seem to have forgotten, it’s as though Perth doesn’t want to let me leave as my unfit legs struggle into fierce headwind. My navigation is a disgrace and at the end of the first day back on the road I have cycled 60km and am only 21km from where I began. Urgh. I try to cycle the Munda Biddi trail, an off road bike route heading South, but the gravel is about five inces thick and too deep to push a 60kg touring bike through. I spend days pushing. I keep checking for mobile signal and texts from Perth. I’m struggling to leave. No matter how beautiful the surroundings, it is impossible to appreciate them in a negative frame of mind. I head back to the highways for the flat and for momentum, a feeling of progress, of positivity. I feel movement, transient again. Numbers begin to add together on the small LCD on my handlebar. Small towns and farmland begin to blur as I pass them, slowly they turn into vineyards and beaches as I head for the South coast.

In Albany, whales play close to the beach as I cycle the coastline and the days brighten into wonderful spring. Wildflowers turn dusty landscapes into firework shows of vivid colour and after beautiful days in the saddle I unwind with bottles of wine in my beachfront canvas villa. Australia begins to show her true colours and in Esperance I learn how to fish in the crystal waters of the Souther Ocean, returning with Salmon for the freshest lunch of a lifetime.

Finally I reach the point of the unknown, places further than I have ventured while living in Perth. My frontier. For a week I cycled North through the wheat belt, squatting in wheat bins and on into gold mining territory. The land is vast, dry and sparcely populated. My company on the roads are the road trains which tear the skin from my body as they pass, the infinite smell of roadkill, and the dulcit tones of Michel Thomas teaching me french. I am beginning to find my own gold as I once again slip out of the security of city life and embrace life on the road. For weeks I have been quiet, introvert, but I find myself chatting away to everyone again now.

This is the last town with a proper shop for possibly 1500km now. Today I turn East and head into the great deserts of Central Australia, following dirt tracks to Uluru. Over the last month of cycling my mind has drifted wildly over the places I have taken this bicycle ride and possibilities for the future. Today I think of Tibet and survival.

Leonora, 21 September 2012

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