Last full day in Australia is as busy as all the rest. Bikes to be dismantled and packed, last notes and letters to be written and plans for the future to be made.
It has been an enlightening journey for this little black duck. Seeing how surviving a trauma changes your life, but does not limit you as much as might be expected.
The treatment available at the time of injury has a huge effect on the rest of your life, and the lives of those around you.
Hearing about the trauma system in Japan, or the lack of it and seeing the fantastic facilities we are fortunate enough to have access to in Australia, I am left wondering about the reasons and motives behind delays in establishing similar facilities in Japan.
The mindset of each individual is what seems to separate the victims from the survivors. In our daily life there are many victims, who have never suffered a trauma, and many trauma survivors who are never victims.
I want to thank every participant on this trip for opening my eyes and sharing their lives and thoughts with us.
Also want to thank the Japanese sponsors.
Chrysler Australia provided the support vehicle for our use. This made the time in the car comfortable and safe. I think our trip would have been much more demanding if not for the luxury this vehicle provided.
Along the way, people helped and offered support. A special not of gratitude to Chris and Robyn Ball, who opened their home and garage to us in the preparation week. We loved hearing from you throughout the trip.
My biggest thanks go to my wife Hiroko and children Kai and Sachi. I hope that the experiences and lessons from this journey will help me to become the best Husband and Father I can. It is easy to overlook life's blessings if you are constantly surrounded by them.
Finally, I thank you the reader for taking the time and interest to read these few words. If you are ever feeling down, remember that it is not the circumstances of your life that dictate your emotions. It is how you choose to feel about things that has the greatest impact on not just your feelings, but everything.
The last day of riding starts out as the easiest of the trip. Katoomba is at the top of the Blue Mountains and Sydney is at the bottom. About a 1000m decent over 30 kilometers and a leisurely ride into Sydney.
The goal seems so close when Sydney's tall buildings peek over the horizon.
Navigating through Sydney is a real pain. The city is plagued with "No Right Turn", "No U Turn", "One Way" and "No Entry" signs. Why someone never thought to put a town planner on the first flw.eet, I will never kno
In spite of many delays, the goal is finally reached.
Not too original, but here is a landmark that indicates where we made it to.
Nothing says how you feel more clearly than your face and its expression.
Have the riders changed over the course of the journey? You be the judge.
As for Tetsu, whoever hid his razor, can give it back now!
It isn't a big Lobster, Thief, Kangaroo or Pineapple, but a big Gold miner that sees us off today.
When this journey was planned, it was estimated that we would cover over 5000kms. Today was the day that milestone was passed.
Katoomba is at the top of the Blue Mountains, for the regular riders, the hills here were big, but not as demanding as Laver's Hill on the Great Ocean Road. For Dr. Takenaka however, these hills made him earn his lunch.
The climb is worth the effort, with views from the top like this.
Today I wake at 3:30. This is a very peaceful time of the day and the opportunity is taken to seek somewhere to think and reflect on the visit to Cowra. In a country town like this, even the McDonalds closes over night, and the only light that is on is at a service station for trucks.
Before the sun rises, I again visit the site of the POW Camp, to try and get a feeling for what the escapees must have seen and been facing back in '44. Now, the grass is high and kangaroos are everywhere. What stands out though, is the isolation. The area is open and exposed with expansive views in every direction. Where could you escape to?
Australia had a "White Australia" Policy for years, which meant that Japanese would find it difficult to blend in. This October morning was chilly. An August morning must have been cold.
If you were to escape, I guess there would be plenty of sheep to eat, early August; there wouldn't be any grains ripe.
As the sun rises, the ringing of an iPhone brings me back to the present time. Breakfast is ready back at camp. Two eggs, sunny side up, bacon, toast and a coffee. The same every morning, just the way I like it.
Coming into Bathurst, most signs point to Mount Panorama where the Australian motor heads love to make an annual pilgrimage to watch Australian V8 cars race against other Australian V8 cars. For a few years, Subaru was winning, so they changed the rules.
Another note about Bathurst, is that it was where the first recorded discovery of gold was made. Don't know about you, but if I found gold, I would be pretty darn quiet about it.
When living in close quarters for so long, everyone seems to fall into a role that best suits them.
Masa, our cellar master for the trip has always maintained a full ice box, a smile and a chat at the end of every day.
One of the benefits of riding 100km per day, is that you can eat what you want without worrying about the effect on your waist or hips.
Cowra is a town with a fascinating, tragic and honorable past, in my opinion.
During the Second World War, Japan and Australia were fighting against each other. I think most of us know that much. What I didn't know was that Japanese Prisoners of War were brought to this small country town in rural New South Wales. The POW Camp here was divided into four sections, Japanese soldiers, Japanese officers, Italian POW's and some Indonesians who may have been political prisoners or POW's, that is another story.
Anyone who has watched "The Great Escape" starring Steve McQueen (My namesake) knows that it is every soldier's duty to try and escape or to cause havoc so as to tie up resources and hence assist the war effort for their own side.
Someone in the Japanese soldiers section of the camp thought this is the way things should be, so on the early morning of August 5, 1944 hundreds of Japanese prisoners stormed the fences in an attempt to escape.
Long story short, 234 Japanese and 4 Australians lost their lives, and within 9 days, all escapees had been captured.
The emotional part for me was learning that after the war, the Australian returned service men took it upon themselves to care for and maintain the graves of their fallen enemies, with honor and the dignity that soldiers hope will be shown should they fall in battle.
Eventually, a dedicated Japanese war cemetery was funded by the Japanese Government, and all Japanese who died on Australian soil during the war are buried here.
As a sign of respect, gratitude, friendship, understanding or honor, a Japanese garden has been established in Cowra. Here you can stroll, meditate, relax, or just admire the garden for the living masterpiece it is.
Of our whole journey across Australia, it is this story and these three locations that have moved me the most. I look forward to taking my wife who is Japanese and our two children there.
As the driver of the support vehicle, one of my main roles is to make sure that the cyclists are safe. By now, I have spent many weeks driving, most of the time looking in the rear view mirrors for road trains.
Throughout the trip, the differences in attitudes to the road rules have caused me to grow many new grey hairs. I do not know where you are from, or how things work there. Here, in Australia, motorists are generally pretty good at obeying the rules. This is largely due to a zero tolerance by our police forces. If the speed limit is 60 km/hr and you are doing 64, you will get a fine and lose points on your licence.
In Japan, if the speed limit is 60, it means that you should do between 66 to 70, so you don't hold the traffic up behind you.
In France, it seems that road rules are optional and in Africa, where Thierry is from, it seems that roads are sometimes not as good as just going across country.
Point to the story is that in Australia, motorists expect everyone else to be obeying the rules, and they drive accordingly. This means that as is the case here, when Shinji gets a puncture, it can be quite a walk before we find a safe place to carry out repairs. You do not park on the side of a road with double lines down the centre.
Tetsu is down with a bit of a cold and a fever. He is given the day off from riding and stretches out in the car for the day. The towel over his face is to lessen the likelihood of him spreading his illness to the other passengers in the car. Japanese often use surgical masks for this purpose, and for reducing the impact of hay fever. This is an aspect of the Japanese culture that I think is very practical. Sadly, when you wear a mask in public in Australia, people look at you like you are crazy.
Arriving in Cootamundra, we are informed that this is the birthplace of Donald Bradman. Everyone we speak to tells us this with pride. It doesn't take long to find a statue of the man himself.
So, who is this guy?
According to local identity, Pat Keirin, OAM, Donald Bradman was born on 25 Feb,1908 and died on 27 August, 2001 at the good score of 92.
Don played 52 tests for Australia, (A test is a game of cricket that often lasts for five days) of which he was captain for 24. His heighest score in a test was 334 runs, which is good and his highest score in a domestic game was 452, not out, which is very impressive. This was against Queensland in 1930 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
His first game was played in the summer of 1928/29 at Brisbane, where he was the seventh batter and scored only 18 runs.
Don retired from cricket in 1948 and his final score was a "Duck". This meant he did not score at all. The tragedy of this was that he only needed to score 4 runs to end with a carreer average of 100 runs per test. The nearest challenger to this is only an average of 60 or 70 I am told.
By the time Donald Bradman retired from cricket, he has amassed a total of 6696 test runs for Australia.
You can see why Cootamundra is proud of Don.
Sadly tough, for an outsider, being the birth place of a sportsman a hundred years ago, doesn't really tell you much about the town, other than the locals seem to have a great memory for sporting statistics.
On a serious note about Don though and how highly he is regarded, there was recently an attempt to have a citizenship exam for migrants, that included questions about Don Bradman. I am Australian and have no interest in cricket, so don't see why this type of knowledge should be a prerequisite to becoming a citizen.
The end of the trip must be getting close as discussion turns to what would be a good gift to take home to Japan for family and friends.
The day is passed giving the bikes a service and changing from what are now slick tires to some new ones with tread on them. For some reason the idea of sliding down the Blue Mountains into Sydney is not so appealing.
As is often the case, McDonalds is visited so e-mails can be sent and received.
Pictured here is Dr Nobu Takenaka. This guy specializes in lengthening bones. Seems he is not adverse to getting his hands dirty either.
Travel is not just about seeing what you plan to see. The surprises you come across are, well, surprising.
Take the small town of Henty for example. There is nothing too flash about it to look at. Beside the caf_ there is an old combine harvester. This too is pretty normal. Most towns seem to have an old tank, gun, train or wagon somewhere. I probably wouldn't let my kids climb on the mass of knives, shears, gears and chains that this thing is though.
Getting back to the story, when I ask the caf_ guy about Henty, he straightens his back, broadens his shoulders and says with pride that "This is where the combine harvester was invented!"
Now, if you are like me and your bread comes sliced in a plastic bag, this may not sound too impressive. Believe me, it is. Before wheat, which is basically a grass seed, gets to the mill where it is ground into flour, it needs to be cut, stripped, have the off cuts mulched into chaff, get the husk removed and then be sorted into big bits and little bits of wheat. The big bits go to the mill and the little bits are used for chook feed or other animal grain.
Like many inventions, it was the frustration at existing methods that enticed or should I say inspired the inventor. While cutting chaff out in the sun and heat, he had that thunderbolt that strikes when you say "There has got to be a better way!" He was right. By joining a few machines together then consolidating them down to a manageable size, one man could now do the work of many.
Not good for unemployment in the bush, but good for everyone who likes to eat. The combine harvester is used worldwide, with some behemoths here being larger than a rice paddy in Japan. In Japan, they use the type that you walk behind.
I was told that the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) has an episode of Landline that covers this invention.
Henty also has a pretty big field day that attracts farmers from far and wide.
Wagga Wagga is another large satellite city. Some of the locals in the surrounding towns say they don't like the hustle and bustle of Wagga Wagga. I guess there are degrees of perspective wherever you go.
Robe had its big lobster. Glenrowan has a big thief. Ned Kelley is one of Australia's best known people. Our idolization of Ned is up there with our interest in a song about a suicidal thief called Andy. (Waltzing Matilda)
There seems to be little doubt that Ned was a naughty boy. Similar to the stories of Robin Hood, he also had a lot of support from his local community. I suspect that the legend of Ned Kelley has more to do with an Australian dislike for colonial authority than it does with theft. By making and using his armor, Ned made characterization easy for generations of artists to come.
Before being hung, Ned's last words are rumored to have been "Such is life!" A fairly popular, off the shelf tattoo for some Australian Men is an image of Ned's Helmet, in front of crossed six-guns and his words "Such is life" printed on a ribbon underneath. Next time I see one of these tattoos, must remember to ask why it was chosen, or what aspect of it seemed significant to the painted person at the time they chose it.
Another town of interest between Benella and Wodonga is Beechworth. Though Beechworth is a beautiful town now, with lots of specialty shops and enough interesting places to make the trip there a memorable experience, this was not always the case.
Like many small gold towns, once the gold ran out, the town started to side. Beechworth had a prison and an asylum for the mentally insane, (not sure what the politically correct term is that would describe this place). Neither of these facilities are ones you would visit, unless you had a contact on the inside.
Tom O'Toole is a baker. He may not be the best baker in the world, or be the smartest. There would be few people who know his story though that would deny he has been instrumental in the revitalization of the township of Beechworth.
By simply concentrating on "Serving the customer", to the best of his ability, and being creative about it, constantly learning and always looking for ways to improve, his little bakery has become a magnet for hundreds of thousands of people, wo look forward to returning.
I met Tom briefly a few years ago and have read his book, watched his DVD and attended one of his presentations. If you enjoy reading, look him up. His simple philosophy is uplifting and inspirational.
If ever in Victoria, take the time to visit Beechworth. You will be glad you did.
The Hume Dam. Took 17 years to build and controls the flow of water to the latter half of the Murray River. Those who benefit from it love it and people down in South Australia just want to be able to have a drink occasionally.
The topic of water aside, man's ability to engineer is amazing. This skill comes about because of the capacity to record and communicate ideas, so that knowledge can be built on without re-inventing the wheel, or the recipe for concrete as the case may be.
A road crew was staying in the cabin next to Shinji. Once they knew what the riders were doing, Ken came by with $50 for a beer or coffee for the riders. To be a part of something that so obviously inspires others is a very humbling experience.
On the other side, Ashleigh who is the local paramedic stays the night. In the morning, he talks Shinji and Dr. Nobu Takenaka through his ambulance and the equipment he carries.
Compared to the Japanese Ambulance system, Mica Paramedics have more autonomy in the treatments that they can perform. This results in patients being in a more stable condition when they reach hospital, which in turn leads to a better survival rate.
Just to remind us of the activities of our ambulance services, we meet this fellow mid morning. The shot was taken with a zoom lense from within the vehicle. Why is it that photographers seem oblivious to risk when trying to get a good shot?
The landscape in this area is not majestic forest or sparse dessert, green rolling hills, just for a change.
Ah, the joys of morning traffic. Heading out of the city, we are not too put out by the crush heading in. After crossing the Nullarbor however there seems to be something unnatural about the daily stampede that ebbs and flows in every city around the world.
For a complete contrast to the hustle and bustle, our first stop for the day is at Domain Chandon in the Yarra Valley.
Sometimes when we taste something, it brings back a flood of memories. This was not one of those times. Here facial expressions allude to a new and delightful experience.
Even our chief cook and bottle washer Thierry was surprised at the treat for his palate.
From winery to home, my Mum's home that is for a cuppa and a sausage roll before we tackle the "Black Spur", one of Melbourne's most spectacular mountain roads.
On February 7, 2009 bush fires did a lot of damage to this and other areas of Victoria.
The fires did more damage than just burn and kill. The emotional toll is still being extracted. We make a detour to Marysville, not to have a look, but to hopefully give the locals there something to talk about that may be uplifting.
A visit is made to one of the distribution sheds where locals who lost everything can receive household goods that have been donated.
Again, the picture says more than I could.
Another work day as the Alfred hospital is visited.
Mr Andrew Way -CEO, Miss Susan Liew- Director of Orthopaedics, Mr Andrew Stripp- COO, Dr Mark Fitzgerald- Director of Trauma Services, Dr Jamie Cooper- director ICU, Dr Dinesh Varma- deputy Director of Radiology, Assoc Prof Elton Edwards- senior Orthopaedic trauma surgeon, Dr Mattias Russ- Trauma fellow, Ms Cath Cronin- co-director surgical services, Ms Emma Saliba NUM 2west, Ms Claire Sage Orthopaedic Peri operative coordinator, Ms Mel Dixon- Trauma Physiotherapist, Mr Corey Nassua- PR Media manager
Friday May 5, 1871 The Alfred opened its doors for business, the building of which was inspired by an assassination attempt on Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh a few years earlier......Maybe that is going back a bit too far.
After taking the above photo, we all head up to the helipad, the key to a quick response in a trauma hospital. Like Kevin Costner's "Field of Dreams" where the underlying tone is "If you build it, they will come", the pad was built and helicopters brought the trauma injuries.
For our international friends, who are not familiar with the Alfred Hospital's Helipad, it has been built over the major road in front of the hospital. Across the road is Fawkner Park, a fairly large open space. The benefit of all this is that the Helicopters have good flight path access and there are few neighbours to complain about the noise.
Jumping around a bit, there are five helicopters located around Melbourne that service the Alfred Hospital. Two are in the city and the others are based North, West and South East. This give the Alfred Hospital the ability to service about 90% of the Victorian population. Thy also treat a handful of Tasmanians and New South Welshmen.
Of the 450 or so Helicopter movements a year, about 75% are, you guessed it, road traumas. Next time you are about to complain about how much tax you pay, slow down, stay off the booze and drugs when you drive and you are moving toward a cheaper society. Works in theory. In practice would need everyone to do the same.
About once a month the surgeons at the Alfred need to open a chest to save the life of a patient. This is the sort of procedure that can easily do more harm than good. As the team at the Alfred Hospital is well practiced at this, the risks are greatly reduced. In the case of a multiple trauma, blood from the heart can be prevented from reaching the limbs, giving surgeons time to stem the leaks, while at the same time, keeping the vital organs alive. Not the sort of thing you want to leave to a plumber with a steady hand.
Another facility that the Japanese doctors were impressed with was the 24/7 radiology department located within the trauma facility. Time is vital in the early stages and so being able to take images and see them as well as have them interpreted on the spot saves lives.
So who decides who comes to the Alfred?
This critical question has been automated. Anyone with an ISS of 16 or more comes to the Alfred. (I had no idea what this was too! ISS stands for International Severity Score. Points are given for different variables that can be easily asked by the operator who takes the initial call. How fast was the vehicle travelling, how old the patient is etc. There are some automatic triggers too. If a patient is thrown from a vehicle; that is an automatic entry.) To find out more on this interesting topic; Google it.
Using this automated system, 92% of patients are correctly sent to the Alfred. This means that 8% didn't really need to come, but they get the full service anyway.
Touring the ICU, it is spacious, bright and airy. When putting one of these things together, it is important to consider the needs of the doctors, nurses and patients. Don't forget the families of the patients too. They all take up space.
In the lecture theatre, presentations were made on the prioritizing of patients and who needs to be seen first. We heard about the many meetings and audits as well as the number of changes in the operating systems that all affect communications.
Discussions were held on the career paths of doctors, education requirements and the issue of a perceived increase in the number of patients left in a vegetative state if they are saved when they would normally have died.
We concluded our visit with lunch around the corner.
On behalf of the Japanese doctors, cyclists and myself, I want to express our gratitude to the Alfred team for making us so welcome and going to the effort that they did to share their experiences with us. We hope that many lives in Japan will be saved or helped by improvements that will be influenced by our visit.
While touring the hospital, one of the photographers wandered around the gardens and came back saying how beautiful our city was!
Another milestone is passed. The bikes have now done 4000 kilometers.
Up the west coast of Port Philip Bay, the freeway is great for cars, though not for bikes. We opt for a ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento so we can ride up the east edge of the bay.
The crossing itself is wonderful. Dolphins swim along with us and as is the case with slow travel, there is time enough to chat with fellow travelers.
Accommodation is in South Yarra.
Here the Great Ocean Road hugs the coast. We learn that it was built by returned servicemen after the first world war.
Though the photo below was taken at Apollo Bay, Torquay is quite famous in the surfing world for the waves down at Bells Beach. There are some surf clothing outlets that started down that way too. Rip Curl, Quicksilver and Billabong come to mind.
This stretch of coastal road has to be visited to be appreciated. No mater how many photos you see or what documentaries you watch, none can capture the scale of things. There is nothing between here and Antarctica to slow the winds and waves down. Limestone cliffs are softened by seepage and so caves, grottoes and spectacular rock formations are created and destroyed.
One of my favorite family films is a Japanese animation called "The Crimson Pig". There is a secret bay that is used by the pig, which I had heard was based on a similar feature on this stretch of coast. Using satellite photos on the iPhone, I find and locate this one. Looking forward to watching the movie again to see if it is the right one.
The sounds, spray and taste of the salt all add to the grandeur of this area.
Don't be fooled though, the Great Ocean Road heads inland and suprises us with the toughest hill climb to date. Lots of photography and lookouts have pushed us into early evening, with still quite a long way to go before reaching Apollo Bay.
While riding along, Tetsu stops suddenly and points. By now, we take this to mean that there is a kangaroo or an emu to be seen. This fellow is neither. This is a Scottish Highland beast.
When he had his accident, Tetsu was studying to be a beef farmer in Japan. Like a little boy he points and says "I want one!"
This breed of cattle is slower growing, quite docile and has fewer feed needs that other popular breeds of cattle. The hide can be sold for as much as the beef and so they have some commercial value. Most I have seen have been just the one or two because they look good.
It seems that they are quite docile and make good family pets. The horns mean that you get fewer beasts in a truck but their slow metabolism means that you can get more beasts to a paddock if that is what you are after.
No, they don't need to be shorn, in spring their hair falls out naturally.
Coming to Australia, the question of Koalas oftem pops up. "Can we see them in the wild?" Normally my answer is "If you are lucky". It should be more along the lines of "Probably not!"
The eagle eyes of Dr. Akira Ogose spot this cuddly thing in the treetops.
Koala numbers are being affected by a disease called Chlamydia. It can make the females sterile, and so is affecting birth rates.
In Portland, it doesn't take Shinji long to find a spot to cast his line. Two more fish to add to the tally for the trip.
Crossing borders, there is normally two signs. One thanking you for visiting and the other welcoming you to the next state.
There is a bit of a story behind the border between South Australia and what is now the state of Victoria.
Back when Victoria was just the colony of Port Phillip and a part of New South Wales, someone decided that the border between NSW and SA would be at 141degrees. This is fine however when you are farming in the early 1800's and you don't have an iPhone, it is hard to say where the 141 degree line is. Naturally the heads of both states wanted to tax whoever was close to this border.
To settle the arguments, a pair of chaps is sent to survey the border. After successfully marking out 199kms of border, they are forced to return, due to a lack of food and water. Sounds familiar doesn't it.
A year later, only one of these chaps returns to continue. When he hits the Mallee, a very dry area, four of his bullocks die of thirst, so he again returns. This time he has marked out a further 139 kms of border. Eventually his horse dies of thirst and to stay alive, he drinks the blood of his dead horse to stay alive.
Finally a third survey trip is made and the Murray river is met, completing the project.....or has it.
As the years progress and technology improves, it turns out that the starting point wasn't at the 141 degree mark after all. South Australia sues New South Wales for the "Disputed Territories" and instead of blowing each other up as is the current fashion, the court case goes all the way to the privy council in London.
Here common sense steps in and the verdict is along the lines of "Look guys, the border was drawn at the time with the skills and technologies available then. We are not going to re-draw all the world map every time someone invents a more accurate compass or a better surveying tool, so go home and live with the border as it is! Or words to that effect.
Sometimes it is the small things that are of most interest when travelling. How people handle their garbage is one example. Japan has local cages in which rubbish is deposited, depending on what day it is. Some days, only glass and paper, other days, raw scraps. Once a month, batteries and heavy items, etc.
Here, someone introduced the plastic "Wheelie bin". Now, instead of a crew of four or five men running behind a garbage truck, we have one man operate the truck and hydraulic lift. Depending on the colour of the lid, he knows what to collect and what to leave. A simple system that works well.
One further advantage of the wheelie bin is that they cut down on the breeding opportunities for flies as in the past, rubbish bin lids would fit well till thy were run over by the early morning driver.
I may have mentioned in an earlier post that South Australia has a system of identifying road accidents by using red and black posts. Red is for an injury and black for a fatality. Coming across this set, is quite an eye opener. Didn't have time to find out what happened, however it was a straight stretch of road.
One of the local industries is plantation pine. Pine plantations have a quiet, almost dead feel about them as there is little else that grows in them.
With narrow roads and logging trucks, I drive along hoping that we will arrive with the same number of cycilists that we start with.
Mount Gambier surprises us in its size. Another regional capital it would seem.
You know you are reaching a town with ambition when greeted by something big. Having something big in Australia seems to say "We are a great place to stop!" "We have confidence in something". "Hey look at us!!!"
Robe has a big Lobster. There is a big Banana, Pineapple, Sheep, Gallah, Kangaroo, Robber, Bottle the list goes on.
With a local catch as attractive as lobster, the town of Robe attracts enough seasonal visitors to maintain a healthy community.
Accommodation is at a Heritage listed manor house. A bloke who works washing sheep fleeces in the local creek gets one of those calls from a lawyer in England saying he has inherited a fortune. Unlike e-mails from the ambassador from Nigeria's wife, this was true.
This young man brings a ship with tradesmen and materials and builds a superb estate on the site of his old job. The building is now a Youth Hostel and is hosed by a very friendly couple.
The bathrooms here are unisex, which creates a bit of excited conversation when customs and norms from around the world meet.
Policeman Point is a house or two and a small pub located on what is called "The Coorong". This is a fairly large lagoon, incredibly salty. When asking the Publican about what is around, his one-word reply of "Nothing" at first seemed understated. Though there is an eerie beauty to the place, aside for being the setting for a film "Storm Boy" and the home of a fish called the "Coorong Mullet", seems to be good for fishing only when the conditions are right.
It is worth a stop on the drive through.
To brighten our trip, Saki decides to start throwing up and feeling generally unwell.
Dr. Ogose decides he needs more air in his tires. His tires however decide that they would rather burst than be inflated too much. This time, the tube and tire both go pop!
One of the lakes we pass has a pink tinge to it. This is caused by algae that release something to protect it from the sun.
Before departure, the question is asked of Saki. "What the devil do you carry around in that spotty bag of yours?"
Now, we all know that it is impolite to look in a lady's purse or hand bag. This thing is neither. Saki refers to it as her "Care Bag".
Turns out, it contains creams, screens, pills, snacks, bandages and a hand full of massage implements that would not look out of place in a Bruce Lee movie.
When your health dominates so much of your life, I guess you earn the right to take care of yourself as much as you can.
When planning the trip, advice was received that though the freeway is closed to cyclists, there is a bike path that follows the freeway. Great!
Sadly, this turns out to be only partially true. The bike path follows the freeway for a short way, and then passes under and out of sight, while the support vehicles traverse the Adelaide Hills looking for an exit, a way back and then three cyclists.
Just to make things interesting, hail hits hard and strong, so lost, wet and cold our intrepid adventurers are found shivering by the side of the road.
Accommodation for the night is at a place called Tailem Bend. All I can say about this accommodation is that the manager has an interesting form of communicating his feelings to the guests.
Somehow, at some time a hole is made in one of the shower doors. In big black letters, the following is written....."Would the F___wit that did this come to the office and try it!"
Sort of gives a feeling that he is calling all guests undesirable and he is willing to take us all on.
If you are driving past Tailem Bend, do just that, keep driving.
Tonight Shinji celebrates his 59th birthday.
Today is a rest day in Adelaide. We say goodbye to Dr. Shoda who returns to Kobe where the earthquake in 1996 put him to the test.
Gidday to Dr. Ogose, who hails from Niigata on Honshu's North West coast, where the snow falls thick and recent earth quakes have given the trauma surgeons a run for their money.
Going separate ways, museums, Asian grocery stores and malls are visited. I take a small group out to 5 Percy Street in Prospect Hill for a personal pilgrimage to the R M Williams store and Museum. R. M. Williams is a bit of an Australian Icon. He is, in a sense the image that we like to see ourselves in. Lived a tough life, tried his hand at many things and enjoyed a fair bit of success at more than one venture.
He was a fairly good horseman and made his money, mining for gold and owning a company that produced fairly durable clothes and boots. To learn more about Australia, I have read a few books that he wrote and enjoyed them immensely. The museum was however for me a bit of a letdown. I guess now that it is a brand that has been corporatized, things must change.
The day winds down at "The Pasta Palace" restaurant where enough pasta to sink a ship is consumed. If in Adelaide, I recommend this restaurant whole heartedly. Service was good and the food was great at a very reasonable price.
For the support crew sleeping in a campervan, this was the end of the night's activities. The cyclists however who were staying in a backpackers' were introduced to the long standing Australian tradition of the end of season Footy trip. This is where a group of twenty or so lads in the prime fitness and overflowing with testosterone get together to be jerks for a few days. Drinking, running through the halls naked and being generally offensive seems to be the requirements for a footy trip.
Welcome to Australia Dr. Ogose!
It is time for work and to do some of what we are here for. A visit to the Royal Adelaide Hospital Trauma Centre.
We meet with Professor Nick Fazzalari and Associate Professor Mellic Chehade and David Findlay who is also a Professor, or Associate Professor. I Didn't get his card. As well as these esteemed gentlemen, we had visiting surgeons from England, Scotland and Japan as well as some of the research team.
By the looks of things, the tea lady had been forewarned and busy.
Royal Adelaide takes about 80% of the South Australian Traumas. As is always the case in health, developments are underway for expansion or in this case the building of a new facility. I have built a stack of furniture and a house. In these cases, one starts with the end use and end users in mind, then designs and builds accordingly. Trauma centers are the same. Biggest difference is the number of users and the diversity of their requirements.
More than the buildings though it is the design of the systems for the people that are important. Without the staff, or the staff working well together, all you end up with is a building that is easy to clean.
The current goal is for the new facility to be operational by 2016.
Australian States look after their own health systems. Victoria has the "TAC" Traffic Accident Commission. The TAC slug motorists with a fee for compulsory third party insurance every time they register their vehicle. With this money, they work to lower the accident rate through marketing and other endeavors and then for the people who are injured in automobile accidents, the TAC foots the bill.
Most Victorians are probably unaware of how fortunate they are until they need the care that can be afforded because of the TAC. A prosthetic leg can range from anywhere between $15000 and $65000. The jump in expense is largely due to the expensive ones being computer equipped with active suspension. Though they need to be charged every night, they are far more comfortable and more importantly, safer.
The differences in the health funding systems between the states mean that there are blocks to the efficiencies of developing systems as they each need to be developed separately to best meet the environment they are to serve in.
When asked about the Bone and Joint Decade and any activities or changes that have come about because of it, eyes light up with pride.
The boys talk about national training and education that has been instigated and most importantly their efforts at making this a multidisciplinary venture. Starting in 2000 and then every second year after a conference has been held, with the benefits flowing rapidly through to patient treatment.
Last decade, Bone and Joint issues were off to the side as more of a standalone discipline. Now, the interrelationship between vascular, pathologists, rehabilitation, cell biologists, plastic surgeons the people who specialize in skin grafts, artificial joint engineers and a long list of other related specialists is being understood and worked on.
Mellic described the system as a tripod that stands on the legs of research, practice and education. Without any one of the legs, everything falls over. Previously, before the concerted efforts in the education side of things, there was research being done, without it being taken up as quickly as it is now.
Getting back to the politics of the system too, by inviting the budgetary decision makers who hold the purse strings, a better understanding is attained of what the research is about and the benefits to the whole community are. As a result, the approval rate for applications for research funding has risen drastically.
The biggest difference to the community has been a halving of the mortality rate of trauma sufferers.. By intervening more quickly and with more confidence lives are saved. The simplest example is when a patient has multiple traumas and is bleeding heavily, instead of trying to patch the five leaking pipes at once, they turn the mains off. In this case, the chest is opened and blood flow prevented from reaching the damaged areas from near the heart. This way, blood still flows to the brain and vital organs and the surgeons have more time to do a better job on the limbs.
Other improvements that have increased the demands on trauma centers ironically include the development of air bags for cars. These things aren't increasing the number of bingles, what they are doing is saving the lives of more people who get into strife on the roads. So there are more rides in an ambulance and less in a hearse thanks to the clever people who came up with the idea.
More and more however, it is the low energy trauma that will be drawing on the resources of the health system. Basically, as the population gets older and lives linger, we have more grannies and grandpas. As they get older, bones become brittle, so a small fall can result in multiple fractures. Tripping over a grandkid's toy train can result in a fractured hip, shoulder and wrist. All of which require a high level of care. Current demographic trends and funding levels point to this being the ice berg on the health budget horizon, not only in Australia but in Japan too.
One of the differences between Japan and Australia that came out was the policies toward the age of patients. If you are getting pretty long in the tooth, dementia is setting in and you don't have a thick wallet or private health insurance, the sad truth is that in all likely hood you will get the care that will reduce pain and make you comfortable, but not the $100,000 full revamp and retro fit. In Japan however, forget the age, you qualify for everything. It will be a brave politician that makes the call to introduce economics into health while the old still have the bulk of the voting power.
As a side line, Japan Tobacco is owned by the Japanese Ministry of Trade and Investment. I often wonder if this shouldn't be moved to the Department of Health so that the bottom line must be balanced between tobacco sales profits and the resulting demands on the health budget.
My favorite question when talking to leaders is "what is the biggest limit you face?" This often gives a good insight into where someone is. In Trauma Centres, attracting and keeping staff is a challenge at first. This is largely because there is little time for leisure or family when you are on call all the time. Once a Trauma Centre has four or five suitably qualified and experienced surgeons, they can take turns for time off for holidays, or just family time. In the early years, it takes a pretty selfless person to be the first.
After frying the brain of the interpreter with a string of medical terms, it was time for show and tell.
Car enthusiasts are pretty frequent users of motels. They love any excuse to get on the open road with the love of their life, and their wife. This couple from Melbourne are driving to Perth to watch a grandchild play basketball. The '57 Chevrolet looks like it has just come off the factory floor. Instead, it has probably circumnavigated the globe many times, just for the joy of the drive.
We must be getting closer to population. The service station lunches are getting a bit gourmet.
Traffic is thickening up and becoming a bit pushy, so like all good men, I turn the radio off to concentrate. Men can only think about one thing at a time.
No matter the stress, Japanese can also think of another thing. Noodles! In Adelaide a bee line is made for Chinatown so rice and noodles can be consumed in copious volumes.
Most people who travel will say that it is the people you meet that makes the journey interesting. I guess this can be said of life in general, whether you travel or not.
Staying in the same (cheap) motel as us was the local Federal Member of Parliament. His electorate is huge, covering most of South Australia. Main issues he faces are the access to and supply of water for the state, the effects of an Emissions Trading Scheme and the balance between the interests of the stakeholders of the mines. Mines generate huge economic benefits, employment and as we saw in Kalgoorlie, they can make a huge contribution to the local communities. They also make a mess.
Sometimes it takes a few minutes before the support vehicles can leave. What normally happens is we tell the cyclists where to go and then catch up.
There is nothing unusual about this. Shortly after we leave today however, the ominous sign of multiple diesel engines enter a rail crossing ahead of the Chrysler. Not to worry, the cyclists will get a bit ahead of us..."Long train isn't it"..............Nearly three minutes later the last of many, many carriages completes the trip across our path and we are under way.
Have you ever lost your child in a department store or supermarket? At first you don't worry, because they are just around the corner, or so you think. The more corners and aisles you check without finding them, the faster your heart beats. It is pretty normal to start getting sweaty after about three minutes and for your blood pressure to reach critically high levels shortly thereafter.
Cruising down the highway, our conversation starts out along the lines of "Gee they are riding well today!" Then turns to, "Hmm; Do you really think they came this far?" Then the realization that "Where the jeepers are they?" sets in.
Normally this is not a problem. We all carry UHF radios for such dilemmas. Not today!
Time for strategic search and locate. The campervan is called to zip ahead and make sure they aren't ahead of us, then to return and block the highway at the 15km changeover point.
Using the iPhone, we note another major road running parallel to the highway and a small crossroad between the two. Taking the crossroad and kicking up some dust, the hunt begins.
"Do they know they are lost?" "What will they do?" "How are we going to explain this to the Emperor?"
At the intersection with major road option two, do we head left, back the way they would be coming from, in the hope that they are still coming, or right, in case they have passed already. We go right.
Travelling with a group of Japanese cyclists, one with only one leg, there is a good chance that anyone they pass will remember them. Out here where passersby are few, all are noticed.
A road crew is found. "Nope, we haven't seen anyone like that. Will ring you if we do and hold them here"
Good, the two major roads out of town are now blocked.
On the road back into town, still no sign of them. "Crikey, is this the Twilight Zone or what!"
Next plan is to stop at a roadhouse and use the Truckies network of CBradios to put out an APB. Before this however, with a flood of releif our team are found about to call my mobile from the olny pay phone that still works in the Southern Hemisphere.
Our first 15km resulted in over 60km of driving and about 3000 calories burned in stress.
Like a lost child however, all you want to do is pick them up and hug them.
To teach a lesson, it rains. Very heavily.
This is the worst weather we have had so far. Crossing a causeway, the rain is accompanied by foam blown across the road. When you are wet, a strong freezing wind puts a chill in your bones. When your bones are literally made of steel, you feel the cold!
Most people move house a few times during their life. Some do it more literally than others. Though this is a small example, the power of hydraulics never ceases to amaze me.
Coming into Port Pirie, the storms have combined with a dust storm to give the whole area an eerie feeling.
The smoke stack in the picture is about 200 meters tall. Port Pirie is where the ore from Broken hill is transported to, smelted and then shipped out. Silver, Lead, Zinc, Gold and Sulphuric acid are all processed here.
Talking to an old timer who used to work for the company that ran the smelter, but was based in Melbourne, he told the story of how his kids became confused. The kids came home from school saying that their teacher said that silver and gold came from Broken Hill, but that their dad had always said that Broken Hill was where their "Bread and Butter" came from. Guess you can take that literally as well as figuratively.
With the skies open and it bucketing down, touring of the town is left till the morning.
As is becoming the pattern, the railway station is one of the biggest and best buildings in town. With Road trains, e-mail, international shipping and even the telephone, rail is no longer the king it once was.
Leaving Whyalla, we are reminded of why the town is there. Off to our left a train clacks by. First two diesel engines pass and standing there counting, sixty carriages, all carrying steel. It takes the train ages to build up speed. I dear say it would take quite a while for it to stop too.
At the moment, Whyalla smelts its iron ore into steel, which is then shipped out. The outcome of an emissions trading scheme is likely to have a big effect on towns like Whyalla. It may mean that iron ore is exported and the smelter shuts down. Alternatively, it may produce less carbon to smelt the ore before shipping. One wonders how a program could be structured that will provide the best outcome for the environment.
Port Augusta is the junction where the Ghan, the train that travels north through the centre of Australia and the Indian Pacific meet. The Indian Pacific travels East-West-East across the country.
Pre WWII, the Ghan ran about three times a week. During the war however, it was seeing fifty six movements a week. Being a train driver, my Grandfather was unable to serve in the military. Railways were deemed to be an essential service. His war stories are limited to moving product and people up north and the conditions in Darwin.
Another good friend is a migrant, who was serving age during the war. Instead of giving migrants guns, those that came from "Friendly" countries were put to work loading the trains. Day after day of loading sacks of potatoes, to keep the soldiers fed.
War or no war, the Ghan is always under attack. Most of the time it is an on-going battle against moving sands that can swallow the rail line quickly in a strong wind.
These days, the Ghan is Australia's answer to the Orient Express. When all the carriages are hooked up, it is over a kilometer long. To stop at stations, it stops, moves forward, stops etc. While admiring the Pichi Richi Railway station in Port Augusta, this lady of the dessert pulls in, and I must admit, it was exciting.
The town of Port Augusta is quite pretty. A fair amount of work has been done creating a port side esplanade that is open to cyclists, picnic makers and couples.
After arriving at accommodation, the boys try a ride along the beach. The bad news is that Tetsu takes a fall. Good news is that it was caught on camera. If you are missing a leg, one of the skills you need to develop is how to fall without hurting yourself. Seems this lad has had plenty of practice.
Before we even get started today, Saki has a very minor fall from her bike. Without enough speed to get balance she tries to stabilize herself with her left leg. Doesn't sound too difficult does it?
Saki joined our group, as a cancer survivor who has had her knee replaced with a stainless steel one. Well the bones at least. First a tumor claimed the bones, ther returned to claim a large portion of her thigh muscle. On two later occasions, the cancerous demon returned in her lungs and claimed parts of them too.
Now resting your weight on your leg, from a bike is not much. When you are missing muscles and you have steel rods in your legs that are tenuously joined to your bones, it hurts. We are all reminded of the risks involved as a survivor, and the decisions to keep living as free as possible, without being a prisoner to the fear of pain. As an emotionally attached observer, the helplessness you feel is traumatic. This is different to picking up your child after a fall. You know that cuts and scratches get better without any great damage. With cancer, an immediate flood of images of chemotherapy, surgery and rehabilitation are never far away.
The best we can do for Saki is to give her a rest and keep her off the bike till she feels ready to get back on it again.
As you head north to Whyalla, there is a mountain range off to your left. Nothing special about this till you get close. The ridge is too level and the sides too smooth. A puff of dust shows where a truck is dumping tailings. This is not a mountain range, but a pile of dirt that has and still is being removed from an iron mine.
Do you remember the scene in Star Wars where the Milenium Falcon is chasing a tie fighter toward a small moon? Just as it is too late, Han Solo realizes that it is no moon, but a space station. This was kinda the same feeling, without the tractor beam and lasers.
The scale of everything in the outback is just BIG!!!
While at university, I read a book called "Working for the Company". It was written by a researcher who worked for one of the big companies, I think it was a smelter for a few months to do an anthropological study of the working life there. Ever since reading that book, I had an impression of Whyalla as a dry, dirty, hot and tough town.
Talk about a pleasant surprise. The place is paradise. Whyalla has fantastic beaches, great weather, beautiful architecture and enough industry to keep the town economically sound.
We stayed at the Foreshore Motor inn, which was right by the beach. If you are having a trip down this way, highly recommend it.
Hummock Hill lookout, gives a good view over the town. Here is one of the industrial sites that now give character to the place.
What would a country town be without a few old pubs?
I guess it must be the same in the American prairie country. Not hour after hour of crops, day after day and no matter which route or detour we take, the crops continue. With so much cropping and so little else to write about, the quest for information begins.
When passing through the township of Cleve, I visit the local agricultural products supplier. They sell fertilizers, pesticides and other farming wares. The girl at the desk, while young and attractive, is unable to provide any information that would be interesting.
Next stop, the pub. Surprisingly, the publican recons he knows nothing of interest either. I suspect this has more to do with a fresh shipment of alcohol that he wants to put away than a barman not knowing about the business of his drinkers.
Next attempt at being a super sleuth takes me to the local supermarket where the checkout chicks have seen more than enough birthdays so they no longer look forward to them. Here we hit gold in the form of a farmer's wife.
In a nutshell, the farms around Cleve are around 2000 hectares in size. A good year will give about two ton of wheat per hectare and a good price is about $300 a ton. Now before you start doing the math and coming up with a return of $1.2 million per farm, keep in mind that thanks to those economic laws of supply and demand, the farmers generally get a good crop OR a good price. Rarely do they achieve both.
As for the rain we are getting, yes, anything that falls before the crop turns yellow is good and will increase the tonnage. After the crop changes colour, any extra rain is only good for topping up the ground water for next year. An average for around here is 14 inches per year and so far they have only received 10 inches. Yes, the mixing of imperial and metric gets confusing. 25.4mm per inch, so divide 10 by 4 and then multiply it by 100 and you get 250 mm of rain so far this year.
The wheat or other grain is transported to the local huge silos that say "there is a town here!" A flat fee per ton of grain allows the farmer to store their grain till about March, which is say five months after reaping. From then on, the farmer nas to pay an additional fee for storage.
As well as timing the weather, and the type of crop to sow, or fertilizer to use, the farmers also need to time when to sell their grain. Early in the season, before everyone else reaps, prices are good, they then drop as everyone has grain to sell and later in the season, prices generally come up again. It can be a bit of a gamble of when to sell, and so often that is done by the boys on Wall Street as they buy and sell commodities futures. A long way from the farm gate.
Other fees the farmers are hit with are a rail surcharge, and more recently, a breeder fee for the guy in the lab coat that came up with the strain of grain they are growing. As science improves and even without genetic modification, better grains are developed.
For example, the guy who sells noodles in the bar under Yurakucho station in Tokyo, wants his noodles to be sloppy so they can be slurped. The pasta shop in Melbourne want their pasta to be eldente and the baker around the corner buys a range of flours depending on the type of bread he is making. If you can grow a perfect grain, the reward is a premium price. The risk is that you miss by a bit and are left with a noodle wheat that is not good for noodles, nor anything else really and so get a poor price.
The other joy the farmers have to look forward to in their bumper years after multiple seasons of crop failures, is their tax bill. Looking at the infrastructure that is in place however, taxes aren't all bad. Tax revenue that is wasted however, that is a different story.
On a lighter note, we came across this little fella. He was totally happy being invisible and pretending to be a stick. Once he realized that we knew he was there, he took off like a shot, to the delight of us all.
More buildings are standing now. All of them made of stone. I am guessing that the area was quite prosperous in its early day and that trees were few and far between. Either that or South Australia has a thriving termite population. Each time I see a house like the one below, I think of the planning, building and pride that would have gone into it. Without earthquakes or high rainfall, these buildings are likely to still be around for many years to come.
Severe trauma or cancer can change the way you think. The best employee I ever had was a burn survivor. When he was seven years old, a can of petrol he was holding exploded, as his mate held a burning stick too close. After enduring hospital life for four years, long term planning seemed to be reduced to placing an order for dinner or tomorrow's breakfast.
Talking to Saki, who has been battling cancer, about planning and how far ahead she looks, and she too only looks about a month ahead.
Often in Australia, when diagnosed with a life threatening illness, we often ask how long a doctor "gives you". Seems that a figure is decided upon and anything longer than the six months, one year or whatever is a bonus. Saki however talks about survival rates. In the first few months after being treated, a portion of people die. From say, six months, another portion pass away and yet another after a longer time period. Each time you pass a mark, being cancer free, your odds of surviving seem to feel as though they are increasing. Living in this statistical challenge means that you can choose to take whatever opportunities you have, while you have them.
Shortly after having surgery to remove tumors from a lung, Saki went to a live concert, even though she had fresh stitches holding her together. Similar after another round of surgery, she went to visit a friend in Canada.
Dr. Wayne Dyer uses this technique of looking at impending death over your shoulder to motivate yourself to do things.
Motivation is one thing, this cancer caper is another.
Check well, check carefully and check often! Treatment of cancer is horrific, slow, expensive and can be painful. No matter where you live, chances are you wish your government could spend more money on something of importance to you. By being diligent in screening for cancer, surely we can reduce the demands on our health system, by catching this demon in its infancy, and not letting it take hold. Won't this help free resources for other uses?
Each town we pass through has a set of silos marked SACBH. This stands for "South Australia Cooperative Bulk Handling". It is almost as if the locations of the towns was determined by how far a dray of horses or bullocks could comfortably cart a load of wheat.
Banjo Paterson is a writer who penned some of our greatest iconic poems. Reading his works while driving around the country brings both his work and the country to life. Even though farming methods have changed, the spirit of his writing is still relevant. Tales of horsemanship, drought, hardship and camaraderie between workers, the animals and the environment still tug at the heart strings.
While driving, I have been re-learning to recite "The Man from Snowy River" and "Clancy of the Overflow". Sadly, even if I can get these running smoothly, they are not interesting to our Japanese guests, as the words and meanings would take too much explaining. I guess the best I can hope for is a shared camp fire, or a quiet pub, where the reactions of the locals can impart the feeling of the verse.
The morning starts with the departure of Dr. Watanabe as he returns to Japan. Dr. Shoda will be his replacement until we arrive in Adelaide.
The morning's ride is again quite short. It turns out that this is fortunate for two reasons. First, where Dr. Watanabe had the physique and stamina of Achilles, Dr. Shoda is more your Orthopedic Surgeon type of guy. It takes him a while to get into the rhythm of the assisted bikes and our average speed is quite slow to start.
The second reason we are fortunate that the day's ride is a short one, rolls in overhead as we pass through vast plains of oats and wheat.
Just as we arrive at the Wirulla Pub, the first few drops of what turns into and afternoon downpour fall.
Now, Wirrulla has a population of 78 people. I am pretty sure that our hostess, Jo, not only knows every one of them, but could name their kids, dogs and the footy team they support.
For every person in our team, the stay at Wirrulla was one of the highlights to date. We had the pub to ourselves regarding the accommodation went, so first in, best dressed as far as the rooms went.
Because of the rain, we were all staying inside, which was great in a place like this. As the locals came in, Jo would introduce us and like a great hostess, give a few comments about what the locals did. In most cases, they were grain croppers and played for the local footy team.
The area was having its best year for three or four seasons. Rain falling in the afternoon seemed to lift the spirits of everyone, as every drop would mean a bigger crop. The graziers however were having a hard time because of the rain. Long wet grass meant that the sheep were soft targets for flies. Again the topic of fly strike is discussed.
Lethal Lee, the lady who looks after the town gardens and general maintenance shared some of her family's story about a nephew who lost both legs in a road accident about a year ago. He swerved to miss a kangaroo and hit a bridge. Fortunately, his Mum is a nurse and was in the car following, so she was able to stem the flow of blood till help arrived.
As the evening wore on, all power was lost. This can often happen with the first rain after a long dry spell. The water allows dust on insulators to conduct electricity causing the lines to short.
We shared our meal of Senegalese rice and lamb with Jo, by candle light. What a night!The local officer of the law and his wife were great company. Again, like trauma units, most of their time and effort is involved with drug and alcohol related issues and the violence that accompanies them.
The morning after the night before, Jo catches up on the news.
Final comment; We were all blessed with a real country style hug and a kiss. Coming from Japan, this was a new concept, but made quite an impression.
Each year car enthusiasts from around Australia participate in a "Bash" to raise money for a charity called "The Variety Club". This charity helps children with illness to have some enjoyment and good experiences.
Each of the cars that participates in the bash has to be over thirty years old. It is not cheap to enter and the participants must also fund their own fuel and expenses, as well as allow for humorous fines etc.
The car below lists sponsors from Healesville, Victoria, my home town. Speaking to the driver and crew, they tell me that this year there were 96 cars that participated and together they raised about $8 million for the charity.
No that thing above the windshield is not a phallus. It is a model of the bottle that "Jeannie" lived in, in the TV show, "I Dream of Jeannie" staring Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman in the '70s.
Staying in caravan parks, you get to see all sorts of mobile accommodation. There are the standard caravans that are as big as you like. Then there are the type that pops up a bit, and others that fold away to nothing. Some people use a campervan, that is combined with the vehicle and others use what is called a "Fifth Wheeler", where the caravan looks like it is trying to mount the tow vehicle. Trailers that fold into tents and tents that fold down from car roves are also common.
To our great delight, a T van pulled into camp. This little thing is as simple as a double bed on wheels if that is all you need. It can also open up and produce a second room with raised floor in less than five minutes. If you want to stay in the one spot for a few days, an additional annex can be attached and even an en-suite is available.
Naturally, there is a gas cook top and a kitchen sink, sunroof to watch the stars at night and most importantly, for outback Australia, this thing is built like a truck and can go almost anywhere a four wheel drive can. Everyone we have spoken to that owns one did a lot of research and loves it. So, if you are thinking of trying the outdoor challenge, take a look at their web site.
On a personal note, they say that sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself, or words to that effect. Time in the dessert has been good for thinking in the past. May peace be upon them all, Moses, Jesus and the prophet Mohammed all had some pretty powerful experiences and insights while in the isolation of the dry country. Though the guy who later came to be known as the lord Budda (may peace be upon him too) may not have spent too much time in deserts, he certainly spent a bit of time thinking.
After a month away from my family (including setup time) and work, as well as the time crossing the Nullarbor, where internet and mobile phones are yet to penetrate; the only communication from home being very short SMS messages about the bills coming in and the need for funds, I find a tool. This tool is a USB WiFi device that, now we are travelling through civilization again will allow for improved communications and also enable business to continue.
The pioneers who built the country infrastructure never had Morse code, let alone e-mail. Yet, now that it is within reach, a lack of funds prevents me from buying this tool. Ashamed as I am to admit it, the spirit of Russell Crowe and his infamous telephone incident engulfs me and as we say down under, "I cracked the shits." (Loosely translates to "became angry")
Now when travelling in groups for extended periods, if one member gets cranky, it affects all members pretty quickly. When the demon of frustration takes hold, rationality is held captive behind a screen of clouded judgment.
Good leadership requires great communication and the irony of the situation, having arisen from a desire for better communication is lost for the time being.
For me, this is it, the turning point, or catalyst that stands out as the trigger for action to not be in this situation again. Don't know about you, but I find life really goes in cycles. By definition, every peak and trough has its apex, and most of the time, they pass us by without incident or attention. Away from everything that is familiar, it gets down to the ability to communicate that is what is important to me.
A great business idea fades if it's not communicated. Do people know you love them if you never say so, or communicate it in another way? The value of the contribution that you can make is determined by the knowledge or information at your disposal. If you can't communicate, you are suddenly limited with the knowledge you have, and not the benefit of access to "infinite intelligence" as Napoleon Hill makes frequent mention of in his self help classic "Think and Grow Rich".
Reflecting on past successes and failures, the key of communication becomes clear, then to find "the tool" that unlocks it and yet be teased by denial to it, awakens the giant within.
From Penong to Ceduna it is only a few hours riding. Note that the term "a few hours riding" is now preceded by the word "only"! Guess we are getting fitter and stronger, because normally "a few hours riding" sounds like hard work.
Ceduna with 3600 people is looking like quite a substantially sized town. After an early check in, the town is ours to explore.
In the middle of Ceduna, there is a jetty that is popular for fishing. Right at the end of the jetty, there is a wooden bench seat, the kind with the cast iron ends. Now normally, I would have thought that these benches were there so one could sit, looking out to sea and contemplate life etc. This one however, has a spectacular view over your shoulder, while you sit facing back down the jetty to the town.
A quick investigation reveals that the bench had been installed by the local CWA, Country Women's Association. My guess is that the local ladies got sick of standing around and waiting for their husbands to try and catch dinner, so now with the aid of the bench, they can sit and wait for the signal that it is time to go and buy a burger, or start cleaning a squid.
The caravan park we are staying in is a part of the "Big 4" chain. It is very clean and the facilities are great. Not sure if it is because of the use of rainwater tanks or not, but the mosquito population is fit and well in Ceduna. They have a delicate palate too, for the whole time we were there, it seemed that they dined on nothing but Japanese.
With a good tail wind we ride to the next town along, Penong. David joins us for this ride and eachofour riders take it in turn to ride with him and have a broken chat. By the time we reach Penong, some good friendships and mutual respect is developed.
David was a high level soccer referee. He tripped in a small hole on the pitch and this resulted in a prolapsed disc that required some pretty urgent and drastic surgery. The medications triggered off some heart problems, which lead to a "When I get outta here, I'm gonna...." line of thinking.
Dave, if you ever read this, it was an honor to meet you. Best of luck with the rest of your trip and your NZ Coast to Coast challenge next year.
As we arrive into Penong, we are back into farm country. Mainly wheat by the looks of things. Seeing our first traffic light for weeks is a highlight, even though this one only flashes orange when the school kids are crossing the road.
The other sign that we are in civilization again is self explanatory.
Penong has little clusters of small windmills. A quick ride around town and I learn that each windmill is owned by a household and it pumps their own water supply direct to their house. These days water is trucked from Ceduna to supplement the town's water supply and rain water tanks are also used. Again, the supply of water raises its head as the critical link to success or failure in the outback.
Our accommodation for the night is at the Penong hotel. Tonight, they are hosting a 21st birthday party for the son of the local garage. Two of the locals are musicians and perform live for the evening, entertaining about a quarter of the town's population.
Once you have washed your clothes and had a shower, there is not a lot more you can do in Nundroo. A trip to newr by Fowler's Bay is decided upon. Our landlord kindly lets us borrow his sand board, which is pretty similar to a snow board. On a good sand dune, with enough wax on the board, he says it can get pretty fast.
Fowler's Bay is a very pretty cluster of shacks and a kiosk. There is a jetty that proves to be great fishing, with Shinji bagging three good sized squid with just a hand line. Sashimi for dinner!
Back at Nundroo, a Kiwi rides into town. David had a health scare about two years ago and while in hospital made a "bucket list".
He has ticked off trips to the Greek Isles and to France. Next activity on the list was a bike ride across Australia.
When packing for a trip like this, the most important thing you need by far is plenty of water containers. Without water, you die. Further down the list, you have your spare parts for your bike. These often include replacement tubes, tires, puncture repair kits, a chain and some spokes. Poor old Dave broke a pedal in Norseman and has had to struggle on with one good pedal and a dodgy one for the last 1000km or so.
I don't know who was happier, David or I when able to produce a spare set. This means that he can stand up while tackling the hills again.
It is in the outback that economics change. As mentioned previously, Panasonic kindly supplied us with enough spares to virtually open a shop. For us, one set of pedals is not going to be missed. For Dave however, they make the world of difference, physically, mentally and emotionally. For me, there is little in life more satisfying than being able to help someone in genuine need of assistance. You can't buy that type of satisfaction.
Another ride; this time with a highlight awaiting us. The "Head of the bight", where southern right whales can be seen from May through to October, or so we are told. After riding only 14km, the bikes are loaded so we can go whale watching.
Amazing things, so close and just relaxing in the water, sun baking and apparently letting their young calves grow a bit before they head down to the feeding grounds in Antartica.
An hour or so is enjoyed watching these majestic mammals. Japanese whaling is still topical. It was up until the 70's that Australia still had a whaling industry too. If it hadn't been for the use of whale blubber for fuel and of the baleen for corsets, we would still have a lot more of them. On the environmental front, they are probably one of the greenest forms of meat available, but again, it is politically incorrect to mention that.
Upon arriving at the accommodation, we notice a group of indigenous Australians camped in a group by the entrance to our rooms. When entering the shop attached to the roadhouse, the top half of the shop fridge is full of bread and the bottom half is full of Kangaroo Tails. Neat as you like, still in their skin and fur, just in plastic bags.
Not every day you see this, so I ask about them. Seems the locals throw the tails into coals and cook for about an hour. When the skin peels off easily, the tail is ready to eat.
Naturally enough there are a number of questions that are asked. There is an Aboriginal community just down the road at a place called Yalata. By decision of the Yalata community, it is a dry area, meaning alcohol is not allowed into the community lands.
Though our professional and amature photographers are keen to get lots of photos, we are advised that permission must be granted and that this permission often comes with a request for a gift, more often than not with this group for some booze.
The local pub is only allowed to supply low alcohol beer. If an Indigenous Australian from out of town wants to buy something to drink, they must show their license or other form of photo ID. Their identity is recorded and if alcohol turns up on the community, it is fairly easy to track down who bought it.
There are some ethnic groups around the world that seem to biologically process alcohol differently. Speaking to more of the local police, half their work revolves around preventing the booze getting in, the other half around violence associated with those that get drunk.
None of this is politically correct I know. The concept of asking for ID and discriminating based on who you are and where you live sounds contrary to the goals of an egalitarian society. However, these are the rules that the community members have made for themselves, for the betterment of their own lives. A real eye opener.
Prices were better here than at Nullarbor. Service in the evening was so unique, it was memorable. Much of what was on the menu was unavailable and items could not be swapped. Instead of a chicken and vegetable meal, I requested a piece of fish and the vegetables, as they had run out of chicken. Nope, I could buy the fish and chips, but could not swap the fish for the chicken to get a fish and vegetable meal. Oh, and no eating takeaway at the table, even though there are eight or so tables and only four people sitting at one of them.
We start from 60km past Eucla and ride to the Nullarbor Road House, which according to the sign is the Western end of treeless plain. It was a long day's ride, with a bit of a side and head wind, so riding was about all we did.
I guess the only other noteworthy thing about our stay at the Nullarbor Roadhouse, is it gives you a good understanding of the estate agent's call of "Positon, position, position" The prices here were "Poison, Poison, Poison!!!" If you have no choice you pay what you have to.
At least the prices give you something to talk about with anyone else staying there.
From now on however, the assumption is that prices will reduce as we get closer to Adelaide.
We start the day at the BP roadhouse, simply because Talia, the young girl working there was pleasant. In our visits, with two lots of breakfast and take away sandwiches for lunch, her smile and personality alone generated about $250 from our group. Never underestimate the value of good service.
Knowing there are going to be heaps of photo opportunities coming up, the decision is made to do filming and photos today, so we can ride tomorrow.
Photos are just more of the cliffs etc. it was the interviews that moved me the most.
Each of us had two takes. First talking briefly about who we are and where we are from. The second take was about why we were on the trip, or the condition the riders had. Watching Saki, still frustrated at her reduced capacity and annoyance at her weakened leg brought a wobbly chin to the camera crew. Seeing a young beautiful woman want to have her leg removed is not what you are normally prepared for.
It is so easy to come out with the standard "At least you are alive!" and thinking of the families I know who have lost a child, they would all prefer a live child missing a limb than the grief they go through at the loss of their child.
I later discover that every ten years or so, the synthetic bones and joints need to be replaced, requiring not only another round of surgery, but also the rehabilitation again. It just seems to never end.
Coincidentally, a few hours later in the evening, we meet a couple whose daughter had a very similar condition to Saki. Just talking about the treatments is enough to bring her to tears, as she recalls those aspects of her life.
Katherine, this couple's daughter however had her infected bones removed, irradiated and then replaced. Hopefully this means she won't need to go through the replacement process every decade.
Again the topic of depression pops up. Seems that this ugly beast can visit once the physical symptoms have subsided and the mind has time to relax. Winston Churchill endured depression for years and referred to it as "The Black Dog".
One of the questions you hear a lot of when speaking an “Exotic” foreign language is “How long did it take you to learn it?” This is a bit like asking someone how long it took to learn their mother tongue. When do you say you have learned it?
Sometimes the more you learn, the harder it becomes. As an example, when you see a doctor and say you have a general pain in the stomach, the doctor will check for any of a multitude of causes. If however you use very specific terminology and use the wrong words, the chances of your case being misdiagnosed increase.
That being said, there are times when you want to be as specific as you can. This is where language becomes interesting and mentally challenging.
With the help of electronic dictionaries these days, a student of language can look up a word, and then quickly look up the new word in the original language. Sometimes the result is totally different from that which is expected.
With three languages being spoken in our group, Japanese, French and English, there are the occasional gaffes that make things interesting.
Today for example, I discovered that when Thierry refers to his “Little Son” who is eight years old, he is in fact referring to his grandson and not an illegitimate child to a mistress. “Little Son” is the direct translation of the French for “Grand Son”.
Trying to describe feelings and emotions in a second language is also challenging. Well, it is for me, who has mainly dealt in trade, education and power tools. To date, the emotions I have discussed in Japanese revolve around the challenges of projects and the frustration or satisfaction received from the final result.
Talking to our riders, Saki as an example who has had numerous surgeries and treatments for cancer that insists on re-appearing, the emotions go beyond just feeling sad.
Learning about the cancer and trauma processes and their treatment gives a new level of respect for survivors. When your body’s reaction to chemotherapy is so strong that before you pull into the hospital, gagging starts in anticipation of the side effects, or the loneliness you feel while in hospital is made worse when you return home, simply because your immune system is so weak that any well wishers are more than likely to make you worse; simply by the bacteria they bring with them, makes you realize that saying “that must have been tough”, just doesn’t cut it.
In the world of sales, developing a rapport with your prospect is the first step in relationship building before you even talk about the product in question. Nothing that most of us has experienced comes even close to the trauma and emotional turmoil that comes from having cancer, losing a limb, breaking your neck or being crushed like our riders have been. Each day I feel humble and insignificant when watching their persistence. Each one is crossing Australia, just the same way they learned to stand up again. A little bit at a time.
Sometimes help can come from unexpected sources. Today it was the wind. The Nullarbor Plain, having few trees and by definition, no hills, is pretty windy. The Eyre Highway runs inland from the coast and judging by the angle of the trees, Westerly and South Westerly winds are common. Just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, our riders were blown away. At times they were cruising at 50 kilometers per hour, and the decision to pedal or not seemed to be optional. We virtually gained an extra day today thanks to the wind.
So far the riders had been changing as they felt they needed to. Some are stronger than others. Today however, in what to me seemed to be a very Japanese way of thinking, it was decided that all riders should complete the same distance. Now every 15km we rotate one rider. As a passive observer and a businessperson, knowing that getting the best out of everyone does not mean having all doing the same. I have concerns about this system, as it may put pressure on the weaker riders, while leaving the stronger ones under worked.
Travelling East, the road climbs substantially just before the town of Eucla. From now on, we will be riding along the tops of the cliffs that overlook the ocean, which we get our first view of today, since leaving Challengers’ Harbour in Freemantle.
Crossing into South Australia at Border Village is interesting. Some areas of Australia have a fruit fly that damages crops. To prevent the infestation of clear areas, there is a checkpoint here where all fruit, vegetables, honey and nuts must be declared. As we are travelling east here, we are fine. In the afternoon though, we will be travelling back west to stay in Eucla, so care must be taken.
The first snake of the trip is spotted on the side of the road. Partially squashed, so hard to identify. Short, fat and a big head, so I am guessing a Death Adder. Pretty cool name for a tourist’s first experience.
10km or so from border village we come to the first of many lookouts. WOW! Just superb. Absolutely take your breath away magnificent. First thing that strikes you is the colour of the water. Describing shades of blue is beyond me however here it is clear, light and inviting. The 90 meter drop from the cliff top however is a tad daunting.
After returning to Eucla early, there is time to give the bikes a good clean and service. Though we have not ridden in the rain yet, the fine desert dust that clings to bike chains forms a grinding paste that over time will wear the moving parts out. A small plastic thingy is hooked onto the chains, and some solvent is added. As the chain is rotated, brushes wash the solvent through the chain and a magnet at the bottom of the reservoir keeps any metal particles captive.
Soapy water is the used to wash the solvent off, before being rinsed and a new coating of a dry Teflon lubricant is applied. Servicing four bikes takes about two hours. As soon as this is completed, a suggestion is made to take the bikes for a ride along the beach. Not the best way to keep service staff happy!
The beach highlights some new challenges. Tetsu, with one leg has difficulty using his crutches on soft sand, as they just sink. Given that his prosthetic leg costs about the same as a small car, there is no way he is going to take it to the salt water and sand of a beach. This beach is just not worth the effort. Now I have a better appreciation for the ramps and hand rails that make beaches accessible for everyone.
The local cop from Eucla stopped by for a chat. We saw him at Cocklebiddy and he was good value. I had heard that many trades in the west lost people to the mines. It seems that quite a few of the boys in blue also took to driving trucks and drilling holes instead of checking speeds and seatbelts. Because of the sudden shortage of staff, the WA police force started importing recruits from England.
Interestingly enough, once recruits became scarce some of the training requirements also went missing. No longer are recruits given the pleasure of experiencing the joyous sensation of pepper spray. Wonder why?
The last topical discussion that arose was that of the right to die. Seems that an elderly couple had set their affairs in order; left a detailed letter and without the car, re-created the final scene from “Thelma and Louise” into the Great Australian Bight. For the group of riders, each having to fight for their life and work hard to just walk, this action was a bit bewildering. （Steve Liston）
Wild LIFE is seen at last!!! Not road kill, but real live running Emu and Kangaroo. There were some real concerns that after coming all this way, our guests would go home thinking that Australian Wildlife is a myth propagated by black and yellow road signs and some foul smelling carcasses on the road side.
Not long after we come across a fresh roo in the center of the road. To now, most have been considerate enough to move off the road after they have been killed. Knowing that the stench of death takes ages to remove, short lengths of disposable rope have been prepared for this purpose. No sooner do we approach the cadaver than an amber flashing light comes into sight and the roo man jumps out of his truck.
This guy patrols the highway, moving the road kill. He says this is partly to remove hazards, but mostly to protect the wedgetailed eagles. These birds are huge gracious powerful and slow. Most of the Eagles we lose each year are fatalities on the road. Dining on a bit of fresh road kill is fine, until sixty ton of road train pass through you. Most other birds are fast enough to get out of the way.
A bit of spectacular scenery on the way is the Madurah Pass, where the road drops suddenly and you get a fantastic view out over the plains. （Steve Liston）
By arrangement, we leave 30min before the Rotarians do. This is to try and reduce our impact on traffic and to stay safe. It is not long before their riders zip past us though.
The bikes we are using are fantastic for tootling around. The electric motor assist is fantastic. On the open road however, once you are riding faster than 25km per hour, the motor no longer assists, the frame is heavy and there are not enough gears. The road bikes that the Rotarians are using however are light and built for speed. That being said, almost every Rotarian that had a try of the Panasonic, wanted one. For getting around town, without working up a sweat, they are fantastic.
With some long gaps between stops ahead, we ride 40km past Cocklebiddy then carry the bikes back to our accommodation.
At the accommodation, it is the neighbours that provide our entertainment. One group is the local law enforcement. As is often the case, people love to have their photo taken with cops.
Another of our neighbours is a farmer from Deneliquin and his dogs. For the first time in 8 years it looked like the rains would support a crop. Investing in seed and time then watching it all wither and die was too much for this guy. He just had to get away from the place for a month or so.
Seems that they used to produce a fair bit of grain and rice where he is from. The years have been so dry that the rice mill has closed. Now, even if it does rain, there is nowhere to take the crop. Some say it is drought, others say it is climate change. If anything, this trip is highlighting the importance of clean, reliable drinking water.
Before seeing the pipeline that runs from Perth to Kalgoorlie, I used to think that people were dreaming when they spoke about shifting water from the northern floods down south. Now, not as sure it is just a pipe dream. The Darling river runs the right way, Moving some of the northern waters into it and then letting gravity do the rest may help some. No doubt it will cause other problems as well.
Having a chat to the Cocklebiddy Mechanic about the scarcity of Kangaroos, he pointed out that good rains in the Nullarbor this year meant that the roos didn’t need to come near the road for feed or water. The first heavy rain after a long dry spell and the kangaroos flock to the road to lick up any moisture they can get. Some of the frequent users of this road say the easiest way to get through when this happens is to just follow a road train which can simply push them away, or flatten them. （Steve Liston）
Place names on the map in this part of the world don’t refer to towns. Caiguna is a Roadhouse. You can buy fuel, food, get a room for the night, have a shower and a drink and plug your RV in to the power source. That’s about it.
Our rest day here was looking like being a very long day till a Rotary bike riding group pulled in. This group has been riding for months and is on the last stretch of circumnavigating Australia.
Unlike our trip, which is mainly about raising awareness, the Rotary bike ride is raising money for Mental Health Research. Each of their participants pays a substantial sum to join the ride. The cost of the ride is covered by a substantial group of generous sponsors. Further funds are raised from Rotary Clubs that the ride visits on its tour of Australia.
For the next few days we will be sharing the road and accommodation with the Rotarians. Should be fun.
Today the riders took on the 90 mile straight. Australia’s longest stretch of straight road. Normally there are only three bikes running, today there were four. This meant that in the Voyager, I had one on one time with my passengers.
Balladonia is the start of the Nullarbour Plain. Again the amount of vegetation and the undulations were a surprise. Here I was expecting a sand pit as hilly as a billiard table and instead discovering a savanna like expanse with gentle gradients, enough to keep the cyclists busy.
Before entering the Nullarbour, some of the literature referred to the existence of blow holes, sinks, hidden underground caves and lakes. Thoughts of Gollum and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince came to mind.
Stopping at an unusual formation, we stumbled upon a pair of these blowholes that were not signposted. They earn their name. The volume and rate of wind blowing out of the ground was amazing. It was cold air that had a pleasant smell. If you were lost in the dessert, there would be a strong temptation to try looking for water down one of these. Not sure if it would be advisable though. Mind you if faced with the prospect of dying of thirst, may be worth a try.
To try and illustrate the air flow, I did what many a tourist does stripped off to fill a T shirt with air.
The only wildlife we are seeing is dead on the side of the road, so the blowholes were very welcome.
Oh yes, the 90 mile straight was completed.
With an early start and plenty of energy, the riders passed Balladonia and stopped when they reached the start of the 90 mile straight. As the name suggests, this is a stretch of road that goes for 90 miles (146.6km) without a bend. As good a place as any to finish the ride for the day and give a good target for the next.
Back to Balladonia where there was a bright big sign on the door advertising an internet kiosk inside. With no net access for some riders since Norseman and longer for others, the chance to send and receive messages was highly anticipated.
“Gidday, can I have some change for the internet?”
“The net kiosk does not work.”
“How soon will it be fixed?
“How long has it been broken?”
“About 15 months.”
I guess when a service call is going to take a few days, and the machine rarely gets used, it is easier to just give up on it as a bad idea instead of constantly running out to fix it.
Generally speaking, Japanese love great service. Love it is perhaps the wrong term. It is not even that they expect it, as that too indicates there is a chance that there won’t be good service. Probably it’s easiest to say that the Japanese market is over serviced. This idea of something being broken for 15 months, and still being advertised was met with bemusement, confusion and a bit of disappointment. No e-mail today.
The pay phones were good at swallowing money without talk time and the satellite phone had chewed through the pre-paid allowance. Guys, this is it, really roughing it. No telecommunications!
Highlight of the stay at Balladonia was the landing and departure the following morning of a helicopter being used by a crew surveying the gravitational strength of the area and mapping it. I guess the geophysical data they produce will help to locate the next big mineral or ore strike in the area.
Not only is Balladonia a rest and fuel stop for travelers, with its own helipad, air strip and communications, it is an important link for the RFDS. A few kilometers down the road, the highway opens up and turns into an emergency tarmac for the larger and faster planes for the flying doctor service.
Listening to a CD of stories from the flying doctor, finding suitable places to land is often a huge challenge.
Before hitting the road, we take a quick trip to a lookout at Beacon Hill. Not a huge mountain, but in the flatness of the area we are in it gives a pretty good view.
One of the plaques on display tells the story of how the town earned its name. Legend has it that a Horse named Norseman was tied to a tree overnight. In the morning the horse is lame. (Can’t walk) When its owner lifts the sore foot to see what is wrong, there is a rock of gold loaded quartz stuck in the horse’s hoof. Hence the start of the rush that gave birth to the town of Norseman.
By now the riding part of the journey is getting pretty straight forward. We know who wants to ride the whole way, who is only able to ride a shot bit and who is happy to fill in the gaps. The mental alertness of the support vehicle drivers is probably one of the biggest limits to our progress. Also, we are here to enjoy the trip instead of get to Sydney as quickly as we can, so most days we are in our accommodation by about 3 in the afternoon.
Fraser Range Station, wow, what a place! It was first settled in 1872, which by Australian standards is going back a fair way. By Japanese standards, it would probably still be referred to as that new development down the road.
It is only 437,000 acres, which is about 174,800 hectares. From the north to the south of the property, it is roughly 160km. Hard to deny, this is a reasonable size spread.
In spite of the size, the stocking numbers are controlled and limited to one sheep per 27 acres. In the early days of Australian history, flocks were run at such high numbers relative to the fertility of the soil that the resulting damage done by the loss of protective vegetation, causing topsoil to simply blow away, is not only irreparable, but most likely incalculable in economic terms.
Sheep stations often ran sheep for wool. Merino being the symbol of early Australian prosperity, with the saying that our economy rode on the sheep’s back. For much of the year, a flock of sheep would not require too many men to watch over them. Come shearing time however there would be a muster and then, a crew of shearers would come in on mass and the station would really come to life.
Stations had to provide accommodation, a kitchen suitable to the size of the crew and a shearing shed with yards.
Along with the shearers, there would be “rouseabouts” who would collect the wool and spread it on a sorting table. Any “dags” (lumps of manure caught in the wool) would be removed, as well as sticks, twigs or other pollutants. (Just as a side note, we often call someone who dresses in bad taste a “dag”)
A single fleece would be graded according to the fineness of its fibers. Some parts of the fleece would go in one bale, others in another. Once the bale is full, it is compressed in a huge wool press and sown closed.
Whenever a sheep was cut or injured by the shears, a dap of tar would be applied to the wound, not so much to stop the bleeding, more to prevent flies from laying eggs in the wound.
Flies are one of a sheep farmer’s worst enemies. When wool is a bit long, and forms dags near the rear end, a bit of rain, and some deep folds in the sheep’s hide, creates an area of the sheep that is a great place for the flies to lay eggs. This is referred to as “Fly Strike”. When the eggs hatch, the maggots start to eat the sheep alive. By the time the condition is recognized, it is too late to do anything for the sheep which would have already suffered days or weeks of agony.
To prevent fly strike a vet came up with a procedure that is now referred to as “Mulesing”. It is not pretty and yes, it is most likely painful for the sheep. The outer layer of skin is removed from an area around the sheep’s butt. When this heals, it does so without the usual wrinkles that the flies love so much. Also, the growth rate of wool here seems to be slower and hence harder for dags to form. It is a one off procedure that protects the sheep for life.
Mulesing is now attracting attention for being cruel to the sheep. The challenge for the sheep industry has always been to find a way to prevent fly strike in the most humane way possible for the sheep, while doing it in a realistic manner, that doesn’t make the whole production process uneconomic. Unlike the docking of dog tails for aesthetic purposes, the mulesing process prevents serious pain for the animal in the long run.
Some other bits of information about shearing. A shearer would often shear about 180 sheep a day. They would have five meals a day, and work in temperatures as high as 50 degrees in the shed.
A shearing shed is dusty, noisy, smelly, hot and frantic. I don’t know if you had to be tough to be a shearer, or if shearing just made you tough. Modern equipment may have made things a bit easier, but the life of a shearer is still a challenging one. The other thing about shearing is you only earn money when you work and you can’t increase the number of hours in a day. The shearers I know do so for the lifestyle, not the financial rewards.
One other note about the information available here. There is the following friendly advice on the front counter. If you ever intend to visit isolated or rural areas in Australia, it is worth memorizing.
As you head from Widgiemooltha to Norseman, when you look at the map it appears that there is a huge lake somewhere off to your left. No need to take a fishing rod as there is rarely any water in it. Most of the “Lake sports” revolve around sail boards on wheels.
Even so, coming from Japan such a wide emptiness holds an attraction. Stopping for a photo shoot on a train line was fun however the lake bed proved to be a bit too soft for cycling on it to be done easily.
A short way down the road, we came across a work crew replacing the sleepers under the train track. Again, totally fascinating the way it is done. There are a series of machines. The first few creep along the tracks, removing the old sleepers using hydraulic claws and rams, next new sleepers are inserted.
There follows a gang of men with sledge hammers to knock everything in place and get spikes started and finally they are followed by an operator in a small unit that rams the spikes home. Everyone does a bit, takes a step then does a bit more.
Norseman is the last town with a supermarket for quite a while. A leaking trailer tire is dropped off for repair while last minute supplies are purchased. The staff in the tire shop saw Tetsu riding a day or so ago and were so motivated by the project that they not only repaired the tire and gave us some product for free, they also gave a small amount of cash. Naturally, the whole group came down to say thanks and take photos.
I think the realization that just being seen by people can make a difference has lifted our spirits.
We opt for a counter meal at the local pub. With the campervan hooked up to power, two trips are made with the Chrysler to ferry everyone from accommodation to the pub.
It is here we meet another character, the smart ass drunk. Don’t know why, but in many places around the world there is one bloke who seems to thrive on getting drunk and niggling, stirring, agitating and just being a pain. This fine example of the species tries to pick a fight with our surgeon, then make out with one of the females in our group. When we return, with the second car load and suddenly there are nineof us and not three, he changes tack entirely and tries to be our best friend. Last we saw him he was staggering off and swearing about all sorts of things. Happy he was, as is often the case, just a bag of hot air.
From one extreme to the other. Widgiemooltha was a one man stop. Very simple and the perfect setting for a road trip murder mystery play or movie. The billiard table had a good workout here too.
Our first rest day was in Kalgoorlie, one of Australia's best known mining towns. Expecting little more than a collection of tin huts, dusty roads with the occasional tumbleweed blowing by and the industrious Hay Street, the reality of a clean, established and affluent township was a pleasant surprise.
We later learned that the mining companies pt a lot of effort into supporting the community. Everything you could want was there, just not open on a Sunday.
By far the highlight was a visit to the "Super Pit". The photo below shows a few of us sitting in a shovel that moves 60 ton of rubble at a time. Not bad!
Started the morning with a visit to the Southern Cross Agricultural Show. Took a bit of convincing the chieftans that an hour's delay to see a show would be worth while. As soon as we were through the doors, or gates as the case may be, turned out to be a highlight for most of the team.
Japan has combine harvesters that if they tip over, Granny can right them. Not much bigger than a ride on mower. The babies we saw here were bigger than some rice paddies back home in Japan.
One of the great things about driving at 25km per hour is that you get to see more and it is easier to stop whenever you see something interesting.
The riders spent the night at The Club Hotel. As there was a show in town, the hotel had arranged for Jessica, a Skimpy barmaid to work for the week. Basically a skimpy barmaid wears as little as is possible without breaking any law. Was an eye opener. One of our team has been e-mailing Jessica and it turns out she is a Medical student in Perth.
Yippee!!!! We finally see some "Wildlife". This scaly little fellow moved at the right time, otherwise he would have been discounted as just another piece of shredded tire on the side of the road.
Not knowing any better, I called this a "Stumpy Tailed Lizzard". Pretty sure that the Blue Tongue has a pointy tail and a smoother complexion. Anyway, those of us in the car were excited. Not quite a kangaroo, koala of camel, but a good start.
The pecking order of the riders is settling down. Working out which riders to group so that the stronger are together and the not as strong have their own group and own pace seems to be working.
Not long after pulling over on the side of the road, a bloke appears from the scrub to see what we were up to. First I thought he was lost and after a cuppa. Nope, he owned a farm next to the one we were out the front of. A truck passing by radioed in that we were there and he was just checking in to make sure we weren't trying to rustle or pinch something from his neighbor. We were very impressed at this example of locals looking out for each other.
This guy gave a smile and a nod once he knew what we were upto. After lunch however many of the trucks that passed gave us a friendly honk and a bit more room on the road. I suspect he was back on the radio and word of us made it up and down the highway. Whoever you are, thanks!
Our first night at a roadhouse was at Moorine Rocks. This consisted of a bar, BBQ area, some rooms and communal ablutions and Laundry.
The publican here, or should I say cook, cleaner, bouncer, host and manager, set the pool table to free play and an evening of the longest game of eight ball ever started. Good thing about pool, billiards or even snooker is that, even if you rarely sink anything, there are plenty of "Soooo close!" and "Nearly!!" comments that can be passed around.
The only other two guests this night were a miner and his wife. Lovely people, who insisted on getting photos before we left.
At last, the party of the bicycle journey across Australia has set out for its challenge.
Let's read captain Kazama's on-the-road reports.
The members of the"Trans Australia project,5000km, by Disabled Cyclists" have departed Narita on 22nd and arrived Perth on 23th as scheduled. The party has set out the journey on 25th.
"Asahi.com" has started a series reporting on this journey as well as former three projects. Please click the banner on right to go see the first report of Trans Australia project.
Fewer hills now, and only a bit of stiffness from the first day to overcome. Still the canola and wheat fields give green and gold flavoring for a very Aussie feel to the trip.
Each of the towns we pass through or large building we see seems to have an interesting story attached. The participants from Japan often seemed to be interested in the disproportionate size of the hotels and pubs in tiny towns.
Back before the combine harvester, and even now in shearing season, the towns had to cater for a lot of itinerate workers. Everywhere there was a mining boom also had a lot of thirsty throats to quench. Like many towns, the local publican often had the most reliable source of income.
Back in the 1920s, one Kellerberrin publican put his money to great use. He build a huge rooming house that he then gave to the Catholic Church. It was named "The Preventorium" and was used to give some respite to kids suffering from asthma. Before the days of ventalin, escaping to an agreeable climate was one of the few therapies available, so for about 50 years, children would come to "The Prev" to get their strength back, do some exercise and return back home a bit fitter.
By the 1970's though, new medicines meant that the service was no longer required and after a 6 year stint as Nun's Accommodation, the Church left the building.
James and his wife have spent the past five years renovating it and have turned it into a lovely guest house with 38 beds. They can do meals and a good breakfast. Being local farmers, I found them to be better than a guide book on the farm lifestyle and how things have changed over time.
As a hobby builder, I found the building design brilliant in its features to help cool it. If you ever visit, take note of the way the double hung sash windows, as well as the wall panel below them all can be raised to give big openings for access and most importantly, cross ventilation.
We arrive at Challengers' Harbor at 6:00 with the hopes of starting the journey at 6:30 so we can get past Perth before the morning rush hour. Last thing we want to do is cause traffic chaos on our first day. With photos and video comments, departure is not till well after 7:00.
Freemantle was absolutely beautiful in the morning sun. The town which started out as a whaling village had a huge facelift in the 80's when an Australian Businessman, Alan Bond sponsored a yacht that won the "America's Cup". Ever since then, the locals discovered how important it is to show visitors a great time in a clean and memorable setting and have kept up their efforts ever since.
How would you ride a bike if you only had one leg? Tetsu, our super athlete amused us all with his combination of scooting, hopping and gymnastics that are needed every time he starts to ride. Once up and running, he rides circles around us all.
Goal for the day was to reach Northam, which was about 100km from the start, much of it seemed to be up hill and due to our late departure, in heavy traffic. "Sorry!"
It was pretty funny watching cars as they passed us. Some were obviously getting ready to use their democratic right to abuse a slow driver. As soon as they saw our one legged cyclist though, an instant look of amazement usually was followed by a thumbs up. I suspect many were ready to give a different finger signal.
One of the first day highlights was seeing a mining truck being carried into Perth. Even without its tires off, it took up 2 lanes of the highway. None of us had ever seen a machine so big. My son's imagination and his Tonka Truck in the sand pit aside.
Leaving Perth, we passed through rolling oceans of Canola and Wheat. Kinda hard to describe how vast the plantations were, as we could only see as far as the horizon in each direction, for the whole day.
Our first road meal consisted of BBQ steaks with mashed spuds done with garlic and cheese. A very Aussie meal that was complimented all round.
Visit RFDS (Royal Flying Doctor Service) with Shinji and Dr Matsushita. Being an Aussie, I have heard about this service and thought it was just an airborne ambulance. Guess it was more suprising to me than to the others the extent of the services provided.
First one was the medicine chests. Scattered throughout Western Australia are about 600 medicine chests, on Cattle stations, schools, community centers, police stations, mines, oil rigs and any organization that has a number of people, without ready access to a doctor.
As well as the names of the medicines and their use by date, each has a clear number and there is usually one person who has been trained in how to give needles. When someone becomes ill, the symptoms are radioed through and a diagnosis is made by the RFDS Doctor. The number of the medicine and how much to take, for how long is often all that is required.
For people mining gold, raising cattle or drilling for oil, this service can make the isolation heaps safer and more bearable.
RFDS also run clinics. There are stories of rural schools having an air strip put in by the local bulldozer contractor. With the air strip, the RFDS can make regular visits, to prevent serious illness and, if required, evacuate people in an emergency. The benefits of these air strips go further though. They provide more stops for other planes, crop dusters and mail planes. This helps to keep rural communities in touch and opens up the landscape.
RFDS faces 2 main on-going challenges. First is finance. It is not cheap to maintain their fleet of planes and staff and though they receive funds from the federal government, as well as insurance companies, fund raising both directly and through service organizations such as Rotary and Lions Clubs is essential to the ongoing success of the RFDS.
The second challenge they face is keeping staff. The isolation can be pretty tough for a young doctor's partner and their kids. Though there are a few outposts, keeping doctors and nursing staff seems to be one of the biggest challenges.
P.S. Flynn, who started the RFDS is on our $20 note.
Royal Perth Hospital Trauma Unit
So you get a phone call waking you in the middle of the night. Your children have been in an horrific accident and need immediate surgery. Where would you like the ambulance to take them? Some hospitals have general surgeons, others specalise in micro surgery or plastic surgery. On the other side of town is an orthopedic surgeon and the vascular, cardio vascular, physiotherapy and psychological specialists are all only an hour from each other.
Hang on a minute, there is a place in Perth that has all of these specialists on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with a helipad right next to the operating theater.
The more time that passes between an injury occurring and it being attended to, the more long term effects develop. Simple really. A trauma unit improves the final outcome of patients and also speeds up the recovery time. Both of these outcomes save us in the community a fortune in health cover and a lot of emotional stress throughout the process.
Associate Professor John Buchannan was kind enough to show us through the trauma unit, highlighting the systems they have in place, and the reasoning behind the design of the facility. Most of us will never need the trauma unit, and when we do, the last thing we will be thinking about is why it was put there in the first place.
For the members of our group, who are trauma survivors and who did not have access to facilities such as these the look of envy was easily apparent. They could be walking with legs that still bend at the knee, or may have been able to keep more of the leg that was torn off.
Japan, with its population of around 126 million doesn't even have one trauma hospital. I find it hard to figure out why. A one yen per litre tax on fuel would pay for 50 full time helicopters to cover 98% of the population. Given that the majority of traumas are caused by road accidents, seems to be an effective way of funding the system.
So, you have been picked up by the RFDS, taken to the Trauma Unit, where they have put you back together to the best that can be done and now you have to learn how to walk, talk, feed yourself, get in and out of a toilet, shower, car and also learn enough skills to be able to start working again.
This is where the Royal Perth Hospital Rehabilitation Centre comes into play. First set up in the mid 1800's as a tent to house Small Pox patients, away from the main colony, it is now an expansive facility for rehabilitating amputees, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, joint replacements and other conditions.
For the Japanese with me, whose physiotherapy consisted of repeating the same exercise for a number of times in a plain room, this was an eye opener. Each section had its own gymnasium, there were swimming pools, mock bathrooms and a Ford sedan to practice getting in and out of.
They even had a school and trade shop there. As recovery can take months, the Education department funds teachers who can help patients to continue their education while they undergo their physiotherapy.
I guess seeing fresh amputees in the gym getting used to doing things one handed was one thing however being around Tetsu, you realize that with the right attitude, you can still lead a pretty full life without all your limbs. The stroke survivors have a bit of a battle ahead of them. The area that shocked me the most was the section for brain injuries.
My sister was born with severe brain damage. Probably more accurate to describe her condition as an under developed brain. Anyway, Jenny spent most of her life growing up in what could only be described as the most horrific places I had ever seen. These days however, Jenny lives in a Community Residence, with five other clients and a full time rotating staff of fantastic carers.
Seeing young, strong men, who by simply driving a bit too quick, or after a few too many drinks condemned to a life like Jenny broke my heart. I grew up wanting to be able to help her. Seeing preventable injuries and their consequences first hand changes the way you look at the steering wheel and speedo.
There were a lot of ideas that we gathered for use in Japan. Whether they can be implemented or not is another thing.
Invite a group of trauma survivors to challenge themselves by riding across Australia on push bike.
Along the way, learn about Australia and hopefully let some Aussies learn about the effects of trauma and also the possibilities of life after surviving an injury.
This project is a part of the Japanese Committee of the World Health Organisation's Bone and Joint Decade activities.
An invitation is open to Australian trauma survivors who are able to ride a 2 wheeled bicycle to join the challenge. Can be an amputee, or similar, from any cause, including road collision, work place or sporting injury. We are looking for participants with musculoskeletal impairments. Ideally, want 2 Aussies who can join us for as long as possible.
The bikes we are using have been developed and supplied by Panasonic. They have a small, electric motor that assists the cyclist up to speeds of 25 km per hour. This makes hill climbing easier and also maintains a minimum speed. With the aging population in Japan, where bikes are used as a form of transport, more than a recreational pastime, the powered assistance is helping to keep many a Granny independent, and also to increase the range of easy access.
For people with physical challenges, the bikes are also proving to be a fantastic support.
With uncertainty of access to power supplies, and to also test developing technology, we built a solar equipped trailer. Basically, while we drive, the solar panels on the roof of the trailer charge replacement bike batteries. Any surplus electricity we generate is captured in a deep cycle battery and is used to charge bike batteries overnight. We also use this power for lighting the trailer, charging phones and laptops and for our safety beacon. Depending on the cloud cover, the system is generating about 80Ah per day which is more than enough to keep the bikes going.
For the trip we are using two support vehicles. Chrysler Australia has very generously given us the use of a Chrysler Voyager. This is a seven seat vehicle that they equipped with a tow bar and roof racks. It has electrically operated doors and tail gate, which are nifty and would be fantastic for someone in a wheel chair, or someone who is vertically challenged.
The vehicle is comfortable, easy to drive and has some really handy storage areas that are easy to access, yet totally out of the way, hidden in the foot wells.
The second vehicle we are using is a campervan hired from Campabout Oz. This one is a 6 berth van, with toilet, shower and kitchen. By using this we save on hotels and are able to prepare pretty good meals on the road. This is also handy to have if any of the riders falls ill, or the call of nature arises, which can be a challenge in the bush when you only have one leg.
Some of the team
Shinji Kazama is the figurehead of the team. Shinji has spent most of his life being an adventurer. He is the first person to ride a motorcycle to the North Pole. He has also ridden motorbikes to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, to 6005m up the side of Mt. Everest, around most of the world and competed in the Paris to Dakar Rally a number of times.
It was while competing in the 2004 Paris Dakar Rally that his leg was crushed in an accident with a directionally challenged truck in Egypt. Since then, Shinji is still taking on challenges, starting with walking, then climbing Mt. Fuji and now cycling across Australia.
Takashi is a senior orthopedic surgeon. He is hoping to help establish Japan's first Trauma Hospital, were specialists from all of the fields needed are based in the one facility. In spite of its age and population size, Japan still does not have a trauma center. Through supporting programs like this, Takashi hopes that more people will become aware of the effects of trauma and the benefits of having specialist trauma centers.
Thierry has spent most of his life organizing the logistics for adventurers, as well as the catering for the Paris to Dakar Rally, where he first met Shinji. Being the owner of a few restaurants in France, he will be keeping everyone topped up in calories of the finest flavor.
He not only looks like Santa Claus, but has the belly laugh to match.
Thierry's basic comments on logistics are these three;
1: The devil is in the details.
2: God is in anticipation
3: An African Bungee can save your life. (An African Bungee is a piece of car tube cut to form a large elastic band. They are cheap, strong and very versatile)
The captain and the member's burning enthusiasm spoken.
The member's partner "JETTER" exhibited.
Having the departure date before eyes, the press conference has been held.
The captain of this project, Shinjiiii Kazama, the Chairman of the Bone and Joint Decade's Japan Steering Committee, Professor Matsushita of Teikyo University, and a participant Ms.Saki Imari were at conference. "JETTER" the electrical bicycle manufactured by Panasonic Corp. to be used for traversing Australian continent was exhibited.
We will cycle through Australia with this jersey knit on !!
This is the design of the bicycle jersey the team members wear through this trans Australia journey. Designed well to show up the name 「TRANS WORLD AUSTRALIA BICYCLE CARAVAN 2009」 and the logo mark of each corporate sponsor.