Silver lining

Kondinin was all shut when we arrived late on Saturday evening. We found the camp ground with directions to the pub to pay and get the key for the showers and kitchen. There were two camper vans and nowhere else to put the tent as the remaining spaces were for vehicle parking. We camped in some grass next to the bays overlooking a sports field as the daylight dwindled. The town was tiny, just the main street passing through with a couple of side roads with bungalows, a local hospital, bank, petrol station, IGA store and the pub, which was the only place open.

We showered and went for drinks with hopes of finding some dinner as we’d finished most of our food other than some butter, two slices of bread, mayonnaise and tea. We’d been caught out by the previous town Corrigin being closed as it was hosting an agricultural fair in the sports ground with an admission fee of $10. On another day, the rows of gargantuan tractors and John Deere information stands would have appealed, but we needed food and a WiFi connection to see if we could fix a broken gear cable. Kondinin, across the wheat fields had beckoned and as the weather was still good we had pressed on, covering 123kms for the day.

Thankfully the pub served food. We ate huge plates of salad, lamb chops and chips followed by cheese cake. The Saturday pub regulars were all at a sports dinner in a neighbouring town and the only people drinking were watching Australian Football on TV apart from a farmer who sat down to chat with us. As so often happens when meeting strangers we quickly heard a lot about him. In this case his Italian heritage, wheat fields, sheep and the rain, that he correctly predicted would come later.

The Sunday morning we woke to wet and windy weather. We de-camped and made a light breakfast of our remaining food before heading westward towards Hyden, a half day’s cycle of 67kms. This turned out to be a hard ride, pushing into an unremitting headwind and more rain. We were cold and hungry, pedalling effectively on ’empty’ and passing through land which opened out into exposed salt flats surrounded by dead Gum trees, grey and stick like. We were managing only 14-16km/hr and this was riding as hard as we could just to keep the bikes moving.

Finally we passed the road sign for Hyden which proclaimed beneath it ‘Bush living at its best’. Our hopes lifted of finding somewhere to find food despite being a Sunday but nothing appeared open except for the petrol station’s roadhouse and a pub. We tried the pub first. It looked closed for business but through the tinted windows we could see people at a pool table so Yasmin went in to ask about food whilst I watched the bikes. The entrance door had been partially kicked in, one of the glass panes had gone completely and was replaced by cardboard which had a hole burnt through it from a stubbed out cigarette. The outside concrete floor and bench were covered in dried drops of blood. Yasmin returned saying there was no food but behind the pub was a motel which served an all day Chinese buffet if we wanted it.

We tried the petrol station next which was busy with other travellers looking for food. We stacked the bikes so we could watch them from inside and went in. There was a queue of people waiting to pay for petrol and ordering various kinds of fried food, sandwiches and pies. Two Polish girls served behind the till and ran the kitchen. We ordered pies and tea, the latter we helped ourselves to from a huge steaming urn to the rear of an eating space with some chairs and tables. As we waited for our food we watched a TV showing a subtitled film starring Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman. It was truly dreadful but somehow the awfulness was riveting, perhaps because we’d not seen ‘telly’ for such along time.

Meanwhile outside, on the other side of the petrol forecourt, we watched a man walk up and down the main road wearing a pink vest, black tutu, pink sunglasses, black stetson and pink walking stick, waving at the passing Sunday traffic. Some stopped to pose and have their pictures taken with him. We’d have gone over to have a chat if we’d not been so cold, wet and desperate to eat. We discovered later that the man had a website subtitled ‘Just Tutu It’ where he spreads ‘the love’ to disperse depression through the giving of free hugs.

After the pies we pedalled on to Wave Rock where we pitched our tent and found a tourist cafe to order food to take-away for the evening. The cafe was part of the visitor centre and was hosting a large party of Japanese tourists who were causing ‘cultural difficulties’ in the organisation of a buffet that was being arranged for them. As we tried to order some lasagna for later to reheat in the campsite’s microwave, the lady who was serving us was continually interrupted by the Japanese interpreter. She looked furious.

I jokingly said, as she dropped her head after yet another interruption ‘just count to ten – one, two, three, four…’ and she looked up and finally smiled. I added an apology for us dithering over our order and explained it was because we were hungry as we’d cycled all day to get there and didn’t want to be starving later that evening. She bagged up the food and then some extra bread and butter which we’d not asked for and then said that’ll be $10. This was ridiculously cheap, at least a third off the menu price. We protested saying this was not enough money. She replied ‘I run the place and can ask you to pay whatever I like’. There was clearly going to be no arguments with her but we managed to give $14 instead and thanked her for her kindness and the free bread and butter.

We continually have these moments of unasked for generosity whilst we travel. The lady in the visitor’s cafe banished immediately our hunger, the dreadful day’s weather, closed Sunday shops, gritty pub and petrol station pies. She lifted our day as have so many others like her from Richard in Quairading to John from York. We are for ever and so often, humbled. 

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