I love the elegant patchwork quilt of country hills. The land elegantly divided into living sections of cattle, bush, farm and home.
I took the train out of Adelaide @ 3:00 p.m. today to avoid the frustration and danger of escaping the city. The end of the line was Belair. Not quite a suburb, not quite country. The train dropped me next to a school. Uniformed children foreign to my west coast eyes mobbed the street. I was feeling peckish, and perhaps that little unidentifiable sadness that comes with the opening and closing of chapters, in this case the end of my travels with a mate and the challenge of the Eyre highway. Now the challenge is again solo. Although I find when around a town, it is anything but. Seeing a lone man on a bike laden with gear seems to spark a lot of curiosity. Perhaps no more than two bikes, but one seems more approachable. The traffic was still heavy till Clarendon, but soon work began as, for the first time since Margaret River, I cycled hills. I was delighted. I love hills. The work of hills is honest, not fickle like wind, and it is always followed by the reward of a raving descent. It’s far more than the thrill of easy speed. The height and angles create a lens, in this case a one of farm, cows and bush, that reminded me of the agrarian quilts of central Italy. I passed Kangarilla - briefly wondered what an animal of that name would look like – and climbed and coasted through Meadows and ended up in Strathalbyn.
I found this town immediately appealing. Lovely stone pubs, hotels, churches, and a park with a river running through town - just so. I wished to treat myself to a pub stay at one of the many hotels, but the gods of frugalness were watching out for me, and everything but the caravan park was full. After my last enquiry at the Robin Hood Hotel in which I was promised a spot on their floor if nothing else worked out, I crossed the street to Cafe Ruffino. Along the way, I passed the town library, a somewhat art novo type edifice. Behind its locked doors, the big sounds of brass piped out big band music from the 30s and 40s. Not a song I could recognize, but a sound I found intimately familiar. I leaned on my bike. Five minutes of music was not going to make a difference, and if it did, I was not supposed to stay at the caravan park in the first place. I leaned on my bike and smiled, closed my eyes, and tapped time with my fingers and feet.
The caravan did have a spot, but the owner was out, and I did not stay to pay. Josh, working back at Cafe Ruffino had a better offer of a free couch bed. He had noticed my yellow Lance Armstrong "Livestrong" bracelet. He had one too, and this quickly turned into a conversation of travel. I ordered ravioli and a beer, and he followed me outside to look at my rig. Josh has designs of a motor bike trip from Alaska to NYC. He works two jobs - managing the Ruffino, a job he has worked since he was 14 (he is 22 now), and in the past year a job in real estate, and at that young age has already invested in property. It was readily apparent that Josh is both smart and motivated. After finding out he has taken off four days in four years, I am shocked that he can appear so laid back. I feel his lifestyle will start to pay dividends in a few short years, but I only hope he does not get caught up in his success and put off the travel he seems so keen for. I followed him home on my bike, changed shirts, and we went out to the Victoria Hotel and met some of the locals, including his house and workmate, Tessa. She wants to get into nursing. We stayed up late shooting bull on politics and life back at his place and looked up funny videos on You Tube, a much too regular pastime at home, but a welcome diversion on the road. The only internet I have used I had to pay for, thus I am efficient.
I found it strange using this medium of instant availability. SNL skits that run through my friends like wildfire are unknown here even though they are on You Tube. I showed him such favorites as "My box in a box" and "Iran", and he showed me an Australian comedy team that had managed to used a few black SUVs and guys in suits to infiltrate the security the last time President Bush was in Australia with a man dressed as Osama Bin Laden. The price tag for this Swiss-cheese security? $150,000,000 AUD. Good on ya.