The back of beyond

Burra to Old Mount Bryan East School

Early we made our escape. Head throbbing I quietly crept over the creaking floorboards and down that bloody weathered wooden stairwell to the door.

It takes a few minutes to pack the Surly, then Horse replaced the bent coach bolt and screwdriver and we pushed off into the world. Today we needed to get to ‘old Mount Bryan East School house’. But before that, there was Horse’s pilgrimage.

Diesel and dust

Just up the road, way past the Royal Exchange, out before the back of beyond is the most photographed building in all Australia. A blistered house within a blistered landscape, that adorns the cover of ‘Midnight Oil‘s Diesel and dust’.

Urgency. All was rush with Horse. Pilgrimages don’t come around often and we cycled with new purpose north to the sacred. I kept an appropriate distance.

This wasn’t personal, it was deep, old, indigenous.


Karakia was offered, not to the album, but the message. There is something yet unfound here in the big country. He’ll find it and I’ll follow if invited. Horse is a deep river, he’s the Waikato and he’s a Paoa man.

After a silence, an intended pause, he pushed off north. Leaving a deep imprint in the red earth that I could only follow.


At the edge of the back of beyond

There’s a line. Hard to describe as you cross to the other side, but you know it intimately when you do. Everyone’s crossing is personal.

For me it’s the sound of colour; green becomes gold, dirt becomes dust, people become real and the colonised becomes the truth. For Horse there is an ever so subtle energy change, “feel that!” I often hear him say. We crossed that line and it was magnificent.

What most don’t realise is that you ride together alone. Sure there is company with another rider, but the conversation is as sparse as the landscape. You consume it all in gulps like you are the only person alive at that one place, at that one time. I never ever inquire after Horse’s experience, and he never does the same in return. These are truely personal journey’s shared.

We crossed the line from the normal to the never never that day. When it did, I finally felt I was in Australia. It’s why we rode so hard north east.

I know dust, I’ve seriously lived dust in Spain, Mexico and Israel. Those spiralling invisible vortices spinning in your tyre trail, the silence, the inevitable and the unexpected. We were there.

‘Roo were everywhere. We surprised them late, so when they bounded off they were close. Majestic and wild at heart.

Big sky Country

Then it revealed itself. A bend, a moment and the land went from tethered hill country to raw wild expanse. The red land fell over the horizon.

It’s rare in my world to see land that just disappears, but it did. Long, wide, red, hard forever ever land.

We had little option but to stop and breathe. It was a horizon we both wanted to cross. For no other reason than it was there.

We crawled on north, hours and hours, until we reached the ‘old Mount Bryan East School house’. Our refuge and respite.

Two dusty men on a dusty road unpacking and making good our day. Horse built a fire in our weathered brick cocoon, the wind was up.

We ate, talked little and drank the good wine Phil’ gifted us. Conversation was left to the lyrics…

‘Out where the river broke, The bloodwood and the desert oak, Holden wrecks and boiling diesels, Steam in forty five degrees…’

Todays top track: Midnight oil – Beds are burning

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