Motorcycles

A good paddock

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Birds of a feather feature prominently in the fond recollections of my recent motorcycle tour.

Like the Crimson Rosella that, in a stupendous feat of aerobatics, so narrowly avoided taking out an oblivious Rob’s left leg on a densely forested section of Tooma Road, as we descended from an epic ride through rolling grasslands, steep ravines, and the haunting vista of snow gums, up to Cabramurra, Australia’s highest populated town.

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Or the pair of Crimson Rosellas that alighted a mere handful of feet away from us, quietly observing as we sat on the deck of our cabin a hundred metres or so behind the Tintaldra Hotel, in the sharp chill of early morning, bare feet, sipping Rob’s superb coffee, earnestly discussing matters metaphysical, and reverential, by way of analogy to the pond across the road.

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Indeed, from the moment that Rob and I rolled into town and pulled up in front of the famous biker’s hotel, birds were to become, for me, a highlight of the trip.

It was around midday. Alf and Maija, the publicans, exchanged pleasantries with us. As our accommodations were not yet readied, they kindly offered to let us drop off our gear — I declined, since mine was serving as valuable lumbar support — and told us we should aim to be back in time for a beer on the verandah watching the kingfishers.

Apparently, they are something of local celebrities. There’s two of them, that come down most afternoons to sit on the electrical wire out front of the hotel, and perform aerobatics for the audience.

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They disappointed us that day. But on the following afternoon, they came. Such exquisite little birds they are. My apologies for the photo quality. They are so small, optical zoom was insufficient; I had to resort to the use of digital too.

As we sat on the verandah chatting with the locals, the conversation, as is a not uncommon tendency in such environs, turned to bird spotting of another kind; identifying who of the women employed at the General Store in a nearby town had served us breakfast.

They were all most interested because, alas, Rob had described her as seeming “a bit fierce”, and not so friendly as the cheery woman who had served us the day before, when we stopped in to refuel our bikes. The situation was quite interesting and amusing for Alf and Maija and the locals; Rob’s observation perhaps representing fuel for future small town gossip, were I to hazard a guess.

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So there we were, sitting at the front of the hotel, in audience for the kingfishers.

Terry, a stereotypical Aussie farmer — faded jeans, flanno, weather-beaten Akubra, leathery dark-tanned skin on all sun-exposed areas and lily-white elsewhere (I noticed his gut when he stretched!), and possessed of a wonderfully soothing laconic drawl — was perched up on the verandah railing, slouched forward a little from the waist, stoop shouldered after a hard day’s work, beer nestled in one hand, and the other loosely gripping the verandah post. His mud-spattered Toyota Landcruiser tray back ute softly tinkled behind him, as it slowly cooled on the baking hot asphalt.

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They were all — Maija in particular — enthusiastically quizzing Rob about what she (the “fierce” one) looked like. Rob was asked how old she appeared to be (“early 50’s”).

Terry the farmer piped up, “Been in a good paddock?”

I smiled immediately.

Even more so, when it took Rob several moments to get it.

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