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The Rock Eaters Journey

The email.

“Hi 4 Pines!

I won a 4 pines esky a couple of months back  in a competition and I wanted to share with you some pics of the retrofit onto my motorbike for an epic 4 week adventure through the outback.

I also just wanted to say  its saved the trip! carting food and –more importantly- a few cold beers after a long.. hard.. arse busting ride. 8500K’s all up.  Unfortunately  from broken hill up to Uluru we couldn’t get any 4 pine brews. It was mainly the dreaded “middle aged outback battler too afraid to try something new and we will shoot you for suggesting anything else ” range but even in the face of peril  we flew the flag and pushed for them to get some in.

It’s almost about that time to nip of for an Ale now…..

Regards,

Mat Anderson”

The journey.

(For the entire story click here.)

A trip two years in the making, a few last minute hands in the air, a perchance esky win and they were off on an epic journey across Australia. This is they’re “How good is this?!” story.

Mat (Bluetooth Mat), Cam (The Nature Lover), Della (The Gypsy), Conan (The Dawg) and Tim (Frawls). They’d been friends since year 7 and called themselves the Rock Eaters. Why the Rock Eaters? They are all vegan or vegetarian and joke that their diets are all so restricted that the only thing left for them to eat are rocks.

Here’s the story from Bluetooth Mat’s point of view:

The Dawg was locked in early with his 1971 Harley Iron head that still had a stack of work to be rideable. He managed to pull it together just in time. Around the same time that The Gypsy had thrown his hand in the air announcing he was coming and asked the rest of the guys to buy him a bike and some gear he was inbound in true gypsy style.

We left on the 30th of May.  Which was seasonably brisk. The weather was never considered while planning this trip. But we rolled out in style in jeans and a t-shirt which quickly changed to two pairs of pants and Jackets.

The plan was Sydney to Broken Hill in two days…. We took six…..  Through Nyngan, Cobar, Wilcannia… the 40 year old Iron head Harley was humming beautifully the whole way until we arrived at Topar road house …bloody… god forsaken…. Topar road house ….   For three days we camped next to a pit toilet that had seen decades of repulsion. We tried everything to fix the bike with no luck.

The Iron head had to be towed to broken hill where Rob from the aptly named Robs dirt bikes” got the iron head up and running. And at no charge! I think he was nostalgic about the whole thing. Thinking back some previous motorcycle trip he had done with his mates.

We made an emergency stop in Petersbourouh, after the coldest night of my life.  One of the many topics of discussion on the trip was my $25 dollar sleeping bag from Aldi.  The boys constantly told me it wasn’t going to cut it. They were right. It went below zero outside and I had woken up on the cusp of death. We high tailed it to a hotel and I sat in the shower for 2hrs not knowing if the water was hot or not. To their credit not once did they say I told you so. 

We continued through Carrieton and Hawker up to the Flinders Ranges. One of the most stunning national parks I have ever seen, it has this strange way of combing the desert and the alpine wilderness.  Emu’s running through pine trees and frost. We camped in Brachia Gorge where we meet a solitary bloke who was one of the 4 National Parks and wildlife rangers that looked after the 176,500 Km2 Simpson Desert. Needless to say he was not good with people. He was on Annual leave and was heading back to Adelaide but couldn’t handle the people so he ended up here. Back where he belonged.  I must admit after a week or so out there you can come to appreciate where he was coming from.

From the flinders we headed up the Stuart Hwy. it surpassed everything I envisaged about the outback. It was amazing falling to the back of the line and watching three of your closest mates powering up in to the most incomprehensible vastness I have ever seen.  With no buildings or obstructions in place you can really see how big the world is.  A truly awe inspiring experience. 

Sadly the ecstasy couldn’t last, as 3 days later the Harley spluttered into Coober Pedy, where The Dawg determined he could not push her anymore. We thought all was lost and sat down at the also aptly named Waffles, Opals and coffee which coincidently only sells waffles opals and coffee. For three days we tried to get the Harley humming, but again no luck. 

Day three in Coober Pedy and The Gypsy managed to get Opal miner named Miro to take the Harley on the back with The Dawg as a passenger. It was not how I pictured our arrival into Alice, one man down and riding straight past the town sign miles apart from my fellow companions because I was in a rush.  Instead of stopping and taking the customary photo with my greatest friends.  I flew straight past it… and they had to round me up and motor back out there to get the shot.  But it never is… how you picture it.
That’s the beauty of travel. Until your there. Living it.  You will never grasp the smell of the air, the temperature on your face,  the severe frustration created by that little scratch on the back of your neck your new jacket gives your while you’re riding, the stamina required to listen to the air beat past you ear drum at 130 km/h for hours on end, the bond required to look past some of your friends lesser transgressions…which have intensified because you’ve spent every waking hour together , the uneasy feeling of  isolation and the unknown,  the feeling of warmth and power when you established you’re in a safe place with safe people. The butterfly’s in your stomach just before you return to someone you care deeply for and haven’t seen for weeks. None of it you can prepare for, but all of it is worth its weight in gold.

We travelled through the west MacDonnell Ranges on the Merbein Loop. And camped at Stanley Chasm and Red Bank Gorge. Each place slightly different but just as beautiful as the last.  It felt like I had fallen into a Tom Roberts painting on a primary school trip to the art gallery. The Nature Lover was going to slap me if I said bloody marvellous’ one more time.

No pictures can do that rock justice even if they are worth 1000 words.  It does glow at dusk. The place does feel sacred, and you will have 100 Americans around you muttering on about each individual motor function they are having.  

But all I remember is sitting on that bench with 5 of my closest friends and reflecting on the accomplishment we had made. Not just the trip. But on the friendships we had forged over decades. I keep thinking in reflection the outback might just not be such a rare experience any more but the experiences I’ve had in it are of the rarest kind.

The photos.

Image credits: Mat Anderson & Luke Della Santa