Transport on two wheels


I had occasion to churn up the gravel quite frequently between Canberra, Cooma and the various camps of the Snowy mountain scheme. Sydney to Canberra was the less hazardous stretch – all bitumen. My steed was a small Jawa 250cc motorbike. The only problem I ever had with this contraption – it was of a coil ignition which is dependent on a battery, whereas a magneto one is not (please don’t ask me to explain the difference). The only other matter I faced was the lack of proper biker’s attire. I lacked such garb, but that was not a major problem. As luck would have it there were large pipes lying beside the road ready to be dug in, presumably for drainage purposes. They were wide enough to crawl into and provide shelter when it rained. I realised that many of my mates had the same need, so thinking ahead I ordered half a dozen leather jackets and I figured that by selling five I could have mine for free. I should have stayed in this merchandising business as I had uncovered a hidden talent.


Bike riders were not expected to possess a very long life span, and in the jargon of the time I was referred to as “A temporary Australian” I already acquired another title by virtue of being a post-war European migrant, that of a “New Australian” (and I was not even naturalised as yet).


Sometimes I had a pillion rider – a person who could not even afford the two wheels. Quite often it was a young man with a nice Slavic name, Vladimir.  He was six foot two and when he sat on the pillion seat you could not see much of the bike. We tootled off from Jindabyne and up towards Island Bend. There was a very flat stretch before you started climbing at the Creel. We caught up with a utility truck, whose driver either could not drive straight or tried to avoid the ruts in the road. He was all over the place. I tried my best to overtake him. I blew my horn and swore at him but we got nowhere for a while. We did eventually overtake him and, at the point of doing so, my pillion rider made a well-known motion with two fingers, which, then, as now, was pretty rude. So what! We were now in the front and we could escape him at will (or so we thought), but here lies the rub. We rode a few more miles up the hill, when we discovered what fate had in store for us. All of a sudden the front tyre went flat on me and I had no option but to stop and try to fix it.


This, of course, gave the truckie a chance to catch up with us, which he did. He took the opportunity to hurl some abuse at my pillion rider. The two of them were hard at it, and it looked like coming to a proper stoush. I was busy trying to fix the tyre problem, but eventually realised that not having a spare was curtains for that solution. Totally frustrated I shouted out: “I’ve had it – it’s a wreck”


All of a sudden the combatants stopped arguing. Coming to his senses the truckie said: “You better throw your bike in the tray, hop in, and I’ll drop youse off at your camp”.


Isn’t this typically Australian? I would hope that there would be a Good Samaritan at hand anywhere in the world to help another person in need, but would they be as helpful if there was some prior disagreement? Our Good Samaritan was prepared to let bygones be bygones. He was a Good Australian.