Day 401 | meeting more great characters: Harry turns up and tells a few strange episodes from his life

Esperance Day 104

Just after 6pm I’ve often been found heading back along the foreshore bike path to the Bathers Paradise caravan park, usually from a late in the day ride out to Twilight, sometimes if the weather ain’t so good from the library.

For weeks I’ve been waving out to a distinguished looking gentleman, maybe 70, with a clipped moustache and a small dog on a lead. I finally stopped for a chat and found he’s in a caravan at another park, about to depart for the eternal, well, Dry Season, sunshine up north. Appearances can be somewhat deceptive: the old bloke has a hilariously foul manner of speech.

Out of the gloom a stray cyclist appears, looking for a place to stay, so we head off together round to Paradise.

Harry had flown from Holland for a 3 or 4 month break. It’s winter up there of course and he needs to have a little adventure. The trip started by travelling from Darwin to Broome by Greyhound. Sick of walking around that spread out town in the Wet Season heat he bought a secondhand bike. Riding back to his camp after dark he was stopped by the police and told it was dangerous to ride in the pitch black he wasn’t going to be booked but he now had to walk. 5 minutes later he was attacked by a local with a lump of wood as he was pushing along and his bike and all belongings were taken. So battered and bruised he was soon back talking to the police, who, surprisingly, managed to get everything back, even wallet and tickets.

It was bus to Perth then ride the hills to Augusta, on the very south west of the continent. Then back on the bus with a few stop overs until he dropped in here for a look.

We have spent the last few days together biking around during the day and trading stories at night.

Day 1 we took off on the bike path out along the beaches and Harry’s grin got wider the further west we went. Chugging up the hills and flying down the swishy corners at real pace. It was blowing a gale but at Salmon Beach we wandered around the point on the granite to watch the ocean do its mega washing machine show. Photos were taken on cliffs as we pretended to fly with the gale blasting us.

We were like a couple of 12 year olds taking a day off school, grinning at the joy of having a great day out.

I finally had to ask him his age. I’m a pensioner, 65. Huh? Harry’s got more get up and go than the average 25 year old, bouncing around to get just the right angle for his photos. Running up the hill to take a snap of the view.

At night a few more stories are traded. He was a motorcycle mechanic, clearly a speed demon, travelling the world on the Superbike circuit for years, (although seeing nothing of it other than airports due to the work schedule), a little jail time for something that wasn’t his fault, not for his undetected major offences, (OK, so he made some unauthorised use of his father’s demolition company equipment but that was a long time ago.)

3 near death experiences, two on motorbikes, one of them racing the motorcycle police at night and crashing at high speed through a safety barrier and down a cliff when his inefficient head light gave up.

The funniest was not a bike story, Harry was awaiting some replacement part somewhere in Portugal and had ended up in a bar drinking his favourite drop, single malt whiskey. Finally staggering out of the bar he perched on a bridge parapet and managed to topple backwards into an open sewer. Whacked his head on the way down and submerged himself in the shit. Crawled back to his accommodation and was hosed down. (The smell remained for days despite the fresh air on the motorbike.) Ended up in hospital with that one with some hideous lung infection but was fortunate he didn’t drown in the quagmire.

Basically a lifetime of adventures and all told in a humorous, understated and entertaining way. We had a great time just crapping on.

I could probably pass on the level of excitement he seems to achieve in life.

But I hope I’ve got that much zip at his age.