Day 407 | Starvation Bay: time for a feast

38 km | Heading west total: 14,509 km

So much for speed on this leg of the trip. There’s something about that water, waves and wind that makes it hard to just race on.

So no racing today, just a great ride down a fantastic unsealed road punctuated by 3 events.

First, a very big, very black, bull standing on the road. Well, it was walking right down the middle slowly going up the hill. I don’t know who was slower, him or me.

When I got close I made the biggest racket I could, shouting, banging, whistling, to frighten him off. He turned around and looked at me with a nonchalent yeah, mate, what do you want look. Completely unconcerned and continued traipsing up the hill. I hung back 20m, made careful note of every tree, wasn’t too hard because there weren’t any, and kept riding slowly. After about 500m there was a road to the right which he ambled down. Turning once to survey my sorry operation.

I don’t have such a bad life he seemed to indicate, a steady supply of food and a heavy workload in the female department. What about you?

Well, at least my food supply is still good as I head towards Starvation Bay.

Next, I crossed the Rabbit Proof Fence, a fence that crosses the continent, north south, from here to just near Port Hedland. Built in 1904 it once took 40 blokes on camels and bikes to maintain but they’ve given up these days. Much like the bull those small furry rabbits seem to be able to do what ever they want. Eventually they upgraded the fence to keep the emus out of the cropping lands to the west but judging by the fence now the birds won that battle.

There was, of course, a major film of the same name, Rabbit Proof Fence, made by Philip Noyce who took a break from his Harrison Ford blockbusters to tell the (true) story of a shameful part of Australia’s history, the forced removal of mixed race children from their Aboriginal mothers that went on for a period of about 70 years.

This has been a divisive issue here. Some think the issue was overstated and was ultimately to the children’s benefit. Others think acknowledgement of this abuse is the most important step in reconciliation. It’s the black armband view versus the white blindfold.

Noyce’s story is uplifting. After being taken, 3 preteen sisters escape from their mission school and follow the fence 1200km back home. The 3 aboriginal actors give compelling performances and Noyce’s story telling experience moves the action on. It’s one of the great recent Australian films.

The bigger story didn’t have such a happy ending with many of the 15,000 unwilling participants excluded from both cultures, many never seeing their families again.

The third interruption to progress was a local farmer who stopped for a chat. A bit baffled by my endeavours he at least filled me in on the area. He thinks the climate has changed dramatically in the last 30 years, (although I believe the 1970s were unusually wet). Back then it was misty rain 300 days a year and the sand hills were green. Now it’s very dry and the numerous freshwater lakes of the 1970s are now all salt water. But the water table hasn’t dropped and farming continues.

Starvation Bay is sheltered and the campsite is just a few metres above the beach. A long way down from the collection of buses at the other end with their cold water showers. It’s primitive here but it’s free.

No drinking water and just pit toilets but when I saw that huge 20 person picnic table I knew I’d found my perch for the night.