Riding To The True Heart of Australia
I grew up on the backseat of a 1946 Nimbus motorcycle. When I was 20-years-old I finally got my license and a Nimbus of my own. Australia has been on my radar since I was young, attracted by the vastness of this red land. In May this year I spontaneously bought a plane ticket to Perth, got a job at a beautiful dairy farm near Pemberton, and started planning my road trip.
I bought a Kawasaki KLR650. My initial plan was to ride it up to Darwin, but after just a short time on the road I was hooked and it soon escalated into a full lap of Australia.
I dreamed of riding the legendary Gibb River Road, one of the main reasons I got the bike. Shortly after my arrival in Broome I met three other travelers with a similar idea. Before long, we had decided to share the experience together.
On the first day, we had driven just over 100 km when we hit a rough patch of corrugation and thick dust. I lost control of the bike at 70-80 km/h. I awoke several hours later and didn’t remember what had happened. My travel mates said I was gone for 5-10 sec. I was adamant to get back on and keep going but I couldn’t get the bike to start. I began suggesting places we could camp for the night, but after a while I started talking nonsense. The boys realized something might not be right, bundled me in their car and drove me to Derby.
On the way I made jokes, (probably bad), but kept repeating the same one. When I got to the hospital the doctors told them I had concussion. Physically I was fine except for a few bruises on my face, arms and legs. The hospital insisted on an emergency flight to Broome with the Royal Flying Doctor Service to ensure there was no permanent brain damage. Luckily, the results were fine and I was discharged the next morning.
When I woke up in the hospital I hit a low point. I was alone, without my bike and due to the time difference I couldn’t even call my parents. I didn’t know anyone in Broome. The nurse that had been treating me the night before had finished her shift. I had never felt lonelier in my life. I felt like I had failed myself.
I spent a day recovering and then travelled back to Derby. I arrived after dark and spent the night in a caravan park. The next morning, a helpful local called Darral drove me all the way back to where I had left the bike locked and in gear. But it wasn’t there. I was devastated and couldn’t believe it at first. My mind raced with ideas about where the bike might be. It wasn’t until after I filed a police report that the reality sunk in.
Everything had changed. My dream of riding around Australia on a motorcycle was in the gutter. if it wasn’t for Darral, I would’ve been lost. He drove me to the towing places in town to see if they’d heard anything and kept my spirits high. The next morning he woke me with a cup of coffee. He helped me make posters and put them up all around town. In total he spent three days with me, every hour he wasn’t working he was helping me. His kindness inspired me, and kept the sadness at bay.
After discovering that the bike was lost, I took to social media for help. I posted in the Gibb River Road Facebook page to see if anyone had seen or heard anything. While all the comments were incredibly supportive and kind, no one had any information on my bike. I received a message from a journalist from the ABC who offered to do an interview and a social media post. After that, the internet took my story under its wing. Almost 300 people shared my post and even more commented.
My phone never stopped in the days after. Countless people offered help and support, from well wishes to accommodation. Three people offered to lend me their bike to finish my trip and two guys offered me their bikes for free!
Even though I was a long way from home, sitting alone in a caravan park in Derby, I felt so connected and loved. I was in tears, absolutely overwhelmed by kindness.
One of the bikes on offer was a Kawasaki KLR650, a year younger than what I’d had with a similar number of kilometers on the odometer. I called the person up and he was serious about giving me his bike! I was shocked. It is one thing to say it on social media and another to follow through in real life. He’d seen the post and didn’t want me to have a bad experience of Australia. A few days later, I was on the bus to Karratha to get the bike. The bus arrived at six in the morning and there was Novak and Amy to pick me up. They made me a beautiful breakfast, showed me around town, bought me lunch and dinner and didn’t even let me get the bill! When I saw the bike I burst into tears. It looked just like mine. I stayed the night at Amy’s parent’s house and by morning I was well rested and ready to move on. It felt fantastic to be embraced by the wide open road. I rode all the way back to Broome with the biggest smile on my face – thinking of all the kind, selfless strangers that had now become friends.
I’m all about disconnecting and going into the wilderness, but none of this would have happened without social media. Around 40 kind and generous people offered me help. Before my bike was stolen I was enjoying seeing Australia, but I wasn’t feeling Australia. I was on a country, not in it. On reflection, I have realised that while I usually go for the nature, it’s always the people that create the most profound memories and greatest stories. What happened to me has changed the way I see Australia. I feel like I’m surrounded by friends, I feel carried by the kindness of little profile pictures on a website. And it’s the most beautiful thing.
Words & Images by: Agnes Plesner Skaarup