Cj Shaw: Bike Tour ‘08 Part 4

Join C.J for his ramshackle journey across NSW with nothing more than his bike, his guitar and his missus by his side.

We watched Angus and Julia Stone video clips in the morning in our suite at the Astor Hotel in Goulburn, found out too that Angus is just a boy, albeit one with a giant beard. Today’s ride was going to be the biggest ride we had undertaken in a single day, 95 kms from Goulburn to Canberra.

Further more, while our previous travels had been on the leafy, sun burnt back roads of mountainous NSW, today’s ride was straight down the somewhat uninspiring Australian aorta known as the Federal Highway. While used to sharing the bitumen with leisurely Sunday drivers and easily spooked livestock today’s bitumen was shared with many thousands of cars as well as oversized trucks sent to earth to scare bike riding hippies.

Firstly- Time Travel

Back in 1991 when Phil Collins famously beat MC Hammer and Michael Bolton for Best Male Artist at the American Music Awards I was in year four at Glenbrook Public School. It was during this year that I went for my first trip through Canberra.

We never actually stayed in Canberra but drove through the Nation’s capital to get too Cooma. The excursion was brilliant and besides playing in the snow with my teams there are two other events that have stuck in my mind up until this very day. Firstly and most important I beat my year four teacher Mr Griffin in air-hockey in front of the whole class.

The second event was when we drove past Lake George en route to Cooma. As we passed this massive body of water I can remember being over whelmed by the size of it. In my little 10 year old brain it was the biggest thing I had ever seen and part of the appeal for the bike ride this year was to ride past the same lake that had overawed me so many moons ago.

Fast forward fifteen years and this bike riding maestro was faced with a much different Lake George. For the first time in written history the Lake is bone dry, if one was inclined to do so they could drive from one side of the lake to the other (roughly a 25km drive).

Underneath the blue sky we faced this massive dry plain that on occasion holds the very salty Lake George. While not seeing a drop of water the scale of the Lake was apparent by the prolonged ride around it. We peddled for over an hour to go around the massive expanse that is occasionally Lake George.

After many hours on the road we scaled our final hill en route to Canberra. The ride from Goulburn to Canberra is worth it for the downhill run one gets when going into town. We puffed and panted upwards towards the nation’s capital. We were overjoyed to see Black Tower and we were stoked to be confronted with many kilometers of down hill, leading into serene wide streets. Such a hefty ride needed a reward so we hightailed it straight to the pub.

The gig I put on was a very different show. Firstly it wasn’t at a pub but at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. I had no planned performance when I rode into town and so went over to the Embassy to ask if I could perform there in return for a place to camp. The fella in charge, Steve, said it was ‘no dramas’.

So two nights later we wandered over to the site of the Embassy. It was cold and getting on sundown. We pitched our tent before dark and wandered over to the fire that burnt before of Old Parliament House.

It was a surreal experience sitting on the grounds of the Tent Embassy and looking around, all you see are massive buildings, monuments to war, business and western progress looking back over you, commanding respect, dwarfing the individual and altering the landscape. This fire that we sat around had been burning since the 1970’s.

Over the course of the night we drank tea, ate snags and sung songs. It was a pretty serene place to stay. The Old Parliament House shone like a giant white brick, with massive floodlights beaming incandescent light against its white walls. We got talking to those staying at the Embassy and found out where they had come from and how they had gotten to Canberra. We talked a bit about the politics of the place and what it represented to them.

I feel very fortunate to have stayed there and gotten to meet some of the people who were camping there too. There was no crowd, no booze, no cover charge and ‘no dramas’ just the meeting of different people around a fire that had burnt for nearly forty years.

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