So sung Alainis Morrisette, and so did our day go.
Another clear cold night on the side of the Vokes Hill –Cook Road; extra clothing was needed in the swags.
As the morning broke and the sun neared the horizon the alarm clock birds were starting their normal broadcast of the latest news, we heard sounds that we didn’t want to hear. Joc, who had done his best to ride 60 kilometres in tough conditions the previous day, was paying the price. The pain from his injuries from the stack two days previous had caught up; he tried for half an hour to get out of his swag but couldn’t without help. When out, his self-diagnosis wasn’t good; he was sure of at least two broken ribs and thought maybe lung damage. Along with this he had loss of feeling in leg and numbness in his shoulder. He decided that he couldn’t continue to ride, and that he needed to get professional medical help. It was time to make the call.
The decision was made to put his bike on the D-Max Ute and then ring 000 to seek assistance. As we were in a significantly remote location it wasn’t going to be easy; we looked at the map and saw that the closest airport was Oak Valley, which we were heading for anyway due to fuel issues. The 000 call was made and it took some time to describe where we were and what the issues were. The 000 and ambulance system are great for suburbia but maybe not so hot for a place well off the grid. In the end the message got through and we packed up and headed for Oak Valley, some 140 kilometres away. Packing in itself was a mighty task as we had to load his BMW on the ute and then pack around it.
The riding southbound in the morning was fast and undulating, in spectacular ever-changing scenery. The long swales allowed the riders to build up speed to get over the relatively straight sandhills that we were running across. We came across a well and a Len Beadell plaque and Joc was travelling relatively comfortably in the front of the D Max. All was pretty good in the world until we came to another road block. We came to an intersecting road and a road closed sign on the track that we were following. The intersecting road was sign-posted as ‘BMR 3’ and interestingly was not on any of the maps that we had. The sign said to go west to get to Cook, so we headed out.
The new road was immediately better for fast travel, while not really testing the technical skills of the riders.
The Trekkers pushed the speeds up and made a bee line west, looking for the turn to the south. On the GPS
we had no road and so were pushing into un-mapped territory again. Eventually it was ‘left turn Clive’ after a couple of lock-ups and we started heading south. It was a clean, wide well-made road and we made good time.
At around 12.45pm we got to a site with some tanks and other abandoned infrastructure, about 10 kilometres from the turn-off to Oak Valley. We had a snack and then rang 000 again as we had not had an update. After
few false starts we connected with Lisa who was very helpful. The mail was that there was an RN at Oak Valley who had been alerted to our situation and was waiting for us to further assess Joc and make some calls in
conjunction with the RFDS. Back on the road, we went on.
Oak Valley is marked on the map as a ‘closed community’ so we were unsure of what we would meet there, other than knowing that they had been tee’ d up by the RFDS for medical assistance and Robin from
Maralinga for fuel. We got to the tee intersection to turn into the community and were discussing the approach on the UHF when we got a call from the office. The message was ‘come on in’.
To say that we got a good reception and support from Nat and Christina at Oak Valley would be an understatement. Nat is employed with her partner Andrew to manage the operations of the community. Nat met us and directed us to the clinic where Christina received Joc and began to assess his medical condition. The rest of the team checked out the work of the local artists and had a bit of a cultural experience. Best of all were the many Maralinga tjanjara youngsters who Nat encouraged to come out and look at the bikes and sit on them and get a TTT sticker. Any onlooker would be unsure as to who was having the most fun, the Trekkers or the kids. We were also able to fill up with fuel at the reasonable price of $2.00 a litre, and have a nice cup of coffee.
The word had come through that Joc’s condition was serious enough to fly him out with the RFDS, which we all found to be particularly ironic given that we are on a fund-raising mission for the RFDS. Initially it was to be to go to Ceduna but later it was Adelaide. We assessed our plans and decided that after we saw him off we would continue to our original destination of the coast at Nullarbor Roadhouse.
Winding up our time at Oak Valley we farewelled Nat and Andrew and then followed the Oak Valley Ambulance out of town to the airport (ironically Joc the Paramedic had to ride in the ambulance…on the stretcher!). As we approached in the darkening light we could see the plane circling and landing. We were met by an RFDS pilot and nurse. The irony continued with this in two ways. Angelique the RFDS Nurse had actually met us in the Foodland car park in Port Augusta when we stocked up supplies. She had approached us with her son out of her interest in motor bikes and we had chatted about our visit to the RFDS base that day and our fundraising efforts. Of Austrian origins, she had ridden motorbikes across several countries and continents, including from Austria to Australia on a BMW R100. We felt a little soft in her presence. The second piece of irony here was that the plane that Joc was going into was the one that we had looked at in Port Augusta during our tour of the facilities several days before.
Joc was packed up and packed into the Flying Doctors plane with our assistance, best wishes and with our sorrow, both at his situation and his leaving us at this point. We had enjoyed his laughter and JOCularity, and his many practical jokes (including a ripper involving silly string just minutes before he was put in the ambulance). As we sat around the campfire thinking back on our adventures we recalled his admirable stubbornness, his skills on a motorbike and his absolute courage and perseverance to try to stay with us despite his injuries. Inside we all felt that he displayed qualities that we would all aspire to be able to display ourselves in similar circumstances.
After seeing Joc safely packed and off into the sparkling night sky we set up our camp at the Oak Valley Airport under a rain collection shed. The fire was warm and Sharon’s spag bol filled our bellies, washed down with goon and port, but both in the discussion and in our silences we thought of Joc.