Chronicle of an unexpected holiday in the town of Esk.
The town of Esk is located in southern Queensland and, before late-March, I must admit I had no clue of its existence.
Oh well, life is full of surprises and I’ve always loved a bit of a challenge, as it stimulates my “how to get things un-fucked” creativity.
Just to set the scene.
I was on one of my crazy (as many people define them) bike packing trips, homebound from Noosa Heads, and I committed the noob mistake of ignoring the weather warnings, which predicted a colossal one-in-a-century downpour, just over the weekend my trip would have started.
Note, I’m not joking when I’m calling it a unique event in history: those were the words I’ve heard from the TV news. They should have triggered some level of alert in me.
Instead, naively I thought, after all, Australian rain is like warm tea, nothing to worry about! Right…
The masterplan was a trip inland, back to New South Wales, crossing the Border ranges, for a total of 600km to cover in five days, so, not much compared to what I’ve done many times before.
“You get wet only once!”
I usually repeat to myself these wise words before braving the elements on my road bike. As masochistic as it might sound, the discomfort usually lasts no more than fifteen minutes.
Once you’re fully drenched and your shoes are like swimming pools, you’re ready for the subtle pain mixed with pleasure that only cyclists can understand… don’t they?
It was no different the morning I left Noosa Heads, bound for the mountains. A few kilometres in and the mountain climb began.
Once I was on the plateau, I had the first taste of some truly wild weather.
Mist and fog joined the bucketing rain and a stiff cold breeze popped up from the valley, just to throw in an extra challenge. In a few minutes I was freezing and with no rain jacket…oh yes, I left that at home!
No problem, just shift a few gears and work harder (I thought to myself). Riding in bad weather is badass after all, and should upgrade the adventure from standard to epic!
It definitely wasn’t my week
After many hours in the weather I stopped for the night in Kilcoy, with my badass badge, just to realise that:
- I didn’t have any cash
- my credit card was…at home.
- I only had pay-wave on my phone…which wasn’t charging anymore!
My adventure was being ruined not only by shit weather, but also piss-poor planning…but hey, let’s get ZEN real quick and think about an honourable way forward, before my phone battery is completely dead.
So I did and thanks to loads of toilet paper I’ve managed to dry the phone’s charging port. I also bought a charging cable at the gas station…et voila’ , I was back in business.
Welcome to Esk
The day after I felt rather flu-ish, but I’ve got on my way regardless. After all it was my ME time and I was determined to make the best of it.
I was supposed to ride to Toowoomba (QLD), a total of 180Km, but while climbing out of the Somerset Dam, I realised I wasn’t quite right and my legs wouldn’t take me as far as Toowoomba.
Instead, I opened the map and saw there was a town called Esk, just 25km away! Eldorado…
I’ve finally made it to Esk and surprisingly the sun was out! It was the last time for a week. On the horizon all I could see was a black cloud and some lightning heading my way.
“You better run, you better take cover”
Like in Men at Work’s famous tune, I took cover. I went for what I considered the fancy option: a 90 bucks Motel room with TV, AC and Free WiFi: the Esk Motel!
A treat compared to the noisy pub accommodation with shared toilets and showers. A double room with all the perks!
Esk doesn’t exactly thrive on commerce and tourism, but it has the soul of the Australian country town.
To generalise, and perhaps to be a bit cheeky, most people listen to talkback radio shows, love their trucks and their hunting artillery.
They go nuts for rodeos and their drink of choice is icy cold XXXX GOLD.
A man wearing lycra on a “push” bike, with shaved legs, must be a city-boy latte-sipper 😉 Possibly a bit queer…
The Esk Motel
As I opened the door of my room, I suddenly realised the Esk Motel wasn’t exactly the “Inn of Seventh Happiness”. The place was badly run-down and there were biological traces of the previous guest still in the room…and in the toilet bowl.
Never mind, all I needed was a bed and a place to get over the flu.
A few hours later I also realised I wasn’t alone in my sickness, as a rat popped out from the back of the microwave oven, going straight for my loaf of bread.
Sick as a dog, I wasn’t in the mood to hunt down the rodent, so, I just gave the little fucker what he wanted…a slab of bread in the toilet.
At least he wouldn’t keep me awake all night chewing.
The local Pub is always the heart and soul of an Australian town and the “Esk Grand Hotel” is no different.
While every other place might fold, especially in a country town, the Pub will always win.
As soon as I regained a bit of strength, the Grand Hotel was indeed the first place I visited for a couple of drinks and a hot meal.
I thought that showing up in Lycra wasn’t a great idea, so, I changed into my “cocktail suit” of a worn-out t-shirt and a pair of shorts, Salvation Army grade.
Much better not to attract more attention than necessary. Also ordering a Prosecco wouldn’t have been the right choice, so, let’s crack a XXXX Gold with the locals!
I must confess there isn’t much nutrition in the local cuisine.
Despite how hungry I felt, it took quite a bit of XXXX and a glass of Shiraz to down the burger and chips….
The locals were great and they were also very curious about my reasons for being there.
Probably I’ve become softer
All in all, reading back through my story, I have the feeling that I’m slowly turning into a whinger, like Dave Roberts. Probably our editorial meetings should be less frequent.
Jokes apart, with age my standards for food and accommodation have definitely gone up, at least to “decent minus”.
As you can imagine, in Esk , the rain never stopped, the rat came back every night for more food and my flu didn’t get any better for three days, so I had to put aside my pride as a badass bike rider and play the “phone-a-friend” lifeline….for a quick ESKtraction.