My Ragged Fringe of 1996
By Jack Hoogland

Imagine tufts of white clouds struck against an azure sky, the characteristic blue green grey of the Australian bush contrasting against the grey green blue of the Wyangala Lake, in turn surrounded by lush green meadow. Imagine the soft plumes of grey curling lazily into the clear morning air and the aromatic scent of the smoke of gumwood as the flames gently coax the fuel out, radiating heat and shimmering light.

I rise up and, leaning back on my elbow, survey this scene, seen through the opening of my tent, and smile. So, this is the setting of one of the foremost events in the motorcycling world, the meeting place of great minds and superb motorcycles! Ever since I was a child I had dreamed of getting here, this motorcycle Mecca, where Moto Guzzis abounded and stories of unbelievable preposterousness were told.

I was quickly up and out of my sleeping bag to have a look around. A great night's sleep was had following an excellent ride over from Adelaide with an old survivor of these gatherings at this very place in previous years. As I sauntered casually over to the fire I recalled the trip over...

Thursday night, a late night as once again, I'd deceived myself into thinking that packing for the trip would only take ten minutes. Finally, at 12:30am, I crawl into bed and set the alarm for 4:30am. It's raining. I awake with a start at about 4:00am to the crash of thunder and pelting rain. Mmm. By 4:45 the rain's stopped and I rug up, check that I've packed my toothbrush, start the bike and ride off to the meeting place. Hendrik's not there. 5:15 and he arrives, with no headlight but with that look of grim determination that says "I'll sort this out in a jiffy". 5:30 and we're off into the cold wet gloom of early morning.

Tailem Bend and the sun's up occasionally peeking through the cloud. The temperature begins to rise but we take advantage of a forced break to have a cup of warming tea at Pinnaroo. It seems that an M6 nut from a Suzuki 4WD fits the stud that secures the exhaust header pipe collar.

Our progress is swift as we pass through a series of towns whose claims to fame seem mainly to be "gateways" to some other place. You almost expect signs saying "Welcome to Here, Gateway to the Gateway to There". Still, it does give one a sense of progress.

By lunch, we'd reached that most cosmopolitan of villages, Tooleybuc. We stopped here and sat down in the park by the river, whereupon it started raining. We retired to the comfortable footpath outside the general store for a hearty lunch. It stoppped raining. Onwards to Hay; a tailwind made this stretch seem shorter than I was expecting and after a brief fuel stop we pressed on in search of the tree that those juveniles Burke and Wills carved their initials in. Such thirsty work demanded a quick refreshment, but quicker than you can say "What's that in your hand Batman?" three or four times, we were off again. The kilometres flew by. Goolgowie, Yalgogrin, Caragabal, Grenfell.

Night had fallen and the temperature along with it. By 7:30pm we had arrived in Cowra for tea. In the ensuing darkness, we pressed onwards to Quart Pot at Wyangala Dam, location of the Ragged Fringe extravaganza. By 10:30, a small gathering had assembled and in the darkness, the gleam of Guzzi chrome could be seen reflecting the light of the fire. Midnight, and time to stack some zeds... By daylight the true splendour of the setting could be seen, a magnificent setting for this gala occasion. The morning quiet was now broken by the muted rumble of that most fabulous of sounds, the distinctive Guzzi lilt as more and more enthusiasts arrived. It was a truly heartwarming sight to see so many Guzzis in on place. By mid afternoon, the place was abuzz, the excitement mounting as the scheduled tests of human endeavour, ability and finesse commenced.

Needless to say, the Frats honour was upheld, with a close third in the slow race and gold for the condom throwing contest. Silver was wrested from the competition organisers after our team was subjected to a gruelling process of attrition in successive heats of the Tug'o'war. To cap it off, we also claimed the Long Distance Award, at 1105 kilometres. A tactical decision was made to not enter the Horizontal Bungee Jumping contest, opting instead for a refreshing glass of Rosso Antico and a plate of fine pasta.

As the day's activities drew to a close, fires were stoked up and from a distance, they glowed and flickered like so many candles at a shrine. People gathered around and moved from one fire to the next. I stood and listened to conversations ranging from the meaning of life to BMW K series gearboxes, from close encounters with the police to close encounters with nose pickin' cagers.

It wasn't long before the empty Rosso Antico bottle came in handy as liquid hydrocarbons were converted to gaseous form within before rapidly combusting in spectacular manifestations of light and sound. The popularity of these displays could be judged by their frequency as more than once the stillness of the night air was rent by their characteristic whoomff and accompanying fireball. Former Adelaide Frats, now Sydney residents, Huckle and David enthusiastically expounded the finer points of flame optimisation, while Hendrik provided the petrol and toilet roll.

Peace eventually settled over the site as one by one, people wandered off to sleep.

Sunday morning and a thorough cleanup resulted in the grounds being left in pristine condition. Awards were given, raffles drawn and gradually, people started heading for home. Our return journey was via Canberra and the Snowies, so after checking the oil and filling the tanks, we headed South, making Canberra by mid afternoon.

Although Hendrik had originally planned to catch up with a few people in Canberra the following day, the thought of heading down to the Snowies was sufficient for him to do some last minute reshuffling. By late Monday morning we were again heading South, taking some back roads into NSW, whereupon Hendrik, overcome with the shear beauty of the place, decided to lie down in the middle on the dirt road for a few minutes.

Adaminaby. Man, if you thought Twin Peaks was a strange place, check this one. The Mobil Service Station is highly recommended for it's energy saving innovations (leaving the drinks fridge off) and novel stock control (leaving everything in an untidy heap in the middle of the floor). A couple of blowflies circling overhead was a nice touch. Across the road, the Ampol station was run by a humourous couple who were eager to please. The General Store was staffed by a friendly chap who was also very helpful. To sum up, a fun loving community in a pleasant environment so long as you're not unsettled by that disturbing, almost sinister quiet, broken only by the thin whistling of a cold wind, and where the walls have ears, the windows eyes.

Reluctantly, after an expert application of Gaffer Tape to Hendrik's headlight assembly, we headed off, aiming for Corryong via Kiandra, Cabramurra (highest altitude town in Oz) and Khancoban. The weather was perfect, the sun shining out of a clear sky, warming us even as we passed through the snow on either side of the dry road.

Then, just beyond Cabramurra, the Khancoban road was closed, our way barred by a gate and a warning sign saying road closure due to snow. Instead, we took the descent to Tumbarumba, and from there onwards to arrive in Corryong, parched and hungry, just in time for a counter meal at the local. A well earned rest was had that night, in preparation for a long haul back to Adelaide via the Hume Dam, Albury, Rutherglen and the Murray Valley Highway. The day had been superb, the route taking us through stunning countryside and in the best possible conditions.

So it came to pass that we arrived back in Pinnaroo early Tuesday evening after an uneventful day, the V50's running smoothly as they bore us westward.

Now it so happened that for the period that we stopped at Pinnaroo, just ten minutes out of a couple of hours, Hendrik's phone rings. It's Will and Jimmy and they're headed our way. A short while later, a dark roadside, a rendezvous and a celebratory refreshment is shared by all.

A great journey, 3000 trouble free km and five days with ideal weather, beautiful countryside and a swag of prizes from a premier motorcyclists' event.


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