The Reverend Chris Sparks, before his trip to Bourke.
The Reverend Chris Sparks, before his trip to Bourke. Caitlan Charles

Highs and lows of Bourke trip test Chris

I KNEW I shouldn't have gone. Well, no, that's not true. I was always excited about raising money for the Fred Hollows Foundation, so a ride to Bourke on my motorcycle in conditions of extreme heat was a small price to pay.

But there were enough highs and lows to make the most unflappable stoic become quite animated.

First there was the exhilaration of handing over cheques to the value of $4430 to the organisers of the fundraising ride - followed closely by the realisation that the fantastic folk of the Clarence Valley had raised nearly half of the funds collected by the entire group of 30 riders assembled in Bourke.

So we left on a high. But near the end of that first day's ride, disaster struck.

We'd booked into our accommodation at Narrabri and I left Brian to rest in the luxury of his air-conditioned quarters. Me? I jumped back on the bike and headed for the summit of Mount Kaputar - the central feature of the ruggedly beautiful Kaputar National Park. I wanted to check this one out as a feature of this year's annual Car Club tour that I've run for the last 10 years.

It was fantastic; so many great bushwalks; towering majestic mountain peaks and volcanic plugs; timbered valleys; views to die for; you name it.

The 20km road to the top of Mount Kaputar started with a gravel surface but after 6kms, gave way to bitumen - an unexpected pleasure - and I relished the ride, especially as the air became cooler and cooler with elevation.

At the top I walked to a magnificent lookout and took some great photos.

Back on the bike again, I headed down the mountain. Still on the bitumen I approached a tight, narrow corner moulded around a small gully - and failed to notice a lethal scattering of fine loose gravel in the middle of the road. Well, in the blink of a single eye, all hell broke loose. It was mayhem. I knew I was in trouble even before I hit the road and felt the bike tumble and slide sickeningly sideways into a fallen tree.

Long story short, another rider happened by and helped me right the bike and effect temporary repairs. I then hoisted my bruised body aboard and after a push-start in gear, rode the 50kms back to Narrabri without a clutch, since the lever had broken off. This was definitely the low point of the trip.

I'm still sore but recovering and have ordered the parts to rectify the damage to the bike.

But wait, there's more...but alas, no more space. So it'll have to wait for next week.

The Christian life has always reflected the varied experiences of life in general be it good or bad. Paul and the early apostles enjoyed spectacular success in preaching the gospel, but did it really tough and paid a heavy price with their own lives. It wasn't pretty.

Jesus himself rode waves of encouragement but also forded tumultuous rivers of suffering during his ministry on earth. But through it all, his love for God and God's people never faltered and his commitment never wavered.

The true test of character is surely the ability to keep smiling through good times and bad. To be thankful in every circumstance of life is a truly life-changing thing - and a true gift of God.



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