STRANGE THINGS ARE AFOOT AT THE MOOBALL DANCE ACADEMY

Cycle touring with a slower rider can be a painful experience. For the slow rider there’s the physical pain of struggling up each climb, followed by the feeling of obligation to race off again without sufficient recovery, and a frustration that they are holding up the ride. It isn’t all fun being the faster rider either: at first you feel bad for your slower friend, then a bit smug for being in such good shape, then you too end up feeling frustrated. And of course there’s all the waiting around. But sometimes, playing the waiting game pays dividends. If you sit in one place for long enough, eventually something amazing might happen.

My friend Rudi and I were heading through the low mountains of south-east Queensland, towards the eastern tip of Australia. Riding through the mountainous hinterland, Rudi was really starting to struggle on his fully laden bike. He was torturously slow up the long pass over Mount Tomewin, and had to push his bike up the steep pinches. Within the first three hours of being on the road that day, I’d already spent 90 minutes waiting by the road-side. Leaving the river town of Murwillumbah, Rudi seemed to blow up completely. For most of the day I rode in quiet solitude along a rainforest-fringed road, down towards the coast. After crossing the Burringbar Range, I pulled over at the tiny village of Mooball to wait for Rudi to catch up.

She was clearly in some kind of extreme dance-related distress

There isn’t much to MoobalI: a country pub, a couple of shops, and a few houses. I took off my helmet, sat down at a timber picnic table, and had a bite to eat. About ten minutes passed, with no sign of Rudi. I got out my camera and tried taking some ‘artistic’ photos of my bike. Still waiting, I examined the roadside tourist map and wondered about the origins of the strange local place names. I did some elaborate leg stretches. A bunch of training cyclists rode past and I gave them a wave, but there was still no sign of Rudi. While I waited I kept hearing bursts of very loud dance music and the sound of women shouting and laughing. I assumed it was noise from the local pub, but I realised that the source of the noise was actually a dance school across the road, situated (bizarrely) in a one horse town in the middle of nowhere.

Thirty-five minutes had elapsed since I arrived in Mooball. I was about to start backtracking to find Rudi when a young woman, about 20 years old, burst from the doorway of the dance school. She was clearly in some kind of extreme dance-related distress, flushed and puffing heavily, wearing nothing more than very skimpy knickers, a very skimpy bra, and leg warmers—think 1980’s Flashdance but with a cheekier 2000’s dance video twist. She ran straight to the side of the road about five metres from me, doubled over with her hands on her knees, and vomited straight into the gutter with tremendous noise and conviction. She then stood up, had a sip from her water bottle, turned around, and went back inside. I sat there in disbelief. Before I had time to make sense of this episode, out she came again for another round. Then it happened again, and again—three more times! By the time Rudi eventually turned up I was an incoherent mess.

If someone had asked me that morning what I expected to happen that day, I certainly wouldn’t have said “I’ll wait an age for my mate then see a girl in her delicates throwing up in the gutter, outside a dance studio in a tiny country town”. Today, my friend had forced me to play the waiting game, and something amazing happened.

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