“It’s fucking hot up here” seems to have been the catchphrase of the last 2 weeks.

I used to wonder how anybody could live any further north than Duncraig, and even that was a stretch. Now I know. The way of life beyond the 26th parallel changes almost instantly. I know it sounds cliché but it really does seem to strike me as “how Australia was 30 years ago”.

Everything is laid back and nothing seems to be too much of a problem. Shorts are still considered acceptable attire at a business meeting and a genuine sense of community spirit remains. There’s no arrogance, pomposity or intention to “one-up” and deceive, such as a great deal of city life is built upon. But it’s not all a bed of roses (actually, I dare say there are no beds of any roses up here – the heat makes sure of that) – the “mining town” system is totally unsustainable, the economy is perverse, the landscapes are being shovelled off to international smelters and the traditional owners of that land are in nothing short of dire straits.

I’ll start with the last one first – the local Aboriginal people of the area, and surrounds. It kind of seems like full communities are falling victim to the Benny Cousins Effect. Through mining royalties, the people of Roebourne (as only one example) have a higher personal wealth per capita than a great deal of Australians. A vast majority of those people still live off the land. With nothing much to do and nothing much to spend their money on, drugs and alcohol seems like an appropriate choice. Meth is the pick of the bunch. What ensues is fights, illiteracy, neglected children and an incomprehensible suicide rate.

While riding from Karratha to Whim Creek I turned my mind to this point. It seems odd that a drug like that has made it’s way into these communities. The conspiracy theorist in me recalls a previous scenario where narcotics were deliberately peddled to the traditional owners of a land mass for the commercial benefit of the oligarchs. “Divide and conquer” goes the great British Colonial saying, and so they did to the Chinese in the Opium Wars which ended up crippling the country, forcing the Treaty of Nanking and establishing the “Company” in China. Sneaky bloody Brits.

I can’t help but think Gina and her cronies are doing something very similar all over again. The Aboriginal Elders are starting to grow old and move on. The power balance in the families is now starting to shift. What better way to bypass lengthy royalties negotiations and native title agreements than to “divide and conquer” by creating a generation of drug addicts that find themselves strapped for cash and forced to formally recognise Her Majesty, Queen Rinehart. The parallels between the actions of the East India Company and what seems to be happening in these communities is too apparent to ignore. If a company can use heroin to take down the Qing Dynasty, then it can sure as shit use meth to take out a couple of communities in the Pilbara.

But less on politics and more on bike riding and food. The Three Bens (and one Tom) joined forces to pump out a couple of hundred flame grilled bacon cheeseburgers at a food stall for the Red Earth Arts Festival in Karratha. It was an absolute hoot and made a little money for the ride and made a small donation to the local Primary School. The burgers sold really well – “best burger of my life” from one punter. And so with that, I’ll share a few secrets one stepping up your burger game.

Heston did a great deal of research into the perfect burger and went into the choice cuts of meat, how it should be ground, fat percentage etc, etc. That is all great, and I was fully entertained by his research but I’m more about sharing small changes that people can make at home to the ingredients already stacked in their cupboards or in the fridge.

So…Burger Tips:

  1. Don’t burgerise around with the patty. Less is more.
    You want to taste the meat so don’t go adding too much to it. All I use for my burger patties is standard quality beef mince (1kg), a whole grated onion and a very generous seasoning of salt and pepper.Also, when you’re forming the patties, don’t over-work the mince. Just form them into very loosely packed balls of around 120 – 180 grams. If they fall apart when cooking, that’s fine! If you overwork them they become tough and chewy.

    As for cooking – don’t overdo them. It’s no different from a steak. Medium, pink and juicy. If possible, cook them over a charcoal webber or similar. The smokey flavour of a flame licked burger is damn close to heaven.

  2. Special Sauce
    Big Mac Sauce has made McDonalds millions (?billions?). They lather it between a few pieces of cardboard and it’s all you can taste. Sauce is the secret and it’s basically a flavoured mayo (fancy name: “remoulade”).If you can, make your own mayonnaise. To about 2 cups of mayo I add half a grated onion, 2 tablespoons of mustard pickle relish (or some blitzed up gherkins), half a tablespoon of vinegar, half a tablespoon of sugar, a generous seasoning of salt and pepper, maybe just a couple of chilli flakes and paprika for colour.
  3. Nice buns
    Everyone has their opinions, but I like a lightly toasted bun that’s still soft and chewy. To do this, toast the bun and then let it rest face down over the patty as the beef finishes cooking. This will steam the bun slightly to give the soft and chewy texture with the lightly toasted crunch and flavour.
  4. Cheese, cheese, cheese (and pickle)
    This is something I learned on the trip. I’ve always been in staunch opposition to plastic cheese like Kraft singles. I have to eat humble cheese pie and stand corrected. A taste test conclusively showed that Coles brand “smoke” flavoured cheese singles is the outright winner. The plasticy “cheese” (that may or may not contain dairy products) melts and creates a secondary kind of cheese sauce over the burger. It rocks.Add a bunch of cheese and a couple of slices of pickle for crunch and acidity.

Now back to riding…from Karratha we rode out with members of the 2 Towns Motorcycle Club, IWI Riders, Panawonica Riders and Hedland Riders. A great bunch of guys from all walks of life. I was happy to see the Hunter Hollister keep up with the Harleys. In fact, one Harley ended up on our bike trailer before the end of the day. We had a ripper of a ride and a couple of beers and before long the topic of suicide and depression was raised. One bloke had lost a son as well as a brother-in-law to suicide. Another had attempted and still a third passed on his suicide note that he had written the week before. None of the guys had discussed it in too much detail previously and it was touching and comforting to see a bunch of burly tattooed blokes talking about how sometimes they can feel sad. Not the kind of conversations you would generally expect and I’m pumped to see people understanding that it’s okay to talk.

From Pt Hedland we made our way to Broome for sunsets on Cable Beach, pushing up through Jarlmadangah Burru community where I learned to throw a spear and Fitzroy Crossing to Kununurra and El Questro. The scenery and landscapes are too much to brush over at the arse-end of a blog post and I’ve kept you all for long enough, so I will slip this into next week’s entry alongside Darwin and the Norther Territory.

Right now its off to check out Lake Argyle and do a little Croc Hunting and diamond mining…