By David Mcilroy for
"A book on motorcycling experiences from ‘Australia’s most-awarded bike-riding journalist’.
Where to begin reviewing a book that claims review epithets from Che Guevara and Matthew Flinders on its back cover?
I approached this book with gusto, noting that the author was a lover of Italian V-twin motorcycles, in particular a 500cc V50 Moto-Guzzi. The V50 is a bike that would now be regarded, wrongly, as medium-sized and below consideration of many of today’s modern riders.
This is not simply yet another book about rides and machines; instead it ranges through beautiful descriptions of roads travelled and landscapes seen, father-daughter bonding, mechanical innovations and strategies, and often quite larrikin social perspectives. As such, this is a quintessentially Australian book written by an intelligent and stimulating character.
I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s observations, the most interesting of which were the accounts of the rides with his daughter, between Adelaide and Brisbane and around Tasmania with another rider. The photographs illustrate the various chapters appropriately, the image quality often reflecting the era and equipment available, but are more characterful as a result.
The book will appeal to many people, not just motorcyclists. Hendrik Gout is a straightforward writer, perceptive and questioning. He clearly loves Australia and its opportunities with passion, yet you will also discover many aspects of society that he questions with a rebellious streak."
By Bruce Honeywill
Hendrik Gout penned the column Rights of the Road in Truckin' Life up to a couple of years ago. He attracted quite a following with his articulate writing, his wit and humour. Most of all he expressed a love of the road whether hauling his family around the nation in a burbling Combi or today with his passion, a Moto Guzzi, between his legs and fresh air in his hair.
I met Hendrik when he was the media manager for the then Federal Minister for Transport, Peter Morris. Hendrik has since been a political minder on both sides of the political spectrum as well as a distinguished, award winning journalist in print and television.
The book, Once Upon a Distant Journey, is a collection of his writings over the years told with wit and a light pen. Through a form that can be best described as his motor cycle diaries, Hendrik travels the length and breadth of the country. His lusty love of country, family and travel becomes real through his words.
What does a book of motor cycle travel have to interest someone who spends their lives in much bigger machines on the same road? Much. And if anything, reading Hendrik’s stories makes me realise the minutiae of travel we often miss when we hammer from loading place to destination.
His words make me want to travel the roads we know so well at a slower pace, smell the wild flowers perhaps, meet the people who we pass without a thought on every trip.
In part, the back cover blurb describes the publication as a travel book that, “With wisdom captures the essence of Australia. Voices of ordinary and extraordinary Australian’s speak to us directly with honesty and candour.”
And Hendrik doesn’t shy away from having a crack at our political masters, particularly at the devious ways revenue is obtained from road users:
“So taxed we are still, and speed limited we are too. In our wallet is our driver’s licence, and on the police computer is evidence of our bike’s registration, or the lack thereof. States are now charging more for a bike’s registration than an average Joe earns in a week.”
Peppered through the book are little acid drops like:
“The average rate of continental drift is four centimetres per year. That’s faster than the synapses in the brains of most government think tanks, even when they are on speed.”
And his little interactions with the bush folk at Manna Hill pub owned by two elderly sisters:
“Have you got accommodation,” I asked a sister.
“Yes, we have three rooms.”
She told me.
“But not tonight,” the other sister added, “we’re booked.”
Once Upon a Distant Journey is a nice book to hold, well designed with colour illustrations throughout the 240 pages. Photography is mostly by Hendrik himself but there are excellent maps and cartoons by South Australian artist George Aldridge.
This edition would make an ideal gift for anyone interested in Australia, travel, meeting individuals and most of all, life on the road.