Sunday – a beautiful sunny day – I jumped on my bike and headed off to Yarck and the Giddy Goat Café with a vision of cake and coffee. It’s about 20km and an hour’s riding, but the best way to measure the distance is in “magpie swoops”. Stage one – up the hill out of town – was one magpie swoop. Down the other side to the highway – past the sign saying beware of the magpies – was about four swoops. I warned a rider heading the other way but he just laughed saying “It’s worse around Yarck”. I didn’t believe him and continued on.
As I approached a large Red Gum by the side of the bike path I could hear young magpie nestlings in a high branch chirruping “Here’s another one Dad, go get ‘im”. Swoop. Onwards I pedalled, stopping only to create an arrangement of leaves poking out of my helmet to try and stop them getting close enough to draw bloood. Three more swoops and I made Cathkin. Only five more k's to Yarck.
I lost count of the swoops along this section. Dismounting, crouching by my bike, seeking a stick to wave around – two swoops. Back on the bike, trying to pick up speed, waving my stick while a pair of magpies tag-teamed in coordinated and sustained dive-bombing along an uphill stretch. Two riders approached from the other direction, all three of us madly waving sticks over our head as we pedalled.
I was getting tired; my nerves shredded. With one hand on the handlebars, the other on my stick, the ride continued as a mess of stick waving, swooping madness. The café eventually came into sight. A lone magpie gave chase for the last two hundred metres or so, giving a final swoop as I dismounted by the bike rack. Café coffee drinkers watched on from the verandah.
“You got a friend?” one asked.
“No”, I replied.
Inside, things got worse. All the cake was gone.