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We didn't 'Planet'! One camper van. Two blokes. Four weeks. What could go wrong?

Shower Day

AUSTRALIA | Sunday, 18 March 2007 | Views [1548]


I really wanted to catch up with some writing tonight. We had just covered over 300km, much of which were on dirt. It was my turn to cook, so I simmered a simple Spaghetti Bolognaise while I took my first shower in four days. This is not any old shower, you’ll understand. It was a solar shower, a black plastic bag that had been hung over the rear door all day long. It had gained enough temperature to warrant a timely wash, in the car park next to Lake Cargelligo.

Ten litres of lukewarm water does not go too far, so this is not an occasion for lingering. More to the point, by bare ass was illuminated by a nearby street lamp, and I did not want another run-in with the law today. Did I forget to mention that? Well, first thing this morning in Bathurst, I hopped on the internet to upload our first blog. Exiting the shop into bright daylight (feeling very happy at purchasing a Guillemots CD, been after for ages), I came across a very glum looking travel buddy. The usual conversation ensued. "You want the good news or the bad"? he grumbled. I do not like these type of choices, and I sensed I was about to be disappointed in some way. "I’ll take the good first", as I usually do. Matt was ready with his reply, "There isn’t any", and I instantly regretted falling for this one, again. Things were about to get worse. "You have a parking ticket, $128 for being half in a taxi zone". To me, there are few worse feelings in the world than being visited upon by a parking inspector, especially first thing in the morning. I had parked next to a truck, and not noticed the microscopic sign that separated the parking from a taxi zone. We were half in, half out, and I instantly considered the possibility of getting some sort of discount. Looking around, this typically Australian street was wide and long, with enough room to park a million vehicles. In a town where everyone drives around in big Land Cruisers, I think it is fare to say that demand for taxi’s at this time of day is sparse. It is a blessing that the good-for-nothing inspector had moved on, because I very much wanted to explain this to him. Instead, we visited the council office and I put in an appeal. Sometimes, just sometimes, you can get away with these things under the title of "dumb tourist". I’ll let you know what happens.

Feeling much better after a shower, a feed and a few beers, I all too easily agreed to visit a nearby pub. The writing could be done later… hmm, yeah right! Spending some time in a bar in any outback town is an essential part of your travel experience in the country. I don’t mean the ones in Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne; or even the up-market "outback experience" pubs in tourist areas. The genuine watering hole, often an old colonial era building, is a no-thrills affair in which men are men and women are absent. It is a shrine to all the bad habits a bloke is allowed to have, and the dress code is strictly work boots, stubby shorts and singlet. Mullet hair-cuts are de rigor.

The bar had guttering all the way around, to catch spilt beer. What a great idea!

Funny, despite all my recent travels across the globe, tonight felt as unique as any experience I have had anywhere. This is surprising from a country where English is the first language, and it is only Australia after all. I have fallen into the trap of thinking that there is nothing exotic about this country, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There is a very real culture and it is all around us. As we go deeper west, I know we will be writing a lot more about this.

With all our driving this afternoon, it was as if we had come so far as to almost be in a different country. Our new friends offered advice on the best route from here, and a map was produced to clarify things. This was an especially depressing moment – for according to this, we had only travelled about six inches, barely a stone’s throw away from Sydney in Australian terms. You’d have to be seriously short on general knowledge to not know that Australia is a big place, but heck, you really appreciate this when you try to get somewhere. As if things weren’t bad enough, a malicious rain cloud has been roving the state, causing all manner of troubles to people like us.

Our new Aboriginal friends, Mick and Robbo assured us our chosen route would be fine. They had been working on a shearing gang and had travelled down from Wilcannia in less than six hours. However, Barry the manager insisted the road would be washed out and nothing short of a nightmare to travel. They say you should always ask a local, but in this case, the advice, when mixed with too much beer, can be contradictory in the least. We have already scaled down this trip from "Where the F*** is Alice", a 6000km return to Uluru, and so it will take a lot more than this to deter us from reaching Lake Eyre.

Barry pulled down the black blinds to indicate the pub was closed, and then poured us both a schooner of Toohey’s on the house. We actually got offered a job on a shearing gang – and ever in the search of something interesting to write about, I begged Matt to agree. Quite rightly, he pointed out that we already have an elaborate mission and our time available would be better used achieving that. Fair point.

We retired to the van, see what morning will bring, apart from a hangover.

Tags: ambassador van, on the road

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