Monday, 20 August 2012

On the road - Day one of the Awesome Australian Adventure - 29 January 2012

My hand swipes the beads of sweat that are increasingly developing on my forehead as the sun forces itself through the window.  I lie there for as long as possible reliving everything that’s happened over the past seven months until the heat becomes too much to bear.  I open my eyes to see the golden rays shining brightly illuminating our once lively room.  Now it’s bare.  No posters or photos on the wall or objects on the floor.  Sergeant Spliff sleeps in her cage on the desk top peacefully shaded by a piece of card.  Mike and Tanwyn are still asleep.  I get the feeling as though it’s going to be difficult for Mike to get up due to last night’s festivities at the Civic Hotel.  

TimTam - Navigating
I couldn’t believe the time had finally arrived.  Excitement filled the stifling midsummer air as I forced myself to get up and begin loading the stuff into the car.  The mercury in the thermometer was hitting above 40 degrees, so we were happy to jump into the cool air-conditioned car and hit the road.  We said an extremely quick and shallow goodbye to our housemates, secretly celebrating never to live with them again and fired Walter up.  I know it’s highly unorthodox for a car to be called a man’s name but it had a resemblance to a middle aged man, still going but not with the power of a twenty year old.  The purr of the 4-cylinder engine vibrated through the laneway behind our house as we navigated our way onto Beaufort Street and headed towards the city centre for one last time to bid farewell to the streets we had grown to call home.  Beaufort Street is one of those streets that offer everything that one could possibly need in life.  It traverses through many suburbs and houses many boutiques, bars, caf├ęs and shops.  It’s a street that I would want to live on again should I return to Perth.  As we diverted to Northbridge, where the partying and art happens, there were celebrations going on for Chinese New Year and the gold decorations glinted strongly in the afternoon sun.  We preferred to think it was a goodbye gesture for us.  Mike, Tanwyn and I continued past the Heath Ledger Theatre and over the railway bridge that acts as a dividing line between the Northern suburbs and Perth CBD where the business happens and where I had spent six months worked.  We were heading towards King’s Park to shoot a final goodbye message to the city and set out our plans for the next couple of weeks.  King’s Park is an iconic location in Perth as it was here where I visited on my first day in Australia and got my first real glimpse of the wonderful city of Perth.  It was cold and largely deserted back in July but in January, the sun brings locals and tourist to the top of the hill for sun bathing on the grassy slopes or to kick a ball around.  

 

Loose.  That’s how best to describe our plan.  We knew that our final destination was Tasmania where we were going to find work on a farm and to get there we were going to travel across the Nullarbor via the South West.  But where we’d stop along the way was to be decided on a day by day basis.  Most people have pessimistically anticipated Walter’s demise before we even leave the Perth metropolitan area.  Having had older cars in the past, I am only too aware of the anguish breakdowns cause and the post-breakdown nervousness it causes.  The last thing we would want, and our worst nightmare, is if the car brokedown in the middle of the Nullarbor plain.  With our final message recorded, we took our last glance at Perth, hopped into Walter and drove off towards Margaret River.

Bussleton Jetty
Perth’s cityscape slowly disappeared from my rear view mirror as we made steady progress towards our first stop, Busstleton.  The strong sun was getting lower in the sky as the afternoon went on and it began to scald my right arm and cheek forcing me to find some sun screen.  A couple of hours later, we pulled off the freeway and into Bussleton where the longest timer jetty in the southern hemisphere stretches out into the Indian Ocean.  I had previously walked the 1.8km jetty with Matt Duncan but thought Tanwyn and Mike would appreciate it and what a beautiful day it was to walk along the wooden planks suspended above the shark infested ocean.  My walk was interrupted when I tripped over a fishing rod and got my flip-flop tangled with the wire.  As I was thinking to myself how inconsiderate the fisherman was to leave his rod in the walkway and began to open my mouth to make some smart sarcastic remark, I looked up and noticed a familiar face.  It was none other than Paul Del Prete, one of the managers at Health Corporate Network whom I used to work with.  What are the chances of that?  I swallowed my retort and instead had a brief conversation and bid each other farewell.  The end of the jetty arrived soon enough and we congratulated ourselves with a humorous video of Tanwyn kicking a dead fish of the end, a pastime he had grown quite accustomed to ever since the filming of our Christmas video on the banks of the Swan river.  

Pay attention to these signs... they're not messing!
We returned from our walk and decided that we needed to get back on the road as the light was fading quickly and we still had a way to go to get to our first camp spot in the middle of the South West Region.  As we got to Dunsborough the light had almost gone and we entered the Danger Zone!  The worst time to drive in Australia is dusk as the Kangaroos wake and become the biggest moving obstacles on the roads.  With our eyes peeled we turned left onto Caves Road which winds its way from Dunsborough southwards to Augusta on the Southern coast.  Mike had been saying that he really wanted to see a…  SCREECH!!!  My right foot quickly slams down hard on the brake pedal as two kangaroos jump out of the trees. “There are your kangaroos Mike!!!!” I said as we narrowly escaped collision.  If we hit a kangaroo, it is unlikely that we would survive without a ‘Roo bar’ it would most likely come straight through the windscreen.  The rest of the journey to the campsite was slow and careful.  I have heard stories of how people have been killed by the car in front or the car coming the other way hitting a kangaroo and it rebounding into their car.  It’s highly dangerous and my heart was in my throat the rest of the way to the campsite.

Following a few wrong turns and moments where we thought we were going to be killed by Wolf Creek mimics, we arrived at the campsite, it was completely dark and the only lights that illuminated our surroundings were our own.  It took us a while to figure out how we were supposed to pay for the campsites, but after a hunt around the dark, lifeless visitor centre, we found a small shack where you fill in a registration card and put some cash in an envelope.  We drove through the open boom gate into the trees and navigated quietly around the site trying to find a spot that would accommodate us for the night.  It took us two rounds and a stop at the toilet but we found our perfect spot.  Mike got out of the car to direct me in as it was pitch black but unfortunately within only a few hours into our trip I had put the first dent in Walter as I overlooked a short post which got very intimate with our left side skirt…  Oops, that’ll knock a couple of dollars off the selling price!

With Walter in his spot for the night, we opened his rear end to retrieve our homes for the next few weeks.  We had bought some bargain tents from K-Mart for $15 and were about to test them for the first time.  Since we hadn’t put them up before, it was certainly an interesting experience putting them up in the dark.  After about half hour, the tents were erected, our sleeping bags were in and we were ready for our first night in the wild.  Our dinners were retrieved from our IGA bags and opened with a swift tear, Cheese and Bacon Balls for me with a dessert of Jaffas.  It didn’t take us long to turn our attention up to the sky where nature had laid out a magnificent display of stars for us to gaze at and ponder the meaning of life.