Back in 1989, for a reason that totally escapes me now, an ex-girlfriend and I decided to hitchhike across Australia from Perth to Sydney, roughly 3950 kilometres, (2450 miles). We were told it was lunacy, it would take at least three to four weeks, and if we were doing it to save some money then we’d be better to get a McCafferty’s coach. We probably were doing it to save money, I’ve racked my memory and still cannot suss out what possessed us to do it. Probably for the adventure 🙂 Prior to this I had hitched from Townsville to Alice Springs, and did that in 2 days, I was a supremely lucky bastard and the thought that it could go wrong, that we could get stranded somewhere never entered my mind. Well, we left Perth, and three and a half days later arrived in Sydney, that’s no shit, we never waited more than two hours for a ride. Unfortunately, I don’t remember too much about the trip, just a few standout moments.
- The first ride was a taxi, our direction was on his way home, so he gave us a freebie. I was a bit sceptical, but he assured us it was a free ride, cool start.
- One ride was from a young guy that offered us some food, his house was on the way so we agreed. He had what can only be described as a petting zoo with koalas and wallabies in his back garden. I’d been in Australia for 9 months by then and still hadn’t seen a koala, they were quite tame and we had a laugh. The guy offered us to stay the night, he said that we had a long way to go and we’d better get some comfort whenever we could. I really wanted to press on though, so he took us to the nearest truck stop.
- Next was a big, big four-wheel truck. The driver said that he had to just make a “slight detour” to Kalgoorlie mine, if we didn’t mind that, he’d be able to take us a long way along our road. The thing about Australians is they don’t have the same concept of distance as I do. A slight detour is maybe a klick or two out-of-the-way for me. Kalgoorlie mine is an 84 kilometre round trip from the road we were on. So we visited the Super Pit open cut gold mine at Kalgoorlie. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed out of the truck for security reasons, (I had fantasies of picking up an errant lump of gold).
- The next ride is the one that will stay with me forever, we crossed the Nullarbor Plain in a road-train, at 120 kmph. The Nullarbor Plain is a 150km dead straight road, so it didn’t take long. But when I was in Alice Springs I’d seen the remains of a car that had hit a cow that had wandered onto the road, there wasn’t much left of either of the unlucky participants. I couldn’t stop imagining what would happen if we hit one, at that speed? Terrifying. This was the longest ride, we travelled over 2000 kilometres on this road train.
- North of Adelaide and it was a pitch black night. We managed to get a ride and threw our rucksacks blindly into the boot of the car. As we got in the driver asked if we’d “minded the ‘roos”, we hadn’t a clue what he meant, so we passed it off with a noncommittal something or other. When we got our rucksacks out of the boot we understood what he meant, he’d been hunting for kangaroos and his catch were lying in the boot, all dead and bloody, which we then had thrown our sacks onto, my rucksack was the worst, with a kangaroo bloody streak from top to bottom.
- The next night is a favourite of mine, the trucker who’d picked us up had a place to stay, but said it would not be a problem if we slept in the cab. Before he left he got an unlabelled bottle of wine from his cargo, opened it and shared it between us three. It was nectar. Then he re-corked the bottle, placed back where it came from and hit it with a hammer saying (with a wink), that breakages happen all the time on the road.
The final leg was a bit of an anti-climax, we were as you can imagine, tired, actually exhausted, and not altogether uh, “fresh”. We were unceremoniously dumped, not in Circular Quay (with a fanfare) like I imagined, but in a suburb, by a train station. And that was that, but it was a hell of a trip.