A road trip of any length in Australia is never something to be taken lightly. But if you have to treat it with anything approaching the cavalier, then just throw caution to the wind, and you just might get away with it. The trip clock stopped right on 3400 when I finally switched off the engine in the early hours of the morning. All our novice drivers were back in one piece, the shepherd bringing up the tail and breathing a sigh of relief that none of the teenagers had made headlines for the wrong reasons. Mind you, their ignorance of what was in front of them was their salvation methinks. (So too some earnest prayers before they departed!) These drivers had never left the confines of the city prior to embarking on this adventure. One told me later that prior to the trip he had found a freeway where he could practice driving at 90km/h before getting onto the country roads. (When I heard that I pretended my heart had not stopped). None had driven on country roads or on gravel. They had no concept that the lights of semi trailers could draw them across the road or that kangaroos, goats, wombats and domestic livestock could present a hazard. None had driven a country road in the dark before.
We arrived at our destination 18 or so hours later in a cloud of dust and with some war stories. Which I hope they won’t be telling their parents about just yet. There was only one kangaroo casualty which defies all logic. Drought draws the kangaroos to the edge of the road where the verge yields a little more succulent grass. And there they sit in their hundreds and thousands for six or more hours of driving through the dark from Cobar through to Broken Hill. A roo can be a flighty thing and can move from a dead, grazing stop to a springing obstacle in your headlights in a nanosecond. You don’t want to be doing 110 or 120 but 80. Trouble is, with 1000km stretched out in front of you, 80km/h is tedious in the extreme. On the other hand the perverse logic of male teen drivers went something like this: the faster we go the quicker we will get to Broken Hill and the sooner these roos will be behind us. Hey, I did not train them!
What does 1700km look like? Well, about the same (straight line) distance from Paris to Minsk, or Washington DC to Wichita. Not a quick trip to the shops for bread and milk. But we arrived in the morning, with only one bent fender, a little bit of additional adrenalin and ready for a day of orientation on Bulyninnie Station, under the remarkable tutelage of its owner whose energy and skills belie her 70 plus years. Much more on all of that in future posts. And if you thought the education of these teens stopped with the revelations of a road trip watch these posts – everything they touched for the next week was out of the ordinary. Truly extraordinary in fact!
p.s. there is nothing like an open road to bring out the teenager in any of us, especially if Mr GM has a lot of horses purring away under the bonnet!
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