I LIKE to keep a positive attitude about life. I also like to think I can handle most situations with a little bit of joy, and I’m definitely always up for an adventure. But I remember this time, many moons ago (a few months), when I decided to drive from one end of Australia to the other.
You’ll see so much of the country, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.
But no. NO. It was actually the worst. idea. ever. The worst thing since non-sliced bread.
Even worse than the time I decided to drive four hours to Townsville and four hours back to Cairns at 7 at night to pick up two fellow New Zealanders that I met on a flight from Auckland earlier that day. (I’m not that irresponsible, Mum, that never happened). (Yes it did).
To make this 3500-ish kilometre drive worse, I didn’t even want to leave Cairns. But with my job being made redundant I had little choice but to move from my favourite paradise to the chilly climes of Ballarat, which is about an hour inland from Melbourne, for a new job.
So with all of my possessions crammed into every tinsy gap in my car, and the mother-load of coconut M&Ms, I left Cairns on that fateful, gloomy day. Except it wasn’t actually gloomy. It was lovely and sunny. Damnit.
I was Melbourne-bound in probably the most independent move I have ever made, with a very vague idea of where the hell I was actually meant to go.
I’m sure many people think something like this would be the ultimate road trip. Wahoo I can sing at the top of my lungs, eat candy all day long and pick up hitchhikers who will become my life-long friends!
Sure, I sang at the top of my lungs. And I ate a hell of a lot of chocolate and lollies. Because what healthy snacks can you buy from the gas station? I mean, really? Nobody wants those brown and spotty bananas they’ve had sitting in their fancy fruit basket for a week. And muesli bars? This isn’t primary school morning tea. This driving is serious bu’nizz.
But do you know what lots of sugar and 90s music does to your insides? I will tell you what sugar and 90s music does to your insides. It destroys them. My tongue was practically bleeding after the amount of M&Ms sugary coating it was subjected to. And my voice? In an MMMBop it was gone. In an MMMBop it was not there.
The fizzy drink put some serious pressure on the old bladder area. I really did exercise my skill as a woman to hold on for hours on end when needing to pee. Stopping off at roadside toilets, also known as Murderer Hangouts, was not one of my fave things to do. I am not sure about Roadside Murderer etiquette when it comes to broad daylight toilet stabbings but those were some of the quickest and most cautious tinkles I’ve ever taken. Hand washing was just too risky in some of those dodgy wee towns I went through. I mean, what kind of name is Grong Grong? Ever been to Gin Gin? Or Alligator Creek? Yeah, it’s the Central Queensland version of Wolf Creek. Hygiene? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
But I’m going to be honest, I was probably the most hazardous thing on Australian roads for those five days. There was a serious amount of tears going on. Leaving was emotional enough. But looking at Google Maps to see I still had 400km to go, after already having been driving for five hours – that was some mega tear-inducing stuff.
The first day I drove only 348km to Townsville, which is also known as Babesville, or Bicepstown, to stay with my equal prettiest friend, Melface.
My next journey was from T’ville to Rockhampton, a rough 716km, where I stayed in a luxurious (horrid) roadside motel for $WayTooMuch.
Then it was another 643km to Brisbane the day after. It’s safe, or rather unsafe, to say I was quite fatigued by this point. Thanks Queensland Government for Fatigue Zone trivia game signs alongside the road though.
‘Highest mountain in Queensland?’, they ask. I spent the rest of the trip searching for the answer sign, which never appeared. Excellent work on keeping me alert, indeed.
Driving through Brisbane was possibly the most traumatising experience of my life. More tears. Many more tears.
From Brisbane I had planned my biggest day of crossing the border into New South Wales and spending the night in Dubbo, which was a massive 857km. But alas (I’ve always wanted to say that word – not as satisfying as I expected) – I came down with the flu.
After six hours of driving behind road trains and grey nomads and their caravans, feeling very ill and absolutely balling my eyes out the whole way, I gave up at the 470km mark in a small town called Moree, where I stayed the night in a lovely motel called the Golden Harvest Motor Inn.
And then came the final day.
I have fuzzy eyes just thinking about it. Or maybe that’s because I’ve been writing for far too long.
On that last, fateful, gloomy day, I drove 1207km from Moree to Melbourne, in about 16 hours, arriving at 2am the next day.
I don’t remember much from this time other than exploding truck tires, energy drinks and the lions and unicorns.
The moral of the story: Don’t drive from one end of Australia to the other. Alone. In five days. Ever.
The answer was Mount Bartle Frere. Now you can go to sleep.