Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Nullarbor Dreaming, Part One

Westward, 2008.

Day 8: It's been many days since my last shower, I don't remember the last time I ate apple pie with ice cream, and I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever hear Livin on a Prayer by Bon Jovi again. The hours and kilometres are all blurring together and the space-time continuum has become a gooey highway, the consistency of mashed potato. I fear that I'm losing my mind entirely. Will I ever again see civilisation, will I ever gaze longingly into my dear Esmay's eyes, and will my dream of becoming the first man to run a certain distance in a certain time ever be realised?

Turning the corner out of Port Augusta, suddenly there it was. The red earth, low scrub and shimmering road way off into the distance. Central Australia. It was exciting for thirty seconds and then the cabin fever set in. I was hearing voices - it was Sam Symmons on Triple J, and he was fading out fast. No radio, and the smug cd player was refusing to accept any of my offerings so I was left alone to take on the Nullarbor in a mute silent vacuum.

Soon I heard something...dada dada dada (Jaws music), I was being circled by something; something grey and dangerous. It was...The Grey Nomads. They were in pursuit of me, coming from all directions, racing to see Australia before they die. They hunted in pairs, first it was Rhonda and Bob, then Bill and Wendy, the sticker on the tail of their caravan like a killer’s calling card. The Grey Nomads like to wave as they pass in the other direction, perhaps mistaking me for one of them. Needing some entertainment, I thought I'd engage them in a game of one-upmanship. If they gave me a lazy one finger off the wheel wave, I gave them two fingers. If they gave me a whole hand wave, I waved both hands. If they waved two hands, I stuck my whole arm out the window to wave.  

This arms race escalated until eventually I had both hands, both feet and my head out the window every time a campervan came near, just to outdo the old guy coming the other way.

I was miserably contemplating why this game, like all good things in life, seemed destined to end with body parts splattered all over the road, as I pulled into a service station, when who should come out to fill up my tank but The Oracle!

"You're not The One, Neo" she said.

"You mean I can dodge Grey Nomads?" I replied.

"No, but here's a cookie." 

As I drove out, I understood. I had to think outside the box. I could never outmuscle the Nomads, they were too many. I had to play by my own rules. I bamboozled them with new waves - The Ridgey Didge, The Twinings and The Cockatoo (make a circle with thumb and forefinger, leaving the other fingers splayed above. Accompany this with a shriek like a cockatoo. The Nomads can't hear this, but if you wind down the window and scream as they pass, they will get the picture.)  

The trip continued this way with little distraction.

I drove the longest straight stretch of road in Australia (ninety miles, or one hundred and forty six point six kilometres.) Not a bend. Can you imagine driving over an hour while sitting still behind the wheel, not turning once? I came up with the ingenious idea of tying a piece of string around the accelerator and the steering wheel, and crawling into the back for a nap for an hour and nineteen minutes. My plan was thwarted by the fact that I had no string, and both my shoelaces were already being used for other purposes (one was tying my beard - which was growing down to my knees - into a funky plait, and the other was tied around my waist for good luck).

I watched massive wedge tailed eagles cruising the skies, or munching on dead roos on the roadside. 

And then I was set upon by pirates. Desert pirates. These pirates weren't sailing their vessel over the seven seas, bearing the Jolly Roger aloft, but were instead sailing a roadblock through the sand, bearing a red stop sign aloft. They weren't bedecked in eye-patches and wooden legs, but instead wore orange vests with QUARANTINE written on the back. They didn't demand pieces of eight or treasure maps under pain of death, but wanted fruit, vegetables, honey or used earth moving equipment.

As they boarded my vehicle, I cast a longing look at my cache of crunchy apples, juicy mandarins, and also-crunchy carrots, my healthy alternative to skog.

"Please sir, spare me one mandarin" I implored the man, "I live in constant fear of scurvy."

"We all do mate”, he said, “but rules are rules. Now give me that honey."

"Did you say give me that honey, or give me that, honey?" I asked, for clarification purposes.

"Arrgh, just give me the loot, sugar," he said, lunging for the plunder.

But I stepped aside, declaring "You'll never take me alive, Fresh Produce Pirate!" and I gave a loud whistle, a signal for the eagles to come and whisk me and the produce away to safety. The eagles, however, let me down. They may have been rescuing Frodo and Sam from Mount Doom, or maybe they were busy carcass-crunching up the road.

As the pirate grabbed me, I knew there was only one course of action left open.

"You can take our lives but you'll never take our produce!" I screamed and began eating all the fresh food I had left. During this fruit and veg frenzy, I made a shocking discovery. Apples, mandarins and carrots, when mixed with honey, create a taste sensation unlike any I know. It was fresh, original, and had that special zing I've spent my life searching for. If only I could escape back to my lab, I could genetically engineer the perfect fruit. I knew, from past experience though, that getting the little buggers to breed in captivity is the hardest part.

It's not surprising that these villains deal in such commodities. Out in the desert treasure maps and pieces of eight are a dime a dozen, but fresh fruit is rare as a fat Kenyan. They don't even sell whole apples, but just little shards that you have to take to a special dealer for verification. He sits in his office with his little eye piece in and studies bits of goo - he might say "yep, that’s pure Granny Smith" if you're lucky, or "no mate, that's just a piece of snot," if you're not.

Day 9- Esperance: I apologise for yesterday. Please don’t think less of me. I'm now on the coast, in the land of milk and honey (literally). White sanded beaches, shops, fresh food. I don’t know if the crazed look in my eye gives away the peril I’ve survived. There are still about a thousand kilometres to go, and I’m hopeful that by the time I get to Perth I may have regained enough composure to become a fitting member of society after all. 


  1. I liked this very much. It made me laugh, and the photos wer eamazing. More please.