Now what would possess someone to drive 4800 km from one side of a continent as vast as Australia to another? Well, for starters there is madness and for another, it’s to show young un’s the sheer size (and it is bigger than anyone’s backyard, believe me) of Australia.
We’d been warned to take fuel and water with us but our car was crammed to the hilt with all our treasured personal belongings so there was place for neither. It was either that or one of us would have ended up sitting on the roof. No prizes for guessing who, since HRH was planning to drive and it is still illegal for children to be in the front seat of the car, let alone strapped outside to a vehicle travelling at 110 km per hour. Perhaps, as HRH pointed out, we’d be travelling along a major highway for all of the time, so worse comes to worse, we’d hail down a passing road train for help.
We plan to set off at 10 am but due to the nature of packing up an entire household full of stuff, end up leaving at 5 pm instead. Tania, who I’ve had dinner or lunch weekly for the last 5 years, helps us to reposition some of our bags in the car so that I won’t have to ride for 4800 km with my knees tucked under my chin.
She, who knows everything there is to know about road-trips, says, “You are very brave to be doing this.”
Blowing my hundredth nose-wonton (I have the flu, for crying out loud), I say, “There is a very fine line between bravery and madness. If you were to do this 9-day, 4800 km journey, I’d call it brave. With us, it’s more likely madness.”
With that I hug Tania and bid her farewell. We set off in the fading light of Brisbane for Moree 5 hours away. Due to the lack of light and my continuous production of nose wontons, I have no pictures to show you. Suffice to say, I am suffering, wondering aloud where among all our bags I put the Codral Cold, Flu and Cough tablets. Then I remember the bag that mum packed for me, with Aerius D, a similar cocktail of time-released nasal relief. Mum also packed me panadol, something for phlegm, sanitary pads and 2 boxes of tissues, just in case I should need any of these things. Thanks Mum.
At the insistence of HRH, I take a few snap shots of our motel. It is a brick oasis in the middle of the desert; the place even has a swimming pool, which would be great in this infernal heat, but we have no time for that as we must travel another 5.5 hours to our next destination, Dubbo. HRH, slightly sleep-deprived from me coughing up a lung for most of the night, between blowing nose-wontons, tries to cheer me up by saying the trip is “only 5.5 hours long.” Oh yippee skipee.
We drive and drive and drive some more, past hay fields, along a mostly straight road. Occasionally we come across a dead joey, being picked at by crows and the odd eagle. After what seems like hours on the road, the hay fields give way to bushes.
HRH decides to stop in a town called Mendooran to refuel the car. The town is so small, it only has the one street featuring the requisite supermarket, gas station and post office. Locals around these parts are cattle farmers. The gas station attendant informs us that our next destination, after Dubbo, is “pure nothing through the desert.”
I blow my thousandth nose-wonton despite the Aerius D.
We arrive in Dubbo mid-afternoon but I feel like I’ve been travelling the whole day. HRH has us booked into Cattleman’s Country Motor Inn, the best accommodation there is in Dubbo. We are given a new two-bedroom apartment with tasteful modern decor.
After checking in, we go in search of food. We wind up at one of the town’s two Vietnamese eateries. The food is authentic, if substantially more expensive than what it is in Brisbane. For dinner, we opt to dine at the Cattleman’s restaurant. You can see Amanda pigging out on the first of 4 bowls of spaghetti bolognese she has throughout the trip.
We exit Dubbo straight after our 10am checkout. We have to, even though Dubbo Zoo is purportedly worth a visit, because we have another 9 hours on the road until our next stop for the day: Broken Hill.
2 hours into our journey, HRH says, “I was told that some people count the road kill to keep themselves entertained.”
So there goes 1 dead joey, 2 dead joeys…the alternative is dead rabbits. They road signs keep saying to watch out for suicidal kangaroos, emus and wombats, but I can see none of them around.
In case you didn’t know (and I didn’t either until HRH told me) mining giant BHP gets it’s name from the area, the oldest active mine in Australia. It stands for Broken Hill Proprietary. The town is the only one we’ve ever seen with an active mine forming part of it; most mining towns conduct their activities beyond the main streets.
Food and accommodation is priced well above what you’d pay in any of the major capital cities in Australia. The town’s only Chinese restaurant does a rousing business. Locals are friendly; surprisingly many can afford to eat out on a weeknight. I don’t suppose there is much else to do. We see many families at the cafe we’re at.