My girlfriend and I had been in Australia for a while and loved it. We had five days left on our visas and a bit of spare cash which we thought we might as well spend.
We hadn’t yet been to Adelaide during our time in Down Under, so I hired a car – a Hyundai Getz to be precise – and off down the Great Ocean Roadwe sped. We saw koalas in the Otway Ranges, whales at Warrnambool and got caught up in a lightning storm at The Twelve Apostles, but the highlights of the journey most definitely happened inside the hire car.
A cosy night well spent in pretty Port Fairy led us to befriend a local hotelier who kept singing the virtues of “getting off the beaten track”. Mrs Doubtfire (as she got nicknamed) found us an old coffee-stained map and scribbled in biro the routes to some “lovely outback country towns”.
The next morning we drove about two hours off course to end up in the remotest, most feral part of Australia we could ever possibly imagine. We were quite scared to stop and get petrol in these quarters, having passed men, women and babies with beards, although the local lama appeared content with his lot as he glared at us from a paddock.
When my girlfriend insisted I buy her some wine gums, I had to pull over into the service station. There was a huge, ugly redneck behind the counter. “Are you foreign, mate?” he said. He looked like he wanted a fight, so I got out of there pronto.
With the rednecks behind us, we managed to get back on course to Mount Gambier. The scenery en route was quite unexpected: miles and miles of logged forests. Endless lines of tree stumps coupled with the corpses of dead kangaroos decomposing on the tarmac made the journey very eerie.
Soon we got stuck behind a truck for about an hour and plodded along nicely. That was until the truckie began indicating left in a frenzy. The road was long, straight and empty so the signal was confusing. Puzzled, I looked over my shoulder and realised the truckie was kindly pointing out the local wildlife.
My girlfriend shrieked and dropped the wine gums as three huge emus ran alongside the car. Being chased by emus in what we assumed to be a lifeless wilderness – priceless!
That encounter left us feeling optimistic about the rest of the roadtrip, but alas, at high noon on the return leg to Melbourne we were to drive through the goldrush town of Ballarat.
Now I’d heard that Ballarat is worth seeing – especially all the folks in ye olde-fashioned clobber. But we didn’t get to see any of that because some friendly locals decided to tailgate us all the way along the freeway.
The “Bogans of Ballarat” obviously took offence to being overtaken by a Hyundai Getz hire car and challenged us to a bumper-to-bumper standoff.
They kept driving right up behind us.
I looked in the rearview mirror and saw them swearing and giving me the bird. Now it was like a scene from Mad Max. I stuck to the speed limit and hoped for the traffic police siren to sound.
Fortunately for us, and the Hyundai Getz, the Ballarat boys soon gave up the chase. They turned off at a drive-through bottleshop to purchase more booze.
Finally we arrived back in Melbourne in time to catch our flight, spaced out on wine gums and the exhilaration of a fantastic roadtrip.
Then it was a case of returning to England – Ashby De La Zouch, Leicestershire, to be precise. Oh for the wide open plains of Australia!
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