Hopping into my friends Sean and Emma’s rickety old station wagon, with Canned Heat’s “On the Road Again” cranked up on the stereo, we swiftly became exactly that, as we hit the bitumen and headed east. Current location: Broome. Destination: Darwin.

The air of adventure already with us was heightened by the loneliness of the road ahead, and the scenery by which we were surrounded. Times were good.

On the first night we camped in Hall’s Creek, chatting to a bearded legend of a man who was half way through his heroic cycling tour of the continent, as we barbecued meat and snoozed under the stars; too hot for a tent in the sweaty heat of Western Australia.

The following night was spent in Kununurra, where we inadvertently set up camp beside a crocodile infested river. The reality of this became clear only after dark, as Sean shone his torch on the water and caught the glare of 32 beastly eyes inits beam.

At this point we made the decision to sleep in the car, but awoke to the brutal confirmation that you are never free from predators in Oz, as I found myself covered by a potentially record breaking 150 mozzie bites!

Thus, we were swiftly on the road once more, this time headed for Katherine – a sleepy outback town 220km south of Darwin, with the hope of securing a hostel room for the night.

Stopping for a sunset tea break, Emma gulped suddenly as she tried to turn on the engine…
“It won’t start guys!”

As the sky grew dark, the intense nothingness of our environment closed in. But as the first star pricked the purple sky, fighting with the ignition, Emma finally choked it into action and we rattled onward. Phew…

Nearing Katherine we found a hostel and rolled, without changing gear, slowly into the car park. Inside, we were greeted by a man who informed us, with more smugness than sympathy, that it would take at least 11 days to get the parts we needed to fix the car.

Hopes plunging, we checked in, scratched our bites, and cracked open a bottle of Southern Comfort. We had hoped to be in Darwin the following evening. We needed jobs and Katherine didn’t seem to be the sort of place you’d want to be hauled up in for 11 days.

About 220km, 40°C heat, 90 per cent humidity, one gear, zero phone reception and 100 per cent adventure. Those were the stats. One bottle of whisky later, we decided to risk it…

The next morning we crowded back into the wagon and Emma squeezed it into gear. We were off. Speeding steadily down the long and fortunately straight road.

All seemed well until, that is, 20km outside Darwin. We met traffic, and LIGHTS!
“Stay green! STAY GREEN!” we screamed at the first set – and our wish was granted. The same for the second… But as we neared the third set of lights they flicked cruelly to red, and that was that; our dream was over.

“The clutch has gone,” Emma said. “That’s it.” And she veered to the side of the road. So close, yet pretty far. Just 20km from our destination, having driven 200km with a broken gear box and a failing clutch! Luckily, by this stage, we had phone reception.

The following few hours were spent on the edge of the highway. We were picked up by a friendly repair man who towed us into Darwin. There it soon became clear our adventures had only just begun…