So here I am in Cairns, halfway around the globe from home, buying my first vehicle. What do I know about engines? Nothing. To be fair, I did learn something during driving school, like why do you put petrol in and how the spark plugs work and everything, but that´s six years ago now and things like that are bound to be forgotten in no time. If you are a girl that is. Patient as I am I looked at exactly one car and bought it. Holden Commodore station wagon with about 270,000 clicks, though I did not know for sure because the clock had stopped ticking.

Only three of five doors were working but the worst thing of all was the little flicking battery light on the dashboard. I knew that it would always (or sometimes?) be on when you started the car, but could not remember whether it is supposed to stay on or off.

I had been for a drive through the Hinterland of Cairns the day before, and despite the light being on all the time, nothing had happened. So I trusted in my luck and started driving north. The car started making funny noises as I was about an hour or so out of Cairns and I decided to stop at the next petrol station. Lucky me, as it was the last petrol station before Port Douglas. I turned the corner and the car turned itself off. The nice blokes inside helped me jumpstart it, but as soon as I switched gears, off again. “Alternator“, they said. No idea what that was.They also told me that the garage would open first thing next morning, it was Sunday afternoon now.

I was waiting, sitting in my car until the guy who lived in the house I was parked in front of came to see what was going on. He had a six-year-old son and invited me for a cup of tea anytime I felt like it. That was nice and since he had a six-year-old son, I thought I was safe. I ended up having dinner with them. He pulled my car up into his driveway and charged my battery over night, so I could drive it to the garage.

In the morning I finally knew what the alternator was, dropped the car at the garage, went to the shopping mall to pass the time and was standing in the newsagent when I heard the news about the tsunami warning. This must have been my lucky day.

I had just finished reading a German bestseller called The Swarm, which is about the planet being taken over by sealife and it all started with huge waves of tsunamis everywhere. The book was very precise, so I knew exactly what to expect. I wasn´t the only one to panic though, all the locals rushed to the service station to fill up and escape into the mountains.We were pretty close to the ocean and the people on the news predicted huge waves of destruction all the way down to Sydney’s Opera House.

Since I couldn´t get my car into the hills, I had to make a decision. I left everything I had except for my passport in the car and took a lift with a lovely lady from Switzerland who had to get her children out of school first. We got into the beeline of lots of cars into the mountains, always keeping a close eye to the beach to see if there was anything happening. I felt close to freaking out, after all, things like that always only happen to others, not me.

There was no tsunami (as you could have guessed), so I drove to a banana farm to work and after a new alternator, spark plugs, filters and tyres, my car got me all the way from Cairns through the centre down and across to Perth. Funnily enough its life ended on the way shortly after the Nullarbor. I got stopped by the police in the middle of nowhere and after inspecting the falling apart vehicle they decided to give me a defect notice.

At least I now know what to look for when I buy my next car.

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