But Did You Die?
Posted on June 22, 2018
After I made it back into the country – to everyone’s surprise, and not in the least my own – I had about two days to unpack, do laundry, repack everything. Next big adventure: massive road trip through Australia. Approximately 72 hours after touching down in Sydney, I was on my way to Townsville, where my friend was picking me up from the airport. We gave ourselves one day to plan our route, and were supposed to be on our way the day after. As we both couldn’t really be fucked planning things, we decided we were just going to wing it day by day. We’d drive, rest if we were tired, stop if there was something amazing to see, and just make sure we would never run out of water or petrol. Too easy, right?
I realise this introduction seems like a set-up for a second paragraph explaining how instead of easy peasy lemon squeezy, it was difficult difficult lemon difficult. It actually wasn’t. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, but there have only been about four instances where I thought I might die, and two of them were on the same day, so that doesn’t really count, does it?
The one thing we did before we left, was read this woman’s blog on driving along the Stuart Highway. She was talking about remote roads, losing cell service, and well, dying. Apparently, there’s loads of ways to die in North-Australia: hit a cow, hit a big kangaroo, break down, break down and start wandering around, fall asleep behind the wheel, and of course, my personal favourite, getting murdered. She didn’t even really mention the snakes, something I hadn’t stopped thinking about since the good ol’ farm days. To say that I was a bit terrified, is an understatement. I was still safely in bed in the hostel in Townsville, yet somehow, I was already picturing my funeral. Maybe if I’d send out invitations pre-facto, Meryl Streep would be able to attend.
Half-prepared, we started our big trip. We had food, water, petrol, spare petrol, a spare tire, a jack, and an extra fan belt – whatever the fuck that may do. We got new tires for the car, and the guys at the garage were even kind enough to let me help them change them. I felt quite confident I would be capable of changing a tire, but I’m very grateful it never came to us actually having to find out. When we set off, the woman at the desk made me feel even more nervous when she asked if we had a knife or something to take with us when we were out camping, so, even if my friend said she was pretty sure she was joking, I went out and got myself a baseball bat. It came with a ball, so even if there was no need for headbashing, at least we could play a little game.
Our plan was to start in Townsville, drive straight into the middle, and then drive down to Melbourne. We were camping out in rest areas, only paying for real camp sites if we absolutely had no other option – you know, murderfree ones. My only two prerequisites for this trip were no sleeping by ourselves in dodgy places, and no driving in the dark. Once we started the drive, I felt a lot safer. My friend is one of those carefree people who absolutely believes that nothing bad will ever happen, which made me feel more at ease. The messed-up scenarios I had in my head about rolling our car, hitting a massive cow, getting bitten by a big snake, or getting gangraped and cut into pieces along the side of the road didn’t seem to cross her mind – or she was nice enough not to tell me she was worrying about similar shit. That, and she had great music, so we were pretty chill.
The first rest area we were camping at was full of old people in very fancy caravans. The one tip we’d always gotten was to always stay near loads of people, especially the ones with tiny houses on wheels. There were a few families as well, unpacking luxurious tents, setting up dining tables and cooking up a storm. Meanwhile, we were boiling water for the first of approximately 25 pasta dinners, and ate our plain penne with tomato sauce on our lap, discussing where we should go the next day. Thankfully, my friend had Telstra phone service, which means she had good signal almost anywhere – meanwhile, my Vodafone had given up somewhere at the Queensland border – and we could Google Maps our next drive. One of the people we had met on the site, told us they were driving up to Darwin, and since we had a lot of time to complete this trip, we changed all the plans we hadn’t made and decided to drive up first, and then down. Winging it, I told you.
Even though neither of us was a Bear Grylls, we were getting quite good at camping, cooking some dinner, and leaving the dirty dishes for our future selves to deal with. We camped out at nice rest areas, dodgy rest areas – baseball bat ever present in my swag – and even really nice camp grounds in some national parks. We were always hoping to meet other nice young people, but the main demographic was usually well-off old people. They were always very friendly, don’t get me wrong, but when some of you are sleeping in what looks like a tent coffin on the ground and eating in their car because it gets cold, and some of you sleep in beds and have a shower more than once every three days, it gets hard to relate to each other. Nonetheless, we met a few young people traveling, and most of them were really cool. Some of them, obviously, were dickheads as well.
My favourite thing to do when meeting people whose language I speak/understand, is not telling them I know what they’re talking about. Having lived for over a year in Australia, already starting off with quite an American accent, having spent my last months with English people, my accent is quite hard to define. If I have actual long conversations with people, especially people whose mother tongue is English, they can usually pick I’m European, but can’t specify from where exactly. However, because of the recent linguistic immersion (that’s a nice way of saying watching Gavin and Stacey and kissing all the English boys) I’m often asked if I’m British – or Irish??? – especially from fellow Europeans. I gladly play along with it – usually only for a minute – when I know they speak something I can understand. So, to the Dutch girls that were being rude about us: I heard you, bitches. Go suck a dick.
As for nice young males, specifically, I wouldn’t recommend driving along the Stuart Highway if you’re looking for as massive a shag opportunity as is the Kiwi Experience Bus. We met one – literally one – good looking guy in those 9000K we drove. Tatted up, good hair, Northern English, talking all cute about how his sister had a new boyfriend he hadn’t met yet– and thus hadn’t given the seal of approval yet – we basically melted into a little puddle on the floor. He was staying another night on the camp ground, and even though we really shouldn’t have left that day, we did anyway. In retrospect, after almost having fallen asleep driving – the second of the four times I thought we might die – we really should have stayed. Sigh. Another love lost.
By that second near-death experience, we’d already been to Darwin, and were on our way back down, passing through Kakadu National Park, which is where we had met our Hot Northern, unfortunately named Glenn. I know, it’s sad. You meet this stunner of a man, and his name turns out to be Glenn; Glenn from Accounting, Glenn the guy who leaves passive aggressive notes on his food in the company fridge, Glenn who alphabetically organises his cereal. In the history of sweeping women of their feet, none of the sweepers has ever been called Glenn. Sorry. Anyway, back to the road trip. The danger of being eaten by alligators significantly decreasing every kilometre we drove, I started to feel more confident about surviving this trip. After the night before – the first of the four times I thought we might die – I knew we would make it through anything. (God, I love how dramatic I am. There is literally no in between in my life: could have just been a breakdown, a night in the car, literally anything, but in my head it’s always life or death.)
If the chronology is starting to be a bit hazy, you do have it right if you think that makes for two ‘I feel like I’m going to die moments’ in about 24 hours: one pre-Glenn, one post-Glenn. I’ll spare you the big dramatic recount of the honestly not so dangerous drive for next time, I’ve been going on for way too long now. Just take this advice from the not-so-wise: every time you think back on things you’ve done that in retrospect were a bit stupid, just calm yourself with the ever-reassuring words ‘but did you die?’. You didn’t, so go out, do something stupid. With or without a Glenn – but, if it’s in the Northern Territory, preferably with a baseball bat.