The road is straight for as far as eyes can see in the fading light, immediately in front of us is a concrete structure, like a low bridge or causeway, guarded by a depth measuring pole rising two meters either side of the entrance, disappearing in my rear view mirror heading the opposite direction is a double trailer road train.
Following the bang the car drops on the passenger’s side and then bounces up again, only to have another smaller crash into the hole at the rear before settling into a regular flop, flop, flop sound of square wheels as we passed over the bridge thing and drifted to the shoulder of the road.
I don’t specifically remember if we spoke, but I am sure it was something like “FUCK” as I gripped the Astra Twin Tops steering wheel desperately guiding it on a straight line to avoid falling off the cause way into the marsh like plain on the passenger’s side, or drifting into the path of another road train.
I knew what happened, seconds before I saw the pot hole, I could have steered passed it if the road train wasn’t coming the other direction. Have you ever noticed when you have to pass something like a cyclist or a pedestrian, there is always on coming traffic narrowing your path.
The road train is a huge vehicle, with three or four trailers hanging off the back of the prime mover. They ply the outback roads of Australia in their thousands, they’re part of the fabric of life out there. When one comes passed with you heading in the opposite direction it can physically move you from one side of the road to the other, especially when you are travelling in our little red car.
The choice is, “do you avoid the pothole and hope that the road train is not going to meet me at the exact moment I have moved to its lane, or do you take the pothole. you have a split second to decided”
I take the pothole please, FUCK it is the mother of all potholes, perhaps not as big as the car swallowing pot holes on the streets of Lae PNG but in terms of the Newall Highway, very deep and at speed limit of 110 kms, very damaging.
Constantly rocking as the road trains, car and caravan rigs and other huge road vehicles continuously propel themselves passed us leaving a generous foot between 110 kilometer an hour hurtling steel and our parked car. Getting out of the car in between the big rigs is taking your life into your hands as is standing behind the car with the boot open. We are travelling so immediately the reader has to realize that the boot is actually full of our goods, all of which needs emptying on the side of the road. Once done, the next challenge is to find exactly how to shift the cover from over the spare wheel. That done, there is an “Oh Fuck” moment again, as a fly crawls up my nose at exactly the same time it occurs to me that this is one of those stupid half wheels, that the Europeans have.
I have a flash back to a time I was told these skinny spares are only half inflated and that we have to fully inflate as soon as possible. I suspect I didn’t deflate last time I used it? It also has a big warning, telling us that 80 kms is the fastest speed we can travel on it.
Traveling long distances in very hot weather is perfectly fine until you get out of your air-conditioned tin can, then it hits you. It’s so hot it’s difficult to breathe and doing anything useful is nearly impossible. To add to the misery in the Australian outback there is always a family of little flys crawling up your nose, in your ears, your eyes and around your mouth. This is why we have the Aussie wave as we are continuously brushing them away.
Now try to do something of a manual nature like rolling under the car to see where the jacking point is. This spare tyre and jacking arrangement maybe okay in Europe where this car’s built, but this isn’t bloody Europe is it. The clothes I put on this morning were fine when starting the drive this morning. They are not fine while I am laying in gooey tar topped with sharp little grey and black stones sticking in my skin with flys in every moist orifice while trying to fit the inadequate jack to a non-existent jacking point. Do I sound frustrated , you bet I am bloody frustrated.
Good news, we only appeared to have a single flat tire, now filthy dirty with tar in places I didn’t want tar, the car rocked and swayed with every trucker trying to get as close to my vehicle as possible without actually hitting it. I finally complete the tire change and repack the boot without actually going through a divorce ceremony with my long-suffering wife. SI think the circumstance would entitle her to initiate such proceedings.
A dark cloud hovered over the car for the next thirty minutes, we became the complete pain in the arse old couple puttering along the open road at 80 kilometres and hour in a car clearly built for performance. The big rigs climb in the boot lights flashing, hooter honking, trying to push me up to the speed limit of 110.
I could hear them in the cab muttering, “Who are these old fuckers, shouldn’t they be in a retirement home?”
Limping into Moree with a this stupid skinny Euro spare was a relief, it was now close to 8 pm in an outback town. Was anybody open?
My magnificent other half had decided we definitely need to stay in a motel with a bar in it, I agreed and we found such an establishment at the Dragon Phoenix on the south side of town, a few hundred yards up the road from a tyre repair shop. Great, fortune was looking up.
We found a motel with an attached restaurant and bar that was open, even better the restaurant was Chinese and served a mix of western and Chinese food. The meal was excellent, when I spoke to the owner he had run this place for twenty years. He was originally from Canton and had had a list of celebrity guests that read like a who’s who.
That night we reflected on how we were on this journey primarily to put kilometres on my lease car. There were stupid rules that said unless I do so many kilometres I would owe the tax department four and half thousand dollars more. I figured our three thousand kilometre trip was almost free and solved most the problem, let’s do it. We were to find out in the days to follow this equations was not so bias towards us as it first seemed. Tomorrow we drop the car at the tyre repair shop.