Road Trip Day 2 - Road Trip from Hell

Trip Start Jan 16, 2012
Trip End Jan 01, 2014

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Sunday, August 5, 2012

Leg 2 of our epic roadtrip from Sydney to Brisbane started wonderfully.  The sun was shining, each beam holding golden promise of a magical day ahead...

Things improved further when, following a dirty Hungry Jacks breakfast, we were able to tick off two of Australia's estimated 150 "big things".  These are simply big models of everyday items which are generally used at raodside establishments to attract custom from passing trade.  The two we saw within the first few minutes of hitting the road (which we managed to do by 9am, having learnt about how long things take and how early the sun sets in Oz in winter the previous day) were a windmill (which adorned Comfort Inn in Coff's Harbour) and a banana (on a cafe and slightly disappoiting in truth).  After a few obligatory snaps we fairly ate up the 80 odd kilometres to the historic (by Australian, not UK, standards) town of Grafton - the first town settled on the central coast where Shelley was able to browse second hand shops at her leisure as I sipped coffee, confident of us arriving in Brisbane pre-5pm.

It was immediately after leaving Grafton that things started to go wrong.  We had been tipped off that Armidale - a nearby town - had some excellent second hand furniture and so set off, following a sign which confirmed that it was a mere 12km away.  Twenty five minutes or so of driving later and I was starting to suspect that we had either missed a turn off or else that the sign had been wrong so we decided to double check matters with an elderly Australian couple in a rest area.  They reiterated what we had so far been told so I continued to hammer the Micra deeper into the Bush.  By the time we were 60 or so kilometres from Grafton I knew we were wrong and so we pulled into another rest area where a caravaning couple from Melbourne told us that although we were heading the right way, Armidale was still over 60 km's away.  They were slightly horrified to discover that we had set off on a 1,000 plus km journey without a map and so kindly donated a spare Caravan Club map they had to us.  I had no intention of retracing the wasted 60 km's from Grafton and so decided that a dotted weaving northbound orange line in the Caravan Club map labelled "Not Suitable for Caravans" was the best course of action.  This "road" soon turned into a dusty, rocky, snaking single lane affair, at first climbing through woodland before descending into the valley floor where it headed into farmland as far as the eye could see.  By this point we had been driving for around 30 minutes since meeting the caravaners and were still enjoying the rolling farmland, reminscent of rural Britain (if it never rained again).  We were convinced at each crest or conrer of the road that we would turn to find civilsation or a better road but after around an hour hope was fading and I was starting to worry on a few fronts - (1) we were in a Nissan Micra on esstentially quarry roads and we did not have the benefit of the Top Gear support crew in the event of a puncture, (2) we had no water and (3) we were rapidly running out of petrol.  The scenery was no longer an interesting diversion but instead repetitive and depressing (much like the experience after around 20 minutes looking at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel; interestingly no such fatigue occurs after even several weeks of Guitar Hero).  Shelley was less than pleased and it was quite a relief when she fell asleep so I could go about swerving pot holes and worrying in peace.  After two hours and about 80 kilometres of weaving through these unsealed roads and seeing zero human beings (I wasn't totally upset about this as every place we did see had a distinctly Wolf Creek feel about it) we finally hit the wonder of an asphalted road.  I saw fit to wake Shelley up but wished I hadn't when we discovered that one kilometre in either direction the surface again became unsealed, and the roadsigns revealed we had another 50 km's of this ebfore we would reach a town.  It was at this point when the amber fuel light flicked on, serving as a poignant symbol of our precarious position.  Mercifully the Micra held on despite utterly unsuitable terrain for such a small car - although I'm not looking forward to returning it to Budget on Tuesday with 2,500 km's on the clock and requiring new suspension and a paint job - and we finally made it to the town of Casino to fill the thirsty girl up with petrol and the hungry and thirsty humans with Aldi's finest.  The shortcut had been a victory for stubboness and stupidity and a defeat for common sense and the environment and the Micra, but it did mean that we had brought Brisbane over 100 km's closer and now had only around two and a half hours to go (it was by now after 4:30pm)...

Most of the remainder of the drive north was spent driving as fast as possible, but we did take the time for a small detour to the lighthouse at Byron Bay - supposedly Australia's most easterly point - and managed to catch the very back-end of what must have been a stunning sunset.  We finally limped into Brisbane at 8pm, absolutely knackered and still with a few outstanding obstacles to overcome...

Firstly, I had omitted to note down the address or contact details of our accomodation for the evening, or print a map of Brisbane which meant that we had to take advantage of McDonalds' free internet sitting in the car outside and obtaining the relevant information.  The landlady did not seem best pleased as check-in had been up until 5pm only and it took us a couple of spins of the one way system of Brisbane before we finally found Ellie's Guesthouse in the flamboyantly named Fortitude Valley area of the city.  As it turned out, we were actually given a very warm (undeservedly) reception once she arrived to show us to our room, which was a mixed bag - offering a kitchenette, but no shower or TV (the latter being especially annoying during the Olympics).  Anyway, it had a bed so I was happy enough.  Unfortunately the wi-fi was not working in the guesthouse and my second issue was that I did not know where I needed to go for the start of the marathon the following morning.  The solution was a visit to the 7-Eleven on the corner where I found a free local newspaper which had all the necessary details.  Whilst out I also bought some chicken fried rice for a last minute carbo injection before returning to Ellie's for what would be around four hours sleep maximum.  Of more concern was the state of my legs after about 18 hours driving over the two days of what Shelley candidly called "The Road Trip From Hell".  Classic mara prep...
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Phil on

It never fails to amaze me how terrible you are at planning things. You would have thought the old trench foot incident would have scared you from undertaking such acts of sheer folly but clearly it hasn't. Nethertheless, it makes for fantasic reading. Keep it up!!!!

turnernz on

Cheers bro - I genuinely never think anything will go wrong, and was actually surprised when there were so many holes in this plan. Shelley was only too pleased to point this out, of course...

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