"Australia 1999" story # 30


Tarea, New South Wales
May 26, 1999

Two quick lifts got me to the coastal highway in Ballina by seven o'clock. Town traffic, mostly going only short distances, just watched me and my thumb for about two hours.
     A large, barrelling semi made a furious, gravel-shrapneling effort to stop. It was the same round-featured, cheery trucker who'd gotten me to Ballina so long ago. With lazy blond hair, he reminded me of the Crocodile Hunter. This day, however, it was he who was my hero.
     With a smile, despite his seventy-hour workweek, and a handshake, he welcomed me once again; this time, the highway was taking him towards Sydney.
     Two hours later, our friendly conversation ended in Coffs Harbour. A beachside, tourist complex known as the Big Banana, which, as embarrassing as it is, put Coffs Harbour on the map, stood before me. Behind the giant yellow fruit, a perfect turquoise sea indicated Coffs Harbour had probably been a better place when it wasn't on the maps.
     I gave a glance and pressed on. My mission was far from complete.
     The road, understandably busy with shopping mall bananans, hosted me for hours. Some giggly girls stopped. Their ride was short, but it took me out of sight of the giant fruits. A lady park ranger picked me up, offering advice to combat the ungenerous New South Welch Southerners: to hold a sign reading, "Sydney, Please - Student."
     Desperate, I tried it. The advice earned me another two-hour wait. The wait ended only when I practically jumped in the truck of a guy who'd stopped only because he wanted to buy Coke and chocolate across the street. The thin, beaten-looking, surly, glasses-wearing trucker certainly wouldn't have stopped for me on purpose; he used the word, "weirdos," to describe hitchhikers and people from Lismore about fifty times during our ride. But, he dropped me in Port Macquarie, two hours down the road.
     A girlfriend-visiting musician let me in his car just before the sun set. He got me within two-hundred kilometers of Sydney. I obeyed Canadian Matt's advice, attempting a truck stop, but I got no further. My one-day-to-Sydney plan was a failure. After fourteen hours on the road, I went to sleep at a hotel in noticeably Opera House-less Tarea.
     The next morning, an early trucker was headed to Sydney, with room in the cab. His marriage was an interesting union. He was a big-time scuba-diver; she was hydrophobic.
     He joked that his hobby ensured he could always get away from his wife on holiday. On his trucker salary, he'd been to places like Papau New Guinea. He'd dove to three-hundred feet, where you can only stay for three minutes and visibility is restricted to blues. I asked the prettiest thing he'd ever seen. He replied, "Tiny nudibranchs that glitter in wondrous blues in your hand at three-hundred feet below."
     Listening to the radio, we even shared a laugh. The subject of the talk show was the newly-imposed daylight-savings time. As I've said before, Aussies are nice people, but you don't want to get them complaining.
     A guy called in: "Daylight-savings in New South Wales is ridiculous! Absolutely ridiculous! What suits Queensland doesn't suit us." And then, out of nowhere: "What this country needs is a good dose of Adolf Hitler! I'm not kidding ..."
     The trucker and I cracked up, as I'm sure did many listeners.
     I arrived in the pleasant, green city early Wednesday morning. My work done, I had the city to my leisure.
     As long as a good dose of the Holocaust didn't erupt, I was sure to enjoy everything, except, of course, the ridiculous daylight-savings time.

go to the previous story                                                                                   go to the next story

J. Breen's modern-o.com