My 1905 kilometre journey to Charleville did not begin well.
It was just a small fire under the hood. No big deal.
My nose, which has put many trackers to shame, sensed something was amiss as I climbed the first large hill out of Tamworth. My spirits sank as the bushfire-in-the-car smell overwhelmed my sensitive nasal passages. A brief look under the hood told me that cars are worse than goldfish. They need constant attention.
In my three-month absence, and I admit I had even forgotten that I owned a car while I was riding trains in China, some rodents had made themselves a little nest in my engine. The rat poo and other anonymous debris made great kindling next to my engine.
I dithered over whether I needed to pour water over the fire, or whether water would harm my vintage car. The plastic spoon I found nearby melted when it touched the powerful engine, so I found two sticks and scraped the junk out. Two sticks can help in many situations, I’m told.
After such a superb beginning, the Tamworth to Coffs Harbour leg was quite relaxing. It can be done in four hours, but I took five, soaking up the scenery and generally dragging the chain. Occasionally I’d look at the speedo and realise I was going 20 or 30 under the speed limit. I could barely care, I was so relaxed.
The beauty of my road trip is that I’ll get to see some crazy relatives and mates on my way.
In Coffs Harbour I crashed with my beachy cousins. There were a few beautiful moments. I found myself screaming Jet lyrics into an unplugged microphone while my 14-year-old cousin strummed his acoustic guitar. His grogeous sister was at death’s door in the next room, but no-one minded the impromptu air-guitar championships hosted next door.
The moment reminded me that families can crash through walls of inhibitions to take you back to your roots, your childhood.
James even took some time out of his hectic schedule to wake me up with some Green Day after I overslept in my uber-laid-back frame of mind. A leisurely cup of tea with my beautiful aunt, which could have been extended to three or four brews, ensured I was at least an hour late departing.
I was consumed with a master-of-my-own-destiny sensation as I sped up the highway towards Queensland. I was empowered by my beast, knowing I could turn the wheels in any direction. As I cruised out of town I imagined I was off on a trip around Australia. Unfortunately my dismal bank balance took Uluru off the agenda.
I managed a quick visit with my cousin on the Gold Coast, catching up with her daughter who seems to be growing up faster than chickens on steroids. A few nights ago, on the Sunshine Coast, my brother satisfied my need to eat steak with mashed potatoes and mushrooms smothered in cream and spices. He is a brilliant cook and also knows how to play doof-doof music just a few decibels above bearable.
I chilled with a few mates in Brisbane, luxuriating in the hospitality of my mates’ couches. My detox has been hampered slightly with all of the festivities. However, I have managed to trade beer for antioxidant-rich red wine.
Food-wise, I’ve continued catching up on the avocados and cheese that I craved in China. I also tracked down a bag of mandarins at a road-side stall near Bellingen. I imagined the fruit would be sweet and luscious, a perfect companion for the long drive. Instead the citruses evoked a face similar to someone eating dirty socks in a badly-planned bet. Sour fruit makes great company, I found. Getting through the bag of mandarins certainly helped to kill time between Grafton and the Gold Coast.
If I was really peckish, and things did get a little tight when I finished the bag of mandarins and the carrots and the banana, I had a secret stash of vegies on the passenger floor.
My beautiful father had gifted me two trays of lettuce plants to take to my new home. He assured me that tending the plants would be good for my soul. For me, they kept my hunger paranoia at bay, but did not offer much companionship.
The inner-nerd that I tuck away discreetly got some time in the sun as I tuned in to ABC local radio. I felt incredibly grown up listening to Richard Fidler quiz successful scientists and artists.
It has been a long journey already. I’ve loved having the time to contemplate hard issues, such as why the Australian pollies cannot seem to figure out how to stop refugee boats sinking in Australian waters. Sometimes the people in Canberra seem as useless as a packet of nicotine patches for a non-smoker, but I understand the issues are more complex than sticking to the speed limit. Still, it’s heartbreaking. Then, after a bout of anger I’d wonder why some people read fiction while others watch documentaries. I also spent a lot of time contemplating how mandarins become sweet and why others create wrinkles.
It’s been another blissful week, really, and the perfect way to end my three-month hiatus.
Tomorrow, the trip continues, with a ten-hour stint towards my new home where I plan to encounter many more adventures. I hope this one does not begin with a fire under the hood.
I’m certain, however, that the fire in my belly will keep the wheels turning. Stay tuned.