Distances of over 300km separate Australia’s Nullarbor road houses, which stick up like modern day oases of over priced fuel and exorbitant food ($7 for a hotdog!). The occasional road house prides it self on having real coffee, the others pride themselves on NOT having real coffee, and smug signs in the window express their disdain for city dwellers who ask silly questions like ‘do you have today’s paper’ or ‘can I wash my car?’.The paper won’t be in ’til next week, and water is strictly limited. In fact, a short shower will cost you $4.
Each roadhouse has its own feature in the running for most tacky. Here, a gnome garden, there a giant crayfish.
There are signs laughing at people who struggle with the time zones.
Every roadhouse sells tacky overpriced ‘Australiana’. Made in China, of course.
Australia is huge. There’s an entire 300km section that has no weather reporting and no mobile phone service. This is it.
We’ve seen numerous splats of road kill, from far off we see the crows flying around and as we get closer we see that some of them are great big eagles, vultures feasting on the fresh meat. Tintin is the one who cries at the loss of life, my sweet sensitive boy.
Most carcasses are roos, and we’ve seen a few emus pottering along beside the road. No camels yet! Six months ago we were at the Islamic museum in KL and we saw an exhibit about the Afghan cameleers and their grumpy beasts and their trips across the Australian desert. Now, the same trips are done by road trains in days, not weeks. The descendants of the camels are wild pests culled by helicopter snipers every now and then when they threaten the local towns.
Then the wheel broke. Chris had discovered a not-very-slow leak and had put the spare on. 40 km later there was banging and wobbling and we pulled over to find the wheel was only attached by one bolt. Any further and it would have fallen off altogether.
Lengthy conversations with the RAC resulted in them communicating hardly anything to the local roadhouse, which sent out a man in a ute to tow us. Two hours later he arrived; we were getting cold. We had specifically said the car needs to be up on a truck, not towed, as the wheel is broken. Plus the man only had one spare seat in his ute. He pursuaded us to do a bodgy job of reattaching the wheel with two bolts instead of the six required we limped to the next roadhouse at 20 km / hr, hoping the wheel would hold. Most people sped past us, but those who stopped to see we were ok were the ones driving 60 series cruisers like us!
We slept in the road house motel, thankyou RAC!! And waited for the flat bed truck to carry us to Norseman, 300 km away, which was where the nearest mechanic was to be found.
Huge long road trains raced past all night, a few of them stopping for a drink or rest. Caravaners got up and out early, and people in cars pulled in to refuel or change nappies or stretch their legs. A constant parade of people who all want to be somewhere else.
The road house staff are mostly travelers earning big bucks from their long hours and isolation. They work 6 days a week, 12 hours a day and receive full board and keep. There’s nothing to spend it on, so its not a bad way to save up for a trip!
We sat around playing on the playground which has not changed since it was built maybe 40 years ago. I have been reading aloud The Hobbit, (Bilbo has just had his cryptic conversation with Smaug). And so the children’s play is littered with hobbity references and their journal entries about the broken car are making good use of the phrase ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire.’
Our tow truck arrived, and an extra hire care, as there are so many of us. We had to collect another family and their broken car and I ended up driving with a Thai lady and her daughter and my two littlest boys all the way into Norseman. Snowy and his new little friend giggled the whole way. Do you think I could remember a single word of Thai?
There’s not much that lashings of pepper can’t fix.
Nothing happens til after the weekend- we’re hoping the mechanic is a champ!