Seven Drivers

28 December 2014

Very early rise. The alarm worked. Straight up and walk to the motorway.

Driver 1

A little ute or 4wd pulls over on the nice big new motorway after an hour waiting. Our driver is a small driver. He’s in his 40s or 50s, single, driving to a small town somewhere before Bathurst. He drops us off at a random turnoff on the same motorway.

It’s still cold and cloudy. The grass is yellow, which made it easy to see the Emu in the field next to us.

“I still haven’t got that buzz” says Jamie.

Driver 2

Another guy on his own pulls over. Our second driver is also alone and in his 50s. Old rock ‘n’ roll is playing. He has an earring, goatee, open shirt. He’s from the outback which is where he started hitchhiking. But we were in Bathurst, hundreds of kilometres away from the outback.

We got dropped off in Bathurst, still hundreds of kilometres away from where our driver was originally from. Jamie insists he knows better where to get dropped off than our outback driver. Jamie doesn’t seem to want to walk. Strange.

Driver 3

Another 45 minutes and a Volkswagen Golf pulls over. We get in and head away from Bathurst - and my glasses which I left on the side of the road - west towards Orange. Our third driver is a father who just dropped off his kids at the airport. Maybe he’s an accountant; the conversation was pretty boring. He thinks he should write a book about our travels. In the summer he’s going to Europe with his wife for 2 weeks.

“I admire you”

It starts to rain as we approach Orange. We get out at some junction of two higways. The road and the grass are wet and we hear a big crunch. A ute drove into a fence on the other side of the road. A few minutes later another car spins out in front of us at the roundabout. It spins off the road and onto the grass, just missing a signpost.

We run over and ask the driver if she’s ok. I wondered why she didn’t answer then she pushed the door open and pulled her baby out of the back seat.

Then a few seconds after that a Holden pulls over and 2 police officers in plain clothes step out to take care of it all. One of them comes over to us and asks Jamie if he has a weapon. Then they ask if we’ve been safe so far. Does that mean we should or shouldn’t have a weapon with us?

With so much excitement it’s a bit of a disappointment when the fourth car to pull over is just asking if we need a lift.

Driver 4

We get in a tiny little Holden hatchback with an outrageously flamboyant gay guy in his 40s or 50s.

Driver number 4 used to live in Paddington, Sydney’s gay capital and was quick to note that “size definitely does matter!”. Our driver loves joking about how gay old Western movies seem now since you can pretty much take any line and make it a double entendre.

We were dropped off at Molong, NSW - our first tiny town! There’s a few shops and one pub all on one main street through town.

Jamie and I joking about how no Holden Commodores pick us up is quickly ended when a red one pulls up.

Driver 5

Driver number 5 is originally from Mount Druitt in Sydney. His love for Dubbo has grown and his hate for Muslims has grown too. We all have different slang for condoms, but Driver 5 introduced to me a new one: “frangers”.

Dubbo is 400 kilometres away from Sydney, and the Middle East is at least 12000 kilometres away. But the recent terrorist attack by an Islamic extremist at the Lindt cafe in Sydney, where 2 hostages died, affects people all over. “Women and children in Islam - or wherever the fuck - are gonna have to be bombed too” says our driver. Driver 5 drops us off on the western outskirts of Dubbo. Before my bag is on my back, the same red Holden Commodore pulls over and reverses up to us with tyres screeching. But it’s not the same driver.

Driver 6

Driver number 6 drives exactly the same car as Driver 5. It’s Driver 6’s first time going west of Dubbo. Normally he works in community centres with indigenous kids. He saw us and just wanted to help. Sometimes when you tell your life story enough times you’re able to fit it in to whatever time you’ve got. The grandmother of Driver 6 is Stolen Generation Australian Aboriginal. In his early 20s our driver followed a girl to Sydney. Life was too fast in the inner city area of Glebe. The doctors told Driver 6 to go on antidepressants. Instead our driver came to Dubbo to do community work. We arrive in a tiny town at the same time life story is finished. Driver 6 starts driving away, comes back and gives us his leftover KFC chips. There’s just one driver left.

Driver 7

Another sports sedan pulls over. With Jamie and I in the car, it’s a five-seater Ford Falcon full of 20-something year olds. They’re on their way to Trangie, NSW. New Year’s Eve is pretty boring there, we’re told. But the horse races are on tomorrow, and there’s at least 15,000 people coming, we’re told. Everyone in the car is using old coke cans as ash trays.

Driver 7 drop us off outside Trangie pub. It’s hard to believe there could be 15 thousand people here.

Trangie

The major highways is the main road through Trangie. On one side of the road, there’s a couple of pubs, shops, and houses. On the other are grain silos. We wait on the shops side of the road for hours until the sun starts setting at 8PM. I leave the road and start looking for a place to sleep. On the way I meet 3 girls who ask me what I’m doing. Eventually they ask me to join them for drinks at the Trangie bowling club. It’s the only drinking hole open on a Sunday.

I convince Jamie to come along too. We’re covered in dirt and sweat accumulated over 7 lifts and hundreds of kilometres. It’s hard to get comfortable feeling so out of place and tripping over my backpack when I go and get another beer. But our mediocre jokes and mildly embellished stories of the day somehow entertain enough to get some big laughs. I play pool for the first time in my life. That gets even more laughs from the locals. Jamie leaves as he’s tired. We all move from the pool table to the piano in the corner. By this point I’m drunk enough to start playing. One of the guys is drunk enough to reveal to his friends that he can play too.

The young 10-year-old-looking daughter of the family-run bowling club collects our empty glasses. A few minutes later they turn the lights off. Time to go. The girls are trying to convince me to come to the races tomorrow. I give them my number, cross the road and sleep under a big tree behind the abandoned train station.

The dead tree seemed to be swaying in the breeze. But there was no breeze and the tree was dead. I was just really drunk and had no idea where I was.

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