It is a fact universally acknowledged that most international visitors will have seen the movie Wolf Creek as preparation for their Australian odyssey. As I sat there, hoping these Good Samaritans would take me just a little bit further (the track is ten kilometres long) I began to pick up some tension from the front seats that had nothing to do with the state of the track. Where was this dusty, smelly woman with twigs in her hair directing them to? And then what would she do to them?
This was supposed to be a day like any other and by now you will be thinking oh no here we go, but it wasn't like that, just a minor biggie really. I'm driving about 75 kilometres of severely corrugated gravel roads to work at the moment and the poor old car is getting shaken to bits. My mechanic fitted a new radiator on Monday after the last one cracked up. Drop an egg in it, the inlet hut folk advised, when I mentioned the leaky radiator but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Their second solution, finely ground black pepper plugged the crack beautifully while waiting for a new one.
It seems that everything has been leaking lately ... politicians, the clutch hose, the radiator, me ... pepper and eggs don't fix everything thing but they sure help with the maintenance. The mechanic told me, while we were angsting over a mysterious clutch hose leak, that he wanted to write a book. He talked to himself and to me while he pilfered another hose from a wreck out the back.
On the new radiator's second day of duty, I passed the grader driver who was smoothing out the Track of Travesty amid plumes of orange dust. I waved out the window and shouted 'I love you Mr Grader Driver!' I doubt he heard me but the sentiment was sincere.
After a day's work up the mountain, I headed home, floating along the new road until I hit the bit where Mr Grader Driver had knocked off for the day, drumming into the corrugations with utter dismay and it was just after this point that the temperature gauge went through the roof.
Yep. Green water pissing all over the stony road as the hot motor clicked. I stood there with the bonnet up, appalled. I still had my little bottle of Saxa ground pepper and, although the busted radiator hose was in a shitty spot, I had the tools and wherewithal to fix it. The problem was that because of my misplaced faith in the new radiator, I had no spare water in the car at all.
The Track of Travesty is a long road. It feels longer if you have to walk it, and there is no mobile phone range for miles around. Longer if it is the first day of your period and you also have a nasty rash. I had to lock the car where it stood on the road, mentally apologising to Mr Grader Driver, and walk away. I walked for a while and despite feeling a bit desolate, appreciated being able to look into the bush to see how it was faring after last year's burn. The emu bushes and bull banksias were coming back a treat.
Eventually some German tourists picked me up. The inside of their car was immaculate, as they were. I tried wiping some dust from my boots but just got it all over me, and sat in the back seat, trying not to smell too much. When we made it to the sealed highway, I explained that I lived at the next inlet. Would it be possible for them to take me part way in?
About a hundred metres into the inlet track, the driver realised the extent of my request. He braked at every corrugation, or tried to drive around them. 'Does it get worse than this?' he asked me, and then 'How much further?'
I could feel their apprehension and I got it. They had no idea where I was taking them. Just that the journey itself would be awful, long before I pulled out my shovel and asked them to dig their own graves. Three kilometres along the track there is a small turn around spot cleared into the forest and it was here that I took pity on the couple. 'I've got some mobile reception! Finally. Excellent. Thank you so much for the lift. You've made my day so much better.'
I rang the mechanic but he'd knocked off. Then I rang my boss to say I might be late up the tower in the morning. Then I walked. And walked. I was okay, apart from being rashy and bleeding. It wasn't dark yet and the day was cool.
On the track, I found:
Two trailer U bolts
A ten cent piece
A trailer lights converter plug
A kookaburra's tail feather, and then
I saw a black flurry ahead of me and realised it was a litter of feral cats. The kittens scarpered into Tiger Snake Swamp and the mother flattened herself, crouching in the gutter, Her Malevolence watching me walk by with glittering citron eyes.