It’s around 3:30 am and I’m still driving. Google Maps has led us to a highway away from the coast and through the bush. Even before we left on our trip, I vowed to never drive in Australia past dusk, but here I am, in the wee hours of the morning, three Red Bulls in and driving very slowly.
You see, at this time of night, most people count sheep to fall asleep. I’m counting kangaroos to stay awake. Eighteen.. Oh, there’s a pack of them, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one. Suddenly, in the road ahead, I see a smallish wallaby carcass. I haven’t been counting dead kangaroos, there’s too many and, besides, that’s depressing. I judge the hight of the roo’s rear and reckon I can get over it, not realizing that the Toyota Corolla is much closer to the ground than my Subaru at home.
Thud. Crack. Rattle. Rattle. Rattle. Rattle.
Tiffanie wakes up in the passenger seat. My happy kangaroo-counting endeavor quickly turns into a nightmare as the rattling continues. Since we’re on a two-lane highway in the middle of nowhere, there are not many opportunities to pull over. I continue driving for a solid kilometer before finding a stopping bay. I get out of the car, turn on the luci lantern and peer below.
I can see a tail. Actually, I can see everything. The wallaby carcass I thought I would clear, and then thought I just nicked a little, had instead traveled under the car until that point, pushing up on the undercarriage the whole time. Thankfully, I had my wits about me enough to put the car in reverse and push the little guy out the way it came in.
At this point, I pretty much lost it. The smell was nauseating and the poor thing was all mangled. Normally, Tiffanie is the over-zealous animal lover, but I think the fact that it was already dead and then I shredded its dead body for a kilometer put me over the edge. Worse? With the wallaby gone and safely deposited on the side of the road so others wouldn’t hit it, the car was still rattling. Even worse? We’re using third party insurance through a credit card, instead of paying for the option from the car rental company. If I’ve mangled the car as much as I mangled that wallaby, we’re in heaps of trouble. Tiffanie took over driving and we heard/felt/dreaded the rattling noise under the car for about six more hours.
Around 10 am, we entered a magical town called Goonwindi. In this fantastically wonderful place they have the nicest information booth manned by the friendliest Aussie gentleman who directed us to the world’s kindest mechanic who cheerfully fixed the rattling and sent us on our way. Apparently the metal support for the tailpipe was only slightly bent and pushing said pipe against the bottom of the car. Whew.
My friends, learn from our mistakes. Do not drive at night in Australia.
With the intense sun encouraging wallabies and kangaroos alike to nap in the shade instead of hop on the road, we made excellent progress, stopping only five hundred times to use the toilet and get gas and scavenge for vegetarian food and find more toilets. By the way, they don’t call them restrooms or bathrooms here. Nope, just toilets. So straightforward, these Aussies. I love it.
We arrived in Sydney at 9:30 and headed to Tiffanie’s sister’s friend’s posh pad near Newtown, which would serve as our home base for the next three days. We were greeted immediately with wine and scrambled eggs on toast. For such a rough start, the day ended up being pretty awesome as a whole.