They say that you never really know someone until you travel together. This can be anyway from a weekend away to a whole year travelling the world.
The funny thing about travelling solo is that you are always meeting new people and technically “travelling” with them. However, I don’t think you ever really get to know them properly until you spend some time in very close proximity.
On a road trip for example. Nothing says getting to know someone better like spending several days cooped up in a car together. arguing over where to stop to sleep, what to eat, who’s turn it is to refuel.
While it can often bring you closer together sometimes it makes you realise that you don’t have as much in common with these new friends as you thought. I found myself on one such roadtrip recently. This is the story of my trip back down the east coast from Cairns to Brisbane.
As I looked across the sparkling turqoiuse waters of the beachside lagoon I knew my days here were numbered. Four in fact.
I was excited.
I mean why shouldn’t I be I’d just bagged myself a job in a country pub.
That excitement melted all too quickly into planning mode though. I was no where near this new adventure and only had a few days to traverse almost the entire Queensland east coast to Brisbane in order to catch a bus that would get me there.
Flying seemed like the best option. It would mean that I could maximise the number of days in this tropical haven they call Cairns.
The friends I had made here were also thinking about moving on. I guess money was starting to dwindle for all of us.
As with most people you meet on the road, sooner or later your paths diverge, and you must say your farewells. We still had time for one last blow out though.
That evening I met up for dinner with 2 of my friends, M and N, in one of my favourite Cairns haunts, P. J. O’Brian’s. Part of a chain of Irish bars which also serve some tasty pub grub the hostel I was staying at had some kind of a deal with this place which meant I could get dinner and a drink for $10. Needless to say, it was a popular place to eat.
As it turned out the day had been productive for all of us.
M and N had decided to have one more adventure before heading off into the world of work. They had hired a campervan and
It sounded like fun way to finish off this part of the trip. One last adventure before buckling down in the world of work -well at least until we had enough money to get back on the road again anyway.
They were picking up the campervan on Saturday and starting their road trip on Sunday, which gave us time for a huge night out to say goodbye.
What I wasn’t expecting was to be invited along after sharing with them my news. Surprised, I told them I’d think about it and let them know tomorrow.
I was tempted.
I hadn’t yet booked my flights and I wasn’t sure I was ready to part with them just yet.
There was a time issue, however.
I needed to be in Brisbane by Tuesday night at the absolute latest. They assured me it would be fine. Covering over 1,600Km in 3 days was totally not an issue with. Besides we had seen all of the good spots on our trip up the coast anyway.
I was in.
Sunday rolled around in a blink of an eye. As I waited for M to check out in the reception of the hostel that feeling had tip-toed it’s way into the back of my mind.
Was this such a good idea Afterall?
I couldn’t possibly back out now though. As much as I liked them, something told me they wouldn’t give me my share of the rental fee back if I bailed now. Perhaps it was just the hangover talking. Last night had been a big one.
M was still nowhere to be seen. After shoving my stuff in the van, we shared a look and secret smile. We both needed a feed and there was only one place that was fit for purpose right now, McDonalds.
Feeling more human after a good feed we went to find the boys. Unbeknown to me, M had also invited his roommate along for the ride.
Besides it’s not like he would be in the car with us.
For reasons I am still unsure about he had bought himself a motorbike while in Cairns. It looked more like a dirt bike than a road motorbike to me but I’m not all that clued up on bikes.
Anyway, he was going to ride his bike behind us. We just had to store his stuff. Which included an Xbox and a tv which he had also bought while in Cairns and set up in the hostel dorm. Not a private room but a dorm room. Yeah, I don’t know either.
At any rate, both the boys were being ridiculously slow at packing up.
By now it was gone 11am. It turned out that M was deeply hungover having dabbled in more than alcohol the previous night.
So, we bundled him up and made a kind of bed for him in the back of the van. There was so much stuff in there. In every possible nook and cranny there was someone’s stuff squeezed in there looking like it could burst open at any point.
Finally, we were on the road. Later than I had hoped for, but I was driving, so I felt like I had some control over the situation at least.
How we were all going to sleep in this small van I had no idea.
The windows were down, and the tunes were blasting out as we sped past the sugarcane plantations that went on
In the distance, the hills of the rainforest rose up in all their green glory. They never seemed to get any closer though.
The views were beautiful, but it was like we were driving on a treadmill.
A few hours in and I needed a break. Stopping at a local store in a town we were passing through gave everyone to the chance to grab some lunch.
S was running low on fuel, so I took this opportunity to find the nearest petrol station. It was only 5mins down the road and there were also toilets.
Refuelled we hit the road again, only this time N was behind the wheel giving me a much-needed break.
M crawled back into his cave with a big bag of crisps and some fizzy drinks and S jumped aboard his bike moaning about how his hands were aching. As you can probably tell I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for him.
The Bruce Highway continued on, but the scenery never much changed but for the small towns we passed through from time to time.
Suddenly S was no longer following us.
He had run out of fuel a while back and well, we hadn’t really been paying much attention to him. We turned the van around and found him waiting awkwardly on the side of the road a few miles back.
S grabbed the jerry can from with his extra fuel from the van and proceeded to
God, I hope this isn’t a common occurrence I thought as I sat with my legs hanging out of the open van door. It’s going to take forever if we have to keep stopping for him.
We were soon on the go again though and it wasn’t too long until we came across the next town. A democratic vote meant it was time for my 2nd McDonalds of the day and
Having refused my idea of picking up food before we left Cairns, I wasn’t too surprised that we’d resorted to fast food.
By this time though the sun had begun to make its journey back below the horizon.
There was still plenty of light left and we could definitely make it to Townsville by then. Especially with N behind the wheel who loved to overtake anything that she saw on the road ahead of us, completely ignoring any speed limit.
If it meant I got to Brisbane in time, I was all for it though.
By the time we made it to Townsville the sun was in full setting mode. Finally, they listened to me and we stopped at the supermarket to pick up dinner and tomorrows breakfast. There wasn’t a cat in hells chance I was going anywhere tomorrow without eating first.
Unfazed by the darkening conditions N continued to plough ahead towards the free campsite I had found for us.
Campsite is probably too generous a word.
It was literally a side road where you could pull up for the night and sleep in your car. There were however decent facilities. There were a couple of free BBQs, toilets and even showers so it wasn’t completely feral.
It’s the kind of place that a writer would pick for a murder or sexual assault scene. While it was literally a street over from the main road full of shops in the darkness it still felt pretty out if the way. Luckily this place seemed a pretty popular stopping point and we were actually lucky to find a parking spot.
No-one was getting murdered tonight.
This was not what S had thought he had signed up though and made this abundantly clear.
He thought this trip would be more laid back. Less driving all day and more stopping at beaches and having a good time. Clearly M and N forgot to tell him that I needed to be in Brisbane by Tuesday night.
He didn’t complain when I gave him a couple of burgers to eat though. Funny that.
Organising sleeping arrangements was like a game of Tetris. While the van is advertised as being able to transport 4 people it was in fact only really set up for 2 people to sleep in. There definitely hadn’t been any consideration for backpacker luggage when it had been designed.
Bags and bodies filled every available space.
S even had to sleep on a slightly reclined drivers’ seat. I actually felt a little sorry for him as a snuggled up on the 2-person bed in the back with the other 2. Cold was something I was not. Needless to say, the lack of space didn’t really lend itself to a good night’s sleep.
Waking early as the sun rose, I was ready to have breakfast and get on the road.
Unfortunately, I had misjudged my travel companions again. While I would much prefer to get up and go when on a road trip. You know to give you more time to get your destination etc. It became quickly apparent that this wasn’t a mindset they shared.
I watched the majority of the other campers eat their breakfasts, pack up and leave before the others were even thinking about breakfast. It was more important for S to have a shower.
Bacon butties finally eaten I tried to gently push the others into leaving sooner than later. The sooner we left the more distance we could cover and the nearer to Brisbane I’d be. I’m not going to lie. I was already having serious doubts that I wasn’t going to make it in time.
At that moment S turned around to me making it abundantly clear that this wasn’t what he signed up for while attempting to tell me that this trip wasn’t just about me. “I think you didn’t really think about this very well”.
He was kind of right I suppose. I hadn’t really done any research on how long it should really take to get down to Brisbane by car.
I kind of thought M and N had done all the planning as it was their trip. I had made it clear that being in Brisbane by Tues was the deal breaker in me joining them though, so I guess we could still make it.
I ignored his comments. Or at least I tried to. It would have been nice to have had a little back up from M and N. There again M wants to be his best mate and N just wants to be in his pants so maybe I was hoping for a little too much.
We hit the road again, but this time M is behind the wheel. It seems he is feeling much better today.
I’d been relegated to the back seat. With both the front windows down and the music up loud there might as well have been a screen separating the front and back of the van. I didn’t mind though after this morning I needed a little space.
While the sugarcane fields were behind us the road continued on.
The views were now replaced with farmlands and nothingness. The real Australian countryside.
Every now and again we would drive by a billboard announcing the distance until a particular business in the next town. From food to motels, it was surprising how welcoming those signs were. Marking our progress little by little. They meant civilisation, however small and break from the monotony of the road.
We stopped at little roadside pub for lunch. From the looks of it, it also served as a campsite.
Our bright orange van immediately announced us as backpackers but the ladies behind the bar couldn’t have been nicer.
Sausage, mash and gravy it was then. Seriously tasty it was too.
There was a group of what I can only guess were locals sitting on the veranda outside having a drink. There didn’t seem to be much else around here though so these “locals” must drive for miles to get here. I guess this must be a decent place then. Going by the food I could see why.
They seemed somewhat bemused yet curious about us. Perhaps they don’t get many 20-somethings stopping off here?
The afternoon brought with it more road. Despite a change of drivers I still found myself in the back on my own. Perhaps it was the wall of noise, or just having to physically move more than just my head to talk to the others but it was starting to feel like I was being excluded.
S had obviously become bored with following behind because he had overtaken us and sped off in the distance. Apparently he needed a lesson in fuel economy.
A little while later we caught up with him at the entrance to a side road. Shocker, he needed more fuel. S and N also took this opportunity for another smoke break. Only these roll-ups didn’t just contain tobacco.
I knew I had that
Yes, I know the fun police had arrived but if anything happened while N was driving and even a little bit high then the insurance would be void. Thankfully, M was on my side and took on driving duties. I was still in the back.
As I watched the world go by through my window it became clear that this trip was not turning out how I thought it would.
Sure, nothing ever really goes to plan and you have to kind of roll with it but I wasn’t having fun anymore.
I was starting to feel like some kind of
Yeah, well I was starting to feel like that friend. I already knew that S didn’t like me but I was feeling like M and N were beginning to resent agreeing to dropping me in Brisbane by Tues night.
Then it clicked.
I didn’t have to put up with feeling this way.
I started to plan my escape.
The next big town we were going to hit was Mackay. A quick google showed me that Mackay had an airport. Winner!
I definitely didn’t have to put up feeling this way.
I moved closer to the front seats and announced to M and N that I was thinking about catching a flight from Mackay to Brisbane to make sure that I was going to get my bus. Plus to get out their hair.
“well, if you’re sure that’s what you want to do.” Was the response I got.
They didn’t even try to persuade me out of it, not even a little bit. I guess they wanted me gone
There was a flight leaving that evening that was dirt cheap – even with checked luggage. Sure I’d have to spend several hours in the airport first but that was a small price to pay.
I booked the flight and redirected us towards the airport. I was already starting to feel excited again. Now I knew I’d made the right decision.
As we pulled up at the drop off point, we must have looked a right sight. I bet you don’t see many rental campervans dropping people off at the airport!
Once I had managed to extract all my belongings from the campervan I said my farewells to my road trip buddies promising them that I would let them know I’d made it safe to Brisbane.
It was in no way emotional. There was no love lost here.
I picked up my stuff and headed into the airport.
This roadtrip was over but my next adventure was only just beginning…
Until Next Time